The world will forever know that Jerry West loved to go to his right from the left wing. This isn’t even the picture that spawned the NBA logo, but it is both a great example of that kind of move and an allusion to the great, historic rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics. West was 1-for-9 in NBA Finals appearances, winning once over the Knicks and losing seven times to the Boston Celtics. But, as the architect of the current Los Angeles Lakers dynasty under Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson (West playing a big role in and out of the organization), West has made up for his championship struggles. Now he can just hope that that team can beat those Celtics.
According to PredictionMachine.com, the Lakers win the series 57.5% of the time and most likely in six games. Obviously, Kobe Bryant should play a big role, but Lamar Odom may be the key to the team’s victory. Those were my thoughts in that article, but they are echoed here by one of the game’s greats who has a special appreciation for Kobe, for whom he traded when Kobe was just a teenager.
Jerry West joined Hartman and Friends on FoxSports Radio to discuss Kobe’s place in Laker and NBA history, Lamar Odom, the Celtics and their “smugness,” and the NBA Playoffs as a soap opera.
On how he thinks Kobe Bryant will do in the Finals:
“He’s playing the best basketball I have ever seen him play to be honest with you. When he shoots shots a lot of people would probably think they are bad shots. For him, he is not only creative, but he is a shot maker. Some people are creative, but they’re not shot makers. He can make tough shots. He just seems to will the ball in the basket. I’ve never seen him play better… At this time of year, people talk about adjustments that people make. The adjustments that people make are not really the telling part of it. Your great players, this is their time to shine. You can’t really run your offense. After the first couple of games, everyone will be waiting on everyone. The team that has the best ability to beat people off the dribble and be creative will be successful. There’s no better player that I’ve ever seen than him… He’s the greatest Laker player that we have ever seen.”
On Lamar Odom’s role:
“Lamar Odom is a terrific player. Everybody wants him to be a 20 point a game guy, a 15 rebound a game guy. Lamar is who he is. And he is a very fine player. He presents another match-up problem because he can beat you off the dribble.”
On what he thinks about the Boston Celtics:
“Probably not what people think. I have the utmost respect for the Celtics over the years. Obviously, the Lakers success since the early years is much greater than theirs. They’re an enormously proud franchise. They always competed at the highest level. They take great pride. They’ve had different kinds of teams than the Lakers have had in the past. And this is one of their most different teams. I think this promises to be an incredible series between two very proud franchises… This is a tough minded group of guys that are very experienced. They’ve got some of the best competitors.”
On if he thinks this team is “smug:”
“I don’t necessarily buy smugness. They’re confident. They are like, ‘If you want to win, you are going to have to beat us.’ Rhetoric means nothing. It absolutely means nothing. I hear people talking about what a coach is going to say to a player. If you are not motivated enough individually, you should not be out there playing. Coaches cannot motivate you. They can only put you in a position to win. You have to care enough to want to compete at the highest level. Rhetoric means nothing. Results are what matter. I have great respect for the Celtics, but obviously I think the Lakers should be favored and I think they will win.”
And on the media and NBA Playoffs:
“I think the NBA Playoffs are the ultimate soap opera. Reading the newspapers is just amazing to me. You have one person that writes one thing and someone who writes another one. All they try to do is get the fans riled up and stir emotion. It doesn’t do anything. Players don’t read the newspapers like that. They are sitting there anxious to compete.”