Monday, May 31, 2010
Boston-Los Angeles. What's not to like? Boston is seeking their 18th NBA title. Los Angeles is vying for their 16th NBA championship. It's the premier rivalry in sports; as compelling as Yankees-Red Sox. Two years ago the Lakers were abused by the Celtics in six games (131-92 in game 6). This series is storyline central. Where do we begin? During the 2008 championship series the Lakers were missing two critical pieces: Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza. Both were injured. Now, Ron Artest replaced Ariza, and he remains one of the best defenders in the league. At least at the start of the series Artest will guard Paul Pierce, the MVP of the 2008 championship series. Bynum has a torn meniscus, but he should be able to provide quality minutes. The Celtics are missing five key reserves from their 2008 title team, but they still have a strong bench. The coaches are another storyline. The Lakers Phil Jackson is about to become a free agent. The Lakers want him to take a pay cut. He's also contemplating retirement. If the Lakers win the series it will Jackson's 11th NBA title, two more than Red Auerbach. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has publicly stated that he wants to spend more time with his family. But the best storyline, of course, involves the best player, Kobe Bryant. A win in the finals would give him five rings, just one shy of Michael Jordan. Mike Wise, the respected columnist from the Washington Post, suggested that if Kobe wins his fifth title in the next two weeks and wins two more championships before he retired to give him seven rings, he has to be given the nod as the greatest individual talent to ever play in the NBA. Pretty heady stuff. But while such a statement provides a healthy debate, this series is not about a single player's legacy. At least not at the start. In the 2008 series the Celtics knocked Kobe around and limited him to 40 percent shooting in the series. But this time around I think Kobe is going to get more room with a stronger Gasol guarding his back. I think Artest will be a huge factor on the defensive end, and as he has shown, he can score. I think Bynum, despite the knee injury, will be effective. But the Celtics starting five remains intact from 2008. They are 7-0 in playoff series since 2008. Rajon Rondo is not a role player anymore, he's a star. I don't think the Celtics window has closed, but I think it's closing. But I don't think this series comes down to age. I'm not a big prediction guy, but I think the Lakers win this series. I'd be stunned if it doesn't go seven games. OK, just slightly stunned. It's going to be a breathtaking series. It has to be. It's Lakers-Celtics.