More of the same for Lakers and Celtics?
Ready or not, we’ll take that torch, Gramps.
Grizzled, battered, headed for the junk heap of NBA history, the Lakers and Boston Celtics just left us forever.... or until training camp, whichever comes first.
By then they’ll be totally different, or would be if not for nuances like guarantees, contracts and the salary cap.
“You can’t blow this team up,” Jerry West said of the Lakers to Dan Patrick. “Nobody wants very many of their players, to be honest.”
NBA owners actually demanded the right to blow their rosters up in the new labor deal but dropped it in the recent peace offensive.
So, tough luck.
The Celtics went down with guns blazing, even if they were flintlocks, in an atmosphere so frenzied, their players seemed to embody not merely the hopes of New England fans but mankind.
Rajon Rondo played hurt, as memorably (almost) as Willis Reed (whose leg was shot up to deaden the pain), John Havlicek (who hurt his shooting shoulder, not the other elbow) and the Greek who ran 26 miles to report the victory at Marathon and dropped dead.
“We’re talking about Rondo, we’re talking about heart,” ESPN’s Bill Simmons gushed on “SportsCenter.”
“Chris Bosh is talking about how he was pretty much scared in Game 3.
“It feels like the personality of this series has pretty much shifted to Boston.”
Personality shift notwithstanding, Miami then closed them out, 4-1.
If the Celtics should remain a force, it won’t be long before it’s Rondo and Jeff Green.
The Lakers went out their way too — slapstick comedy — but have Kobe Bryant and three tradable bigs with Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams a year from free agency.
In other words, better put off that blockbuster for a year.
Of course, with the Lakers, you’re never sure how much rationality, or whose, is at work.
In his engaged period, Jerry Buss wasn’t just smart but wise enough to follow West’s lead.
West is still here, in retirement and in bronze in front of the arena, which is as close as they let him get to their deliberations.
Jim Buss is now involved, for better and worse, as in the 2004 debacle, er, transition from Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, et al.
Rather than ask the basketball people for guidance, ownership handed them a blueprint starting with, “We want to get back to running.”
All that missed was 15 years of changes since Showtime.
With modern floor-spacing offenses and two players on the arc, ready to drop back, you don’t just get the ball off the board, hit Magic Johnson and come down 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 all game.
If Rudy Tomjanovich doesn’t flee within months, their miracle turnaround doesn’t turn around.
In an only-the-Lakers contradiction, Jim Buss had a role in drafting Andrew Bynum, a surprisingly functional decision for a team in turmoil.
If a single Laker discovered Bynum, it was assistant general manager Ronnie Lester, when the slimmed-down high school center worked out for scouts in New York, after looking like Shamu in the McDonald’s game.
That prompted Bynum’s private workout for Jim and the Lakers’ basketball people.
That prompted Jim to endorse the choice to his father.
Not that it was big, but two things saved them after Bryant’s 2007 Days of Rage:
1) Bynum’s emergence in the 2007-08 season,
2) Pau Gasol’s arrival after Bynum went down.
Going forward, they have two things working:
2) Their opportunity to cash in Bynum, Gasol and/or Lamar Odom for a key piece.
It remains to be seen if a new coach will mean a new system.
Doc Rivers just re-upped in Boston, Byron Scott is under contract in Cleveland and Brian Shaw is a longer shot the more they let him interview elsewhere.
That seems to leave respected nuts-and-bolts guys Mike Dunleavy and Rick Adelman.
If Dunleavy has reverse cachet after his Clippers injury-and-owner-plagued death spiral, the Lakers remember him as a rookie coach succeeding Pat Riley, taking them to the 1991 Finals.
Rivers, who might have been Lakers coach just by saying the word, re-signed for five years, tying himself to his ancient, all-heart team.
All Celtic Nation was moved, almost.
“I’m not saying anything about a certain news story,” tweeted Simmons, a longtime Doc hater, or derider.
“But I beg the Comedy Gods to let it happen.”
Actually, Simmons may have meant the news that Dunleavy, whom he also derides, is on the hated Lakers’ list, which would be hitting the Daily Double in Sports Guy Land.
If you, like Simmons, wonder why I follow him...
Are you kidding?
The Voice of His Generation leads cheers for his team, derides its opponent, noting how “disdainfully” Dwyane Wade walked away from the fallen Rondo, predicts victory and is wrong, again, in today’s version of the old Sports Illustrated cover jinx?
I can’t make up anything that good.
The way it’s going, Simmons’ grandchildren may see Doc on the sideline.
Thanks, indeed, Comedy Gods.
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