February 21, 2008

Shaq vs. Kobe

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

It’s a rivalry that may be bigger than what some teams endure. Two players, former friends and teammates, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to what many consider dynasty-dom, had a falling out and words were exchanged that can’t be taken back. Kobe Bryant, in own his prima-donna way, forced Shaq out of town so the Lakers could be his own. Shaq retaliated by winning a title with his new little buddy D-Wade in Miami while Kobe wasted away on a talent-stricken team.

That brings us to this season. Kobe played a little “I want out” drama to begin the season but in the process, turned his game up to its full, amazing potential. Then the Lakers somehow stole Pau Gasol from Memphis to give Kobe his fist all-star calibre companion since O’Neal departed.

Shaq, on the other hand, looked very clearly on the down-slope of his career, not just this year, but even the 2006-07 campaign. With Miami pretty much destined for a high lottery pick, Shaq and his huge contract were dealt to Phoenix for an unhappy Shawn Marion. Why? Who knows, it was more likely to get rid Marion’s presence than get the washed-up Diesel.

Then, in a great twist, Shaq chose to come back from a hip injury and face his “nemesis” Kobe Bryant (who is playing through the pain of a torn ligament in his pinky finger) and new big buddy Gasol.

Sure, the Suns did their best to hang around but — and Shaq even played for nearly 30 minutes to everyone’s surprise — but they could not keep up with, and especially not defend, the Lakers. If the move they made to get Shaq was to help them win (which we should assume it is), it may not turn out for their benefit.

Given, I’m also keeping in mind that it was Shaq’s first game back from injury and his first game with a new team that plays a drastically different style than he’s used to. But the Lakers were missing their third best player, starting centre Andrew Bynum who’s easily good enough for a double-double any night he plays.

If these teams meet in the playoffs it should be the Lakers moving on.

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