Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest looks like he’s trying out for the WWE. Forward Pau Gasol appears to have no zest for the game. Superstar Kobe Bryant’s game-winners are clanking out and that’s just hitting the surface with the two-time defending champion Lakers, who appear to possess an icy-cold tone going into Dallas for Game 3, down 2-0.
And even digging deeper, center Andrew Bynum says he can’t trust anybody on the team. A team mind you, has won two-straight championships and won 57 games this season.
If Bynum’s assertion is true, how can the Lakers three-peat? How can the Lakers send off Phil Jackson to retirement on the right note? How can it happen?
History tends to serve everyone a false dose of reality because I don’t believe outcomes of series in the 70’s and 80’s can determine a current series, thus why I never count out a team down 0-2. This Laker team isn’t the 1997 Utah Jazz or the 1988 Chicago Bulls. Those teams have no historical connection other than being down 0-2 in a series. I’m sure those big on stats will argue but if anybody can win a series down 0-2, it’s the Lakers. I’ve seen Phil Jackson’s championship teams do it before.
Jackson’s ’93 Chicago Bulls championship squad won the Eastern Conference Finals down 0-2 to the New York Knicks. Granted, Michael Jordan and the Bulls lost the first two games in the Garden and used the Chicago Stadium as a springboard back into the series, as former assistant coach Johnny Back likes to say, the Knicks were vital threats to Chicago’s championship runs and this year’s difference is that the Lakers blew the first two games of the series at home.
I’ve also seen the Mavericks blow a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals with vital members of this year’s squad, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. Those Mavs had a 13-point lead with six minutes remaining during Game 3 in Miami before Dwyane Wade took over to lead the Miami Heat to a comeback victory and a championship in six games.
So before we go off and eliminate the defending champs, let’s think about this if you will. There’s may be four players in the league I can think of – Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Garnett – who have that killer instinct in them to flat-out win and win on command. Mainly, it’s Bryant and Rose. But to go back even further, the next player to have had that mentality was Michael Jordan, who was a six-time champ and five-time MVP, was noted by Bob Costas to have an “athletic heart of an assassin.”
Like Jordan, Kobe Bryant, a five-time champion and with an MVP corresponds similarly. If you ever bet against Michael Jordan – unless it was in Golf or in Atlantic City – you got burned. At the end of the series we’ll learn if Bryant burns everybody for counting them out, let alone know if Derrick Rose will torch anybody in that regard on the Bulls’ side of things.
So if we’re going to bet against Kobe – bet against him motivating the Lakers and allowing the Mavericks to either sweep or come away with a 3-1 lead after Game 4, you better be certain or have read some sort of fortune cookie. Some people may have ate that fortune after Games 1 and 2.
I know there’s more from a basketball standpoint L.A. has to do to get back into this series, including getting Pau Gasol out of the trance he’s in or figure out how to solve Dirk Nowitzki, let alone J.J Barea. Let’s not discredit the Mavericks. They’re a really good team and if one game in the regular season would have went the Mavericks way, the Mavs have been up 2-0 heading to Los Angeles since both teams finished with identical records. L.A. may have been down 0-2 playing hard on the road for all we know.
For me, until they’re down 15 in the fourth quarter of Game 4 down 3-0 in the series, if they have Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson, there’s a way to win the series.
And if Artest is going to use WWE wrestling moves on the court, hopefully John Cena or the Big Show can teach him a metaphorical choke hold because if he does any other moves literally, I have a funny feeling he’ll be this decades’ Latrell Sprewell. Then he’ll really have to try out for the WWE.