Be careful what you wish for, even if all you had was a choice between the devil up in Oklahoma and the deep blue season, or at least the San Jacinto River that winds through San Antonio, where the Lakers will play Game 1 and 2, and, who knows, maybe even Game 5!
Of course, the Lakers are at an, uh, AWKWARD stage in their transition back to Showtime—they hope—that led Jerry Buss to hire Mike D’Antoni to put in his open-court offense with a roster of aging hulks, instead of Phil Jackson, who could slow games down for aging hulks.
Happily or not, the Lakers couldn’t be in a better place to figure out where to go with the Spurs having already done what they have to do.
Remember when it was the Spurs who made all their moves with the Lakers in mind?
(Let’s get Bruce Bowen to guard Kobe Bryant… and extra bigs to foul Shaquille O’Neal. Oh, and did they cut Robert Horry loose? Let’s get him!)
Remember when it was the Lakers who looked Forever Young, running the Spurs over 4-1, in the 2008 West Finals?
Remember the Spurs’ swan song—we thought– losing in two first rounds and one second from 2009-2011?
As late as 2011, the Spurs were still starting Antonio McDyess and Richard Jefferson but the supporting cast has since been changed out.
Out went Dice, RJ, George Hill and DeJuan Blair.
In came Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, long, athletic players who can defend vast areas and bang down threes, and Tiago Splitter, the long-sought big man alongside Tim Duncan.
From 2008-2010 when the Lakers and Spurs were like ships passing, or a ship steaming over a rowboat, San Antonio was No. 23-23-15 in offense.
In the last three seasons, the Spurs were 6-2-4.
So yeah, there’s a moral to this story for the Lakers:
GET YOUNGER AND MORE ATHLETIC!
If Phil didn’t really want to coach any more, he was stung by the casual way Buss thanked him what he had done in a brief exit meeting.
That spring, I ran into Larry Drew, a former Laker assistant, who was running workouts at the facility in El Segundo.
“Everything we’re doing,” said Drew, “is about going back to running.”
That was interesting, since rebounding the ball, out-letting it and coming down three-on-two or two-on-one as the Showtime teams did, had all but disappeared.
In the ‘90s the game slowed down as teams threw the ball into the post, waited for double teams, then threw the ball back to shooters at the arc, who could drop back against the break.
Scoring, which dropped alarmingly in the ‘90s, has gone back up with teams running new fluid spread offenses, like the Spurs, who essentially run one play, Duncan running high pick-and-rolls with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Leonard, Green, or whoever is at hand.
Of course, that’s the offense Gregg Popovich borrowed from… Mike D’Antoni!
Now, if Pop would just lend Mike his team for the next week or two….
In case you missed it, be sure to check out what Antawn Jamison said about facing the Spurs without Kobe Bryant!
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