For a time in Game 1, it looked as if Kobe Bryant not only wanted to prove that he could win a title without Shaquille O'Neal but that he could win one without anyone else. . . .
This time around, the Lakers seem more determined to play the role of intimidators and bare their teeth. . . .
Or at least Bryant does. . . .
Overlooked in the opener was the stellar defense of Trevor Ariza against Orlando Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu. . . .
Says former NBA coach Jack Ramsay, working the series for ESPN Radio, "Turkoglu is kind of the glue to their offense, and Ariza jumped all over him. He took him right out of the game." . . .
By the way, the aforementioned O'Neal may have been the Most Dominant Ever -- in his own mind, anyway -- but the Big Hyperbolist ran only fifth in a recent ESPN viewers poll to determine the all-time greatest Laker -- behind Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bryant and Jerry West. . . .
If write-in votes had been permitted, the late Chick Hearn probably would have finished ahead of Shaq too. . . .
Mind that Summer Bird! . . .
Look-alikes: Michael Phelps and Eli Manning. . . .
Andre Ethier, Rafael Furcal and the Dodgers have lost only once in 12 one-run games at Dodger Stadium. . . .
By keeping Manny Ramirez in the running for an All-Star spot, donning "Free Manny" T-shirts and counting the days until his return, Dodgers fans seem unwilling to condemn drug cheats -- unless they play for the San Francisco Giants. . . .
It doesn't help that Frank McCourt endorses Manny too. . . .
Tom Empey of Goleta, in a letter to Sports Illustrated: "Any truth to the rumor that the Dodgers are going to change the name of their leftfield seats from Mannywood to Mannydid?" . . .
Ervin Santana may have given the Angels cause for concern before Friday night, but the All-Star right-hander was bloody well right in a near-shutout against the Detroit Tigers. . . .
The Clippers win the NBA draft lottery, Mike Dunleavy states the obvious, that "clearly" they'll take Blake Griffin, and then the team runs an ad in the paper saying, "We can't tell you who the #1 draft pick will be." . . .
Huh? . . .
You already did. . . .
The NBA and NHL should coordinate their schedules so that, between the NBA and Stanley Cup finals, a championship-series game is played every day for as many as 14 days. . . .
Noting that the St. Louis Rams recently said they were not interested in signing Plaxico Burress, reader Steve Dolan of Valencia e-mails to suggest, "Give him a shot!" . . .
A posting at laeastside.com saluting the all-time greatest athletes from East Los Angeles overlooks one of the best: Lincoln High graduate Frank Lubin, who helped the United States win the gold medal in basketball at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. . . .
The first Olympic basketball tournament was played outdoors, the U.S. winning the finale against Canada in a rainstorm. . . .
With pundits pondering whether Randy Johnson will be the last of baseball's 300-game winners, Cy Young's record of 511 victories might be the most untouchable mark in sports. . . .
Nothing against Don Sutton, but it's surprising to be reminded that he won the same number of games as Nolan Ryan. . . .
Neither won the Cy Young Award. . . .
Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy looks like a character from the old "Da Bears" sketch on "Saturday Night Live." . . .
His father, Bill, once coached at Lake Elsinore High. . . .
Reader Ralph Snyder of Santa Monica e-mails to note that his vanity license plate touts his favorite sport: NE14TNS. . . .
Speaking of tennis, the most recent players to complete career Grand Slams were Andre Agassi and Serena Williams. . . .
With baseball's amateur draft on tap Tuesday, it's worth noting that Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays, who leads all American League players in voting for the All-Star game, went undrafted as a senior at Bellflower St. John Bosco High. . . .
Nor did Longoria receive any college scholarship offers. . . .
It's getting to be that time of year again: USC opens fall football practice Aug. 8, UCLA two days later. . . .
Both open the season on Sept. 5. . . .
Congratulations to USC's various "Swim With Mike" charity swim-a-thons, which this year raised more than $900,000 to fund scholarships for physically challenged athletes. . . .
Noting that his appreciation of NHL players grew after LeBron James refused to congratulate the Magic, reader Andrew Harrell of El Segundo e-mails to suggest, "Their post-playoff handshake line remains among the classiest of all sports traditions." . . .