Monday, June 15th, 2009 at 4:03 pm  |  48 responses

Links: Congrats, LA

Plus, Phil vs. Red…

by Lang Whitaker

First of all, congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers on winning their 15th NBA title. (As I predicted in SLAM’s NBA Preview issue back in October. And OK, I was wrong about Greg Oden.) The Lakers and Cavs were the best teams in the NBA all season long, and when it came down to the come down, the Lakers were able to deal with the postseason pressure better than any other team in the world. And I credit much of that to Phil Jackson.

Whenever ABC turned on the mics in the huddles, I’d cringe at Stan Van Gundy’s manic, screechy tirades. Hey, whatever works is whatever works, but surely that kind of coaching can’t retain relevancy over many years. Conversely, I loved Phil Jackson’s quiet, subdued huddle instructions. That’s what I’d want to listen to, and that’s the guy I’d want to give my best for. Which is one of the reasons I think Phil Jackson is the greatest coach in NBA history.

Thing is, I thought that before last night’s game. Winning a 10th title gives Phil more championships than Red Auerbach, sure, but it shouldn’t tip anyone’s scale when considering who is the greater of the two. How do I take Phil over Red? I just think Red had it a little easier. I brought this up earlier today and our assistant editor, Tzvi, immediately took issue with me. (Of course, Tzvi wears a Celtics hat to work every day.) His point was that even though there were only 8 teams in the NBA back then, every teams was stacked, which made it even tougher to win 9 titles.

Perhaps, but to me it was probably easier, in the sense that coaches had absolute power, so players had to listen to them or be gone. Phil Jackson has won his rings in an era where coaches have become largely disposable. Phil has managed to get these millionaire guys to buy into what he’s selling year after year after year.

And sure, he’s always coached great player, but as Chris Broussard pointed out today, the final season before Michael Jordan left the Bulls to go be terrible at baseball, the Bulls won 57 games. The next season, 1993-94, Jordan left, the Bulls replaced him with Pete Myers, and Jackson led them to 55 wins.

kobe winsWhile we’re talking places in the hierarchy, I don’t think LA’s win last night really changes where Kobe ranks among the NBA’s greatest. According to me, ahead of Kobe, in no particular order, are Jordan, Magic, Bird, Russell, Wilt, Oscar, Duncan, Shaq, Kareem. Maybe Kobe grabs that 10 spot, though I suspect Jerry West and Hakeem would want to argue that with Kobe.

• And of course, we can’t talk about Kobe without talking about Shaq. I was watching the New Zealand/Spain Confederations Cup match yesterday afternoon on ESPN 2, and across the bottom of the screen came a message that the Cavs were in preliminary talks to trade for Shaquille O’Neal. When I got home I checked ESPN.com and there were no headlines about this, only a story on the NBA page saying that there was no trade imminent. So basically ESPN2 was warning us that nothing was going to happen anytime soon.

But I do think this trade has to happen. It will allow Phoenix to shed salary and move Amare back to center, and it will not only give Cleveland someone to bang inside against healthy Celtics and Magic teams, but I also think it will give Cleveland a guy who can get inside Dwight’s head a little bit.

I loved this bit about the Dwight/Shaq dynamic in Chris Ballard’s Dwight cover story in Sports Illustrated a few months ago:

NOW IT is March 3 and the two men are meeting on the court in Orlando, where the crowd is ready to embrace its current superhero at the expense of its previous one. They boo O’Neal lustily during introductions, and hold signs that read WILL THE REAL SUPERMAN PLEASE STAND UP.

Before the game, Howard goes out of his way to be politic, dismissing questions about O’Neal, but his teammates aren’t quite so reserved. An hour before tip-off, Howard, backup guard Tyronn Lue and point guard Rafer Alston are in the locker room talking about O’Neal’s latest comments, which included this gem: “Every street he is driving down in Orlando, I have been on that street. Every nightclub, every restaurant, I have been there and done that.”

“What was that about?’ says Alston. “Him saying he’s driven on all your streets, been to all your clubs?”

Howard shrugs. “Crazy, huh?”

In the corner, Lue, a former teammate of Shaq’s in L.A., shakes his head. “C’mon, Diesel,” Lue says loudly. “It’s not your turn, it’s man-child’s turn.”

Is it? An hour later, on the court before tip-off, O’Neal makes a point of greeting seemingly every Magic player, from reserve center Tony Battie to backup guard J.J. Redick, but he avoids Howard. Finally, Howard has to walk to the opposite end of the court and interrupt O’Neal’s conversation with Alston to get in a quick, awkward hug. Then, on the first play, O’Neal emphatically rejects Howard’s running hook—which shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering O’Neal spent a good five minutes during pregame practicing doing just that, as well as instructing Suns backup centers Robin Lopez and Louis Amundson on how to block it.

Shaq might be an a-hole, but he’s the a-hole I’d want on my team.

• A bunch of people texted/emailed me over the weekend regarding Brandon Jennings comments about Ricky Rubio. (Or as my mom called him recently, Ricky Ruiz.)

After a workout in Sacto on Friday, Brandon was asked about playing against Ricky and how he felt that went. Sam Amick had the transcript:

Q: How did he (Rubio) do and how would he do to compare to the other guys in college now?

A: “Well when I was playing he only zero assists and two turnovers, you know you tell me how that was.”

Q: How many minutes was he (Rubio) playing?

A: “We had about even minutes, I had 12 points, about six assists, that was the most I ever played was 30 minutes. I was a little winded but I still think I got the best of him.”

Q: How would he compare to the college freshman for example?

A: “Well put it like this, if he was in a workout with me, Jonny Flynn, Drew Holiday, (Ty) Lawson, and Stephen Curry he wouldn’t even be at the top.”

Q: Do you think he’s all hype?

A: “Yeah because he played in the Olympics, been playing pro ball since 14, you know there it is right there. His stats you know 26 minutes, having 16 points, seven assists, nine steals in 26 minutes, and you have all that? You know, I really don’t know, I can’t wait to play him though.”

Q: Is it safe to say you think should go before Ricky Rubio in the draft?

A: “Yeah, I think I’m a better player think he is, I can shoot the ball better than he can, you know the only time I have seen him do something is when he has a homerun pass or something like that. I think the dude is just all hype. I can’t even front you know, I’m just going to be real with you guys.”

I was at the game Brandon’s talking about, and Brandon’s giving a little bit of revisionist history. Ricky’s stats might not have been amazing, but he only played 8 minutes because he was recovering from a wrist injury.

And I can’t really hate on Brandon saying he thinks he’s better than Rubio — did people expect him to say that he thinks he’s not as good as another prospect? Right now Brandon’s trying to get his stock as high as he can. He’s fighting up, but I still don’t think he’ll get drafted ahead of Ricky.

• Saw The Hangover this weekend and loved it. It was funny to see it in a big theater, but I’m really looking forward to watching it at home when I can hear more of the funny lines. Though the scene where they opened the trunk of the car was tremendous.

• Finally, here’s a dope link for anyone who, like me, grew up on Speak & Spell.

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  • Khalid Salaam

    “There’s a jungle cat in the bathroom!”

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    So it was safe to assume that Khalid was right and The Hangover was “up your alley”, Lang?

  • capostat

    Don’t know if it’s been brought up before, but isn’t it ironic how Dwight Howard impersonated SVG admonishing him/Ewing for not making freethrows?

    congrats to the lakers.

  • Luke

    While Kobe does not make it 10 all time spot, this win and MVP award certainly gets him closer. Check out what Shaq said about it and some people trashing Kobe http://www.newsy.com/videos/entitled

  • http://nba.com Reflex

    Rubio is mostly hype and I say this as someo
    ne from Europe, at best you’ll get Mario Chalmer-esque rookie numbers from him. 5 years from now who nows but in the short term I fear disappointment ensues

  • james

    its amazing even with a 4th ring with out a hall of fame co-player kobe is still not top 10..i guess even if he wins 6 titles total people will still hate kobe bryant

  • http://www.hoopsvibe.com/christopher_sells-authorHV106.html chiqo

    not at the table, carlos.

  • Jackie Moon

    The mentally handicapped kid from Gigli is the groom in the Hangover.

  • Delonte West

    Kobe is not Top 10 cuz his performances in the postseason heretofore have not been legendary. Most of Lang’s Top 10 players have dominated series from start to finish, and have stamped their title seasons by dominating in the Finals. Considering his 6 Finals appearances, Kobe has yet to create one of those great singular performances that leave a lasting impression. Recent example: Dwyane Wade.

  • Chris

    Lang not ready to give Kobe his due? What a surprise.. Kobe needs 4 more rings before that’ll happen. It’s amazing how people take away Kobe’s accomplishments while he was playing with Shaq, yet you hear nothing of the sorts when it comes to Magic-Kareem and MJ-Pip. Ridiculous.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    Its actually not ridiculous. Magic is never asked what he couldve done without Cap, Bird without McHale and Chief, Money without Scottie, hell even Stockton without Malone for one simple reason. None of them ever fueded incessantly until they broke up. It was a worthy question, though one that was never considered about Shaq. But it doesnt matter anymore either way. Unless you wanted to contest that Shaq didnt actually ‘win’ his 4th, Wade did.

  • Izzo

    Wow,Brandon sounds like a bit of an assh*le….

  • http://slamonline.com B. Long

    I can’t wait to see Hangover tomorrow night. I FINALLY got a babysitter….and she charges so much she might be Jukai’s sister.

  • http://Egotastic.com Michael

    It’s incredible that people still won’t to say Kobe isn’t top ten. He’s won 4 championships.
    FOUR!!! THe Dude has done things only Wilt and Jordan have done. He’s top ten without question.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Todd Spehr

    Just like comparing players of different eras, comparing coaches is just as difficult. Auerbach, when he coached the C’s, wore all the hats – coach, GM, president, even organizing travel arrangements. How about, both are coaches were/are great?

  • http://slamonline.com B. Long

    Brandon is a L.A. kid with that new school Kanye Swagg. Talking crazy sh!t is in his DNA.

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    With this ‘ship, Kobe is at the bottom of the top 10. In my book, he is past West and Dream. He still has about 5 years to move up, though.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign Todd.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Kobe is top 10, hands down.

  • David

    Thinking back to the original Slam top 50, I think it was something like Jordan, Russell, Wilt, Magic, Bird, Dr J, Kareem, Oscar, West, Olajuwan – right? It seems kind of sacriligeous to let him crack that lineup. Just on the basis of championships, I suppose Kobe’s going to be up there. And by the end of his career we’ll all have to say that Kobe’s the 2nd best shooting guard of all time.

  • Brian

    sounds like another Stephon “I am the best point guard in the NBA” Marbury

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    Yeesh Lang, thanks for the Spain Vs NZ reminder… like I needed it. Could have been much worse than the 5-0 it ended at though. Anyway…
    Kobe would come in at about that 10 spot I think… about on a par with TD? Don’t ever sleep on Hakeem though. I say West and Oscar are below Kobe. But only just.
    And when you went over to catch Rubio and Jennings, that was the first time they’d actually met each other proper, no? Thought they’d be cool. Hey, I’ll take the rivalry though – if it eventuates. IF.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    Oh, and The Links of late? That’s what brings me back to the site each day. That, and Russ.

  • Mike H
  • Mike H
  • aotearaw

    Off to The Hangover avec the girl tonight, first time I’ve been to the cinema for years.

  • http://nbainchina.com NBA China

    I love this influx of ‘its not because of the 10th ring Jackson is the G.O.A.T’ articles the day after he gets his 10th ring.

  • Nosebleed Seats

    “Ill take you to the candy shop…”

  • Robert

    Kobe is top 5 PERIOD!!!!!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/fear/ Freedom Fries

    “candy shop” yeah I think I just about lost my lunch at the wedding singer’s “renditions” – I need to book that guy in my house for parties – what about Zach tho? Did he have a script or just forget his meds?

  • http://www.basketbrasil.com.br Rubens Borges

    Dudes saying Kobe is better than Oscar. You guys know Oscar avarged a triple-double once right?

  • scorp99cam

    It was a different era Rubens. Wilt averaged over 27 rebounds/game for 2 seasons. Stats can’t tell the story

  • Dallas J

    different eras?.. yea I’d say so.. Phil Jackson was allowed to coach and succeed in a world Red made possible. Red drafted the first black player in 1950 and started the first all black starting 5. don’t forget that. Go watch some Bill Russell interviews about what Red did in those early days and then tell me Phil is greater. Phil is a great coach.. but 100 years from now they’ll still be writing books about how Red changed the game for the better.

  • http://slam comets

    Wilt still had to earn those 27 rebounds…
    I hate that different era crap. He put up the stats he put up. Cats could say that there is no way Kobe scores 81 if the league allowed hand checking. But we don’t, cause it’s stupid.
    Everybody in the history of the league had to earn the numbers they got. Nobody gave it to them.

  • http://slam Allenp

    That last comment was from me.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Congratulations on the championship, Los Angeles Lakers!

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    LANG: remember your MVP Overload Article

    The Seed wrote…

    I feel Kobe is the MVP, because his team will have the best record and he has taken a back seat to help the team win. Just wait until playoffs start and Kobe like last year, increase his scoring per game and assists and rebs. People wait up and see we are going to give a player who fundamentals suck, playing with just brute force an MVP award. Whats wrong with America.

    Well, we’re not voting on the Playoffs. We’re voting on regular season.

    YES, but I was right KOBE WON THE REAL MVP AWARD with better stats than regular season stats=BILL RUSSELL’s MVP AWARD!!!!

  • Robb

    Hey, Kobe is one of the best 5 ever. Shut up.

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    Your list is alright Jordan, Magic, Bird, Russell, Wilt, Oscar, Duncan, Shaq, Kareem and you said that maybe Jerry West and Hakeem can argue. First off Jerry West lost 9 Finals and won one, was he ball hogging to have those great numbers, in todays society he would be blasted. Kenny Smith who played with Hakeem, said Kobe should be ahead of him, Kenny words Kobe done it more consistently for longer years. Those two knocked out now.
    Kobe has 5 good years left to win one chip
    Oscar with his one Chip
    Duncan I believe will not win any more chips, plus people just don’t like him.
    Shaq has one MVP like Kobe and will not got another chip.
    Even Skip “HATER” Bayless had Kobe at SEVEN on his list and he’s a hater.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    “Is this hotel pager friendly?”

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    What has Kobe got left? 2 years at about where this season was; one where the drop off becomes more noticeable but still a top 2 or 3 player; and then 3 or 4 thereafter, on a downward curve no doubt, but still modifying his game to remain good enough to be the 1A guy on a team (maybe).
    A few ifs in there, but that’s 6 or 7 seasons. Can’t rule out a ring or two.

    Also Shaq COULD grab another. With the Cavs.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariq Al Haydar

    I don’t think Hakeem and West have much of an argument, to be honest.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariq Al Haydar

    Although I’m not the best judge of Jerry West, since I’ve never seen him play. But just from what I’ve read about him.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariq Al Haydar

    I’ve been reading about some sportswriters ranking Kobe above Oscar after this fourth ring. How legit is that?

  • Slobodan Chutzpah

    More importantly, who cares? These endless comparisons, trying to rank players in some order, is just so tiresome. Also, using rings as criteria for individual greatness is just inane. There are so many factors that play into winning titles. We have all seen, for instance, how many rings Kobe got without a great team. Banal as saying it may seem, it’s a team game, people, regardless of how much NBA marketing would like us to forget that.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariq Al Haydar

    By the way, aren’t you forgetting about Dr. J?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariq Al Haydar

    Slobodan does have a point. But ranking is just so…I wanna say “fun”…but maybe not…

  • http://double-technical.blogspot.com Zee!

    @Slobodan Chutzpah- Great point.