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Podcast: NBA Finals Preview

When the Eastern Conference playoffs began, all the talk centered around Orlando and Cleveland.  LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were the favorite to represent the East, and Dwight Howard and Orlando were seen as the major obstacles.

The Boston Celtics were simply viewed as an obstacles.

Boston, however, beat both teams in six games to advance to the NBA Finals.

When the Western Conference playoffs began, there were serious questions about the Lakers.  Bynum was hurt, Fisher was old, cohesiveness was lacking and Kobe seemed to be laboring.  They faced stiff tests from Oklahoma City and Phoenix, but they came together as a team at the right time, and they too were able to advance to the NBA Finals.

During this special NBA finals edition of the Hoops Addict podcast, Rashad and Ryan break down the coaching job of Doc Rivers leading up to the finals, they discuss the key matchups in this  Celtics-Lakers final, how injuries may affect the outcome, and they make predictions on who will ultimately be victorious.

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Rashad Mobley
Rashad Mobley is a senior writer for Hoops Addict who has covered the Washington Wizards with media credentials since the 2008-2009 NBA season. He has appeared on Fox Sports Radio and KRNU 90.3.
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  • Amadou

    Always great analysis, guys. I’m a lifetime fan of the Lakers, so I’m encouraged by your picks (although I don’t believe the Lakers can win it all in 5 as Ryan predicts). I really agree with Rashad’s ex-factor pick of Rasheed Wallace. Seeing the purple and gold seems to bring out the best in Rasheed and he has traditionally given the Lakers big problems in the postseason (dating back to his days with the Blazers and the Pistons). A couple of times during the podcast, Rashad compared Kobe to Jordan but each time he qualified his comparison by conveying that he did not think that Kobe was quite at Jordan’s level yet. By no means am I trying to indict Rashad’s opinion (the other podcasts show that he is very thoughtful in forming his opinions), but I’m just curious to hear what Rashad believes Kobe is lacking in comparison to Jordan. I know that it has been “basketball blasphemy” to equate any player to Mike since the end of the Jordan era, and although I’m a Lakers fan, I’ve also been reticent to say out loud that Kobe is just as good as Jordan. But I’m really running out of rational reasons to give Jordan the edge. I really don’t think I’ll have any reason to give Jordan the edge if Kobe actually wins another title this year, as a difference of 6 rings and 5 rings won’t be significant enough to me to assert Jordan’s superiority over Kobe. Also, as Mike Wise pointed out in an article this week, Kobe is working on his fifth title at the age of 31 while Jordan didn’t earn his fifth ring until he was 34 years old. I understand that Kobe will never match Jordan’s stature off the court. I completely get that. But strictly looking at accomplishments on the court, I don’t see much of a difference between the two players. Kobe’s performance in Game 6 of the series against the Suns this past weekend was the type of performance that sports writers would right poetic columns about when Jordan would pull one off. However, what was truly significant about that Game 6 performance was that most observers weren’t really all that surprised by it. It was almost expected. Kobe has had so many moments like Game 6 in his career that most basketball fans have already filed the most recent performance away as one of his minor feats. I don’t know how many more big moments like that Kobe has to have before basketball fans can begin to make room in their minds for Kobe on that pedestal that Jordan currently occupies by himself. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts (both of you). I look forward to the next broadcast too.

  • Rashad

    Well Amadou, I’ll break it down like this. Number one, Mike Wise’s age/ring comparison of MJ and Kobe doesn’t hold much weight with me because MJ took some time off. For all we know, he could have easily had eight, not six titles.
    Number two, The reason why some say MJ is better than his predecessors (Bird and Magic) is that he took what they did and added flair. He won more titles, scored more points, and was more dominant, and its hard to refute that. Kobe isn’t doing anything better than Jordan, he’s just treading water with Shaq.

    Three, there are too many examples of pouting on Kobe’s part to truly think of him as being on MJ’s level. There have been games when he doesn’t shoot or over passes to seemingly prove a point to his team or to Phil.

    Four, MJ NEVER lost in the NBA finals..never. that adds to his mystique. Kobe has lost twice, and may lose a third time

    And five, people just flat out don’t like Kobe because he’s smug and he seems to be trying to be like MJ, not Kobe. Now of all my points, this is the one that’s most unfair, and its not even something I think is true, but its out there.

  • Amadou

    Thanks for the response, Rashad. At the risk of coming across as a Kobe cheerleader, I will respectfully explain why I disagree with your points. The “for all we know” argument shouldn’t be at the top of your list for reasons why Kobe doesn’t measure up to Jordan. I can easily turn that on its side and say that for all we know, Jordan might have lost 2 straight finals to Olajuwon and the Rockets those years he took off from basketball (don’t discount Olajuwon’s dominance during that span). For all we know, the Knicks may have gotten over the hump and prevented the Bulls from even reaching the finals one of those years.

    Now, there is absolutely no refuting the fact that Jordan did it better than Magic and Bird (and with more flair). You’re absolutely right about that. But let’s examine that for a second. Magic had Bird, Bird had Magic, and Jordan had … In other words, it’s probably important to look at Jordan’s contemporaries when discussing his dominance, particularly at the shooting guard/small forward position. Jordan once said that Joe Dumars was the toughest defender he ever faced. Really? All 6’3″, 185 pounds of him?

    I agree that Kobe isn’t doing anything better than Jordan, but I wasn’t making that argument. I’m simply stating that I can’t think of anything basketball-related that Jordan could do that Kobe presently cannot do (or has shown he can do).

    Regarding the commonly held notion that Kobe pouts in games, I really wish somebody would explain the rationale behind that thinking. The 2006 Game 7 against the Suns stands out as the biggest example of his pouting. To believe that he was pouting, you have to believe that it was more important to Kobe to prove a point to the Lakers front office (and the legions of fans defining his legacy), than to possibly upset the Suns in a Game 7 after having gone up on them 3-1. Never mind that he scored 50 points in Game 5 trying to close out the Suns, and never mind that in game 4 of the series (a win for the Lakers) he took fewer shots than in Game 7, where he was supposedly pouting. And let’s not forget that two-fifths of the Lakers starting lineup was composed of Smush Parker and Kwame Brown. The fact that the Lakers reached Game 7 in the first place is a tremendous accomplishment. However, only Kobe will really know his motivation in that Game 7, so there’s no point in arguing over it.

    Lastly (and I’m sorry for blowing up the comments page), while I concede that it adds to the Jordan mystique that he never lost a championship, I don’t believe it takes away from a player’s greatness if you can point to a loss in the big moments here and there. By that measure, let’s just go ahead and crown Rocky Marciano (that’s their one) as the best fighter that’s ever lived. Getting back to the top after being knocked down is also a good measure of an athlete’s mettle. Hey, the loss to the Pistons was a bad one, but that was during a time that the Lakers were imploding internally. And in the end there’s no shame in losing in the NBA finals to a team composed of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. Having said that, I’ll take back everything I just wrote if it happens again this year! Thanks for putting up with me.

  • Amadou

    Correction: Kobe scored 50 in Game 6 of the Suns series in 2006.

  • Rashad

    Well Amadou, I will respectfully disagree…BUT I can readily admit that if Kobe is instrumental in the Lakers winning this year, then I’ll have to regroup a bit.

  • Shawn

    Amadou So you know those suns teams never did anything special and never played defense..Kobe only has 1 50 point in 14 seasons already in the playoffs while Jordan has 8 against hand checking and and no defensive 3 in 13 seasons in the playoffs. Kobe won three rings while SHAQ was dominating those finals and was merely a sidekick. So to say something like that without backing it up with actual facts shows your Laker homerness. The BULLS in 94 took the Knicks to 7 while the Rockets did also and won…With Jordan there Hakeem would not have won in 94 so to discount that without looking at reality shows that you started watching basketball in 2003. Now Kobe in the finals is career 41 percent shooter while Jordan is 48 percent in 6 finals. Jordan faced 6’7 Clyde Drexler who ave 25 ppg and almost 7 reb and 7 ass in 92 Kobe in the finals has never faced that type of player…Not only that Jordan faced DPOY winner Gary Payton…Jordan got swept by a top 2 team of all time the celts while kobe takes the no finals suns to 7 games? I suggest you go back and do more research..

  • Amadou

    Thanks for weighing in, Shawn. I admit that I’m a Laker homer. I pulled for those Shaq-Kobe teams during the early 2000’s, and saying that Kobe was “merely a sidekick” is a ridiculous statement unless you would like to apply the same label to Scottie Pippen during Chicago’s championship runs. Maybe Magic Johnson was merely Kareem’s sidekick when he won his first ring too. Like the Bulls, in most instances, getting through the conference proved to be more difficult than winning the Finals. Battles against the Blazers, Kings, and Spurs were very difficult for the Lakers and required some heroics from Kobe. For you to describe Kobe as “merely a sidekick” is probably more telling about your ability to recognize talent on the NBA hardwood.
    As I’ve stated before, asserting that Hakeem’s Rockets would’ve lost against Jordan’s Bulls had #23 never semi-retired is simply a non-starter. We can’t turn to an alternate universe to watch the outcome, and there isn’t a sports simulator on the planet that could accurately predict the results of such a matchup. There’s no point in wrapping such conjecture into an argument when comparing Kobe to Jordan.
    Clyde Drexler was a great player, but he was not as complete as Kobe. Clyde wasn’t named to the all-defensive team once in his career (not even the second team). And while Gary Payton was named DPOY, he didn’t get that award playing 6’6″ shooting guards on a nightly basis. With his 6’4″ height, he was able to dominate point guards of his day. However, Payton suffered from the same size disadvantage as Joe Dumars when it came to guarding Jordan (who was actually more often guarded by a combination of Nate McMillan and Hersey Hawkins in that Finals series).
    I can go into arguments about hand-checking vs. the ability to play zone defense of today, and 3-second violations vs. illegal defense, but that gets away from the main point. In the end it’s all about context when measuring a player’s talent. None of these arguments mean anything without context. The point is that when writers, commentators, and fans try to put Kobe’s accomplishments on the court in any type of context, there’s only one name that they reach for: Michael Jordan. I’ve never heard Marv Albert, Doug Collins, or Marc Jackson describe what Kobe does on a court as “Drexler-esque.” I’ve never heard opposing head coaches remark at how “Reggie Miller-esque” Kobe’s performance was after watching his team fall to one of Kobe’s clutch performances. It’s always “Jordan-esque” with Kobe. And if Jordan is the only image that is invoked in fans’ minds when watching Kobe play, at some point we have to stop qualifying our comparisons and just admit to ourselves that there isn’t that big of a gap (if any) between Kobe and Jordan.