The rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers is timeless, and has produced some of the greatest NBA Finals moments ever. And for as long as I can remember – even when the Celtics were struggling through the dark days that were the 1990s and early 00s, the Celtics could always count on bragging rights for the most titles in league history. Well, guess what? With the signings of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, our claim-to-fame is very much in jeopardy. The Lakers, on paper, appear poised to catch and surpass our Celtics in the championship column.
And as much as I hate it, I can certainly envision that scenario playing out – much to David Stern’s delight. A Miami-Los Angeles final would pit the two glamour cities against each other. It would finally give the league a long-awaited Kobe-LeBron showdown. You would have Pat Riley, the architect of the Showtime Lakers, trying to win back-to-back titles for the first time since he was Magic Johnson’s coach in the late 80s.
It wasn’t that long ago that Danny Ainge engineered the deals for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, and the rivalry between our Celtics and the hated Lakers was renewed in earnest. Suddenly, that seems so 30 seconds ago.
Allen has defected, KG is on the decline, and the Celtics are going to lean hard – probably too hard – on point guard Rajon Rondo as the team’s marquee player. Don’t get me wrong; I love Rondo. He’s a special player. But he’s not the guy you want with the ball in those crunch-time moments. Paul Pierce does that for us, but Pierce looked pretty old and beat up at the end of last season.
Our Celtics are going to be much-improved over last season. They have gotten younger with the addition of Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee, two of the younger players who figure to see action. They are going to get a real boost from Jeff Green. Jason Terry tempers the Allen loss. Brandon Bass is back. Chris Wilcox and Jason Collins will help the Celtics in the post. So yeah, our Celtics will be better than last season’s over-achievers.
But clearly, this team is a cut below the Heat and the Lakers in terms of personnel.
And assuming things play out as the experts predict, who would you root for in a Heat-Lakers NBA Finals tilt? Me, I’m pulling for Miami to keep the Lakers at bay and away from Banner 17.
Call it the lesser of two evils. Call it a deal with the devil. Watching Allen celebrate another championship, this time with James and Wade, while he thumbs his nose at Doc Rivers and shoots a metaphorical middle finger at Danny Ainge…
Hopefully it won’t come to that. Our Celtics are going to compete, and compete hard. We have the best coach in the league. We’re going to have one of the deepest benches. Pierce, when healthy, can still finish games, and KG didn’t re-up if he didn’t think he had at least one more serious run in him.
Oh, and then there’s Rondo. There’s no one else in the league like him.
So maybe, just maybe, the league’s long awaited match-up between the Lakers and Heat won’t happen afterall.
And maybe, just maybe, our Celtics will end the season with a little more breathing room in the championships-won category.