TrueHoop: Josh Powell
Another quickie guest dispatch/postcard from Marc Stein, who unexpectedly caught up with Jerry Stackhouse on his travels:
You heard this reaction often earlier in the week when the magic of YouTube turned John Wall's summer-league throwdown over Jerry Stackhouse into an instant (internet) classic:
Good thing no one impounded THIS tape.
Now we suspect you'll be even happier to hear that such a thing was really never considered.
When staffers from the Greater North Carolina Pro-Am summer league informed Stackhouse that various media outlets were after the footage of Wall's jam, Stack's reaction was rather un-Nike-like:
"Let 'em have it."
Even in the midst of a free-agent summer that finds the two-time former All-Star still searching for a new team after a recent audition with the Knicks, Stackhouse has had fun with this, joking with friends about how "that was me 15 years ago" and insisting that he's "excited" about the tape circulating.
Not because he's ready to live with the fact that the kid who beat him to the rim might turn out to be the hottest freshman in college basketball this season at Kentucky. It's because A) Stackhouse accepts the reality that those who go up to challenge dunks will inevitably be dunked on eventually and B) he's genuinely thrilled to see the summer league he helped found -- which bills itself as "The Rucker of the South" -- get some overdue spotlight.
"If he would have dunked on Joe Blow, I don't think anybody would be making a big deal about it," Stackhouse said. "I went after four dunks in that game. I caught two of them and on two of them I got caught.
"But you know how our league works. It's all about who's the youngest, who's the freshest, who's next. That's what people want to see. I do, too. That's part of sports."
Here's a few more thoughts from Stackhouse on:
His chances of hooking on with the Knicks given New York's lack of depth at shooting guard
"I had a great visit with New York. Obviously next summer they're looking at making a big splash, but they want to maintain a level of competitiveness this season. I think they've got a lot of options, but I want to keep my options open, too. There's a lot of free agents out there that, in a normal summer, would have been signed by now. So we'll see."
The state of his game and body at 34 after plantar fasciitis conspired to limit him to just 10 games with Dallas last season, followed by his inclusion in the four-team deal that brought Shawn Marion to the Mavs and Stackhouse's subsequent buyout from the Memphis Grizzlies
"I'm just happy to be healthy and able to compete again. That's the most important thing. I'm just happy to get back to play. I think that's what teams want to see. If you rolled the whole tape from that game [with the Wall dunk] that's what you'd see. I think teams know what I bring to the table when I'm healthy."
Comparisons between Wall's dunk and Nike's recent attempts to prevent footage of Xavier's Jordan Crawford dunking on LeBron James from getting out
"There's a lot of [similarities with the Crawford dunk]. Not taking anything away from him – it was a great dunk – but I was pretty much flat-footed under the basket. It's not like they just jumped up over you and dunked it ... The whole thing is a big deal because of LeBron. It didn't even register to me that this would be anything until someone was telling me that [the Wall footage] had taken on a life of its own on YouTube.”
Whether the Kentucky-bound Wall's status as perhaps the most coveted recruit in the country made the outcome easier to stomach
"If you try to block dunks, it's going to happen to you. That's why a lot of guys don't try. If they watch the tape long enough, they'll see a couple go in my favor. But I will say that I don't see [Wall] staying in college very long. There's not many point guards in the NBA that can match up physically with where he is right now."
The two dunks he did manage to block in that game
"One was against [Lakers forward and former Mavericks teammate] Josh Powell. I'm blocking the pro guys and missing on the young ones."
Thoughts, euphoria, grudging respect, and sober analysis of the Lakers' 15th NBA Championship from around the TrueHoop Network:
Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "Focusing on individual storylines and details can be a fantastic enterprise, but in this case I truly think it disservices the bigger picture: the Lakers kicked ass in these playoffs. They forgot who they were for a minute against the Rockets, but on the whole we've seen some terrific basketball from L.A. Good enough, in fact, that today I don't care to think about Phil [Jackson] vs. Red [Auerbach], or what this means for Kobe [Bryant] in the grand scheme of things. We've got a long summer ahead of us, and there will be plenty of time for that. What I want today is a proper acknowledgment that the Lakers weren't just a really, really good team, but one that happened to trump the Magic with superior will ... Look, nobody is crazy about the idea of the Lakers winning it all. But that doesn't mean we can't appreciate, in typical playoff fashion, the last thing that we saw. We saw a better team execute at an incredible level against an elite defense, we saw the elevation of games on a personal and team-wide level, and we saw the Lakers perform in a manner all series long that should remove any doubts to their worthiness. The Lakers accomplished a singularly great thing last night: a pretty damn good team playing to its potential. As such, we should appreciate their accomplishment with blinders on. Phil's tenth, Kobe's first P.S., that all can wait. This is a day for the Lakers as a team/organization and Los Angeles as a city, as it'd be a pity for this singular success to be overlooked."
Zephid of Forum Blue & Gold: "Ah, so this is the sweet taste of victory. Winning the NBA championship, cheering our team to the pinnacle of this sport. But, it is not the victory that brings us sweetness. It is the long 82 game regular season, all 23 games played in this postseason, all the rigors of this season. It is the tough December losses, the mental break-downs in January, the beautiful road streak in February, the frustrating losses in March. It is the Christmas game, the back to back @Boston, @Cleveland games. It is the leads given up against Utah, the blowout against the Yao-less Rockets, the home loss against Denver. It is the Game 7 victory against Houston, the Game 6 closeout in Denver, and this closeout here in Orlando. It is [Derek] Fisher's struggles and redemption, Lamar [Odom]'s excellent form, break-down, injury, and now return to form. It is Andrew [Bynum]'s coming out, injury, and coming back as a role player. It is [Pau] Gasol and Kobe's consistency and fire. It is Sasha [Vujacic]'s shooting woes, Jordan [Farmar]'s struggles, Luke [Walton]'s benching, [Trevor] Ariza's development, and [Josh] Powell's bad hands. It is the pain of last year's Finals loss, Boston's Game 4 comeback, the 39 point blowout in Game 6. It is the entire journey, with all its pain, suffering, joy, jubilation, frustration, relief, and exuberance, that makes this victory sweet."
Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "I don't feel any sense of disappointment, frustration or regret. How can you? The Lakers easily mulled through the Magic to capture their 15th championship, and they did so in dominating fashion it.There's not a person in the world who can say the Magic are better than the Lakers. And when you can say that, losing hurts a lot less. The sting especially softens when your team didn't fail because of dumb turnovers, poor coaching or lack of effort. None of that was the problem. The Lakers were simply better than the Magic ... The Magic simply couldn't trade punches with the Lakers, who are too good, too deep and too versatile. They're built with the ability to counter anything the Magic could throw at them. And they're killers - when they see blood, they attack. The Magic's only hope was to shoot 62 percent like they did in their only win of this series. That wasn't happening tonight. Toward the end of the second quarter, as the Lakers completed a 16-0 run that wiped out a hot Magic start, it was clear. The players, coaches, and fans of both teams knew it was only a matter of time till this thing was over ... It was beginning to sink in. The Lakers were going to win the NBA championship on Orlando's home floor."
M. Haubs of The Painted Area: "Let's take a second to remember a key moment in the Lakers' championship season, back in preseason in October when Phil Jackson commented that he wanted Lamar Odom to come off the bench - clearly the best move for the ball club. Andrew Bynum could play a larger role as a starter, and the versatile Odom was the perfect guy to run the show for the second team, and of course he'd have plenty of opportunity to play with the first unit as well ... Odom balked at the bench role ever so briefly in October, before accepting it with essentially not a peep of dissatisfaction the rest of the season (though the Bynum injury did get him back into the starting lineup for a good chunk of the season). By accepting a lesser role, Odom placed the good of the team ahead of his own self-interest in terms of trying to maximize the dollars he could command as a free agent, and that acceptance was a key element of L.A.'s season ... It is sacrifices like these, up and down the roster, that championships are made of. A key to San Antonio's run has been Manu Ginobili's sacrificing multiple All-Star appearances by accepting a role with lesser minutes, which keep his stats artificially low. And now Odom's acceptance of lesser minutes in a free-agent year has helped put L.A. over the top, and he deserves praise for it."
(Photos by Andrew D. Bernstein, Emmanuel Dunand, Ronald Martinez, Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Orlando lost in overtime in Games 2 and 4. Each was loaded with regrettable moments, from Courtney Lee's alley-oop layup attempt to Derek Fisher's almost wide-open 3. But if the Magic and Lakers could play the series again, and could repeat their efforts of Games 2,3 and 4, quite likely it would be a whole different series -- a bounce here or there changes everything.
The games Orlando ought to regret were Games 1 and 5, when the Magic simply did not play very well.
In the NBA Finals, you can make little mistakes here or there and still win. But you can not lay an egg. And if there's a lesson for next year's playoffs in this year's Finals, it's probably, more than anything, about preventing meltdowns, rather than sweating the details of crunch time.
Not all that long ago, people thought Phil Jackson was crazy for trusting Derek Fisher.
Derek Fisher has been through some serious battles in Laker history -- and has developed a special bond with Kobe Bryant. Yet when he missed shots in big numbers in early rounds of the playoffs, Laker faithful bailed on Derek Fisher in big numbers. But Phil Jackson didn't. He stuck to Derek Fisher like James Carville stuck to the Clintons. Forum Blue and Gold reader Zephid writes: "Everyone under the sun was calling for Phil to bench Fisher and play more Shannon Brown (myself included). Tell me, does anyone honestly believe that anyone outside of Bryant could have made those two shots other than Fisher? Through all his struggles, all the 1-8, 1-7 shooting games, our coaching staff kept the faith in Fisher. Even when he was getting crushed by Deron Williams, Aaron Brooks, Chauncey Billups, and Rafer Alston, the coaching still kept calling his number, sending him in during crunch time, sending him to battle when the games were on the line. And for their faith, they were rewarded with the most crucial victory of the season, delivered to us by one and only Derek Fisher."
3. Kobe Bryant's Mission Accomplished
Kobe Bryant's competitive fires burn as bright as anyone's. (Exchange with a reporter: "As far as me hitting the wall, so what if I did? I didn't, but so what if I did? What does it mean if you did? It means nothing. Because? Because I'll run straight through it.") So, of course, he is obsessed with championships. Winning one without Shaquille O'Neal presumably lifts a tremendous psychic weight, and gives him four, to compare to Michael Jordan's six. Before Game 5, Bryant was asked if he had matching Jordan's six rings on his to-do list. "I'm trying," he said with a smile, "to get this damn fourth one." It has been seven tumultuous years since Bryant's last title.
4. Kobe Bryant Didn't Do It "Alone" All the talk about winning one without Shaquille O'Neal makes it tempting to think of Bryant winning a title "alone." Despite the fact that Kobe Bryant was the series' clear MVP, of course many of the biggest plays of this series were made by teammates like Fisher, Ariza and Odom.
Pau Gasol, however, is series MVP 1a. Not only was he extraordinarily efficient with the ball all series, but he also evolved to be nearly masterful on defense. For much of the decisive Game 5 the Magic simply couldn't finish around or over him -- even as he single-covered Dwight Howard much of the night. ESPN Stats and Information charted Gasol single-covering Howard on 38 possessions -- and Howard did not score from the field on any of them.
6. Yes, Big Men Matter
Spoiler alert: Have you seen "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3?" I'm about to spill the beans, so skip ahead if you don't want to know how it ended.
Before Game 4, Phil Jackson took the Lakers to see that movie. It's essentially a big-budget public transport hostage negotiation conversation between two men: The calm, centered and largely innocent Denzel Washington, and the brilliant but excessively angry character played by John Travolta.
I'm beginning to believe that the primary focus of Jackson's coaching is to keep his players centered and mindful, as opposed to over-adrenalized and mindless. He's the opposite of the coach who screams in your face to play harder.
Denzel Washington's character keeps focused, doesn't lose his head, and gets what is most important to him in the end. Travolta's character is a great strategist, but callous and frenetic. Things don't turn out so well for him.
This may be the first and last time that Stan Van Gundy gets compared to John Travolta.
Meanwhile, Mickael Pietrus assigned himself his own cinematic inspiration. Before Game 5, he watched "Borat."
7. A Laker Benchwarmer Savors a Personal Victory
Laker forward Josh Powell played just 73 minutes during these playoffs, but he more than earned the sense of victory and relief that comes with his first championship ring. Needing money to support his family, Powell left North Carolina State in 2003. Long, skilled, athletic and tough he was so impressive at some of his workouts that he was briefly discussed as a lottery pick -- although he ultimately went undrafted, and has played for several team overseas in the NBA in the interim.
One of his workouts was for the Washington Wizards, where Patrick Ewing was then an assistant coach.
After the workout, Ewing stunned Powell, by telling him that he would never make the NBA.
Powell has not forgotten. "Every time I see him," he says, he remembers the words that once cut him. "It was just motivation. I can't do nothing but respect it, if that's his opinion. It just drove me to go hard. It drove me to stay hungry."
About then, some NBA personnel came through the champagne-soaked Laker locker room with the gleaming NBA championship trophy. Powell finishes his thought, reaching for the trophy: "Everything worked out for the best ... now let me see that thing right there ..."
8. Courtney Lee's Missed Alley-Oop
Despite point #1, aren't we all going to remember that Game 2 was almost decided on a buzzer-beating alley-oop? One of the most electric missed opportunities in NBA Finals History.
In addition to playing for a title, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza were essent
ially playing for their Laker lives this post-season. Both are free agents and, each could have played their last game as a Laker. Of course, there's nothing like a championship to encourage an owner to spend to keep a team together.
Which could be concern for the likes of Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu and Marcin Gortat -- both of whom could command big dollars on the open market this summer. Losing either player, but especially Turkoglu, could be a blow to an Orlando team with a lot of promise.
The other big goodbye that must be anticipated one of these years: Phil Jackson's. If Tex Winter was right that Jackson was motivated by a desire for ten rings, then what's going to keep Jackson in the hunt now?