Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Lakers (1/20/12)
By Josh Cohen
January 20, 2012
In Cohen Courtside, Josh Cohen examines the state of the Orlando Magic after games this season. He will tackle sidebar storylines and focus on topics that stretch far beyond the box score. There will also be some analysis on league-wide subjects.
ORLANDO -- Hey Shaq, you still want to claim that Andrew Bynum is a “better” center than Dwight Howard?
Message to Mr. O’Neal: You might be just a tad underestimating Howard’s unparalleled athleticism, a bit envious of another megastar restoring your epithet, Superman, and a little bitter about all the respect Dwight gets from basketball enthusiasts across the globe.
Shaq, you are one of the best, most dominant players in NBA history and deserve to critique and assess other players who hope to capture just as many championships as you. But, please be a little more pragmatic in your appraisals.
Howard demonstrated on Friday in Orlando’s thrashing of the L.A. Lakers that there is no balancing he and Bynum. And certainly O'Neal's thoughts on TNT's Inside the NBA proved to be a bit outrageous.
D12 erupted for 21 points and 23 rebounds and was a game-changer on both ends of the floor. Bynum, meanwhile – well, he was just there.
Bynum, who I actually covered in high school during his days at St. Joseph in Metuchen, NJ, is a very good player. You can tell he hits the gym hard and has expanded his all-around game. You could argue that he offers a greater variety of moves in the paint than Howard.
But Dwight is a freak of nature – one that no matter how committed you are to trying to stop will outmatch you with a blend of speed and strength.
Stan Van Gundy made an excellent point during his pregame press conference when he compared Shaq’s comments about Howard and Bynum to Skip Bayless’ remarks a couple of months ago about Tim Tebow.
By declaring that Bynum is “better” than Howard or that Tebow is “more reliable” than Tom Brady or other elite NFL quarterbacks, it’s just a ploy to capture people’s attention and get them to chat about your opinions. It’s marketing, in essence, and a way to “sell” your product (or in this case, get people to watch your television show).
So much talk over the past several weeks after Howard’s trade request regarding whether a return of Bynum to Orlando in a trade package for Dwight would be acceptable.
If Friday’s game were any indication, the answer to that question would have to be a resounding no.
- If Orlando was mobile and transported west of the Mississippi River and became a Western Conference team, you could argue that a trip to the NBA Finals this season would be almost inevitable.
By most accounts, the Lakers are observed as one of the best teams in the West. Yes, the Thunder and Clippers deserve recognition for being two of the top teams, but the Magic’s balance and experience may lift them in the power rankings over every team in the West.
In the East, on the other hand, there is the Heat, Bulls, Celtics, Knicks and soaring clubs like the Sixers and Pacers. It’s far more challenging and competitive.
After Friday’s performance, in which the Magic strangled the Lakers from start to finish, it’s indicative of the shift of power in the NBA.
Just a couple of years ago, it was the West that featured five or six legitimate NBA championship contenders, while the East was lucky to have two.
Now, conversely, it’s the East with all the momentum.
- It had become obvious that Jameer Nelson had been impacted by all the Dwight Howard drama during training camp. His performance has been suffering and you can tell the problem was more mental than physical.
But gradually, Nelson, an All-Star in 2009, is starting to show signs of returning to his familiar self.
Aside from his 17 points, Nelson dished out nine assists and only committed four turnovers. He set a tempo that L.A. couldn’t contend with.
"During the course of the season, you're going to have ups and downs as an individual and as a team," Nelson said. "So the way you handle them as a person coming into the next game after a bad game, that says who you are."
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