Amidst the disappointment of LeBron and his Cavaliers ducking out on Kobe cementing his legacy, I think there is something being overlooked. This Lakers/Magic Finals just may be the best match-up for the NBA. The Lakers are the most televised and watched team in the NBA, and Dwight Howard was this year's leading vote getter for the All-Star Game. There will be plenty of fans, hardcore and casual alike, tuned in to what should be very entertaining and competitive games. I originally wanted the Celtics (with KG), then LeBron, but I'll settle for Superman.
Would a Kobe/LeBron Finals been a better showcase for the NBA? Probably, but let's face it, there would be a lot on the line in terms of marketing. From the Kobe/Lakers point of view, it represents the chance for Kobe to fulfill his destiny and win a Ring without Shaq and
retake remain the game's Best Player. For LeBron/Cavs, it would have been the chance for James to earn his place as the Best. But look at the flipside. Lakers fans would be crushed by a Finals loss to the Cavs. Any loss will be crushing, but to watch Kobe fall at the hands of LeBron would be the devastating blow. There would be no more argument about who is #1. I don't think Kobe, nor true (Forum) blue Kobe fans can handle both defeats. It means too much. A loss by the Cavs is an obvious setback to James seeming coronation. What if he couldn't beat Kobe? The NBA needs wants LeBron to be the guy. It makes sense from a marketing standpoint. They need to look to a new face for the NBA, and he is far enough removed from Jordan to last at least another 15 years worth of facetime. Kobe, as great as he is, has as many haters as fanatics, but still looms large as THE guy in the NBA. From skills, hardware, accomplishments, television ratings, jersey sales- you name it.
So, the Lakers/Magic is safe. There isn't so much on the line. The NBA will get it's ratings. Kobe can still make or break his legacy. Dwight might start his. If the Magic lose, they were supposed to. But most importantly, it won't smudge LeBron's legacy. A loss to Kobe would most definitely matter the way Michael finally beating Isaiah and Magic did. Would Mike's legacy be the same if he didn't go through Magic, Larry, and Isaiah? Nike and the NBA can resume the Great Debate, make us choose a side, and generate interest because the excuse machine is already hard at work - it's not LeBron's fault. Really?
Without further ado, your Lakers Links after the jump...
Forum Blue And Gold " Why the Lakers will Win
"The focus of the pre-series review has emphasized that the Magic pose match-up problems for the Lakers. Perhaps. However, I contend that the matchup problems that the Lakers pose for the Magic dwarf the former. Gasol against Lewis, Odom against Lewis, Tukoglu, or Pietrus. Kobe against Lee. I like these match ups. The mis-match advantage, the Lakers’ superior training partners, and the proven ability of Jackson and staff to make the correct adjustments leads me to the conclusion that the championship is for the Lakers’ to lose."
The Los Angeles Times:
Lakers need to play to their strengths
"The Lakers want to use all their weapons, getting the ball down low to Gasol and "Andrew Bynum, knocking down outside shots, cutting to the basket. "I feel like we have to be concerned about doing what we do," said Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw, who is in charge of scouting the Magic. "I think if we do what we're supposed to do, that if we do our jobs properly, we'll be OK." Here are some matchup things to look for in the series:..."
It's been a bittersweet playoffs for Lakers' Lamar Odom
"An an essay titled "Lamar Odom, Sweet Tooth and Erratic Play," Dr. Daniel Amen writes that Odom's massive consumption of candy leads to a sugar high and then a crash, evidence of which can be seen on the basketball court."
Magic not satisfied with just making finals
"The team says winning the silver conference trophy is nice, but it's going for the gold."
(ummm....No shit. Who goes just to be there?)
Lakers begin work on conquering cape fear
"[Brian] Shaw said the idea is to beat Howard to his spots, to eliminate lob dunks, to crowd him inside, to make him take shots (as opposed to dunks), to deny him deep post position, to not let him dominate the game."
NBA Finals: Will the Orlando Magic upset the Los Angeles Lakers? - ESPN
"And now the Orlando Magic, who went a combined 6-3 against Boston, Cleveland and the Lakers during the 2008-09 regular season, are two-thirds of the way toward validating those numbers in the postseason, having already dispatched of the Celtics and now the Cavaliers. And yet … I'm still picking the Lakers to beat the Magic in seven games in the NBA Finals."
20 Second Timeout: Are the Lakers Really Better Off When Kobe Bryant Shoots Less Frequently?
"It is foolish to think that there is an ideal number of field goal attempts for Bryant that applies in all situations; if a team primarily single covers Bryant then he should probably attempt 25-30 shots but if a team traps him aggressively then the right play is to give the ball up. During this year's playoffs, Bryant has once again proven that he will make the right decisions and punish defenses no matter how they try to deal with him: the Lakers have gone 6-3 when Bryant had at least five assists but they also have gone 4-2 when Bryant had three or fewer assists."
Magic guard Jameer Nelson may be activated for Finals -- OrlandoSentinel.com
"If he's judged healthy enough to return within the next few days, Orlando Magic all-star point guard Jameer Nelson will play against the team he was instrumental in beating twice this season — the Los Angeles Lakers — in the NBA Finals."
Phil: Lakers won't double Dwight Howard - PE.com - Professional Sports
"Howard averaged 21.5 points and 16 rebounds against the Lakers in the regular season because they chose not to double him, yet Coach Phil Jackson said he plans to maintain the same approach. 'It's to your advantage not to double on this team,' he said. 'They have four three-point shooters arrayed around the court, they really stretch you out and their spacing is good. It puts a priority on being able to defend the post."
(Bynum finally realiing what a clean hard foul is in Game 6 in against then Nuggets was great timing. Keep it up.)
Lakers - Magic: By the Numbers at Lakers.com BasketBlog
"Here are a few numbers upon which to chew."
The Painted Area: The Curious Cases of Top Teams in Recent Years
"The idea that the NBA Playoffs are utterly predictable is utter nonsense. Yes, the Playoffs determine the best team (and that is their beauty), but the best team is not pre-determined. That is, as they say, why they play the games."
"Sure, there were plenty of fans and media (here) who anticipated a Cleveland-L.A. Finals. But after watching the Cavaliers stumble against Orlando, it's become obvious that the Lakers-Magic should be more competitive than the series just about everyone seemed to want. So, L.A.-Orlando works for us. Five thoughts:..."
"You can debate all you want about who should have won each year's MVP, but it is clear that a particular season's MVP is no longer likely to have playoff success."
"But much as Jordan hated Detroit and the entire Bad Boys act, he always stuck around to shake hands with Isiah, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn and the jerks who tried to break his limbs. LeBron's quick escape against the dignified Magic was inexcusable and shows he's still learning about life, competition and doing the right thing. I don't care that he sent an e-mail to Howard after the game. Show your respects in public, so the victors can look you in the eye and the masses can see you have class. I wanted to wait and hear his explanation before commenting. I don't like it. It's crybaby stuff."
(Would you look at that? Tenured Bobblehead Mariotti is right about something. I'm glad someone is calling LeBron out.)
Kobe 24/8: Bethlehem Shoals Continues Not to Suck
"His current piece on the upcoming NBA Finals, which includes lengthy reflections on the mazed and mazing personalities of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, is worth gandering. Whenever it is 2 a.m. in Chicago, and the birds are singing, and one reflects, howsoever briefly, on the idea that sports reportage in the English language is worthy of some sort of standard (Bill Simmons, all raillery aside, ranks pretty high in this regard), and that T.J. Simers is drawing a regular paycheck for chronicling his obsession with Phil Jackson and Jeannie Buss that leaves you wondering does he masturbate while writing this stuff?"
(You should really read all of Dex's posts. He's absolutely cracking me up taking on TrueHoops' Henry Abbott, plus some other good stuff.)
*Speaking of Shoals...here's that article Dex refers to:
freedarko.com: When Stations Shift, You Find Your Own
"Not that I think it's my God-given duty to size up the Finals and decide who's up, who's down, but you've got to admit that Lakers/Magic does present a certain number of curious proposition. For one, these two are neither mismatched nor equals. It's like they exist in parallel universes. The Lakers, as we all know, as flushed to the gills with ability, but only periodically harness it all. The Magic, well, we didn't realize it until recently, but so are they. And they bring it on the regular. Does that make Orlando overachievers, Los Angeles underachievers, and no one but the Cavs the underdogs? The Magic's has been a season of peaks and valleys, hitting their stride, then losing Nelson, then picking up steam again, then hitting a wall earlier in the playoffs when Howard's identity came into question and Turkoglu was hurt. And now, they're riding high, so high, again. The Lakers? Friday was the first time all playoffs they've looked like the Lakers we expected to see come and visiti pestilence upon the postseason. Now you tell me: Which is inconsistency, which on a voyage of self-discovery and perpetual adjustment?"
Here's Shoals' less smarty pants work:
SportingNews.com - The Baseline
"Welcome to the great unknown. I'm speaking, of course, of these NBA Finals, which start in four days, and which feature a matchup no one saw coming. With two teams, and players, whose recent play is anything but conclusive. In other words, it's the polar opposite of LeBron vs. Kobe for the title of World's Greatest, or the Cavs and Lakers settling the top rankings dispute that raged much of the season."
X’s & O’s of Basketball: Pau Gasol is the Big Laker Fundamental
"In last night's Game 6 elimination win by the Lakers over the Nuggets, the key stretches were late in the first half when they made that run to close the half, and early in the 3rd quarter with the fine play of Pau Gasol in the post. I've watched several games so far throughout these playoffs where Gasol played very well, and it shouldn't be surprising because the triangle offense after all is predicated on good post play. ...Take a look at a few plays..."
RoundCast: Is LeBron a Poor Sport? -- NBA FanHouse
(Yes, he is. I bet you LeBron is the type of kid who took his ball home when things weren''t going his way at the playground.)
JD2K Lakers Video Highlights of Lakers/Nuggets Game 6