The fun rises in the East


They don’t make seasons like this one, or, at least, the NBA hadn’t for a while.

That’s easy to say around here, where the Lakers went home with the title.

Of course, our Clippers -- there’s no getting out of it, they’re an official Los Angeles team like the Lakers, Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim -- took the season off, but, proving you don’t always make your own luck, were reborn in spring when the gods gave them Blake Griffin!


Even with the Finals turning into a five-game turkey, it was a turkey with a TV rating equal to the last World Series, capping the NBA’s best postseason since the Michael Jordan farewell with the Chicago Bulls in 1998.

And it’s only getting better.

The Lakers will be back, having won a title without coming close to maxing out their potential.

Kobe Bryant is back on top in his rivalry with LeBron James, the NBA’s best since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. One more Lakers title would make this the Age of Kobe.

Bryant was so spent by the postseason, he ducked questions about the future, joking the only thing ahead was “vacation.”

However, while ducking questions about a contract extension, he said the real goal is making sure “all the pieces come back for next season, so we can make another run. . . .

“You don’t see a team that’s this young and so talented that’s already won a championship.”

Not that you should hold your breath waiting for him to sign an extension.

Bryant isn’t going anywhere, but he lives for leverage. If he’s a free agent next summer when Phil Jackson could well retire, Kobe would effectively select Phil’s successor, presumably Mike Krzyzewski, his coach in his Olympic idyll, or former teammate Byron Scott.

Meanwhile in the East . . .

This is a new phenomenon in the post-Bulls world.

There actually is an East and it’s getting stronger.

The Orlando Magic may have just committed hara-kiri, bringing in Vince Carter and kissing off glue guy Hedo Turkoglu, but the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics are warming up for the showdown they missed this season.

The Cavaliers just got Shaquille O’Neal, making them one of those super-marquee teams, like the Wilt Chamberlain-Jerry West-Elgin Baylor Lakers, the Shaq-Kobe-Karl Malone-Gary Payton Lakers, or the Julius Erving-George McGinnis-Doug Collins-Darryl Dawkins-World B. Free 76ers.

Of course, none of those teams won titles.

The 2007-08 Celtics were one of the few quickly assembled star ensembles that clicked.

Unfortunately for them, the 2008-09 team had issues, even after making an inspirational run to Game 7 of the Eastern semifinals without Kevin Garnett.

They’ve been Rondoed.

That was the ad campaign around Rajon Rondo, their pint-sized point guard, in 2008, which was a bit much for a 22-year-old stopgap whom opponents didn’t guard.

Rondo became somebody this postseason, almost averaging a triple-double (17 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.8 assists), even making some outside shots.

Apparently, his attitude, which was cocky enough, developed right along with his game. The team shopped him all spring amid reports Coach Doc Rivers called him “uncoachable.”

Last week General Manager Danny Ainge went off on a Boston radio station, noting Rondo’s habitual lateness (“unacceptable”) and problematic shooting (“As we saw in the Orlando series, they left him wide open. . . . His man went and doubled onto Ray [Allen] and Paul [Pierce]”).

Getting to the core of the issue, Ainge said the Celtics “certainly don’t see Rondo as a max-contract player today.”

Replied Rondo’s agent, Bill Duffy: “Last time I checked they won a world championship with him at point guard. If the team wasn’t hurting they might have done it again this year.”

Duffy also expressed surprise at Ainge’s saying they won’t discuss an extension until later this summer.

If Duffy thinks that’s bad, wait until they get the Celtics’ offer.

Of course, it blew over in the time it took for Ainge to recant, more or less.

“We love the kid and we think he’s got a very bright future,” Ainge said. “I don’t anticipate any trades happening this off-season regarding any of our core players.”

How do these things get started?

It must be that darned Internet.

Ainge doesn’t anticipate any deals because everyone has already turned down Rondo and Allen, who turns 34 in July and is on the last year of his deal too.

Of course, teams that don’t win titles go through this stuff in the off-season, and the Lakers could tell you something about bad off-seasons.

In the best news of all for the Lakers, this summer it’s everyone else’s problem.