Lessons In Losing

Kurt —  January 8, 2009

Celebrities Attend Lakers vs Clippers Game
The NBA season is a long one, and every team has its ups and downs. In early December, the Lakers had one of their downs and much of the fanbase was freaking out., calling for trades and suggesting that there was just no way this team could win a title. Right now, the Celtics are in a down phase, and their fan base is freaking out, calling for personnel moves and suggesting that there was just no way this team could win a title.

To me, what has been different is how the coaches handled those streaks.

When the Lakers played like crap in December, Phil Jackson was coaching for April and May. He let them struggle, and while his placid style can drives fans nuts during a game against Sacramento, Phil knows it’s not about the Kings. A loss now can be a lesson learned as the team finds its own path. We all know from our lives, despite warnings from those in the know, sometimes we have to learn hard lessons for ourselves. And those are the lessons that stick. Phil puts out interesting lineups in the clutch in December seeing what worked and what didn’t. He tests players to help them and the team grow, and doing that means allowing them to fail. Coaches are competitive people, allowing a player and a team to fail is not in their nature, but Phil knows the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term gains.

There is no other coach in the league that has his eye on the big picture all season long like Phil, Greg Popovich could be the other. But those two guys have a lot of rings because they keep their eyes on the prize.

I’m not sure Doc Rivers can do that. Darius said it very well in the comments.

I think Doc (and this worked masterfully last season with a hungry group that had never reached the highest level) coaches to win every game and to maximize effort and production for every game. This goes hand in hand with KG, so for last year’s Celtics, I think this was exactly what was needed for them to win the title. It worked, so good on them. But now, this season, the Celtics are not as good, not as deep, and are coming off a 100+ game season where they played intense ball (or strived for it) every single night….and ultimately that same strategy is not going to work this season. Doc has to make adjustments, but with the makeup of his team (led by KG) I’m not sure if that’s even possible. They’re going to go hard every night, and that’s a tough thing to do when they’re in year two after a Finals win. Not because they don’t *want* to, but because it’s just a hard thing to do coming off the grind of a championship season.

Think back to the Lakers threepeat years earlier this decade. In those second and third title years, how truly impressive of a regular season team were we? How hard did we push for regular season dominance? The fact is we weren’t impressive or dominant in the regular season. In fact it was quite the opposite, we *flipped the switch* (as the pundits say) and dominated the playoffs (at least the majority of the series we played) and won multiple titles. Boston (and really Doc’s) goal should be to win the title. But he’s going to have to realize (and never being in this position before is going to hamper his ability to do so) that you can’t have a team play with maximized effort and energy for two straight seasons and 200+ games. Either he’ll learn or they’ll lose.

This is why I love our coach. People can complain about his style and the fact that he just sits there, but he wants his team to peak at the right time and he wants them to find their own path. How often does the General of the Army really go and give orders on the front line anyway? The soldiers, when in the heat of battle, need to know what to do on their own. He knows what he’s doing.

I like our army’s chances in June, in large part because of December.

Kurt

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92 responses to Lessons In Losing

  1. Kurt & Darius,

    Good job. I had a thought yesterday that not only does Doc not have the experience of coaching a “good” team through slumps, but nothing in the so called “big 3′s” history shows that they can get their teams out of the tough times. When things got bad, they got worse when they led their own teams.

    Now, this Celtic team is better than any team KG, PP, or Ray Allen led before, but now, who’s going to be the steadying influence?

  2. Sorry for the double post.

    We are considered the deepest team in the NBA right now. All due to the fact that PJ has bred the consistency and trust in these guys in crucial spots throughout the past few years.

  3. Sun Tsu with the two pointer. I think that this strategy helps when you have players like we do. Kobe Bryant doesn’t freak unless Slava Medvadenko’s on his team, Pau Gasol is the Spanish Rico Suave, and Fisher’s the Second Hand Man. There’s a real sense of professionality from most of our squad that seems to eminate from their trust in our coach. They know that they can say to the media, “I think (whatever)” without retaliation; and they also know that Phil isn’t trying to do anything but win. Coaches are competitive, and we’ve got the most competent, high exalted in the business.

    Amen, Kurt.

  4. Nice post.

    What do you guys think of Mike Brown as a coach who also keeps his eye on the big picture? He learned from Greg Popovich and the Cavs always seem to overachieve in the playoffs.

  5. There’s been quite a few trades recently where teams have given up players for second round picks and cash just so the team can cut the player.

    Example 1. Hassan Adams to the clippers for a second round pick and cash.

    Example 2. Shaun Livingston to the Grizzlies for a second round pick and cash.

    What I wanted to ask is.. what is the benefit for the team which is cutting the player?

    From my perspective it looks like they gave away a second round pick for nothing.

    If the cash doesnt exceed the amount of salary made by the player their trading for…Is there any point to the trade?

  6. I do agree with the post about Phil and looking big picture. He’s not about winning 70 games in the regular season. He’s all about the run to 16 post season wins.

    However, one thing that must be pointed out about the Celtics situation that can’t be understated is that they don’t have the luxury to afford losses like we do. Unfortunately for them, they have the Cavs and the Magic right on their ass.

    Who comes close to us with regards to having a better record than us? Hornets? Despite the recent loss, I’m sure we’ll have a better record barring injuries. Rockets? Way too many injuries. Suns? If Shaq played every night, MAYBE, but doubtful. Jazz? Too slow of a start.

    So yes, I think Phil can afford to tinker and toy with different line-ups at the expense of a loss here or there. Boston is going to have to run at full gear to keep the Cavs and Magic in their rear-view mirror. And home-court is essential to them. Look at what the best record brought them last season. Two Game 7s on their floor.

  7. Man, Kurt. You got this out pretty early for pacific time.

    You and Darius are dead on. And you admitting LA played like “crap” for most of December just shut me completely up. I hadn’t seen you simply say that yet. If you did, I missed it. My realist nature is appeased.

    That said, I focus on the Boston points of the post. 1) I say Doc is a mediocre coach at best. 2) They put it together in the Finals, but I thought they were quite beatable then, and more so this year. While the record was/is great, often they only play well for a quarter or a half a lot of games. No one cares when you get wins, now it’s catching up with them a little. 3) The “big” three rarely all have it going the same night. Usually it’s only 2 maybe 1. With the D, they usually get enough from the bench so they score enough to win. But, this equals recurring scoring droughts.

    Does anybody that cares about Boston’s problems have anything?

  8. The side bar to all of this is the players who are not the focus of our team – everyone except Kobe, Pau, Bynum, LO, and Fish. In Phil’s 1st two years Fish was in this sidebar group and he is now a very respected member of the bball fraternity.

    What I am talking about is player development. Part of this is picking the right players (Mitch), but only part of it. The other question is how Phil develops these players. I contend that Phil learned something new with the 1999-2003 Lakers. He tried to coach them like the Bulls and bring in only vets. What he has learned since then is how to integrate young players into his training system. He now throws them in for shorter periods and lets them flounder. Then he sits them while they watch with more experience. Then he puts them in for longer stretches. This works well with the season because players get injured and he has to do something if he isn’t going to wear out his key vets.

    This short play, long sit, longer play, shorter sit fits well to train players why they have to listen and improve. Those who do play more. I think it is all a little more complicated than I describe, but that is the general idea of Phil, since 2004.

  9. I would not put Mike Brown into the group. His track record with Cleveland is that his offense gets stagnant (and too simple) down the stretch and teams have been able to shut it down. People have written about him trying to spice up the offense with help from others, so maybe that will become less of a problem. But having an easily defendable offense (give it to LeBron and clear out) doesn’t make you part of the elite group of coaches.

    I’m also going to agree with most of the commenters. While having a good coach can make a difference, I think the key is having the right personnel. Boston still has very good personnel and they’ll figure it out. Better for them that they stumble now than in April. With or without Doc, they’re going to put it together. Of that, I have no doubt. So while it’s nice to believe that the zen master is playing chess, while everyone else is playing candyland, I believe it’s the players willingness to battle with pride and follow the game plan on defense that is going to make the difference on whether the Lakers win a title or not.

    That said, if I had to choose, I’d pick Pop or PJ in a heartbeat over the Doc and Ubuntu (how come no one ever makes a Linux reference here?). It does rather seem like Phil is playing chess while many other coaches are playing Candyland.

  10. awesome post Kurt but I had a little off topic question I didn’t get a chance to ask in the other posts regarding odoms injury.

    isn’t a bone bruise the same thing that Kobe had during the preseason and played thru the next game? if so are there just different levels of severity or is it just based on if the player can handle the pain?

  11. nomuskles,

    Good point about the C’s and Cav’s offensives. I watched one game thathf7uy6t78cr the Cavs lost, where the Cleveland pretty much ran the same play with the PF or C coming from the deep post to set a screen for LBJ to drive to the lane. Five possessions in a row.

  12. 10. Both. There are levels of severity, just like any bruise really. And, Kobe’s pain threshold is notoriously high. The report I got from someone who saw Odom yesterday is that he was walking with a considerable limp.

  13. By the way, I agree that Boston will be playing well again by the time the playoffs roll around and will be a force.

    I think what I am trying to get at is that this Laker team will be better in April than it is right now because of what has and will happen, and the coach. Boston is not going to be better than they were during the streak (outside a smart personnel move).

  14. nomuskles,

    I have found that a Linux reference has failed me in every social circle except for my engineer friends.

  15. These past two games, it seems we have reverted back to lackadaisical defense, and 3-Pt happy offense. This is how we played during our “slump(?)” We have two revenge games coming up, so I hope that they realize it was lack of focus and discipline on offense that caused those losses. then put the wood to Indy and Miami.

    One other thing. off topic, though. Why haven’t the Dodgers signed Manny yet? What’s wrong over there?

  16. I take a break from work to come read FBG and then i see the very thing i am taking a break from…linux

    Thanks nomuskles for ruining my lunch break :)

  17. Craig W,
    “What he has learned since then is how to integrate young players into his training system. ”

    PJ integrated plenty of young players into his system in Chicago. The issue was the quality of the young players during the years you mentioned.

  18. I thought Rivers did a very good job of developing both Rondo and Perkins. Maybe “developing” isn’t the most precise word for it. While not a basketball sage, Rivers gave those two the experience they needed to level-up, rpg-style. Not only did Rondo and Perkins improve, but so did team chemistry and cohesion.

    So, I don’t buy that Rivers is myopic at all.

    Hypothetically, what if PJ were coaching the Celtics? What more could he extract from House, Tony Allan, Powe, Scalabrine, or Big Baby? How much better can that bench become?

    I think Boston’s problems have more to do with personnel and management than coaching. Ainge let go of Posey, failed to sign cheap(yet productive) talent like Chris Anderson and Matt Barnes, and selected rookies that are presently not NBA-ready.

  19. 18.

    Exactly. It is a myth that Phil has never developed young players.

    First of all, he came out of the CBA, which acted as the NBDL of it’s time (especially, once the Ten-Day contract was instituted in the early ’80s, which is when Jackson was coaching the Albany Patroons).

    Secondly, he inherited a young Bulls’ team in ’89-90: Pippen and Grant were each 24 years old and had only played in the NBA for 2 seasons to that point; and Pippen had only started 56 games to that point. Future starter and third-scoring option, BJ Armstrong, was a rookie. Future bench contributors, Will Perdue and Stacey King, were also rookies. Future 6th man, Scott Williams, was drafted the following season.
    All of this goes without mentioning that Jordan himself was only 26 at the time Phil arrived and had only played in 4 full NBA seasons (he essentially missed his 2nd year due to injury).

  20. remember that EVERY game for the reigning champs is a huge game for the opponents, they get up for this game like no other during the season. this is especially true for the teams who don’t have ANY other chance for a highlight to their season, the bottom dwellers, for them a W against the reigning champs MAKES their season.
    so, this Celtics team is experiencing what our championships teams have known over the years, the season after winning it all is even tougher, I recall seeing this big time back in the Magic era, and that team had the toughness and leadership to be able to match the intensity on most nights. this is what the C’s are up against right now and will learn that it’s not going to get any easier as the season progresses, more the opposite, it will get tougher for them.
    so…take THAT!! C’s…hahaha

  21. Chibi,

    I disagree.

    Rivers didn’t give Perkins and Rondo, and the rest experience. Having to play them because you have three $20 million guys on your team does. His substitution patterns had Rondo looking over his shoulder and it clearly affected his confidence for a while.

    He was the coach who had them on an 18 game losing streak. Don’t forget that Rondo and Perk were both 1st Round picks.

    I’m not saying that Doc had absolutely nothing to do with their development, but having KG, Ray Allen, and PP, plus vets like Posy and PJ Brown had more to do with them looking good, then Doc getting them ready.

    It’s not his defense that they won with. It was Tom Thibodeaux’s, and their offense is a huge problem right now. They never really had one, just great players, and now they can’t score.

  22. Thanks wondahbab. I was going to respond to chibi, but no need. You hit every point better than I would have.

    And while you heard Thibodeaux’s name often (for an assistant) last year, I haven’t heard national media mention him once this season. Only how fantastic Doc Rivers is. He’s proof positive that this is a players league.

  23. #22–

    1. Rivers had options other than Perkins and Rondo. Your assertion he had to play them is nonsense.

    2. No, Rivers didn’t baby Rondo along, and that sort of discipline paid big dividends late in the season.

    3. There are a lot of reasons for that 18-game losing streak. To pin it all on Rivers is simplistic thinking.

    4. I agree that Rivers didn’t single-handedly transform Perkins and Rondo into good players, but give him credit for not micromanaging, delegating his authority, and making excellent use of his veteran leadership.

    5. Thibodeaux’s defense and the Triangle are just diagrams on a piece of paper. You need players to execute these schemes, and credit Rivers for selling it to team leaders, and motivating his team to invest in that physically-demanding style of play through preparation and exercise.

    6. The Celtics are 7th in offensive efficiency. Last year, they were 10th. I don’t think you can chalk up that kind of consistency to having great players.

    It’s not like they have someone like Shaq they can repeatedly feed on every possession. They’re a half-court jumpshooting team with no real post-presence and there’s some structure in place.

  24. No discussion on the (huge) home-court advantage in last year’s playoffs and how it relates to the top 3′s records? You HAVE to consider that. The lake show got shafted (understatement of… ever) in game 2.

    I gathered from this post that Kurt & Darius think Phil isn’t losing sleep over the best record, but I think the Lakers want the top seed as much as Boston.

    I do agree, though, that Phil paces better than others. I’d support that by saying the Lakers will not beat bad teams by 45, then lose their next game. Phil likely knows what level of intensity is needed for each opponent from his team, or maybe even from certain players. However, I definitely don’t think that translates into him not striving for the best record.

  25. Man, the Celtic fans are really down on their team.

    Kurt,

    I’m sure Jeff Clark is 100 times more frustrated than you were with the complaining. If whining were a competition for our fans, then it would be like Game 6 all over again.

  26. I mean whining Celtic fans vs. whining Laker fans.

  27. I think its mostly just mental right now with the Celtics. 19 straight wins is no fluke, that right there is proof that they are still one of the best, if not the best team in basketball right now. The Celtics may have the bordom syndrome that our Laker championship teams got during their seasons back years ago. I remember the second and third seasons of the shaq-kobe championship era, we lost a lot of games to poor teams, almost like we had no motivation to play them. Alot of the teams the celts has lost to on this stretch has been to “bad” teams. Its hard to keep a lot of motivation up. They were motivated highly in the beginning of the year to defend their crown and were killing teams left and right, but now I think they lost a lot of that. Though, I think the other part of the problem is teams are starting to figure out the Celts a bit as well. It will be interesting to see if they can regeign that same dominance they had, but they probably will come April.

  28. 24 – To point 5: Wow! Are you related to Doc? I have a coworker that claims he’s related to Jo Jo White. His position is Doc the best coach in L right now because they won it all. When I read your #5, I had deja vu.

    28 – Joe, I think it’s a little more than mental or boredom. They’re probably there in the end, but that team has fundamental deficiencies that mentally tough teams can attack. Cleveland may be that team and Atlanta may have a puncher’s chance…if someone gets hurt.

  29. In a Simmons podcast that is up on the ESPN Main Page, Simmons and Stein and Bucher talk a lot of things hoops. Obviously the Celtics and the Lakers come up. It’s about an hour long, so I don’t expect anyone to actually go over there and listen but some interesting points were raised by everyone about both the Lakers and the Celtics.

    On the Celtics a couple of key points (at least in my eyes) were made. First is their lack of depth. Simmons is very bearish on the prospects of the Celtics bench, going so far as to say that Tony Allen and Big Baby are two of the worst players who garner 10-15 minutes a game in the league. He goes on to semi-praise Rivers as a guy that could be playing his starters 40+ minutes a game to win more right now and isn’t. Bucher adds that the Celtics, during this most recent slump have not been practicing due to time constraints (which often happens during busy parts of the schedule). Bucher says, and rightfully so I might add, that without practice time it’s hard to work on the things that aren’t going well and that by the end of January the Celtics will be back on track. However, in the end, everyone agreed that without a move to improve the roster, it’s going to be tough sailing for the C’s.

    As for our Lakers, I’m biased, but so is Simmons. He says that he still puts the Spurs in front of us as title contenders. He and Bucher both say that the Lakers have fallen back into the mentality that they can put the car in cruise control and that after the results of the Finals and how we came out all gangbusters to start the season that we should realize the type of effort and full-time commitment it takes to win. They both think this is troublesome. Simmons also decides that Bynum is not worth the money (Bucher and Stein are not on that wagon) and that the Lakers should have made a guy with multiple concerns (injury history, questionable work ethic, weight, hunger to dominate) actually play more his contract. Simmons concluded with the assertion that the Spurs and Cavs will be in the Finals. Take it all for what it’s worth. If you’ve got an hour to burn, give it a listen. It’s not all Lakers and Celtics, but there is some decent info, if you like those guys.

  30. This isn’t of any particular relevance, but I enjoyed it. From HoopsHype:

    “In a game that was supposed to showcase the Lakers’ depth at the end of their bench, Pau Gasol upstaged everyone else instead. The 7-foot Spaniard scored 14 of his game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter and iced the game with a late bucket after Golden State had cut its deficit to three, rallying the Lakers to a 114-106 victory on Tuesday night.
    “He’s an all-star, one of the best players in the world period,” Kobe Bryant said. “I told him before the game I wanted him to go for 40. I said I expected 40, so I called him a lazy bum after the game.”"

  31. Remember how they were saying that the Christmas game was much more inportant to the Lakers than to the Celtics? Sure doesn’t look like it now.

    Doc Rivers is a good coach, but if truth be told, there are several NBA coaches that could have won the title last year with that Celtics team, with all they had going for them. This year will show how good he is.

    I am really struck by how many low scoring, grind-it-out games they are losing lately and I’ve been trying to figure it out, because that is their strength. I’ve come to a few conclusions (aside from obvious things like their bench):

    - Teams are trying to avoid bad quick shots and turnovers as the Celtics relied heavily last year on easy, cheap transition points. Rondo is a lot less effective in the half court game.

    - Playing good defense for 15 to 24 seconds on every defensive possesion is a real grind on your team. Also, without easy baskets, scoring out of half court sets takes alot out of you.

    - Because of the above, the starters are forced to work very hard on both ends of the court and because of the toll this takes on them, now they are losing games late in the 4th quarter that they used to win. In some of these losses (like the Laker game and the Knick game) it was close until there was a couple on minutes left, when the Celtics wilted.

    - Predictible offense. The last minutes of games is almost all Pierce scoring or going to the line. They run the same play over and over – A pick and roll between the free throw line and the top of the key to create a switch of a smaller man on Pierce, who then goes one on one and scores or gets fouled.

    Yes, they will snap out of their funk, but the damage has been done as other teams think they can beat them now.

  32. Hey i have a questino about rotations….
    PJ used to have a 3-man rotation for the 4 and 5 (Gasol, Bynum, Odom), but why doesn’t he do the same for 1 and 2 now? (Bryant, Fisher, Vujacic). The minutes work out pretty well too – Bryant 36, Fish 34, Sasha 26. (give or take a few minutes). Sasha has also proven to be good at passing (his assists went pretty high the last few games). Going to Sun is just a terrible move…He cannot score, cannot pass, is slow, and is foul-prone. I’m sure Sasha can handle a few more minutes with Farmar out (a few more minutes compared to last year’s avg, when Kobe often switched to the 3, not compared to this year’s avg).

  33. I just got 9 tickets to see the Blazers play the Nets in NJ for a grand total of $13.75.

  34. I have discussed this topic many times myself and one point I add to it – is not only are coaches competative, but they also have to worry about their jobs.

    Look at how many coaches this season that couldn’t make it through 25% of the season. Most organizations do not allow for learning on the job, at least not for very long. And the better the team the higher the expectations. So a coach like Doc Rivers has to be under extreme pressure to win every night. I don’t imagine seeing “experiements” with his lineups, rotations, or any part of his coaching becasue he can’t afford to be second guessed. He found the ultimate success last season. My guess is he feels safer going down with the same exact formula rather than risk going down by gettting away from it.

    Certainly that danger has not existed for the majority of Phil’s career. But it just doesn’t seem in his nature to show that kind of worry anyway. He’s so confident that at times it seems like he looks forward to being second guessed. However, I beleive we are correct in crediting him with managing his team through the season and finding the right formula for the playoff run.

  35. 30 – Great podcast. I’m a big Simmons fan despite his love for the Celtics, unfair assessments of the Lakers, and general disdain for Kobe. Although, you can’t really take Simmons seriously when he bashes his Celtics. He’s prone to wild swings in his articles when it comes to them, especially when they lose. I remember he once predicted a Celtic loss to LA as a kinda reverse curse.

    Along with the points you mentioned, Bucher mentions that we have a lot guys that are alike, namely “finesse” guys that don’t have the personalities to play tough. And that our what our depth means is that hopefully we have guys to cover when other choose not to come play that night. Both points I agree with.

  36. Clutch,
    I was in semi-agreement with what was said about “finesse” players. I feel like I’m biased, but not a homer and that I can see things straight when they are put in front of me. So, I agree with the fact the you can’t, at this point in there careers, expect Gasol/Odom/RadMan to become players that they are not. However, what I don’t agree with is that these players are guys that are not tough enough to win with or that they have some sort of flaw in them that means they won’t compete. I think that when the word “finesse” was used, it was meant as an adjective that implied that these guys would not show up in the big game or that they weren’t tough enough to win. And it’s that assertion that I have issues with.

  37. Somehow, I just don’t see what all the panic about the Celtic’s losses is all about. Like Kurt pointed out, nobody really remembers the Lakers regular season record in the recent three-peat years – but we remember the playoff runs. It is far too early in the season and the C’s have plenty of time to adjust.

    I’m more concerned about the durability of our own Laker squad. Odom’s injury (bone bruise) can be one of those things that he comes back from quickly or that bother him all season long and reduce his effectiveness off the bench. Walton has proven to be as durable as a sugar statute so this is another area of concern. Finally, what I saw from Su yesterday did not impress me. I definetely think that he is not going to be the “missing piece” for this year – but he has potential for the future.

    I’m sorry to be such a sour puss, but I am not convinced that we have made any progress on the same issues we were so worried about one month ago. Additionally, if Odom is anything less than 100% for the playoffs, New Orleans and Portland are going to be very difficult challenges – let alone anyone in the east.

    On that happy note, I just have to say I love my Lakers!

  38. Yeah, that’s exactly how he meant it, Darius. He used it as a synonym for soft. And while I don’t deny my ongoing fan turmoil for the group in question, I don’t think Gasol or Odom are soft. I think there are questions. If Gasol regularly brings the aggression I heard about from last night, you can check him off the list.

    I got bored with all the trade talk at the beginning, but what did you think about his criticisms of T-Mac & Yao Ming or their believe that the Spurs are the only team that can beat us?

  39. Sun is getting his few minutes so that he can learn more later when he is sitting on the bench. He may get some more minutes in March and we will all scream then also. What that will mean is that he is learning his lessons and Phil wants to prepare him to contribute more next year. That is Phil’s method.

  40. Clutch,
    Yeah, there will be questions until there are definitive answers. And when everything is judged by winning, we all know what it will take for questions to no longer exist. I’m hoping that my beliefs and the answers I know to be true are there for everyone to see come June.

    As for T-Mac and Yao, I’m torn. I think we live in a day and age that has turned very good players into stars and stars into trancendant players. I think that T-Mac and Yao, by some of their own fault, but mostly by the fault of the marketing machine, are players that are seen as guys that *should* be doing more. That should be winning. That are dissapointments because they are not what they are propped up to be in an age where we really only have 4-5 trancendant players (just like every era only has that many). T-Mac and Yao are both #2′s. While Tim Duncan and Shaq and Kobe and Lebron and Wade are #1′s. Some might not see a difference or if they do it’s only subtle. But even a subtle difference is indeed a difference and I believe that players should, in the end, be appreciated for what they are, not torn down for what we think they should be. Sometimes it will be good enough and sometimes it won’t, but as a fan of the game, I just want to see good ball. As a fan of the Lakers, I want to see our guys end up on top after the final buzzer has sounded….however we get there.

    As for the Spurs, I think you can never count them out. During the preseason, I wrote the team preview for the Spurs that appeared on FB&G. What I said then still stands. I’ll never say the Spurs can’t or won’t. They have the Coach, the UberStar, the PG, and the Lefty Wing that are so damn good and tough they’ll beat you with talent and guts. I wonder if their role players are good and seasoned enough to get the job done, but that’s why the games are played. Do I think they can beat us? Yes. But I do think we’re better and that we have the size, depth, talent, and coaching that can beat them or any other team that stands in our way.

  41. Yeah, right now I don’t see any other team in the West as a problem in a 7-game series, but the Spurs. I fully believe we would beat them, but I know they have a chance. And a loss to them would make me sick to my stomach…

    I like your #1 and #2 assessment. I think it’s OK for them to be 2s, but if they’re going to win anything before their window closes, one of them needs to go 2+. I hope that doesn’t happen for obvious reasons. About T-Mac, he gets an unfair rap. The last 2 years against Utah, he played his heart every game and was effective. They just came up short.

  42. I like finesse players, I think that’s very West Coast and very Lakers.

    Besides, you can be all-finesse while being ultra competitive and having a mean streak, ala Kobe.

  43. Ah, “finesse,” that old Boston code word for deriding the Lakers as soft, uncompetitive and unworthy of even sharing the floor with their beloved, hard-working and oh-so-tough Celtic teams.

    Those of us old enough to remember it will recall that we heard this about that “tissue soft” Kareem, Magic and Worthy-era team. You’ll recall those guys, the Hollywood Fakers who won five (three for Worthy) NBA titles in the 1980s, including stomping on Boston twice and becomming the first team to win three seven-game playoff series in 1988. What a bunch of p—ies, those Lakers were, huh Boston lovers?

    Nothing’s changed but the numbers on the calendar. They’ll say the same thing about this Lakers team until they lose to this Lakers team. And even then, they’ll call the Lakers soft.

    God, I wish Ariza and Bynum had been healthy last June. Let Wheelchair Boy run into Bynum in the paint, or get dogged by Ariza for 20 minutes per game, and let’s see how a seven game series ends up this summer. Unless they get 28 more free throws per game again, I like the Lakers chances if everyone is healthy.

    And to those who said Doc Rivers was one of many who would have won a title with last year’s team, your right. Don’t foget, clowns like Simmons were screaming bloody murder when the Hawks went seven. Yet now revisionist history has made Rivers elite? Puh-lease.

  44. Well we will all see what the Celtics are made of when they play Cleveland on Friday. Its a win win situation for us Laker fans. Either the Celts lose again, or they win and give us a chance at first place in the league. :)

  45. all teams are soft until they win the whole shebang. then they’re solid as a rock. until they lose three in a row and suddenly the world’s falling apart all over again.

    i think the lakers have the ability to win playing “finesse” ball. don’t know how the rest of the nation feels, but i do think our team’s one of the more fun teams to watch out there. i don’t see why you have to play ugly to play tough. if the lakers can play pretty and tough, all the better.

    pretty tough basketball. oh yeah.

  46. Speaking of tough teams, does anyone consider the Spurs “tough” during their championship years? Beyond a few individual players, I never really thought of them as “tough”, maybe more “finesse”. Does anyone remember if that same tag was given to them (by the media and fans) before they won their championships and if that label still lingers on for them?

    My preference is for my team to be more “mentally tough” than “physicially tough”. I would rather them be mentally tough enough to play hard and grind out a win. I feel that the Championship Spurs were a mentally tough team. That coupled with their all around talent (depth), 3 allstart level players, and a good coach got them the rings.

  47. I think T-Mac, when healthy, is a #1. Yao is pretty clearly a #2, like Pau is a #2, or even (I’d argue) Pippen was a #2.

    Houston is probably never going to be healthy enough to win it all.

    The Spurs are getting the benefit of the doubt out of some kind of lifetime achievement award, but they are a long shot. They’ve injected some youth into their bench, and next year they will probably be even better. But for this year, I would take our chances with our bench versus their bench. Also, for whatever reason, Phil tends to get the best of Pop in the playoffs.

  48. Speaking of “finesse” vs “tough” I’d swear Gasol has added some muscle since last year. His upper body looks stronger, don’t you think?

  49. Yess i noticed that too. I think he said that this was the first season he started lifting weights because everyone was calling him soft in the playoffs.

    PS: I feel like we are leaving Jerry Sloan out of the conversation as a coach who “sees the big picture.” nah?

  50. The Dude Abides January 8, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Pau recently said that he’s been working out with weights for the first time in his professional career.

    I too would rather have a long, talented, finesse team that is mentally tough than a physical team that has fewer mentally tough players.

    One other point on that podcast is that Stein, Bucher, and Simmons pretty much agreed that these Celtics are the most hated defending champions around the league in the past 20 years. KG’s antics plus the entire team’s trash-talking make it a lot easier for the opposition to be up for playing the champs. I absolutely love the following video:
    http://nba.fanhouse.com/2009/01/02/kevin-garnett-profile-in-courage/

    I had never noticed KG’s lack of class before, until last season’s “short shorts” game at Staples when Doc left him in the game with a 22-pt lead and two minutes to go in the 4th, and he blocked LO’s shot while screaming “Get that sh** out of here!” That bit of rubbing it in angered LO so much that he body-blocked Ray Allen after Ray Ray got the rebound. You reap what you sow.

    I think Zaza Pachulia’s (of all people) taking exception to one of KG’s elbows in Game 4 of the first round, confronting him, and forcing him to back down, has gradually sunk in on the rest of the league that KG’s bark is worse than his bite. He’ll still pull stuff like setting a cheap cowardly pick on Zaza in Game 7 with Boston up 35 in the 4th Q, but the 5′-11″ rookie DJ Augustin said it best about the Celtics: “They try to come in and intimidate you and try to punk you. But if you don’t back down from them, they kind of fold.” LOL. A little rookie guard said that.

  51. 47 – the Spurs are simply the most unselfish team in the league. Everyone knows their role, everyone follows it. They don’t know the intensity of a KG-led Boston, but Duncan doesn’t need that to lead them. Pop is one of the best coaches in the game right now (and miles ahead of Rivers). You don’t win four championships without that mental fortitude that they have.

    That said, I agree that we outlast them in a seven game series. Hill and Mason are turning into good additions for them, but we’re still deeper. The only other team I can see that can go with us for a seven game series is Houston, as they have enough depth (sans injuries) to tango for that long. Aside from that, New Orleans has a horrible bench after Posey (and Wright to a limited extent), Phoenix is too old at this point and still doesn’t really have an identity (although I really want this matchup solely for the Kobe-Shaq drama; if we won the championship after facing Phoenix, then it would put the Kobe-Shaq drama in the bag), we beat basically the same Jazz team last year w/o Ariza and Bynum, Portland is too young IMO, and Nuggets don’t have the depth and Billups isn’t that much of a game-changer in a full playoff series.

  52. I think it also depends on what we mean by “#1.” If we’re talking the leader of a solid to very good team, a perennial playoff team, then I think McGrady when healthy definitely fits the bill. I think his stock has been downgraded because of his injuries, but this is a guy who literally could not be guarded a couple years ago. If we’re talking the leader of a championship team, then it gets more iffy. He has the talent to do so, but i think he lacks the intensity and leadership to take his team to that level.

  53. 47 – Well said. Mental toughness is what translates to execution down the stretch, and that’s what makes champions.

    I don’t think you can deny Boston’s physical strength bothered us last year, everyone including Kobe acknowledges that. But Boston’s strength exposed our mental weakness, in that it took us out of our game, and we didn’t execute properly. We’re a young team so it’s to be expected, but this year hopefully we have the experience to bring the execution.

    Also, depth is important for the regular season, but not nearly as important in the playoffs, when rotations are tightened. NO has a weak bench, but if they play like they did last year, they’ll be right there with us in the WCF.

  54. @30 – Boy did that podcast end awkwardly. Poor Mark.

  55. http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=aw-blazersthreat010809&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

    the gist of the article is that the Blazers are threatening to sue any team that signs Miles for the express purpose of damaging their cap flexibility.

  56. Was listening to last night’s ESPN podcast on the Daily Dime, with Tim Legler. They were talking about signing Shaun Livingston to fill some minutes with the Farmar injury.

    What do you guys think? I’ve always liked the guy, and his injury was nauseating to watch, and a shame because he seemed to have a bright future.

    Would he be any help for the Lakers? I’m not usually a fan of panic signings due to injury, but with Jordan, Luke, and Lamar out we’re getting pretty thin.

  57. Livingston was always intriguing and looks like a stereotypical Phil player – a tall guard who can handle the ball. That said, if he couldn’t even crack the rotation in Miami, which is desperate enough for depth at the PG spot that they’re considering Marbury, then I’m doubtful of how much he can actually contribute, even if it is just 10 minutes a night.

  58. Most excellent post. *thumbs up*

  59. I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but I can tell you I don’t put any stock into the opinions of neither Bucher, Stein, and especially Simmons.

    Seriously, has he watched the Spurs play the Lakers at all lately? What could possibly give him any reason or inclination to think the Spurs can take the Lakers out in the playoffs? It’s just so boring when people cling to this thought that San Antonio’s invincibility. I don’t see it. The WCF weren’t close, and it wasn’t like the regular season was any indication that it would be different, and I don’t suspect it will be any different this year.

    I also never bought that Pau was soft. I think he had a hard time adjusting to the the difference in regular season and playoff officiating, and was caught expecting calls that weren’t going to come. Who’s soft? A PF like Pau who scores in the post or a PF who takes 18 footers all game long?

  60. (24) Chibi,

    Really? About your points:

    1. What were those options for PG? Eddie House? What were the options at center?

    2. No he didn’t baby him. I never said that he should’ve.

    3. If Rivers is the coach who turned those players into what they are, where was this coaching during 06-07?

    4. His ability to inspire his guys was never my point. My point was I don’t think he’s good enough of a coach to figure out the problems and “coach” them out of a slump. It’s easy to tell your guys they the better team, etc. But when adjustments HAVE to be made, I don’t think he can do it. That was my point. He motivated an good team. I know that.

    5. Thibodeaux’s defense are diagrams on a piece of paper that Thibodeaux diagrammed and got the Celtics to play and execute.

    6. “The Celtics are 7th in offensive efficiency. Last year, they were 10th. I don’t think you can chalk up that kind of consistency to having great players.”

    ??? You just made my point. Please, tell me their offensive efficiency the year before without great players.

  61. #56 – I posted about this in the last thread, but I’ll reiterate that I find Portland’s legal posturing against any team that might think about signing Darius Miles this season to be outrageous. Talk about false moral high ground! I think the (unnamed) executive quoted in that piece said it best:

    “The point that everybody is missing is that this isn’t about Portland’s salary cap. It’s about whether this guy [Miles] is healthy enough to play or not,” said an Eastern Conference executive. “He obviously is healthy enough to play. It doesn’t matter how good he plays. He can still play, and they said he couldn’t.

    “Portland received benefits when [Miles’] injury was ruled career-ending. If he can play, they don’t deserve to have those benefits.”

  62. wondahbap,
    ” A PF like Pau who scores in the post or a PF who takes 18 footers all game long?”

    Good point.

  63. Exhelodrvr,

    Thanks. You must be an East coaster, like me, waiting for all these West coasters to wake up. I noticed we’re always posting first each day.

  64. 56 – what a ridiculous threat. If you don’t want his salary number counting against your salary cap, don’t freaking sign him to a ridiculous salary!

    Plus, how hard will it be to prove that a team signed him for the sole purpose of killing the Blazers’ cap? The guy can clearly play – by all accounts on this recent comeback he’s been hard-working and talented – and clearly deserves to play a minute or two here and there.

    Part of me wishes Mitch would step up here just to stick it to this ridiculous press release.

  65. When I speak of a #1, I’m talking more of a guy that is THE centerpiece for a championship caliber team. Don’t get me wrong, I like Mcgrady, but if you build your team around him you’re likely to be very good but not great. That’s not a knock on him, it takes just a little bit more than that though. However, I should add that Houston is a contender (when fully healthy) precisely because they do have more. They have two other guys in Yao and Artest, thqt when right, are also high caliber #2 level players. And with the proper focus, coaching, and role players, a team like that can win the title (ala the ’04 Pistons).

  66. I’d love to see Mark Cuban sign Miles and then play him 1 minute in 2 different games, just to stick it to the Blazers for being so ridiculous. Seems like the kind of thing he would do.

  67. wondahbap,
    No, I live in San Diego. Just get up early.

    Tim Duncan is one of those media darlings, and thus gets imbued with qualities he doesn’t necessarily have.

  68. I agree with bruinsfan. Mark Cuban should definitely stick it to the Blazers for trying to dictate the actions of the rest of the league in this way. What they are doing is in fact illegal, and the person that should bring a suit is Miles himself.

  69. 66 – Honestly, I think Houston are pretenders. They won’t be fully healthy. Now Artest is caught up in there injury curse. No knock on T-Mac, but he almost looks like he’s ready to hang em up. That guy is injured!

    And how dare you mention 2004, the year we dare not speak of? :)

  70. Darius,

    I agree. Yao & T-Mac aren’t #1′s. Maybe talent wise, they could(‘ve) been, but they don’t have that “it” that you need. I’m also not ready to call D-Wade a transcendent player, until he has at least a couple of great seasons under his belt being THE guy on his team. A true #1 should never have a team as bad as the Heat were last year.

  71. After this idiotic threat, Miles should sue the Blazers if no one else signs him this year.

  72. 71 – I believe Wade’s a #1, but only when healthy. That’s the key. You’re absolutely right about last year, but last year his health was off, and he wasn’t himself. Wade in 2006 and in 2005 (before the injury in the ECF) was simply transcendent. Yes, Hollinger may be off on things, but Hollinger ranked Wades 06 Finals performance as the greatest of all time, and it’s definitely up there IMO. His explosiveness is so rare (not even Kobe has it) and his use of the pick makes him unguardable in some ways that even Kobe isn’t.

    Wade at full strength can give Kobe a run for his money, and I’m as big a Kobe fan as anyone. I was especially impressed with Wade’s D on Kobe when they met this year. Wade reminds of me Kobe on that end, can be a great defender when he tries, but doesn’t try for 48 minutes.

  73. 72 – Agreed. The Blazers pretty much made enemies of the entire league in one swoop.

  74. Snoopy,

    You may have point. Injuries are key. Time will tell. that was kind of my point, only I didn’t mention the injury.

    What makes Wade tough also, is the way he jumps off the wrong foot. It’s very hard to defend that when you expect one motion and he goes the other way.

  75. Wondahbap,

    As a lifelong Laker fan living in San Antonio, I will tell you that the fans and few media-heads here still cling to the notion that if Manu Ginosebleed were healthy last year, the Spurs would have won. And don’t even get them started about Derek Fisher. I was at the .4 game and I thought they hated him, but after the Barry non-call, he might need an armored convoy for the game next Wednesday. I’m upset that both times we play them here in SA the games are on the second night of a back-to-back after playing in Houston. I can’t tell everyone how much I hope we throttle the Spurs. They’re winning, but how many more double OT or buzzer beating wins do they have left.

  76. 76. I feel pretty bad for Fish.. getting a humongous bullseye pinned on him in SA, getting booed consistently in Utah. I think on this Laker team after Kobe that’s he’s the next most maligned man… but I could be wrong though.

    Any other Laker on this team who you guys think has a pretty bad rap in one part or another in the league?

  77. 76. How about Sasha. He’s always getting into it with the players he defends. They think of him as a pest.

  78. Oops…I was referring to 77.

  79. #56 and #62 -
    I think you are both misreading the content of the Blazers’ letter. I don’t blame you, the way the article is written – and the title – misleads the reader to think that the Blazers will sue anyone who signs Darius. However, if you read the content of the letter carefully, you will see that the letter does not state that the Blazers will sue anyone who signs Darius (if this were the case, the Blazers could themselves be open for a claim by Darius of tortious interference with a contract). What the letter does say is that the Blazers will sue any team that signs Darius if their “intent” is to disrupt the Blazer’s salary cap.

    So, this begs the question: what do the Blazers mean by “intent”?

    Obviously, if a team were to sign Darius and publicly state that they did so with the purpose of disrupting the Blazers’ salary cap, then we can all agree that this be an attempt to “intentionally” disrupt the Blazers’ salary cap. Thus, we could expect the Balzers to sue – although whether or not they have a winnable case at this point is another story.

    Absent such an unlikely admission, however, “intent” would be hard to prove, unless strong inferences could be drawn from a team’s actions. Thus, what I think the Blazers are doing here is sending a message to teams that they better have a legitimate shortage in a roster spot that Darius can fill, otherwise the Blazers will claim that such team is trying to disrupt the Blazers’ salary cap. What this means is that if a team with a balanced roster signs Darius (perhaps as an “insurance policy” of some sort), then that team can expect the Blazers to sue them. I think how this would play out is best explained in the following hypothetical situation:

    Let’s take the Lakers as an example. Say Walton’s prognosis is that he will be out for another month. Then Odom’s injury gets worse and he is projected to be out for a month as well. Then Ariza gets hurt and is out for a month. If the Lakers signed Darius to cover this hole, the Blazers would have a very hard time claiming that the Lakers were tortiously interfering with them. However, if Odom and Walton are back to 100%, Ariza and Vlad are 100%, and no one else on the team is injured and then the Lakers sign Darius as an “insurance policy” – well then we can expect the Blazers to sue the Lakers under the argument that the only reason to have Darius on the roster is to disrupt the Blazers’ salary cap. Whether or not this holds up in court is another question – but the threat of litigation is there.

    So, the Blazer’s letter basically sends a message that any team that wants to sign Darius that they better have a bona-fide role Darius can serve in their roster, otherwise litigation will be forthcoming – but it does not state that any team that signs him will be sued.

  80. #61–

    1. House and Cassell were viable options. And Garnett regularly played the C position with Posey at the 4. Later, PJ Brown.

    3. The Celtics had a logjam at pg, w/ Delonte West, Telfair, and Rondo in the fold. Perkins had to compete for minutes against the superior Al Jefferson. These circumstances do not lend themselves to player development.

    Also, the Celtics lacked the veteran leadership instrumental to the accelerated growth of Rondo and Perkins. Paul Pierce is many things, but he is not a charismatic leader like Garnett.

    4. Everyone knows Rivers isn’t a master tactician, but a lot of people seem to think he’s borderline incompetent when it comes to managing a basketball team. People like to address his weaknesses but don’t acknowledge his strengths.

    5. The point I’m trying to make is that a scheme isn’t very effective if a team can’t sustain the effort it requires for an entire season. And I think Rivers deserves as much praise as Thibodeaux in this regard.

    6. You seem to think that their high offensive efficiency is based on some heroic, anarchic, improvisational individual effort on a nightly basis. You ignore subtleties like pick-setting and purposeful moves, cuts, and curls.

    Of course, the talent upgrade was significant. I’m not trying to say Rivers is Pete Carrill and capable of succeeding with a roster of nobodies. But you have to acknowledge that Rivers is getting guys to do a lot of dirty work out there while the stars reap the benefits and get all the praise.

  81. 80. I think the Blazers have a hard time proving it anyway. The fact of the matter is, he is back and can play at or near an NBA level. In the past, he had played at that level. For teams to give him a 10-day contract and play him in three games or so as a test case is a very reasonable thing. It would be very hard to prove that any team picked up Miles just to spite the Blazers even if they played him at the end of two games and cut him just because with 10-day contracts that happens all the time. And right now Miles is a 10-day contract kind of player.

    The Blazers have, since day one, been in bad faith on this. They badmouthed him around the league when clearly he is back and can or can come close to playing at an NBA level. This was simply an attempt at intimidation, and league execs and fans are right to scoff at it.

  82. Sasha is almost as hated as Kobe, by every basketball fan I know. There’s something about him that irritates everyone. Of course, he shoots off his mouth a decent amount and has a tendency to pound his chest after hitting a simple jumpshot, so to be honest I can see why he grates people the wrong way.

    Fish isn’t that maligned, most of the league respects him. In SA it seems like he’s most hated for basketball-related heroics, not personality issues. That always happens in close losses. And the fans in Utah (the ones who booed him, not all of them), we don’t even need to get into.

    Looks like Dan Gilbert fired back at the Blazers. I’d have to say I’m surprised Cuban hasn’t spoken up yet. Unless he’s picking Miles up from the airport…?

  83. 83

    I agree completely. The fans hate Fish because he’s ripped their hearts out twice. The animosity towards our Lakers, though, is unreal – only Cowtown comes close. I’ve had people throw beer on me, curse my son, ushers don’t acknowledge you, etc. Most of the time, I don’t have a problem with it, but it always help when we win. I’d love to see Kobe drop 40 and we roll to victory of the Spurs. The Spurs are the ONLY team he’s never hit up for 40 – ever. I’ve seen every Laker visit here in SA for the past 10 years and it just hasn’t been the same since the Spurs moved into the AT&T center. Kobe & Co. used to love playing in front of crowds of 40,000+, but the current arena is a concrete dump.

  84. While I don’t think SA is at our level, I don’t begrudge anyone who points out that Manu was hurt, just like I point out that we didn’t have AB or Ariza. SA is a significant threat with their three mainstays healthy. I just think we’re better.

  85. 84 – That’s awful, I had no idea people could get this serious. I remember going to a Bulls game during the Jordan era (I was only 10) and hearing curse words being thrown around I had never heard before. Paying a certain amount of money for a ticket doesn’t give you the right to act how you want to act. Fanhood is one thing, but taking it to the point of cursing your child or throwing beer is insane. Keep on fighting the good fight.

    82 – I have to admit, I’m puzzled. Portland has a savvy FO, and they’d know they couldn’t prove intent, and they should also have known that email wouldn’t deter anyone. I’m wondering if there’s a hidden motive, something we’re not seeing. Or they simply got greedy and made a colossal mistake.

    Henry at Truehoop said it best. Miles can play. He should not be medically retired. He should be on Portland’s cap. It’s that simple.

  86. Chibi,

    Regarding your counter points.

    1. The reason the Celtics are struggling now is because House and Cassell aren’t viable options. House is NOT a PG and Cassell is washed up.

    3. The fact that the Celtics had those players under Doc and were that bad just goes to show that Doc didn’t do a good job coaching or developing youth. West is a vital player for Cleveland and supposedly Jefferson was good enough to validate trading KG for (not really).

    Two other thoughts.

    Jefferson is merely offensively superior to Perk. That’s it.

    We’ll see Doc’s tutelage with how or if he can bring along Gabe Pruitt. The Celtics have no other option right now, but to use him. Popovich has worked George Hill into the line-up nicely. Can Doc?

  87. I saw Miles in person in the preseason , and I don’t see how he could help any team. I felt bad for him. I don’t agree with the Blazers’ tactic, but I can understand how they feel there’s no way he can make an NBA team.

  88. #80 – No, I understand perfectly the distinctions being made in the Blazers “memo heard ’round the world” … I just find them to be disingenuous and transparent.

    Kurt and Snoopy already said it well, but the bottom line is that Portland claimed Miles was medically unable to play basketball (okay, an independent physician made the diagnosis, but you get my point) … that his injury was career ending and that essentially he was no longer capable of running up and down an NBA basketball court. Thing is, it turned out that wasn’t the case.

    The Blazers signed Miles to that contract, and it’s only fair that they have to wait for it to come off their cap, just like any other team that makes a bad signing. They are engaging in behavior that is borderline illegal, practically immoral, and altogether devoid of class (and good sense).

    The worst part is, they don’t need to resort to such desperate actions! They may have to pay some luxury taxes as a result of this, sure, but Portland is already loaded with young talent and set up for the future with or without the additional salary flexibility. They … and their fans … should have been happy with that.

  89. @84 The first game of the 00/01 Playoffs (Lakers went 15-1 in the post season) Kobe hung over 40 points for sure. I don’t remember the exact number.

  90. “you can’t have a team play with maximized effort and energy for two straight seasons and 200+ games”

    what about the chicago bulls, 141-23 over the first two seasons of their second three-peat? they broke the record for regular season wins with 72, then came back the next year and tied what had been the previous record with 69 (and lost three of the last four regular season games).

  91. Joel,
    While I completely agree with your points, I think there is one thing worth mentioning. I don’t want to overlook the possibility, given that the signing was 2 or so days after the email, that there is malicious intent involved on the Grizzlies’ behalf. Obviously, it seems unlikely; however, if Portland lawyers somehow get their hands on an email specifically mentioning screwing Portland over, they could build a case around that, which would be almost as bad for the NBA as the ref scandal during the finals last year.

    PS Isn’t it ironic that every time I think of Donagehy (or however you spell the ref who took money), I see an image of the Illinois mayor in my head? Too much SNL….

    Alex S