June 7, 2008

(Belated) NBA Finals Tip Off

My apologies to our Senior Sporting Correspondent, Andrew Hauch. This post should have gone up this past Thursday, June 5th. He had it to me with plenty of time, the fault here lies with the editor. Wont happen again.

By: "Sports Guy" Drewsky

Tonight marks Game 1 of the 2007-2008 NBA Finals featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics!! Review that statement for several seconds and let it sauté in your mind! Yes friends, a match up so immersed in history's record books, it will undoubtedly make for an entertaining final. And why not? Since recent NBA Finals ratings have been deep in the bowels of toilets all across America (thank you San Antonio), this renewed rivalry can be nothing but a ratings grabber/entertaining. Watching Ginobili's incredible honker flutter in the wind followed by the inevitable flop to draw a foul was the most entertaining aspect of recent finals (lol). Sorry for the flat-out digression, however, the thought of the Lakers-Celtics final reminds me of the incredible rivalries of the past…Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, and Wilt Chamberlain's Lakers taking on Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, and Bill Russell's Celtics. Boston had a stranglehold on this era (1957-1969), producing 11 Championships in 13 years (that's what I call a legit dynasty) with Coach Red Auerbach at the helm.

This rivalry would be renewed during the Bird-Magic era. This time however, it would be the Lakers turn to hold the trophy. During the 80's, the Lakers under the tandem of Magic Johnson and all-time scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, would go on to win the coveted title of NBA champs 5 out of 8 years. Two of these titles came against the Boston Hall-of-Fame trifecta of Bird, Robert Parrish, and Kevin McHale.

During the playoff season every year, ESPN shows many of the championship campaigns for each team, and I'll be damned if I didn't skip out on a few classes to watch these rivalries (sorry Dr. Barnes–I've loved all of your classes :) ). Many of them were fantastic, showing late-game heroics by the likes of Bird and Magic, just to name a few.

One thing is for certain…you could ask a lady in Uzbekistan to say everything she knows about hoops, and she would probably mention that Michael Jordan was an absolute man-child, and the Lakers and Celtics had a huge rivalry.

To put it into perspective, the Lakers and Celtics franchises have combined to triumph in 30 of 61 NBA finals since the NBA-ABA merger. That is absolutely staggering. This year marks the 11th time the teams will do battle for the title (with Boston being victorious 8 of 10 prior).

The paths of tonight's NBA Finals participants have been dramatic. The Celtics came into this season as the worst team in the Eastern Conference. However, GM Danny Ainge, the main architect in this season's historic run, gave up an arm and a leg to acquire Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett during the off season. Heavily criticized at first, this move has paid off in the long run, as the Celtics completed the year possessing a league-leading 66 wins and their first NBA Finals berth since '87. Also, neither of the aforementioned players, in addition to team captain Paul Pierce, have ever been to the Finals. Therefore, expect the primal instinct to come out in these cats. Bravo Danny Ainge!

For the Lakers, it's been a wild ride as well. Almost exactly a year ago, Kobe demanded a trade out of LA. He has been incredibly unhappy in recent years, primarily because his team has either not made it to the playoffs, or got owned in the first round. Of course, he's selfish, but the kid can ball. Although he had scuffles with Andrew Bynum early in the season, the Lakers were winning, silencing Kobe. Shortly afterward, Bynum went down with a season-ending knee injury. Following this setback, the Lakers were destined to be an afterthought in the competitive Western Conference this year (Seeds 1-8 only separated by 7 games) until the landmark trade for Spaniard Pau Gasol. Mind you this trade was an absolute steal. The Lakers obtained Gasol from the Grizzlies for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, a Pez dispenser, and a 9-iron. And since then, the Lakers have mopped the floor with team after team. Kobe started believing in his young teammates, and became MVP of the league for the first time. The Lakers are looking like a well-oiled machine going into the Finals.

Although Boston has had their fair share of inconsistencies this post season, expect big games from the Big 3. However, I find it hard to count out Kobe (the greatest player and closer in the game since Michael Jordan's retirement–in my own personal opinion). Kobe's playing lights out, Garnett/Gasol/Pierce have played well, and Ray Allen has gotten his confidence and shot back. Watch for Lamar Odom and the bench from LA, as they will be X-factors in the series. Additionally, I believe the inexperience, inconsistency, and lack of killer instinct will be Boston's undoing. They lack a player who is willing to take control in key situations of the game. Paul Pierce resembles the closest thing they have to this, however, he can't hold a candle to Kobe's closing ability.

It will be hard to top the intensity of their past rivalry, but this series has a lot of potential. I hope fans will finally be in for a treat after several years of lackluster finals. This is what dreams are made of!

To generate a little buzz, I'm predicting Lakers in 6.



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