Pippen says that Dwight Howard can’t carry a championship team

He should know — ba dum bump!

But let’s get serious: Scottie Pippen took a break from hosting cheerleading contests in China to tell the Orlando Sentinel the following…

“He’s a very special player but I don’t think he’s going to win a championship until he gets another superstar to play alongside of him,” Pippen said recently while visiting Orlando. “A guy that’s very consistent and has that drive, that’s what it’s going to take. I don’t think that he can carry a team to a championship.”

“He’s not that great of a scorer, he’s not a good shooter and he’s not a good foul shooter. So in the latter parts of the game, as big as he is and as much athleticism as he has, that becomes very small when the game gets into crunch time. He’s not the type of player that can dominate a game in the fourth quarter.”

Pippen is entitled to his opinion, but let’s not forget that Dwight Howard led the Magic to a Finals appearance (beating a very good Cavs team along the way) at the age of 23. Orlando lost 4-1, but Game 2 went into overtime (after Courtney Lee just missed a layup that would have won the game), so with a little luck, the Magic would have headed home with the series tied, 1-1.

Howard is just 24 now, and while his post game is certainly not polished, it is improving. He has developed a baby hook with both hands to go along with his signature power game. And let’s not forget that both Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal didn’t win an NBA title until the age of 27, so it took both players a few years to figure things out.

Howard should be able to develop a lot in three years, regardless of Pippen’s opinion on the current state of his game. These days, it takes two superstars (or one superstar and two stars) to win a title: Kobe/Gasol, Boston’s Big Three, Duncan/Parker/Ginobili, Wade/Shaq, Shaq/Kobe, Jordan/Pippen, Olajuwon/Drexler. The only recent champions not listed there are the ’04 Pistons (superior chemistry and balance) and the ’94 Rockets (dominant big man surrounded by shooters).

Would another superstar help? Sure. Is it an absolute necessity? History has proven that it isn’t, assuming Howard continues to develop.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Bill Simmons chimes in on Kobe

Bill Simmons isn’t too keen on all the talk about how Kobe Bryant went through a metamorphosis this season.

They had the second-best player in the league (Kobe), the second-best center (Pau Gasol), a talented forward with a unique set of skills (Lamar Odom), a breakout swingman (Trevor Ariza), a terrific leader and character guy at point (Derek Fisher), and that’s about it. They caught three breaks from February on — Kevin Garnett’s knee injury killing Boston’s season, Cleveland stupidly opting not to move Wally Szczerbiak’s expiring contract for one more piece, and Yao Ming breaking his foot in Round 2 — and cruised from there. You would not call them great, just very good. I would compare them to the 2003 Spurs, 2005 Spurs or 2006 Heat — the cream of a flawed crop of contenders.

Did they deserve to win the title? Of course. But they didn’t win because Kobe “really wanted this” and “trusted his teammates” and “finally figured it out” and all that revisionist crap.

If you’re playing the “Shut up, Kobe was better this spring!” card, your only real evidence is two signature Kick-Butt Kobe Finals Games (Games 1 and 5). But if you’re selling the “Kobe finally gets it” angle, then why was he gunning for 40 points at the tail end of a Game 1 blowout when he had already taken 30-plus shots? In Game 2, why did he go one-on-four for the winning basket (and miss) and ignore three wide-open teammates? Why did everyone so willingly gloss over the fact that, from the second quarter of Game 3 through overtime of Game 4, he missed 31 of 46 shots and kept shooting, anyway? Or that, near the tail end of Game 5, Kobe was so desperate to drain the clinching dagger that he clanged two 27-footers and allowed Orlando to climb within 12? Or that he didn’t have a single clutch moment in the Finals other than his sweet dish to Gasol during their frantic Game 4 comeback.

The entire piece is worth a read, especially for all of the Kobe apologists and Kobe haters out there. Simmons is quite complimentary towards the end.

I think Bryant altered his game somewhat, but it had as much (or more) to do with a much improved supporting cast as it did with any substantive changes to his mentality as the Lakers’ best player. He still took a number of bad shots, but he passed the ball more. The mentality to take over is still there and he doesn’t have complete trust in his teammates, but I’d say he has an appropriate trust in his teammates.

Simmons focuses on the change between last year and this year and, honestly, I don’t think Kobe changed much in that span. In the instant the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, Kobe went from unhappy to happy. It was that acquisition that made Kobe believe that the Lakers really had the roster that could go the distance. His outlook was more positive and it (usually) translated to his on-court demeanor.

Finals reaction

Bill Plaschke, LA Times: Bryant, the Finals MVP, becomes possibly the most unburdened player in NBA history as he finally wins a title without former teammate and nemesis Shaquille O’Neal, who had earlier won one without Bryant. “I just don’t have to hear that criticism, that idiotic criticism, anymore,” said Bryant, who ended a week of growling intensity by literally gnawing at his fingernails in anticipation of Sunday’s final horn. Sitting with a Moet-soaked T-shirt in the interview room underneath Amway Arena, Bryant shook his head, grinning and chuckling, the taut and tough leader finally admitting that the Shaq rap ripped him. “It was like Chinese water torture . . . it was just annoying . . . I would cringe every time,” he said. “I was just like, it’s a challenge I’m just going to have to accept because there’s no way I’m going to argue it.”

George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel: A flurry of turnovers, missteps and mistakes. The Magic bumbled their way through the evening, turning the Am into a roadhouse version of the Staples Center. It was an embarrassing way to say goodbye to the season. You lose, you lose. But you always play hard. Always. The Magic only did that in spurts Sunday. And that’s how you get blown out by a superior team. The Lakers deserved to be champions. They found ways to close out games in the clutch, unlike the Magic, who lost two of these matchups in overtime.

Michael Ventre, NBC Sports
: Next season the Lakers have a team returning that, theoretically, should be favored to repeat. The club has two major free agents in Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza to try and lock up, but given the history of the Lakers and the fact that both players were vitally important to this championship run, it appears that will occur. It would not be a surprise if general manager Mitch Kupchak snagged another player through free agency or the draft, either. It’s almost impossible for any coach to turn his back on that. The allure of another championship? It’s one thing if a coach is foiled time after time by the agony of the pursuit, has a relationship with the Larry O’Brien Trophy similar to the one Captain Ahab had with Moby Dick, and just decides to pack it in. It’s quite another if someone says to the reigning virtuoso, “How would you like to play Carnegie Hall one more time?”

Chris Sheridan, ESPN: Want to know why Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson sat there on the Magic bench, blank expressions adorning their faces, after that final buzzer? Why Superman and one of his All-Star sidekicks stuck around as the championship trophy podium was hastily assembled and the Lakers stood victorious atop it? Because that was what Howard wanted, and he wanted Nelson to witness, feel and share every raw, painful emotion that was tearing him apart inside. “He wanted me to sit out there and let it soak in so we could get that feeling — that bad feeling, actually, of how it feels, and not let it happen again,” Nelson said. “We don’t want it to happen again, so we stay out there to let it soak in, get upset a little bit. “A motivational thing, that’s it,” Nelson said.

Ladies and gentlemen, your World Champion Los Angeles Lakers

Yep, the Lakers rolled, 99-86, to eliminate the Magic in Game 5 of the 2009 Finals. It is the franchise’s 15th title and Phil Jackson’s 10th as a head coach.

Kobe got his first ring without Shaq. His legacy as one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players is secure. Even though he is the league’s most polarizing personality, he deserves a ton of credit for the way he led the Lakers this season. He deferred to his teammates time and time again, and they came through when it mattered most. This is no big deal for a lot of players, but Kobe is a different beast.

Unfortunately for the Magic, the competitiveness of these Finals is going to fade as time goes on. The Lakers’ ability to clinch in five games seems dominant on paper and people are going to forget that if not for two plays — Courtney Lee’s missed alley-oop in Game 2 and Jameer Nelson’s failure to contest Derek Fisher’s game-tying three in Game 4 — this series easily could have gone into Game 5 with the Magic leading, 3-1. But by losing tonight the way they did, most people are going to forget how evenly matched these two teams were.

Heading into the offseason, it’s going to be interesting to see what’s ahead for each of these teams. Hedo Turkoglu, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown are all entering free agency. If Jerry Buss is willing to go deep into luxury tax territory, the Lakers may elect to repeat this year’s success and sign both Ariza and Odom. My guess is that they re-sign Ariza and let Odom go. As for the Magic, they sound like they’re willing to go over the luxury tax threshold to re-sign Turkoglu. Gortat is a valuable player, but since he plays behind Howard, it will be hard to justify matching a significant offer.

Finals commentary, prior to Game 5

Jason Whitlock, Kansas City Star: I’ve never been much of a Phil Jackson fan. Give me Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and I’ll fill a trophy case, too. Jackson, the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, doesn’t belong beside Red Auerbach, the most accomplished coach in NBA history. The Zen Master, as Jackson is referred, is a wonderful manager of egos and a suspect strategist, vulnerable to exposure by the game’s top tacticians such as Larry Brown and Gregg Popovich. That’s what I used to think before the current NBA finals series. I didn’t fully appreciate and/or comprehend Jackson’s brilliance. Orlando’s Stan Van Dumby has placed Jackson in proper perspective for me. So tonight, if Jackson surpasses Auerbach by securing a 10th championship, I will not offer an objection when analysts claim Jackson is Auerbach’s equal. For the first time in his career, Jackson is poised to win the title with an inferior team. I know that statement contradicts the lies you have been fed by the so-called experts who cover the NBA. But the truth is, Van Dumby has more tools in his work belt than Jackson.

Bill Plaschke, LA Times: “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Bryant said, laughing. The same questioner reminded him that it would soon be a topic. “It won’t be a topic,” Bryant said. “Won’t be an issue.” The questioner asked him to elaborate. “No,” Bryant said. “That’s exactly why it won’t be an issue.” It was my turn. I first accused Bryant of bringing up the subject, and he laughed again. “I didn’t bring it up,” he said. “I deflected.” Then I asked the only question on this subject that I figured he might answer. I asked, could you imagine playing for anyone else besides the Lakers next year? “No,” he said. Bingo. That’s enough for me, and should be enough for the Lakers. Unless Lakers officials somehow botch the negotiations for the new deal Bryant will demand after opting out of his contract — and they won’t, they love Kobe — then Bryant will be around to attempt another three-peat.

Read the rest of this entry »

Related Posts