Monday, July 5, 2010

Kobe is (still) no Jordan

By Jason Jones (posted by Rick Morris)

Kobe better have won his last title. No disrespect to the Laker fans, I just don't think I can live in a world where Kobe stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Michael Jordan in the title department.

Right, wrong or indifferent, I hold Jordan in a special place. Kobe is arguably one of the top 15 players of all time (I haven't actually thought much about where I'd rank him all-time). The problem I have is that I've seen both play during my adult life. Kobe is no Jordan, but if Kobe wins six titles... massive droves of people are going to try to make the argument that he is as good as, if not better than, Jordan. And that does not sit well with me.

Kobe also hasn't had a "Kobe-like" game. He is on the way down, he's still got another five years in him, but Kobe's played his best ball already. Pau is good but also getting old. I now don't know if Bynum will ever truly arrive. Fisher is the balls but old. Ultimately, as the rest of the league tries to ascend to where the Lakers are, the Lakers are getting older. If Wade and Bosh end up together…if Dirk, Amare, and Johnson end up together..if any number of permutations occur, the Lakers might actually get some legit competition. The 2010 free agency moves will either do nothing or dramatically reshape the entire landscape of the league. When it’s your team, the constant winning is great. When it’s not, it becomes boring and monotonous. Three years ago, Lakers v Celtics was an interesting storyline. Now it’s just played out. Imagine for a second...

^ Keep the Celtics relatively the same (they'll probably let Ray Allen go sign with another team)

^ The Orlando Magic are stuck with who they have

^ Portland stays exactly the same

^ San Antonio stays old and loses one of the Big Three

^ Phoenix is basically a rec team with Steve Nash

^ Houston is a bunch of pieces that don’t fit well together

And so on and so forth.

Now...picture these teams as follows after the result of potential upcoming moves:

New York Knicks
Tony Parker (2011)
Michael Redd
Caron Butler
Danilo Gallinari
Troy Murphy

New Jersey Nets
Devin Harris
Stephen Jackson
Tyrus Thomas
David Lee
Brook Lopez

Cleveland Cavaliers
Mo Williams
Rip Hamilton
LeBron James
Antawn Jamison
Amare Stoudamire (assuming the Knicks deal can still fall through)

Miami Heat
Mario Chalmers
Dwayne Wade
Rudy Gay (assuming a trade)
Michael Beasley
Chris Bosh

Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose
Joe Johnson (assuming a trade by Atlanta)
Tracy McGrady
Dirk Nowitzki
Joakim Noah

Chances are everyone’s beloved Lakers would moonwalk through the Western Conference with little trouble. Maybe somewhere down the line the Trailblazers get to that level as the Lakers fall of into the sunset, but realistically, the Lakers walk through the playoffs. The team that comes out of the East would have been through hell and back and would probably beat the tar out of an aging Lakers squad. The Lakers are a good team. They will go down in history as one of the greatest dynastic teams in NBA history. But realistically, the journey has to end. There is a relative finish line and I think the rest of the world (specifically the non-Laker fans) would invite and encourage such a change.

Literally, for ten years, the Lakers have been a significant threat to win it each and every year. It’s time for someone else to either be that team or start an era of moderate parity in the NBA. I would love to see a situation where Cleveland, Miami, Orlando, Chicago and Portland won titles in the next ten years, with the possibility that teams like New Orleans, New Jersey, New York, Utah, LA Clippers and Atlanta might position themselves to take the baton in the following decade.

Winning is great, but when one team is the prohibitive favorite to win almost all of the time, the rest of us get bored with it. ESPN and sports talk radio tried their damnedest to convince us that this series was compelling. The playoffs as a whole were compelling. This Finals was one of the most overhyped and unimpressive I've series seen in awhile. Yes, there were moments that we will remember. But where was Kobe's 60-point game? Where was the Pau vs KG game? Where was the game that Lamar Odom was supposed to step up to and realize the potential he's always had? Where was the throwback Celtics game where KG/Pierce/Allen go for 100 points divided (almost) equally three ways? Sure, Rondo proved he can play with the big dogs. Artest had a great moment down the stretch, but none of it and I mean none of it, grabbed me. I enjoyed the last few minutes of Game Seven, but it didn't grab me. Not for one second in this NBA Finals was I truly captivated. I watched at least five of the games on DVR delay or on the 3AM replay. And no matter who plays in the Finals, there should be at least a few of those moments.

It’s time for new blood. And yeah, I want LeBron James to be that next elite player and I want it to be done with Cleveland, but at this point any team not named the Lakers, Spurs, or Celtics would work for me. I want to see teams that I have never seen at that level or never expected to see. Imagine a Clippers vs Hawks NBA Final (not as they are currently built, of course), or even a throwback to the 1990s with the Derrick Rose Bulls facing off against the Brandon Roy's Trailblazers. These scenarios are far superior to what is being foisted on us now.

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