Fellow featured columnist Tom Delamater recently penned an article concerning the Los Angeles Lakers' record against the top teams in the league, and his piece raised some very interesting points.
Tom's musings were echoed by the commentary team covering the Dallas-Los Angeles game Wednesday night and a version of the same question was posed to former New York Knick guard Mark Jackson.
Jackson said beating a team in the regular season instills the confidence needed to believe you could defeat the same team if paired with them in the postseason, but he also said that confidence rarely holds up in the face of a superior team.
Jackson made the comparison based on one of his seasons with the Knicks, in which New York was swept in the regular season by the Philadelphia 76ers, only to later return the favor when the teams were paired in the playoffs.
His assumption was the better team will manifest during the course of a seven-game series, and the regular season is only a snap-shot of what one could expect to see in the postseason.
There is evidence to back Jackson's words up and you only have to look as far as last season for confirmation. During the 2009 regular season, the Orlando Magic swept the season series from the Lakers, in two games which were far from close.
But when the two were paired in the NBA Finals, the Lakers made quick work of the Magic, dispatching them in five games, and dispelling any notion of relativity between regular season dominance and the postseason.
Furthermore, the Lakers' 7-8 record against top teams should be of little concern, because the only contender which swept Los Angeles was the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The only other top team whom the Lakers have yet to defeat are the Denver Nuggets, which Los Angeles plays twice more. They split the season series with Dallas, and defeated the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks in the only games they have played.
The Lakers also managed to split the season series with the Boston Celtics, with each team winning on the other's home court, although the Lakers' were without the services of Kobe Bryant in the second game.
Which means absolutely nothing, because like Jackson said the playoffs are an entirely different beast, and the Lakers have been baptized in the fires of the Finals and emerged victorious as NBA champions.
The regular season is good for determining seeding for the playoffs, but a team like the Lakers should not put much thought into their record against the top teams in the league.
They are cognizant of the fact a record means much more in May and June, and the ultimate goal is to peak during those times, not to be the regular season champion.
A big verbal shot goes out to commissioner David Stern and his "ask no questions, tell no lies" policy concerning all the shady deals which have transpired around the NBA trade deadline.
The backdoor deals have been going on for quite some time and were recently brought to light in the deal which sent Pau Gasol to the Lakers in exchange for Kwame Brown, Javarris Crittendon, and the draft rights to Marc Gasol.
There were numerous general managers who questioned the integrity of the deal, and with good reason, considering the conflicts of interest involving former Laker great and then-Memphis consultant Jerry West.
But at least the Grizzlies received something tangible for their efforts, unlike the current deal in which the Cavaliers quite possibly earned the services of former All-Star Antawn Jamison for free.
I say free because it is widely assumed Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the player the Washington Wizards received in the Jamison deal, would re-sign after the Wizards bought out his contract and the grace period expired.
Anyone with common sense knows this was a pre-arranged deal, but Stern is reluctant to enforce it due to the league-wide ramifications it would cause. Could you imagine the outcry from Cleveland if they were unable to re-sign Ilgauskas?
The figurative skeletons from various closets across the league would be laid bare, and the NBA, which is struggling to maintain some semblance of integrity, would be faced with its biggest scandal yet.
The problem does need to be corrected, but only after the games have been played and a plan for total transparency can be worked out.
Making an example out of Cleveland by blocking Ilgauskas' return could cause a domino effect which could reap irreparable damage on a league already facing an image problem.
Things of That Sort
The Lakers need to solve their chemistry issues and fast. What will it take for coach Phil Jackson to understand that the combination of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol is not the best one?
Los Angeles was much more effective against Dallas when Lamar Odom was on the floor and either Gasol or Bynum were on the bench. The offense and defense flowed more smoothly without the congestion in the lane.
Odom's perimeter skills give the Lakers an added bonus of having a player who can transition between the paint and the perimeter, and one that can serve as an extra ball-handler when needed.
Jackson seems stuck on the concept that two skilled big men give the Lakers an advantage over most of the league's teams who lack the length of the Lakers, and he is correct.
Except that same wisdom holds true when you can substitute one talented seven-footer for the other without disturbing the continuity and cohesion which the Lakers heavily depend on.
There is still time left to tinker with the rotation and, based on the career of Jackson, I'm sure he is aware of the problem. But, realizing the fallacy in your logic and acting on it are two different things. Let's hope Jackson chooses the latter.