It’s amazing how your ability to be impartial gets impaired the more emotional you get about something. I’m sure it happens to people on a host of topics, including religion, politics, and sometimes sports. I’ve been banned (rightfully so) by my wife from discussing the first two, since it usually becomes a hot topic with yours truly. When a conversation turns highly emotional there is no exchange of ideas, since you’re not going into that kind of debate looking for a deeper understanding of your views. The emotional attachment blocks your objectivity.
I want to go on record and say I am not rooting for the Lakers for a few reasons. Shaq seems like a pleasant & intelligent guy off the court. In fact I agree with and understand most of what he says in interviews. However, on the court he is a brute. That quasi-legal rough style of play is my least favorite to face on the court, so I tend to root against him.
That’s not my only reason to root against L.A. Unless my team is involved, I usually root for the underdog, and L.A. is anything but an underdog with their recent string of championships. In addition, I have my reputation on stake with the T-Wolves, as I picked them in my own blog bracket contest. Finally I find it hard to root for Kobe, Payton, and Malone right now, each for their own reasons.
Because I’m rooting against the Lakers, there are a few things I’ve discovered about myself while watching game 6. First is that I start to hate some of the other Lakers. (Hate is too strong a word for what I feel, but in this respect I hope my readers that are sports fans know exactly what I mean). My roommate & I call Devean George and Derek Fisher scrubs, getting their rings by riding on the coattails of Shaq & Kobe. Of course I know they aren’t “scrubs”, just role players performing to the best of their limited abilities.
Another thing I noticed is that I was judging the officials’ job by how they call against the Lakers. Early in the game Shaq pushed Madsen with his arm, not once but twice before getting the ball on the blocks. Of course this illegal push resulted in an easy dunk, and I was irate (too strong a word again – but you get the picture by now) yelling at the referee to make the call. A little bit later in the game, Oliver Miller was setting illegal screens all over the court. I know it takes a lot of force to get such a large mass to stop and move, but Oliver wasn’t even trying to set himself. Miller was just bulldozing guys, & I watched as this went uncalled for about 5 minutes. When the refs finally called him on it, I was upset. It took me a minute to realize that I had witnessed him doing it for a few minutes. For the most part I was in denial. I was holding the refs to another standard when it came to the team I was rooting for. I didn’t care if the officials missed this call, because I wanted Minnesota to win.
Gladly I was able to realize I wasn’t being objective, and was able to think rationally about the game. I know that the officials called a good game. At the worst they gave the benefit of the doubt to Minnesota, as most of the Lakers were in foul trouble and the officials handed three technical fouls to Los Angeles. Now that I am a public writer (albeit with a tiny audience), I feel a bigger obligation to stay level-headed about things. Fans have the right to be as biased as they wish. In fact it’s expected of them to think their team and their players are better than anyone else’s. It’s easy to be a fan and let your emotions take over. I have a great respect for those that have been writing or announcing for years with their objectivity in tact.
As for the series, it seemed obvious that Minnesota struggled without Cassell. Their offense was in disarray, and even getting the ball across midcourt has been an issue. No one was able to pickup the slack. I said in an earlier column that Hoiberg and Szczerbiak should try to pickup the slack. However their abilities come in an offense where they are not the primary scorers. Without a second scorer to take the pressure off Garnett, or a PG that can penetrate or distribute the ball, they were unable to fill the hole left by Cassell. On the offensive end Hoiberg all but disappeared in game 6, scoring 2-4 with 0 treys – his main weapon. I hoped he wouldn’t, but Sprewell tried to pick up the slack, but shot 8-22 with 0 threes (36% eFG%). It wasn’t all that bad, as he shot 11-11 in free throws to give him a nice 1.22 PPS (points per shot).
Using FG%, it might appear that they shot at the same percentage (.432 to .449), but the Lakers hit 9 three pointers to the T-Wolves 2. Using eFG% shows the Lakers with a decided edge (.506 to .446). Minnesota also turned the ball over more often 18 to 10. Certainly these are two areas where Cassell would have made a big difference. In any case I have to give credit to the Lakers, who certainly are the favorites to win the championship right now.