Although Kobe agrees with the cliche that the NBA Finals separates the men from the boys, according to the MVP, this year’s youthful Lakers squad is just as prepared to bring a championship to L.A.
“You couldn’t tell if it’s the Finals or the First Round,” said the MVP. “Everybody’s the same old, same old.”
Bryant said that, along with fellow veteran Derek Fisher, he’s kept it short and sweet in the advice he’s offered to some of his younger teammates.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re not trying to execute something new under the sun; we’re also not doing something that we’ve never seen before,” said Bryant. “Just go out there and play, just do the things that you’ve been working on and preparing since training camp.”
While Fisher and Bryant are the only two Lakers who have won a championship, Luke Walton was on the roster when the team lost to the Pistons in 2004-05–a feeling he won’t soon forget.
“I think going and losing and remember that feeling—what it felt like to sit down in the hotel lobby after that fifth game in Detroit—and experiencing that really makes you appreciate this opportunity that much more and not wanting to feel that and not wanting your teammates to have to feel that,” said the forward. “I think this group of guys is focused and ready to get going.”
After watching his father compete for NBA titles on a regular basis, Walton understands how rare it is to get the chance to play on basketball’s biggest stage.
“It’s your career and you play to win these things and you realize the opportunity doesn’t come around that often,” said Luke. “I got there my rookie year and now it’s my fifth year and I’ve never been past the First Round again since then so these opportunities don’t come around every day and it’s definitely unfinished business.”
After a breakthrough series against the Spurs, even second-year guard Jordan Farmar isn’t fretting about his lack of Finals experience.
“I’m not nervous at all really right now,” said the UCLA alum. “Like I said, I’ve been there before; not on this stage, not at the NBA level. If I treat it just like any other game, I’m going to play well, I’m not going to think about it. This is basketball. The basket goes the same height, the lines are still the same dimensions. It’s no different from any other game.”
Jordan reflected on his past success as a member of a UCLA Bruins team that nearly won the NCAA title two years ago in relation to this year’s playoff conquests.
“I’ve been in atmospheres like that as well,” said Farmar. “You play in front of 80,000 with the National Championship on the line, you play up in Utah in the Second Round, you play in San Antonio down here, we’ve had some pretty great atmospheres so that doesn’t come into play. Now we just have to stay in the lines and do what we have to do to get the job done.”