Monday, June 03, 2002

FINALS: Diane Pucin on Nets-Lakers:

Kidd is the most unemotional—meaning totally controlled on the court—leader around. Kidd will not flop or whine about foul calls, will not frown at a missed shot, will not pump a fist or leap for joy after a great play. Everything he feels, Kidd lets flow through his arms, his hands, his heart and into the basketball. Mr. Triple-Double has an unbendable will and unbreakable concentration.

Whether his teammates can make the best use of his passes, whether the Nets can find someone to guard Shaquille O'Neal, whether Kerry Kittles and Keith Van Horn will hit the open jump shots Kidd will get them, whether the bench players like Lucious Harris, Richard Jefferson and Aaron Williams will be as productive as they were in New Jersey's six-game Eastern Conference finals victory over the Celtics ... all that remains to be seen.

But don't dismiss the Nets. There has been an arrogance about the Lakers this season, a feeling that playing hard all the time wasn't necessary or worthwhile, that another title was a birthright. The Kings proved that it isn't. The Kings showed the Lakers that a team must play hard and well every night—and every minute.

Will the Lakers remember this by Wednesday?

The Nets, man.....I don't know what to think. Bill Simmons said somewhere that the last team to win the title without a legitimate go-to guy was the '77 Blazers and that was because they played so well together. The Nets definitely lack the go-to guy and require various players to step up at various times --Jason Kidd is not a go-to guy in the usual sense because he's not a scorer. They have three seven footers to throw at Shaq --Canadian T-Mac, Aaron Williams, Jason Collins-- and the brooding, enigmatic presence of Kenyon Martin, who has quietly shed the thug label in these playoffs and now radiates only intensity. I can't tell if he's the heart of the team or Kidd is; maybe Kidd is the heart and Kenyon the soul, or something like that. But these weirdo Nets --I don't know. They look amazing when they win and awful when they lose --some teams, remember, look good even when they lose. The finals will show if the Nets are an illusion or a great, unpredictable team.

Hey, the Patriots beat the Rams in the Superbowl. I will try and take that for what it is worth.

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