Pau Gasol: Man with a full plate
With the Finals still fiftysomething hours away, the tension is still building. Writers are still putting out previews, America is still weighing in on who will win. For the record, people- or at least those who vote in ESPN.com SportsNation polls- overwhelmingly favor the Lakers, picking them at a nearly 60% rate. (The numbers rise to over 95% among Lakers Blog readers... but I fear that demographic may be slightly biased.)
At the same time, there are some nuts and bolts issues to discuss. One guy at the center of it all (metaphorically and literally) is Pau Gasol, who throughout the series will have about as varied a set of defensive responsibilities as a man of his size can take on. First, run around the perimeter with Rashard Lewis, who may be 6'10" but took 554 three pointers this year, 68 more than any other player in the NBA. Then, Gasol gets to pound inside with Dwight Howard, whose effective shooting range may not equal his near-seven-foot height, but still had the league's fourth best FG% because he's pretty good at getting shots from mighty close to the rim.
On the other side, Pau will try to back down Lewis, and exploit Howard in space (here's how it broke down at the Olympics, courtesy of Forum Blue and Gold). At least he won't get bored.
Not that you'd expect a blase attitude from a group trying to erase last June's disappointment.
- The ESPN crew get true/false on the Finals.
- John Hollinger investigates how much Orlando's two regular season wins over the Lakers matter in predicting the outcome now.
- BDL's Kelly Dwyer gives five ways the Magic can win the series. Not one, though, was score more points. Total oversight. And five ways for LA to win, because that's only fair.
- Dwight Howard is too young to get caught up in the Lakers' mystique.
- That Lil Dez kid is pretty brutal on LBJ. (Many of you will VERY MUCH enjoy this link. Click on it.)
- A cool breakdown of the 2-3-2 Finals format from the folks over at Magic blog Third Quarter Collapse. They have some great coverage over there, by the way, including this interview with Magic play-by-play man David Steele, who previews the series and talks about the possible return of Jameer Nelson to Orlando's lineup.
- Thus far, Nelson has played four-on-four and taken contact, but is no sure thing to play. That may be a good thing, writes the Orlando Sentinel's George Diaz.
VIDEO LEFTOVERS FROM MONDAY'S PRACTICE:
Kobe Bryant, on all sorts of issues. Asked if he thought a title here might mean more, since this is clearly "his" team? "Probably."
Phil Jackson, on prepping his team:
"This issue of being prepared and the preparedness of a team is always what your coaching is about. Most of the time, you want to go to a game and anticipate that what they've gone through in practice is going to prepare them for what they have to go through in a game... Last year, we weren't quite prepared for the type of game we were going to have to play against Boston. It has nothing to do with Boston as it has to do with the playoffs."