In a joking comment meant to rib his father, Klay Thompson ignited an insufferable national debate tailor-made to fill the time between the second and third games in 2016 NBA Finals. Thompson joked during his postgame press conference that his Golden State Warriors, the winningest regular season team of all-time, were "better than the Showtime Lakers" his father Mychal Thompson played for.
During an appearance on the Dan Patrick show, former Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal didn't sound sure that Thompson's comments were true, but there was one thing he was absolutely certain of.
"I think we would've killed [the Warriors]," O'Neal told Patrick. "I mean because I definitely would have put Klay and Steph on the ground when they come into the lane with the finger roll. Definitely. And I don't know if they could take that pain two or three times."
Shaq said he didn't think which rules the groups met under mattered either.
"Today's rules we'd kill 'em, because just like you can't hand check Steph Curry, you can't hand check Kobe either," said Shaq. "And Bogut, Bogut would have been Australian barbecued chicken."
O'Neal is right that there isn't anyone on the Warriors capable of checking him individually, but what about the Lakers trying to guard two-time MVP Stephen Curry? Shaq thought there was a player on his team that might have a shot against the spritely flamethrower.
"Our point guard, Steph Curry probably would have done a number on, he probably would have gotten his shot off on [Derek Fisher], but I think [Brian Shaw] could've given him one for his money."
That... Seems unlikely.
However, even if Curry got going it's hard to see how the Warriors wouldn't keep Shaq from throwing some Bogut on the barbie. As I wrote when Rick Fox said he thought those threepeat Lakers could beat the Warriors earlier this year, the matchup would likely come down to a stylistic clash and who was forced to blink first between Phil Jackson and Steve Kerr:
The most interesting stylistic clash would be to see whether Phil Jackson or Steve Kerr blinked first when the Lakers closing lineup of Shaq-Horry-Bryant-Fisher and Brian Shaw (based on most 4th quarter minutes during that playoff run) went up against the Warriors' "lineup of death" featuring Draymond Green at center flanked by Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes. Would that spread attack do the unthinkable and force Shaq off the floor? Or would a prime O'Neal prove far too much to handle for Green on the block?
The matchup between the "death lineup" vs. "Kobe-Shaq and three other guys lineup" is still the most interesting hypothetical in this discussion. Of course Green couldn't guard Shaq one-on-one, but could the Warriors use a strategy of intentional fouling, offense-defense substitutions, and their trademark rapid helping and recovering to at least stay afloat defensively and score at a rate to actually force Jackson to get Shaq off the floor? It seems unlikely, but then again, so did this run of success for the Warriors a few years ago.
The only thing we know for certain is we need NBA teams to divest their resources into building a time machine to make these matchups happen.
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