Archives For June 2009

15

Kurt —  June 14, 2009


Bask in the moment, soak it up. There are so few moments of pure joy in life, so few moments where we as a collection of people with a common bond can truly revel in something.

Love it for (as Dex said) Kobe’s Dostoevsky like life of sin, suffering and redemption.

Love it for Phil Jackson for stepping back and seeing the forest in the trees, and teaching a team to grow as men in an era where that is considered dead.

Love it for Gasol for showing the world what we knew — just how good he was. How he is more than 7,473 post moves, that he is toughness and defense and heart.

Love it for Fisher for reminding us all what character and heart are all about.

Love it for Trevor Ariza for showing how much a player can grow in a year.

Love it for Andrew Bynum winning and learning and growing into a man.

Love it for Lamar Odom showing off just how much his diverse game fits and matters for the Lakers.

Love it for Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Josh Powell, Sasha Vujacic for getting to taste a rare level of victory.

Love if for a great man in DJ Mbenga getting a crown that fits with him.

Love it for a great city. A great fan base.

Soak it up Lakers fans. This one is ours.

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From Zephid:

Ah, so this is the sweet taste of victory. Winning the NBA championship, cheering our team to the pinnacle of this sport. But, it is not the victory that brings us sweetness. It is the long 82 game regular season, all 23 games played in this postseason, all the rigors of this season. It is the tough December losses, the mental break-downs in January, the beautiful road streak in February, the frustrating losses in March. It is the Christmas game, the back to back @Boston, @Cleveland games. It is the leads given up against Utah, the blowout against the Yao-less Rockets, the home loss against Denver. It is the Game 7 victory against Houston, the Game 6 closeout in Denver, and this closeout here in Orlando. It is Fisher’s struggles and redemption, Lamar’s excellent form, break-down, injury, and now return to form. It is Andrew’s coming out, injury, and coming back as a role player. It is Gasol and Kobe’s consistency and fire. It is Sasha’s shooting woes, Jordan’s struggles, Luke’s benching, Ariza’s development, and Powell’s bad hands. It is the pain of last year’s Finals loss, Boston’s Game 4 comeback, the 39 point blowout in Game 6.

It is the entire journey, with all its pain, suffering, joy, jubilation, frustration, relief, and exuberance, that makes this victory sweet.

To all of us who stuck around this entire season and last: we’ve earned this as fans. We’ve been here through the good times and the bad. We’ve born all the trials and tribulations that the team has gone through. We as fans have earned this sweet, sweet victory.

Lakers/Magic Game 5 Chat

Kurt —  June 14, 2009

Finals
There is nothing harder in basketball than closing out a team in a playoff series — teams take their play to another level when it’s season is on the line. The Magic have been a scrappy team and that will play their best ball tonight.

If the Lakers play like a team that has two more games at home, they will be in trouble. But if they are close at the end, that has to be in the heads of the Magic players.

This should be a fun one. More than anything else, be sure to enjoy the ride.

Lakers/Magic Game 5 Preview

Kurt —  June 14, 2009

Finals
I know there are a few out there in Lakerland that expect the Magic to roll over in game 5, but that is not going to happen. First, that is not the Magic’s personality — they are scrappers. Second, nobody wants to lose it on their home court. Remember the Lakers in game 5 last year (after blowing a big lead). The Magic will play their best game of the year.

That’s not to say the Lakers don’t have some advantages. That starts with the coaches, and as much as I like Stan Van Gundy and think he’s been great for the Magic I think Bill Bridges has hit the nail on the head with what has been the slim margin of difference in this series.

Petr?ska Clarkson coined the term Achilles syndrome in her 1994 book where she focuses on the story of Achilles as an allusion describing a psychological syndrome where a person may externally perform competently, however, does not internally believe that he or she is competent for the task, job, position, or activity. Behavior driven from fear of failure results from lack of core confidence. Game 4 showed the contrast between the philosophies of Phil Jackson and Steve Van Gundy. Fisher had been struggling for the past 2 months. For the game he was 0 -5 from 3, yet Phil Jackson understands that the true essence of a man is the most important of all. Trust in Fisher’s character allows Jackson to let go the fear and give Fisher the chance to succeed. On the other hand, SVG’s actions are driven by fear. Why did Nelson play the last 18 minutes instead of Alston? “Well he wasn’t really hurting us out there”. He wasn’t helping you win either. The fear that Alston might fail to deliver dictated SVG’s tactics and in the end had Nelson and all of his 5’10″ height closing out on Fisher.

Why didn’t they foul right away? The fear that the Magic players would choke the free throws dictated tactics. They should have fouled right away and SVG should have trusted their abilities to make foul shots. But SVG didn’t. Phil Jackson is open to the potential of success but not afraid of failure, and therefore allows his players to just play. SVG is consumed by fear, infuses doubt in his players, and it cost him the game.

At this point in a series there are not a lot of surprises in strategy, but there are a few Xs and Os things to look for in this game.

• As David Thorpe and Mike Moreau have pointed out all series long, when the Lakers have been aggressive on defending the screen and roll, Orlando has struggled to make the play. When the Lakers are the least big passive, you get the first half of game four. The Lakers must be aggressive, it’s more a mental thing than a physical one.

• The Lakers must continue to limit the Orlando transition opportunities.

• Pau Gasol must continue to play well in the paint against Dwight Howard. In this series Gasol has 46 point sin the paint on 62.2% shooting, Howard has 32 points on 48.5% shooting.

• The Lakers must continue to do a good job contesting jumpers — the Magic have shot 32.9% on jumpers in their losses, 59.7% in their wins. That has to start with keeping Rashard Lewis under wraps.

But more than the Xs and Os, the Lakers cannot revert to their Jekyll and Hyde nature — they have to come out focused and playing hard. If they come out thinking they have two more games to win this at home, Orlando will make them pay.

Mark Jackson Bingo — GUNDY

Kurt —  June 13, 2009

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Honestly, could anything make these NBA Finals more fun to watch?

Yes — Mark Jackson Bingo. Except, you don’t want to call it bingo — we call it GUNDY. Just print out the squares below, get out your Ink-A-Dot and as ABC NBA color commentator Mark Jackson spouts off his catch phrases check them off.

When you get five lined up in a row call out GUNDY! It’s fun for the whole family.

(Big thanks to friend of the site Alexis for putting this together and sending it to us!)

Still Buzzing

Kurt —  June 12, 2009

Finals
It’s a good day to be a Lakers fan.

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.