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David Aldridge

Free agents like Dwyane Wade (right) and Joe Johnson could reshape the NBA landscape this summer.
Victor Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

These questions matter most during offseason limbo period

Posted Jun 21 2010 10:12AM

Almost no one remembers the Weimar Republic. Or Gerald Ford. Or the Gemini Space Program. Or 1980s music. (Trust me. I came of age in the '80s. People remember disco, even though they claim they hated it, and they remember the emergence of grunge and rap, and hip hop, but generic, Huey Lewis and the News Heart of Rock and Roll '80s music? I defy you.)

These are all examples of bridges, of people and times that were the halftime act between great or infamous periods in time. They got you from Point A to Point B in history, but they hold little or no historical significance of their own -- or, at least, history that anyone who's not a German studies major can recall.

We are at such a period in NBA history.

We are just coming off one of the great Finals in recent history, between the league's two most celebrated teams, a championship series that produced the highest TV ratings in 12 years, and an exciting if not well played seven-game classic. We are 10 days away from the start of the most anticipated free-agent negotiating period in league history, with a half-dozen of the NBA's biggest stars all becoming free agents, able to change the landscape of the league with a single nod of the head -- or nods, if they decide to go somewhere together.

And this next week and a half?

The von Hinderburg Era.

We know that what we've just gone through was something big, and that something even bigger is on the horizon. We are in a holding pattern, a waiting room, stuck on the telephone, on hold for the next 240 or so hours.

So, where are we now? What are the questions that will begin to be answered Thursday night in New York with the Draft, where some teams will begin to fill in the blanks, and others will keep their powder dry for another week?

Here are 10 questions that are unanswerable now, in Huey Lewis' NBA, but whose answers will become very clear around Independence Day.

1) Can the Lakers three-peat?

Yes, if Phil Jackson comes back. We should know the answer by Friday; Jackson reiterated after Game 7 that he would take about a week to decide whether he wants to return to L.A. next season. Even if that means a pay cut, as has been rumored for weeks, with owner Jerry Buss unwilling to shell out another $12 million -- even for a guy that now has won the Finals 11 times in 13 tries.

Kobe Bryant said he's been begging Jackson to give it another go, but Jackson has a lot of issues to sort through. More than one source indicated during The Finals that Jackson grew quite weary this season keeping Ron Artest in the fold, watching Artest struggle mightily in the Triangle, begging him not to hoist ill-advised threes. Artest even copped to it in the Lakers' locker room after Game 7: "my coach didn't want me to shoot it!,", he squealed after making the biggest shot of his life, a 3-pointer with a minute left that kept the Lakers' lead at six points and just about ended Boston's rally hopes.

Even if the Lakers opted to move Artest, or Lamar Odom, or don't keep Jordan Farmar or Luke Walton off the bench, as long as they have Bryant and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum and Derek Fisher, the roster isn't the issue. The head coach is.

2) Can the Cavaliers put a representative team on the court without LeBron James?

Boy, it's hard to see a way out of that one. But it's possible.

J.J. Hickson (left) and Mo Williams would be two of the Cavs' cogs if Cleveland ends up LeBron-less.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

It's conceivable that Cleveland could find takers for all of the one-year or partially guaranteed contracts on its books for '10-'11, a list including Anthony Parker, Sebastian Telfair, Leon Powe and Delonte West (only $500,000 of his $4.2 million for next year is guaranteed if he's waived by August 2). That would clear $10 million off of Cleveland's cap total. But the Cavs would have to renounce their rights to LeBron and Shaquille O'Neal to get their respective eight-figure cap holds off the books, and they would certainly do that if it became clear to them that James was bolting (it would seem highly unlikely a team with enough room to offer James a max deal would then agree to a sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland, since that would likely result in that team having to sacrifice several players to the Cavs to make the numbers work -- which would defeat the whole idea of bringing James aboard).

If all that happened, Cleveland would have a little bit more than $38 million committed to six players: Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao, Jamario Moon, Daniel Gibson and J.J. Hickson. But you can't go into a season with six players, obviously; you need a minimum of 12 players under contract. So even though Cleveland would technically have enough money under the cap to go after a max player, a significant portion of that room would have to go toward minimum contracts for enough players to be in compliance with league rules, or second-round draft picks, assuming the Cavs have no desire to trade into the first round by Thursday and thus have to pay guaranteed first-round money to someone.

There's the skeleton of a reasonable competitive starting unit in Williams, Jamison and Hickson. But there's certainly no one that causes opponents to stay up nights.

3) Who would coach the Celtics if Doc Rivers takes a year off?

For all the talk about my NBA TV colleague Kevin McHale, why wouldn't Wyc Grousbeck insist that GM Danny Ainge take over? In a time when owners throughout the league are trying to save as much scratch as possible, and are extremely reluctant to pay what coaches have been used to getting in recent years, it's hard to see a scenario where the Celtics would lock themselves in for three or four years of paying top (or, close to top) dollar for a coach presiding over an aging roster that everyone acknowledges is hard to handle. What big-name coach would take $2 million or so per year for that?

So, Ainge, who has experience as a head coach, knows the quirks of his personnel better than anyone on the outside possibly could and wouldn't break the bank if he added bench duties to his management portfolio.

4) How do the Pistons rebuild their frontcourt?

They're taking a look at Baylor forward Ekpe Udoh and Georgetown forward Greg Monroe in the final days before Thursday, and while that doesn't mean for certain that they're taking one of those bigs with the seventh pick in the first round, it would seem odd to waste precious time before the Draft looking at two guys you have no intention of selecting. So the guess here is that if the Warriors, picking sixth, take Monroe -- who they gushed over after his workout this weekend -- the Pistons would take Udoh. If Golden State is throwing up a smokescreen to get Detroit, the Clippers (picking eighth) or Utah (ninth) to try and move up to take Monroe, the Pistons may not bite and just take Udoh, whom they know very well from his first two years at the University of Michigan before he transferred to Baylor.

Trading Tayshaun Prince is one way the Pistons might go to beef up their frontcourt.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Failing that, it would be a shock if Detroit didn't move Tayshaun Prince and his expiring contract soon after July as part of a package to get the Pistons the size (Carlos Boozer?) they need.

5) Do the Clippers need yet another young player on their roster?

No, which is why they're trying to move the eighth pick as we speak, which would clear even more cap room for L.A.'s still-active fantasy that it can get James to come to Tinseltown.

6) Will the Wizards do more than just draft John Wall? They have major cap room.

They do, but new owner Ted Leonsis is loath to go after big-ticket free agents, seeing how poorly that worked for him early in his stewardship of the NHL's Capitals (if you want to see him jump, sneak up behind him and yell "Jagr!" at the top of your lungs). Leonsis has instructed management that he wants to build through the Draft, which is why Washington, which already has three of the top 35 picks Thursday, is looking for another pick. There are some who would love to use that extra pick, likely another second-rounder, on DaSean Butler, the dynamic West Virginia forward who tore his ACL in the Final Four and is hard at work rehabbing to be ready for next season.

7) What does Riles have in his back pocket?

All I know is that every time he's had major cap room, or time to come up with a plan, he's found big-time talent: Alonzo Mourning (trade with Charlotte in 1995), Tim Hardaway and Juwan Howard (1996, though Howard had to go back to Washington after the league accused Riles of breaking cap rules to come up with the loot for Howard's offer), and Shaq (trade with the Lakers in 2004). Miami's been too quiet for any other team not to have the heebie-jeebies.

Pat Riley has a history of coming through with a big move when he has the resources.
Victor Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

8) Who is the player that will almost certainly be traded on Draft night?

Minnesota forward Ryan Gomes. His 2010-11 salary of $4.23 million is only guaranteed for $1 million for next season, so a team that acquires him on June 24 can save $3.23 million in cap room by July 1 if he's released. You can't find that kind of savings anywhere east of your area Target on President's Day. It may well wind up that Gomes is traded on Thursday, released on Monday and re-signed by Minnesota to a new contract later in the summer.

9) You still think the 76ers may not take Evan Turner?

Not as much as a week ago. Even though last week's trade of Samuel Dalembert for Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni would clear a path for Philly to draft Georgia Tech forward Derrick Favors, I'm hearing that Doug Collins really is impressed with Turner, the Ohio State guard. It's just too easy to plug Turner in at shooting guard where he and Jrue Holliday can grow together as a young, improving backcourt, leave Andre Iguodala at small forward and Elton Brand at power forward, with either Mareese Speights or Hawes at center. The Sixers' major improvement next season won't come through the Draft, and certainly not through free agency, but with Collins on the bench.

10) Didn't you say there would be 10 questions?

Yes, I did. But it's 5:07 a.m. My brain is congealing into a puddle. Would you settle for nine? Unless someone has a question about the Von Papen Deal.


Politics, Chris Dudley recalls, rarely came up in an NBA locker room when he was a player.

"Really, guys would talk about cash," Dudley said on the phone last week. "They were shocked, especially the rookies when they got that first paycheck. Politically, it wasn't something that was a major source. When (President) Clinton had his issues it was definitely a big topic, but they would also have conversations. I remember talking to Terry Porter about how do we get schools to do a better job? How do we help to break the cycle in the African-American community? They weren't necessarily Republican-Democrat conversations; they were more life conversations. How do we do better?"

It is a question the 45-year-old Dudley is now trying to answer for an entire state. The 16-year veteran, who played for five teams as a shot-blocking, lane-clogging, free throw-butchering big man, is a neophyte politician, but he's started off with a bang, winning the Republican nomination for governor in his native Oregon in his first foray into statewide politics.

Dudley beat out two other major challengers and got 40 percent of the Republican vote in the May 19 primary, setting up a November showdown with Democratic candidate and former governor John Kitzhaber to succeed incumbent Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who is leaving office early next year after serving two terms, as required by state law.

Until last year, Dudley was safely ensconsed in his post-playing life. His NBA career, which included becoming secretary of the players' union, featured stops in Cleveland, New Jersey, Portland, New York and Phoenix, as a physical 6-foot-11 center with good timing who developed a terrible hitch at the free throw line that got so bad he often drew opponents into the lane before he let go of the ball.

(I covered a 1989 game when Dudley missed five free throws in one painful trip to the line -- he missed the first, missed the second, got a third because of a lane violation, missed that, got a fourth because of another lane violation, missed that, then missed the fifth after a third lane violation.)

He had started the Chris Dudley Foundation in 1998 to help fellow diabetics like himself (he was diagnosed in high school and played with the disease in the NBA without incident) and had put his economics degree from Yale to good use as a wealth management partner in his native Lake Oswego, Oregon. In Lake Oswego, he volunteered as a coach at the local high school, which had a rising star forward named Kevin Love in 2006.

"I would just say that Chris is an amazing human being," Love, now the Timberwolves' rising star forward, texted late Sunday night. "Comes from a great area and a great family. He has impacted and influenced my life and other people's lives from a basketball perspective. But now he is impacting people on an even greater level."

Ex-NBA center Chris Dudley aims to make a big impact in politics.
Scott Cunningham /NBAE/Getty Images

Indeed, politics called to Dudley from a distance. His grandfather, Guilford Dudley, was the U.S. ambassador to Denmark during the Nixon and Ford administrations in the 1970s. Chris Dudley had twice testified before Congress about diabetes research and funding. And he'd gotten increasingly frustrated, he said, with the state of affairs in Oregon. After raising more than $300,000 in donations for a speculative political committee, Dudley decided to think big instead of starting out on a city council or in a mayor's office.

"Nonprofits do great, great work, but you realize how much is done by government," Dudley said. "Governor was kind of something that came up. The more I explored it, the more it made sense. Our state is at a critical juncture and it needs help and needs help now."

Oregon's unemployment rate has hovered above 10 percent for most of the last 18 months, after falling from a high of 11.5 percent in April, 2009, according to recent employment figures. Mass layoffs hurt the state throughout the winter of 2008-09.

Dudley's own political philosophy, he says, evolved from his admiration of several politicans. He eschews specific labels when it comes to his politics, saying that he's planning a campaign that appeals across party lines.

"I guess it comes from Lincoln and the rights of individuals," he said. "A belief in small government, or at least government that's closer to the people. My family's split. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats. I think it really comes back to the fundamental belief of believing in the individual instead of a bigger government ... my inspirations growing up were JFK and Ronald Reagan. Different ends of the political spectrum, and in a lot of ways they were more similar. The bottom line is big ideas and optimism. As a country we can do so much better. That was our generation in a big way."

In seeking the governor's office, Dudley is the latest ex-NBA player who turned to politics after his playing days ended. Bill Bradley, of course, served three terms in the U.S. Senate from New Jersey and sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000 after winning championships with the Knicks in 1970 and 1973. Former player Tom McMillan served three terms as a Congressman from Maryland. Hall of Famer Dave Bing followed a very successful business career in Detroit with victory in the mayor's race in 2009. And former Suns All-Star guard Kevin Johnson is in his first term as the mayor of Sacramento.

Dudley has spoken with Johnson -- his former teammate in Cleveland at the beginning of their careers, and in Phoenix near the end -- about the pitfalls and challenges of political life.

"Obviously, we're contemporaries," Dudley said. "K.J. was involved in the non-profit world. I've had mine for 15 years. We've been ... trying to have a positive impact and realizing you can do a lot on the government side. That's probably pretty similar."

Dudley has also gotten help, he says, from his former Trail Blazers teammates like Porter and Jerome Kersey, who retired in the Portland area. NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver have also provided advice. Former NFL star quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who grew up in nearby Walla Walla, Wash., and relocated to Oregon in retirement, has also helped out, and Dudley was planning to speak with Bradley on the phone late last week.

He had to learn about politics on the run, taking part in 15 debates during the Republican primary season and learning to chop his speeches into 30-second bites. He worked six or seven days a week, crisscrossing the state time and time again to push his message of private-sector job growth. Dudley will have at least two debates with Kitzhaber, who served from 1995-2003.

"We're going to have to deal with spending issues, because we're having real problems," Dudley said. "We're on an unsustainable path. And education and trust. People just don't trust the government right now ... in the state of Oregon, we've had 23 years of one-party rule, and we need to go in a different direction. Things aren't working. We're only leading in unemployment, hunger and homelessness."

Being a pro basketball player was very helpful in helping him understand how a campaign works, Dudley said.

"You start off with the idea of a team, where you're working with people from completely different backgrounds," he said. "On a team you're going to have people from every which-way. In the NBA it's (the goal) to win a championshp; in Oregon it's doing the best for the state. But you have to work within a team structure. I think the discipline from sports is very important. The discipline, the dedication. And I'd also say the idea of beliving in yourself and sort of dreaming big things.

"You have to really believe and have a sense of optimism to be successful in the NBA. Being involved during the labor negotations was helpful as well. That was a good background for me, having those tough negotiations and having that expireince, but also being able to see issues from both sides."

Top O' the World, Ma!

(Final Finals edition)

1) L.A. Lakers (2-0): Who'da thunk it: Ron-Ron was the best player on the floor in Game 7 of the Finals? Incredible.

2) Boston (0-2): Big decisions looming for the Cs, starting with Doc Rivers.

3) Orlando: Can Magic find a young backup point guard with the 29th pick?

4) Phoenix: Search for new GM will not include long-time assistant David Griffin, who is also leaving the organization.

5) Utah: Mehmet Okur (Achilles') may not be ready for training camp, making a big at No. 9 even more likely.

6) Cleveland: Byron Scott to the rescue? Somebody has to right the ship, and fast.

7) Atlanta: Hawks ownership continues to insist that the team is not for sale, only seeking minority investment.

8) San Antonio: Huge news: Tiago Splitter, the Spurs' 2007 first-round pick, may finally come over from Spain next season.

9) Chicago: Thibodeau officially introduced on Wednesday.

10) Oklahoma City: Thunder, at 21st and 26th in the first round, can add to their young nucleus.

11) Denver: If Nugs are talking Ty Lawson for the 10th pick, they must be in love with someone specific.

12) Portland: Kevin Pritchard is going out fighting, saying he's the best man for the job.

13) Dallas: Mavs surely will move up from 50th overall, hoping to find another Roddy Buckets.

14) Milwaukee: Bucks deny making a promise to VCU center Larry Sanders with the 15th pick.

15) Miami: Picked up Mario Chalmers' option ($854,000) without impacting ability to be major free agent players.

16) Charlotte: Hope this works out for Darius Miles. My expectations aren't high.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

Why does God allow one person to suffer so very, very much?

Rest in peace, Manute.

Words can't express the sorrow that your family and friends and former teammates must be feeling today.

Manute Bol, who'd made helping people in his native Sudan the cause of his life as an NBA player and after his retirement, died Saturday morning n Virginia, the victim of kidney disease and a second disease that had caused his skin to flake off. After looking like he'd turned the corner last week, Bol's condition worsened suddenly, and he died at 47.

"I will never know how he carried on with so many physical problems but I do know that if a man's wealth can be measured by endurance of pain, determination to help the poorest of his friends and family as well as total strangers, and the dignity to carry on against all odds, Manute is the richest man to ever have played in the NBA," wrote John Zogby, the president of Zogby International and a board member of Bol's charity, Sudan Sunrise, on the charity's website Sunday.

There is nothing left to say but to again ask that the NBA family come together now and do something to help Manute's cause and organization (, which seeks to promote reconciliation between warring religious groups in his native Sudan. Manute was trying to raise money to build 41 schools in Sudan that would teach any children who enter, regardless of their ethnic background or religion.

He needed $18,000 as of last week to complete construction on the first school. That is, literally, nothing to players and coaches who make millions. I will happily donate the first $250 toward reaching the goal of $18,000, but I need help. Here is a link to the donations page of Sudan Sunrise. If you love the NBA or were ever in any way entertained by Manute Bol, whose smile masked his incredible pain and suffering in this world, give. Now.

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

Some folks wear the same glasses as I do. From Thomas Grooms:

Being an African-American, I really enjoyed your writing on the racial changes in Boston, and with the Celtics. I was born and raised in the Roxbury/Dorchester area. I'm now living in South Carolina. But to be an outsider you are correct. I was part of the migration to East Boston in the 1970s and the busing issues security. Been on the receiving end of unfair police misconduct because of my race. I have not been to a Celtics game since 1985, when fans used to yell "I smell a cigar, no its a Ni----". They never acknowledged what [Robert] Parish, [Cedric] Maxwell, Tiny [Archibald] or the late Reggie Lewis did. Reggie Lewis was always a visible Celtic in the inner city ... he would (be there) on Thanksgiving, give out meals to those in need at Northeastern University. He would go there to work out. He never shunned you if you said hello. Though I was not a Celtic organization fan. I did admire, and respect the individual players. I recall how they always made it seem like Larry Bird did everything. But because of the help he had, he was able to do that. If he did not have the players around him. He would have been like Jordan when he 1st came to Chicago. I am happy for the new Celtic staff, and players. And I continue to pray not just in Boston (b)ut all around, that change is coming.

The Celtics' more diverse crowd is just a snapshot of a sliver of progress, I think we'd both agree, Thomas. But it's still progress.

But the Redhead should get his due. From Jon Duke:

Memories of the Celtics' Big Three of the 1980s brought out differing viewpoints from readers.
Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images

I want to commend you on taking a very difficult issue and very nearly threading the needle on the role of race and the Boston Celtics. However, I do feel you missed, as most of our generation does, the incredible steps made by Red Auerbach and the Celtics of the 1960s in advancing the role of African-Americans in sport, let alone the NBA. Though I am a tad younger than you, I grew up watching the '80s Celtics and couldn't help but notice the racial divide between the Celtics and Lakers. It helped define the fans who rooted for their respective teams, but I also think that it is far too easy of a device in determining the character of the franchise ...

Your article accurately relates that the vast majority of fans follow the view that the Celtics were the "white team" and that belief continued until the arrival of [Paul] Pierce and [Antonie] Walker. My only beef is that while the number of fans who followed the Russell Celtics were minute, the progress made by Red [Auerbach] and that crew is unrivaled in American sport by one franchise ...

My only wish is that there is a fuller discussion of race and the Celtics that admits the race identification of the '80s Celtics, but also celebrates the actions by the team in the '50s and '60s. Certainly there were significant problems with this time period (you correctly note the vile and reprehensible behavior in Russell's bed in 1965), but the same could be said of the treatment of Jackie Robinson and yet the Brooklyn Dodgers and Branch Rickey are celebrated for the progress they brought to baseball.

David, I am by no means an expert on this subject. I'm a 31-year-old white guy from Maine who loves the Celtics and appreciates fine writers like yourself who cover the world of sports. We did not have one African-American in my entire high school, so your experiences far outweigh my own through your travel of various points across the sporting map. I only feel that a reasoned and thoughtful take such as your own on this issue was worthy of my own two cents.

None of us are experts on this, Jon, and you're certainly allowed your opinion. We go by our own experiences in everything. But you are right in pointing out that Auerbach was indeed a pioneer when it came to putting African-American players on the court and believing that Russell was the only person that could succeed him as coach -- and not thinking twice about the implications.

And now, an opposing view. From GW Welsh:

Keep playing the race card David I'm disappointed in your article and your motives. One of the first black coaches in NBA. I'm so sick of this Celtics are racist (stuff) and now the team is all black that makes it ok to like them ... that statement is racist. I'm Native American and give two craps about the color of skin your blood is carried in this is the NBA that got an A in that dept.

Seems like your the one that harbors ill will still "So I rooted. Oh, how I rooted for Ewing, and Mark Jackson, and Mo Cheeks, who led the Knicks to an upset victory on the road to win the series. That it was quiet rooting didn't make it any more ethical, and it's not a memory that makes me especially proud. But that day, I wasn't a sportswriter for The Washington Post; I was a black man in Boston, and you had to choose sides, and I made my choice." Oh and do your research: three out of the five officers were African-American and the guy that eventually got arrested for the robbery looked like Dee Brown.

Shame on you! We love our players and Bill [Russell] is still my favorite he did more than you'll ever do because he isn't hateful. I'm not African-American or Irish-American ... I'm Native American. And if you do your history lessons, all three were hated on everywhere during the early times. If you ask me, you're a racist and it will never change you can't even root for a team with a white player on it but now that it is mostly African-American then its ok, lame and outdated and that, my friend, is scary.

Wow, G-Dub, where to begin? It's racist to point out that Boston had a terrible history when it came to race? The "early times," I guess, stopped around 1989, when Charles Stuart said a black man shot him and killed his wife and black men of every size and shape were stopped and questioned in Mission Hill. Did you not read the part where I said that white sportswriters in Boston were nothing but generous and friendly to me, and that the Celtics were nothing but professional to me, up to and including Red Auerbach? And that things are much, much better now? And where you got the idea that I said I can't root for a team with a white guy on it. ... well, I don't know where you got that. But you're entitled to your opinion. One thing, though: as my friend David Steele wrote so eloquently years ago, race is not a "card" to be played in any "game."

Let's argue about something else. From Kevin Sanders:

Are the Hawks trying to save money with the selection of [Larry] Drew as the coach? This does not seem like an upgrade to [Mike] Woodson and other candidates probably took themselves out of the running due to the compensation. These are not the power moves that I would expect from an organization trying to be in the top six teams in the league.

Maybe they are, but that has nothing to do with Drew's qualifications, Kevin. He's been on an NBA bench as an assistant coach for almost 20 years. And he deserved a chance to succeed or fail on his own, with a good team, instead of being put behind the eight-ball with a terrible squad, as so many first-time coaches are.

As always, send your Finals interrogaries, Draft illuminations and snark to If you write it (first and last name, please), and we like it, we just might print it -- though we might also trim it for space reasons. You da men and women.

Playoffs MVP Watch


1) Kobe Bryant (2 games: 24.5 ppg,13 rpg, 2.5 apg, .349 FG, .818 FT): Captured his second Finals MVP award with a strong fourth quarter, though he struggled mightily throughout the series and through most of Game 7 to find a shooting rhythm. But Bryant's focus and will, playing through injuries that would have crippled most others without complaint or excuse, was the iron upon which the Lakers built a back-to-back championship season. He now has a leg up on Tim Duncan and Shaq for Player of his Generation, and it's hard to see anyone catching him now that he's in front.

2) Pau Gasol (2 games: 18 ppg, 15.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg, .400 FG, .632 FT): His scoring effectiveness against Boston lessened as the series went on, but Gasol was huge in Game 7, getting on the glass early and often in helping Los Angeles bludgeon the smaller Celtics when it counted. With two NBA titles to now go with his gold medal and MVP award at the 2006 World Championships for Spain, along with a silver with Spain at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and his 2003 NBA Rookie of the Year award, is it not unreasonable to opine that Gasol is now the most accomplished international basketball player of all time?

3) Rajon Rondo (2 games: 12 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 8 apg, .458 FG, .250 FT): It was fitting that the Celtics' last shot of Game 7 was Rondo missing a 3-pointer, because his inability to consistently shoot from the perimeter was his Achilles' heel against L.A., and the one thing he needs to master in order to make himself unguardable. The Lakers dared him to shoot anywhere beyond the foul line. Otherwise, Rondo had a brilliant postseason and was by far the Celtics' best player. There may be some rebuilding approaching in Boston but it won't involve the C's quicksilver point guard.

4) Paul Pierce (2 games: 15.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 apg, .379 FG, 1,000 FT): The Truth only made his mark in one game of the Finals, but was clutch against Miami, Cleveland and Orlando in leading Boston through the playoffs. Will he now void the final year of his contract -- a gargantuan $21 million -- to join the rest of Free Agent NBA? Or can he afford to do that at age 32, with a lockout looming after next season?

5) Ron Artest (2 games: 17.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.5 spg, .448 FG, .800 FT): You can snicker, but who was bigger in the last two games against Phoenix in the Western Conference finals and throughout The Finals with his lockdown 'D' on Paul Pierce? Who was the only guy in Forum Blue and Gold that didn't play Game 7 like there was a piano on his back? Queensbridge's own Ron-Ron, who hit a monster three with a minute remaining to help clinch the title, and then engaged in hilarity afterward here and here. I have no idea if he was at all coherent during any of it, but God, it was fun to watch.

Dropped out: Ray Allen

By the Numbers

7 -- Number of teams in NBA history that have come back from a 3-2 deficit to win the championship, after the Lakers rallied to win the last two games of the Finals against Boston to capture their 16th franchise title.

$2,000,000 -- Cost of the Lakers' victory parade Monday, which will be picked up by the team.

28,203,000 -- Viewers for Game 7 of the Finals between the Lakers and Celtics, making it the most-viewed Finals game since Game 6 of the1998 championship series between Chicago and Utah, when Michael Jordan won his last championship with the Bulls.

I'm Feelin' ...

1) Look, nobody's told me anything officially yet, but any sentient being that's been paying attention believes Steve Kerr will ultimately wind up back with us at TNT. I hope that's right. Steve was always a pleasure to work with and, like a lot of his management brethren going into the Summer of '10, was under incredible pressure the last two years to keep his team competitive while saving his owner as much money as possible. Working in TV is work, but it's not the same thing. Hopefully he's back annoying Marv and Reggie real soon.

It may not be long before Steve Kerr (left) is back working with TNT's NBA crew again.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

2) Nobody wins or loses with more class than Derek Fisher, who also got a fifth ring with the Lakers last week, and continues to make anyone who doubts his postseason abilities look real, real dumb.

3) Ditto Doc Rivers. Selfishly, it would be great if he returned to coach the Celtics next season, but the pull of being there for his son Austin as he navigates the waters of big-time recruiting -- Austin, a rising high school senior in Florida, is considered by many college scouts to be the top shooting guard prospect in the nation -- is strong.

4) Kendrick Perkins sat there for almost half an hour Wednesday, the night after he wrecked his knee and lost a chance to play in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and answered variations on the same question over and over, with tears in his eyes. One of the gutsiest things you'll ever see.

5) There is hope in the world.

6) Desperation, meet Eliot Ness.

7) TV work is great. Writing is necessary. But nothing's more important to me than being a good father to my two sons and emulating the example that my dad, James, set for me. Happy Father's Day to all the guys who put in a day's/week's/month's/year's/lifetime's toil for no other reason than that it is the right thing to do for their families.

Not Feelin' ...

1) The season is over? We have to wait 17 weeks or so until Opening Night, 2010 (and why do I think Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Orlando and wherever LeBron winds up will be involved)? Dang.

2) 'Sheed. Don't retire.

3) We missed Javie, Wunderlich, Forte, Palmer and Bavetta during this playoff run. And, frankly, the officiating wasn't as good night in and night out in the postseason without them in some combination.

4) I will never understand why a team winning a sporting event triggers the riot/burn the car/jerk gene in so many people.

5) Probably too much to expect Tiger to win the U.S. Open on Father's Day, right? Karma and all.

Tweet of the Week

NO ONE ... And I mean NO ONE should EVER com par kobe Bryant to my dad an say that is anywhere near close to my dad He's jagging this game
-- Marcus Jordan (@SASBMJ), Thursday, 9:11 p.m., Michael Jordan's youngest son, during the first the first half of Game 7, when Bryant shot just 3 of 13 from the floor and forced several shots against Boston. Bryant rallied with 10 fourth-quarter points to lead the Lakers to an 83-79 victory and the Finals championship, and was named MVP of the series.

They Said it

"He absolutely will try and play next year."
-- Gary Moore, Allen Iverson's longtime personal manager, telling the Associated Press last week that the 35-year-old Iverson, who left the 76ers for good in March after missing several games to deal with his daughter's illness, will try it again next season.

"And I am pleased to say that I am here for life at Michigan State."
-- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, 55, announcing last week that he was turning down the Cleveland Cavaliers' five-year, $30 million offer to stay in college basketball.

"That's a good question."
-- Happy Walters, the agent for Amare Stoudemire, when I asked who in the Suns' organization would be handling negotiations with him about his client after the decision of former GM Steve Kerr to no longer seek a contract extension of his own.

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