You’re an NBA fan. You were looking forward to a possible Kobe vs. Lebron matchup in the NBA Finals. You’re a little upset that you aren’t getting it (believe me, ESPN, ABC, and Madison Avenue are, too). You feel let down after months and months of Kobe vs. Lebron hype. You probably don’t think Kobe vs. Dwight is going to live up to Kobe vs. Lebron. It probably won’t. But have no fear. I’m here to tell you why you should be looking forward to the L.A. – Orlando finals showdown.
* It’s going to be a good series. The Lakers, like the Cavs, face similar matchup problems against the Magic. If they double team Dwight Howard, then the brigade of three point bombers (Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Rafer Alston, and Michael Pietrus) will do their share of damage, just as they did against Cleveland. If the Lakers try to defend the three, then Howard might have all the room he needs to roam the paint. Either way, the Lakers leave themselves vulnerable.
* Phil Jackson: Phil is going for his tenth NBA championship. At this point, the only debate is who people think was the better coach – Red Auerbach of The Zen Master.Both have nine championship rings. Phil would help his case by winning his tenth right here.
Does that make Phil the better coach? I honestly can’t tell you. I really don’t think anyone can. They coached in two completely different eras. The game was completely different. Though both coaches probably would have been able to adjust, it’s not an absolute. So for now, you just have to say they coached in different eras.
I will say this, though. People who say Auerbach was the better coach like to point out that Phil has had the best talent ever assembled to coach. Those same people never admit that Red had some pretty good talent, too. Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Bob Cousy; I could go on and on. Those guys are all Hall of Famers.
Jackson did have great talent to work with. But consider this. Between the intensely driven Michael Jordan, the moody Scottie Pippen, and the flaky Dennis Rodman, Jackson had his hands full. He had to massage Pippen’s ego and keep Rodman walking the straight and narrow while allowing Michael to be the dominant personality of the team.
In L.A., Jackson managed to win three straight titles despite the fact that his two biggest stars – Kobe and Shaq – hated each other. That isn’teasy to do either.
And if Jackson can win his tenth ring as a coach with a team made up of Kobe, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, and role players, he might have done his best coaching job ever.
I’m not saying Phil was a better coach than Auerbach. But he’s the best I’ve ever seen (I wasn’t around for Red). And ten rings is more than any other coach has.
* Stan Van Gundy: He’s not the greatest coach in the world, but he is one of the more entertaining guys you’ll find. He doesn’t beat around the bush. He tells you what’s on his mind, and doesn’t care if it’s the right thing to say or not.
Van Gundy doesn’t have much of a filter. He doesn’t speak in the language that coaches have spoken with for years. He doesn’t say ‘safe’ things. Add that up to the fact he won’t be doing many shoots for GQ anytime soon, and has an uncanny resemblance to porn star Ron Jeremy, and you have a media guy’s dream. The fans like him too. He’s a ‘never a dull moment’ kind of guy.
* Dwight Howard: When people talk about the best players in the league, they usually talk about Kobe and Lebron. Howard’s one of those guys that people get to and say ‘he’s really good,’ but he’s almost never mentioned when you talk about the best player in the league.
It might be time to start thinking of him when the ‘best player’ conversation pops up. I’m not saying he is the best, but he’s got to be in that group. He’s the best center in the league (sorry Yao), and he just eliminated James in what a lot of people considered a big upset.
He’s young. His game seems to be improving. And there isn’t anyone on the Lakers that can stop him. Nike might want to make a Dwight Howard puppet soon.
* Kobe Bryant: There isn’t much to say about Bryant that hasn’t already been said. I think he’s the best player in the league. The biggest difference between Kobe and Lebron is that Kobe has that killer instinct. When Kobe senses that an opponent is on his way out, he puts his foot on that opponent’s throat. Lebron has done that, but not as often and not as consistently as Kobe has.
The one thing Kobe hasn’t done is win a title without Shaq. You know how much that bothers him. Shaq is probably getting ready to do another song at a night club should Kobe and the Lakers lose to Orlando. This is Kobe’s chance to shut the few critics he has left up. This is his chance to shut Shaq up. That alone should make for some entertainment.
There you go. Five reasons why the NBA Finals won’t suck even though we don’t have the Kobe-Lebron showdown we were dreaming about.