Your Disclaimer - This is purely an expression of personal feeling, the analysis content isn't high, if there is any at all. I'm talking about my own sentiments here, and yours may differ greatly and we may both be wonderful people nonetheless. It's possible.
Like a great heavyweight boxer the Lakers dominate the NBA conversation to such an extent that even a Rockets blog can, without much weirdness, have an opinion on their exit. Here's mine, all biases fully featured and more-or-less proudly owned.
So Long, Lakers. That was the brutal, merciless, exit you richly deserved. A beatdown, straight, no chaser. The big story? There was absolutely no need for Lakers or the press to make it all about the Lakers. You know, the usual story you've read all too many times; "What's wrong with LA that they're losing?" "Is there secret angst in Lakerland?" " Is Pau really turning into an ostrich?" " How can they let this happen?" "When will Kobe lower the boom?" "Wow, it'll be amazing when LA inevitably wins!"
None of that applies. It doesn't matter one iota what the Lakers were thinking, feeling, doing or saying, because Dallas flat out kicked their asses. Four straight. Close game.Holding precarious leads. Comeback. A savage beating for the curtain.
There are pieces of music written (from classical to rock and everything in between) so a performer can strut his or her stuff, display virtuosity, confirm mastery. They aren't always the best from a musical standpoint, but they leave no doubt the musician has chops. Dallas performed such a piece on the Lakers. LA's mental state, Phil's leadership, Kobe's decline, Pau's disappearance were basically the piano accompaniment to Dallas' performance. It wasn't about LA at all.
Here's the odd bit. I don't hate the Lakers, per se, (I truly and honestly loved the Showtime Lakers as much as a Rockets fan could) but I positively loathe these particular Lakers. If asked at gunpoint which current Laker I liked, I'd answer Lamar Odom, but his cheap-shot on Dirk may have altered that.
On Phil - Phil was and is a great coach. He's a fine strategist and a superior motivator. No one works over the press, the opposition and his own players like Phil. But perhaps his finest talent has been attaching himself to the right situation. Today the amazing Phil, against all expectation, managed to find one last new thing to do in the NBA before yet another hiatus - his team was swept from a playoff series.
Now Phil Jackson can head up to Wytana and contemplate trout and wildflowers for a couple of years until he figures out which player is the new clear #1 in the NBA (with a Top 10 sidekick). He will then volunteer to coach said player for $15-$20 million a year. And he'll do it his way.
That's the thing, Phil Jackson is always, 110%, for Phil Jackson. He'll show up, and take your #1 player (and Top 10 sidekick) to a title, he'll be richly compensated and screw your daughter in the bargain, if one's available. He'll expect you to be absurdly grateful for his passive-agressive words of wisdom. He'll wear whatever glasses best complement his Deep Guy Manque image.
Occasionally Phil will let a genuine bit of emotion or respect slip out from his usual torrent of fish hooks and razor blades, and like scraps before hungry mongrels, the press will devour it whole. When his #1 player slips a bit, begins to totter on his perch, Phil will be gone like yesterday's weather. To meditate and be deep somewhere awesome, one presumes.
Kevin Durant? LeBron James? Player X? Meet Phil Jackson. He's coming soonish to an arena near you.
[Note by Xiane, 05/10/11 ] It was suggested to me (by voice!) that Phil Jackson didn't win his titles by writing Michael Jordan's name on the lineup card. Agreed, I never said he was bad coach. But do this little thought experiment with me. Two otherwise identical coaches, one named Phil Jackson, the other Jack Philson. One has Jordan and Pippen (or, later, Kobe and Shaq) on his team, the other doesn't. Who wins the title?
On Kobe - Any longtime reader of this board will know that Kobe Bryant ranks fairly high on my list of all-time-least-liked-players. Below Karl Malone, but above John Stockton, if that helps. But in this series Kobe did something that shocked me. He acted like a grown man. He didn't shoot his teammates in the back. He didn't shift blame. He stayed positive, not petulant. He took it like a man. As much as it pains me, I may have to adjust his ranking.
A note to Bynum - Wow, Drew, really brave, taking a cheap shot on Barrea at the end there. A real center could stop that play with a basketball, rather than dick, move. You're not that center. What ARE you exactly, manchild? An almost star? A spun-sugar enforcer? I notice you picked on the smallest possible Maverick - 15 inches shorter. Not, I see, Tyson Chandler. Or even Demon Bird Mothball Marion. Certainly kept your distance from JKidd, too. Chickenshit.
On Dallas and Dirk - I don't have quite the hatred of all things Maverick that many of you do. This is not to say I don't fully understand those feelings. But deep down I like Cuban. I think he's a walking example of continuing extreme improbability, and that's amusing in itself.
Honestly though, I'll cheer for the almost any Texas team against a non-Texas team 95% of the time. I suppose I'm more Texan than Houstonian in that way. Mind you, I want all Texas teams to be good, but I want Houston to be better. That applies elsewhere, the UT/AM rivalry is finer, for example, when both are great teams. It means more. I'll never say "no" to beating the Aggies, but I'd much prefer it to be a worthy Aggies team.
Anyhow, my family moved to Dallas right as I was starting high school and stayed there through my undergrad years. Houston teams were and are always #1 to me, but if it did no harm to a Houston team, I wanted Dallas to win, too. Remember, I couldn't watch much Houston ball way back then in the analog days of yore. All my friends were from Dallas, too, so this was pretty natural.
What with the AFC/NFC, NL/AL not much clashed that often, only the Mavs and the Rockets. At that point, generally, the Rockets were going places and Mavs were, typically, left each season staring up at the weird light-up mold spore ball-thingy above their arena, going nowhere in particular. Often they were wondering if they'd ever get a center (what must that be like?).
Not many teams have suffered both crushing heartbreak and utter badness quite like the Mavs have in the past. Some excellent Dallas teams went down in classic series against LA and others. Then came the 2006 Finals and an absolute vicious buggering by the refs. You saw it, I saw it, everyone saw it. It was awful. Apparently the NBA/Stern decided the West was just too dominant if Dallas was going to make short work of Miami and its charming DWade. Can't let the Krauts win, you know. So they didn't. And this was put down as a character flaw on Dirk Nowitski's part. It was simply vile.
This Dallas team is probably a last hurrah for its major players. Dirk knows it, and appears to be rising to the moment. (He should join Yao Ming on a "least appreciated superstars" team.) I can't say there's any guy left in the playoffs I rather see win a ring, (except possibly Shane Battier).
On Kidd, Terry - You know that list I mentioned with Kobe on it? Jason Kidd is on it too. But my respect for him as a player grew leaps and bounds this series. His work on Kobe and general basketball intelligence were awe inspiring. Maybe he's a grown up now, too.
Early in each series I tried telling the Portland fans and to a much lesser extent, Laker fans, that they hadn't had a "Jason Terry Game" yet. Rocket fans know exactly what I'm talking about, because it seems like every recent Mavs-Rockets game is a "Jason Terry Game". What is that? It's a game where he can't freaking miss, and he knows it. He shows you the knife before sticking into your gut and there's not a thing you can do, because he's simply not going to miss. LA? You just got a "Jason Terry Game". Sucks, doesn't it?
It sucks more because Jason Terry is such a grandstanding jackhole prick. Kevin Martin can shoot like that, too, but who'd hate him? Martin would just sort of duck his head to the side and grin sheepishly after yet another 3pter. Not Jason Terry. He pretends to be a little airplane and zooms around the building like a toddler who badly needs a nap. Yes, he's on my list, too.
Anyway, on to the WCF, and may the best team win, because I certainly don't want Miami to get a title.