Playoffs 2003 – Western conference recap
As we close in on the NBA Finals, let’s take a look at back at those teams out West that made it, and those that didn’t.
Utah Jazz— Lost to Sacramento 4-1
The least competitive opening round in the West was Utah and Sacramento, the Kings showed their depth and athleticism in basically running away from the Jazz, and their aging stars. Stockton-to-Malone is no more in Utah, with Stockton retired and Malone almost certaintly leaving via free agency, alot has to be done to try and rebuild this franchise back into a contender.
Offseason Goals- Jazz have alot of holes to fill, forward, guard, center (Ostertag is not the answer) but at least they got Jerry Sloan to stay. Another problem is trying to convince free agents that Salt Lake City is for them, a tough sell. Andre Miller may be willing to return to the state of his college days.
Minnesota Timberwolves— Lost to LA Lakers 4-2
Another year another first round departure for the T-Wolves. Garnett played very well against LA but as usual it wasn’t enough, and even with Troy Hudson going off Minnesota still managed only 2 wins. Part of the problem is Wally Szczerbiak continues to disappear for long stretches in games, and seems to settle for deep jumpers. The bench was fairly solid with Joe Smith, Gary Trent, Marc Jackson, and Rod Strickland all making positive contributions. Offseason Goals- Not much they can do, in the draft, with all the restrictions still on them from the Joe Smith fiasco a couple years ago. Also with alot of money tied up in Garnett the Wolves will only be minor players in free agency, though watch for them to go after a slasher/scoring type guard.
Phoenix Suns— Lost to San Antonio 4-2
They got a good group to build a team with, Marbury, Marion, and Rookie of the Year Amare Stoudamire are all solid. Problem is in a conference dominated by big men the suns don’t have any. Due to injuries Tom Gugliotta is a shell of his former all-star self, and the 2 big guys Jake Voskuhl and Jake Tsakalidis are not dependable starters. The Penny Hardaway experiment needs to come to a close, to either give Casey Jacobsen or Joe Johnson a shot to start or go after a free agent. Offseason Goals- Frank Johnson has got a young up and coming kinda team, with a low post scorer and some more bench depth Phoenix could move up into the West elite.
Portland Trailblazers— Lost to Dallas 4-3
They almost pulled off the miracle against Dallas but now it’s time to reload this team. Zach Randolph has showed he’s a keeper and should be starting along with Bonzi Wells. The point guard situation (Stoudamire,McInnis,Daniels) is a mess as none of them has stepped forward to be the floor leader this team needs. The one thing Portland has in it’s favor is a owner who’s willing to spend cash, whether wisely or not, Portland can afford to clean house but still stay a contender. Offseason Goals-Getting Gary Payton would be huge for this team, but also just dumping (or trading) some of the excess parts (Patterson,Davis,Anderson,Sabonis,Pippen,and a couple point guards) would help get Portland back into serious contention.
Los Angeles Lakers— Beat Minnesota 4-2
Lost to San Antonio 4-2 The reign is over.
After a 3-peat the Lakers were exposed as a 2-player team with little help else where. Their lack of depth and bench help finally caught up to a tired and beaten down Shaq and Kobe. Shaq seemed to be dogging it through a couple of games, whether due to injury or lack of desire, Kobe couldn’t single handedly push them past a far superior team in the Spurs. Offseason Goals-Juwan Howard, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, just about all free agents have been linked to the Lakers but when it comes down to it, unless their willing to become spot-up shooters (Fischer,Fox,Horry) or part time players (George,Shaw,Walker) Shaq and Kobe won’t allow a third wheel.
Sacramento Kings— Beat Utah 4-1
Lost to Dallas 4-3
With all their depth and talent, they could never replace having their best player go down to injury in the middle of a championship run. Chris Webber sidelined most of the Dallas series killed the Kings, their best scorer, rebounder, and passer can’t just be replaced by Jim Jackson and Hedo Turkoglu. Rick Adleman did little to change up his game plan with a different line-up, and the Kings defense had decided to not guard Nick Van Exel. Mike Bibby, it turns out, needed Webber more then anyone. Offseason Goals- Not much to do when your already the deepest team in the league, but Keon Clark is a free agent, and Vlade Divac is getting older and the Kings have no viable big man to replace him.
Dallas Mavericks— Beat Portland 4-3
Beat Sacramento 4-3
Lost to San Antonio 4-2
Funny how things work out. Chris Webber gets hurt against the Mavs and their able to get by the Kings. Dirk Nowitzki gets hurt against the Spurs and a injury comes around to topple the Mavericks. Even with Dirk I’m not sure Dallas was going to beat the Spurs but not having him obviously affected the team negatively. Other then Nick Van Exel who was brilliant in these NBA Playoffs, no other Mav really stepped up to take control. There was brief spurts by Finley, Nash, and Nowitzki of playoff brilliance but nothing sustained, and when your playing a team as good as the Spurs you need all gears to be going. Offseason Goals- Alot of questions around Dallas this off-season, starting with whether or not Don Nelson is still going to be coaching there. In all likelihood he will be but that can change at any moment. Also you know Mark Cuban is not going to sit on his wallet, word is Karl Malone is very interested in Dallas and would be that inside physical player Dallas has been searching for.
San Antonio Spurs— Beat Phoenix 4-2
Beat LA Lakers 4-2
Beat Dallas 4-2
So what, Spurs in 6 over Nets. San Antonio was the best regular season team, and the best playoff team. Yes they’ve had alot of success in blowing huge 4th quarter leads, but they’ve also blown out two of the best teams around (LA, Dallas). It all starts and ends with Tim Duncans’ brilliant play, from the scoring and rebound, to the passing out of the double, triple ,quadruple teams. That allows the support guys the room they need to operate, whether it’s Bowen, or Jackson (or in Game 6 vs. Dallas Steve Kerr) getting an open three, or Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobilli cutting to the hoop. Plus the great thing about those guys, they not only our supporting players to Duncan, on any given night they also on their own can put the team on their back and put up some big numbers. Offseason Goals- One last piece of unfinished business for the Spurs before their off-season begins. David Robinson is retiring and the Spurs would like another big guy to go with MVP Duncan, look for them to go after Jermaine O’ Neal (O’Neal and Duncan?? How many straight titles would that get ya) or Michael Olowokandi. Jason Kidd to the Spurs won’t happen, Tony Parker has proven himself to be a championship caliber point guard.