We overrated the talent on hand for the Hornets then, just as we overrated the talent of the Cavaliers for the past few years, and I’m convinced we’re overrating the talent of the Bulls. Bill Simmons, for example, scoffed at the notion that the Cavaliers and Bulls were in any way comparable when to my mind they are very natural comparisons: both teams are defense-driven and on offense rely on the brilliance of one singular talent. You can make adjustments here or there—Joakim Noah is better than Anderson Varejao, for example, and Tom Thibodeau is better than Mike Brown, but then again Derrick Rose is well below LeBron. (LeBron is better on offense and a very good defender; Rose is, at best, a nonfactor at defense. One of the unfortunate subplots of the Bulls-Pacers series so far, if you’re a Bulls fan, has been the surprisingly high production of Pacer point guards.)
The defense + one star formula is an excellent way to produce regular season results but I’m less than convinced of its applicability to the postseason. Title-winning teams are elite teams on both ends of the floor, and you can’t be elite on the offensive end with just one player.
The one thing you can rely on with Phil Jackson is an excellent diagnosis of the state of his team. If you’d just listened what Jackson had to say about each team before each series last year, you’d pretty much know what was going to happen: he began the lead-up to the Thunder series by working the referees (whom he accused of being preferential to Kevin Durant); began the lead-up to the Jazz series by saying nothing in particular; evinced slightly more concern before the Suns conference final; went back to full intensity for the Celtics series. He knows.
So it’s been interesting to read between the lines of his comments about the Lakers this year. Before the series, he took a “boys will be boys” type of line towards the Lakers’, ah, motivationally-related struggles. Now he’s got this going on:
So the Lakers are tied 1-1 in this first-round series even though they haven't regained their stride, haven't dictated how these games will be played, haven't even given their coach a clue about what to expect from them.
"Who knows?" Jackson said.
"Who knows how we're going to react to the next game?"
Hmm….maybe the Hornets will make this interesting after all.