Lakers/Hornets Series Preview
by Toney Blare
Kobe Bryant knows how to count. Six is the relevant number, the one the puts him on equal footing with his role model in the win column. Other statistics re: seeding, home court, fourth quarters, would-be challengers, etc., are irrelevant.
Something that always struck me about MJ was the inevitability of his triumph once he got blood in his mouth. Blood meant someone else winning MVP (the Mailman), or opening his mouth (Reggie’s “we’re rivals” swipe) or the simple fact of another high-quality team daring to meet the Bulls in the Finals (Suns). I remember being at a point with MJ where I was almost bored, like “alright, hype, hype, who’s gonna win, blah, blah, we know he’s about to slice the other team’s chest open. Great as it was, the guarantee of MJ became redundant to me. I realize this is sacrilege.
With the Mamba, we can talk our way into that guarantee, can point to multiple occasions where he took revenge or iced a game. For me the ’08 Olympics was probably the best example. He took over not just to dominate the other team and win gold, but to remind a galaxy of stars that he was the only definite. No one else in the League plays at that level on that championship level yet.
Yet we know he can be beat. We know he can try to take over a game and ruin everything. We can point to multiple examples, even within the current championship run. You’re sitting there waiting for him to dominate, he takes six horrible shots, and then you’re yelling for someone to get Pau Gasol the ball. That remains the indefinite.
With blood in his mouth, the number 6 stamped on his mind like that hilarious Playoff scowl, will Kobe allow Gasol, Lamar Odom, and friends to control his historical fate?
And will Derek Fisher give one last push? They’ve never won a title without him having a game or two, but he’s stayed a year too long. Will Andrew Bynum be back and effective? Finally, will the Matt Barnes and Steve Blake buddy movie ever emerge to ensure that bench toughness when Boston or Chicago or Miami comes knocking?
This is a series preview for Lakers-Hornets. As one-sided as that sounds, and most likely will be, there’s quite a bit of intrigue on the other half of the ticket, as well. Most of it lies off the court. Aside from Chris Paul, the Bees are a nice collection of B-rate talent with four or five games left to play. With the season’s close, an era may end.
Through hurricanes, Oklahoma City, ownership bungles, and a league takeover, the only definite in the last five years in New Orleans has been the CP3-DWest connection. Now West faces a long rehab that will likely bring him back to a team either deep in another Melodrama, or already missing its franchise player. If anyone knows how the NBA-as-owner will handle the CP3 situation, please advise. Faced with a labor disagreement and a stake in the whole “superstars-unite” movement, some devious David Stern shit could be in the works. Once again, New Orleans lies in the hands of the gods.
Which is a bitch, because this is a decent team with a great young coach and GM, a point guard who seemed back on track in the second half, and some other cats who work hard. Say the oil spill never happened, the sale had gone through by the end of last year, and they were able to pick up a scorer in this past offseason. Maybe, what if, hypothetical, water under the bridge. A game we play too often downriver.
The games played over the course of the next few weeks will pit a ferocious snake on the cusp of cementing his legacy against a fragile franchise with only questions in its future. I’d like to see the Hornets steal Game 3. The way L.A. closed out the season, that could happen. All we really know, though, is that most of the interesting stories concerning these two teams will unfold after this series. Indefinite times.
Lakers win, 4-1.