Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's Deja Vu All over Again (Lakers/Celtics Dance Again?)

Somewhere Amar'e Stoudemire is on the plane heading back to Phoenix wondering why he even bothered opening his mouth on Lamar Odom. He's probably wondering even more how he got outplayed and became a nonfactor against a team that has owned him.

Somewhere the Orlando Magic are wondering where the season went. From an 8-0 start in the postseason to trailing 0-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals and forced to win on the road to stay alive. Vince Carter, meet Nick Anderson.

I predicted Cleveland and Orlando would get to the ECF again but never did I imagine Boston act like Shang Tsung in stealing the souls of the top two MVP finishers and their teams. It's like Boston's found the Fountain of Youth and its 2008 all over again minus the 7-game series.

Anybody who doubts Rajon Rondo's effectiveness needs to shut up. He can take over a game, set guys up with ease, run a team flawlessly - and oh yeah, he can rebound and defend as well as any guard in the game. Top 5 PG in the game with CP3, Deron Will, Steve Nash and Tony Parker.

Somebody pointed out that Dwight Howard played the best postseason game of his career and the Magic still lost. Blame brain farts, Vinsanity's two missed free throws and Rashard Lewis going invisible. Orlando's just not mentally tough to hang.

As for the Lakers, they showed why they own the Suns since 2007. A team with great play from their big men will own Phoenix all the time because Amar'e Stoudemire always goes belly-up against them. That's why it was stupid he said Lamar Odom got lucky because Tim Duncan used him as a turnstyle for years.

By the way, Lamar Odom's Game 2 stats (17 pts, 11 rebs). Amar'e's Game 2 stats (18 pts, 6 rebs). If you're counting, that's two double-doubles for Odom and none for one of the NBA's hottest free agents this summer. Real Laker fans are pleased that Odom played with consistency for once but Amar'e needs to shut up and do better.

Meanwhile the Lakers won in two ways: Kobe going off as a scorer in Game 1 (40 pts) and as a facilitator in Game 2, putting up the most assists (13) by a Laker since Magic in 1996. As if anyone needs further proof that the Mamba is finally healthy.

All of this means one thing: Get ready for Lakers/Celtics all over again. Lakers fans already want it, chanting "We Want Boston" after Game 2. And I'm sure Boston fans will be chanting "Beat LA" after they win either Game 3 or 4.

It's no conspiracy. Boston was dead in the water until Game 4 against Cleveland. They've morphed from the Big 3 to the Great 4 led by Rondo. The Lakers got toughened up by a young OKC Thunder squad and have steamrolled through Utah and Phoenix as they should. I'd like to thank OKC on behalf of Lakers Nation for waking this team up.

Something to point out. LeBron James and Dwight Howard deserve to be scrutinized for their early exits and how teams have played them. But what nobody is talking about how their lack of improvement parallels to how Kendrick Perkins has improved for Boston.

Perkins was drafted out of HS the same year as LeBron and a year ahead of Howard. He came in raw and was just a big body that seemed out of place in the league. Enter 2007-2008 when KG came around and slowly built him into a big man that was mean, tough and knew how to use the post.

He wasn't going to be a scorer, but a big strong enforcer that made centers work for their buckets, fight for rebounds and score when put in the right spot. It's a credit to great coaching and mentorship that he is where he is now.

Contrast with LeBron and Dwight - immensely gifted players, freakish athletes but something is missing. LeBron has a better (but not consistent) mid-range jumper but no post-up moves or anything besides his bull-rush to the basket and outside shooting. Dwight Howard is the best rebounder the league has seen since Rodman or KG in his prime but he's still very limited offensively and has no real feel or patience around the basket.

High school players need great coaching in the NBA to reach their full potential. I believe LBJ and D12 have suffered from this as well as their teams trying to build around them without realizing their gifts. LBJ is surrounded by solid to average players and instead of being Magic, he's has to be Michael. D12 is surrounded by a bunch of shooters (not slashers save for Vince Carter) but because he can't command a double team with his scoring, they're overly reliant on the jumper and him scoring on tip-ins .

This is the big reason why HS players or 1-and-done guys go bust or remain stagnant. They may or may not improve their game but they need great teaching instead of coaches who coddle or are in awe of them. Kendrick Perkins is an example of how this works and LBJ and D12 are now making us realize they are who we thought we were - gifted athletes, dominant players but not complete players.

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