Saturday, May 31, 2008

I'm not sold

I'm not sold on this whole Lakers/Celtics thing. Sure, I'm happy the Celtics are in the Finals, but I don't see what this Lakers/Celtics series has to do with those from two decades ago.

These teams play each other twice a year. How can that sustain a rivalry? It can't. The uniforms are the same as the Bird/Magic era, but that's all. There's no narrative here whatsoever, whereas Bird and Magic played each other for the NCAA title; came into the league at the same time; were, obviously, of different races and played in cities with different demographics; and jousted for the league title for a decade. The best you could say about Kobe and KG is they represent the new NBA. They're two of the best players to come straight out of high school and both were talked about in trade rumors in the offseason. KG actually got traded, and the New Celtics were born the second he stepped into town. That's great and all, but why pretend like the Celtics have been building toward this, when it's a product of the NBA free agency system?

Some great basketball is about to be played, and until it is, everyone is going to talk about ghosts. The ghosts of Kareem, Magic, Worthy, Bird, McHale, Parish and the rest, and how these teams are playing for the legacies of the old teams. They're not. When John Havlicek presented the Celtics with the Eastern Conference Finals trophy and told them how proud they should be to be wearing Celtics green, it was hogwash. He was ignoring the two decades worth of embarrassing teams Celtics management has put on the floor, expecting this Finals appearance to wipe the slate clean. It doesn't, but it represents a chance for everyone to turn the page on the last 20 years in Boston country. While we've been twiddling our thumbs and missing jump shots, the Lakers have won four titles and appeared in the Finals seven times. They're two titles away from the Celtics. Havlicek should have said: you're playing against those guys, and here's your chance to push them back a bit. He made it sound like we were the favorites just because of the jerseys we wear. We're not. Bill Russell may still be alive, but his Celtics teams are distant memories. The Lakers are the NBA's top franchise now, and have been for quite some time.

That's why, also, the Pau Gasol and KG trades are not quite identical. KG was traded to the Celtics because of Danny Ainge's and Kevin McHale's relationship; the Lakers flexed their muscle to get Gasol. The Celtics got lucky, whereas the Lakers put themselves in a position to succeed. Instead of seeing ourselves as the antithesis of the Lakers, we should be trying to emulate them to make our success a long-term one, instead of KG-dependent. Winning a title would go a long way toward restoring that, but competent management and coaching would go much farther. Enjoy Lakers/Celtics — we will — but reviving the rivalry is going to take more than one best-of-seven series.

2 comments:

Avinash said...

Kobe (bad MJ--Black Mamba) versus KG (good MJ--team over self), as Ralph Wiley put it four years ago: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=wiley/040507. That's the only motivation I need to see this.

Coachie Ballgames said...

Call me a Nitpicking Nicholas, but the Lakers are not wearing the same jerseys they rocked during the Showtime Era. They've added side-piping, removed the 3-D NY-Rangers-font number-style and the road purples are a different shade. Sorry, i've been reading uniwatch too much.