The “All That”…
The Draft: You know how it works. Like all professional leagues in America, the NBA holds one every year. It’s designed, of course, to give the crappy teams leverage in the acquisition of new, young talent. The NBA relatively recently even injected a draft lottery, to supposedly keep said crappy teams from tanking the latter portion of seasons (as if some can help it) in order to secure the best draft position. But mainly, the lottery gives those crappy teams something extra to get excited about in May, while they’re watching the good teams on TV in the playoffs.
The Regular Season: The NBA plays an 82-game schedule. That’s a lot of basketball. Then they put over half (16 out of 30) of the teams in the playoffs. This renders the regular season semi-meaningless. Teams have to really suck to not make the playoffs. The good-great teams go into each season knowing they’ll make the playoffs and hence can dork-around thru entire chunks of the season.
So, in essence, the regular season only serves to resolve the mystery of which good-great teams will be seeded where and which mediocre-sorry teams will manage to back in at the 7th & 8th slots in each conference (although for the past few years, the 7th & 8th seeds out West have been pretty darned good).
Turning It On Just For The Playoffs: Every year, fans and the media’s “Talking Heads” yap incessantly about how some good-great team that’s dorking-around in parts or all of the regular season won’t be able to turn it on for the playoffs. And every year, fans and “Talking Heads” are proven wrong. This season, it was the Lakers (dorking-around most of the 2nd half of the season) and the Celtics (dorking-around most of ALL of the season). I think you see where I’m going with this…I mean…”All That”.
Free Agency: A bunch of teams, as usual, scrambled and made big headlines in adding players who “will put us over the top”. The Magic added Vince Carter to “Superman”. The Cavaliers were front-runners here with the additions of Shaq and Antoine Jamison. With “The King” already in his “freak” (that’s a compliment) place, Cavs fans in some quarters pre-ordered their “Cavaliers 2009-2010 NBA Championship” T-Shirts last November. I think you see where I’m going with this also…I mean…”All That” also.
The “Usual This”…
This will be the 64th NBA Finals. The Celtics will have played in 21 Finals and the Lakers will have played in 31 Finals. This will be the 12th time that they’ve played each other in the Finals…the 2nd time in the last 3 years. The Celtics own 17 rings and the Lakers own 15 rings. Therefore, combined, these two teams already own slightly more than HALF of all NBA Championships. The “Usual This”.
As stated above, both teams “dorked-around” for various chunks of this regular season, but still we have the “Usual This”.
Neither of these two teams drafted anyone of significance, nor did they make any significant free agent acquisitions. Okay…the Lakers added Artest, but they lost Ariza…at best a wash in effect. But still we have the “Usual This”.
What To Expect:
A war: These two historic rivals and their respective fans despise each other at a level that approaches desires to commit felonious assault.
Great Coaching: Phil Jackson owns 10 rings. Nuff said. Doc Rivers also has “jewelry” and engenders a sense of teamwork in his players that is raely rivaled.
Great Players: Just scan down the list…Kobe, Pau, Artest, Fisher, Pierce, Rondo, Allen, KG…etc etc.
Matchups: For the 4th straight series in these playoffs, “old man” Derek Fisher will have to defend a great point guard. With no offense to Steve Nash, no point guard has played better in these playoffs than Rondo. Rondo will run “Fish” ragged, but Fish…the old crafty vet…will make some good defensive plays and nail some key long shots. Of course, no one will stop Kobe and seldom will anyone stop Pau.
Likewise, when Ray Allen gets free after running his defender through 2 or three staggered screens, he’s virtually unstoppable. (By the way….Is it just me…and this is a compliment to her…or does Ray Allen’s mom look like she could be his twin sister?). Paul Pierce aka “The Actress” is a match-up nightmare and it will be interesting to see if Artest and/or Odom and/or Kobe can control him. KG isn’t what he used to be, but he is still a strong defender and can occasionally still contribute significantly offensively.
As it was in the 2008 Finals, the key match-up will be the length, craftiness, savvy, and versatility of the Lakers’ “Bigs” vs the bulk, physical strength, toughness, and tenacity of the Celtics’ “Bigs”. The Lakers’ “Bigs” have toughened-up significantly (Adding Artest helped) since the 2008 Finals where the Celtics’ “Bigs” smacked them around as if they were their little brothers.
I won’t get into Phil Jackson’s Triangle Offense vs Doc Rivers’ smacking, swarming, “Combat Amoeba” Defense. Frankly, I don’t quite understand the Triangle….and neither do/will the Celtics.
Lakers in 6!