NBA finals, Celtics Lakers: 2010 ain't 2008

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Thumbnail image for Rondo_Fisher.jpgThe players are mostly the same. The franchises, the mascots, the colors, the pageantry, the history, the bad blood. All that’s still there. But this finals matchup is uniquely different from 2008 for five reasons.

1. The Lakers are better: When last these two teams met in the finals, the Lakers were less than a half season since the Pau Gasol acquisition. They were still figuring one another out, still learning each other’s tendencies. This team was not whole, as it is now. Furthermore, Andrew Bynum was out after knee surgery. Granted, Bynum’s still struggling with a faulty knee. But even in limited minutes, Bynum can be a huge factor, helping LA to dominate the glass and get easy points down low, two things the Lakers will need in this series. Ron Artest gives LA a wing defender they can sick on anyone and expect him to deliver. And he does.

2. The Celtics are better: You thought that 2008 club was tough? Try this one, that knows it’s a championship caliber squad. The Celtics simply have that much more swagger to their step this year because they know they’ve already gotten that ring, reached that summit, climbed that hill. They are not lacking confidence in that regard. They’re also more familiar with one another, and have learned different ways to beat teams. This is also a deeper club, with Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, and Glen Davis all providing significant minutes off the bench. This team is fiercer than it was 2008, as incredible as that sounds.

3. Rajon Rondo has come of age, Derek Fisher has become aged: Rondo has been phenomenal throughout the playoffs, arguably the best player in the league. Rondos’ shown a driving ability that can help the Celtics to not only attack the basket of LA but can open up opportunities for his teammates down low. It doesn’t take much for the Celtics to go into attack mode. Rajon Rondo is the high pitched squeal that lest the Celtics off. Derek Fisher’s having himself another playoffs full of huge shots. He’ll be called upon even more in this series to try and equalize Rondo’s contribution a bit.

4. Boston is better on the road and worse at home: TD Northbank Garden was a house of horrors for the Lakers in 2008, as they wilted in Boston time and time again. The Celtics are no longer unbeatable in Boston, losing games to Cleveland and Boston in the playoffs and it has become somewhat of an issue. The bad news is that they’re significantly better on the road. The Celtics have developed a knack for winning one of the first two games, stealing home court, and putting the fear of God into their opponent from the get go. LA has to hold serve if they want to put the C’s on ice.

5. The legacies are different: The 2008 Celtics were on a mission  to destroy everything. It was their first real chance at a championship, and when they realized that, they pushed their play to another level. But now the Celtics expect to in. They can point to that ring as the ultimate in validation. The Lakers on the other hand have just realized how good they can be at full strength, and are still struggling to get everyone at the same level.

Both teams are storied, both teams are champions, both teams are the cream of the NBA crop. We’ll have to see how this series shapes their legacy in the years to come.

LeBron James says he was referring to only arena, not consideration of signing with Knicks

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After the Lakers beat the Heat in LeBron James‘ and Dwyane Wade‘s final game together, the stars shared an eyebrow-raising conversation on the court:

  • Wade: “I appreciate you letting it end here. I appreciate you bringing us here today.”
  • LeBron: “It was either here or at the Garden. That’s it. That’s the only places we could end it at, man.”

That prompted immense speculation about whether LeBron considered signing with the Knicks. After all, how else would he and Wade – who said he’d re-sign with Miami or retire – have played at Madison Square Garden?

Michael Duarte of NBC Los Angeles

This was always the most likely explanation. The arenas in Los Angeles in New York are the NBA’s biggest stages, and LeBron has repeatedly stated his affection for Madison Square Garden. He didn’t have to think through all the implications to say those were the only appropriate locations.

But I’m still a little skeptical.

LeBron sure was speaking up for the cameras with Wade. And that was after an on-court conversation with Wade a few years ago blew up into a big deal. LeBron also got reminded just last year, with Lonzo Ball, about how much attention those on-court talks generate.

Plus, ever since Phil Jackson bothered him with his “posse” comment, LeBron has repeatedly gone out of his way to tease the Knicks.

Ultimately, I believe the given explanation that this was just about the arena’s allure and nothing more. An offhand remark needn’t completely follow the logic that either LeBron or Wade must play for the Knicks for them to meet at Madison Square Garden. But I’m not completely sold this wasn’t a passive-aggressive dig at the Knicks.

Kings player after beating Bulls: ‘Uh-oh, another 2 1/2-hour practice for them tomorrow’

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New coach Jim Boylen has ruled the Bulls with an iron fist. His abnormally frequent and lengthy practices nearly inspired a mutiny by his players.

A 108-89 home loss to the Kings last night likely won’t ease attention in Chicago. Especially with the opponent piling on afterward.

Chicago Sun-Times:

The Bulls are the laughingstock of the NBA right now.

Even the Kings – the Kings!are mocking them.

Did Knicks have shot at LeBron James last summer? Mic picks up interesting line

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After the Los Angeles Lakers knocked off the Miami Heat in dramatic fashion Monday night, every camera person in the building rushed over to where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were standing.

It was the last time these two men would share a court, and it was an emotional farewell as they hugged and exchanged jerseys, the cameras and mics picking up every moment.

Including when Wade thanked LeBron for seeing that their last game was played at Staples Center, one of the legendary venues of the league. But it was LeBron’s response that turned heads:

“It was either here or The Garden. That’s it.” 

Did the Knicks actually have a shot at LeBron last summer?

It doesn’t seem that way, considering LeBron made his decision to go to Los Angeles within 24 hours of the official start of free agency. There was no meeting with the Knicks, no serious contact in any way.

What LeBron was referring to (I think) was having their final game in one of the two brightest spotlights, one of the two most legendary venues in the NBA. Madison Square Garden and Staples Center have a vibe before Knicks and Lakers games that just doesn’t exist anywhere else — even when their teams are bad the venues are special and guys raise their games. It’s a combination of the markets, the big fan bases, and the history of the franchises, and the buildings (Shaq and Kobe basically built Staples Center). Much like a baseball game at Yankee Stadium/Fenway Park/Wrigley Field, there’s just something special about it that’s hard to quantify. It’s just different there.

That’s why the final game for LeBron and Wade had to be in Los Angeles or New York.

But Knicks fans, go ahead and dream of what might have been.

Three Things to Know: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade’s friendship changed the NBA

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) LeBron James and Dwyane Wade’s friendship changed the NBA. Monday night at Staples Center was the final time LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will share the court together.

It was a bittersweet moment appreciated by the Lakers fans (people new to LeBron fandom), who gave Wade a standing ovation when he entered the game.

Then those fans got to watch the old friends duel on the court like old times. (The pair came into this game 15-15 in head-to-head meetings, but LeBron now finishes with those bragging rights.)

Then, after Wade missed a desperation shot to tie the game late, the two men embraced and exchanged jerseys.

It was a fitting and emotional end to two Hall of Fame careers — ones that forever altered the league.

LeBron and Wade, along with Chris Bosh, fundamentally changed the NBA — they were the players that decided “we’re getting together and forming a super team.” Those players took charge of their destiny, they were not leaving it up to the white guys in suits to decide what they should do (although Pat Riley deserves credit for creating the space to give all three a landing spot). Then they went out and won rings (plural). Other superstars took note, and it’s not just Kevin Durant to the Warriors, it’s the shape of the NBA that is changing because these players owned their power.

Wade and LeBron formed a legendary Heat team that went to four straight Finals, winning two, and providing us with some of the greatest moments and memories in Finals history.

In a few years, they will be sitting on the back deck of Wade’s house in Miami, sharing a bottle of wine that you and I can’t afford, and reminiscing about those days and what they did. They earned that moment. And players who come after them should thank them for showing just how much leverage the players really have.

2) Celtics starting to figure it out, won sixth in a row while their fans dreamed of Anthony Davis. A couple of weeks ago, one of the hot discussion topics around the NBA was “what is wrong with the Boston Celtics?” They were 10-10 and struggling to score enough buckets to win.

Nobody is asking anymore. The Celtics have won six in a row, outscoring teams by a ridiculous 25.6 points per 100 possessions in that stretch.

Monday night — shorthanded without Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford — they knocked off Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, 113-100. It was the kind of team win we have come to expect from the Celtics, with elite defense and someone stepping up on offense. This time it was Marcus Morris with 31 points.

That said, Anthony Davis had Celtics fans dreaming of what could be, scoring 41 and looking like the MVP candidate he is. Celtics fans cheered his introduction, and the Davis to Boston rumors will not die, even though Davis is not and will not be available for trade during this season (and Boston can’t trade for him during the season without sacrificing Irving due to CBA rules anyway).

While Davis was the best player on the court, the play everyone is talking out of this is Boston rookie Robert Williams blocking Davis.

The Celtics are racking up these wins through a soft part of their schedule, and that continues for a while (Wizards, Haws, the suddenly struggling Pistons, and the Suns make up their next four).

3) The Warriors are healthy and all back on the court together. Monday night Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green all took the court together for the first time since Nov. 5 — the Warriors are back.

Predictably, that was bad news for the visiting Timberwolves, who fell 116-108. Curry was doing Curry things again and had 38 points.

The Warriors have won four in a row. More telling, however, is how we have talked about Green’s and Curry’s injuries, tried to psychoanalyze the relationship between Green and Durant, and talked about their “problems” and yet here they are, 19-9 and just percentage points out of first in the West, and just starting to come together. Their “problems” have been overblown, and the league is now about to watch them get their legs under them again and go on a run.

Never doubt this is the best team in the NBA and if your team is dreaming of the Larry O’Brien trophy you’re going to have to pry it out of the Warriors’ hands.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Boban Marjanovic‘s shot can be blocked? Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton is filling up the box score as a rookie, but his defense has a long, long way to go. That said, he had what many thought was the impossible blocked shot on Monday night, shutting down 7’3” Boban Marjanovic.

Now we’ve seen everything.