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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!

4 comments

  1. -Gerard Himself-  

    Robbi, let me tell you this: your "movie" intro was great, loved it!

    About the Spurs: I'm not sure what this team has to do, if anything, during the off-season. Maybe upgrade their bench a little bit?

    The Pistons: let's keep a close eye on them. They've been together for 4 years, well, they're main core. Sometimes something has to change, but it would be weird to see either Billups, Rip, Prince or Sheed in another jersey. I've heard some rumors about Billups and Sheed, but there's no way Prince or Rip will be traded. They're still young, and very, very effective. Billups wasn't himself during the playoffs, and I think if anyone will be gone, it's Wallace. Again, still weird.

    And Phil Jackson? He's getting his tenth!

  2. robbz18  

    Gerard: Thanks for the nice words, man. I just wanted to depict the pseudo-destiny aspect of the mathcup. It's really like it was written in the stars, man.

    Re the Pistons: Yeah, looks like Billups and Sheed are goners. I admit Billups played not as well as he usually does, but the guy did have an injury. And in Game 6, he was on fire to start the game! But Sheed? Wow. Truly a no-show. Terrible.

    Oh, yes, man! Phil is getting his 10th, at the Celtics' expense, no less!

  3. K.R.I.C.K.E.T.  

    now you're talking sense, after the years of LA hate.

    brilliant read, as always. You're giving SLAM a run for their money!

  4. robbz18  

    There are just some things you gotta accept. This is one of them.

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