The Lakers did beat the Kevin Garnett-led Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference Finals and eventually faced the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals.
The Pistons won the 2004 NBA Finals.
Million Dollar Qustion: What were those Finals like?
I checked in with Lakers legend, Kareem Rush who filled me in.
Appearing on the Scoop B Radio Podcast, Rush shared his thoughts on the Pistons, Garnett, Malone, Payton and tons more.
Check out my notes from our dialogue below:
Kareem Rush on his thoughts on the 2004 Pistons in the Finals and Tayshaun Prince:
“I mean, they simply outplayed us. Karl [Malone] was hurt in that series. And I think Kobe selfishly wanted MVP. I think that we were favored by everybody to win the series you know, and at the time Shaq had the first three Finals MVP’s. So I think Kobe had the mindset with that as the primary focus, but I think he was really itching to get that MVP – and we got caught off guard by a better team. The Pistons were — they went on to do seven straight in the Conference Finals so that team was a winning team for the ages and they had a starting five that was very formidable. Those were all All Star caliber. They had a couple of Hall of Famers in Ben Wallace and Chauncey – and maybe even Rip. So they were definitely a formidable team and they were BETTER than us at the time.”
Kareem Rush on the respect he had for the ’04 Detroit Pistons:
“We definitely had respect for them, but we were just favored. We had four Hall of Famers. So you know, we were that “Super Team”. We had two of the five best players in the League and you know, they just caught us off guard. They played better than we did and Kobe didn’t have the best series, Chauncey played amazing, and they simply… outplayed us.”
Kareem Rush on his play against the Timberwolves in the 2004 Western Conference Finals:
“If anybody knows my career, scoring is what I do. Shooting the ball is my specialty. This was one of those games when the shots are falling; the first couple of them went down. It just happened to be the magnitude of the game that I had those six threes go down, but you know that was nothing new to me. I was paid to knock down the open shots, so that was my job to step when they needed it and knock ‘em down. And luckily for me, I was able to do so in a key moment.”
Kareem Rush on how good Kevin Garnett was in that series in Minnesota:
“That whole season. Kevin Garnett in Minnesota. He was one of the top five players in the League. I mean, he was revolutionary. He was dual threat. He could do it ALL. Him, Spreewell, Sam Cassell and all those guys they had on that squad – they were tough. But you know, we stuck it out and you know, I was able to knock down some shots in key moments. But definitely a formidable team that year because he was great that year. He’s been great his whole career and congratulations on him going to the Hall…but yeah, we pulled it out.”
Kareem Rush on how hard it was to adapt to the Triangle Offense for Gary Payton and Karl Malone:
“I think if he would’ve had more than a year to run it. Because that takes time. That stuff is drilled. Gary’s coming in towards the tail end of his career and he’s used to playing a certain way so you’re transitioning to a Triangle Offense and was definitely probably a learning curve for him. He like everybody else when they learn something new, it’s just going to take time and to figure his way out, to working with Shaq and Kobe as well as Malone you know, everybody needs an adjustment period. So he didn’t have the best year, I don’t think that he’ll tell you the same thing, but he was still was an integral part in what we did to get to where we were going. Hall of Fame guy. But yeah, the Triangle Offense is something that’s not easy to pick up.”
Kareem Rush on how he adjusted to the Triangle Offense:
“It was my first offense and I’m a shooter so I’m used to moving. I was never ball dominant so didn’t necessarily need the ball in my hands for me to be effective. So really it’s about what they did from Day One which was drill the Triangle Drill and the fundamentals. And it’s really learning how to play with other guys and took some time. Year Two was when I really got comfortable running the offense so, but it’s definitely difficult to learn but once you figure it out though, it was a GREAT offense to run.”