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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

NBA REPORT

Road ahead won't be easy for Lakers


NEW YORK — Oh, but it's weird and it's wonderful; here we are, forsythia is on sale for 50 percent off, and we're on the threshold of talking about "next season" regarding the Lakers instead of "next series."

How deep is the predicament the Lakers are in?

Jerry Buss is turning over in his tanning bed.

Uma Thurman has asked Quentin Tarantino for first dibs to play Jeanie Buss in the Mavericks' version of "Kill Phil, Vol.1."

And Phil Jackson isn't smirking and trying to be clever at the post-game news conference.

Remember how the Zen Hen used to act before the Mavs battened down the first three games?

Remember how the Zen Hen conducted himself when coaching 11 NBA teams to championships with a twinkle?

His posture was above the squalor, willful and unruffled. Larry Brown wryly declared victory following a 76ers loss in the 2001 Finals for making Jackson cross his knees.

During Friday night's 98-92 setback, he got so disturbed he convened a Spanish Inquisition even before the Lakers became eyesores right before our very eyes, berating and chest-tapping Pau Gasol during a timeout.

Topping that aberrant behavior, at the post-game news conference Father Superior was barely sarcastic (he couldn't resist regarding Gasol's shot selection) or snotty and didn't try to be cute or and a know-it-all.

And while Jackson almost appeared human, Kobe Bryant envisions achieving the inhuman. He believed (at least out loud) the Lakers could revise history (no NBA team has ever successfully escaped being buried in such a Chilean miner hole) and win the series.

What else is Kobe going to say?

Nobody expects him to go away quietly. Nobody expects him to lie down. At the same time, the Spurs still hope to exploit home-court advantage should they meet the Lakers for the Western Conference crown.

I say, let's get serious, drive off L.A.'s lot in a DeLorean and see what's in store for 2011-12.

Unless Jackson has something against going out a loser, he's done coaching . . . at least for his current employer. That leaves presumptive nominee Brian Shaw with essentially the same cast of contract characters . . . save for Derrick Caracter, who's in the lineup to be the next spokesman for IHOP.

Here's the thing. They aren't getting any tighter — sources say Kobe and Gasol have had a complete falling out over something unrelated to basketball — or younger. And we all know how Hollywood feels about aging gracefully.

Kobe turns 33 over the summer, Derek Fisher turns 37 Aug. 9, Matt Barnes is 31, Ron Artest is (chronologically) 31. So are Lamar Odom and Steve Blake.

Don't get me wrong . . . 31 is a nice number if you're business is scooping ice cream, not if you're trying to scoop up titles.

Andrew Bynum won't turn 24 until right around Opening Night (let's make "lockout" a four-letter word for the purposes of this discussion), but remember . . . save for a complete sophomore season, he's never played more than 65 games at one sitting; 54 this past regular season.

So, unless Jerry West can stage another raid on Orlando and appropriate a studly savior (senseless considering Bynum's improvement) or Mitch Kupchak again can cash in on southern hospitality (Chris Paul) this is the fate of the Purple Feign going forward.

Then, there's the whole issue of trust, which has reared its ugly head any number of times. Here's the thing . . . Kobe, after taking 29 shots in Game 1, attempted just 36 in the next two combined.

Sure, the Mavs' defense has been geared to slowing him down, but there have been countless possessions where Bryant has been trying to get the understudies involved.

The result?

L.A. averaged just 89 points in the first three games while seeming more and more out of sorts.

This just in: Don Cornelius has jumped off the Gasol Train.

* * *

First Hondo, now Rondo.

In the 1973 Eastern Conference finals, Game 3, John Havlicek was chasing Bill Bradley through a maze of picks and valleys when somehow he ran smack into a brutal Dave DeBusschere screen in front of the Celtics bench.

His shoulder got badly separated.

Boston lost 98-91 to go down 2-1. Then, minus Havlicek, the Celtics led by 16 on Easter Sunday at Madison Square Garden, only to lose in double OT.

"They were totally jobbed by Jack Madden," Bill Feinberg vividly recalled last night when the former Celtics employee was asked about the Hondo's injury.

Boston lost in seven games after trailing 3-1. The Celtics won 68 games that season, never losing more than two in a row.

Havlicek played heroically. His arm was in a sling tied to his body and he had to shoot left-handed.

"I sat right behind the Celtics players," Feinberg said. "When Havlicek ran into DeBusschere, it was vicious, sounding like a loud snap!"

Rajon Rondo's fall (pull down by Dwayne Wade) may not have been as noisy as that but his twisted (dislocated) left elbow resulting from trying to break the impact was far more unsightly.

Two replays were more than I could take. I looked away from the TV during the recurrent showings on Saturday.

The sickest part came later after team doctor Brian McKeon had popped Rondo's elbow back in place and he took the court at the start of the fourth quarter.

Even if the Celtics desperately needed their irreplaceable floor leader, which was not the case (up 15), why would management and coach Doc Rivers permit an invaluable asset to compete with one serviceable arm?

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.


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