Who else thinks that dispatching the Spurs was the real test for the Lakers and that the match-up with the survivor in the East -- whether Boston or Detroit -- won't be nearly as tough?
I am no Lakers fan, but I can appreciate the way they ousted the defending champs in 5 games, how they have basically rolled through the playoffs and how Kobe can't be denied.
I stop the bitterness long enough to marvel at the Lakers in my Sporting News column today. (And if the Celtics beat the Pistons -- either tonight or in 7 -- all the folks who think I have an insurmountable anti-Boston bias will see that I can praise them, too.)
(Note my willingness to post comments from yesterday's post about the anti-Allen sentiment -- I respect that there is a different read on it, although some media reports I have seen have been different, particularly in earlier rounds when Allen was really struggling.)
(Let me say now that the Celtics and their fans put themselves in the tough spot: Winning the East isn't enough; it's NBA title or bust, and it has been that way since November. So excuse me if I don't applaud them as they move through the playoffs until they actually reach the one goal that was expected of them when they made the deal of the decade.)
Everyone agrees that winning the West means more than winning the East. I'm not saying that Kobe doesn't want a championship or Lakers fans don't want (or expect) a championship every bit as much as Celtics fans do. But consider the expectations for Lakers fans heading into the season: How about that Kobe would even be on the team in June, let alone leading them to the Finals as the dominant 1-seed in the West.)
Meanwhile, I really wanted to lead the column with MMA's broadcast network TV debut tomorrow night. It's a signature moment for the sport -- if no closer to unjumbling the increasing number of leagues trying to out-UFC the UFC. (It really reminded me of the WWF's broadcast network debut on NBC with "Saturday Night's Main Event" -- anyone else remember that first episode? I'm not saying that MMA is fixed like wrestling; but the similarities are there in terms of mainstream acceptance of a once-fringe entertainment property.)
It might be refreshing for those of you sick of me arguing that the NBA is following in the NHL's footsteps down a path as a "niche" sport to hear that I think that MMA has all the potential in the world to join the NFL, college football and baseball as a "big" sport. Then again, NASCAR thought it would be "big," and it remains merely the largest of the "niche" sports, too. Will casual fans or fans of "mainstream" sports pick up MMA? They have, increasingly, particularly among younger fans.
There's a ton more in the column today. Here's the link to check it out. Posting all weekend, as usual, hopefully with a bonus post or two today.