My textbooks are telling me I shouldn't have written that first post — should have stayed away until I'd finished what needs to be finished. But let's be real: This is Lakers playoff basketball, and we're headed to the Finals; you didn't really expect me to stay gone, did you?
So I'm making a compromise. Life (let me be very clear that that's an 'L', not a 'W'), cruel as it is, refuses to permit me the time necessary to be a full time blogger, or even a quasi-regular part-timer. Rare is the opportunity to develop a full length post, these days (though for the Finals, I'll just have to make time, dammit). But I do have some scattered thoughts, here and there — smaller tidbits that I wouldn't mind contributing here and there.
So I'm going to try and stop by one-a-week-ish for a collection of random thoughts on the NBA. (Disclaimer: Frequency may or may not decrease to twice monthly during the regular season, depending mainly on whether I have anything to say one week, and I make no guarantees whatsoever for the off-season.) And you're in luck! You're just in time for the first installment.
Here's how it works: These posts will only ever have one topic, and that's NBA basketball with a Lakers slant. Aside from that, who knows what you'll get. It's a random collection of thoughts, often likely to be unrelated, aside from the fact that it's about basketball. And today, we're starting with my personal Vice Hero-of-the-Moment.
Derek Fisher Can Retire When He's Dead
People have short memories. They fall at LeBron's feet during the regular season, but every May/June, like clockwork, the entire NBA world, in unison, is brought back to this simple realization: "Oh yeah, Kobe's the best. Not even close."
Which is why Lakers fans should know better. But we don't, do we? Every year, it's the same thing: Derek Fisher is too old, he can't defend, he's lost his shooting touch, and it's time for him to retire. At the very least make him a very limited back-up guard!! Right?
Thing is, every post season he does this thing that I like to call "being The Man." And he's at it again. And we should know better than to have such short memories. It's not just that Fish hitting those gorgeous rainbow threes of his, and it's not just that the supposedly over-the-hill-defensively veteran has contained three of the leagues quickest and best point guards. It's everything else; you know, the "intangibles." Simply put, Derek Fisher is why statistical arguments will always fail; you simply can't capture in statistics what he brings to a game. Game 6 was a perfect example. As far as I'm concerned, I don't even want to whispers of replacing him until he has sucked for at least one entire post-season.
Also, he gives a great interview. The Game 6 post-game show was one of the best I've ever seen. Dude's gonna be a coach someday, and you can take that to the bank.
Contract Experts Weigh in, Please: When Can We Cut Voo-uh-chick?
Seriously, that's gotta be the final straw. Someone said he's a great defender except for those stupid fouls — but that's the problem. He could be three times the defender he is, and those stupid fouls would still make him more of a liability than an asset on the floor. I tell you what, if we ever want to be in the penalty, we can just put Sasha in; I guarantee our opponent will be shooting free throws the rest of the way.
He's useless, broken, and creates way more problems for us than solutions. Cut his ass!
Gasol Got Just What He Needed
Listen, there's really no reason to worry about Gasol. Two things. First, a significant part of his struggles came from the fact that Phoenix double- and triple-teamed him every time he touched the ball. They were determined to make us beat them in other ways than simply destroying them in the paint (see: Games 1 and 2), so as Kobe has often done, Gasol played decoy. It worked, 'nuff said.
Second, this is what Gasol does. Every now and then, he shrinks, disappears, withers and fades a bit. He softens up. Then he gets criticized for it, by both media and fans (not to mention himself, God bless him). Then he responds. BIG TIME. It seems to be a necessary cycle for Gasol. He needs that extra kick from time to time. Just be happy it happened when it did. He's getting that kick right now, and combined with his very painful memories from the 2008 Finals (and the stigma he got from that series), I assure you he'll be dialed in and strongly motivated for the Celtics. It'll be perfect timing, just you watch.
Battle of the Networks
Here's the thing: I can understand if you don't like Mark Jackson; his cliché lines can be pretty bad (if you ever catch a game where Jeff Van Gundy is absent, just take my advice and mute it). That said, the thing I want most from a color commentary crew is honest analysis, and that's what I get from Mark Jackson and JVG. They challenge stereotypes, ask why we think what we think, and best of all, they honestly evaluate the officiating. If they think it was a bad call, or a missed call, they say so. Then the TNT crew replays it from several angles, the guys discuss it, and they reach a conclusion. It's awesome. It's honest. It's not sanitized and David Stern-approved, which is why I love it. And it makes me hate watching other crews. "...as Pau Gasol misses badly..." No, moron, he didn't miss badly. He was fouled badly. It's a spade, call it one. To me, that's worth all the "grown man move" and "mama there goes that man!" lines.
At the same time, TNT's halftime/postgame crew is simply the best in sports, bar none. Seriously, why can't we get ABC's color commentary crew and TNT's halftime/postgame crew on the same network? I'm going to miss Ernie, Kenny "The Jet", and Chuck (sorry, Reggie); but I'll be glad to have decent in-game commentary for the Finals.
Offense Wins This Championship?
Here's the thing: I'm not convinced the Celtics can really shut us down this time. I think they can probably slow us at times, for stretches. But overall, I think their defense is going to be about minimizing the damage, not about shutting us down. At the same time, we're much better defensively than we were in 2008. Much better. And when we really apply ourselves, I think we can be truly great on that end. Which means they won't be able to beat us simply by playing their best defense. They're going to have to score. So maybe the question of this series comes down to this: Just how good is the Celtics offense? Is it good enough to score enough points against us, especially with Phil having time to game plan for Rondo?
Three Stretches, Gotta Dominate One
2-2-1-1-1 is gone. The Finals format, you'll remember, is 2-3-2. That's three stretches, and it occurred to me that the formula for winning is fairly simple — dominate one of those three stretches, and you can split the others. Take the first two, and you only need one each from the middle and end stretches. Take two of the middle three, and you can afford to split both the beginning and ending pairs. You can even afford to take only one in each of the first two sets, so long as you get both of the final set. Now, I tend to doubt that Boston can win three straight against us; two will be hard enough. I'm pretty confident we can get at least one in each set. So winning comes down to one simple thing: Take two games in one of the three sets. Doesn't matter which. Seems pretty doable, doesn't it?
We Better Not Lose
Let's be clear, though: At this point, I think I might have hated losing to LeBron + Shaq more than I would hate losing to the Celtics. That would have been twice as bad. Nonetheless, this series is as scary as it is exciting. If we lose to the Celtics again, for the second time in three years, it will likely be the death of me. Literally. So, forget the Gipper — let's win this for me.
Bigger Problem Than I Thought?
Just read this SI post, with several quotes from David Falk, MJ's former agent, also known as the "agent to the stars." I agree about Chicago and Los Angeles, but the bit about the consequences for LeBron of leaving Cleveland are interesting to me. My position was that he'd take a pretty good hit, but wouldn't have a problem rehabbing his image if he did the right things. David Falk seems to think it could be a seriously bad idea for LeBron — and it seems like he thinks negative public reaction could be much worse than I've been thinking. Hey, seems to me he'd be the guy to know. And that's just very interesting, because while LeBron could rehab his image, I'm not sure he wants to have to. I think he'd rather his image never be tarnished, ever (too late, but you get where I'm going). At the same time, do you see the Cavs getting much better than they were this year, any time soon? Yeah, it's a conundrum. It'll certainly be interesting to watch.
"Spoiling People With My Play"
I leave you with this quote from WaveOcean, our resident Cavs fan. Many of you probably read it; I found it in the game threads, I think. Still, it's a great point, and worth repeating.
Congratulations on your 3rd straight finals appearance. God, am I jealous of what a successful franchise you have. That shot by Kobe late in the game with Hill all over him to put the game away 107-100? That’s what I call "spoiling people with my play". Certainly not anything LeBron did in Game 5 VS the Celtics.