Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Boston is the better team. The thing that made this fact -- that a 66 win team is better than a 57 win team -- a surprising one was the way the Lakers looked coming into the Finals and the way Boston looked to start the playoffs. It turns out we were all fooled. Boston was already a bad match up for these Lakers. They had a bigger, tougher frontline and they had more veteran experience. Now realize that this is the NBA finals and the particulars of that bad match up make it a nightmarish one. This was not as close of a series as the 6 game length might imply.
So where does that leave the Lakers? Well we do get Bynum back next year. Which is huge. Make no mistake about it. We're basically adding a top five center. So that would help shore up the toughness, rebounding, shot blocking, defensive anchoring, inside scoring etc that the Lakers were sorely lacking in this series. And we will have a full year to jell which should improve the team's cohesion both on the offense and defensive end.
But more importantly, the Lakers next year should and will play with a bit of an edge. A chip on their collective shoulders, one that may not be there had they won this year. It's NBA growing pains and we've seen it happen before. Jordan losing to Detroit. Shaq and Kobe losing to Utah and San Antonio. And even though these Celtics did not have a similar experience as a unit, they did individually with all of the big three making deep playoff runs in past years only to come up short. And that's what gave the Celtics that something extra this series. They had that edge. They had that hunger. There was a huge gap between these two teams in that respect. And even though they pounded the crap out of us, I feel like this series just caused that gap to get A LOT smaller. Of course, adding a couple of nasty veterans in the off-season might not hurt.
And I guess all there is left to talk about is Kobe and his legacy. Now, a lot of people have been using this latest chink in the armor as the indisputable evidence that Kobe is not on the level of MJ. And they are 100% correct. Jordan never did and probably never would have lost two straight times in the Finals. But maybe this is a good thing. Maybe now people will start looking at Kobe for who he is rather than the gap between him and Jordan, something Kobe pleaded for during his Sunday Coversation with Stephen A. Smith a few weeks ago.
Yes, he is about the same size as MJ. He has a competitive drive and a fadeaway that reminds people of MJ. He can light you up while shutting you down like MJ.
But after that, what's the point of comparing? Because so much of the way we perceive these guys, and athletes in general, is left up to fate. Like what if Jordan was drafted onto a team that already had a star player. Maybe he would have won a title early without the pain/benefit of an arduous climb to the top. And then maybe he would have had to deal with being knocked off his pedestal after the other star began to decline and he was handed the reins to the team. Perhaps he would have endured his growing pains then. And maybe (or let's face it, inevitably) he would have rebuilt, reclaimed his glory and took his place atop the Mount Olympus of the NBA.
Does that story sound familiar? Well, it's not Kobe's. It's Magic's. Maybe that's the more apt comparison in terms of career arc. And I have absolutely no problem with that.