Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NBA Finals Preview (a.k.a. The Adam Morrison vs J.J. Redick throwdown)

After watching the Cleveland LeBrons fall to the Magic, the everyone's dream matchup of Kobe vs. LeBron has been put on hold for at least one more year. Nike was especially banking on the matchup with their MVPuppets commercials. The commercials, which were hilarious to begin with (I particularly like the Unstoppable Game Tape one), are now even more funny with the added irony of the fact that Kobe made the finals while King James will be staying at home. At this point Nike's best move would be to continue the ad campaign, playing off the current situation, rather than just pretending it did not happen. They should either incorporate Dwight Howard, maybe having Kobe move in with him instead, leaving LeBron alone, or should have Kobe at the finals while LeBron is at home. The commercials have been too good to just end them now.

With regards to the real life counterparts, Kobe got the edge over James by taking his team to the finals. Despite what some may say, the Lakers cast surrounding Bryant is not much stronger than that surronding James. Mo Williams is better than any guard on the Lakers other than Kobe and Delonte West also a solid contributer. The Lakers do have talent in the frontcourt with Bynum, Gasol, and Lamar "Augustus Gloop" Odom, but of the three Gasol has been the only consistent performer for the Lakers. I think LeBron is a more skilled player and will probably go down as a better player than Bryant. That said Kobe is more similar to Jordan in his cold ruthless, efficiency on the court. Bryant has been in the league longer and even though LeBron was dominant by himself, Kobe was more effective in leading his team to victory (the big turnovers and missed free throws at the end of games three and four). I don't wish to discredit LeBron (who made one of the best buzzer beaters I've ever seen at the end of game 2), as he is the best player in basketball and will win a championship (whether it be with the Cavs or with the Knicks), but if you must compare him with Kobe, I think Bryant gets the edge as far as these playoffs go. While LeBron did emerge this year as the best player in basketball, he still is very young and has more to learn. The whole handshake drama (which has been blown way out of proportion) is further testament to that. It's not that what James did was that bad in any way, it just showed that, for as classy and mature a person as he is, he still has some room for further growth.

Turning attention to the actual matchup, I think Orlando does have the talent to contend with the Lakers. Howard will be challenged more by Bynum and Gasol than he was by Ilgauskas and Verejaeo, but he should still be able to put up at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Ultimately the deciding factor will be the shooting of the Magic. Rafer Alsston and Michael Pietrus caught fire at times against the Cavs and Rasard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu are matchup nightmares for any team. Coupled with the return of supposedly healthy Jameer Nelson, the Magic may be more talented down the roster than the Lakers. That said the Lakers have much more experiance and are less likely to be overwhelmed by the situation and also have some guy named Bryant.

As I was writing this post I kicked myself for not writing it earlier after reading Sports Guy Bill Simmons's column breaking down the Finals today. While I could never hope to write as good a breakdown as he did, I was disappointed to see that he beat me to the punch about what I think is perhaps the best subplot of the Finals. I of course refer to the matchup of horribly underachieving white college stars in Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick. Morrison, who was considered the better pro prospect of the two, spent his first three seasons riding the pine in Charlotte before finally being dumped to the Lakers for Radmanovic (ironically the other Bobcat involved in the trade, Shannon Brown, has been a big player for the Lakers in the playoffs so far). Redick meanwhile had a couple good moments against the Celtics but never really saw the court against the Cavs. Meanwhile Morrison has not even seen the court, but does have the highest creeper points average in the playoffs since Dennis Rodman. Actually, forget my ideas about the MVPuppets commercials. Just do a LVPuppets spin-off with Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick. I really think there may be some potential there. Regardless, I am going to feel cheated if these two are not on the court together at least once.

Anyways as far as the actual series I am torn. On one hand I don't want to bet against Kobe's determination. On the other I sincerely believe the Magic have the more talented roster. Call it a hunch but I think the Magic take it in seven.

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