LOS ANGELES—Even though Shaquille O’Neal’s name should only be mentioned in the same sentence as the words “overrated” and “overweight,” it got plenty of play during the NBA Finals with both of his old teams (back when he was good) squaring off and Kobe Bryant winning his first title without the “Big Lazy.”
Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but, that was quite possibly one of the worst NBA Finals I have ever witnessed. Certainly, it can be agreed that these playoffs got worse as each round went on. The first round was pretty exciting. The second round – not so much. And by the conference finals and finals it was downright tough to watch.
For the Lakers, their road to the finals was very similar to the rest of the NBA. Against the Utah Jazz in the first round, the Lakers were focused and ready and were not going to let the Jazz beat them. In the second round a disinterested Kobe and Co. let the Rockets take them to a game seven before waking up and advancing to the conference finals against the Nuggets.
This is where the Lakers had met their match was what I heard. The only things the Nuggets lead the league in are tattoos and mentally weak employees (this includes coaches) and yet they are somehow going to upset the Lakers? After looking good early in the series the Nuggets imploded, the Lakers exploded and won it in six games.
On the other side of the continent the Orlando Magic somehow upset the darling of the NBA Playoffs – LeBron James – to advance to their first NBA Finals since “you know who” was losing to Hakeem Olajuwon in '95. So the Finals were set, the Los Angeles Lakers would be taking on the team coached by the Van Gundy with a mustache and a bunch of guys tall for their position but actually play much shorter (which is probably the worst type of team to root for). Oh yeah, and they shoot a ton of threes.
Van Gundy made the first mistake of the finals before it even got going. He decided to go against what everyone who has ever watched sports knows: You don’t mess with a winning lineup. Van Gundy decides to mess instead and brings back all-star point guard Jameer Nelson who hasn’t played since, like, February. Obviously, temperamental point guard Rafer Alston doesn’t respond to looking over his shoulder and Anthony Johnson doesn’t respond at all as his playing time is immediately cut to make room for Nelson. By the way, if Alston (aka Skip to my Lou) is such a tough street-baller from New York how can he be such a drama queen/diva in the NBA? If I was a New York City street-baller I would get a hold of him before he continues to embarrass New York City playground hoops.
Anyway, as the series went on it became obvious that this nice little Orlando team was in way over their head. Their go-to guy is probably Hedo Turkoglu, but going to him means watching him dribble the leather off the ball and accidentally/on purpose running out the shot clock so he has to shoot.
Rashard Lewis is a deadly outside shooter (when he’s on but who isn’t?) but with a seven foot wingspan could be much more valuable near the hoop. And Dwight Howard, with all I’ve heard about him I was actually excited to see if the Lakers Twin Towers of Bynum and Gasol could contain him. That was before I realized that nobody did a better job of containing Howard than Howard himself. With his lack of post moves and terrible habit of bending over at the waist every time he gets the ball down low, Howard could have been guarded just as effectively by Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown.
So Kobe won his first title without Shaq but does it really count since the competition got worse as the playoffs went on? Shouldn’t the Lakers have played the Celtics, or at least the Cavaliers?
Obviously the Lakers are the best team in the NBA for the 2009 season but shouldn’t they have to validate next season against a championship-caliber team? The Magic won one game in the Finals and had to shoot an NBA Finals record 63 percent to do it. Next year give me Lebron or the Celtics or whoever just as long as they are worthy.