What They're Saying Before the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers Face Off in the NBA Finals: Part II

  • Bringing Jameer Nelson back for Finals an iffy option for Magic

    George Diaz believes it's a risky proposition for the Magic to bring 'Meer back. 

  • Jameer Nelson closer to getting nod for NBA Finals

    Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson looks to be closer to playing in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers as observers said he was flying down the floor, running with the second team in Tuesday's practice. 

    Teammates are convinced that Nelson is making a return after missing four months of the season. 

    Nelson has been trying to come back early from Feb. 19 shoulder surgery and the club is using practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, in Los Angeles, to evaluate whether he can play. 

    "I'm pretty sure he's going to be given the benefit of the doubt. I expect him to be out there sometime during the series," said Anthony Johnson, the veteran back-up point guard to starter Rafer Alston. "You got to play the guys who give you the best chance to win." 

    Johnson might be losing playing time to Nelson. "I'll support whatever decision is made," Johnson said. 

  • Flying high: Magic's Superman Dwight Howard not yet an NBA superstar

    Josh Robbins talks about how Dwight Howard has a chance to become a full-fledged superstar in the eyes of the national media and public because he's playing in the NBA Finals.

  • There's no Laker mystique for Orlando's Dwight Howard

    It would be easy to think that Dwight Howard, for example, would feel a little in awe of pro basketball's biggest stage. After all, he is just 23 years old. 

    But I think that his age will actually work in his favor. For those of us old enough to remember the great Lakers teams of the 1980s, a mystique surrounds the Lakers franchise. This was the team of Kareem, Magic and Big Game James, just to name a few of Los Angeles' stars. 

    Howard has none of those memories. I asked him yesterday if the Lakers carry a mystique in his mind from watching them when he was growing up, and here was his answer: 

    "You're asking a 23-year-old about growing up watching the Lakers," he said, smiling. "To tell you the truth, I really didn't have a chance to watch TV like that, to watch the Lakers. My era was Kevin Garnett, so it wasn't the Lakers. The only Laker tape I had was Magic Johnson's instructional video. So, it wasn't anything with the Lakers. It was just his video."

  • Dwight Howard's Rise Is No Surprise

    Dan Steinberg of The Sporting Blog looks back at the early days of Dwight. 

  • Ultimate Highlight
    SportsCenter shows the best plays from Howard. 

  • Best Of Van Gundy
    SportsCenter reveals Stan Van Gundy's best moments from the playoffs. 

  • Five ways for the Magic to win it all
    Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie posits five ways Orlando can win it all. 

  • NBA Finals Preview: Orlando Magic vs. Los Angeles Lakers
    Ben Q. Rock, courtesy of Ball Don't Lie, offers his preview of the championship round between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers. 

  • Jeff Van Gundy: Rooting for the Magic
    Brett Pollakoff of NBA FanHouse reveals that Jeff Van Gundy, who will be announcing the NBA Finals on ABC, is rooting for the Magic to win the series. 

    I'm going to try to be as objective as possible," he said, "but I want my brother's team to win; there's no question about that." 

    When Stan Van Gundy's Magic took a 2-1 series lead over the Cavaliers, his younger brother discussed the looming potential conflict with his coordinating producer, Tim Corrigan. 

    "I said, 'Hey, listen, if you guys don't think it's best for me to call the Finals, I'm fine with that, and I understand,''' he said. "I don't want to compromise anything. They said they wanted me to do it.'' 

  • Why the Magic Will Beat the Lakers
    Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse offers a few reason s why Orlando will beat Los Angeles in the NBA Finals.

  • What the Magic Stand to Gain

    Tom Ziller of NBA FanHouse takes a look at what the Magic gain from winning the Larry O'Brien trophy. 

  • Playoff Prospectus: NBA Finals Preview
    Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus delves into the matchup between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers by breaking things down for both teams and offering his prediction on who will win the series. 

  • NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers versus Orlando Magic true-false questions
    UPDATE: ESPN.com assembles analysts and writers to make the true-false calls on 10 questions about the Magic and the Lakers.

  • NBA Finals: Can Andrew Bynum slow down Dwight Howard?
    UPDATE 2: J.A. Adande of ESPN.com examines whether or not Bynum can keep the center battle against the Magic from being one-sided.

  • Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum matchup among best NBA Finals stories
    UPDATE 3: Scott Howard-Cooper of Sports Illustrated lists the most intriguing Finals storylines. 

  • Shaq's legacy binds Magic, Lakers

    Shaquille O’Neal looms over these NBA Finals, bigger than ever. The Orlando Magic never won a title with him, and Kobe Bryant hasn’t won one without him. The course of two franchises, an NBA neophyte and a forever champion, were transformed when O’Neal left for the Lakers an unlucky 13 years ago for the Magic. 

    Shaq kept saying the Magic were his first choice, but Gabriel confesses now: “I didn’t take him at his word.” 

    No one ever did believe him, and they had good reason to doubt: He wanted to be a movie star, a rapper and part of the Lakers legacy of Wilt and Kareem. 

    Yes, there was drama on Shaq’s way out of town, but it’s hard to know what mattered and what didn’t. Near the start of free agency in the summer of 1996, there was that poll in the Orlando Sentinel where more than 90 percent of the respondents insisted Shaq wasn’t worth $100 million. The poll appeared as Shaq and the Olympic basketball team trained in town. 

    “I heard they rode Shaq pretty hard on it,” Gabriel said. 

    The Team USA players teased Shaq that he wasn’t wanted in Orlando, and Gabriel remembers those closest to the center telling him later: “That was the last straw.” 

    Shaq has a long history of taking slights – real and imagined – as reasons for justifying so many decisions and hurt feelings.

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