Posted Mar 11 2010 10:05AM
• This is a good thing for the Lakers. Losing three in a row and needing a rescue jumper from Kobe Bryant to squeeze by a Toronto team on the bubble for the East playoffs may have sparked panic in the streets in Los Angeles and new hope everywhere else, but it's exactly the shock treatment the defending champions can use. No consistent title contender of the last few years has so routinely needed shaking, the way Boston won the 2008 crown by getting in the Lakers' face, and the way the scare from Houston in the '09 second round became the wake-up call for the Lakers that led to a parade. This is no repeat coming apart before their eyes. This is just who they are.
• Remember. It's taken the Mavericks playing their brains out -- 13 in a row -- and the Lakers wandering around just to make the race for No. 1 in the West interesting. Dallas is legit and Donnie Nelson should be in the conversation for Executive of the Year, Jason Terry for Sixth Man of the Year and Rick Carlisle for Coach of the Year. Denver is legit. But there's still no question who is the team to beat.
• One more Lakers: Losing three of four, including to the Bobcats and Heat with poor efforts, isn't the real siren going off. It's Pau Gasol and what has become a series of comments about how the offense needs better ball movement and better balance by going inside some. Code for "Somebody is shooting too much."
• This is how Larry Brown gets himself in trouble. Playing musical jobs is one thing, because a lot of coaches do it and LB has had his share of stability in recent years, contrary to the caricature. But it looks really bad to be making eyes at other teams as his Bobcats enter the most important four weeks in franchise history. Asked about a SportsIllustrated.com report that he called the Clippers as a potential exit strategy, Brown told the Charlotte Observer that it's up to incoming owner Michael Jordan, the kind of non-answer answer that will only increase speculation. Something along the lines of "I am not interested in any other job" would have been much, much better.
• What else increases speculation: Brown loves L.A. and the Clippers have an opening for a coach and general manager. And Brown loves Philadelphia, and this is the week reports came out that coach Eddie Jordan is not long for the 76ers world and that GM Ed Stefanski could be on his way out as well. Brown's wife and two kids still live in Philly as he works in Charlotte. Los Angeles and Philadelphia are two of Brown's favorite places.
• Prediction time. The next coach of the Clippers is ... Byron Scott.
• This is the closest thing the Spurs will see to a soft spot the rest of the way, making it critical they capitalize to at least get a tighter grip on No. 7 in the West and possibly even move up. The pocket in the toughest finishing schedule among the top eight teams is the stretch that began Wednesday, six games against the Knicks, Timberwolves, Clippers, Heat, Magic and Warriors that will either give San Antonio a running start into the final 15 outings or become a failed opportunity. The next nine after that: two against the Lakers and one each against the Hawks, Thunder, Cavaliers, Celtics, Nets, Rockets and Magic.
• And One from the mailbag: "Thank you for not being just another American sports writer out there saying Chris Bosh is already gone. People are so surprised down there that staying in Toronto might actually be an option for him. I love reading the articles about how Chris wants, and needs to go to a bigger market. There are three bigger markets in the States. This might also be news to a lot of Americans. Toronto not only has a population of close to six million but also has an entire country following the Raptors and many from across the country picking up games. So where is there a bigger market for him to play in? We can only speculate at this point where he might end up. But it is refreshing to finally hear a view other than Chris leaving town."
-- Curtis, Hamilton, Canada.
Staying in Toronto is absolutely an option for Bosh. I don't think it's been decided, but there is definitely a comfort level and an understanding he can be the unquestioned star of a franchise that will spend to keep him and spend to surround him. The problem is, management has been aggressive with trades and signings and the Raptors are still not close to being a contender out of the East.
It's also easy to see why the city would be an appeal, not a place to escape. Toronto is tremendous, a cosmopolitan financial center, diverse, clean, with nightlife to appeal to young athletes and neighborhoods with character. It is worldly, not some final outpost on the way to the North Pole. Don't worry that too many Americans may not realize it. A lot of Americans don't realize things about their own cities. And it's probably a good guess that a lot of Canadians have bad misconceptions about parts of the United States.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here.
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