Nick, who has written for STWWC before, was interviewed by myself concerning this year's classic Lakers vs Celtics NBA Finals. Hes at least 87.3% better than Chris Webber at covering the NBA
1. Will both teams be well rested enough to see their best players play? Will one team be healthier than the other?
Even with both Conference Finals Series’ going 6 games, both teams have had roughly a week off to rest up and prepare for the championship round. Several players are banged up, notably center Andrew Bynum for the Lakers and Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo for the Celtics. Backup forward Glen Davis is coming off a concussion against the Orlando Magic and Rasheed Wallace has back issues. Laker superstar Kobe Bryant has been dealing with a variety of injuries throughout the season.
In spite of all this, it’s the FINALS. Everybody will be keyed up and ready to go. I don’t think either team has an advantage in terms of health as they are equally beat up, which is pretty common come playoff time. We could see a few more injuries in this series as these two teams have a very competitive history, having met in the 2008 finals (Boston won in 6).
2. Who has the deeper bench? Do the Celtics have the better starting lineup with the Big Three plus one?
The Celtics have a deeper bench by far. They can bring in a scorer in Nate Robinson who gives opposing guards a different look with his diminutive size and tremendous leaping ability. Tony Allen is a good defensive two-guard who will see a fair amount of time checking Kobe Bryant. Marquis Daniels and Michael Finley are capable scorers, and Finley brings more championship experience, having won a ring with San Antonio in 2007. Up front, the Celtics have the dynamic duo of Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace. Both can shoot and defend. ‘Sheed knows how to get under the skin of opposing big men and I’m sure the Laker bigs aren’t looking forward to dealing with him. If we see Shelden Williams, either somebody got injured or somebody is losing by 30.
The Lakers have a bench full of role players. Lamar Odom is most versatile 6th man in the NBA. He logs the minutes of a starter and will continue to do so with Bynum facing knee troubles. Even when he’ not “lucky” as he was against the Phoenix Suns, Odom still finds a way to contribute as a scorer and rebounder. After Odom, the drop in talent is noticeable. Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga represent the Lakers reserve frontcourt. You haven’t heard of either of them for a reason. The guard tandem of Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar are decent and can keep the ship afloat when Kobe and point guard Derek Fisher need a breather. Luke Walton is a great role player but has been dealing with injuries all year. The wild card on the bench for the Lakers is guard Shannon Brown who has shown flashes of greatness this year but hasn’t been consistent. He could be a sparkplug in a Laker victory.
3. Does Phil Jackson add enough as a coach to be a huge factor in this series?
Of course! The man has won 10 NBA titles as a coach. Say what you will about him coaching Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in their primes, but those players didn’t win until Phil showed up. He is a master motivator and the triangle offense that he implements is impossible to stop. Boston coach Doc Rivers knows what he’s doing but compared to Phil Jackson it is no contest.
4. What Hall Of Famer will take over the series?
There are at least four guaranteed HOFers in this series and Boston has three of them. However, the Lakers’ Pau Gasol is also a potential HOFer and more than evens the balance with Boston’s aging stars. In crunch time, the ball will be in the hands of Kobe Bryant for the Lakers and Paul Pierce for the Celtics. Both are unstoppable end-of-game scorers with the ability to isolate and then shoot or drive. I have to give the edge to Kobe in light of his incredible performance in the Conference Finals against Phoenix. The man is playing out of his mind right now. He wants the Jordan comparisons and is on a mission to get the rings to fuel the discussion.
5. Who will win, why, and in how many games?
There are two key factors in this series. The first is the point guard matchup of Rajon Rondo versus Derek Fisher. Derek Fisher is 35 years old and couldn’t stay in front of Rondo if he had the Iron Man suit. Whether or not the Lakers can contain Rondo, who has had a phenomenal postseason, will be a major factor in the series.
The other key factor is the Kobe Bryant/Paul Pierce matchup. While they won’t be guarding each other for the most part (Paul Pierce, meet Ron Artest), their contributions will be measured against each other and they will be the playmakers at the end of the game. The player who steps up the most in end-of-game moments will decide the series.
I think that the bigs for the two teams will nullify each other. There is too much talent on both sides for one to overwhelm the other.
I think the Lakers will win in seven games in a close, physical series. They will find a way to stop Rondo either by committee or by putting Kobe on him. There will be joy in Lakerland and intense pressure on Phil Jackson to return for another three-peat.