Friday , Sep , 12 , 2003 C.Y. Ellis

3rd Edition – 9/12/03

If you’ve been paying any attention to the news lately, then I’m sure you’re aware of all the craziness going on in California. Governor Gray Davis is in danger of losing his spot if the residents of the state vote in favor of a recall. In the mean time you have a handful of legitimate hopefuls (sans Gary Coleman) tootin’ their own horns and slinging mud on each other so they can be in better position to take Davis’ job. I’m assuming no one ever said politics is an “honest” way to make a living – but then again it’s just an assumption. So anyway the candidates held a televised debate about two weeks ago and it got me thinking about my favorite subject.

3rd Edition - 9/12/03

Consensus is Michael Jordan is the single greatest basketball player.  EVER.  Of course you have some basketball purists who disagree with that theory – especially when they grew up watching great players from past eras.  But overall, most folks roll with #23 without much uproar.  So I (being the argumentative person that I am) decided to pose a more difficult topic for my fellow basketball aficionados to chew on…Who would come out victorious in a seven game series between the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls and the 2000-2001 Los Angeles Lakers?  In my lifetime, those are the two best teams I’ve ever seen play.  Both teams won the NBA title after their respective seasons–but both teams were extremely special and that was no more evident whenever the chips were on the line.  So without further ado lets commence the Great Debate…


Here’s a little background on the combatants:


            After a second round elimination by the Orlando Magic the previous season, the Chicago Bulls returned to comprise a 72-10 mark (there are 82 games in a season) — the best regular season record in NBA history.  Mike was officially done with baseball (as well as the #45) and was back to reclaim the glory he and his teammates lost in Florida. The Bulls had a great deal to prove and they needed to improve so they acquired Ron Harper, the one and only Dennis Rodman and a refocus and dedication to detail.


 Side Note: At this time the Houston Rockets were back-to-back champions and great champions they were, but they never faced the Bulls when they became the BULLS so… 


Nonetheless, with these transactions the Bulls were revitalized and as the aforementioned record indicates–they SMASHED everybody!  And once the playoffs started, too much didn’t change except for that shaky performance in Seattle (Games 4 and 5) during the Finals.  But when push came to shove, they had champagne on the breaths–and that’s all that matters.             


            Coming off their first NBA title in 13 years, the Lakers entered the 2000-2001 season with ambitions of duplicating their crowning achievement.  However with the preseason foot injury to Derek Fisher, the J.R. Rider Experiment and the well publicized Shaq and Kobe squabbles–things didn’t look so promising (at least to Laker haters they didn’t).  The San Antonio Spurs finished with the league’s best record and the Lakers only won their division by a single game.  Yet when the playoffs came around things changed immensely.  It was as if the drama that occurred during the regular season was a scheme to throw everyone for a loop, because once the ref threw the ball in the air — it was over!  They swept every team they faced in the West (the superior conference) and discarded the Sixers in five games to win it all.  Their playoff record was a surdiculous 15-1, the greatest post season run ever…incredible. 


Taking into account the entire regular season, the Lakers didn’t dominate their opponents like the Bulls did.  Many times they played to the level of their competition (a common NBA phrase used to describe how a contender could lose to the Denver NUGGETS!) and did not display a champion’s resolve.  This may lead some to question why I would choose them as the Bulls foe.  There were several teams in league history that dominated from start to finish (shout out to 1971-72 LA Lakers), but none started like the ’95-’96 Bulls and none finished like the ’00-’01 Lakers.  Feel me?  So anyway, lets see who’d win (hypothetically).


Game Time


Home court advantage would go to the Bulls because they have a better regular season record (Lakers finished 56-26).  This is a great weapon to have (fans and favorable whistles), however true basketball fans know that if a team is playing well, then it really doesn’t matter where the game is played. 


As for match-ups you have a classic duel at the off guard spot–Mike vs. Kobe.  Being that Phil Jackson is the coach of both teams, neither would start out defending each other (but when the situation asks, it’ll be fun to watch).  Both are remarkable players who make their defenders work, so tiring them out–which would limit them offensively–would be foolish.  So Rick Fox, a solid defender would primarily shadow Mike (if Fox doesn’t get help, Mike’s going for 60 every game) and Kobe would get Scottie Pippen (one of the greatest defensive players ever…). 


Having guarded Mike in practice, Scottie will be well prepared for the kid.  But Kobe‘s no joke and he will be the toughest opponent Scottie will ever have to face in a 7 game series.  Like Joe Morgan says, “Great offensive beats great defense.” And as we all know Kobe can score…and score…and score…


At point guard (even though the Triangle Offense eliminates its traditional duties) you have a younger Ron Harper vs. Derek Fisher.  Both are solid players and great team guys.  Defensively they wouldn’t guard each other, Harp would take turns with Scottie hounding Kobe and Mike would defend Fish because he is not a primary offensive cog in the Lakers’ system (and Mike would avoid foul trouble).


Scottie Pippen and Rick Fox are the starting small forwards for both teams respectively.  As the offensive facilitator, Scottie will be the primary ball handler and initiator of the Bulls attack.  Kobe Bryant, making Scottie’s job extremely difficult, will harass him.  Harp and occasionally Mike and Scottie will guard Fox.  But because he is not a big time scorer, he will face minimal pressure similar to Derek Fisher.  


Squaring off at power forward will be Dennis Rodman and Horace Grant.  This will be a great battle.  Both are great defenders and rebounders (especially Rodman), but Grant is more of an offensive threat that will keep Rodman honest defensively–which leads us to the second most glaring mismatch on the floor.


Luc Longley checking Shaq Diesel, this is as unfair as it looks on paper.  Shaq will be the Bulls primary concern when the Lakers are on offense and sometimes defense (he’s not the greatest defender).  His presence alone is why Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and at times Horace Grant will see little defensive pressure and open shots.  If left one on one with Longley, Shaq would have a FIELD DAY and in essence dashing all the Bulls hopes of winning.  So as a result everyone not guarding Kobe will have to help Longley once Shaq gets the ball.


Off the bench, both teams deploy crucial elements into the fray.  For the Bulls you have Toni Kukoc (a great playmaker) and the sharp shooting Steve Kerr.  And for the Lakers you have an older Ron Harper and Robert “He Did It Again” Horry.  Old Harp will spell Kobe or Fish and be the set up guy, while Rob (the 3rd most important player on the squad) subs for Horace Grant and gives the team another scoring option.  Kukoc and Kerr are great (especially Kerr) perimeter shooters who are deadly if left open–which occurs because of the Jordan factor. 


Well there you have it the match ups are set, the principles have been named and the factors have been stated.  Two great teams who execute offensively and defensively, have big time players and have excellent coaching staffs (they’re the same)–I think it would be a great series.  So who do y’all think is having a parade? 


What’s the Haps?


·        Grant Hill of the Orlando Magic will most likely sit out this upcoming season.  After 4 surgical procedures his ankle is STILL not healed.  Hill is hoping he can play the following season, but if not doesn’t see a 5th operation as an option.  Props to Grant for his perseverance to get back on the court.  He was a great player and it’s a shame his career is in jeopardy.  I wish him all the best and for his sake I hope 4 turns out to be the magic (no pun intended) number.


·     The US Team beat Argentina by 33 points in their rematch for the gold medal.  Maybe they read my last article-cuz that’s how it SHOULD BE (the margin of victory that is)!


·        Speaking of our heroes…What’s up with Tracy McGrady dissin’ Eddie Casiano from the Puerto Rican national team?  After McGrady stole the ball, he raced down court, stopped, looked at the dude and then dunked the ball.  Of course Casiano was pissed, so he bumped McGrady which almost led to a team fight.  The entire incident was unnecessary, don’t show up your opponents–especially when you’re representing your COUNTRY–show some class.  For The Love! 


·        The San Antonio Spurs recently hired Mario Elie as an assistant coach and Danny Ferry was brought into the front office to assist in scouting.  In the mean time, free agent point guard Jacque Vaughn signed with the Atlanta Hawks and Malik Allen re-signed with the Miami Heat.  I know this is all WHATEVER news–but it happened–so I gotta report it.


·        Michael Jordan rejected Bob Johnson’s offer to join the Charlotte Bobcats’ front office.  Mike wants to manage his OWN team, and my guess is he also wants to prevent any possibility of being hoodwinked and bamboozled by another owner (Abe Polin).


·        Apparently Ruben Patterson has demanded the Portland Trail Blazers to trade him.  The Blazers who have Patterson on the books for $5.45 million this upcoming season can’t find any takers.  Let’s see — Patterson is a registered sex offender, was charged with domestic abuse (charges were later dropped), and was involved in a fight with a teammate.  I may be wrong, but I don’t think he should be the one making the DEMANDS.  Oh!  Did I mention that he ONLY averages 8.3 points a game?  Some of these cats be killin’ me!


·        Boston Celtics power forward Vin Baker has admitted that he has been battling alcoholism.  Baker says he is addressing his issues and has been sober for 6 months.  I wish him all the best in his mission to get his life back in order.


·        LA Sparks vs. the Detroit Shock for the WNBA glory.  This is going to be an interesting series, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Detroit pulls off the upset…but I’m going with the Sparks, they’re the defending champs.  Note:  By the time this is posted, the Shock may have pulled off the upset, so I essentially will have my bases covered.


·        Jason Terry signed an offer sheet with the Utah Jazz, giving the Atlanta Hawks 10 days to match the offer or forfeit Terry.   If the Hawks lose J.T., then I’m convinced they want to stay a lottery team.


·        The Nike Battleground Tournament was dope.  Props to Erron Maxey for winning and REPRESENTING LA to the fullest.


·        And last but not least, congratulations to James Worthy, Robert Parish, and the late great Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn on their induction into the NBA Hall of Fame.  It’s a well-deserved honor to 3 individuals who contributed a great deal to the game of basketball.


Aiight I’m done for now, so in honor of Chick, “This column’s in the refrigerator!”

P.S.  Lakers in 6.  Shaq wins the MVP–What?!