First of all, a huge kudos to Michael Katz, who has been doing phenomenal editorial work for Quickish for the last month, on his work this past weekend -- it was as busy as a sports schedule gets (particularly with big news) and he crushed it. If you haven't yet, zip down through the weekend's coverage to get a sense of all the awesomeness from Saturday and Sunday (the page automatically adds more posts as you hit the bottom).
Now: The Lakers.
There's a lot of angles here. Let's pick a few of the more interesting ones:
*Is the dynasty over? If the definition is "Lakers as true title contender" -- a stretch dating batck to Phil Jackson's first title with LA -- the answer is yes. Part of that is because Phil Jackson is gone; part of that is because Kobe just isn't Kobe (and the supporting cast was exposed).
*Phil Jackson's legacy: I was never a big "Jordan Bulls" fan (and wasn't a "Shaq/Kobe Lakers" fan, either), but I have always loved Phil Jackson (I have a similar feeling about Bill Belichick). I think Jackson is the greatest coach in NBA history -- and it is precisely because he had the superstars. Winning championships is brutally hard; winning championships while first winning over best-ever players seems like it would be even harder. Consider the number of mega-talents who just never were able to put it together for those 16-win seasons in the spring.
(I loved Jack McCallum's idea that a team hire Phil to be president, not coach. Unclear who would do it -- Phil has that independent streak -- but I would be thrilled if it was my Wizards.)
*How the Lakers finished up: Well, which part? That they were swept? That they lost Game 4 worse than any team in NBA history? That they got a little thuggy at the end with the fouls (and the frustration)? That they acted overly miffed as they walked off the court? Two-time defending champs (and teams that have been dynastic over the past decade) get a bit more leeway than, say, LeBron or Dwight Howard, who haven't earned the right to act pissy.
There is also this (and it sort of dovetails with the Jeter-aging story of the past few weeks/months): This isn't the Lakers losing after the first three-peat, with Kobe looking at a few more years of "prime" -- not to mention the rejuvinating effect of trading for Pau Gasol a few years later, triggering Titles 4 and 5. This is the Lakers, recognizing that this may be it, for a long, long time -- more importantly, for the duration of the stars' careers. Chris Paul won't save the Lakers. Dwight Howard might, but it's unclear the Magic are interested in Andrew Bynum and his 40-year-old's knees. They are entitled to be a little dickish. You'd like them to be a bit more statesmenlike, but the same qualities that helped them win those titles are the ones that turn them into pricks when they lose. It's hard to disqualify them for that.
A few other notes:
*Few conference semifinal games feel as must-see as Heat-Celtics tonight. Totally curious how the Heat treat Rondo's elbow. (And even Thunder-Grizzlies feels like a must-win for OKC.)
*Anyone think that it doesn't really matter who wins the Bulls-Hawks series -- that either/both would lose to the Celtics-Heat winner?
*Reading all the Seve Ballesteros coverage over the past 48 hours, I regret not appreciating him more while he was active and playing well.