ABC broadcasters Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Mike Breen conducted a conference call Tuesday to preview the NBA Finals.
Here are some excerpts:
What will be the keys?
Jackson: I think Kobe (Bryant) is going to be Kobe. I don’t think that they (the Celtics) will be able to contain him the way they did in ’08. Although they will make life tough at times, I don’t think they have the same interior defense that they had in ’08. I think the big difference will be in ’08 Paul Pierce was the best player in the series. They could not contain him and he had his way. I think the Lakers have a similar defensive force to what LeBron James was able to do with Pierce, which will not allow Pierce to be the best player in this series and will allow Kobe to be just that, which will give them a tremendous boost.
Van Gundy: I’m still wondering how healthy (Andrew) Bynum is because I think his presence is going to be critical to the Lakers’ chances. I think the Celtics are an extremely well balanced team as is L.A. I think both teams play offense and defense well. I think it will come down to possessions, who can rebound the ball better and who takes care of it better because I think these teams are evenly matched.
What’s the best way to defend Kobe?
Jackson: Ultimately I would force anybody not named Kobe Bryant to beat me because he has proven to be able to do that. If you get the ball out of his hands, you have the best possible chance of winning. That means double-teaming him, denying him, forcing him to get rid of the basketball. I don’t want Pau Gasol to beat me, but it certainly won’t be Kobe Bryant.
Van Gundy: I think interestingly they played against one very good defensive team and in that series, he had his most struggles, and that was against Oklahoma City. And yet he still had an outstanding series. And since then, he has has just been remarkable whether it’s he’s feeling better or the defensive has been different. Some of the shots he made in Game 6 against Phoenix were indefensible. Even when they started to send a second guy to double-team, the greatest of all times, like he and Jordan, they know how to get away from the double-team and still get a quality shot. I think the Celtics are very equipped to defend him. I think Ray Allen is a very disciplined defender. I think the length at the basket will force Bryant to take a lot of jump shots. I think Bryant is going to play well, but I think he’s going to face similar challenges to the one he found in the series in 2008. They are going to make it hard on him, and yet he can always rise up, because he has proven himself once again to be the best player in the NBA.
Jeff, how do you rate yourself as a broadcaster?
Van Gundy: I would say irritating to some, irritating to myself sometimes. I could always analyze myself as a coach like what I thought we were doing well as a group. Because I don’t really have a background in broadcasting, I’m sort of unknowledgable about when we have a great broadcast. I haven’t improved a lot in the stuff we do at the start, the openings. That’s still hard for me. I try to get a little better in the highlights when we have a replay. But still Mark is a lot stronger in those areas. I’ve said this before, I’m like a one-dimensional spot-up shooter. Mike is the great point guard. I stand behind the 3-point line and hope to get some open looks.
Why would you consider going back into such an unstable profession as coaching?
Van Gundy: People talk about coaching being a fickle business, so too is broadcasting. Broadcasters, their job security is not great either. To assume that in any coaching or in broadcasting, that things won’t change is probably to make a mistake. I don’t spend any time about what is next. When I was coaching, I never thought what’s next after coaching. And now that I’m broadcasting, I don’t sit there and contemplate a lot about what my next job will be. I’m just trying to do the job I have as well as I can and realize that change is a big part of pro sports and also broadcasting. You have to be ready to adjust and adapt when circumstances dictate.”