Thursday, May 20, 2010

You can see why the Phoenix Suns' coach wants a time out, and not only because Kobe Bryant just hit a three pointer (with Jack applauding.) The Lakers are up 2 games to none, and Laker fans were heard chanting "We Want Boston!" For in the surprise of the playoffs so far, the Boston Celtics are not only in the Eastern finals, but also up 2-0. Though it seems even more impressively, since they won both games in Orlando, where the Magic haven't lost twice in a row all season, it's only slightly more so: the Celtics have been a more impressive road team than home team this year. Still...

It seems quite likely now that the NBA finals will be Lakers-Celtics, and the NBA's wet dream. It's the most storied rivalry in pro basketball, and arguably in all sports. I remember watching their finals match-ups back in the day when the games weren't even broadcast live--they were tape-delayed for late night, since the networks weren't sure NBA basketball was going to get an audience. (And no, this wasn't in the 19th century; more like the 1970s.)

It was between those finals that I switched from being a Celtics fan (since I'd lived in Cambridge and worked in Boston) to the Lakers. I just thought Magic was magic, Kareem was incredible, and I loved watching James Worthy soar. Those were the Showtime Lakers, and though I rooted against them once more--when Michael Jordan was leading the Bulls against them--I've been a Lakers fan since.

The Lakers are motivated for this series with the Suns, and they'll be even more motivated against the Celtics (if that's what happens), since Boston humiliated them in the last finals they played. The Suns apparently can't play defense, and the Lakers are showing a previously latent ability to score a lot of points, but defense is what both Boston and L.A. are really good at. If it happens, it could be a classic series.

It might even be enough to draw attention away from speculating on where LeBron James will wind up next season. His last two games with Cleveland were humiliating; the team just flat out gave up, and I don't see him returning there. The city must be suicidal right now, and if King James leaves, they'll also lose a major force in their economy. It's amazing what one player has done there, and sad as well. The question now seems to be whether a zillionaire Russian (about whom little is known) with ambitions to make the New Jersey Nets into a global brand is going to pony up the cash to tempt LeBron. Maybe if he lands Dwayne Wade as well. The New York Knicks are literally banking on getting James, and if he doesn't go there, it's another suicidal city, or at least franchise. The other team that's mentioned is the Bulls. There are several gaudy possibilities for combinations of big name free agents, and I'm guessing that LeBron will have to be promised at least one to switch teams. And Cleveland will have to enter that sweepstakes: new big name players and a new coach. I can see why sports talkers are salivating. But Boston-L.A. might divide their attention for a few weeks.