First off: Adande absolutely killed it in today’s Dime. Just a wonderful piece, especially written on deadline in all the noise and emotions that must go with players you’ve known that long getting a championship. Hollinger’s Ariza piece is sensational, as well.
Pretty much the only emotional solace that any Magic fan can take from this game is that it pretty much put to bed any notions of this being a fluke championship for the Lakers-one legitimate win in Orlando wins that series for the Lakers in pretty much any scenario, and they got that tonight. And the only two blowouts in the series went to the Lakers.
Game 2 is tough and Game 4 is downright heartbreaking, but the Magic would absolutely have lost with only one of those, and even with both they’d still be staring at having to take one of two in Staples. In a sealed environment, I think the Lakers take this one in 6 the vast majority of the time if you play it 10,000 times. The Magic blew a win to take it down to five, and didn’t capitalize on a 50-50 shot to take it to seven. There was a puncher’s chance that the Magic could beat the Lakers four times, but no chance for them to beat them five.
And this was the Lakers’ year. Windows in the NBA are 1-3 years long, and the Lakers made the most of their 2nd shot to be a championship team. Now Odom, in all likelihood, leaves this off-season, and while I’m not sure anyone really knows just how much Odom helps or hurts that team, I think his loss is going to hurt them very, very badly-there are so many amazing things he does on a basketball court. Fisher gets that much older, Bynum is Bynum, et cetera. With Gasol and Bryant suiting up every night, they could absolutely repeat, but I personally don’t see them having another mid-60 win juggernaut-type season in them, although that’s also possible if Bynum can step up and Kobe can keep from declining.
As for the Magic, I have them as my championship favorites next year provided they can re-sign Turkoglu and the Cavs don’t make a move. Nelson coming back will be huge, and their only limiting factor-Dwight’s propensity not to assert himself as the best player on the floor-certainly doesn’t hurt them against the Cavs, whom he murdered. And there’s also the chance Dwight comes back with some simple post moves and goes into the 25-27 PPG range, although I wouldn’t bank on that.
There’s a lot to like about this Laker team if you can get past everyone’s pathological need to make everything they do well a function of Kobe, up to and including Dwight Howard missing free throws and the Magic allowing a clean three-point look with one possession left. Gasol might be my favorite non-Cav to watch go to work in the league-he’s pretty much single-handedly keeping post moves alive. Lamar Odom is an amazing human being who happens to play basketball at a ridiculously high level. Derek Fisher is as class as they come. Sasha Vujacic didn’t score a point in the finals. And Kobe the actual person, once you can separate him from the myths that other people surrond him with, is a cool guy who’s worked as hard at this game as any other human being and absolutely deserved a championship as the alpha dog.
And this team bucked some trends-they play offense, play it at a fast pace, and unapologetically outscored people on their way to the championship. They brought Lamar off the bench. They killed the “championship team’s dont have weird body language in 2nd-round games” crap that plagues elite teams for entire seasons before they actually play the championship games, which it turned out the Lakers were pretty good at.
The Lakers had to produce this year, and they did. Next year it’s our backs to the wall with Z reaching old age, our expirings expiring, and of course, the Summer of Doom looming. Let’s hope we can seize the opportunity.
As for Shaq, we don’t give up anything we want basketball-wise, so I don’t have a problem with it, although I wonder what we do with Z, think he’s risky, and think there’s a chance he could take away our strengths while he shores up our weaknesses. Good to see that Ferry isn’t sitting pretty, though.
And now the 0ff-season begins. It’ll be fun. Stay tuned, campers.