Lakers' wrongs making things right
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears
I come to bury Caesar, not praise him
The evil that men do lives after them;
the good is oft interred with their bones.
— Mark Antony in William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"
Point in fact, it's been nothing short of amazing.
Put aside all that tired talk of four Hall of Famers and the sheen that comes from winning three of the previous four championships and look at who the Lakers really were this season:
I'd list the positive developments if there were any beyond rookie Luke Walton showing he could be an effective player in the triangle offense somewhere down the road. That just seems to be a little superfluous after cataloguing the aforementioned negatives.
And yet this team reached the NBA Finals, going through the Yao Ming-led Rockets, defending-champion Spurs and the No. 1-seeded Timberwolves.
Anyone who cares about basketball should be thankful it won't go further than that, for the concept of what a championship team is and what it's about would've been forever ruined. (I included the "evil that men do lives after them" part for a reason.)
Whether it was the hurdles placed before them or the team's overall caliber, the Lakers never carried themselves like champions the entire season. Too much bickering about their roles. Too much talk by those with an option to leave about being elsewhere (Kobe, GP and Karl were all guilty of it and even Shaq, with two years remaining on his contract, alluded to it). Too many games, particularly in the playoffs, where they were outworked or lost focus. Too much arrogance, even now, about how they're not being beaten but are beating themselves.
|They still overcame their own misdirected interests to get to the Finals which, again, ranks as an extraordinary achievement. But what would it say about the most prized accolade the NBA has if a team that behaved as the Lakers have ended up with it?|
The Pistons, conversely, are by no means a perfect bunch, as individuals. But they've all played as if all that matters to them is winning that coveted golden globule. The only fingers they've pointed at each other have been in acknowledgement of a great play. They've made personal sacrifices on the floor, they've been quick to praise their teammates for whatever individual success they've had and they've been willing to do the dirty work of rebounding and help defense and setting picks that are and always will be the foundation of every championship team.
Name one who made an issue of his points or his minutes or his role. I guarantee you not everybody in a Detroit uniform was happy with how coach Larry Brown used him. But they cared enough about the common goal to keep their personal agenda from getting in the way. They undoubtedly had people in their ear telling them they deserved more or better, as all players do, but they all did something remarkably simple -- they cared more about their teammates than themselves. Not by what they've said, but by what they've done.
In short, should Detroit finish this off, the Pistons have set the bar for next season where it belongs -- in a place beyond the reach of any group of individuals, no matter how decorated or tenured or talented. Only teams hoist NBA titles. Pray that it stays that way.
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