The Lakers will start their NBA Finals series with the Boston Celtics on June 3, 2010. This will be a rematch of the 2008 NBA Finals. The Lakers received a humiliating defeat in that series. They will face each other again after two years, but I think this time will be different and I have two reasons for that: Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. I know, Jackson was the coach in 2008 and Kobe was on the team as well but let me explain why I believe in these two guys.
When Jackson was coaching the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, his team was able to recover from two tough defeats. In the 1989-90 season, after struggling his entire career, Michael Jordan was in a good position to win his first NBA championship. With the help of Jackson as his coach, he led the Bulls to the second seed in the Eastern Conference with 55 regular season wins. One obstacle stood in his way: The Detroit Pistons. After having the most regular season wins (55) during the Jordan era at the time (1984-1990), the Bulls thought that this was their year. They were eliminated by the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals in 7 games. This was a very disappointing loss for the Bulls (and Jordan) because they almost eliminated their nemesis. With Jackson as their head coach, the Bulls were not only able to recover from this defeat, but they returned even stronger in the 1990-91 season. The Bulls won a franchise record (at the time) 61 regular season games earning them the first seed in the Eastern Conference. They faced the Pistons again in the Eastern Conference Finals, but things were different that time. They swept the Pistons. Their nemesis was gone. They were able to avenge those disappointing losses at the hands of the Pistons in the past three seasons.
When Jordan returned from retirement in 1995, he was in a different Bulls team from the one he left in 1993. Jackson and Scottie Pippen were the key pieces remaining from those championships teams. With Jordan, the Bulls won 13 of their last 17 regular season games. They defeated the Charlotte Hornets in the first round. Things were looking good for the Bulls, and a 4th championship was not far away. Like in the days of the Pistons, one obstacle stood in their way: The Orlando Magic. The Magic held the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls were eliminated by the Magic in 6 games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This defeat was tough for the Bulls, especially for Jordan, because it was the first time he tasted defeat since the Pistons beat his Bulls in 1990. We never forget about that disappoint loss in game 1 when Jordan’s 2 last second turnovers cost his team the game. This loss, like the Pistons loss, only help Jordan and the Bulls come stronger in the next season (1995-96). They won a record 72 regular season games and just like they did to the Pistons, they swept the Magic.
When Jackson’s Lakers received that humiliating defeat at the hands of the Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals, they were able to recover from this defeat. They returned the next season as a stronger team, winning 65 regular season games (8 more than the previous season). Unfortunately, when the Lakers reached the NBA Finals that season, the Celtics weren’t the team that was waiting for them. But in 2010, they were granted a rematch with the Celtics in the NBA Finals.
Now, I’m not saying the Lakers will sweep the Celtics. But I do believe they will avenge their 2008 loss, because that’s what Jackson coached teams have done in the past. I know Jackson made mistakes in 2008, just like the rest of the Lakers team. But I take Jackson as a coach that makes adjustments for his team and I know he will not make the same mistakes again (his years with Bulls have proved this). The same goes for the players, especially Kobe, and now I will state my reason as to why I believe Kobe will be a different player this time.
Kobe has received two disappoint losses in the NBA Finals. The first defeat was in 2004 when the Detroit Pistons beat the Lakers. One reason for that defeat was Kobe’s attitude during the series. He wanted to be the star of the team, so he tried to take over the entire series all by himself. This was so immature that even Jackson said that Kobe was “uncoachable”. The second defeat was in 2008 at the hands of the Celtics. Like in 2004, Kobe again tried to take over games, making bad decisions on the court, but there is a difference though. In 2004, he wanted to play like that; he didn’t want the Lakers to be Shaq’s team. In 2008, the Lakers were already his team, so he didn’t have this same mentality. What happened was that Kobe, as a leader, was lost. He didn’t know what to do in these situations. It was his first Finals series without Shaq.
I believe he has grown as a better player since 2008. I think two losses in the NBA Finals are more than enough to learn. Kobe is a great player, and I know he will not play in 2010 like he did in 2004 and 2008. If he proves that he hasn’t grown as a player, then the Lakers will not win. But that won’t happen. I know he will do the right thing. I believe in him. I believe in Jackson’s coaching abilities and Kobe’s leadership. I hope I don’t get disappointed.