Think of the Suns/Lakers series as a poker game in an old Wild West saloon somewhere outside Phoenix.
By Game 6, the cards are on the table. Both teams have gone all-in and flipped their two cards over. All that’s left to do is flip over the turn and river cards. Meaning the strategy is out there for everyone to see — there are no major Xs and Os changes to make any more.
But the fight is not done, the Suns are looking loose and talking Game 7. The Lakers want their rest, like the Celtics.
In the Wild West the winner was the guy who was quicker on the draw. In this series, the quicker draw is the team that better executes better.
The key end of the floor this series is when the Lakers have the ball (the other end of the court is the more entertaining). Simply, the Lakers want to slow the Suns down by making them take the ball out of the basket, to make them come up and face a set defense. The Lakers do that when the get the ball inside — either by getting the ball in the post to Pau Gasol or via dribble penetration (which is what they used a lot more in Game 5).
The Suns want to block shots and contest inside, give the Lakers jump shots and hope they miss a lot. Which they often do. In the Lakers two losses in Phoenix they took 60 three-point shots, and the long rebounds fueled the Suns break.
On the fun end of the court, the Suns are going to run the pick-and-roll and the Lakers are going to try to take away the roll man. Which means Amare Stoudemire. The Lakers want Steve Nash to be the shooter. The problem with that, as Nash showed in Game 5, he hits a lot of shots.
Controlling the boards will matter. How hot Kobe is will matter. The Suns bench will matter. Which Lamar Odom — aggressive or spectator — shows up will matter. Ron Artest will find a way to matter.
But everybody knows that. Everyone knows their roles now. It’s just a matter of who is quicker on the draw.
Kobe Bryant‘s pregame tribute video stole the show in Philadelphia, but Tuesday night was Moses Malone tribute night. The former league MVP and Hall of Famer passed away in September, and his legacy was honored by the Sixers during a halftime ceremony. During the festivities, Malone’s son announced that his No. 2 will be retired by the organization next season.
There’s no question that Malone, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, deserves to have his number retired. The only relevant question is: why didn’t this happen years ago? The ceremony next season should be good, but it would have been better if they had done it when Malone was alive to participate in it. No Sixers player has worn No. 2 since Malone anyway, but it’s been over 20 years since he last wore a Sixers jersey. Why couldn’t they have found some time in those two decades to have a ceremony and hang a banner?
Perhaps LeBron James‘ most underappreciated skill has been his passing. He is rightly hailed as the most unselfish superstar of his generation, but being a willing passer is only part of it: he’s also as good at it as any point guard in the league. Case in point: this two-handed halfcourt bounce pass on Tuesday night, finding Richard Jefferson for an easy dunk:
Kobe Bryant‘s relationship with his hometown of Philadelphia had its rocky sections — the Kobe’s Lakers beat the Sixers in the 2001 Finals, and then Kobe was booed during the 2002 All-Star Game — but all was forgiven on Tuesday night.
In his final trip to Philly, he was given a framed Lower Merion High School jersey — that’s Kobe’s school, in case you forgot — and it was presented by Dr. J.
Then the fans welcomed him like you see above.
That pumped up Kobe, who scored 13 first quarter points on 5-of-10 shooting, his best quarter of the season.
If you play for the Brooklyn Nets, and your name is not Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, expect you will come up in trade rumors this season.
First up on the block, Bojan Bogdanovic. The report comes from Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.
Bogdanovic is in the first year of a three-year, $11 million deal, which isn’t bad for a guy playing nearly 25 minutes a night and scoring 8.4 points per game. There is a lot of potential in his game, if developed in the right setting — he’s a good shooter out on the wing who works well off the ball. He seems to have regressed this season, but how much of that is due to the Nets and their guard play (and just generally struggling) is up for debate.
Is there going to be interest in him? Probably. As always, it is about the price, what the Nets will demand. Whether the Nets can get anything back they want is up for debate.
Right now a lot of GMs are testing the waters for players, judging the market. That is a long way from a trade happening. But don’t be shocked if the Nets make a deal or two before the February deadline.