Lakers Underwhelmed During Finals, Magic Frustrated and Choked

I know exactly what people will say, a championship’s a championship and you can’t knock that. I’m not even one of the people that complained about the Lakers going seven with the Rockets who were seemingly decimated by injuries — winning is winning, end of story. But here’s where I’m left unsatisfied by the 2009 NBA Finals: It was hard watching the Magic choke away two victories in hand and thinking the Lakers beat them those games, and it’s hard seeing Kobe Bryant win the NBA Finals MVP award for the first time ever when he wasn’t playing his best basketball.

The history books write the story and the 15 total championships, 10 rings for Phil, and four each for Derek Fisher and Kobe will be mostly what everyone remembers. But when I look back on the Finals, I’ll think of the Courtney Lee missed layup, the Dwight Howard missed free throws, and the poor strategy of letting Fisher shoot the three in Game 4. Orlando literally gave two games away when they should have been up 3-1. They talked about not just “being happy to be here” and they weren’t — they were in position to seize the series and they choked it away. Still, in order for a choke to occur, someone has to step up to get the wins and the Lakers did that (Gasol in both OTs and Fisher’s big shots in Game 4).

Who knows if the Lakers will be back — they’ll need a new point guard, a new coach, and either a replacement for Lamar Odom or Trevor Ariza in all likelihood. The Magic seem willing to re-sign Hedo Turkoglu, but he might find more enticing offers elsewhere. Denver will have another year together, Boston will get KG back, Cleveland could get Shaq, the Rockets might be healthier and tougher, and most of the playoff teams will be hungrier. It won’t be easy for either LA or Orlando to get back to the Finals again. That’s why what the Lakers accomplished seemed almost fated; if it wasn’t this year, then when? For the Magic, the answer isn’t as simple. They’ll have Dwight Howard who’s one of the most dominant players in the game, but they’ll have stiff competition in the Eastern Conference for years to come. They just pissed away a brilliant opportunity.

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  • Jeff J

    I wouldn’t write this championship off as just the Magic choking it away or the Magic just happy to be there. They got schooled big time by the Lakers.

    The games are 48 minutes, and just because a basket does or doesn’t go in the basket in the last second doesn’t mean the team who won only won because the other team choked, because there is another 47 minutes 59 seconds that were also played, and the Lakers outplayed them in most of those minutes.

    In games 2, 4 and 5, the Magic were HORRIBLE at the free throw line the entire game. In game 3, the Magic shot the best field percentage EVER in the finals and only won by 4. So, to say the Magic blew it is a disservice to the Lakers and their great play. Whenever they fell behind, they dug their way out of it. THAT is the mark of a great team, one who doesn’t panic when they are down.

    As far as next year, I predict a few things will happen. They will re-sign Odom and Ariza. They will do this by Kobe opting out of his contract, and renegotiating a new deal taking LESS money to accommodate their salaries under or close to the cap. He will do this because he now realizes he can’t win without the right team around him, and he is more mature now to make that decision. As far as guards, Fisher will continue to start while Farmar learns more, and he will eventually become the starter, with Fisher coming off the bench. As far as Jackson, he might decide to end on a high note and ride off into the sunset, although I don’t think its in his nature. He’ll want to win again. If he does go, the Lakers will hire Jeff Van Gundy to replace him as an ultimate slap in the face to his brother Stan :).

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    I can’t imagine Kobe taking less money given what he’s said in the past. Maybe Lamar will take a cut and have that money go towards Ariza — that I can envision.

  • Jeff J

    Your scenario makes more sense looking at Kobe’s past statements, but how good would he look if he did that. As far as I am concerned, all of these guys have enough money to live comfortably the rest of their lives, and if they really want to win more championships, they would take the cut.

  • http://with-malice.com/ Don (With Malice)

    You don’t like LA/Kobe too much, huh Larry?