That's right, I said it. No asterisk. When you win a World Title you deserve something. There you go.
Seriously, congrats go out to the Lakers and their fans. The trip through the Western Conference turned out to be more uncomfortable than they could have wished, but they did exactly what they needed to do. Kobe was, as (almost) always, big time. The supporting cast did their job. The trophy returns to L.A.
Even for a Blazer fan, there are a couple positive things about the Lakers winning it all. First, it jazzes up the hatred and rivalry even more. Second, it's probably good for the league for the title to sit in Los Angeles every once in a while. It's not just the big market, it's the fact that L.A. is the first team you think about when you think about the NBA. It's kind of like Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin winning the WW(F/E) belt. That brought some credibility to it in the casual fan's mind so that the next guy who won it looked bigger than he would have otherwise. To most people the championship feels right and expected in L.A. It's been a while since they've re-upped that feeling. Portland had no chance to win it this year, so why not? Getting a ton of prestige behind that trophy isn't the worst thing that could happen when the Blazers are ramping up to fight for it.
I don't think we saw anything this year from L.A. that indicated that this would be an unbreakable dynasty. The team's still in turmoil and they still had to fight hard to make it to the top. They'll be there, of course. You can't dismiss them in any way. But you're not looking at a clear-cut dominant team for the next decade here, or even the next three years. Again...it's all good.
Besides, and maybe this is the most convincing argument of all, you know the media buzz was going to surround the Lakers win or lose. Given that inevitable phenomenon, it's at least nice to have folks talking about a team that actually won instead of saying, "Good job, Orlando. Now how can the Lakers recoup and finally break through? We'll take your calls on that all afternoon!"
Then again, I wonder how much buzz there really is. This feels like a topic that the sports shows will highlight for about 24 hours and then drop like a hot potato. Part of that is the nature of sports talk nowadays but part of it is also the general lack of publicity surrounding the league. The NFL is the undisputed king of national attention, but that still doesn't excuse the NBA for being barely a step above hockey. The league still isn't well. If a Lakers championship can help fix that, more power to them. I don't believe it works like that, but we'll see.
One final comment before we close the door on the playoffs. I said this at the beginning but I want to repeat it here. The post-season is just...too...long. Anyone remember the opening of the playoffs? They were two full months ago! Just recently I watched Baby Point Guard go from completely non-mobile to walking without assistance in less time than it takes the NBA to slog through their bracket. One of the keys to picking up casual fans is them being able to tune in at the beginning of your playoff season and follow through to the championship. Unless I cared deeply about one of the teams involved I'm pretty sure I'd just try and pick up the Finals. If I'm busy with other things when those start (quite possible in early summer when the weather finally turns nice) then that's out too. There's no way in heck I could sit down and follow two straight months of basketball. It's not a good recipe. You already know I'd favor shortening the first round to five games again, but failing that at least cut out some of the wait between games. Starting in mid-April we should at least be able to get done by early June. If you need more than six weeks to determine a champion you have too much fluff in the way.