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Foto+Lakers+vs.+Celtics+and+the+NBA+Playoffs.jpgThe NBA Finals start tomorrow night in Boston. And while our little dog and pony show of a website is not exactly known for sports coverage, we're going to do an NBA Finals Preview anyway.

It was either that or a 3,300 word diatribe about the upcoming Incredible Hulk movie being the biggest mulligan in cinema history. "Just forget about that other 140 million dollar mistake. Our fault. It was the New Coke of superhero films. Let's try it again, shall we?"

It was a coin toss.

We were spared from a potential Whineapalozza/Flopathon that would have resulted in a Pistons, Spurs finals. It would have been unbearable. I would have boycotted the whole shebang. Thankfully, the basketballs gods were merciful and have given us a retro Los Angeles versus Boston match up. It conjures up fond memories. Magic versus Bird. East Coast versus West Coast. Glitz and glamour versus sweat and substance. The Garden versus the Forum.

Chills begin to form thinking of those series I watched in wonder as a child. Eyes popping from the bean bag chairs in our basement as I saw perfect fast breaks, actual ball movement and fundamental basketball.

While athleticism is superior in the modern NBA, the game itself will never be as good as it was in the 80's and early 90's. It helps that we had Magic, Bird and Jordan, the three best players ever to put on a uniform, but top to bottom the league was better. There wasn't the emphasis on "isolation" and one on one play. Role players knocked down fifteen footers like lay-ups. Team play dominated. It was better. The proof? People actually played defense in the 80's, not pretended to - I'm looking at you Vince Carter - and scoring was up. We saw games that ended up 127-125. If we saw the Spurs and the Pistons, scores would have hovered around 77-75. The game was better.

(I just reread that last paragraph. Bloody hell do I sound like a curmudgeon. "In my day a chocolate bar was a nickel!" I'm still right though.)

While David Stern dances the Tarantella in his office celebrating a Finals that America will actually watch, here are some questions I have for the Finals.

Which Kobe Bryant will show up? The "new" Kobe, playing team basketball, running the triangle offense and encouraging his teammates? Or the old Kobe, selfish, forcing shots while being double or triple teamed, scowling at everyone on the floor and whining like a burro?

kevin-garnett22.jpgWhich Kevin Garnett will show up? The completely dominant, arguably top forward in the league dominating on both ends? Or the bumfuzzled underachiever who sometimes disappears in big games?

Which Ray Allen will show up? The lights out marksman, bombing treys from all over the floor? Or the sheepish Ray of the second round with a goose egg on the score sheet?

Which Doc Rivers will show up? The decent strategist and good motivator? Or the confused, amateurish skipper, botching lineups, changing the rotations that worked all season while botching clock management?

You have fouls to give Doc! You're not in the bonus! Foul dammit! You have to stop the clock, foul! For crying out loud...

What is the over/under on shots of Jack Nicholson during Laker home games?jack.jpg I have the line at 137. I'll take the over.

Besides the historic L.A. and Boston rivalry, there are other reasons to tune in. Both squads play a solid style of basketball. Up-tempo and fluid. There are stars and superstars and both squads. We'll also get to see how one of the most lopsided trade in sports history put the Lakers back into the NBA elite. Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol. Moses smell the roses. I still can't believe that went through. It was a crime. Grand larceny. Just because you don't get prosecuted, it doesn't mean it wasn't a misdeed. Kwame has the distinction of being the subject of two great bar debates. "What is the most uneven trade in sports history?" (My Sonics traded the draft rights of Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice. That one is terrible.) And "Who is the worst overall number one pick in NBA history?" Is it Kwame or Michael Olowokandi? I think it boils down to those two flops. Glenn Robinson and "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison are awful too. Oh yeah, Kwame is also the answer to the trivia question, "What young player did Michael Jordan draft, then call a 'flaming faggot' during practice?"

Some other storylines to watch for;

The X Factors - For Boston it's Kendrick Perkins who came alive in the Detroit series. Rebounding matters in the playoffs, it leads to fast breaks and second chance buckets. If Perkins is wiping the glass, it means easy baskets for the C's. On the other side is Sasha Vujacic. If he is knocking down jumpers, the offense is more open for Kobe, Gasol and Lamar Odom.

Rajon Rondo - Watch to see if, after a mistake, if he looks to the bench to see if Sam Cassell is checking in at the scorers table. It's difficult to run the offense when you think a 57-year-old goblin is going to yank you out of the game after each turnover.

Speaking of which...

Sam Cassell - When he laughs, he eerily resembles the Crypt Keeper. It's spooky.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson - Will they be at the games? Sitting at magic-vs-bird-AADQ010_Larry-Bird-and-Magic-Johnson-Photofile-Posters.jpgthe ABC pre-game desk? Will there be halftime features of the greatest NBA series' of all time? Of course there will be.

Rough Play - Granted, most of the current players on each roster were still sperm the last time the two clubs faced each other in the Finals, but will the bad blood be renewed? (Not Cassell of course, I think he was a nine year veteran the last time they met in 1987.) Will we see a play like the infamous Kevin McHale decapitation of Kurt Rambis? Let's hope so. Good times. I believe the players with the best odds of inciting a rumble are James Posey and Ronny Turiaf. Let's get it on.


The league was better when everyone hated each other.

The Annoying Courtside Shots - Los Angeles has the worst sports fans in the country. To call them "fair weather" is a vast understatement. When local teams are losing, nobody admits to being a fan. If they are winning, four flags fly from every SUV in the 101 Freeway. It's nauseating. It's also a reflection of Los Angeles as a whole. Tossed to and fro by the winds of whatever is trendy. So, we'll see what irritating tabloid fixtures will be appearing at their first ever NBA game. Suddenly Lindsay Lohan and the cast of "High School the Musical" are basketball fans. "Look who is here today, Denise Richards. Who just so happens to have a train wreck of a reality show out now. And lookie here, Mike Myers sitting with Jessica Alba. How bout that? "The Love Guru," coming soon to a theater near you." Eight to five says a few of the phonies from The Hills somehow acquire a ticket.

p1.kobe.jpgKobe Bryant - Though I cannot stand him, I will concede he has transformed some of his game to become an actual team player this year. It only took 11 seasons, not bad. However, he still cannot help himself in the final three minutes of a close contest. He'll play team ball for 3 ¾ of the game, then revert back to same old selfish Kobe. It will happen at least once in the series. It may cost the Lakers a game.

What will really be interesting is that if the Lakers win, how many sports writers will now say Kobe is on par with Michael Jordan. Anyone that writes that is an idiot. Even if Kobe wins, that's one title without Shaquille O'Neal. Mike won six. Some of which he had Luc Longley in the middle.

I'm hoping for a good series. Maybe a few reminders of how the game used to be.

The Pick: Celtics in 6.

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5 Comments

I still can't believe the Pau Gasol Train Robbery of 2008. The Lakers GM might as well have been Jesse James.

Lakers in 6. I don't trust any of Boston's best players to come through when it matters most.

said Sean on June 4, 2008 7:38 AM.

Lakers in 5, to my chagrin. Kobe rides another gravy train (lucking out on Gasol instead of Shaq for this title) and elevates himself in his own mind.

I'm going to watch, however, in the desperate hope that KG clotheslines him, or at the very least, Cassell passes on pinkeye to the Lakers, "Knocked Up"-style.

But I do long for the days when a foul was considered a handshake and assault considered a foul (if noticed.)

said Don't Swayze Bro on June 4, 2008 10:42 AM.

It's a fair point Sean about the Celtics players. Unfortunately, Paul Pierce may be the only one who has a consistent series.

And ten points for a Great Train Robbery reference.

Yes, Swayze, I too long for the days when a hard playoff foul didn't mean suspension and fines.

said Johnny Wright on June 4, 2008 11:54 AM.

Addendum:

I've been listening to the B.S. Report with Bill Simmons this morning. He has on Adam Carolla, lifelong Lakers fan. Carolla made my point of the Laker flags flying only when they're winning.

Just ridiculous.

said Johnny Wright on June 4, 2008 12:58 PM.

Whatever happened to Magic Johnson? I don't know if it's a true irony that he had one of the best sexual reference name of any pro athlete and he ended up with HIV but I just thought of it reading this post.

said Jeni Gump on June 29, 2008 7:15 PM.
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