In this week's edition of the Friday 5 with Ken Berger, the CBSSports.com NBA Senior Writer talks Game 7 between the Celtics and Sixers, the future of the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, and what exactly is going on in Orlando with management and Dwight Howard.
1. Game 7, Boston vs. Philadelphia, who wins and why?
Ken Berger: I'm going to say Boston, but it's really a tossup. It's tough to beat their execution and defensive commitment at home, but they will really miss Avery Bradley. And they need Ray Allen healthy to have any chance in the next round -- if they even get out of this one. My typically unshakable confidence in the Celtics in a big spot at home has been shaken a bit.
2. Trying to sort out the noise coming out of Orlando is like parsing news from a deconstructing government. Can you give us a trend in where things are headed, for the organization, and for their approach with Howard?
KB: Chief among the characteristics they are looking for -- either in a GM or a coach -- is championship experience. There's a reason, of course, that people who've won championships rarely are available. But that's an element the Magic feel they're missing -- they've been close and successful but never won. Mitch Kupchak may not be willing, ready or able to leave L.A., but if you're Orlando, you have to ask. It wouldn't surprise me to see them hire a bright young coach on the rise, such as Michael Malone or Brian Shaw. The fact that SVG was a great tactician who sometimes struggled to connect with players leads me to the hunch that they'd be especially intrigued by Shaw's ability to connect with players. And Shaw is a highly regarded tactical assistant, as well, and he fits the championship requirement having won on Phil Jackson's bench. As for Dwight, I believe they'll push him to sign an extension, and Dwight will say, "No, thanks." At that point, the full-court press will be on to trade him. Magic ownership does not, under any circumstances, want to endure another Dwightmare next season. They're done with it. It's worth noting, however, that the final decision-maker is Dwight, and Dwight himself has not told anyone with the Magic what he wants since his season-ending back surgery. If we learned anything at the trade deadline, we need to hear from Dwight himself before we know for sure what his future is.
3. What were your thoughts on LeBron's 40-18-9-2-2 this week and Wade's three-game stretch where he shot 40 of 65?
KB: An incredible display from the top open-court duo in the NBA, playing together the way they always should. Whether it wasn't possible for them to play that way with Bosh, or whether Bosh's absence simply heightened their focus and aggression, it doesn't really matter. They're unstoppable right now. The question is, if Boston makes it to the conference finals, will it be easier to take one of them away without Bosh to worry about? Frank Vogel didn't seem to think so, and he may have a point.
4. How big a deal is Kobe Bryant's $58 million in remaining salary, given the impending CBA implications?
KB: Depends on whether the Lakers really are going to be afraid of the repeater luxury tax and revenue-sharing guidelines or not. If they are -- and given the Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher salary dumps, apparently they are -- then it's a big deal. Not much room to improve around the edges when your top players make as much as Kobe, Gasol and Bynum. (See Heat, Miami; and Knicks, New York.)
KB: I'd say it's better than 50 percent they trade him, but I don't think it's a foregone conclusion by any means. Usually, if you trade a player like that, you do it for picks and young players -- but the Lakers can't afford to waste Kobe's last 2-3 years of All-NBA production. That's why the ill-fated Chris Paul deal was so ideal. If they had Kobe, one of the bigs and an elite point guard, they'd be OK. But they can't trade Gasol and screw up their future payroll, because then once Kobe is done, they'll feel the pain exponentially. That's why I don't think it's out of the question for them to stand pat, let this group run its course with some minor changes and go from there.