A few things have piled up in my brain and in my inbox that I just wanted to get out there, so here come the bullet points (as I’m to lazy to weave a narrative today).
• I loved the way the Lakers defended Rashard Lewis in this game. They swarmed him. You can pretty much always take one guy from the other team out of the equation (you could even do it with MJ and you can with Kobe, it’s just that the price is very high because it opens up other players when you have to triple team). The Lakers took out Lewis and did what they could on Hedo. The mobile Lakers bigs continue to slow Howard. The Lakers bet that Alston and Lee could not beat them — but Lewis was not going to. And he didn’t. Credit Gasol and Odom for a great job on him as the primary guys.
• Derek Fisher after the game:
Not of us can continue at times to just expect that Kobe is going to save us. We have to be willing to take blame, responsibility, accountability, and when things go well as well as bad. I felt bad because Pau was kicking it out to me for some wide open threes that I was missing, and I promised him that I was not going to miss those shots anymore, even though Kobe was the guy to pass it to me, the last one I hit, I thanked Pau for warming up my elbow because the ones I was missing early, I wasn’t supposed to miss.
• Phil Jackson on Trevor Ariza:
Trevor is a player that we thought was a developing player as we got him. I mean, this is a young guy that obviously we felt came out of college early in hopes of getting drafted and ended up in New York and never got fully developed as a player in college or in the pros because he didn’t stay in one organization long enough to do that. We thought that his ability to develop as a player was going to be key. This is the year that he’s really shown that development as a player.
• Eric Neel is my favorite sports feature writer walking the planet, a guy who crafts words but more importantly gets the details and their relationship to the big picture. Then can relate it. That is no easy task.
All of that is a long-winded way of saying if you read one thing today make it his feature on Phil Jackson today.
I’m thinking this cat has stayed true to his school on this stuff, talking about energy, connectedness, intuition and not being a stranger to the moment as you’ve imagined it, from the jump, for two decades now.
At what point do we stop thinking of him as the eccentric? Will 10 rings do the trick? At what point do we consider the possibility, in earnest, with nary a wink or a nod, that the guy might be on to something? That over and above the X’s and O’s (which pretty much everyone knows cold anyway), in this era, in conjunction with truly elite talents such as Michael, Scottie, Shaq, Kobe and Gasol, at this level of competition, Jackson might be practicing just the sort of alchemy and philosophical framing that makes the difference between a team’s being good and being great, between simply making the playoffs and making the playoffs your plaything.
• The volume of great writing on the Lakers has been impressive. All season long I love reading the LA Times Lakers Blog, Mike Trudell over at Lakers.com, Silver Screen and Roll, Eric Pincus and more than I can list. Check them out.
• Normally at this point in a playoff series, I have worked up a good hatred for the other team. Easy to do with the Celtics. It was easy to do with Denver. Houston got there. But I really just can’t do it for Orlando. They have these great community stories about the guy helping in the locker room, the girl signing the national anthem. I just like Dwight and Hedo. Van Gundy is fun to watch as a coach and smart. They play hard. Their bloggers are good reads. I just can’t hate them like I should. If they can keep this squad together, they may well get a title in the next three years. And I would be fine with that (as long as it’s not at our expense).
• Re: The officiating. The next game Bennett Salvatore refs well will be the first. But it’s not a conspiracy for one team and against the other bad, it’s an equal-opportunity bad. It’s inconsistent. But if you’re a champion you play through it and make your plays. Simply put, you don’t let them decide it, you decide it. The Lakers did that.