The basketball gods seem to like Phoenix.
It's reported that Phoenix Suns big-man Robin Lopez will play -- in some capacity -- in game one of the NBA Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, beginning Monday at 6 p.m. (The Lakers have home-court advantage so the first two games will be in L.A., before moving to Phoenix for two, in the best-of-seven series.)
Lopez has been out since March 26, with a bulging disc in his back, and there was fear that he wouldn't be ready to play in the upcoming series against the powerful Lakers -- a team Suns coach Alvin Gentry calls "the longest in the league."
Gentry, of course, is referring to the Lakers' size, with 7-footers like Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, not to mention 6-foot-10 Lamar Odom.
Lopez, many believe, is crucial in matching up with the Lakers next week because of his own hugeness, and the fact that before he got hurt, he was playing some of the best ball of his two-year career.
The 7-foot, 255-pound Lopez averaged 8.4 points and 4.9 rebounds during the regular season while starting 31 of the 51 games in which he played. He scored 30-points and had 12 rebounds on February 26 against the Los Angeles Clippers and 19 points and 10 rebounds on March 19 against the Utah Jazz, whom the Lakers just swept in the conference semi-finals.
The Suns -- without their big starting center in the lineup -- swept Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, and the San Antonio Spurs recently in its own semi-finals matchup.
Lopez scrimmaged with the team yesterday and appears to be making progress.
"We have six more days, and we feel good that if his progress continues, then I think he'll be able to play," Gentry told the Arizona Republic.
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"It's obvious that, being out this long, he's not going to be able to step right in and play at the level he was playing. . . But just to have him out there, if he feels good enough to give us 15, 17, 20 minutes -- whatever -- we'll do that."
Lopez will be a great compliment to 6-10 Amar'e Stoudemire and 6-11 Channing Frye, when it comes to guarding the Lakers' big guys. He plays the kind of inside game that the Suns can use against Gasol and Bynum.
The winner of the next round goes to the NBA Finals to play either (it looks like) the Boston Celtics or the Orlando Magic. The Magic swept the Atlanta Hawks in its Eastern Conference semi-finals series, and Boston leads the Cleveland Cavs 3-2 in its -- after pulverizing LeBron James' team last night in Cleveland. Game six of that series is in Beantown.