Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson announced at the start of this season that he would be retiring. Jackson has earned 11 championship rings as a head coach and made superstars like Michael Jordan, Scotties Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant into Hall of Fame players. However, during this postseason Jackson is in uncharted territory. For the first time in his career, he is coaching a team in the playoffs that is down 0-3 in a best of series.
The Lakers have struggled against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Maverick in the western conference semifinals. Lakers center Andrew Bynum attributed the Lakers struggles to “trust issues” the two time defending NBA champions are dealing with. These trust issues could result in a series sweep for the Mavericks and a less than spectacular end to the career of the most successful head coach in NBA history.
Jackson has lost playoff series before but never like this. In game three, Jackson was seen beating on power forward Pau Gasol’s chest to get the big man’s attention. Jackson has traded in his usual calm demeanor for a fire and passion that have seen to be birthed from a feeling of desperation.
Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant told the press that he feels the Lakers will be the first team to win a best of seven series when facing a 0-3 deficit. Hopefully for Jackson’s sake, Bryant’s supreme confidence and determination will trump the trust issues the Hollywood Lakers seem to be dealing with. If not, Jackson and his 11 championship rings will be swept off into the sunset by a newer and tougher Mavericks squad.
L.A. Clippers rookie forward Blake Griffin missed the entire 2009-10 NBA season because of a knee injury he suffered during a preseason game. Griffin is fully recovered now and has picked up where he left off at Oklahoma.
Although the Clippers are off to another poor start this season, Griffin has given Clipper Nation hope for the future. Griffin’s signature game came against the New York Knicks last month. Griffin scored 44 points and looked like he was using a trampoline to jump over the Knicks defenders. Of course the Clippers lost, but Griffin’s performance had basketball fans and social networks buzzing for days.
Griffin is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds this season, and unlike the usual rookie, has performed great against the NBA’s top teams and players. If Griffin continues to make waves in the NBA, and the Clippers find competent individuals to run their organization, he could become the face of L.A. basketball.
Griffin most resembles the Reign Man, Seattle Supersonics forward Shawn Kemp, only with a lot more skill, and a monstrous work ethic. With Eric Gordon as his Gary Payton, great things can happen in Clipper-land.
The Memphis Grizzlies have signed point guard Mike Conley Jr. to a five year, $45 million dollar contract extension. Although Conley is averaging 15 points, 8 assists and 4 steals per game, his overall performance since being drafted 4th overall in 2007 has been disappointing. Last season Conley averaged 12 points and 5 assists a game. His lack of size and moderate speed make him a liability on defense. Conley is now making top ten point guard money, and may not be good enough to crack the top 20 as the season progresses.
Phoenix Suns swing-man Jared Dudley and Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford also signed contract extensions this week. Dudley signed a five year, $23 million extension and Horford signed a five year $60 million extension. Dudley does a great job of hustling and knocking down threes for the Suns and has worked hard to improve his defense. Horford is one of the best centers in the league. His size and skill help the Atlanta Hawks dominate their eastern conference competition.
According to multiple reports, 15 year NBA veteran Rasheed Wallace has announced that he will be retiring this off-season. Although Wallace is known for his enormous number of technical fouls and outbursts towards referees, he was also one of the premier post players of his generation. Wallace was the best player on the Portland Trailblazers when they were a western conference heavy weight and about 7 minutes away from the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000. In 2004 he was traded to the Detroit Pistons and played a huge part in getting them into the finals, and upsetting the heavily favored Lakers. As Wallace’s skills diminished, he remained a good post defender and helped the 2010 Boston Celtics get back to the finals.
Unfortunately for ‘Sheed, his championship ring, four All-Star games and 177 playoff games will always be overshadowed by the short fuse he had when it came to the zebras. Wallace will be missed. “Both Teams Played Hard, God Bless and Good Night”.
On June 17th Kobe Bryant won his fifth NBA championship ring by leading the Los Angeles Lakers to an 89 – 73 game seven victory over the Boston Celtics. With his fifth championship, discussions have started about Kobe’s place in basketball and Laker history. Does this championship make Kobe a greater Laker than Earvin “Magic” Johnson? Does this championship put Kobe one ring away from being as good as Michael Jordan? These questions have many answers that can be supported by statistics, history, and highlight reels, however there are a group of people who choose to ignore all the evidence and on court history. These people are called Kobe Haters.
Kobe Haters are individuals who possess an enormous amount of disdain for No. 24. Some hate Kobe because of his shoot first mentality. Some hate Kobe because of his arrogance and the childish attitude that broke up a Laker dynasty, and some hate Kobe for what happened in Colorado.
The biggest reason people seem to hate Kobe Bryant is because of the similarities to the movements and mannerisms of Michael Jordan. Ever since Kobe entered the NBA in 1996 Kobe haters have scolded him for trying to be like Mike. However, since Micheal Jordan has retired Kobe Bryant has been the best basketball player on the planet.
The post-Jordan NBA was hungry for another fierce competitor with an immeasurable will to win. The stand outs of the post-Jordan NBA were champions like the quiet Tim Duncan and the jovial Shaquille O’Neal. Although Kobe and Shaq won championships together, Shaq was the dominant force in their three peat from 2000 – 2002. In 2004, when Kobe attempted to lead the Lakers to another championship against the Detroit Pistons, his teammates did not follow. The team full of veterans led by Shaq and coaching great, Phil Jackson, were not happy with the “selfish” actions of the young star.
After the 2004 finals, Kobe haters all let out a collective “I told you so”. The following season, Kobe and the Lakers did not qualify for the playoffs, and spent the next two seasons being eliminated in the first round. However, what Kobe haters do not realize is that during this down time, Kobe was humbled by his team’s failure. In 2006, Kobe was forced to watch his old teammate/rival, Shaq, win a fourth championship with an up and coming (humble) superstar shooting guard in Dwyane Wade. The early playoff exits and off court troubles led to a Kobe transformation.
During the 2007-08 season, Kobe’s game changed. He still remained the main scorer for the Lakers, but was passing the ball more, and encouraging his teammates to contribute more. This new attitude, plus a new bag of offensive tricks Kobe picked up in the off-season, led the Lakers into the finals against the Celtics.
During the finals, the NBA and the fans finally got to see the competitive fire that made MJ so popular, in Kobe Bryant. Although the Lakers lost, Kobe’s passion was on full display with no sound bites from Shaq to drown it out.
Kobe Bryant has a will to win that is unmatched in pro sports. Even though Kobe is on the wrong side of 30, he approaches every season with a new tool to take the stress off of a body that has millions of basketball miles on it. Most importantly Kobe is on a team full of (young) veterans that now follow his lead.
So Kobe haters, stop your hating and appreciate a quality of basketball we may never see again.