Weekly Countdown: Lee's tenacity, Kobe's scowl among Finals lessons
If we're talking about the surgical scar he suffered early this postseason, the answer is a superficial yes. The toughness Lee showed while returning four games after a frightening head injury says everything about his ability to recover from one unfortunate shot off the backboard.
In Game 5 of the opening round against the 76ers, Lee was elbowed in the forehead by teammate
"All of his weight came down with his elbow," Lee said. "Oh, man, you have no idea. I've never been hit like that before. I didn't know where I got hit because the pain was all over my face, and I was throbbing and then my nose started bleeding and my teeth started clinging. When I went to the bench, I'm thinking my nose got broke, and then I look in the mirror and I got a big old knot right here."
He rubs at his forehead. "And then I rub right here and I can feel a dent. So I told Dwight, 'You put a dent in my forehead.' "
A CT scan revealed a fractured sinus. "First the doctor, who wasn't a specialist in the surgery, told me they would have to go ear to ear -- I mean an ear-to-ear incision -- and pull my skin over my face," Lee said. "When I heard that news, it was over for me. I was like, Man, I'll keep the fracture before I do that."
A specialist, Dr.
Ten days after the injury, Lee was back on the court and outfitted with a protective mask that would enable him to play in the second round against the Celtics. He had been in the game a few minutes when he dived head-first for a loose ball.
"I was so caught up in the game," said Lee, who retains a small surgical scar under his left eyebrow, just above the eye. "I really wasn't too worried about it. I got the mask, and I know if I made that decision to go out and play, I couldn't be timid."
In summary, he should be able to overcome a missed layup.
A necessary byproduct of Bryant's serious look is that it focuses his younger teammates to the urgency of the mission. This is his way of demonstrating leadership.
And that is what is needed for this team. With 3:08 remaining in Game 2 and the Lakers seeking to overcome an 82-81 deficit,
Now Nelson has returned to health, and coach
The surprise was to see Nelson on the floor and Alston on the bench throughout the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 4, which turned into a devastating loss for the Magic to give the Lakers a 3-1 lead.
"I thought we had a very, very bad third quarter, and then it wasn't so much one guy over the other," Van Gundy said. "It was just we had a unit in the fourth quarter that I thought was playing real well. And then you get down to the point where Rafer hasn't played in 10 or 12 minutes, I thought it would be hard to bring him back. Jameer wasn't doing a whole lot, but he also wasn't hurting us at all. The unit had played pretty well, so that's why I stayed with it."
Van Gundy made the right decision in bringing back Nelson for the Finals. The Magic were underdogs in the Finals -- in terms of home-court advantage as well as public opinion -- and if they were to lose the championship without seeing what an All-Star leader could give them, they would have regretted it forever. The downside, predictably, is that it has been a difficult rotation to figure on short notice.
Orlando's fans sound louder than the Lakers fans in Los Angeles, in part because the relatively new Staples Center is enormous with the lower-bowl seats spread further away from the court beneath three tiers of quiet (but lucrative) luxury suites. But the noise in Orlando works both ways. It also inspires the Lakers, and Kobe in particular.
"Our team actually responds better when we're in hostile situations," Lakers assistant coach
Before Game 4, Van Gundy was asked for his opinion of the regulation that prohibits players from entering the NBA until one year after their high school class has graduated. It's called the one-and-done rule because most teen stars go to college for one year in which they cynically pay little attention to academics before entering the NBA draft.
"I don't like the one-and-done," Van Gundy said. "First of all, I don't really understand how we get away with that as a league, that we tell a guy out of high school he can't come and play in our league. I don't know how we work that out. The guy should have the right to make a living and to come into our league.
"And what I really don't like is the way our system is set up. I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous," he said with noticeable sarcasm, "but kids should be going to college if at least part of what they want to do is get an education. The way it's set up, these guys that are on the one-and-done, they've got to take 12 credit hours their first semester, they have to pass six. Then they don't even have to attend class in the second semester.
"To me, it's a sham. But I don't want to get going in this press conference on the NCAA because I think that's about the worst organization going, so let's not get going on that one."
Van Gundy is a terrific coach. But when he decides to stop coaching, he will turn into an even better commentator on television.
The rule states that touching the rim, backboard or net has to affect the outcome of the shot. There was no goaltending on that play. Stan Van Gundy said he had no complaints that goaltending wasn't called.
Thank you, Ali, for
Why do so many of Kobe's fans carry such a large chip on their shoulders? They complain about media coverage of Bryant, but my impression over the years has been that much of his harshest criticism has come from his own coach,
Writers can't win when they write about Bryant. I get complaints from both sides -- from those who say the media are out to get Kobe as well as from those who say I'm much too nice to him.
As for your question, Tyler, which I appreciate, I think winning this championship would update everyone's understanding of and appreciation for Bryant. By winning in two eras -- a difficult achievement for a perimeter star -- he will leave behind many of the old complaints.
He must be a big fan as he has attended many of the Magic games this postseason. But it's hard to tell how he feels about the game because he is so quiet and respectful. When he's sitting courtside, he behaves like he's sitting greenside.
Had they won that home game -- they lost in overtime to Philadelphia as
The young Magic center had 40 points in the decisive Game 6 against Cleveland, which has been out of character for his postseason as a whole. In the second round, the Celtics held him to 16.4 points on 11.7 field-goal attempts, and through four games of the Finals, the Lakers' harassing team defense has limited him to 16.5 points on 8.5 attempts.
Against the Cavaliers' relatively passive interior defense, however, Howard managed 25.8 points on 13.8 attempts. Was this an issue of personnel and mismatches, or was the problem in the schemes? The likely answer is that both sides must be addressed. But I don't believe for a second that coach
Not 15 minutes earlier, Mr. Johns had greeted the children with a warm smile as they entered the museum. He stood guard to protect them, and I am certain that all of us -- the children who were there, and the parents grateful beyond words for their safety -- will forever respect and honor the heroic sacrifice made by Mr. Johns, in addition to the quick response of his colleagues. My prayers are with his family, and in particular his 11-year-old son. It is a sad day.