There are no creampuffs in the NBA Western Conference, not in the playoffs, no sir, no Minnesota Timberwolves running around. You’d better stand tall mentally and physically or you won’t advance.
We have seen it happen twice already, and the NBA playoffs are only halfway finished. The 61-21 San Antonio Spurs, winners four times of NBA Championships since 1999, were beaten by number-eight-seeded Memphis 4-2.
Eleven years in a row, the Dallas Mavericks have won 50 or more games with one trip to the NBA Finals to show for it. They have been clipped in the playoffs every year except 2006, when they blew a 2-0 lead and lost to Miami in the finals.
You get no respect in the NBA for regular season wins — the glory comes in the playoffs. Today the Mavericks look like the team to beat after sweeping the three-peat-minded Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 in the Western semifinals.
Amazingly, the Lakers and Mavericks both won 57 games during the regular season, the number two and three seeds in the playoffs. But this Lakers team did not have the mental capacity to handle the talented Mavericks.
Every year, Dirk Nowitzki is a tough match-up; the talented seven-footer might be the NBA’s most unique player. We are talking about a seven-foot forward who has unlimited range, rebounds, and can put the ball on the floor. He’s been an MVP, a great player, but no rings. This might be his best shot yet.
The Lakers showed signs of wear and tear. They lost the opener of both playoff series to New Orleans and Dallas despite having the home-court advantage for the first time since 1972. If they could complete the three-peat, the Lakers would finally have caught the Boston Celtics at 17 NBA Championships.
When you lose game one by one point at home and game four by 36, that’s mental. Phil Jackson, in my view, is the greatest coach or manager in team sports history with 11 NBA World Titles in 21 years of coaching.
In the playoffs, you have to win a series-best of seven, not like the NFL with one game each week and winner-take-all. Jackson announced that this was his last season. It’s a shame that he saw his team with all that talent and experience quit on him like that.
Throw the book at Andrew Bynum and Lamarr Odom. They were a disgrace. Two talented young players committing two ugly, flagrant fouls in frustration says it all.
Dallas, having beaten Portland and Los Angeles, now waits on the Oklahoma City vs. Memphis winner in the Western Conference Finals. Dallas has never won an NBA title. They’d better keep that in mind — they beat the champs, but they are only halfway to a title. With the NBA’s number-one seed 62-20 Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and Boston still battling in the East, we have a long way to go.
San Antonio and Los Angeles are now gone, the top two seeds in the Western Conference and winners of 20 NBA titles combined. You might say the path has been cleared for Dallas to grab the title. Remember, unlike state rivals Houston and San Antonio, they have never won an NBA Championship before.
Fitz Notes & Quotes
With the Lakers losing, Kobe Bryant is still one title short of Michael Jordan’s six. For all of you who believe Kobe is just as good as or better than Jordan, who won six titles with Jackson coaching in Chicago, Jackson led the Lakers and the Bulls to 12 NBA Finals, six each. Jackson with Jordan was 6-0 with two three-peats in Chicago and 5-1 with Kobe in Los Angeles with one three-peat.
“It takes a Village” Saturday May 7, 5-7 pm — Larry Fitzgerald Jr., All-Pro wide receiver of the Arizona Cardinals, was the special guest speaker at Atlas Grill located inside the U.S. Bank Plaza, 200 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis. It was a fundraising event to raise financial assistance to help children attend Pilgrim Lutheran School. Larry Jr. is a Pilgrim graduate.
Several high-ranking NFL sources tell me that the Vikings’ number-one-pick quarterback, Christian Ponder, was not rated a number selection on any NFL Draft boards.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Larry welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzger ald.com.