LONGSHOTS: Letters from the NBA finals
by Dave Long
Since weíre in my dead zone period that messes with us being current, between the loss in Game Five, filing this story before Game Six and its publication a day after that game Ö letís go to the mail bag to see what inquiring minds want to know about things up to Game Five.
Dear Dave: Are you glad you got the wish you made last February for the Celtics to face Kobe and the Lakers in the NBA Finals? Blanche Allison, Wonderland Road, Wishingwell, Kan.
Dear Blanche: Got to ask this first: you donít see a lot of Blanches around these days; is it a family name? Now for your question ó yes, Yes, YES! Win or lose, the Cs and Lakers are one of the great rivalries in sports and itís wonderful finally seeing it revived. And I say that after enduring unending repetition of ABCís Mike Breen saying the same thing over and over again about Magic and Larry.
Dear Dave: Are you a Doc guy? M. L. Auto, 16 Banners Lane, Enthusiasm City, N.C.
Dear ML: I had issues last year about the non-college guysí needing to learn fundamental basketball. But I also said then, heíd be a very good coach with a veteran team. And he has been. Although the way he uses his bench opens him to second guessing, his instinct/feel for picking the right player at the right time has been good from start to finish. So yes, Iím so much a Doc guy, Iíd have liked to play for him.
Dear Dave: Do you see Paul Pierceís comeback from his Game One injury being like Willis Reed with the Knicks in the 1970 final? Red Wholesman, 12 Pearly Gates Avenue, Phase Del Boco Vista, Heavenly, Fla.
Dear Red: No, itís more like Larry Bird getting knocked cold in the elimination Game Five vs. Indiana in the 1991 playoffs. It didnít look good when he didnít come out for the third period. But he emerged mid-way through it to give the crowd and the Cs a huge lift. Then he did real damage by finishing with 32 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists in a 124-121 win. Thatís what Pierce did, though his injury looked a lot worse than Larryís. As for Reed, he got hurt in Game Five of the finals vs. L.A. and never came back as the Knicks somehow rallied to win anyway for a 3-2 series lead. Then we learned Willis had the injury many thought Pierce had, as he tore the muscle off the bone in his hip. He missed Game Six in L.A., which Wilt dominated by scoring 45. So everyone in New York knew they were dead if he couldnít play. So we waited to see if he could and didnít know until he came down the aisle right before Game Seven started. Curt Schilling in the 2004 playoffs was more like that, as from game to game you didnít know if he could pitch. Those who saw the game know it was literally OVER after Willis scored the first four points, but, from the ďnice to know but you donít need to know file,Ē the guy who did the damage was Walt Frazier, who scored 36 with 19 assists and five steals. He was unbelievable.
Dear Dave: Are you a Phil Jackson guy? He ticked me off with disparaging comments about Paul Pierceís injury. George Michael, 23 Jordan Rules, Texas
Dear George: Psychology is part of his game and he was trying to use it downplaying the Pierce injury. Though, since he was in Madison Square Garden as (an injured) member of the Knicks, he knows a lot more than most about the Reed thing. As a coach heís won nine titles, but heís also had the best team in his 10 finals. And thereís an art to winning with that talent. But heís yet to put stealing one as a coach on the rťsumť. But still, heís pretty good.
Dear Dave: Are you in agreement with the national mediaís fawning assessment that Kobe Bryant is the equal of Michael Jordan? Marc Jaxsen, 12 Fawlshott Lane, Clueless, N.M.
Dear Marc: Iíll say this as politely as I can: they must be on drugs. I got an e-mail the other day from Manchester Millrats GM Ian McCarthy statistically comparing their careers. There is not even ONE category where Kobe is close. Thatís no knock on him, because while Iíd take Tim Duncan and Lebron James over him, heís in the top three. I make the point emphatically because a clueless, follow-the-pack media is creating a myth that many accept. You want to say Tiger Woods ó thatís a fair fight. Because like Michael, he imposes his will on the field that puts him in the back of everyoneís mind. So with due respect to Kobe ó itís embarrassing.
Dear Dave: Iíve been following the Lakers for a long time and I donít rank Kobe as high among all-time Lakers, let alone as number two in the history of the game. What do you think? Claude Chichearn, 14 Broadcast St., Hollywood Heavens, Calif.
Dear Claude: Iíll be accused of being a pre-Tarrier line fuddy-duddy, but Iím with you. It may be different as he retires, but right now heís just the sixth-best LAKER! And thatís only because Wilt played there for a few years and George Mikan is from basketballís prehistoric era. If Wilt counts and you rate on importance to winning, itís eight. And those who say ďhey what about Big Game James Worthy?Ē might move him to NINE. But Iíll stick with sixth behind (in descending order) Magic Johnson, the leader of a team with five rings; Kareem Abdul Jabbar, six MVPís and the leagueís All-Time scorer; Jerry West, great defender, scorer, passer and as good a clutch shooter with it on the line as Jordan himself; Shaq, the straw that stirred the drink when Kobe was just the second banana; and the great Elgin Baylor.
Dear Dave: You buying what Bob Ryan is selling, that Paul Pierce is the most explosive Celtic ever? Peter Mara, Vich Cove Road, Aliquippa, Pa.
Dear Peter: Iíve always been a card-carrying Pierce guy, and Ryan doesnít get caught up in the moment, so maybe. The issue is how he defines ďexplosive.Ē If it means scoring in bunches, how can he leave John Havlicek and Sam Jones out of that discussion as he did? If itís the ability to score from anywhere at anytime, he might be right. Heís got better range than Hondo and is better than Bird at taking it to the basket. If itís end-of-the-game shooting, well, Iím not sure heís as good any of those three, but heís been pretty good at that too, so heís in the argument.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.