As we are into 2 major sports' playoffs, a few observations:
I know I said back in the Fall I probably would not write another word about the NBA. But this IS the playoffs, so here we go...
Kobe Bryant is a one-man show. And a one-man show does NOT work in the NBA- the latest evidence being the Suns trouncing of the Lakers and Kobe's immediate dismissal in Round 1 of the NBA playoffs. I have argued before and I will again- all great NBA teams have a superstar and a complimentary player who on any other team would be a superstar. Bird/McHale/Parrish, Johnson/Jabbar/Worthy, Jordan/Pippen, Robinson/Duncan, Olajuwon/Drexler, Shaq/Wade AND Shaq/Kobe. All examples since just the 1980's of how NBA teams work with 2 or more stars. And the last example is the best- it shows how even the most selfish player in the league could win a title if he had help and was willing to accept said help.
Present Day Kobe is afloat in his own sea and he does not have a single life preserver on board to help him. I would not call Lamar Odom the supporting cast member to Kobe to get the Lakers another ring. He's not a different enough player, style-wise, not an "X-factor". The only way the Lakers misfortune will change is if either: a) Kobe gets traded to build up the right components or b) the Lakers trade for the "X-Factor". A guy like Iverson (who they could have traded for this season) or even a Ben Wallace type (who they could have bought this past off-season in FA) would be the "X-Factor" to give the Lakers a run to the Finals. But they didn't do that, and they don't have a shot at another title. And thus continues the wasted prime of Kobe Bryant.
If Kobe gets traded, that would be the biggest affirmation in sports history that a team traded the wrong guy (Shaq). And I'm not talking about bad trades or lopsided trades (e.g., Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson or Hershell Walker for every draft pick in Minnesota). I simply mean, the straight out worst decision by an owner/GM/team when being handcuffed by a self-absorbed superstar. It would simply kill the franchise for the next 3 years (about how long it would take to cultivate 2 drafted players to make up the loss of Kobe in the lineup). But after 3 years? Best damn move a team like the Lakers could make. This is a team that's fans will show up almost regardless of whose on the floor starting. How many teams in the NBA can say THAT? Maybe 3? And that would be a BIG stretch. But the Lakers could put a team of under-21's on the floor and bench, led by Lamar Odom and be better for it in 3 years. All without losing a single season ticket holder. Tell me I am wrong on this.
Some in the know feel a hypothetical/nearly probable Spurs/Suns Western Conference Final is the defacto NBA Finals. Something tells me the Pistons or Bulls MIGHT have something to say about that. I truly think the Bulls have all the goods to stop the Spurs or the Suns- and the Pistons are not far behind. Sure, it may make for "Most Boring Finals Ever: Part II" if the Pistons and Spurs make it, but I seriously doubt it is a Spurs cakewalk. The Suns are the more complete team with "better" Superstars. And by better I mean more entertaining. Steve Nash doubles the fun over Tony Parker. Amare Stoudamaire is Tim Duncan and Ginobli in 1 player. And Shawn Marion has no one from the Spurs close to him. Not to mention this team scores at will. But I am sketchy on their defense. Which is why I think the Bulls and Pistons would probably take out the Suns and would give the Spurs a run to 7 games (and flip a coin for the winner).
Preferably, I want to see the Suns make it and give a little life to the Finals. Suns and Bulls, from where I sit, is the best possible match-up given the remaining teams in the playoffs.
If you haven't been watching the NHL playoffs, but you have watched the NBA playoffs, you are SO missing the best post-season of all major sports from the 2006 and 2007 seasons. This year's NHL playoffs are absolutely amazing. And that is coming from a lifelong hockey player and NHL fan- one of the top 3 playoff seasons all time in the NHL thus far. More on this later (because I think it deserves its own post), but watching the Rangers put the foot on the gas against a completely more gifted team on both ends of the ice like the Sabres are, shows you how, more than any major pro sport, the NHL playoffs are a whole new season unto itself. And the Canucks/Ducks and Sharks/Wings games do not get nearly enough play in the media due to their condemned status being on the West Coast. But watch just 1 game, hell 1 PERIOD, any period, and I guarantee you a great show from all 4 remaining series.