This series dates back to J.R. Ewing’s Dallas
It’s hard to create a rivalry when there isn’t one.
But sometime over the next two weeks, be it from the words of Mark Cuban and Phil Jackson or the actions of Kobe Bryant, maybe something will be sparked between the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks.
They haven’t seen each other in the playoffs in 23 years, back when Andrew Bynum was all of 7 months, too young for him to even try boxing out toddlers.
The Lakers and Mavericks have played each other 88 times in comparatively meaningless games since the Lakers won the 1988 Western Conference finals in seven games, Magic Johnson wrasslin’ up 24 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds to give the Lakers the West for the seventh time in the ‘80s.
They’ve since played Portland in the playoffs eight times, San Antonio and Phoenix seven times, Houston six and Utah five times.
Forget Big D. This rivalry is a big zero.
They finally get to see each other again Monday at Staples Center to start the best-of-seven West semifinals.
Somebody get James Donaldson on the phone. A.C. Green too. It’s time for a series of “Where are they now?” stories.
It’s been a Dallas demolition derby from the start, the Lakers losing the regular-season series only three times since the Mavericks joined the NBA in 1980.
The Lakers have never been eliminated by Dallas in the playoffs (3-0) and are riding a 10-3 run in regular-season games, including 2-1 this season.
Some cross-country zinging between Jackson and Cuban added a hint of tension between the teams over the years, but not to worry: TNT analyst Charles Barkley is trying his best to create a rivalry ... even if it’s only with Lakers fans.
“The Dallas Mavericks are the best team in Texas and they’re going to upset the Los Angeles Lakers,” Barkley said Thursday on the air, giving the Lakers little credit for eliminating New Orleans. “They played against a bunch of munchkins. Those munchkins are going home. The Mavericks aren’t munchkins.”
Bynum, the youngest starter on either team by five years, gets a chance to prove he belongs with the big boys.
He was a key in every game against Dallas this season, for better or worse.
When the Lakers lost in January, 109-100, Bynum scored only 10 points to go with seven rebounds. He was quiet, like the Lakers in their swampy midseason slump.
But they won at Dallas in mid-March, 96-91, Bynum going for 22 points and 15 rebounds to offset Bryant’s six-for-20 shooting.
Then the Lakers destroyed Dallas in late March, 110-82, Bynum going for 18 points and 13 rebounds as Bryant again shot poorly (eight for 21).
How important is the kid to this rivalry? Sorry. Nonrivalry.
“Not important at all,” Bryant said with sarcasm. “He’s our anchor defensively. On top of that, he’s shown the ability to knock down jumpers, which is going to give teams a headache because now you have two 7-footers that can pick and pop, as well as roll to the basket and post up deep.”
Indeed, Bynum has slowly added an outside dimension to his game, scoring on a 16-footer and 11-footer Thursday against New Orleans.
The Mavericks took out Portland in six games in the first round and might not be taken lightly by the Lakers, though that’s dangerous to assume.
Ron Artest will certainly take them seriously.
He was sitting by himself in the locker room after the Lakers eliminated New Orleans. He was asked whether he was glad the first round was over.
“I don’t really look at it as being over. I look at it as if we’ve got more things to do,” he said.
Then he paused, before speaking in a deathly earnest tone. “It’s not over till it’s really over.”
Maybe a rivalry will finally begin.
Interest in Shaw percolating
The Houston Rockets have received permission from the Lakers to talk to assistant coach Brian Shaw for their head coaching vacancy.
Shaw, 45, is a candidate to take over for Jackson as the Lakers’ coach next season, but he will interview with the Rockets either this weekend or after the West semifinals.
Lakers assistants are not allowed to interview with other teams while a playoff series is in progress.
Shaw has been an assistant with the Lakers for seven seasons and was a member of three Lakers championship teams as a player in the early 2000s.
Rick Adelman was not retained after four seasons with Houston. Adelman and the Rockets parted via mutual agreement.
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