I remember when New York drafted him out of UCLA. He was in the mix during Larry Brown’s disastrous run as head coach in the Big Apple. And the Magic absolutely fleeced the Knicks in the Ariza for Steve Francis trade. Yet when Ariza was dealt back to his hometown (Los Angeles) for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans I barely noticed. Still he is intriguing for several reasons:
1. Ariza is listed at 6-8.
2. All of the sudden it’s his 4th season in the Association. And yet Ariza won’t be 23 until the end of the month. There’s a strong chance that we haven’t seen the best of him yet.
3. He developed a reputation as a strong defender. In fact there was some talk about him covering both Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in the Western Conference Finals.
In reality Ariza played a bit part (10 minutes) in the Conference Finals in his first return to game action since breaking his foot back in January. I’m not sure what to expect from him. Can he really envision minutes, particularly given Sasha Vujacic’s solid play? I don’t know. But much like Andrew Bynum, Ariza could give the Lakers an added dimension next season.
A couple months ago I wrote that LeBron James had surpassed Kobe Bryant as the best player in the NBA. In my defense LeBron averaged 30 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks in the regular season. Of course Bryant went on to win his first MVP and steer the Lakers to a 12-3 record in the playoffs. The scary thing is that Boston can’t simply dare him to shoot from the outside like they did with LeBron. Kobe is lethal from all over the court. As a side note he may currently be the most polarizing figure in the NBA right now. That’s no small accomplishment. What else is there to say? The guy can flat out play. Expect a ton of Kobe praise on newspapers, blogs, radio, television and any other kind of media. And yes his playoff stats – 31.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 50.9% from the field, 81.4% from the line - are off the charts. In fact I’m hesitant to mention his struggles from beyond the arc (29.5%) because he may read this and make a point of setting a playoff record from deep. Let’s move on.
I’m tempted to reference my old high school football coach who once said to a teammate of mine, "I came back from my heart attack faster than you’ve come back from your ankle injury." However, Bynum’s injury was gruesome looking and if I were a Laker fan I’d be willing to trade this year for the next ten. Seriously though watch the clip of Bynum getting hurt. Doesn’t it look like Pau Gasol mocks him in Spanish? Ok, it’s just me try to drum up some discontent in Los Angeles.
After a shaky first round and an abysmal Conference Semi-Finals he turned it around in the Western Conference Finals. The only reason he scares me is that, when right, he gives the Lakers a solid back up point guard. That’s something that is sorely lacking in Boston right now due to Sam Cassell’s awful play and Doc Rivers’ decision to disorient Eddie House with painfully inconsistent minutes. I’m just the messenger.
I like Derek Fisher. You like Derek Fisher. Everyone likes Derek Fisher. Okay not everyone. Ironically I’ve heard rumblings about Jazz fans in the past. But it took Fisher’s situation to bring out the worst in a segment of Utah’s fan base for everyone to see. But back to Fisher. He reminds me of James Posey in the sense that they both do a lot to help their teams win, even if they don’t always stuff the stat sheets. Although the TNT announcers, Doug Collins in particular, may have liked Fisher too much. Yes he’s an experienced vet with three rings. But he does have a ceiling as a player.
Was the Gasol deal any more lopsided than Robert Parish and Kevin McHale for Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown? Of course not. It’s just that you don’t expect a trade like that in 2008. Too much time, money and energy goes into the business these days for that type of fiasco. Hell Kevin McHale has been taking all sorts of heat for trading Kevin Garnett away and at least he got a guy back that received some All NBA votes, is a legitimate threat in the post and as far as I know does not steal birthday cakes. But back to Gasol. He runs the floor better than most, will hit the offensive boards hard and, even though he is not a great defender, can bother opponents with his long arms. Unfortunately we don’t know how good he is. Realistically Gasol was never as bad as his 0-12 playoff record in Memphis indicated. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t call him "the best young center in the league" as Bill Simmons recently did. Did I miss Dwight Howard’s retirement announcement? Do you mean to tell me the Lakers would not be reeking havoc if Howard and Gasol switched teams and Kobe played with Shaq 2.0? Regardless Kendrick Perkins is going to have his hands full.
I’m going to run the risk of being excommunicated as a Celtics fan and say that I didn’t enjoy the Kevin Garnett/Bill Russell conversation. I’m sorry. I just can’t take it when Stuart Scott tells me "don’t be afraid to be inspired." In general I’m just not that into human-interest stories, Leon Powe aside. But I caught a piece on NBA TV about Ilunga-Mbenga. It’s amazing that he’s in the NBA. Back on the court he has been less impressive, logging 30 minutes over the course of the playoffs thus far. He should not be a factor.
If I’m the only one who sees a young Ron Howard so be it. I can admit when I’m wrong. Of course I’m not wrong now. He is similar to Didier Ilunga-Mbenga in the sense that Karl has overcome adversity (cancer) and does not play a ton (2 minutes in the playoffs so far).
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To be honest I forgot he was still with the Lakers. Turns out he’s only 28, is bouncing back from foot surgery and has not played since April 15, appearing in only 23 games this season prior to that. Probably a non-factor.
He’s one of those guys that’s been around. Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College, Miami (OH) University, the International Basketball Association, the CBA and then San Antonio, Atlanta, Cleveland (4 ½ seasons), Seattle and now LA. Other than the fact that I don’t expect him to play Newble is an enigma to me.
I don’t think I’m alone in my desire to label Odom the Scottie Pippen to Kobe’s MJ. But everyone knows that doesn’t work. Still Odom is the kind of player basketball junkies love. I can’t think of anything, outside of dominate on a consistent basis, that he can’t do on a basketball court. And by all account he should dominate. Prior to hurting his shoulder during the 2007 season Odom was playing at a ridiculously high level. Interesting side story. Reader Rondo spent some time in Venice Beach a few years back and saw Odom several times at a coffee shop. The best part? Odom was riding a low-rider bicycle and an extremely obese member of his posse drove his car.
The Lakers become an extremely dangerous team when Vlad Rad is feeling it, knocking down 3s and creating all sorts of spacing for his teammates. Unfortunately even his coach admits that he doesn’t know what to expect from Radmanovic. So how the hell am I supposed to know?
Between Karl beating cancer and Ilunga-Mbenga escaping the Congo after his father was imprisoned, the Lakers already had enough feel good stories to make ABC delirious with glee. Throw in Turiaf’s recovery from heart surgery, hard nosed/energetic approach to the game and love of dancing and some executive at ABC is considering retiring after this series. How could that ever be topped? By the way I’m not mocking what Karl, Ilunga-Mbenga and Turiaf have been through. They’re all inspirational. But their stories are so great that you’d think a network couldn’t ruin them. That’s where you’d be wrong. And I really do respect Turiaf’s game. However, every Lakers fan would rather have Andre Bynum in the mix at center. That’s not a knock on Turiaf. Bynum could be seriously good.
I don’t think it’s particularly cool that he wears a headband given to him by one of the Lakers cheerleaders. However, the fact that everyone knows it and Vujacic continues to wear it is cool. For example when I was in college one of the guys I played football with wore gloves when he lifted. Everybody made fun of him. But unlike other guys who wore gloves once this guy continued to rock them. He’d say stuff like "I wear them when I’m with your girlfriend too." Gotta respect that kind of confidence. Of course you have to respect Vujacic’s defense, outside shooting and hatred of gamblers even more. He’s currently my pick for random guy on the Lakers that Celtics fans will hate the most.
I’m intrigued to watch him over the course of the series, as he strikes me as one of those players people don’t appreciate until they see him on a consistent basis. He’s similar to Fisher in that way. They both simply know how to play basketball. Also, even though Radmonovic starts for LA, Walton closes out a lot of games. Major aside - does anyone else think young Walton looks enough like David Lee that someone should launch an investigation into whether or not Bill Walton made a trip through St. Louis sometime late in the summer of 1982?
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