REMINDER: We're looking for you to weigh on on the 25 best points of the near 25K Kobe has scored in his career. Only 30 shy of the mark, Bryant could certainly get there tonight.
In basketball, like most things, timing is everything. Had tonight's Finals rematch between the Lakers and Magic at Staples (7:30 pm PT, TNT) taken place a week ago, it would have featured two squads struggling to find the same rhythm landing them in last June's championship series. Now, though, the Lakers have put together two very solid wins- Wednesday night in Dallas and a blowout of the Clippers on Friday- and with a once banged up roster looking much healthier they have reason to feel good about themselves.
Sure, there are still kinks to work out. For example, while Phil Jackson may be pleased with Andrew Bynum's performance thus far, he's not satisfied and always wants more on the defensive end from his young pivot, and Bynum has work to do if he's going to continue working well as a team with Pau Gasol. (As for comparing Bynum to Dwight Howard, PJ says it's not necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison, despite sharing a position. "They are just different," he says.) But overall, things look a lot rosier now than at this point last week.
So that just leaves one. Whereas last year one had no choice but to believe the Magic were magic, this season... not so much.
Orlando started the season 17-4, but have since gone 9-10, including losses in six of their last eight. Problems have come all over the board. Howard's scoring is off, a bum shoulder has limited Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis hasn't shot well since returning from his early-season suspension, the addition of Brandon Bass hasn't paid off (I thought it would be a great move, for the record). The Magic certainly have had other injuries to deal with (Jameer Nelson, Ryan Anderson, for example). But bottom line, they haven't looked good of late. At all.
One problem, at least as coach Stan Van Gundy sees it, is Orlando looking too much at last season's success. "They compare what we did last year, but we got to make this team improve. We're not playing against last year's team. It's not relevant," he said. Given the changes to their roster this offseason, it's reasonable to wonder if the chemistry isn't quite right for the Magic. Certainly Kobe Bryant was surprised at what they did over the summer.
For more on what's gone wrong with the Magic, check out this post at Forum Blue and Gold as Kurt Helin grills fellow True Hoop-er Philip Rossman-Reich of Orlando Magic Daily. (For Kurt's take on the Lakers, click here.)
More Lakers links:
Jerry Buss has put up some impressive numbers, writes Roland Lazenby.
50 years ago today, the Lakers narrowly averted a tragedy of epic proportions.
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