So we’ve finally come full circle. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are face to face once again as the greatest rivalry in all of American sports is rekindled.
How both of these teams got here is unimportant. The C’s were busy dispatching an over hyped player in Cleveland while the Lake Show again proved just how truly overrated that two-time MVP in Phoenix is. Blah, blah, blah…
This is not about the journey. This is all about the destination.
That is, after all, why Lakers/Celtics is the greatest rivalry in American sports. When these two teams clash there is much more than myopic cross town bragging rights on the line. When these two giants do battle the last team standing emerges as the world champion.
Let the games begin!
Two years ago, the Lakers wet the bed in the NBA Finals. That stain still remains to this day, hanging in TD Garden as a mocking reminder of just how painfully far yet agonizingly close the Purple and Gold were to winning it all back then.
Those Lakers were outmatched, outcoached and outclassed.
That was then, this is now.
Those Lakers were begging Vladimir Radmanovic to defend Paul Pierce.
These Lakers are daring the same Pierce to go toe-to-toe with Ron Artest in a best of seven series.
Those Lakers were learning to grow together as a team – never mind being champions.
These Lakers have a certified championship pedigree forged in three straight trips to the NBA Finals.
Those Lakers went largely untested as they romped through the Western Conference.
These Lakers have the battle scars to show for their ascent to the NBA’s Promised Land.
Those Celtics were hungry for their first taste of sweet championship Champagne in over two decades.
These Celtics are hanging on for what could very well be the end of their brief return to NBA glory.
Those Lakers went to war without Andrew Bynum and an injured Trevor Ariza.
These Lakers have a somewhat healthy Bynum and a reborn Ron.
Those Lakers didn’t sniff a victory against the Boston Celtics during the ’07-’08 regular season.
These Lakers have lost to the C’s just once in four regular season meetings since being embarrassed in a 39-point massacre to close the ’08 Finals. (FYI – that one loss was without the services of Kobe Bryant.)
Everything that the 2008 Lakers weren’t, the 2010 Lakers are.
If Celtics fans assume they’re getting a rematch with the same team from ’08, then they’re in for a rude awakening. You do know what happens when you assume, right?
Let’s assume Pau Gasol isn’t any tougher now than he was back in 2008.
Let’s assume that Lamar Odom really did just get “lucky” in the Western Finals.
Let’s assume Phil Jackson already has one foot out the door.
Let’s assume that Kobe Bryant won’t be able to contain Rajon Rondo.
Let’s assume all of the above is true.
Even so, this is a series that could easily be over in five games with the Los Angeles Lakers hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy proudly over their heads in the same Garden where they fell flat on their faces two years ago.
What many fail to comprehended is that these Lakers are a team in every since of the word. They are also a team that has had but one mission and one goal for the past two years – to exact revenge on Boston.
No matter the obstacles thrown in their path, the Lakers have cleared them. While not always displaying the most flawless form, the Lakers have a knack for sticking the landing.
Go ahead and assume that Derek Fisher is past his prime. That approach didn’t work out so well for the Orlando Magic last year.
Feel free to think that taking Gasol out of the equation will neutralize the Lake Show. The Phoenix Suns proved that formula to be worthless.
No matter the obstacle placed in their way, the Los Angeles Lakers will find a means to maneuver around it. That is what champions do and it is exactly what the Lakers have done time and time again.
So feel free to rest on your laurels, Celtics faithful. Just don’t sleep on the 2010 Los Angeles Lakers. In a blink, they will be the reigning NBA Champions…again.