- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2009


“[They] make me uncomfortable when I play. It’s the weight that troubles me. They inhibit my ability to react quickly.” - 17-year-old Romanian tennis player Simona Halep, who recently announced her intentions to have a breast reduction operation


Lakers — Let’s see: One franchise has 14 NBA titles and the other has… Nick Anderson. The Magic might have the more balanced unit, but the Lakers have massive edges in experience and coaching. Please, Phil Jackson vs. “Ativan Stan” or “Stan Van Panic”? The deadly trio of finals stage fright, Dwight Howard’s free throw shooting and Van Gundy’s late-game gag habit should be worth at least two wins for the Lakers. If Kobe Bryant gets any help at all from the capable trio of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum, homecourt advantage should be too much for the Magic to overcome.

Magic — Orlando was 2-0 against the Lakers during the regular season. Kobephiles will claim that stat is meaningless now that Jameer Nelson, who led the Magic in scoring in those games, is likely going to be watching from the sideline. In reality, Nelson’s success had less to do with his prowess and more to do with the complete defensive incompetence of guards like Sasha Vujacic and Derek “Gramps” Fisher. The Lakers can’t defend anyone, much less a balanced Orlando bunch built around Dwight Howard (20.6 points, 13.8 rebounds) and the inside-outside combo of Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu.

Our take — If Nelson were healthy, we would take the Magic in a five-game rout. Instead, expect a more intriguing battle, but the best team still will win. And over the course of the season, that’s clearly the Magic. Unlike the Lakers, the Magic play defense (Kobe meet Mickael Pietrus), and they don’t live and die by the outside shot. Howard is a superstar down low, and Bynum needs a career series to avoid outright embarrassment. But the Magic also can eat up opponents with ball movement and matchup nightmares. Just look at the starting lineups: Aside from Kobe over Courtney Lee, the Lakers don’t have an edge anywhere. Unless Howard goes totally Shaq-poo from the free throw line and Van Gundy completely implodes, the Magic should win in six.


Coach 2009 salary*

Pete Carroll, Southern Cal $4.4

Nick Saban, Alabama $3.9

Les Miles, LSU $3.75

Charlie Weis, Notre Dame $3.5

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma $3.4

Urban Meyer, Florida $3.25

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa $2.9

Bobby Petrino, Arkansas $2.85

Mark Richt, Georgia $2.8

Mack Brown, Texas $2.8

* In millions

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