OK, I've been pretty down on the team overall since the big trade. I've had serious reservations about the direction we're heading. Still do actually. But something just caused me to step back and take another look. Different perspective. That something was my Sporting News magazine.(I hate the new layout) I just opened it up to find that they had next year's NBA power rankings already. Now this usually irritates me, since it's obviously WAY too early to tell how that stuff will go. But this one was a little different. They actually had the Wizards ranked THIRD OVERALL. Right behind L.A. and Cleveland. Which means they were AHEAD OF teams like Orlando, Boston, San Antonio, Portland, etc...Needless to say I was flabbergasted. Mainly because I'm so used to the Wiz flying so low under the national radar sometimes I expect to click on the team link on NBA.com and find the dreaded "this page has expired" message. So naturally I found myself cheesing a bit at the notion of my Wizards getting some props, however premature and hollow those props may be.
BUT, that is not the reason for my rosey outlook. In the same article, where the Lakers were atop the rankings, they have a picture of Pau Gasol. It is just Pau - sans Kobe, Phil, Jack Nicholson or Larry O'Brien trophy. Yep, just simple old Pau. Which made me remember exactly what he is. Outside of everything Lakers, Gasol is simply a solid, fringe all-star player. While this is obviously nothing to sneeze at, it's also no reason to genuflect. There are plenty of players who stack up to Gasol.
Now, I know this is obvious, and the point is that he was simply a compliment to Kobe. But what I started thinking about was this - Gasol really is no better than Jamison. A little taller maybe, but basically the same production, give or take a block here, steal there. And the Lakers 3rd option, Odom, is no better than Caron. Now, the glaring difference is obviously Kobe - no comparison. But they don't have an Arenas/Foye/Miller/Young comparison. Now, I this isn't even an apples to oranges comparison. More like apples to grapes. But here's where I'm going with this.
The BIGGEST difference is the coaching - Phil Jackson knew how to get exactly what he needed out of each guy in order to get where he wanted to go.
Am I saying Flip could be a stand in for Phil? No way. But he does know how to put players in the position to win, and convince certain players to play certain roles. Sure, Larry Brown started what Flip had in Detroit. But Flip kept it going. He kept Chauncey Billups as the leader, while Rip was the 1st offensive option, while. He kept Rasheed as a 2nd option/X-factor, while he was arguably the most talented player on the roster. Anyway, you get the picture. What I'm saying is, maybe Flip can convince these guys that hey, he knows what he's talking about. And while he may not have a championship ring, he has tons more playoff experience than anyone on the team. Which is a big difference between him and E. Jordan. Eddie was learning his way through the playoffs as a head coach at the same time the players were learning their way. So can that difference be the difference between us being legitimate contenders and also rans?I don't know. But I'm a little more optimistic now than I was before I sat down with my magazine.