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STEVE DeSHAZO: Paul, Garnett worth rooting for
Chris Paul not only has lifted a bad franchise, he's restored hope in a very troubled city.
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By Steve DeShazo
It's hard to blame them. We're talking about the league's two flagship franchises, with 30 titles between them. Cue a half-century of flashbacks: Bird vs. Magic, Russell vs. Chamberlain. As an added touch, Lakers coach Phil Jackson would be trying to break Red Auerbach's record of nine championships.
I'm halfway on board. I'd love to see the Celtics back in the Finals for the first time in 22 years.
Nothing against Kobe Bryant, but I'm rooting for the New Orleans Hornets to be the opposition.
It would lack some of the glamour of L.A.-Boston, but what a stage it would offer: old school vs. new school, youth vs. experience.
Plus, it would reward two players who have earned it: Kevin Garnett and Chris Paul.
Bryant was named NBA Most Valuable Player earlier this week, and it was richly deserved. In his 12th season, he finally shed his me-first attitude and carried the Lakers to the West's top seed by becoming a leader, a distributor--but best of all, a teammate.
Finishing 2-3 in the voting were Paul and Garnett, and it would be exciting for those two to get a chance at a ring. (Bryant already has three).
With all due respect to Kobe, no one has been better or more scintillating through 1 rounds of the playoffs than Paul, the Hornets' third-year point guard. He not only helped eliminate the Dallas Mavericks, he expedited the demolition of a team that fell two wins short of a title just 23 months ago. And through two games, he's shredding the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.
Paul reminds many of a young Isiah Thomas. (Let's hope that comparison stays on the court.) He's averaging 24.3 points and 12.1 assists in the playoffs. In the series-clinching victory over Dallas, Paul had 24 points, 15 assists, 11 rebounds--and no turnovers--while making Jason Kidd look slower than Jason Whitlock.