It’s All About The Laker ‘Bigs’
Get ready, it’s coming. The hype for this titanic Lakers-Celtics Final is about to dribble its way into your consciousness, non-stop, 24 hours a day.
You’ll read and hear and watch items about every player, every angle, every conceivable take. But there is only one that really matters for the good people of L.A.
This series is all about the Lakers’ “Bigs,” as basketball people like to call them these days. They’re the big guys in the paint, Mssrs. Gasol, Bynum, Odom and Artest.
They’re the ultimate key for Phil Jackson’s club. You know what you have in Kobe Bryant, the ferocious competitor who will spill everything he has into this best of seven event. You know Derek Fisher will make some clutch three pointers on offense and give away some big points on defense.
But what you don’t know, what none of us know, is how the “bigs” will react to the Celtics this time. It wasn’t pretty two years ago, you might remember. Pau Gasol was thrown around like a rag doll, and Boston rolled in six games.
Will Gasol be different this time? It depends. He needs help from Andrew Bynum, who might have neither the healthy knees or the stomach for this. He’ll need Lamar Odom at or near the top of his game for, oh, at least three quarters of this series, instead of the usual half.
And most of all, he’ll need Ron Artest to forget about being the shooting hero he thinks he can be and concentrate on what he does best, pushing and shoving and muscling his way in there with the big bodies for rebounds, while playing tenacious defense.
Against Phoenix, the Lakers had the only “Bigs” out there, so it wasn’t a problem, although the Suns were feisty enough to make Phil’s guys work. But now it will change. Now they go from the Phoenix middleweights to the Boston heavyweights.
Now you’ve got Kevin Garnett, who can be a brilliant player, especially on defense. You have Kendrick Perkins, the most underrated defensive big man in the NBA. You have Rasheed Wallace, last seen mauling Dwight Howard as much as he could without fouling out.
Now it gets down to the raw basics. Gasol has been a godsend for the Lakers, but he remains your basic finesse big guy. That’s OK most of the time. But this won’t be a finesse series. This will be all about the bumping and bruising.
The Celtics will be physical and come right after Gasol, Bynum and Odom, especially. You know that will be their game plan. Beat the Lakers up inside and hope Kobe will be left to force bad percentage shots outside, then spring Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen at them on the other end.
This could be less about pure athletic ability and more about intestinal fortitude. It could be the toughest, not necessarily, the best players who decide this series.
Yes, by now, we know the Laker “Bigs” are good enough. But are they tough enough?
In what should be one, long rumble of a classic series, we are about to find out.
— Steve Bisheff