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Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 14:38 UK

NBA star tips Lakers to win title

NBA FINALS, GAME 1
Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles Date: 5 June Tip-off: 0200 BST Coverage: Live on Setanta Sports 2, highlights on the BBC Sport website

By Martin Gough

Deron Williams

Utah's Williams gives NBA lowdown

NBA star Deron Williams believes the Los Angeles Lakers will stop the dream run of the Orlando Magic to secure their first title in seven years.

Williams' Utah Jazz team suffered a 4-1 series defeat in the play-offs to the Lakers, who open the seven-game series at home to the Magic this week.

"I didn't expect Orlando to be in the finals," Williams told BBC Sport.

"With the confidence they have it will be tough to beat them but I'm still going with the Lakers."

Orlando have surprised defending champions Boston and Cleveland - the team with the best regular-season record - in the play-offs so far.

It's going to be fun to come back over to the UK and play against the Bulls and also in 2012 for the Olympics

Deron Williams

And centre Dwight Howard, who scored 28 points and 20 rebounds against Williams and the Jazz in March, has been their main man during their incredible play-off run.

"He's going to be tough to stop," Williams said of the man nicknamed Superman.

"He's so big and strong, if he's not blocking shots people are thinking about him when they go to the hole.

"Everybody is playing well for them but they have a couple of go-to guys in Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis."

Williams expressed most admiration for Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, his Olympic team-mate in Beijing.

Williams behind Kobe Bryant
LA's success is built around guard Kobe Bryant

However, he believes Cleveland's 25-year-old superstar LeBron James has now established himself as the best in the league after a season in which he won the Most Valuable Player award.

Both Bryant and James have been likened to the legendary Michael Jordan, but Williams feels they will struggle reach his level.

Williams feels Bryant's greater willingness to bring out the best in his team-mates is a key to the Lakers' run at the title.

He added: "[Their success] is built around Kobe but he's doing a better job of getting everybody involved.

"You've got Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and the shooters that surround them - Trevor Ariza is playing great.

"It's going to be tough to stop them in a seven-game series."

Williams believes the most telling factor in the Lakers' favour will be the influence of their coach Phil Jackson, who has won a record-equalling nine NBA titles in Chicago and LA.

"He's a Hall of Fame coach, one of the best coaches ever in the game," he said.

"[Magic coach] Stan van Gundy has a long way to go before he can ever be mentioned with Phil Jackson.

"He is a good coach but the Lakers definitely have the advantage coaching."

Williams is in London to promote the pre-season game between the Jazz and the Chicago Bulls at the O2 Arena on 6 October.

606: DEBATE
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But, having clinched gold with the USA's "Redeem Team" in Beijing, he also hopes to be in action with his country at the same venue in three years' time.

"It's going to be fun to come back over here and play against the Bulls and also in 2012 for the Olympics," he added.

"I've seen soccer fans and they're pretty crazy so if those same fans are there I think it will be a great atmosphere."

Of the Olympic triumph, he said: "It was unbelievable - my best moment in basketball.

"Having a chance to stand on that podium, having a medal around your neck and listening to the national anthem is a special feeling.

"The guys like Kobe, who have won multiple championships, said winning the gold medal was better because you've got the USA across your chest."



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see also
NBA highlights - Lakers reach final
30 May 09 |  Basketball
NBA highlights - Magic joy at final spot
31 May 09 |  Basketball
Courting celebrity
18 May 09 |  Basketball
US stars regain basketball gold
24 Aug 08 |  Basketball


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