Finally, it's time for Jackson and the Lakers to get out of Kobe's way
True to my word, I have not watched Games Three & Four of the NBA Finals in my own silent protest to the officiating (like anyone cares).
So I turn on my computer the other morning and see that the Lakers blew a 24-point lead in losing to the Celtics in Game Four. Of course I'm moderately stunned.
I say moderately because anyone who watches the NBA regularly knows that everybody goes on a run. Even in the horrendously officiated Game Two, the Celtics allowed a 20+ point lead to dwindle to two points in the fourth quarter, before closing out Kobe & Co. at home.
So now that the Celtics have all but clinched the 2008 Championship, the series just got interesting.
If I were a betting man (which I would be if I had Charles Barkley's money) I would certainly take the Celtics in five.
I just realized how painful it must be for David Stern to hear the words betting and Finals in the same sentence.
However, since I don't have Barkley, or Donaghy money for that matter, I'm going with the Lakers in seven. Please, stop laughing.
Hey, what do I have to lose? Right?
See, I think right about now, that's what Kobe Bryant is saying to himself.
"What have I got to lose?"
Already, Black Mamba has been knocked off his pedestal by every sportswriter on the web.
Kobe isn't like Mike, Stop the MJ comparisons now, etc. etc. etc.
But as anyone who has ever rooted for KB 24 knows, it is always when his back is against the wall and people are spewing the most venom at him, that he does something to amaze and astound us.
Case(s) in point:
#1. Can anyone tell me what team Smush Parker plays for off the top of your head? If your answer is Miami then you are incorrect. The last roster that featured Parker's name was the L.A. Clippers, and there are six point guards listed on the Clippers' roster so his appearance really doesn't say much.
Why is that important?
Because this is the guy who was the starting point guard for the Lakers' two previous postseason runs, which included a 2005-06 series where the Lake Show (up 3 games to 1 at one point) was one Tim Thomas three-pointer away from sending MVP Steve Nash and his fast break offense into an early vacation.
Kobe was heated that he was playing on a team that had Kwame Brown and Smush Parker as starters, and he willed that team into the postseason by himself (twice), and yet Nash, who was playing alongside two other All-Stars (Marion, Stoudamire) was being hailed as the NBA's Most Valuable Player.
By now, Kobe was fed up with being blamed for everything that was wrong with L.A., and single-handedly torched the league for two straight seasons. While many writers still wanted to bury the guy, the other players in the league began to bow down to Kobe, Don Corleone style, lest they be on the receiving end of some thing like....
#2. In December, 2005 The Lakers beat the Mavericks 112-90 and Kobe outscored the entire Mavs team over three quarters.
Of course Bryant was blasted in the media, not for scoring 62 in three quarters, but rather for depriving us sports fans of an opportunity to see someone challenge Chamberlain's 100 point game.
Quick note: Kobe scored 42 first half points against the Wizards in Jordan's last game with that team, and nobody complained about that because the "Haterade" hadn't started yet. Shows you how fickle sports writers are.
So despite abusing the Mavs, the eventual Western Conference champs that year, in an impressive display of scoring, Bryant had to endure the wrath of a Shaquille O'Neal jock strap riding media who now suggested that Bryant was selfish for not scoring more. So what does Kobe do the quiet the critics who accused him of selfishly sitting out the 4th quarter against Dallas?
#3. Yeah, we all know what happened on January 22, 2006. Barely a month after being slammed for not finishing off the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant exploded for 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, scoring 55 points in the second half. Can you imagine if he had been trying to take over in the first two quarters? Did that silence the critics? Of course not. Did Kobe care? Of course not, he had proved his point...again. Which brings us to...
#4. The 2007-08 offseason was dominated by the fact that Bryant was tired of playing against teams in the postseason with multiple All-Stars, and he had to play against them with guys named Kwame, Bynum and Smush, so he wanted out.
The Lakers, who are not dumb enough to trade both Shaq and Kobe, hold tight and wait to see if they can get their pal Jerry West to facilitate the second biggest steal of the season (McHale, Garnett, Boston, Al Jefferson and the cast from Seinfeld?..come on now).
Of course, West does his Monty Hall impersonation and viola! In a season where everyone thought that Kobe would be wearing a Bulls uniform by October, Bryant wins the MVP, makes All-Defensive first team and carries the Lakers to the NBA Finals.
So now Kobe is here, down 3-1 to Boston.
Just like my making this insane prediction, Kobe finally can come into Games Five, Six and Seven and not care whether or not his teammates get their touches. He doesn't have to care about the Jordan comparisons. He couldn't care less what Phil Jackson will have to say during timeouts.
Just like when he went for 81 against Toronto, there are times when Phil Jackson knows that even he has to just get out of Kobe's way and let him do what he does best.
Despite Boston being up three games to one, trust me, every one of the Celtics' players in the back of their minds does not want to be the one having to deal with Kobe on Sunday, even Paul Pierce. It's Mamba time.
Don't forget that in 2004, down 3-1 to the Yankees in the ALCS, the Red Sox became the first team in MLB history to rally from that deficit to win a League Championship. That's the thing about 'odds'; sooner or later they are bound to reverse course. That's why they are called 'odds' and not inevitabilities.
Sooner or later, somebody has to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win it all. The odds say that if has to happen sooner or later.
Well, these Finals feature Kobe Bryant, and if I were a betting man....