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LOVE 'EM, HATE 'EM
Posted by Rob Peterson on May 24 2004 2:53.32 p.m. ET

PLENTY OF TIME TO PICK A SIDE

Well, well, well. What do we have here?

What we've got here is... the Los Angeles Lakers, again. For the 22nd time since they moved west from Minneapolis 44 years ago, the Lakers will play for the NBA title. Lakers fans, you gotta love your squad.

And I repeat, that's 22 Finals appearances in 44 years, Click and Rollers. Or, basically, the Lakers get the Finals at a rate of every other year.

Amazing.

What's also amazing is that every year it seems as if some guy other than the superstars steps up to help his team win a crucial game. Click and Roll covered this territory a couple of weeks ago when Derek Fisher effectively ended the Spurs season with his Game 5 game-winner.

For the Lakers in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, it was Kareem Rush.
-- L.A. Daily News

All of which gives Lakers' haters even more fodder. You can stand it when Shaq or Kobe lead the charge. But Kareem Rush? Oooh, that's gotta hurt.

Strange too that a little-used second-year sharpshooter has helped Karl Malone and Gary Payton get their shot at the coveted ring.
-- L.A. Daily News

For example, we asked people whether they either loved or hated the Lakers. We concluded that there was no in-between.

"I can't stand the Lakers. Possibly one of the cockiest and least personable teams in history. You got Kobe there, not willing to give up the ball, Shaq there wanting it, Gary arguing about his minutes and getting all sulky about it (and GP was a pretty cocky and confident guy before the Lakers) and then you got Karl Malone. (A guy I've never really liked. Maybe it was those ugly Jazz uniforms, but still...)

"I don't think you could possibly be an in-betweener when it comes the L.A. Lakers, as they are the epitome of the love 'em or hate 'em team. But all that notwithstanding, and much to my chagrin, they're still gonna win it all this year."
Jack in Wellington, Nova Scotia


Click and Roll says: "Chagrin, eh? For others who could be chagrined by seeing the Lakers close to the 15th title in franchise history, you could also say discomfort, disgruntlement and dismay."

Or, in this e-mail, you could see someone trying to stay neutral on the Lakers.

"For the longest time I was right in the middle. I didn't love the Lakers and didn't hate them either. But over the past several years of hearing my brother-in-law yap and yap about how good his Lakers are, I can't help but hope whatever team they are playing whips the snot out of them.

"With avid fans like my brother-in-law rubbing it in everyone's faces, you have to arrive at one plane or the other, loving or hating the Lakers. If you haven't made up your mind yet, you have to be moving in one direction or the other. "
Greg in Tucson, Ariz.


Click and Roll says: "Agreed, sometimes cocky fans can make it worse. But, here in the Click and Roll offices, we have a Lakers fan. He's pretty mellow. I can vouch for his character."

But enough about the Lakers for now. The Timberwolves need some consoling. Right now, they're licking their wounds after the best season in franchise history.
-- St. Paul Pioneer Press (Registration required)

Speaking of wounds, Wolves point guard Sam Cassell thinks that if his back had held up, it would be the Wolves playing the winner of the Detroit-Indiana series.
ESPN.com

"It's difficult," Cassell said told Marc Stein. "Because I know for a fact that if I [were] healthy, we'd be moving on to the next round. No doubt about it in my mind.

"That's easier said than done. But I know it, and I think if you're a true basketball fan, you know it would have been different."

With Cassell missing Games 5 and 6, Wally Szczerbiak playing with recently broken vertebrae and Laker-killer Troy Hudson for the postseason, true basketball fans should be amazed that the Wolves made it a series.

Of course, Kevin Garnett, the NBA MVP, was taking the loss hard.
--L.A. Daily News

The loss may have been tough, but neither KG nor Latrell Sprewell should hang their heads.
-- Los Angeles Times (Registration required)

Now that the Wolves have 10,000 lakes from which to choose a perfect fishing spot, the Lakers await the winner of the grueling Pacers-Pistons series. And when one signs on to NBA.com and sees: "O'Neal, Tinsley could miss Game 6" one has to cast serious doubt as to whether the Pacers -- down 3-2 heading into Tuesday's contest at the Palace -- can weather these injuries.
-- Detroit News

Regardless of which team makes it out of the East, points will be as rare as a gallon of gas that costs $1.50.
-- L.A. Daily News

Speaking of points, some would like to see more. Some think it's fine the way it is. Appropriately, the next two links make up the point-counterpoint of low scoring games.

Bob Ryan: More points, please (and I'm politely paraphrasing)
-- Boston Globe

Ryan's take: He's tired of coaches who are frightened and sometimes disgusted by the inherent nature of the game -- putting the ball in the basket.

Bill Simmons: The Pacers-Pistons Game 2 block party was a classic.
-- ESPN.com

Simmons take: "It's like watching two boxers slugging it out with the exact same styles."

True. But I will take Ryan's side in this one. Watching two boxers slug it out exactly the same way for 12 rounds can make for dry entertainment. For the past decade, coaches have concentrated on getting the best matchup -- big on little, quicker on slower -- in their offenses than running plays that get their best offensive players in a great (i.e. open) position to score. Every time you listen to a scout speak, you inevitably hear the one thing that can make or break a player:

"He can/can't get his own shot."

NBA scouts and coaches love the guy who can get his own shot, because when the shot clock is running down that one guy can bail them out.

And that's one reason Phil Jackson has been able to run the triangle offense in the NBA while others who have tried have had limited or no success doing so. Jackson has had two of the best bailout guys in NBA history -- Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

The triangle offense is more than 50 years old and was created when there was no shot clock. Teams could run that offense all day until they found a good shot. With the shot clock, you need a guy who can get off a good look or at least a decent look when the clock heads toward zero.

What you see a lot these days are guys passing up open shots early in the shot clock or teams working the clock down into the red (five seconds or less on the shot clock), which almost always necessitates someone throwing up a shot just to beat the clock.

Now, granted, I know defenses are better and more aggressive these days. Watch an old game, even one from the early '90s, and you'll see defenses didn't pick up a ball handler until the top of the key.

But I consider passing up an open shot -- along with leaving your feet on a head fake and not calling out a screen -- as one of basketball's cardinal sins. If you miss an open shot, you just missed it. Nothing wrong with that. No one is perfect. But pass up an open shot? If you do that, I ask this: What the hell are you doing out there?

Pacers president Larry Bird feels the same way.
-- New York Times (Registration required)

That being said, you can see why a guy like Richard Hamilton is the difference in the Pacers-Pistons series. He's a guy who can drill the mid-range jumper and for whom the Pistons find open shots.
-- mlive.com

The Pacers need to figure out a way to stop Hamilton or their season will end in Auburn Hills.
Indianapolis Star

ALL-TIME FINALS CHALLENGE

Well, it's all come down to this: '86 Celtics vs. '87 Lakers. Some would say these teams played in the 1987 Finals where the Lakers topped the Celtics in six games.

But the '86 Celtics were vastly different than the '87 Celtics, especially on the bench. While the '86 Celtics had a healthy Bill Walton and Scott Wedman coming off the bench, the '87 Celtics had neither, making the '86 team far superior. And as much as I love the angular Fred Roberts, he's no Walton.

With this Finals Challenge matchup you have the most dominant home team in NBA history and one of the most exciting and efficient offenses in the history of the game.

4. '86 Boston Celtics (67-15) vs. 7. '87 L.A. Lakers (65-17)
How fans are voting: Lakers 68 percent, Celtics 32 percent (I expected nothing less)
How Click voted: '86 Celtics

Yes, I think the 1986 Boston Celtics were the greatest team I have ever seen. They could do it all. They had three frontcourt Hall of Famers in their prime and fourth coming off the bench in Bill Walton. They could pass. They could shoot inside (Parish and McHale) and out (Bird and Ainge). They could defend. They could slow it down. They could run. They would step on your team's collective neck and continue to press down with the heel of their boot. They cared not one bit about their opponents' feelings.

How good was this Celtics team? Michael Jordan dropped 63 points on them in a playoff game. The Celtics still won the game in double OT.

They were incredible. Don't get me wrong, that was a great Lakers team. But when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the Finals MVP in 1985, he was 38. The 1987 Kareem was 40 and averaged 17.5 points per game, the lowest of his career to that point.

And as I've pointed out a million times, these Celtics were nearly unbeatable at home: 40-1. Forty! Incredible.

As Parish said: "When you roll like that, losing doesn't even factor in to the equation. Winning breeds a certain amount of arrogance."

And since the Celtics would have home-court advantage in this matchup because of their higher seed, I give the Celtics the nod.

Or as Larry Bird used to say after he launched a jumper: "Don't even turn around. It's all net."

TIP-INS

The NBA loves the '80s.
-- Detroit Free Press

This is an idea whose time has come.
-- ESPN.com

AND IN THE INTEREST OF FAIRNESS...

We ran two letters above claiming their utter distaste for the Western Conference champions. Well, here's an excellent letter showing how even though one loves the Lakers, a heart can be torn asunder by them as well.

"The Lakers have been breaking my heart ever since 1990 when my Dad brought me back a Lakers cap from a business trip.

"First there was Magic's retirement; then there was a starting five of Threatt, Peeler, Lynch, Campbell and Divac; then Magic keeps coming out of retirement and throwing the whole franchise out of whack; then we get Shaq and he's injured forever and making crappy taco commercials; then we have the best season in a decade and get swept by the Jazz (boy did that sting); then they trade Nick Van Exel instead of booting Del Harris. Even when winning championships they whined like mules. And now, after putting together (at least on paper) one of the most impressive teams of all time, they just keep on breaking my heart."

"Kobe oscillates between selfish jerk and athletic rapture, Shaq has a messianic complex that gets in the way more than Yao Ming ever will, Gary Payton is more mouth than minutes, there is no bench except Fish, they squabble like a pack of high school cheerleaders who left their diet-Prozac on the bus, and it's a testament to this season that Karl Malone (Karl Malone? That man that not even Scoop Jackson has any love for) is the most likable player on the team.

"What can I say? I love’ em. Something about that purple and gold that just gets in your veins I guess."
-- Kris in Australia


Click and Roll says: "Um, there's nothing left to say. Well, except, maybe this..."

"I am a BASKETBALL fan. I respect and enjoy all basketball. I love the ball movement of Sacramento, the score-at-all-cost of Dallas and the control the boards and ball of Detroit.

"I was a season seat holder of the four 19-year-olds-on-the-roster Clippers of three seasons ago and got to witness first hand the raw athleticism of that young team.

"Being a Laker hater is as trite as being a Yankee hater. I'm not mad at the Lakers for going after the trophy year after year. That's what a team is supposed to do -- play to win. Playing to win is more important than winning itself and that's what the Lakers organization does.

"PLAY TO WIN!"
-- From POPZ in L.A.


Richard Hamilton prepares to get props from Ben Wallace.
(Ezra Shaw
Getty Images/NBAE)

2003-04 ARCHIVE
May 24 -- Three's a Magic Number
May 17 -- Unsung Heroes
May 10 -- Kero-Whacked!
May 3 -- Fugazy Like a Fox
April 26 -- Click Gets Randy
April 19 -- Playoffs CW, IQ
April 12 -- Give Them Away
April 5 -- Fight for First
March 29 -- Prime Time
March 22 -- East Bests West?
March 15 -- Very Scary Bears
March 8 -- Sick and Tired
March 1 -- West Side Story
Feb. 24 -- Surfing the Nets
Feb. 17 -- City of Angles
Feb. 13-15 -- All-Star Blog
Feb. 9 -- Git Up, Git Out
Feb. 2 -- Lobbying for L.A.
Jan. 26 -- Midwest is Best
Jan. 19 -- More Central
Jan. 12 -- Grand Central
Jan. 8 -- Starbury Time
Dec. 29 -- American Rookies
Dec. 22 -- The Greatest Gift
Dec. 15 -- Hail the Kings
Dec. 8 -- Spurs Sportsmen
Dec. 1 -- Holiday Exchange
Nov. 24 -- Hive Talkin'
Nov. 17 -- Clip and Save
Nov. 10 -- Short People

BACKCOURT
Check out NBA.com's "Destination Finals" section for a complete recap of all of the 2004 postseason action.

FRONTCOURT
The week that will be:
June 1-7: The Finals begin on Saturday, June 6 on ABC (8:30 p.m. ET)

WEEKLY KERR
My boss likes Steve Kerr's Yahoo! column. I like my job. Here's this week's link to Steve's piece on ... Shaq. He's the man, no matter how many shots Kareem Rush makes.