I'm apologizing in advance.
To David Stern: I understand that you missed out on your dream series (Kobe vs. Lebron) and that television ratings may plummet.
To Nike: I understand that your Kobe-Lebron puppet commercial gamble has failed.
Nevertheless, I contend that a Kobe-Lebron "dream series" (23 and 24, whatever you want to call it) would have been an unsatisfying end to an otherwise sensational playoff season.
Here is why I'm Looking Forward to a Lakers-Magic NBA Finals:
1. THE BUILD-UP (OR LACK THERE OF)
We all saw the non-stop Celtics-Lakers media hype last year—build-up that, I must confess, was unwarranted.
Yes, those two franchises are revered, but the two teams in the 2008 Finals bore no resemblance to the Boston-LA rivals of old. Three key players (Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Gasol) only joined their respective clubs that season.
Even the KG-Russell interview seemed out of place — a failed attempt to add nostalgia to a match-up that contained none.
This year, all the build-up would have been even worse. To pundits, the comparisons between Kobe-Lebron (two players that would not even have guarded each other during the series) would be a dream come true.
But to most sane fans, it would have been so nauseating that the series would have lost its luster by the time the Finals actually rolled around.
By comparison, I have had just enough basketball deprivation since the end of the conference finals to be excited for the upcoming matchup—a matchup that, by the way, is an intriguing one as it is...
2. NO MAGIC ABOUT IT: ORLANDO IS EXCITING TO WATCH
Yes, Lebron James provided some fantastic highlights during Cleveland's playoff run. But more often than not during the Conference Finals, we were witnesses to something else—an incredibly dull Cavaliers team.
When the rest of the King's subjects weren't clearing out and waiting for him to take over, viewers saw:
- Zyndrunas Ilgauskas loafing around like his feet were in quicksand, showing every bit of those 34 years.
- Wally Szczerbiak total an astounding seven points in Cleveland's final three playoff games, along with one bad airball.
- Mo Williams, James' trusty All-Star sidekick, shoot no higher than 33 percent from the field while the team fell into a 3-1 hole.
If the Cavs would've fallen behind big to Los Angeles, it would've likely been the same story.
Meanwhile, Orlando was the fun team to watch, with its three-point shooting providing most of the drama in the series.
The Magic roared back from double-digit deficits three times during the series, with the two comebacks in Games 1 and 2 helping to set up fantastic finishes.
And when they need to feed it inside, the Magic have an option who people like to call:
3. SUPERMAN: WILL HE BE STOPPED?
Dwight Howard posted 25 points and 20 rebounds against the Lakers at the Staples Center earlier this season. And with a 40-point performance to close out an overall domination of the Cavs' front line, Dwight Howard served notice that the Lakers better be worried.
Last year, Paul Gasol got out-physicaled on the interior by the Celtics.
Meanwhile, Andrew Bynum (who is still not 100 percent healthy) has been prone to foul trouble throughout these playoffs.
Those 12 fouls that the Lakers two main big men have to utilize against Howard may evaporate in a hurry. And with Howard hitting 70 percent of his free-throws against Cleveland, Hack-a-Dwight may not be the option it once was.
If the Lakers let Superman make the paint a regular Fortress of Solitude, they better get ready for a highlight reel of rim-rattling dunks and alley-oops.
4. VAN GUNDY AND THE ZEN MASTER
Talk about your odd couples.
On one bench, you have the cool and collected Phil Jackson. His nine NBA titles (one short of surpassing Red Auerbach) allows him to walk around slowly without calling time outs when most commentators think he should.
On the other side, you have a short, plump fireball in Stan Van Gundy. The "Master of Panic" is seen as a Ron Jeremy look-alike—only I would add George Kostanza's nerves. It's always a mystery how he'll act after a given play (and how in the world his suit fit to start the game).
As entertaining as he may be on-court, his self-deprecating post game interviews will always be worth a watch (as will the commentating from his entertaining brother, Jeff).
With Jackson and Van Gundy's unique and utterly contrasting personalities, some of the best moments in the series may be on the sidelines and press conferences.
5. UNDERDOG STORY
Though the Magic beat Los Angeles twice this season, it's safe to say that not many predicted them getting this far. But it seems Orlando feels just fine about being written off or facing adversity.
Remember that the Magic faced an early 2-1 hole against Philadelphia after two last-second daggers by Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young.
Against the Celtics, few predicted Orlando to rebound from a heartbreaker in Game 5 (and the ensuing tension between Van Gundy and Howard) in the fashion they did, routing Boston on its home floor to close out the series.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Magic proved to be much more than just another obstacle to Lebron and the Cavs' dream season, surging to a 3-1 lead before winning in six.
And yet, as much as Jeff Van Gundy wants to see his brother win a title, he predicted the Lakers prevailing in six. So did President Barack Obama.
That may just be music to the Magic's ears, and it will certainly be fun to watch the boys from Orlando try to prove the world wrong again.