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By now, NBA fans will surely have seen Shaq's impromptu "freestyle" that really puts Kobe Bryant on blast.

It was harsh, yeah, but did we really expect anything less from Shaq? I mean, this is the same dude that called Erick Dampier a WNBA player and referred to the Sacramento Kings as the "Sacramento Queens". So, really, was that surprising?

That's not even considering his complex relationship with Kobe Bryant.

But, perhaps more surprisingly (or not), is that we have yet to hear from the Black Mamba.

Well, I was on my daily visit to SLAM and Russ Bengston took it upon himself to issue Kobe Bryant's potential rebuttal. And man, this sh*t bites harder than Nas' "Ether".

This is so cot-damn funny it should be considered an instant classic. I only wish Kobe would come out and post this sh*t on Youtube. Damn, Russ... You are a god.
The following is taken from Russ Bengston's "Pop Goes The Diesel":

Your reign on the top was short like leprechauns
Sure-thing rings lost to Wallaces and Olajuwons

You’re a true, what? You’re a true blue pr*ck
On the outside you’re happy, on the inside you’re sick
Oh, my bad, I forgot, that’s just part of your schtick

Admit it, you just mad ‘cause your career’s almost over
You’re a black hole while I’m still supernova

And while we’re on the topic of being a star
I’ll be in Phoenix in February—can I borrow your car?
Since I’ll be in the game, I won’t drive it too far

I remember when you had the Reebok Shaqnosis
Now you’re working on a coronary thrombosis
I live in the gym, you’ve got a body by Hostess

Nike makes me shoes and spots, I jump cars for fun
Tell you what, I’d rather hang with Jackass than be one

You claim to be a player, but I f*cked your wife
Yeah, that’s just jokes, but—haha—I f*cked your life

Wanna go after me for your problems, nah, that’s all on you
And those big alimony checks—those are all on you too
Watch Shaunie stack those chips while you get blue

And what’s this I hear about how you went after Kareem?
You’ll never be like him, he was part of a team
Forget about Cap, were you even better than Dream?

Please explain the MDE with one MVP?
That’s like calling yourself a forest when you’re only one tree
Russ had five, Wilt had four, even Moses had three

As for the rings, yeah, you wound up with four
But the Most Dominant Ever should really have more
You weren’t the most feared to ever step on the floor

Those three titles we won, yeah, I couldn’t have done it without you
At least I can admit it, how ‘bout you, Shaq-Fu?

It’s always all about you—the big center of attention
But you ain’t notorious, never had that dimension
Coulda stayed in L.A. but you had to have that extension

You can score in the paint, can’t get it done at the line
Say “I hit ‘em when it matters” and everything’s fine?
Those ugly-ass bricks don’t take from your shine?

Nah, I guess not, but while it may not hurt your fame
It’s something to consider when you’re benched at the end of the game

And now new guys are coming through to rip that S off your arm
Bad enough you lost your game, now you even lost your charm

What ever happened to you, when did you get so bitter?
Used to be a champion, now you’re a quitter
Could have done more in Miami if you only got fitter

If you couldn’t take the fire, should have stayed out the Heat
You’re so out of shape you can barely THINK on your feet
And they even took your badges, that I’m sorry to hear
Because at least then you might have had another career

Call yourself a cop? You’re nothin’ but a pig
And rhyme all you want, you can never be Big

I’m a Laker for life, you’re just another man on a journey
In fact, don’t ever speak to me, just call my attorney
Keep playing with fire, you ain’t gonna burn me

You think you can spit? Like those six Grammies mattered?
You never were sh*t, but I’m glad you were flattered

You never really could rhyme, got carried by many
Kind of like how it worked with Dwyane, Kobe and Penny

People only rhymed on your records because they knew you had money
You think they laughed at your jokes ‘cause they thought you were funny?
Always thought you was Vito when you’re really a Sonny

As for your movies, they laughed WITH you, as far as you know
But maybe you should go back to school, like Neon Boudeaux

And hey, my coach came back, unlike Mike D’Antoni
He chose the KNICKS over you, you big f*cking phony
You think you a horse, but you barely a pony

I’ll be in Beijing this summer, going for gold
You could be too, if you weren’t so old

Face it, you mad, that’s why you came at me first
If I show you my trophy, will it slake your MVP thirst?

I got to stay home, you got displaced.
As years go by, your memories erased.
What was that, Diesel? How does your ass taste?
Shouldn’t you know? You’re the one sh*tfaced.

Digg! BallHype: hype it up!

I started this blog just for the hell of it. It seems to be the "in" thing now, and I thought it'd be cool to join in on the fun. After all, it really is fun to write, and it's nice to be able to put your thoughts out there.

Slowly (as in snail-slow), my blog has picked up a few regulars. So I started scouring around the net for more blogs and saw some nice-looking blogs out there. I soon noticed that there was a lot more to blogging than just writing, and what was once considered merely an avenue for my ramblings has turned into sort of like a mini-column. This wasn't purely about writing anymore, folks. Like with cars, there has to be a peaceful balance of style and substance.

So, as recently as two weeks ago, I decided to really up my blogging game. With Kricket's help, I was able to find a better (but not perfect) template. I know skulls and bones ain't really my thing, but damn if that template didn't look hella nice! But don't worry, I'm not emo.

And soon after, I put up some nice YardBarker and BallHype buttons in every piece I wrote, even non-basketball related ones. And I must admit, it doubled my traffic. It went from one to two!

All kidding aside, though, it really did help in gaining some mild exposure. As you can see in Kricket's heart-warming homage to my short stint as a featured blogger, this piece somehow stumbled its way onto YardBarker's Top Stories for the Day. Needless to say, that made me very happy. I know it's not much, but it was a solid start. Along with that, my last two pieces surprisingly garnered around 20 "barks", which is definitely a big step up from my previous mark of zero. Hell, my story was even linked to, once!

Now, yes, I admit first-hand the disgusting self-love currently going on here, but please don't mistake this schoolgirl giddiness for arrogance. I am simply in a great mood because, let's be honest, it feels good to be recognized for something you worked hard on. It just feels nice that, in some weird way, this has turned into something that not only I enjoy.

But that's only part of the reason why I wrote this post.

Like I said above, blogging is starting to evolve. What was once purely about writing has now grown into a mini-industry of sorts. Case in point: the ability to make money.

Yup. First, it was about the content. Then, it somehow became about the appearance. And now, it's more like running your own business.

And that's really what I want to share with all of you right now. I recently read a post on The Sports Dollar on how we can get rich off blogging. And yeah, it's probably skewed towards the sports bloggers, but there are some tips there that are applicable to most blogs, too. Sometimes, maybe, you change BallHype to Digg, but it's not that complicated.

Basically, that's all I wanted to share. Maybe most of you have done way more to promote your blogs than I have... But if you haven't, then maybe it's time to seriously consider upgrading your blogs.

Shit, like I said, we can make money off this! And while writing is still the main thing, it's nice to get some cash on the side. I don't wanna get rich alone... We're in this together!

Here's the link to start you off: 80 More Tips To A Better Sports Blog

Digg! BallHype: hype it up!

Yes, it's all over.

I realize that I may be a little late to the party. Simply posting game notes right now would be absurd and pointless. Surely so many other people have done a better and more thorough job than I could possibly do even on my best day.

So, right now, with reality and lucidity setting in, I feel I can write a much better piece than I could have written right after the Celtics were crowned. So far, I can feel the (undeserved, inappropriate and frankly, out of left field) Celtic hate fleeting my body. Gone, too, is that sudden and creepy impulse to cheer for the Lakers (and Kobe, no less)!

That will not be the most bizarre realization I will have, however. As soon as the Finals concluded, thoughts just poured into my mind. Not entirely about the NBA, mind you, but also about life. There's just too many great stories and characters here that simply deducing it to "winners" and "losers" just doesn't do this series justice.

We all know the story by now. After years of toiling away for the Wolves, Kevin Garnett finally manages to break on through to the other side. Watching his post-game interview, seeing just how happy and relieved he was, really gave me goosebumps. I'm not exactly his biggest fan, but it was just so sweet to see him get his ring. If not for the fact that I was at work during that moment, I bet a tear would've been shed.

It just feels so good because his victory is sort of like a validation that hard work truly pays off. I didn't always believe that, especially since I value "smart work" more than "hard work", but it works. KG just proved it.

It's inspiring because here was a guy who was mad-talented (who certainly had enough clout to influence management) but kept it classy throughout the years. He may have shown some frustration (who hasn't?) but it was always of the "get me some help" variety instead of the standard "ship my ass out". He didn't want to leave 'Sota, he always wanted to stay. Even as recently as the 2006-2007 season, he was begging for Iverson to come to his team. Only when it seemed hopeless did he finally give up on the Wolves. Yet, when he won his title, he never forgot Minnesota. Loyalty. Apparently, wolves are also familiar with the concept.

Then, here was this dude named Paul Pierce, who just wouldn't let his team lose. Here's a dude who, knowing that his window is slowly closing, just up and decided to take matters into his own hands and never let this one slip away. Remember the regret you felt when you didn't ask out that one special girl? Well, P-Double asked his out, and closed the deal to boot. The sense of urgency I saw in his every drive was phenomenal. It's called "seizing the day", and boy, did Paul ever seize.

And that's just from two players. I won't even write about Rajon Rondo playing on a broken foot, Ray Allen putting family first but still knocking down 7 treys in the series clincher, and Doc Rivers' rise to prominence after his stint in coaching hell.

But on the other end of the spectrum, we have the Los Angeles Lakers, who suffered a humiliating meltdown at the hands of the Celtics. Yes, they deserve more credit than they are getting right now. After all, they did still beat the defending champions.

Still, though, you can't help but feel a little disgusted at their performances. Once again, Lamar Odom crumbled in the Finals, but it's not like the Spurs were chopped liver. I truly believe that if we are to conclude that Odom is unable to play in big games, then he would've done it way back when they were battling the Utah Jazz. As it stands, however, LO only played consistently terrible against the Celtics. And I think it has to do more with lack of effort than anything else. Same goes for Pau Gasol, who only seemed interested in playing during portions of a game.

And I think that's the biggest reason the Los Angeles Lakers lost. They didn't want it enough. Maybe they became over-confident, or maybe they quit so early into the series. I can totally see it happening, though. They must've felt like for the next 5 years or so, they will be strong championship contenders. And that they can afford to let this one slip, because -MAYBE- they believed they will be in the Finals again next year. Which is not guaranteed, at all. I'm sure Kobe Bryant doesn't feel this way, and neither does Derek Fisher. But what about the rest of this young team?

It's like all those times we say to ourselves, "there's going to be a second chance"... But what if there isn't? What if that opportunity never presents itself again? Then what are you left with? Nothing but regrets.

Of course it's unrealistic (not to mention physically impossible) for us to grab every opportunity out there. Ultimately, we will have to let some of them go. But that's where priorities come into play. We have to understand what's important, and as far as I can tell, winning a championship is probably the greatest prize in the sport. This is the time when we lay it all out there, similar to the times we worked so damn hard to get a diploma, or conquering fear just to be able to drive. It's that desire for something so great that makes us put our body and mind through so much, and somehow, that's what I felt was missing from the Lakers this year.

Apologies if this turns out to be a tad preachy, and there's probably so many more events that better show the strength of the human body and mind, but this is the most recent reminder that, should we want it enough, we can get it.

Like Kevin Garnett shouted emphatically, "Anything is possible!"

And for the first time in my life, I find myself agreeing with KG.

Thanks for reminding me what I need to do, dog. Congratulations.

Photo credit again goes to Getty Images, from Yahoo!

Digg! BallHype: hype it up!

Aside from the wack officiating in the first half of Game 2, the biggest controversy could be the truth behind Paul Pierce's knee injury. For the past 3 days, I have read so much about it that I don't even know what to believe anymore. 

Some say Pierce faked the whole thing, from the crumpling to the floor in agony to the wheelchair shenanigans to his eventual inspirational comeback. They claim that somebody who suffered an injury like that (and required the afore-mentioned wheelchair) simply should not have been able to come back 2 minutes later. If it was that bad, they said, then Pierce should have been unable to play-hell, walk-for a week, at the very least

I have to admit, even I was skeptical at first. I mean, knee injuries are no joking matter, and the Lakers have Andrew Bynum as proof of that. So anytime a knee is damaged, it truly is a cause for concern. Even Pierce said he heard a "pop", so it must be real. But when he returned quicker than lions pounce on fresh meat, I sided with the conspiracy thoerists. Maybe he was indeed faking it, trying to rally the crowd and his team and basically having his own Willis Reed moment. The fact that he led the Celtics to the victory and managed to score 22 points on the night. Then, he followed it up with bullish 28 points (along with the game-sealing drive) in Game 2 to put the Lakers in a 0-2 hole. Needless to say, Pierce was giving the skeptics (or as we call them: Laker fans) plenty of ammunition to doubt the validity of his knee injury. 

But along the way, I felt Paris Hilton-like (as in "dumb", not "f**ked") because I wasn't exercising the most basic of my human abilities: my common sense. 

It was entirely possible that it was just a scare; that Pierce was actually hurt during that moment yet it was nothing but a momentary pain. Maybe a muscle got bruised or some other thing. I surely can't blame him for hurting and still manage to accuse him of over-selling the injury, right? Right. I was convinced that it was nothing more than a minor injury. 

But just a few minutes ago, I grabbed an old SLAM magazine to browse to while eating my dinner. It was the April 2003 issue, with the "Allen Iverson-American Hero" tagline on the cover. I decided to read the Elton Brand article inside. It was an interview conducted when he was about to enter free agency. Here is what was written regarding the Clippers' drafting of both Chris Wilcox and Melvin Ely in the first round (ooh boy, nice way of reminding me of how terrible the Clippers front-office is) of the draft.

From SLAM:
".... It was even part of the reason he (EB) didn't tell anybody about his injured knee during workouts with the U.S. national team before its ill-fated, sixth-place belly-flop in the World Championships. Eventually Brand couldn't keep the secret any longer. He had torn lateral miniscus in his right knee. Hello, arthroscope.

"I was coming up on restricted free agency, whatever that is, and I was nervous," Brand admits. "I tried to play on it, and I tried to say that it wasn't hurt as bad as it was. But when I had an MRI, we saw the tear. It made sense,  because I couldn't run or jump off it. I wanted to play through it, though.""

He did, however, manage to recover in time for the following season. And we know he was able to lead the Clippers back (have they ever been there?) to the post-season in 2006. So really, it's not all bad news. 

Now, I have no idea how Elton injured his knee, and I really can't say which injury was worse. In fact, there could be no injury at all. But I'm just putting out there the possibility that Paul Pierce could really be injured right now. Whether the rush of playing in the NBA Finals masks the pain or he's just gutting it out, we can't discount the fact that he may be playing on only one wheel.

For some other-worldly reason, I'm rooting for the Lakers right now. Still, I can't delight in the fact that a player is injured in the biggest games of his career. I know full well how much Pierce wants a chip, and to see it slip away from him due to a freak accident is not something I want to witness. 

But maybe, just maybe, we should put to rest the accusations that he faked it. And maybe start considering (and admiring) the fact that even on a bad knee, Paul Pierce just continues to pwn the Lakers, two games deep. 

Besides, wouldn't you want the Lakers to beat Boston at their best?

Photo credit goes to Getty Images, from Yahoo!

Digg! BallHype: hype it up!

Aside from the NBA Finals, there are two things that are on constantly on my mind: Grand Theft Auto IV and Usher's latest album, "Here I Stand".

And, in an attempt to somehow diversify my blog and please all you non-NBA fans out there reading my blog (yup, all three of you), I want to share my thoughts on those releases.

I know this is a bit late, having been out since April, but I just got this game last Sunday. And man, I wouldn't wish the long and torturous wait on anyone.

5 hours into the game, this is absolutely the greatest game I have ever played. No, don't confuse "greatest" with "perfect", and it saddens me to hear people call this game over-rated. Just like in life, there will never be a perfect video game. There will always be compromises, whether it be due to hardware limitations, software capacity, time constraints or just plain ole' developer mediocrity.

And it is with this realization that I so readily proclaim GTA as the king of games. It's just the over-whelming details the developers have flooded us with. Everything here just screams "next-level" GTA. The city has been rendered so beautifully that you can practically hear the "booos" directed to Isiah Thomas. The people populating the city are exceptionally varied you'd swear you knew them. It's that diverse. Hell, I was walking down the street when a car intentionally ran me over because he claimed that "his car wouldn't get hurt, but you will". Crazy. Sometimes, in fact, it's enough to scare me from going to New York City.

I also like the details peppered all throughout the city. There are faux versions for all things relevant in today's pop culture. Surprisingly, though, I never expected to see Ricky Gervais performing stand-up. And let's not forget the amazing selection of music. The theme song, in particular, is both haunting and climactic.

Technically, though, this is a very big step up from previous GTA's. This is what next-gen gaming is all about. The movements and physics are so real, it really pained me to see Niko Bellic getting ran over by a car. The way their arms and legs flail wilder than Michael Flatley's is disturbing. This is not a cartoon, and I'm glad their physical movements reflect that.

5 hours in, with most of my time spent on watching the TV in my apartment (the perfect way to cap off a day of killing random dudes), I've only just begun to get to the good part of the story. But from my brief playing time, character development has been astounding. This is no random character on a rampage. Everything he does has a purpose, and just like in GTA: San Andreas, you will soon form a bond with your main character.

There are a few quibbles, however... For one, the driving aspect of the game underwent a drastic change. Whereas, in the past, handling was pretty smooth, Take-Two seemingly decided to make things more "realistic". In turn, I think they only made it worse. I bought GTA for the open-ended gameplay, not for Gran Turismo-like vehicle handling, dammit! I just want tight handling and I don't care if my pickup truck handles like a Ferrari.

Lastly, despite welcome changes, I think the combat aspect could still be improved. They made the necessary improvements (cover, blind-fire, etc.), but it still feels a bit too mechanical. The controls remind me too much of Tomb Raider. I expect this to get better.

In all, this is still one of the finest games ever made. Like I said, compromises can never be avoided, so maximizing all of your resources is key to making a great game. GTA was never meant to be the next Gears Of War. To match the graphics of Metal Gear Solid was never in their intentions. Instead, they set out to make the most immersive world out there. One that would capture life in the big city. In other words, it set out to be the perfect Grand Theft Auto. And for that, mission accomplished. Stop hatin'.

Mature. Grown man music. Underwhelming. Lost the edge.

These are just a few of the things I read bout Usher's latest disc (or, more appropriately, group of .mp3 files). And, with all due respect to the critics out there, I'd like to disagree.

These types of assessments lead me to question the mindset of our society (or maybe America's). They say that by getting married (or maybe, being genuinely happy), Usher lost his edge. He lost the sexiness that used to ooze out of his past songs. Where were the "U Don't Have To Call"'s? The jams so sex-infused they could impregnate women upon listening? "Where are those now", they ask. In all honesty, it's still there. It just so happened that they are not the lone topic Usher discusses.

They claim he wasn't being creatively musically on "Here I Stand". That it's basically the same tunes he's been singing all throughout his career. That could not be farther from the truth. Yeah, the tunes may sound slightly similar, but the lyrics sure have changed. It's pathetic how critics say he should have sticked to the getting his sexy on. After all, isn't a person supposed to grow? To somehow mature and view life from a different perspective? This is exactly what the album is... Usher's entry into the world of fatherhood. And while I am in no way being that mature soon, I appreciate the fact that Usher wasn't afraid to branch out. Jay-Z said it best on "Best Thing", "boys become men". Spoken perfectly by the newly-minted Mr. Beyonce Knowles.

Still, though, this isn't all substance and no style. It's not like Usher suddenly forgot how to churn out hits, after all. There are plenty of juicy tracks here. The lead single, "Love In This Club", is hella catchy. And it's proof that although the Usher we knew is quickly evolving, he still has the good sense to throw us a sensual jam about, yes, making love in a club. The song's remix, "Love In This Club Part 2", is equally sweet, with Usher and Beyonce playfully playing cat-and-mouse.

The new single, "Moving Mountains", is heartfelt. It's such a pleasure hearing the man singing his heart out in a struggle to win the heart of his woman back. "His Mistakes", a personal favorite of mine, was written by Ne-Yo and is perfectly sud-dued and mellow. These are songs that shows Usher's more vulnerable side, and is unlike all the other cookie-cutter songs out there.

Hell, you want variety? Try this: Usher gets his inner R. Kelly on in "Trading Places", the afore-mentioned "Best Thing" with Jay-Z is a future hit, the Stevie Wonder-ish "Here I Stand" is magnificent, the Motown-tinged "Something Special" makes you warm inside, and the bonus track "Will Work For Love" is cheery and cute, despite the desperate undertone.

See? Despite most people pigeon-holing this album as "lame", it actually isn't. A majority of the songs just focus more on the less-extravagant parts of a relationship. The songs are still hip, the mandatory big-name producers (The-Dream, Will.I.Am, Polow Da Pon, etc.) are out in full force, and he's still putting out hits. What's there to not like?

Actually, there's one thing I dislike about this. Despite being good all the way through, I think the album is much too long. At over 70 minutes, it may be too long for some people. And really, there are songs that could have been left off. It's a shame, really, because the length could prevent some people from ever listening to "Here I Stand" and "Will Work For Love".

Despite that, this has been on "PLAY" for 4 straight days now. It's that good. The last album to do this to me was the vastly under-rated "Love/Hate" by The-Dream. "Here I Stand" is a truly wonderful album, and one that I recommend buying to just about anybody out there.

Well, at least the mass population agrees with me.

Digg! BallHype: hype it up!

Tony Montana's rise from everyday thug-for-hire into a drug emperor... The death of Little Foot's mother and his eventual discovery of the "promised land"... Luke Skywalker's slow transformation from Jedi into the Sith Lord...

Time and time again, Hollywood has provided us with the greatest stories. The most exciting finishes. The toughest battles.
And this year, we have the NBA's version of a summer blockbuster.

In a fashion not unlike the most spectacular films, the NBA's two most-recognizable franchises are set to battle for the ultimate prize. Two clubs with lots of history, with the participants having so much to prove.

Can Kobe Bryant really win a championship without Shaq? Can Phil Jackson surpass Red as the king of coaches? Will KG shed the label of "un-clutch" that he has been carrying for years? Who's that dude on the Celtics wearing # 20? Will Pierce will his way into the elite group of Celtics greats?

These questions will be answered soon, when the NBA Finals commence.

But first, I'd love to put my thoughts out there to the two Conference Runner-Ups.

The San Antonio Spurs are not done, by any means necessary. Yes, they are aging, but I would not consider them old. They are still one of the smartest, most experienced teams out there. To say there are over-the-hill is akin to saying Dane Cook is funny; it's just not true. Remember, people also tagged them as past their primes when Dallas beat them in the semis way back in 2006. Yet, since then, the Spurs have been champions once more and the Mavs' title hopes have clearly been squashed.

Yes, the Spurs have lots of issues to address. Despite a core group that I see redeeming themselves next year, they really need some fresh blood off the bench. Horry's status is still up in the air, and so is Mike Finley's. But even if they do come back, it's not like they will be overly productive. Ime Udoka is a nice player and should be able to fill Bowen's blood-stained shoes nicely, but everything else needs improvement. Especially since it's looking like Tiago Splitter would rather play overseas. But still, when all is said and done, when the dust settles and when the sun (or the Suns) sets, the Spurs will be right where they were for the past decade: in the hunt for the title and the singular team that all championship hopefuls must overcome.

As for the Detroit Pistons, the cracks are starting to show themselves. I can't (and won't) say that they are doomed, but for the first time in quite a few years, the franchise as a whole is looking vulnerable. Just this day, Joe Dumars has fired Flip Saunders and openly implied to the public that nobody on the starting five is safe. This is big news for a team that has essentially kept the same starting five for the past 5 years.

I'm glad, though, that Dumars admitted that. This club needs some serious re-tooling. As good as their starters are, they seem to allow themselves to collapse in the biggest of games. Whether it's due to complacency, lack of respect for their coach or some other crazy thing that I would not put past Detroit, the facts are there. Three straight trips to the Conference Finals, three straight exits in the Conference Finals. And come October, we could be seeing an entirely different Pistons opening five. Which is what exactly they need.

But now, let's head on to the NBA Finals match-up...

By now, most of you have probably read so much about the Lakers-Celtics match-up. And just like me, maybe you would all just like to move past the smokescreens and get on with the games. So with that, let me keep things short and sweet.
Just like I said, Boston would finally slay the road demons and use their previous Game 7's to their advantage. After sending Detroit home in six, I feel like the Celtics finally learned how to effectively play together in the post-season. Ray Allen found his stroke, Kevin Garnett's offense has improved and hopefully Pierce accepts the role as team closer. The bench also played solid defense all throughout, and was capped of by Posey's steal on Prince.

The Lakers, on the other hand, have been disspelling the notion that young teams should "pay their dues" first. Although if you have a future Hall-Of-Famer, I think it's a reasonable exception. Kobe Bryant has been playing lights out, and I SERIOUSLY doubt Pierce or Posey can defend him. Hell, all Bowen had to do was guard and Kobe still handed it to Bruce.
But really, I'm making my prediction based solely on one thing...

Tell me if you recognize these names: Rudy Tomjanovich, Gregg Popovich, Phil Jackson, and Pat Riley. All great coaches, yes, but also the only coaches to have won a championship since 1991. That means the past 18 titles have revolved around just 4 coaches. Stretch that a bit and you see Pat Riley winning two more with Lakers back in the 80's. That in itself is unprecedented.

But look deeper (and for basketball junkies, it shouldn't be that deep), and you'll see that Phil Jackson has half of those. But let's play "what if" and assume that had MJ not "retired", the Bulls would have won 8 straight championships. That would up his total to 11, and a good argument can be made that they let one slip away to the Pistons in 2004.

Yeah, that's a lot of assumptions right there, but the reality is this, Phil Jackson always found a way to win the title when given great talent. And in my opinion, this is a very, very good Laker team. They aren't as flashy as the Bling Dynasty, and they aren't seen as rock stars like the '96-'98 Bulls, but this team gets the job done. Everybody knows their role well. Pau Gasol is skilled offensively and is a respectable defensive presence and rebounder. Lamar Odom is starting to get his head on right and holds accountability for his play. Derek Fisher is playing inspired. The bench is a healthy mix of crazy (Turiaf) and fundamentals (Walton). In short, this is a TEAM. And I just can't bring myself to believe a TEAM as solid as this, when coached by Phil Jackson, cannot win a title this year.

This will be a battle for the ages. But, using as much common sense as I possibly can, there is only one clear result...

Los Angeles Lakers, NBA Champs 2008.

Digg! BallHype: hype it up!

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