First: some love for Rudy
I'll be honest, I was really excited when I heard that Calderon was out of the game, because that almost guaranteed that we'd see some combination of Rudy+another Spanish SG. Lo and behold, Rudy came into the game in the 2nd q playing (at some point) alongside Navarro, which was the perfect opportunity to see him shoulder part of the pg duties with Navarro. This was really the moment in the game that made me start salivating. Wouldn't you, considering that Rudy played the way he did against Team USA with Navarro as his backcourt mate? Switch Navarro with Roy and decrease the opponent's defensive intensity by a factor of 10, and the sky is the limit for Portland's backcourt dominance of the NBA. Also those 3 NBA 3's didn't hurt either.
2nd: Taking the asterisk out of K*be
I don't know if the Kobe we saw yesterday is the Kobe we will see for the rest of his career, even in the NBA. When he hit that backbreaking three against Rudy which gave him a 4pt play AND kicked Rudy out of the game, I was simultaneously thrilled and devastated (as any patriotic but laker-hating blazer fan would understand). However, from just that game, I can no no longer hate Kobe Bryant as a player. The guy is not Michael Jordan, and will never be, but he put the Olympic team on its back in the 4th quarter along with Dwayne Wade, and his tenacity and clutch play is impressive, although heartbreaking as a Blazer fan. I had no idea how to react when watching Nate hugging Kobe after the game, in fact i broke down into almost hysterical laughter. There seems a subtle, but yet powerfully tangible change in the NBA from yesterday to today. Blazer fans can finally put the nightmares of Shaq to rest, as his career is slowly dying, and his reputation in tatters. And the K@be that beat us in 2000 isn't the Kobe that won a gold medal yesterday. I may be putting the cart before the horse here, but the L@kers don't frighten me at all anymore (and that's not just because of Rudy), and that means that I can't bring myself to hate them. You love and hate players/teams that you respect as threatening, and although they're good, I just can't see them dominating the NBA in the next 5 years, especially with the blazers. LeBron may be the best candidate there is to hate/respect in the NBA now, especially if he ever gets a supporting cast wherever he ends up. I just don't feel like Kobe is under the umbrella of the L@kers anymore, so much as he has enveloped them under his world-wide stardom, culminating with this Olympic Gold. Thus I see these current WCF champs as Kobe and the L@kers, rather than just the L@kers. He's almost a separate entity from them now, and that as much as anything allows me to appreciate his momentary triumph with that gamebreaking 3 over Fernandez, and the shushing motion he made afterwards. Kobe the Olympian is a player I can appreciate.
First of all, thanks for those who read this post, (especially those that rec'd it). I realize that this issue is a controversial topic for many of us as blazer fans, which is why I wanted to post it in the first place. That being said, I was getting ready to go to work when I published this post, so I didn't get a chance to expand on what I thought was the most important issue about the gold medal game. I don't know about you, but I feel that there are some games that have moments that have significance beyond the play, beyond the game, and have unseen and yet far-reaching consequences on the future. I believe that Kobe's shot over Fernandez is one such play. In my mind, that play signals the passing of the guard in the NBA. Shaq, SSOL, the geriatric spurs, Pistons as perennial ECF losers, KG, Ginobili the these are all iconic parts that made up the NBA's first decade in this millenium. Shaq and Duncan dominated the 2000's in terms of winning championships, but Kobe was really a true megastar. With the 2008-2009 season getting ready to start in a couple of months, chronologically the 2000's aren't really over, but there is a palpable sense of change, with the curtain falling on the game's older stars and rising for the new. One thing remains the same though. As in the 2000 WCF, for the next couple of years, the fate of the Blazers seem inextricably linked to Kobe.