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NBA Finals storylines: Magic vs. Lakers

A look at the storylines to watch in this year's NBA Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers.

NO MUPPET SHOW HERE

We imagine Nike could continue those Kobe-LeBron muppet commercials showing LeBron sulking on the couch watching Kobe in the Finals. Or maybe they could come back with a redux of Charles Barkley's "I am not a role model" spots, in reference to his unwillingness to congratulate adidas-sponsored Dwight Howard.

But while Kobe searches for his fourth ring - "LeBron! Have you seen my four championship rings?" - perhaps adidas can introduce the Superman muppet. After recent media availability, Howard was approached by one reporter with a box that contained a Dwight Howard muppet.

He picked it up, smiled and said in a squeaky voice, "Go Magic!"

This is why the world needs writers.

THIRD TIME A CHARM FOR EWING?

While Orlando assistant Patrick Ewing continues to pine for a head coaching position - there were three openings this offseason (Washington, Philadelphia and Sacramento) and he did not get a single interview so far - he may be on the verge of finally winning an NBA championship.

Ewing led the Knicks to the Finals in 1994 and was injured during the miraculous run in '99. Both fell short of a title.

During his Knicks career, Ewing was infamous for his bold predictions that turned out empty. But he was prophetic this year when before Game 7 of the second round, in Boston, he guaranteed the Magic would beat the Celtics.

PIETRUS DOESN'T WANT TO WALK IN KOBE'S SHOES

Mickael Pietrus has had to defend Paul Pierce and LeBron James so far in the playoffs and it is expected he will see a lot of Kobe Bryant in the Finals. But one thing Kobe won't see is his sneakers on Pietrus, who wore the Lakers star's signature brand by Nike this season.

"I'm going to play with Michael Jordan's shoes," the Guadalupean defender said.

As for stopping Bryant? Pietrus doesn't believe such a thing can be done.

"Maybe I can say, 'Hey, stop Kobe! Yo, stop!'" he said. "Maybe that's the only way I can stop him."

JAMEER WILL PLAY, BUT WON'T BE A FULL NELSON

There are strong hints that Jameer Nelson will make himself available to play in the Finals. He injured his right shoulder on Feb. 2 and was expected to be out until training camp in October, but his rehabilitation has gone well enough for the all-star guard to believe he can contribute.

Stan Van Gundy said it was "fantasy land" for anyone to believe Nelson will be anywhere near top form, but his ability to shoot the three will only add to Orlando's perimeter arsenal, which makes it so difficult to double-team Howard.

NO KNICKS, BUT PLENTY OF NEW YORK

Along with Ewing, the series has many New York connections, and we're not just talking about Spike Lee, the heart-and-soul Knicks fan who has been seen cheering on the Lakers this playoff year at Staples Center.

The rosters include two Queens products in Magic guard Rafer Alston and Lakers forward Lamar Odom. Lakers forward Trevor Ariza was a 2004 second-round pick of the Knicks and Lakers coach Phil Jackson was part of the Knicks' championship era in the early 1970s. Magic assistant coach Steve Clifford spent part of his career as a very successful men's basketball coach at Adelphi University from 1996-2000.

And the ABC/ESPN broadcast will also have a New York flavor, with Knicks play-by-play man (and Long Island resident) Mike Breen, former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and former Knick (and Queens product) Mark Jackson.

PREDICTION: Lakers in 5.

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