And the winner is ...
You wanted to know what I thought? Well, here’s what I think.
L.A. Lakers vs. Orlando Magic
Game 1: Thursday at L.A., 9 p.m., ABC, TSN
Game 2: Sunday at L.A., 8 p.m., ABC, TSN
Game 3: Tuesday at Orlando, 9 p.m., ABC, TSN
Game 4: Thursday, June 11 at Orlando, 9 p.m., ABC, TSN
x-Game 5: Sunday, June 14 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ABC, TSN
x-Game 6: Tuesday, June 16 at L.A., 9 p.m., ABC, TSN
x-Game 7: Thursday, June 18 at L.A., 9 p.m., ABC, TSN
How They Got Here
Lakers beat Utah, 4-1, Houston, 4-3, Denver, 4-2; Orlando beat Philadelphia, 4-2, Boston, 4-3, Cleveland, 4-2.
Magic won, 2-0
Is Kobe Kryptonite?
Does that kind of cliché bore you like it does me?
Stuff about the series
This may not be Kobe-LeBron but there is all kinds of intrigue to look for in a series that could have some legs.
Of course for the Lakers, it stops and starts with Bryant, who is as comfortable setting up teammates and acting as a decoy (as he said he did in pivotal Game 5 of the West final) as he is getting his 35 points a night. But it’s time for the best players to be the best players and you know he’s uber-bitter about the way last year’s trip to the Finals turned out.
Los Angeles is going to need something – anything – consistently out of Lamar Odom, who can present as many matchup problems for the Magic as Orlando’s Hedo Tukoglu and Rashard Lewis do for the Lakers. Trouble is, the uniquely-talented Odom disappears for long stretches, and that usually coincides with games disappearing for the Lakers.
One hunch: Andrew Bynum will have two fouls in the first three minutes of at least four games. He’ll try to muscle Dwight Howard and fail miserably.
Pau Gasol-Lewis is the best matchup of the series, in one man’s opinion. Is Gasol going to defend out to the three-point line well? Is Lewis going to be able to handle Gasol in the low post? And if the Lakers go with Gasol and Odom, who does Howard check? Figuring that out is going to keep Stan Van Gundy up nights.
This sounds funny to devout Raptor fans with long memories but one of the huge keys for the Magic is the shooting of Rafer Alston. He’s going to get his shots – every team in the league seems to double off him and go under high screens – and when he makes them, it opens the floor for everyone else. I presume Sam Mitchell won’t be sitting at home smiling every time Skip drills a three.
Mickeal Pietrus does not start for the Magic but you can be sure he’ll finish. He’s got the best chance to try and even slow Bryant down; there is no way Orlando can live with Courtney Lee guarding Bryant, he’s too small and too inexperienced. At least Pietrus has some length.
This is a perfect example of a series between teams built around multi-faceted, multi-position players. Which is going to make matchups interesting and the games fun, we can hope.
What won’t happen
No formal attire for Stan Van Gundy.
What will happen
There’s just something about the Magic. They have met every challenge – and Boston and Cleveland were substantial hurdles – because they just keep doing what they do. Shoot threes and create matchup problems.
Orlando in seven.
A couple quick hits on some other stuff.
I’m sure you’ve all read the Alvin Williams story today?
And I’m sure you all know that I think this is a good idea and if you don’t, here’s why:
The one thing the Raptors don’t have is any sense of tradition. There are no old Raptors still in the fold – hell, Alvin played here in 2006 and the only guys left from that team are Bosh, Calderon and, maybe Joey – and welcoming one back can’t hurt.
Two, he’s a good basketball mind and the more of those you have, the better. When he played, he “thought” the game as much as played it and if he can impart some of that knowledge to guys like Jose and Roko and whatever rookies they bring in, it has to help.
Third, if players want to whine during the season – and, trust me, they do – I think they’ll find it easier to whine to a young coach two years removed from the game than anybody else. Don’t diminish the need for a sounding board.
Anyway, from conversations I’ve had with a few people who’d know, I expect an announcement Thursday or Friday.
Another Raptor-related item.
Yes, they have kids scheduled to work out here on Thursday and Friday.
No, they are not 100 per cent sure just yet who they will be.
No, they haven't finalized any kind of pecking order for the draft, according to people I've spoken to.
Yes, I'll try to find that out in the next few days but it's always, always, always a fluid situation and the guy who may be the apple of their eye today could be an afterthought tomorrow. Because they are so far down the draft order, it's more a matter of trying to figure out what people ahead of them will do more than anything.
I’m also sure you all went here yesterday hoping to find out that Bosh was going to profess his undying love for all things Raptors and was going to commit to the team for the rest of his born days.
Um, not so much.
But this DVD-CD thing’s kind of cool, no? A nice way to branch out for a kid who likes to push the envelope and try different things. I have no idea if it’ll be funny, and I’m pretty sure I won’t quite “get” the music on the CD but what the heck, why wouldn’t a 25-year-old kid try something new.
And don’t worry, I’m assured by people who know him and work with him that he’s still going to get his time in in the gym working on his game and his body. It’s not like he’s going to get fat and slovenly because he’s doing some video comedy work.
Besides, who among us works 24/7/365? Don’t we all need hobbies and a break every now and then?
Oh yeah, we’re trying to work out some live chat thing for Thursday afternoon to discuss that night’s opening game of the finals. Figure noon here, 9 a.m. out west, might be a good time? Get your questions ready now.
If you’re going to the ball game tonight, get there on time if you want to see a lanky righty throw out the first pitch. Dude at one time was a heckuva first basemen, as I recall, but decided playing and coaching basketball might be a better way to utilize his skills.
All right, time to pack, clean up some stuff around the house before Toronto-Minneapolis-L.A. journey that’s got a lot of Lewis and Clark in it. The next transmission comes from L.A., where we’re staying in Hollywood and I figure I'm headed to Schwab's Drugstore to get “discovered” while out on a starlet search.