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Why I Picked the Lakers

We're playing for a little more than a championship, Kobe. (AP Photo)

There really isn't a way to measure hunger or burning desire, but it is an important factor this time of year. It also has played an important role in my decision to pick the eventual NBA champion the past four years or so.

I went with the grain in picking San Antonio against Detroit in 2005 and Cleveland in 2007. But three years ago, a lot of people looked at the matchup of the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks and decided that the Mavericks were the more talented team and picked them to win. Me? I looked at a team of veterans -- including one recovered from a kidney ailment -- brought together for the sole purpose of winning a title; a center looking to stick it to the former team that traded him after he had led it to three championships; a coach possibly with his last opportunity to win another ring; and a young star ready to fully break free of the shadow of the players in his draft class selected ahead of him. I went with Miami. And while the series started out on shaky ground, eventually the hunger of the Heat (and possibly a few favorable whistles) prevailed.

Then last season, most pundits looked at how the Los Angeles Lakers breezed through the Western Conference and felt they would do the same to a Boston Celtics team that struggled through the playoffs. I was in the minority in picking the Celtics because I saw a team that defended like madmen, but mostly because I thought Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were not going to waste what could possibly be their only trip to the NBA Finals.

The Lakers carried themselves with a certain easygoing nature, but the Celtics had an edge about them -- the result of being seriously tested by some tough playoff opponents -- that made me go with them. And you saw how it played out, with Pierce coming out of a wheelchair to help Boston win a game, Allen shooting the lights out despite the illness to his young son, and Garnett kissing the floor and crying after he finally got his first title. That was some serious, stomach-aching starvation that played out in what could essentially be dubbed a six-game sweep.

This year, I'm among the majority of basketball observers who have sided with the Lakers. It's not because I'm discrediting the Orlando Magic -- because I'm not. Orlando has earned this spot and knocked off some legitimate challengers along the way (and it has proven me wrong the past two series against Boston and Cleveland). But when I look at these two teams, I see one that is playing for championship and another with two important elements playing for legacy and immortality.

Kobe Bryant has won three championships -- and he's right that Shaquille O'Neal never would've won any in Los Angeles without him -- but you move into a different echelon of all-time greats when you are the best player and unquestioned leader of a title team. Bryant desperately wants that, no matter how surly he gets when asked about it. But the other element that plays an important role this time around is that Bryant is 30 and this could be his last and best shot at winning another title. There is only so long that he can continue to hold off some of the league's younger stars that are still working on that hunger.

Phil Jackson has won nine championships and is seeking a 10th, but while he downplays passing the great Red Auerbach, winning another ring with a team that he helped build up from the lottery would likely be most rewarding. Combined with his declining health, Jackson may not have many more opportunities to get back to this position.

Yes, Bryant and Jackson were in the same situation last season against Boston, but this time, their teammates are on board, too. Getting smacked and body slammed by the Celtics in embarrassing fashion gave some of the less experienced Lakers a full grasp of what to expect on this level. This team is unified by the common purpose of getting the job done. And, that is why I picked the Lakers in six.

By Michael Lee  |  June 4, 2009; 10:59 AM ET
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Next: You Tell Us: Who Will Win?


Wizards in 6.

Posted by: original_mark | June 4, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

The most likely trade partner for the Suns is the Washington Wizards who have some good young talent on the roster as well as having the #5 pick in the upcoming draft. The Wizards have several players the Suns would be interested in, including Caron Butler, Nick Young, Andray Blatche, JaValee McGee and of course the pick. Washington could use the athleticism and size of Stoudemire up front to team with Antwan Jamison and a healthy Gilbert Arenas and give the Wizards a formidable threesome to contend in the East.

The Suns could get back a solid player in Butler, a young player with talent to groom and a top-5 pick with which to grab another young player and start the rebuilding process. This is as important an offseason as Phoenix has had since they brought in Nash and Quentin Richardson five years ago. While trading Stoudemire seems to be all but a given, the Suns absolutely must get back quality and quantity to justify the move. And in that scenario, Washington might just have the upper hand on making a deal happen.

Here is the link

Posted by: rnorris6 | June 4, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

First, Kobe is *not* right that Shaq never would've won any championships without him. Shaq won in Miami without Kobe; and he took the Magic to the Finals when Kobe was 16.

Second, that's not relevant because Shaq is not the one who broke up the party. That was Kobe who pulled the "this town's not big enough for the both of us" crap.

Posted by: JimZipCode | June 4, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

"First, Kobe is *not* right that Shaq never would've won any championships without him. Shaq won in Miami without Kobe; and he took the Magic to the Finals when Kobe was 16. "

And, in both of those cases, Shaq was paired with a perennial all-star guard, just as he was in L.A. with Kobe, which was Kobe's point: Shaq's never won a title on a team without a second superstar, just like Kobe. Furthermore, it was Dwayne Wade who did most of the heavy lifting that got Miami the title, not Shaq.

And since the Magic got swept in the Finals with Shaq, that really doesn't help your point. If you're giving Shaq credit for getting to the Finals without Kobe and losing, then you have to give Kobe equal credit for getting to the Finals without Shaq and losing. In fact, Kobe gets extra credit, because at least he didn't get swept.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 4, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Unless you have a crystal ball, there is no way to tell who will win.

So, your pick is just another opinion in a sea of opinions.

Let the guys play ball, and let the outcome speak for itself.

Go Wizards! I mean Orlando!

Posted by: abootstrapper | June 4, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Kobe and Shaq. Shaq wouldn't have won a title without Kobe in LA, and Kobe wouldn't have won without Shaq. However, in regards to the Heat's title, was it desire that helped them beat the Mavericks or the referees? That was one of the most lop-sided officiated series I've ever seen in the NBA Finals. D-Wade gets all the calls just like Lebron does only it's not quite as bad as it is with Lebron. Lebron gets more calls than D-Wade, but D-Wade's a close second.

Posted by: DCSportsFan28 | June 4, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Back to the topic at hand. Lakers win this series because they do a better defensive job than the Cavs did. And Phil Jackson is a better coach than Mike Brown.

Posted by: steveh46 | June 4, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

re: rnorris6,

There's no way in hell, Ernie is trading Caron. Especially when he has expiring contracts to use.

Posted by: CBell29 | June 4, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I believe the Lakers will win, because I think they can defend the three better than the Cavs could. Three small guards and Wally trying to guard 6'10" forwards Turkolu and Lewis. It was a major mismatch. When you throw in Pietrus, and all three were often on the floor at the same time, that was a tough matchup, and the only one who matched up well against them was Lebron. And he was so tired from being their main offensive weapon, that it was tough for him to stay with one guy, let alone three!

For the Lakers, Bynum and Gasol should be able to give attention to Howard while Kobe and Odom can match up with two of the other three. That leaves Ariza or Walton to guard the third shooter. So, I believe the lakers should be able to match up with the Magic and slow them down. If they can, Kobe, Gasol, and Odom should score enough, and I agree with Michael, who knows if Phil will have another opp like this. Lakers will win in 5-6 games, unless they do their typical 2-3 game sleepwalking that they have done throughout the playoffs, especially on the road. If they do that, it could still be a 7 game series, but the L's still win that in L.A.


Posted by: faninAlex | June 4, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

DCSportsFan28, The DWade calls were actually WORSE than LeBron's in my opinion. The only difference is that DWade isn't as arrogant and unlikeable as LeBron. The Heat was handed that chamionship.
I'm on Kobe's side on this one. No way they win without each other. Give Kobe a Shaq caliber center (Dwight Howard) and he'd have at least one more ring, too.

Posted by: original_mark | June 4, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Ever wonder why every other team looks at our roster and sees 'good young talent' but our coaches don't recognize it? Specifically, NY, AB and JM are mentioned but those guys get slammed by our own coaches and their shortcomings are highlighted. I'm not sure if we're trying to use it as a teaching tool or what but it sure seems like we underappreciate our own guys.

Posted by: original_mark | June 4, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me, or is it really pathetic that half the comments following this article are about the Wizards? Yo posters, get back to us when the Bullets/Wizards win something in 200 years.

Back to the topic at hand. Quite the feely-feely article. Forget how it feels and they feel or whatever, the Lakers are going to win because they're a far better team. I think there are about 4 other teams in the West that would beat Orlando this year too.

The Lakers lost last year because their only big tough guy was hurt. He is hurting again now, but he's on the court. And, unlike Boston, Orlando doesn't have 3 superstars. Whether we see the Bynum of the post-season so far, or the Bynum before the injury will determine whether it is the Lakers in a lopsided 4 game sweep or a 7 game sweater.

Posted by: evenadog | June 4, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

evenadog...I think it's just you, bro.
If you look right above the title, you'll see 'WIZARDS INSIDER'.

Personally, I'd be ok if they never posted info about any other team than mine. As it is, the topic always turns back to our team eventually. If there was both a Wizards Insider and a NBA Insider at the Post, you'd probably find that the generic Insider would be desolate.

Posted by: original_mark | June 4, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

"I'm not sure if we're trying to use it as a teaching tool or what but it sure seems like we underappreciate our own guys. "

Or, conversely, you're reading way too much into offhand comments from coaches and players who only see our guys in person 2 or 3 times per season in limited minutes of action (and often in blowout/garbage time situations) while summarily dismissing the value of evaluations made by the players and coaches who see them every day, including practice.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 4, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Lakers in 6 sounds reasonable.

The Lakers have more offensive balance than the Cavs, they've got home court, and they have a few veterans who have been to the dance and got the job done before (Bryant and Fisher) -- plus Phil Jackson. Orlando can create some match-up problems along the perimeter, and their 3-point shooting will probably win them a game or two, but I don't see them winning it all.

If Jameer Nelson was 100 percent then I could see this one being a push. He isn't, so odds are it's the Lakers.

Posted by: JPRS | June 4, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I'd take a great big man over a great wing player any day of the week. The lakers have no answer to Howard.

Howard in 7.

Posted by: dcinmd1 | June 4, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The Lakers may not have an answer to Howard, but the Magic didn't have an answer to James and look what happened. The great ones will get their points; let's see what the supporting cast bring. That's what will determine this series.

Posted by: motomoto101 | June 4, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

If Howard can stay out of foul trouble the Magic have a chance to push it to 7 games and anything can happen in that 7th game.
The Cavs didn't have much to challenge DH but the Lakers have Gasol, Bynum & Odom-- a big difference from Zydranus, VAREJAO & Wallace. Someone else has to step up for the Magic to have a chance.
Should be interesting.

Posted by: VBFan | June 4, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Tough to call. The Lakers are definitely the more talented team, top to bottom, but the Magic present some tough matchups. If ever Bynum needed to live up to the hype, this is it. Despite what Jackson has said about starting Bynum, I think his best lineup is to Start Gasol at C and Odom at PF. Odom will have an easier time chasing Lewis out on the perimeter and Gasol can put some real pressure on Howard with his offense, maybe get him in foul trouble and out of the game.

Logic says take the Lakers but my gut (and the fact that I can't stand Jackson or Bryant) makes me lean towards Orlando.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 4, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

These arguments are silly.

The Patriots would never have won 3 titles without Belichick AND Brady. Remove either one of them and there is no way they win 3.

The 49ers would never have won 4 titles without Montana AND Rice. Remove either one of them and there is no way they win 4.

The Lakers would never have won 3 titles without Shaq AND Kobe. Remomve either one of them and there is no way they win 3.

This isn't even debatable.

Posted by: Barno1 | June 4, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

And how many Allstar appearances did D Wade make BEFORE Shaq Daddy landed in Miami. Anybody that thinks D Wade "did the heavy lifting" that year sure doesn't know much about the game. The big man drawing the double gave D Wade room to operate.

Kobe gets "extra credit", for what? Breaking up a team that would have been the odds on favorite to win a couple more titles, becuase he didn't want to be "second fiddle" on a title winning team.

Score on rings right now, Shaq 4, Kobe 3, I doubt either guy is looking to Kal to declare a winner based on "extra credit".

And these days Kobe gets his digs in at Bron-Bron,saying things like "I could score 35 a night, but I'm all about the winning". Well if he wanted to just win, he'd of found a way to co-exist with Shaq.

I really like many of the other Laker players, but I'll be pulling for the Magic and Dwight Howard. How the stripers decide to swim will determine this series. If they "go with the flow" and give each Star his calls on his home floor it goes 7.

If Kobe gets every call, and Howard can't stay out of foul trouble, Lakers in 5 or 6. My gut tells me the league could be getting tired of Kobe's act. He's not the lovable marketing Icon like Shaq, or MJ, or even plain as vinalla Duncan. So don't look for Kobe to steal this one.

It took Muppets to try and smooth out some of Kobe's snarl and make him likeable again. It's a shame, the guy was a "Marketing Shopping Mall" back before the Shaq, "the date", and "the my teammates let me down" rant.

The guy really seems to know he really could of blown his place as "one of the greatest of all time". Only way to recover is win it with out Shaq. So you know the guy's going to be playing like his whole career come down to this series.

Dwight Howard seems to be the rising star in this one. The league wanted the young rising star against Kobe, well it got it. Howard seems a little more marketable right now then Kobe.

Funny thing is, ESPN could do some great commercials using the "King James Throne". Bron-Bron is an unbeleivable talent, but truth is he blew the overtime game with turnovers and bad shots down the stretch. Then didn't really show up in the deciding game. right now the "I'm a winner" line rings a little hollow.

Kobe and Bron-Bron, you got to go win these things on the court. Neither guy is going to get "Jordan Rules" to win a title.

Just like there's "no crying in baseball" the sure ain't any "extra credit" in basketball.

The Brothers in the park would sure love that one! 88'er you're off the hook, that tops anything you ever came up with...

Posted by: flohrtv | June 4, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Second, that's not relevant because Shaq is not the one who broke up the party. That was Kobe who pulled the "this town's not big enough for the both of us" crap.

Posted by: JimZipCode | June 4, 2009 11:46 AM


Posted by: crs-one | June 4, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

"Score on rings right now, Shaq 4, Kobe 3, I doubt either guy is looking to Kal to declare a winner based on "extra credit". "

But they are, of course, checking this site on an hourly basis waiting for your opinion on the subject, right? Please.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 4, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

If you'd actually read the whole thing rather than stopping at the part that afforded you a new opportunity to put your foot in your mouth maybe you'd have glommed on to the fact that the bit about "extra credit" was sarcasm, directed towards JimZipCode giving Shaq credit for getting to the Finals and losing in Orlanddo while ignoring the fact that Kobe did the same thing last season. My whole (and really, rather obvious) point was that the only thing that mattered was the number of rings won and that getting to the Finals and losing was, in fact, irrelevant.

But, y'know, as usual you won't let something as simple as the obvious facts act a roadblock in your crusade to spout off without actually knowing what you're talking about.

I guess there is some value in consistency.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 4, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Rather hot under the collar Kal, a rare spelling error. Simmer down...

I'm just a guy that likes to talk about basketball a little. I've got no illusions that Kobe or anyone else in the NBA cares what I think.

And quess what, I don't really care much about what he thinks either.

If you would quit pulling a half line out of my posts, and restating it out of context, and then making a smart A comment like you do to everyone else, beleive me I'd never bother to respond to you.

Cause other then picking fights, you don't really have anything to say...

Posted by: flohrtv | June 4, 2009 8:11 PM | Report abuse

I am in the minority on this one. My vote is that Orlando wins this Series.

The matchup problems and athlecticism that Cleveland experienced will be the same for the Lakers.

The difference though for the Lakers is that Phil Jackson, Kobe, and the Laker mystic, will be a positive, but Orlando I feel will overcome this.

Look for the Majic to take the homecourt advantage. Lakers will not win in Orlando.

As for Kobe winning a championship without Shaq. He can, but this one might not be it.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | June 4, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

You know if I was Kobe, I would want to prove that I could win a championship without Shaq, but the difference is, he would have been smart to win those 2-3 more championships by keeping himself and Shaq together.

The Chicago Bulls could have won 2-3 more championships if the ownership group wasn't so pressed to prove they could one without Michael and Phil.

You bet your lunch money Kobe wants to win without Shaq, despite what he might say.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | June 4, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

I was going to say whomever wins game 1 is going to win it all. Well, considering it's halfway thru the 3rd and the Lakers are about to blow it open, I'll take the Lakers in 5 maybe a sweep.

Yeah, Orlando just played LeBron and prevailed, but Kobe has a much better supporting cast. So, Kobe going off is a win for the Lakers whereas LeBron going off could still be and was still a win for Orlando.

Who is going to slow down Kobe enough for Orlando to win? Don't see it happening. Kobe is as hungry as he has ever been. He's playing for his legacy whereas Orlando is happy to be in the Finals! Big difference.

Posted by: rphilli721 | June 4, 2009 10:49 PM | Report abuse

alright par for course, lst game for the lakers, now lets see if the magic can take game two and home court advantage.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | June 5, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Orlando will probably pick up a couple wins on the road on their home court. The Bynum/Gasol combo worked really well on Howard tonight. Ariza, Bryant, Fisher, Odom, and even Walton did a good job defending the perimeter.

Even Pietrus, who did a great job defending LeBron in the Cavs series, struggled with Kobe. The Lakers just kept finding ways to get Kobe the ball in one on one match-ups.

It'll be interesting to see if Orlando can come up with an answer to what the Lakers threw at them in Game 1. On the offensive end they have to find a way to move the ball and spread out the Lakers defense. They need to avoid the traps and double-teams. The Lakers completely disrupted their offense.

Van Gundy was out-coached tonight. His players looked confused and out of sync.

.300 shooting from the field on offense, only 10 assists to 8 turnovers. Ouch.

Posted by: JPRS | June 5, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse

The Lakers did do an oustanding job of forcing there will on the Majic. However, I did see great ball movement by the Majic, but without results.

I contribute the outcome of this game to a determination of Kobe and the Lakers not to lose game one.

Look for the Majic to win game two.


Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | June 5, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

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