The Pistons have just finished one of the more interesting NBA title runs in
recent years with
a 4-1 victory over the Lakers - and only a Kobe Bryant miracle three kept
them from sweeping.
They made the Lakers look really bad, to say the least. Old, tired, and
very much yesterday's news. To us, the coolest play of the night was Ben
Wallace going up to block Shaquille O' Neal's shot in the third quarter. Never
mind that it was goal-tending. He was sending a message, and it was pretty
emphatic: no more Lakers.
For former Tar Heel Mitch Kupchak, who has the impossible job of replacing
Jerry West, signing Karl Malone and Gary Payton must feel like a bad move in
retrospect. Not only did the chemistry not work, but at the end of the
season, both looked like shadows of their former selves.
This was a strategy adopted by Red Auerbach, who really had a knack for
finding guys with one or two years left in their career and getting the most out
of those two years. Usually, though, he brought them in as backups or guys
who were supporting players willing to defer to a team goal. Karl Malone
was willing to do that, but it wasn't always clear that Gary Payton was.
For former Tar Heel Larry Brown, who won his first NBA title, it must be a
sweet night indeed. He has a chance this summer to add an Olympics title
to his NCAA and NBA wins. Has anyone ever done that before? We're
not overly optimistic about our chances in the Olympics, frankly, but it's hard
to argue with the coach.
On the other hand, the Lakers are going to be looking for a new coach, as
Phil Jackson says he the chances of him returning are "slim." The Lakers are now looking at rebuilding, and can't honestly count on Malone, Payton, or even Bryant, who may or may not be in jail next season, and regardless has made noises about leaving L.A.
And finally, Michael Wilbon says this: "Most people had the Pistons lasting five games, six if they were good and lucky. And we all got it wrong. Bad wrong, loud wrong, way wrong."
Well, Michael, not