by Lang Whitaker

OK, a bunch of things to get to today…

• We’re working on the next issue of SLAM right now, which I hope explains my absence here on The Links for most of this week. I’m around if you know where to look for me. I wrote a column for Hawks.com, have been doing a bunch of radio shows, did a season-ending podcast for Hawks.com (which you can get off of iTunes)…the best way to keep up is to follow me on twitter, if you’re on there, because I tweet whatever I’ve just done or am doing.

• Anyone else a little surprised that the Draft lottery is happening on Tuesday night? I thought we were still a few weeks away. I guess I don’t follow as closely these days now that my Hawks are out of the lottery.

• One of the things I said over and over on the radio shows I was on yesterday is that the two teams I wouldn’t want any part of right now are Denver and Cleveland. I wrote about this last week, but Denver’s like a wounded animal backed into a corner, just waiting to spring at you and rip a vein out of your neck and kill you. I’m not sure what George Karl gave these dudes, but they’re playing defense, sharing the ball…they’re a really fun team to watch. And I still think they need to wear black and silver next season.

• And if LA beats Houston (and I think they will), they’re going to have to face their worst nightmare in Denver, a team that can both out-run LA and out-physical LA. Also they can out-tattoo LA. Actually, Denver could out-tattoo the cast of Miami Ink. And I’m sure Kobe will love getting to play another series in Colorado.

• If Kobe’s the player everyone thinks he is, there’s no way he lets the Lakers lose a series to Houston or to Denver, right? Right?

• After seeing Cleveland and Atlanta play Games 3 and 4 in person, I am now prepared to make a statement some might not agree with, but that I am totally convinced is correct: Right now, LeBron is the best basketball player the NBA has seen since Michael Jordan in his prime.

That Game 3 they played in Atlanta, where Bron went for 47 points, 12 boards, 8 assists, 1 block, 1 steal and 1 turnover, might be the best all-around performance I’ve ever seen. And the way Cleveland takes advantage of LeBron’s abilities is pretty genius, too: Watch how on most offensive possessions, or at least the plays where Bron is the playmaker, the Cavs don’t even bother putting anyone in the post. Z stands out at the three point line in the corner, everyone else clears out, someone shows on a pick and Bron either gallops to the rim and dunks or he hits Z or Mo in the corner for a three. That’s pretty much all they do, and it works every time.

• After that Game 3, my main man Andre Aldridge had a pretty telling exchange with Bron in the locker room. LeBron had played 43 minutes and been the focal point of the Atlanta defense the entire night. As he sat in the corner of the locker room and started icing down, Dre said, “Are you tired?”

LeBron said, “I’m tired.”

Andre said, “You don’t look tired.”

And LeBron said, “And if I was still out there, I still wouldn’t look tired.”

• I loved this story about a bunch of former NBA players recommending the Kings hire Paul Westphal for their coaching vacancy. Sam Amick asked Kevin Johnson, who played for Westphal in Phoenix, for his thoughts on Westphal as a coach, and here’s the first two sentences KJ came up with, his initial reaction:

“He knew the game. He’s a coach who has a lot of trick plays.”

You know, we weren’t really interesting in Paul Westphal, but what’s this? You say he has a lot of trick plays? Really? Hey, now we’re on to something! Trick plays!

That reminds me of when the Sonics hired Bob Weiss to replace Nate McMillan, and one of the reasons they gave was the players liked him because he did a lot of magic tricks in the locker room. How’d that work out? Weiss went 13-17 in his first 30 games before the Sonics made him disappear.

• Strange that the Western Conference Finals could be two former coaches of the Albany Patroons (Karl vs. Phil)

• We made such a big deal about Kobe vs. Bron…but what if it turns out to be Melo vs. Bron? Would that be so terrible?

• Has anyone seen Derek Fisher? Has any player been more exposed this postseason as being on the downward slope of his career?

• And hey, I know JJ Barea is fun to watch and everything, but you’re not winning a title with Barea as a major part of your rotation.

• Reader Brian emails…

Lang,
Can you please step in and provide a voice about Phil Jackson’s lack of coaching with the Lakers? When will someone bring this up seriously? Is there an unwritten hands off rule about critiquing him amongst the media?

The Lakers are a young team with no real experience (minus Kobe and Fisher). They made a surprise (even to themselves) Finals run last year and got ripped up by the Celtics. During that series Phil demonstrated the same lackadaisical coaching that he’s putting into practice now. He hasn’t learned and the team hasn’t learned.

In both blowout losses he refused to call an early timeout and sat back allowing a huge deficit being created. His Zen-like coaching mastery or pride in his passive techniques…or something prevented him taking coaching action to stop these game-starting runs by Houston. Leaving his team with massive uphill climbs to start the game, the team never being able to make that climb.

You know, I hear you, but I think you’re over-reacting a little. If this happened 82 games a year, I’d hear you. But…the dude’s won more titles than all the other active coaches in the NBA combined. I think he knows what he’s doing.

• Did you guys see that Brandon Roy won some award for being friendly to the media? Seriously. I’d like to say here that I had nothing to do with that award — that one’s from the Pro Basketball Writers Association, which I know nothing about and have never been asked to join. I would have voted for Stephon Marbury, anyway.

• (Kidding!)

• I don’t know if I mentioned this here or not, but the new Star Trek is totally worth seeing. I never watched the original Trek or any of the more recent series, but if you have a cursory knowledge of the original characters, the movie is totally worth seeing.

• I like Lawrence Frank — think he’s a nice guy and a good coach. But it’s a little damning seeing Antoine Wright and Brian Scalabrine making big contributions in the postseason after Jersey basically discarded them.

• Oh, and Kobe Doin’ Work, Spike Lee’s new joint, debuts on ESPN tomorrow night. I have a funny feeling that Kobe Doin’ Work is gonna equal Lang Doin’ Review.

Yee-uh.

• Antoine Wright: Wrap him up.

• Our dude Josh Childress has turned into the Twitter Riddler.

Have a great weekend everyone. Catch you all next week…