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Thoughts After NBA Finals Game One

Paul PeszkoSenior Writer IJune 6, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 4:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic drives to the basket over Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first half of Game One of the 2009 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 4, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

All week prior to Game One, the main question in the Los Angeles media market was: Does Kobe Bryant need a fourth ring to seal his legacy?

It’s a ridiculous question when you think about it. The number of Hall of Famers not only from basketball but all the major sports who have never been on a championship team is sizable. Then there are some who have only been on one championship team or maybe two. Kobe Bryant’s been on three championship teams. He doesn’t need a fourth ring or a fifth even.

But then the favorite media question follows. Can he win a title without Shaquille O’Neal?

Could Shaq win a title without Kobe Bryant or Dwayne Wade? Could Bryant and O’Neal win a title without Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Ron Harper, and Rick Fox? Could Michael win titles without Scotty?

For that matter, Can Phil win a championship without Michael or Shaq?

It’s all about controversy not about reality. What’s reality? The number of times Kobe Bryant has been a first team All-Star.

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While I’m on the subject of Kobe Bryant, what is with the new stern face, I-really-want-this-bad look? Come on, man, lighten up.

First, we had LeBron James’ no-show press conference. Then last night we get Kobe Bryant’s stone-face press conference. If an immigrant who couldn’t understand any English watched Bryant’s press conference followed by Dwight Howard’s press conference, he would have sworn that the Orlando Magic had won by 25 points.

We know you want this one badly to prove that you can win a title without Shaquille O’Neal (even if you don’t say so). But there’s no need to act it out for the national media. They get it, Kobe. Next time, sneak out the back door like LeBron James did and let your Muppet take your place. He’s much more congenial not to mention entertaining.

And Stan Van Gundy, what is wrong with you, my man? You are creating a terrible atmosphere by taking Rafer Alston out and putting Jamere Holland in. Okay, for a few minutes to give Alston a breather, sure, I can understand that.

But to take a frontline player like Alston out for an entire period at a time, only messes with team chemistry. Haven’t you ever heard the old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

This isn’t the exhibition season. These are the NBA Finals. No time to mess with what got you here. Sure, use Holland, but don’t abuse Alston.

While I’m on the subject of coaches, kudos to Phil Jackson for putting Kobe Bryant back in the game during garbage time so he could get his forty points.

And thumbs down to Phil Jackson for putting Kobe Bryant back in the game during garbage time and going back on your word that Bryant was shooting too much. So, you let him shoot some more?

Good thing there are two days off between Games One and Two. You wouldn’t want to over-exert your best player.

Prediction: Bryant will not break 30 in the rest of the NBA Finals. No, not points, shots. He took 34 last night. He won’t get over 30 from here on out.

Kudos again to Phil Jackson for not forgetting Andrew Bynum. I know it was just garbage time, but Bynum needed to get back in the game if for no other reason than to stay involved. That extra time on the court will prove to be beneficial somewhere down the line.

And the referees. Don’t get me started on the officiating. It’s not that they were calling them for or against either team. It’s that they were once again not consistent. They let some of the hard contact go then turn around and call the ticky-tack stuff.

And finally, I have a question for the refs. Is traveling still in the rule books? I mean it’s not just something you do on your vacation, right? Can we possibly get together on this, guys, before the end of the Finals maybe?

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