February 2004 - Posts
The Lakers won a nail bitter tonight against the Nuggets, 112-111. The game had a couple clutch 3s from Kobe and Rush, a steal from Luke, and an 11-0 run by the Lakers. The Lakers were down by as many as 13 in the final quarter, but managed to squeak out a W.
The Lakers ratchet up another shakey win. Save the clobbering of the 76ers, the Lakers have had to work for this string of victories. Let's hope their luck can continue through tomorrow night's matchup against the Kings. (Granted, the Kings are missing some of the stars, so the game isn't as challenging for the Lakers as it will be come May...)
In a recent L.A. Daily News article, Shaq was told of the following comments from Steve Kerr (former Spur/Bull who is now an NBA analyst):
I don't know if Shaq has that killer instinct, but it's probably a good thing he doesn't, because there would be a lot of dead people lying around the floor.
The only thing I'd fault Kerr for is using the words “I don't know...” Of course Shaq doesn't have the killer instinct, he's not wired that way. Some people are just naturally over-competitive, like Michael Jordan or Larry Bird; some people needed that killer instinct to survive (see Isaih Thomas). But Shaq? No. In fact, I doubt it will be a long time before we get a round of NBA stars who play with over-competitive instinct because today's NBA stars have it easy. More importantly, these kids have it easy almost as soon as their talents are discovered. The NBA is about max contracts, endorsements, and having a good time. Those atheletes who are playing to win - people like Malone and Payton, who took massive pay cuts in the quest for a ring - are a dying breed.
What is sad is Shaq's comment to Kerr's comment. Shaq was quoted as saying:
You have to know what killer instinct is to comment on it. (Kerr) has never had a killer instinct, he's just been a lucky guy on the end of the bandwagon, several times. He doesn't know what killer instinct is.
Yes, Kerr has been very lucky to be on great, championship bound teams, and Kerr himself probably lacks the killer drive he chides O'Neal for lacking, but Kerr does have one advantage over O'Neal: he's played with one of the most competitive basketball players ever, Michael Jordan. Ergo, Kerr knows what killer instinct is - he's witnessed it first hand, and he's likely been on the brunt end of it, as were all Bulls players at one time or another were, I'm sure. What's telling with Shaq's response is that he doesn't deny that he lacks the killer instinct (which he does). He simply uses an ad hominem attack to draw attention away from a valid argument.
Shaq is a beast, and has the potential to be the greatest, most dominant player ever. What's sad is that his physical gifts are not being taken full advantage of due to his mentality...
The Lakers 28 point decimation of the 76ers last night gave the Lakers their third straight victory since All Star weekend. Of course these three games were against the Blazers, Warriors, and 76ers - not the mightest foes out there. Regardless, a W's a W, and there's no excuse to lose to sub .500 teams. (What was a bit scary was that the Lakers wins over the Blazers and Warriors were close ones, coming down to the final seconds. Thankfully the 76ers game was put away by the end of the third quarter.) On Sunday the Lakers play in Phoenix against the Suns, and should ratchet up another victory. They'll face more formidble challengers in the coming mid-week: at Denver on Wednesday and then back in L.A. the next night to take on the scortching hot Kings.
This season is really turning out to be an exciting one for Western Conference fans. There's so much parity in the West - the delta between the Western Conference team with the most wins, and the lowest playoff seeded team is 9 (the T'Wolves with 40 wins, the Rockets with 31). Too, looking at the bottom six playoff contenders, we have the Nuggets at 32 wins, Rockets at 31, Grizzlies at 32, Mavs at 34, Lakers at 34, and Spurs at 36. A right race, to say the least! If things stay this competitive, it should be an exciting last couple of weeks in the season, as teams with a minor downturn or upturn could seriously move several playoff spots north or south.
Detroit now has 'Sheed. With Wallace, the Pistons will go to the NBA Finals this year*. That is all.
* This statement hinges upon the assumption that Rasheed Wallace plays hungry, doesn't act spoiled and selfish, and stays out of trouble, both on and off the court. Looking at 'Sheed's troubled past the chances of this happening are about as likely as Vin Baker turning down a vodka martini, or Dennis Rodman forgoing another tat or genital piercing. Regardless, with the addition of Wallace, the Detroit frontcourt is tops in the East, without a doubt.
I hate to say it, but I am concerned that the Lakers are going to have a poor second half of the season. Yes, last year they were able to “turn it on” when needed, and hopefully they can do it again this year, but, honestly, I'm not expecting much. I see the Lakers making it into the playoffs somewhere as, say, a 6th or 7th seed, and losing in the second round after barely escaping the first round.
Why this feeling? Well, the Lakers sure haven't been playing focused or well since their initial spurt to start off the season. Kobe's distracted with the trial, has this coming summer's free agency on his mind. Shaq is Shaq - not in prime shape, not focused, not hungry. (Need proof - he missed practice (again) after partying too hard All Star weekend.) Malone, of course, is out, and will be for at least another month. And poor Gary Payton is getting frustrated, and rightfully so.
If Shaq was a real competitor, this team would be unstopable. If Shaq had the marbles and drive that MJ, Zeke, and Bird had, this team would be putting out 110% each and every night, and winning by 25. But Shaq is Shaq, a jovial big man who seems more interested in having fun, in formulating cute quips and quotes, than in doing what he's being paid to do - win games. Some people have that fire inside of them, some do not.
Come to think of it, it would probably be very annoying to live with or to be close friends with one of those true competitors, like Jordan or Zeke. Shaq is probably a load of fun off the court, but, dammit, it's frustrating when you're not a friend, but a fan, and just want to see him pour his heart into it like you saw Michael do every night. Bleh.
Portland has traded Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person to the Atlanta Hawks for Shareef Abdul-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, and Dan Dickau.
Wallace always struct me as a player who had tons of upside - a great basketball build with incredible skill at both the short-range through long-range jumper. One who could be a perennial All Star if he:
- Played like it mattered
- Didn't bitch to the refs
- Realized just how lucky he was to be where he was in life, and not just playing half-awake to really accomplish nothing more than getting paid
But, for whatever reason, 'Sheed just ain't one of those types of human beings. I don't think it's the fame or success that's made him like this, I imagine even if he was working in a factory line, he'd show up late, goof off, and feel slighted if the foreman told him to shut his mouth and get back to work. A shame, really.
Well, now the Hopeless Hawks have Rasheed Wallace on their roster. Sheed is moving from Sucky to Suckiest, while Abdul-Rahim and crew will soon learn why no one has enjoyed playing for Portland for the last four years.
The Lakers got blown out tonight, against a Leastern Conference team (the 76ers), 96-73. That's right, they lost by 23 points to a team whose record is 20-29. Granted, the Lakers were without Malone and Kobe, and Payton was ejected in the first quater, and this is their second back-to-back this week, and they are playing on the road, but STILL. Have some freakin' heart and self-respect. Meh.
The Lakers have another three road games next week: Orlando on Sunday, Miami on Tuesday, and Houston on Wednesday.
The Lakers beat the Cavs tonight, 111-106, in an overtime thriller in Cleveland. LeBron poured in 32 points on 12-26 shooting, hitting all four of his three-point attempts. Payton and Shaq dominated for the Lakers, Gary with 30 points and Shaq with a double-double - 37 points and 12 boards. Tomorrow the Lakers travel to Philedelphia for a game against the 76ers before having a few nights rest.
Over on ESPN.com Jeff Merron has an article on the 10 most overpaid NBA players. Not surpringly, Vin Baker's ~$13 million dollar yearly salary comes in as #1. When the Celtics foolishly traded for Baker I remember thinking how silly it was to pin so much money and hope on an addict. Addicts are called addicts for a reason - they have a crippling addiction to a substance that impairs their ability to function. Yes, people can, through very hard work, stave off an addiction (it never goes away), but more often than not addicts return to their drug of choice. Hard to imagine anyone gambling tens of millions of dollars on an addict.... Some other honorable mentions include Dekembe Mutombo's ~$18 million dollar fee for sitting on the bench.
Neither LeBron nor Carmelo will be in the All Star game this year. Neither was voted in as a starter, and neither was picked by a coach as one of the reserves. At least there's the Rookie Game, where these two phenoms will get to square off. Some may cry foul - especially since Jamaal Maglorie is a reserve while LeBron is not - but I don't think it's too big of a deal. These two will have many, many years of appearances in future All Star events.
The rookie All Star talk reminds me of the Jordan/Thomas talk back in the 1985 All Star game. Thomas was blamed for orchestrating it so that Jordan got few touches. Perhaps relations between MJ and Isaih Thomas would have been better over the years, culminating in Thomas as a Dream Teamer, had MJ not played in the All Star game his rookie season.