Normally we only do the Morning Walkthrough. But this is the Finals, damn it!, and there’s quite a bit of increased coverage today. I can’t write individual posts about ALL the great articles today, can I?
1. Jerry West is drinking some serious Kobe Kool-Aid. Wouldn’t you just love if the Celtics made West do a 180? (Sports Radio Interviews, via FoxSports Radio)
“He’s playing the best basketball I have ever seen him play to be honest with you. When he shoots shots a lot of people would probably think they are bad shots. For him, he is not only creative, but he is a shot maker. Some people are creative, but they’re not shot makers. He can make tough shots. He just seems to will the ball in the basket. I’ve never seen him play better… At this time of year, people talk about adjustments that people make. The adjustments that people make are not really the telling part of it. Your great players, this is their time to shine. You can’t really run your offense. After the first couple of games, everyone will be waiting on everyone. The team that has the best ability to beat people off the dribble and be creative will be successful. There’s no better player that I’ve ever seen than him… He’s the greatest Laker player that we have ever seen.”
2. Jason Whitlock isn’t sipping on the same Kool-Aid as West. (Fox Sports)
Now Jerry West starts popping off his mouth. Now I have a vested interest in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo stopping Kobe from getting his fifth title, which would give The Closer the same number of rings as Magic. Now I may be forced to crank out a few more vicious columns lambasting Bryant and ridiculing anyone who lumps the moody gunner in the same category as Magic and Larry.
Damn it. All of my unfair negative energy has been directed at LeBron James.
Jordan and Bird’s assault on Magic’s place in history transpired in two different decades. I hated Bird in the ‘80s and Jordan in the ‘90s. My hatred of Iverson peaked in the first half of the ‘00s.
I don’t need the hassle of disparaging two NBA legends during the first half of the ‘10s. I’ll risk sounding like a cranky old man who believes everything was better in the old days.
I need the Celtics to get Kobe off my lawn!
3. I’m still trying to find out what “choking in a good way” means. (Marc Spears, Yahoo!)
“Everyone wants to choke [Rondo] at times,” Celtics center Kendrick Perkins said, “but in a good way.”
The Celtics say Rondo has matured this season. And while he hasn’t stopped talking, his play also has spoken volumes.
“He might be the most arrogant guy on our team, and nobody really knows,” Perkins said. “He has a fiery edge. That’s always been him in a good way. Really, when he gets on the court he thinks he’s the best player on the court.”
Said Rondo: “I’m strong-willed. I’m a leader more than a follower. If I disagree with something, I’m going to say or voice my opinion. That’s just how I am. Either you like it, or you don’t.”
4. Kobe wants more and more titles, and he doesn’t think the Lakers’ ’08 team was good enough. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo!)
The biggest thing for Bryant now: Don’t leave titles on the table. Gobble them all. That’ll be his biggest regret. Bryant and the Lakers have the Celtics again now, a chance for vindication over that 39-point obliteration to end the ’08 Finals. Jerry West never beat the Celtics, nor did Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor. For all the discussion about Bryant chasing Jordan as the greatest player in history, remember this: In Los Angeles, some will always consider Magic Johnson the greatest Laker of all. Jerry West says it’s Kobe, but that’s a debate that’ll swing Bryant’s way once he takes down the Celtics, too.
As for two years ago, Bryant says simply, “We were just not good enough. That team we had was just not good enough. We had players who were skilled, but we couldn’t match up with them. I mean, they chumped us. They played tougher than us. They wanted it more. And on top of all that, they were just better.”
5. The origins of the Beat L.A. chant. (Boston Globe)
You’ll be hearing the simple yet powerful “Beat LA!, Beat LA!, Beat LA!” battle cry all over New England now that the Celtics-Lakers rivalry has been renewed for the Finals.
For most fans, the chant is reminiscent of the playoff games in the old Boston Garden in the 1980s, when Magic Johnson squared off against Larry Bird and the Celtics and Lakers dominated the NBA.
But that’s not when the chant took off in Boston. It actually started as a chant supporting the Philadelphia 76ers.
With 26 seconds to go in Game 7 of the 1982 Eastern Conference finals at the old Garden and the Sixers pulling away from the soon-to-be ex-champs, the crowd began to chant the now-famous phrase. Philadelphia, after all, would be facing the hated Lakers in the NBA Finals.
6. Kobe Bryant will spend time defending Rajon Rondo this series… but for entirely different reasons than he did in 2008. (Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop)
Phil Jackson said Wednesday that he expects Bryant to spend some time guarding Rondo. In 2008, the rationale for this assignment is the freedom it affords Bryant to use his instincts as an untethered ad hoc defender in the half court. The Lakers challenge Rondo to shoot as close as 15 feet and to finish at the rim against Odom. Rondo doesn’t fare well. His mechanics are jerky and when he’s able to break through the defense and get to the paint, he rushes his finishes.
Two years later, Bryant will get the defensive assignment for entirely different reasons. Rondo has emerged as the rudder of the Celtics’ offense. His penetration, orchestration of the pick-and-roll and playmaking — even in a crowded half court — generates dozens of quality looks for the Celtics per game. Rondo is also infinitely more confident as a shooter and finisher. Defensively, Rondo is the head of the snake for Boston. His lanky limbs and ability to deny entry passes help snarl the flow of opposing offenses and make it that much easier for the rest of the Celtics to crowd the paint.
7. And lastly, my least favorite picture of the day. I know — I just know! — Thibodeau either spit on his hand or failed to wash it after his previous poop or something. (Via Ball Don’t Lie)