HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Too old to dominate on defense?
Jerry West and Phil Jackson believe it to be true about the Lakers. But one of their legendary peers disagrees. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan saw enough of the Lakers last night to know that they are defending the same as they have in recent years and when L.A. feels the need to crank up the pressure, it does.
“The Lakers are a terrific defensive team,” Sloan said. “They have been the last two-three years. When they break down your offense — which they broke us down — you wind up taking desperation shots. And when you’re desperate, it’s hard to make them.”
The Lakers look a lot like their buddies in Boston to us, a team stocked with elders (we’re trying to be politically correct here) playing at an extremely high level when they need be and a team that understands the real prize comes in June. In fact, the Lakers and Celtics look like they are rounding into form at just the right time. (just in time for Sunday’s showdown at the Staples Center!)
Andrew Bynum is looking more and more like the dominant big man the Lakers need to anchor their defense. Kendrick Perkins made his debut last night in Boston and his appearance in uniform alone energized both his teammates and the fans. Once again — all other things being equal — these two big men are the most crucial pieces to their teams’ championship hopes.
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and all the other key players certainly seem to be ready for another seven rounds of heavyweight action.
Granted, the Spurs currently lead the league and the Lakers in the Western Conference standings. And you know LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat will have something to say about the Celtics mashing through the Eastern Conference playoffs. And of course, we can’t forget about Dwight Howard and Co. down in Orlando.
But you saw the NBA Finals last summer. No one would have complained if the Lakers and Celtics had played a best-of-17 series. The games were that hard-fought, the drama was that thick and the intensity choked the air out of the arena at times during all seven of those games.
Isn’t that what we — as fans of the game — all want?