I met Orlando-resident and Magic-fan Marie this past season via the Dallas Mavericks game threads on SBNation's Mavs Moneyball blog. Cuban's boys are her Western Conference faves and I sort of liked watching the Large German Man and his cohorts on League Pass Broadband on those nights when my Blazers and my Lakers weren't on the tube.
Consequently, about 5 minutes after the Disneyworlders finished the evisceration of the Cleveland Lebrons to advance to the NBA Finals, I was getting in touch with her with a trash-talking challenge: a Word War to put an end to the debate of who was better before the series even started.
Marie was game. So on opposite ends of the country we pulled up our chairs and cracked open fresh bottles of whiskey and started hammering shots cowboy-style, hankering to settle this thing once and for all: Orlando Magic or Los Angeles Lakers?
TIMBO: So Marie, whatcha drinkin'? I've got Bushmillls here...
MARIE: I'm more of a Jack and Coke kind of girl...
T: Hey, I thought we were gonna do this cowboy-style. Oh, never mind... Before we get serious, there's something that needs to be said on behalf of the Laker Nation...
M: What's that?
T: We just want to thank you all for getting Shaquille O'Neal trained up and broken in for the Lakers so they could win three World Championships with him. That was nice of you guys, we appreciate that, and we think it's swell that you're doing the same thing with that Howard kid. He's gonna make a terrific Laker someday...
(Will Timbo score a quick knockout playing the Shaq card? Will he ever get to the Orlando leads'n'links? Find out after the jump...)
MARIE: But he doesn't have a rap album, a conceited ego, horrible movies, or multiple personalities (well, besides the one)... How does that make him a good fit for the Lakers? Besides, your team doesn't know what to do with a big man; Shaq has complained about not getting the ball enough and even Gasol has demanded more touches while he's in the paint, albeit in a diplomatic fashion.
TIMBO: Uncle Phil assures us that the Triangle Offense is based upon the post entry pass, I think the Lakers are figuring these things out, slowly... I also have a duty to remind you and the Magic faithful that the Lakers got Power Forward Lamar Odom as part of the Shaq trade. So every bucket that Odom sinks in this coming series is an itty-bitty little contribution on the part of the Orlando Magic towards their own destruction.
M: And every time I see Odom giggling down the court, hear him scream like he's getting murdered whenever he has the ball (he has mastered the art of verbal flopping), or watch him underperform, I'm grateful that he's not part of the Magic... It also means the little kids in town can buy Jelly Bellies and Fudgy Gummies and Fatty Patties and Blubber Bars — I hear they're sold out throughout the entire Los Angeles metro area!
By the way, congratulations to you guys for getting past the Nuggets. The Magic can't beat a Chauncey Billups-led team to save their lives. A Kobe Bryant-led team, however... Well, let's just say we are 2-0 vs. the Lakers in the regular season... This World Championship is thanks to the Lakers!
T: Oh, that's all B.J.B.S. — Before Jameer Busted his Shoulder... He's the guy that ate the Lakers' lunch during Orlando's two lucky wins during the regular season. But he's nice and rusty now, assuming he straggles back on the floor for a couple 10 minute stints.
M: Not saying that Jameer's presence hasn't been missed, but we're doing pretty damn well without him, if I say so myself. If I remember correctly, Dwight Howard had 25 points and 20 boards in their last meeting while your "Twin Towers" of Gasoft and Bynumb had 27 points and nine boards combined. In their first meeting of the season, Howard again had more points and boards than Pau and Bynum together. Even Jameer Nelson had more rebounds than Bynum did!
Your bench is inconsistent. You can't rely on guys like Sasha, Puke, Ear Jordan, etc. to contribute every night... Contribute to a win, that is. You can rely on them, however, to consistently bring the suck... That much you can count on, at least.
T: You talk like the Magic even HAS a bench! Martian Gortat? Dude's offense looks like Joel Przybilla on day 2 of a 3 day bender... And we don't even know who the backup PG is gonna be, ha ha. That will make for some interesting team chemistry... Nothing like making jello using battery acid instead of water. If the refs blow any whistles at all, the Magic are toast. As long as Coach Caffeine can keep the rotation to his 5 or so truly NBA-caliber guys, Orlando will be fine — they might even stretch this series out to 5 games! But I'm banking on a big, ugly implosion. So after the Lakers beat the Magic in 4 straight games to win a ring, do you think Kobe is gonna do a little rap for Shaq?
M: If the Lakers win, then he definitely should, unless Shaq already knows how Kobe's ass tastes. The video can have the Kobe puppet, which, by the way, pales in comparison to Lil' Penny, the OG of basketball puppets. Kobe can have Tyrannosaurus Banks sing the hook, because that hit single really took off, as I'm sure you remember:
"What I live for? Basketball, beats and broads
From Italy to the US, yes, it's raw"
That kind of lyrical artistry can't be found anywhere!
T: Speaking of art, we all know that Magic is the art of illusion... I'm just wondering what you and other Orlando fans think is the bigger illusion: the idea that the Magic's rookie Shooting Guard Courtney Lee can play with Kobe Bryant or the idea that a castoff Point Guard from the Houston frickin' Rockets, of all teams, can lead Orlando to victory over America's Team in the NBA Finals?
M: I think the bigger illusion here is your anti-guard Derek Fisher masquerading as a floor general. The only thing he's capable of guarding is the wall safe where he keeps all his money. Not to mention Puke Walton pretending he's a professional basketball player. Then there's Adam Morrison feigning interest in the game while he is inactive — a travesty, I'm sure... It probably kills him to see Redick, "perhaps the greatest shooter in basketball history," out there playing.
And let's talk about Kobe, shall we? The self-proclaimed "Black Mamba" himself... Well, I have some news about your Mamba you probably haven't heard:
T: What's that?
M: Yo Mamba's so old he got aced out on his first shoe contract by Chuck Taylor...
M: Yo Mamba's so old he doesn't use a mouthguard, he just takes out his teeth...
T: Oooo, you're a harsh person...
M: But wait — there's more! Yo Mamba's so old he likes to gather "the young folks" on the team around him and tell them stories about the good old days before inflation, when a shot from beyond the arc was only worth one point. ...... Yo Mamba's so old that he thinks a "fast break" is when he falls down and fractures his hip...
T: That's not nice...
M: Yo Mamba's so old that he thinks shuffling his pivot foot when he makes his move isn't traveling — it's unavoidable! ....... Yo Mamba's so old that every time he hears the buzzer for a 24 Second Shot Clock Violation, he starts waving his arms over his head and shrieking, "I'M COMIN' HOME, LORDY, I'M COMIN' HOME!!!"
T: I never knew you were that mean...
M: Yo Mamba's so old that when he came into the league the ABA was still using a black-and-white ball...
T: I'm not listening, you know...
M: Yo Mamba's so old that he used to sit courtside and watch Jack Nicholson hoop...
T: Hey, Marie, what do Laker fans say when they're not listening? La-la-la-la-la-la-la!
M: Yo Mamba's so old that every time David Stern fines him for a technical he gets a 10% Senior Discount...
M: Had enough, eh? Well don't get me started about some of Kobe's sidekicks. Sasha Vujacic, for example — not quite sure what makes him a "machine." His own teammates find him annoying and he can't quite pull off the Luis Scola hairstyle. Sasha Vujacic is to NBA Basketball what "West Side Story" is to Puerto Rican gangs... Does he think that long hair is supposed to make him look less girly? Hate to break it to you, Sasha, but it's having the opposite effect. And Pau Gasol should have a nice career after his NBA days are over as a Geico Caveman...
T: Well, speaking of funny-looking players, I heard on TNT that Hedo Turkoglu is regarded in his home country as "the Michael Jordan of Turkey." That really confused me and I was wondering if you could help me — is there a single aspect of his game that resembles Jordan's? Because I don't see one.
M: Hey, that's just what Chris Webber calls him... Don't believe anything that guy says, unless it's "Magic win in six." That prediction is money. The smart Magic fans know that Jordan is incomparable, as opposed to Lakers fans who don't hesitate to lump Bean in with His Airness — same goes for the Cavs worshippers with their supposed King, actually.
T: Well, there's one joke that I think you and I can agree upon and that's Mike Brown is the 2008-09 NBA Coach of the Year. Ah, that reminds me, what's the deal with Stan Van Gundy's voice? Do you think he has been drinking paint thinner or huffing helium? If it gets any squeakier or more raspy, he'll have to start using hand signals to the refs to pick up his technicals...
M: Ah, coaches — that reminds me: when is Phil going to actually act like one on the floor? Or is he too preoccupied with issuing reading assignments for the players and grading their book reports?
T: Phil is a gentleman and a scholar. Compare and contrast to the Orlando coach, who's chief claim to fame is being the high-strung and portly brother of a Dick Vitale wannabe. Well, time is short, but I have two words that can bring this debate to a victorious close for Team Purple...
M: Oh yeah, what's that?
T: Trevor Ariza!!!
M: Now you're the one that's harsh!
T: How about we call this battle a draw so I can actually dish out some Orlando links?
M: I actually crushed you like a dump truck running over a banjo, but whatever...
by Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel
LOS ANGELES - The Orlando Magic were still mulling over the possibility Wednesday night of activating all-star point guard Jameer Nelson as Coach Stan Van Gundy and General Manager Otis Smith met to make a decision.
Nelson practiced with the team in full view of the media during the allotted 30 minutes of time that news organizations could watch practice at Staples Center on Wednesday.
"It's a tough decision on Jameer either way you go because I think he is able to play right now," Van Gundy said. "Now, how much he can do, I don't know.
"Chemistry ... It's not like he hasn't played with our guys. I don't worry about that a whole lot, and I really don't think our guys need an emotional boost. I don't think it's going to be like a Willis Reed moment or anything. We'll just decide if we think playing him gives us a better chance to win than not playing him." * * *
"We understand that Jameer has been out for a while," center Dwight Howard said. "He's rusty. He hasn't had a lot of experience in playing. But I think the one thing that he brings to our team is fearlessness."
Added shooting guard Mickael Pietrus, "It's always good to have our all-star point guard. He's missed a lot of games, so we're not expecting great things from him. You want to have your teammates on the bench to support you and on the floor in the games." * * *
(1A) ......... U P D A T E ........
by Brian Schmitz, Orlando Magic BasketBlog
The Magic have decided to hold out point guard Jameer Nelson for tonight's opening game of the NBA Finals against the Lakers, sources tell the Sentinel, and the chances of him playing at any point of the series is slim.
Nelson has been trying to come back sinice Feb. 19 shoulder surgery.
He has been ahead of schedule in his rehab and has been feverishly trying to persuade the team that he is ready, participating in his first practice Tuesday in Orlando and in Wednesday's workout in L.A.
It looked like he had a chance to play but apparently the club deemed the risk too great for the all-star who hasn't played since injuring his right shoulder Feb. 3 in Orlando against the Dallas Mavericks.
by Andrea Adelson, Orlando Sentinel
When the Orlando Magic start the NBA Finals tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers, the one man responsible for building this team won't be sitting courtside.
No, General Manager Otis Smith probably will be standing in the tunnel near the Magic bench as he does for every game, too nervous to sit and watch.
It's symbolic of the Smith way. Quiet and unassuming, Smith prefers to be out of sight. He hates talking about himself, and, quite frankly, he would rather not talk about how far this Magic team has gone this season.
Because the ultimate goal is winning an NBA championship. Sure, beating Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals was nice. But Smith wasn't on the podium when the Magic got their trophy Saturday night.
Eastern Conference champions aren't remembered.
NBA champions? Yes, NBA champions are remembered.
"I haven't won anything, so I'm still average at best," Smith said. "My goal is to win a championship. If we haven't done that, we really haven't accomplished anything."
It is a vision he brought to the organization when he was promoted from co-assistant general manager to general manager in 2006. Smith made sure every person, from the basketball side to the business-operations side, knew winning the NBA title was the only acceptable goal for a franchise that has seen its share of misery. * * *
by Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel
The Magic have been dissed by Shaquille O'Neal yet again.
Remember my column last week when I wrote what a travesty it was that Shaq attended the Magic-Cavs at Amway Arena with courtside seats he was able to acquire through the Magic?
Well how does the Big Ingrate repay the Magic for setting him up with such prime seats last week?
This week he comes out on Twitter and tweets: "thats right i am saying it today and today only, i want kobe bryant to get number 4, spread da word."
Yes, it's a free country and an individual has a right to root for whatever team he wants in the NBA Finals. But if you're Shaq and you've just hit up the Magic for courtside seats, don't you at least have the common decency not to rub the organization's nose in it? Of course, what should we expect of a Magic hater who has referred to Magic center Dwight Howard as an "impostor" and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy as a "bum" and a "master of panic."
At least Tiger Woods, another famous athlete who lives in Orlando and has ties to L.A., was diplomatic enough to say he's conflicted about who he's rooting for.
"I'm really torn about the NBA finals," Woods wrote on his website. "I grew up a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan, but have season tickets to Orlando Magic games. Hopefully, it will be a great series."
There you have the difference between Tiger and Shaq.
One is class.
The other is just crass. * * *
by Ben Q Rock, Third Quarter Collapse (SBN)
Arguably the biggest story leading up to the NBA Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers is the potential return of All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson to the Magic's lineup. Nelson tore the labrum in his right shoulder in a game against the Dallas Mavericks four months ago Tuesday. A little more than two weeks later, he underwent what was then termed a season-ending operation to repair the labrum.
Now, he's several months ahead of his rehabilitation schedule. His team is four wins away from an NBA championship, and it appears as though he will play evetually during the series, although we stress that neither the Magic nor Nelson has made a formal announcement about his availability, one way or the other.
In light of his probable return, I thought it might be wise to run some numbers to try to get an idea of Nelson's effectiveness. This science is by no means exact. I do not know what difficulties a right labrum tear might present to a basketball player, even one who has recovered from the necesary surgery.
What I'm assuming is that, whatever those effects are, they'll limit Nelson to 80% of his normal per-minute productivity this season. Next, I figured that he'd have 15.1 minutes per game with which to work. Rafer Alston, the starting point guard, averages 32.9 minutes per game in the playoffs. A 48-minute game--overtime is possible, but unlikely--leaves 15.1 minutes for his backup, which is the number to which I've applied Nelson's adjusted, per-minute stats. Again, "inexact" is a word I'd like to emphasize here. * * *
[NELSON: 6.5 PPG ----- JOHNSON 4.4 PPG]
If I'm right — and there's no guarantee I am — ceding Johnson's minutes to Nelson is little more than a lateral move. A.J. hasn't exactly set the world on fire in these playoffs, but he's at least been very steady.
Will Nelson be similarly reliable, in his first NBA game in over four months, in the most meaningful playoff series of his professional career? As the Orlando Sentinel notes, Johnson has played in two NBA Finals before, losing twice as a member of the New Jersey Nets, so he at least has experience at this level.
None of this is to suggest Jameer can't handle the pressure, as he's proven over the course of his professional and collegiate career that he can perform on big stages. Still, I can't help but think the NBA Finals is not exactly the right place to re-integrate such a crucial part of the team. * * *
by Zach McCann, Orlando Magic Daily.com (TrueHoop)
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Jameer Nelson won't play tonight and probably won't appear in the NBA Finals.
It makes you feel for Nelson, who's the heart and soul of this team and has been forced to watch the Magic make an incredible run to the NBA Finals. But there are too many reasons not to play Nelson, in my view. Let's look at both sides:
- He's an all-star, and he's a significant step above Rafer Alston. Nelson was the team's MVP in both wins over the Lakers this season.
- He could potentially provide a "Willis Reed" kind of spark to the Magic, giving the team and fans someone to rally around.
- There's the obvious risk of further injuring the shoulder. And there's the risk that Jameer's shoulder isn't healthy, and he wouldn't be able to do everything that he's normally capable of.
- It's difficult (to say the least) for a player to jump in and play at an elite level after not playing in a game for four months. And this isn't any game — the Magic are playing on the biggest stage against the league's best team. All the practice in the world won't prepare you for that.
- Throwing Nelson into the mix could upset the team's rotation and chemistry. Nelson is the team's leader and unquestioned alpha-male, and he would have a lot of trouble playing just 10 to 15 minutes a game.
To me — and I know I'm outnumbered around here — the cons heavily outweigh the pros. And apparently the Magic agree.
by Zach McCann, Orlando Magic Daily.com (TrueHoop)
After torching Cleveland for 25.8 points per game on 65 percent shooting, It's logical to think that Dwight Howard will come back to Earth a little bit. He just enjoyed the best offensive game of his life by scoring 40 points. We'll find out early if he's going to enjoy the same type of success against Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and maybe even a little D.J. Mbenga.
Howard will certainly have to attack the Lakers' big men a little bit differently than he did Cleveland. He did most of his post-damage against the Cavs by facing the basket and using his quickness advantage on Big Z and Varejao to create space for running jump hooks and lay-ins.
Howard is the ultimate blend of strength and quickness, and against Los Angeles, his strength will be the asset that will have to give the Lakers problems. He will look to get deep position, where he won't have to make many dribbles or initiate too much motion — instead, he can use his sheer strength and size to overpower Bynum and Gasol.
Phil Jackson has said the Lakers won't double-team Howard in the post. Obviously, no one goes into games against Orlando and thinks "Gee, I'd love to double-team Howard and give the Magic open threes." It's Howard's job to force the Lakers into double-teaming, and the only way to do that is to consistently score and rack up fouls against Bynum and Gasol. * * *
by Philip Rossman-Reich, The Curse of the Big Aristotle
1. Impose your style. The big matchup everyone is talking about in advance of the NBA Finals is how Orlando is going to contain Pau Gasol with Rashard Lewis in the post and conversely how Gasol is going to keep track of Lewis on the perimeter. It is a very interesting matchup between two all stars and one that will likely determine each individual game.
The simple answer is that whichever team makes the other adjust will win. * * *
2. Use the LeBron defense as the Kobe defense. Easier said then done and LeBron James did have an incredible series until he ran out of gas in Game Six. But the same principal applies.
Orlando must make Kobe Bryant a scorer. He is not going to get to the hole as much as James and he is a much better shooter. Orlando survived two big Bryant games this season and earned the sweep. Bryant averaged 34.5 points and 7.0 assists per game in the two meetings. More importantly, the Magic forced him to take 27.0 shots per game to get those points. He has to become a volume shooter in this series for the Magic to win. * * *
But despite the better supporting cast, Kobe is still the one that makes the team go. If Orlando can force him to be a volume shooter than it makes it less likely that he will be passing to his teammates. * * *
3. Don't be satisfied. I was too young to remember too much from the 1995 NBA Finals (I was what six?). But reading retrospectives on the team and analysis from that time period and it is clear Orlando was happy just to reach the Finals. Beating the Pacers was an accomplishment and the season was a success.
The Houston Rockets, on the other hand, were an experienced title team and expected to win another championship.
Sounds eerily familiar.
I will not lie. Making the NBA Finals is a tremendous accomplishment for this team and this franchise. I would consider this season a success whether Orlando wins or loses this series.
But opportunities like this do not come around often -- as the 1995 team learned when Michael Jordan returned, led his Bulls team to a NBA record 72 wins and an NBA championship. Shaquille O'Neal left and the rest is history. * * *
by The Big Train, The Puns Are Starting to Bore Me (Bloguin)
Today is the day. After 14 years in purgatory, the Orlando Magic will have their second crack at winning the NBA Finals. Much like the Cleveland series, the consensus pick seems to be the Lakers, but don't count out our Magic. During the Conference Finals, 3 out of 7 Puns writers correctly picked Orlando in 6. It's time to see how we will fare on the biggest of stages.
Supply and Demand:
After perfectly predicting the Cavs series outcome, this one is much harder to analyze and predict. The Magic presented serious match-up problems for our opponents that made guessing the outcome of the first three series much easier. This one has so many questions for both teams like: Can Ariza still be productive enough offensively to match his defensive prowess? Can Rafer Alston take advantage of Derek Fischer the same way Jameer did during the regular season series? * * * Can Pietrus play Kobe as well as he did Lebron? Can Bynum stay out of foul trouble and keep Dwight from dominating the paint? * * * Magic in 7
The Big Train:
So, here we are. The Finals. The matchup advantages that Orlando had over LeBron and Cleveland has been discussed, and discussed, and discussed. Orlando does not have the same luxury in this series. * * * Will they double a lot? If so, will Dwight be able to either get to the basket before the help comes or find the open man on the perimeter? If LA plays Hack-a-Dwight will the big guy be able to step up and hit 70% like he did against Cleveland? Will the Magic let Kobe get his own, but shut down Gasol and the rest? * * * Magic in 7
This team grew up after game five in Boston. It's like they finally got what Stan has been yelling about this entire season. I don't see them buying into the Laker mystique or the general consensus that they should be glad to have made it this far and prepared to step aside so the Laker's can step up and take yet another title. * * * Magic in 6
I saw it in Dwight's eyes during Game 6. He wants this. I heard it from him in his halftime interview when he was panting and sweating like crazy and told Craig Sager he just wants it so bad. He is a man on a championship mission and has the cast around him to accomplish the goal. * * * I know the Lakers with Kobe and his supporting cast present the absolute greatest challenge to them but my heart tells me this Magic team is up to the task. Magic in 6
by Black and Blue Jor, The Howeva Files
Watching the NBA Playoffs, all I keep thinking to myself is, "Man, Pau Gasol sure has a lot of acne on his arms." — But besides that, I also think, "Man, it would be so fun to be friends with Mickael Pietrus." The guy does some funny face or gesture after every three he makes, and his interviews are often completely silly and ridiculous. He's like if Will Ferrell could dunk and had an absolutely enormous brow. — Oh and was black. Sorry, I don't see color, unlike some of you.
Take the latest "news", which has Pietrus changing his shoes from Kobe shoes to Jordan shoes for the Magic's showdown with the Lakers. * * *
Playoffs 2009: Real NBA: Pietrus Enjoying the Ride
Link from The Howeva Files
by Mike from Illinois, Orlando Magic Blog
Here's a look at how the two teams match up by position, with playoff statistics in parenthesis:
PG: Derek Fisher (7.1 ppg, 35.6% FG) vs Rafer Alston (12.7 ppg, 38.3%)
* * * Advantage... MAGIC
SG: Kobe Bryant (29.6 ppg, 46.6% FG) vs Courtney Lee (8.8 ppg, 45.1% FG) or Mickael Pietrus (10.5 ppg, 48.5% FG)
* * * Advantage... LAKERS
SF: Trevor Ariza (11.4 ppg, 55.8% FG) vs Hedo Turkoglu (15.2 ppg, 41% FG, 5.1 assists)
* * * Slight advantage... MAGIC
PF: Pau Gasol (18.2 ppg, 57.4% FG, 11.3 reb) or Lamar Odom (12.0 ppg, 51.9% FG, 9.5 rebounds) vs Rashard Lewis (19.4 ppg, 46% FG, 6.1 rebounds)
* * * Slight advantage... LAKERS
C: Andrew Bynum (6.3 ppg, 3.6 rebounds) or Gasol vs Dwight Howard (21.7 ppg, 62.2% FG, 15.4 rebounds)
* * * Advantage... MAGIC
Other bench players for the Lakers: SG Shannon Brown (5.7 ppg); PG Jordan Farmar (5.1 ppg); SG Sasha Vujacic (3.8 ppg); SF Luke Walton (3.8 ppg)
Other bench players for the Magic: SG: J.J. Redick (6.2 ppg); PG Anthony Johnson (4.3 ppg); C Marcin Gortat (3.3 ppg); PF Tony Battie (2.2 ppg) Slight advantage... LAKERS
Coaches: Phil Jackson vs Stan Van Gundy
Van Gundy has done an outstanding job in his two seasons with the Magic to get them to this point, but Jackson is a future Hall of Famer with 9 championships. Advantage... LAKERS
I think this is going to be an outstanding and very competitive series, much better than a Cavaliers/Lakers matchup would have been (The Lakers would have beaten the Cavs in 4 or 5 games).
I don't want to jinx the Magic by picking them to win. * * *
The Bottom Line:
1. No Jameer. (sigh.)
2. Okay, we can do this thing... We WILL do this thing... Magic are gonna win!!!