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Tag:Phil Jackson
Posted on: February 8, 2011 10:46 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2011 10:49 pm
 

Najera: Kevin Garnett hits like a grandmother

Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett mixed it up again and, this time, his opponent took exception. Posted by Ben Golliver. kevin-garnett

On Monday, I did the unusual: I applauded Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson for flapping his gums, as he called out Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett for his recent shenanigans. I went on to wish that there were more NBA folks willing to stand up to Garnett's tired bullying routine. Last than 24 hours later: we've found two volunteers! A player and a long-time beat writer. 

During Monday night's game between the Celtics and the Charlotte Bobcats, Garnett elbowed veteran Bobcats big man Eduardo Najera in the face. Najera's response, according to the Charlotte Observer, was a little bit of face-to-face smack talk.
Celtics provocateur Kevin Garnett elbowed Bobcats forward Eddie Najera in the face late in this one. They went nose-to-nose. How did Najera respond? "I just told him he hits like my grandma,'' Najera recalled postgame.
In a follow-up piece, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer blasted off on Garnett, applauding Najera for standing up to Garnett and for speaking his mind after the game.
Garnett is a fraud. I’m not saying he isn’t a great player. I’m saying he only picks on people he thinks are weak. Call his bluff, and he backs off in this really wormy way.  Najera, who would be the first to say he’s way beyond his prime, stood up to Garnett’s B.S. Monday. When Garnett elbowed him in the mouth, Najera reminded him he’s no more tough than Najera’s grandma. That’s classic. I’d heard for years that Garnett is a phony, the bully who doesn’t know what to do when he’s called out. Good for Najera.
A grandma and a fraud in one night! This, my friends, is progress, another step in the sorely needed, league-wide Calling Out Kevin Garnett movement. I'm all for it. Maybe after a dozen or two more incidents, commisssioner David Stern will finally deem it necessary to flex his considerable muscle. 
Posted on: February 8, 2011 1:12 am
Edited on: February 8, 2011 1:35 am
 

Defense sets the tone as Lakers back on track

Following disappointing losses to the Celtics and Spurs, the Lakers have won two straight after downing Memphis in an ugly slobber-knocker. 
Posted by Matt Moore




It's pretty simple, really, and that's what makes it so frustrating. When the Los Angeles Lakers execute with focus and intensity, they win. That may sound like it could be true for any team in the National Basketball Association, but it's not.  Many teams give the good effort but don't have the talent, don't have the size, don't have the experience. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Lakers' 93-84 slugfest win over Memphis to put the Lakers back on a winning streak headed into Thursday's rematch with Boston. 

Before the game, Phil Jackson commented that despite L.A. having lost the last two to this upstart Grizzlies team, that the key to beating Memphis wasn't about Memphis at all. 

"I'm not so much concerned about Memphis," Jackson said, "as I am concerned about us." 

Nothing new for Jackson, who thrives on undermining opponents and focusing on being the most talented team in basketball, which he's almost always coaching. And after the Lakers bludgeoned the Grizzlies' frontline, Jackson commented that controlling the tempo was a key to taking control of the game after a Grizzlies run in the third quarter. It's really that simple. The Lakers are a superior team, and when they focus, and execute, there's not a team in the league outside of Boston who can stop them. 

Funny, the Lakers seem to be headed to face that test back on the right track.  After disappointing losses to Sacramento, Boston, and San Antonio, the Lakers have won two in a row and seem to be playing with more cohesion, especially defensively. But the biggest advantage is still their team makeup, which features superb talent wrapped in size and length that's nearly impossible to combat for 48 minutes. 

Versus the previous losses where Kobe Bryant took over the lion's share of the offense and continued to force things, this win featured equal contributions from the entire Lakers' arsenal. But really? It was the three-headed monster of Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum, a 20'10'' beast that when functioning, swallows opponents alive. Odom, who has been the most consistent Laker this season (if you thought you'd ever say that sentence out loud, please buy yourself an ice cream cone), was huge against Memphis with 15 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, and zero turnovers. It was his three-point play late in the fourth that put the game out of reach for good. 

Jackson commented post game that he had actually decided to draw up a play for Odom instead of just having the ball given to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers watching him dribble around. After the play resulted in a three-point play, Odom remarked that they should draw that play up more, Jackson remarked, laughing. But it cuts to the center of the Lakers' problems this season, and why Jackson has remained calm, cool, and collected throughout the struggle. When they execute, when they have the energy, they are the most talented team in basketball. And no one can match up with their size and length, let alone their versatility. 

Lamar Odom said after the game, however, that it's not their size that really makes the Lakers so tough. 

"We've got so many different lineups we can play, so many guys who can play different positions. The strength of our team is our depth." 

Against the Grizzlies, that was apparent, as the combinations Lionel Hollins employed never seemed to spark a run, and the Lakers used varying combinations to constantly put the Grizzlies off-balance. For example, Pau Gasol started on, and played primarily against Zach Randolph, and Gasol's gangly reach kept the normally surefire offense or Randolph at bay, forcing a dreadful 2-14 performance that sealed Memphis' fate. You will not beat L.A. if you do not get frontcourt scoring, and the Lakers' three-headed beast outscored Randolph, Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol 43-36, and that's before you factor in an aggressive Kobe Bryant. 

Perhaps most pertinent heading into the more hyped game Thursday was that the Lakers showed a real sense of toughness in a gritty win. There was no flashy burst of offense in this one. It was messy, ugly, and brutal. The Lakers out-muscled and out-worked the Grizzlies at the defensive end.  Ron Artest took a shot to the mouth from Marc Gasol, but the Lakers' bigs spent the rest of the night bullying the younger Gasol and company. 

The swagger is back, even as they have not poured in a consistent blowout effort yet. It doesn't have to be. All this team has to do is play to a reasonable percentage of its potential and they'll be back vying for a top-two seed. And if they don't get it, that's fine, as long as they're in a position to execute as they did tonight. But don't expect the same kind of talkative swagger you expect from Boston about this "revenge game." When asked about what the Lakers hope to do against the Celtics, Jackson cracked that cocky smirk of his and said...

"Hopefully it's not going to snow and we won't get trapped in with the ice and we'll be fine." 

Same old Lakers.  Except this time, they seem ready to throw a few punches as well as those flashy smiles. 
*******************
Notes:
  • The crowd at FedEx Forum was split evenly between Grizzlies fans and Lakers fans (particularly Kobe Bryant fans as few of the other Lakers received genuine cheers).  The game had the feel of a neutral site game for both teams. 
  • Jackson said he had not yet showed the team tape from the Boston loss a little over a week ago. He planned to do that on the two-day break between games. 
  • Shannon Brown said that the Triangle forces the team concept on the Lakers, and eliminates the drive to get your stats. He also mentioned that his improved shooting wasn't on account of working with a shooting coach, but more reps inside the flow of an offense last summer. 
  • Bryant received treatment on an ankle sore after the game and was walking pretty gingerly in the locker room. 
  • After I promised not to ask Marc Gasol about his brother and the overhyped cliche-fest stories they're always billed around when these two teams meet, Gasol was appreciative, admitting that the questions were "getting a little old." As a younger brother, I completely understood. 
  • Jackson credited Ron Artest from walking away from the confrontation with Gasol, but in reality, it was a little overdramatic. It was an obvious accidental hit, and Artest seemed ready to detonate in a very Ron-Artest way before calming down and heading to the free throw line, bricking both free throws, and coming out to get treatment. Can't blame him for clanking those, though, considering the shot he took.
  • Speaking of clanging free throws, the Lakers missed as many free throws (14) as the Grizzlies hit. 
  • The Lakers refrain was pretty simple as to what won the game. Bryant, Odom, and Artest all said the same thing: the Lakers winning ways begin with defense. 
  • Snoop Dogg and Warren G were both in the house. If you have never seen Snoop Dogg interacting with SuperGrizz, the Grizzlies mascot in a superhero outfit, you have not truly experienced life. 
Posted on: February 7, 2011 3:03 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2011 3:14 pm
 

Phil Jackson takes shot at Kevin Garnett

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson takes a shot at Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. Posted by Ben Golliver. phil-jackson

Earlier today, we noted that the NBA has taken to looking past the transgressions of Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, allowing a laundry list of unsportsmanlike plays to stand without any meaningful repercussions.

One person who isn't content to let it all go without saying something: Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson, of course, who took a solid swipe at Garnett while praising his center Pau Gasol, as quoted by DailyBreeze.com.
"Pau knows who he is," Jackson said. "He's tenacious. I like him to be aggressive offensively. He's always a willing passer. The one thing I'm on him about is getting that first rebound. Don't let them knock it out of your hands. Don't let them knock it away.
"Otherwise, all this talk about how aggressive he is or how aggressive he isn't falls on deaf ears. He totally gets it. He is who he is. We're not going to make him into (Boston's Kevin) Garnett. He's not going to go around and punch guys in the (groin). He's too nice of a guy.

"This is an intelligent person who understands what this game is about. We've been to the Finals three years in a row, so that's part of it."
Jackson, of course, is making reference to a recent low blow Garnett leveled on Phoenix Suns big man Channing Frye, a play that eventually led to his ejection due to arguing and for which he refused to apologize and was not suspended.

We've previously lamented that there is no one at this point of his career that can get through to Garnett, no one that can encourage him to better understand the decency line and work a bit harder to stay on the correct side of it. The only person who can do that, save a super-duper heavy-handed commissioner Stern, is Garnett himself, and he clearly doesn't care.

Given that situation, and the league's inactivity to this point, it's nice -- for once, a rare situation indeed -- to hear Jackson offer his two cents.  Even if only a glancing blow, Jackson's statement serves as an acknowledgement that those around the league -- colleagues and competitors -- are not totally blind to his shenanigans. 

To describe Garnett as a player that goes around punching guys in the groin certainly sells Garnett short, but that's exactly the point: Garnett's greatness as an individual defender, team defender, leader, consistent rebounder and there-when-you-need-it scorer are overshadowed by his antics. To set up Garnett as the foil to Gasol's nice, intelligent, winning persona is to attack Garnett's professionalism and to indirectly question whether his priorities are in order. Those are big words, and not many around the league have the audicity or confidence to deliver them.

It pains me to say this, but in this situation we need more Phil Jacksons. 
Posted on: February 2, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2011 4:32 pm
 

Ron Artest, agent deny interest in trade

The agent for Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest says his client doesn't want to be traded. Posted by Ben Golliver. ron-artest

Earlier today, we noted an ESPN.com report that asserted that Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest was potentially interested in being traded off the defending champions because he was supposedly sick of being the scapegoat and there are questions about his role in the offense.

While neither Artest or his agent, David Bauman, would comment on the original report, Bauman has offered a denial to the Los Angeles Times.
"Ron is not looking for a trade," Bauman said. "The frustration is there among everyone on the team. But Ron is a Laker, and he just wants to win. Ron is frustrated with the losing, as everybody is."
The ESPN report stressed that it was likely Artest could change his mind given his fickle personality and the fact that his relationship with Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had improved ever since a Yahoo! sports report in December on a confrontation during practice between Artest and Jackson in which Artest voice his  frustrations with Jackson publicly criticizing him. Said Bauman: "Ron and Phil have definitely seen each other eye to eye better."
Lakers.com also reported later Wednesday that Artest offered a denial of his own: "I definitely don't want to be traded."

Many will be quick to write off any denial offered in this situation, as both player and agent are extremely limited by NBA rules in how they can request or demand a trade in public without incurring a fine. 

If you're looking to read between the lines here, I suggest starting with the quote about Artest's relationship with Jackson, because that's the key to this puzzle. It would take a significant personality or philosophical difference for a player in Artest's position -- making a serious run at defending a title -- to hit the eject button. 

That Bauman was willing to specifically address Artest's relationship with Jackson and put a positive, progressing face on it certainly wasn't a mandatory part of the playbook. Agents have all sorts of ways of squeezing around that type of question, offering non-answers, no-comments or vagaries, but here Bauman handled it pretty straightforwardly.

As Royce Young noted earlier today, an Artest trade is a fairly remote possibility even if everyone with the Lakers is on board with it, they'd have to find a taker for his remaining salary and quirky personality. And as long as Artest and Jackson are able to play nice? There's zero motivation to explore getting a deal done.
Posted on: February 2, 2011 12:42 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2011 4:14 pm
 

Report: Ron Artest wants out of L.A.

Posted by Royce Young

The Lakers are reportedly looking to make a trade. General manager Mitch Kupchak said it, Phil Jackson said and even Magic Johnson is talking about it. The defending champs are in the market for some help.

Problem is for the Lakers, they traded away maybe their best asset in Sasha Vujacic's expiring contract and after that, don't have a lot of tradeable assets in the bank. Surely they don't intend to move a key part like Andrew Bynum or Lamar Odom. So after that, who are they going to trade? Luke Walton? Theo Ratliff? I don't think the Grizzlies are going to fall for a second Gasol trade this time around.

But what if someone wanted out? It doesn't seem probable because who would want to leave the Lakers, but according to ESPN.com, a prominant player wouldn't mind being the one to move out. Ron Artest.

Now before we get all ahead of ourselves, bear in mind that Artest lives in the moment. It doesn't take a whole lot for him to change his mind and for his emotions to kick up. So in two weeks, he may feel differently.

According to the report, Artest's two major problems are that he's afraid he'll be the scapegoat for any of the team's problems. He feels like he's always the dartboard for criticism and blame. Artest takes and sometimes makes bad shots, but it's easy to forget his stellar defense.

The second is that Artest will at some point pipe up about his role within the Laker offense. Artest has had to take a big hit in his production and usage with the Lakers, but he was willing to sacrifice there, obviously. Artest is averaging a career-low 8.1 points per game and as Artest's brother Daniel said on Twitter, is being typecast to only shooting the corner 3.

Matt Barnes is injured right now but played relatively well behind Artest at small forward. So there is a little depth there if the Lakers want to get serious about this.

In early December there was a public story about Jackson's public, harsh criticism of Artest in practice. Artest reportedly confronted Jackson about it and since then, reportedly are on good terms. It's more about Artest having to watch Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol hog all of the offense more than any displeasure with Jackson by the sound of it.

But with three years and $22 million remaining on his contract combined with the fact he's 31 and putting up career-low across the boards, what's the market really for Artest? Who is going to be interested in a deal like that? That's the question the Lakers are asking themselves right now. It's hard to say if they're actually interested in shaking up a championship team or if this is just a motivational tactic. Whatever the case, on Feb. 2, Ron Artest is looking for an exit.
Posted on: February 1, 2011 1:28 am
Edited on: February 1, 2011 1:29 am
 

Lakers GM open to considering a trade

With Lakers underperforming, GM Mitch Kupchak says he "may have to look into a trade."
Posted by Matt Moore

The Lakers are 1-5 against top echelon teams. Phil Jackson couldn't care less. Kobe Bryant is beyond angry. And General Manager Mitch Kupchak? He's talking T-word. Trade. From the Los Angeles Times:

"Yes . . . I may have to look into a trade, but I'm not saying we have "talked to other teams yet, Kupchak said. "We have not been playing up to our level and I dont know why. Maybe its complacency. Im not sure."
via Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak says hes thought about making a trade - latimes.com.


A trade? By the defending champs? Could this be happening? Even with the measured and cautious words being tossed around by Kupchak, that's a pretty stunning development even if the Lakers are simply considering a trade. This is a team that has looked every bit like a Finals contender, unless they've been facing an elite team this year. It's also a team that's notorious for not taking teams seriously, having gone seven games with a Yao-less Rockets squad in 2009, having a terrible second half last year, and letting the Suns push them in the Western Conference Finals using a zone, for crying out loud. You have to think this is just an emotional quote from Kupchak revealing a frustration with the team's play, or at least a Jackson-like motivational tactic.

Even stranger than the idea of the Lakers needing to make a trade is the idea of what trade they would be able to make. Every Laker of consequence with any value, contract or skill-wise, has at least two more years left on their deals. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are obviously not even in this discussion. So what are the next options?
  • Lamar Odom- Trade Status: Obscenely unlikely. Odom is the quintessential heart and soul of this club. He's found a home there and has flourished when his head is plugged in. What's more, he's part of the reason for the Lakers' absurd length advantage. When Odom is on, the Lakers are nearly unstoppable. Moving him would garner the best set of assets, but who could they get for him, with nearly $9 million on the books for next season, even with his 2013 salary non-guaranteed at $8.2 million?
  • Andrew Bynum- Trade Status: Pretty unlikely. Bynum has been involved in trade rumors for years due to his inconsistency, rehab work ethic, and injuries. Yet it was his toughness fighting through the Finals last spring on a torn ligament that helped assure the Lakers a title. He's now considered an invaluable part of the offense, and his improving defense, combined with his willingness to give a hard foul, means he's the backbone of what has been a very soft Lakers interior lately. Combine that with the difficulty of getting teams to invest in someone with his injury history, and the near-$15 million on the books for next year and a team option for over $16 million the next, and it's hard to see a suitor for Bynum that would keep the Lakers in contention.
  • Ron Artest- Trade Status: Difficult: From zero to hero to zero again. Artest struggled all last year trying to learn the Triangle, was terrible at times in the playoffs, then hit the biggest hot of his career to help clinch a title for the Lakers (as well as a tip-in in the Western Conference Finals) and was everyone's hero. This year? Back to the doghouse. If anyone's to be moved, it's probably Artest, but that says more about where Ron's sunk to rather than where his value is at. Getting anything for someone who's been such a pain for so many teams with over $21 million left on his contract after this year is difficult. When it's Ron Artest? Even harder.
  • Luke Walton- Trade Status: Ha-ha-ha-ha: Yes, because I'm sure that what GMs with a valuable commodity are thinking is "Oh, we can get the 28th pick in the draft and Luke Walton with over $11 million left on his contract over the next two years? Who wouldn't do that deal?" Walton's contract is slowly reaching movable status after an ill-advised extension, but he's a long ways away from upgrade-bait. 
  • Steve Blake- Trade Status- Limited: Blake's got three years after this one for a combined roughly $14 million, is a serviceable point guard, and fits easy into a rotation. So he's got some value. But in terms of trying to get a major upgrade, he'd have to be packaged with one of the above candidates in order for it to make any sense. He can act as icing on the cake, but even then, having three years left on his deal may make it a little too sweet for most. 
  • Derek Fisher - Trade Status: Laughable: The Lakers would never give up their most veteran leader who everyone came up to and thanked after winning the last title. Bryant would never stand to lose the guy he's been to the playoffs with the most. Not everyone can run the Triangle point guard position... okay, that's a lie. Pretty much everyone can dribble the ball up, pass it to Kobe Bryant, and then go sit in a corner and often get blown by on defense. But Fisher's hit too many huge shots in Laker history to be forsaken. And no one is looking to pay him another $6.8 million for two more years. 
  • Shannon Brown- Trade Status: Intriguing, if unlikely: Brown failed to fetch any significant offers on the open market this summer, so who's going to trade for him now, even in a career year for him? He's got great upside and has looked like a possible building block, but who doesn't when they're running next to this team? Brown's cheap and his contract is flexible, but he's not going to cash in any huge superstar on the open market. 
  • Matt Barnes- Trade Status: Injured: Barnes is injured for a few more weeks, his contract's too low to matter, and the only teams that would be interested in him are contenders, the sort of teams that would never give up valuable assets to the defending champs. 

So while Kupchak may be looking to try and upgrade his team, Michael Heisley and Chris Wallace aren't walking through that door. Even with the Nuggets being dragged slowly towards the inescapable black hole in the reality that they have to trade Carmelo Anthony, and the Sixers wanting to offload Iguodala to make room for their rebuilding project, or the Suns in near full-on blow-up mode, no one's going to be looking to the Lakers to cash in.  The Lakers are on top, and have spent a lot to get to the top. They're loaded with talent, but it's not talent that garners a lot on the market. 

After all, how do you possibly get great return on trading members of the most talented team in the league? Instead, I think the Lakers will take the Phil Jackson approach. Sit back, relax, coast through the next four months, and flip the switch when it counts. They've done it before. They'll do it again. 
Posted on: January 28, 2011 3:38 pm
Edited on: January 28, 2011 3:47 pm
 

Lakers vs. Celtics preview: By the numbers

A look at some of the numbers prior to Sunday's showdown between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Posted by Benlakers-celtics Golliver.

On Sunday, the Boston Celtics travel to Staples Center to take on the Los Angeles Lakers, renewing the most prestigious rivalry in the NBA. The two teams have combined to win the last three NBA Finals, with Los Angeles making three straight appearances and the Celtics making two of the last three.

This year's teams are another year older, but still have to be considered the favorites to win their respective conferences. As of Friday afternoon, the Celtics were 34-10, in first place in the Atlantic Division, while the Lakers were 33-13, in first place in the Pacific Division.

Here's a look at five numerical odds and ends in advance of Sunday's showdown. The results often reflect an amazing balance between the team's two premier franchises.

Premier Teams On Both Ends

The Celtics and Lakers are regarded as two of the deepest, most complete teams in the NBA, and the general efficiency numbers bear that out pretty clearly. The teams are two of just five teams who appear in the top 10 of the NBA's offensive and defensive efficiency tables. The Lakers are No. 1 on offense and No. 8 on defense, while the Celtics are No. 10 on offense and No. 2 on defense. The other teams that appear in the top five in both categories: championship contenders Miami, Orlando and San Antonio. 

Boston's offensive efficiency is dragged down a bit by its turnovers and is arguably better than the No. 10 ranking suggests. For example, the Celtics actually lead the league in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage, thanks to their ability to get easy buckets, get to the free throw line and knock down three-pointers.

For the Lakers, their defensive efficiency number, while still good, is dragged down a bit by their average defensive rebounding rate, attributed in part to the absence of center Andrew Bynum and other assorted big man injuries.

Overall, the Celtics and Lakers are third and fourth respectively in efficiency differential, which measures the difference between their offensive efficiency and the efficiency they allow opponents while playing defense. The only two teams better: Miami and San Antonio, other title contenders.

Age

Jerry West recently kicked off a discussion about the advancing age of the Lakers, saying some of the players are getting "long in the tooth."

A recent Hoopism.com study confirmed that West was on to something, as the Lakers and Celtics were second and third oldest teams, respectively, when it comes to the average age of their players that actually see court time.

For Boston, the fogeys are Ray Allen (35), Kevin Garnett (34) Paul Pierce (33) and, to a lesser degree, Shaquille O'Neal (38). For Los Angeles, the elder statesmen propping up that number are Derek Fisher (36) and Kobe Bryant (32) with Ron Artest (31) and Lamar Odom (31) on their heels.

With the exceptions of O'Neal and Fisher, all the players listed are still contributing this season without much meaningful decline in the quality of their play. Age is proving to be a virtue here.

Big Men
A major storyline entering this weekend are the recent returns of big men Andrew Bynum and Kendrick Perkins, after both underwent offseason knee surgery. Bynum has been in action for Los Angeles since Dec. 14 while Perkins made his return earlier this week

Last season, both players have become more important statistical producers in these head-to-head match-ups, as Bynum dropped 19 points and 11 rebounds in LA's win last year and Perkins poured in 13 points and 14 rebounds in Boston's win.

In five games against Boston since 2007-2008, Bynum is averaging 10.8 points and 7.6 rebounds. In six games against the Lakers since 2007-2008, Perkins is averaging 10.2 points and 9.3 rebounds. Sunday's game could turn on which of these bigs is able to win the match-up in the middle. Perkins, it should be noted, is still being worked back into Boston's rotation, and played just 20 minutes on Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Recent History

In the most recent chapter of Lakers/Celtics, kicking off in 2007-2008, the two teams have split their six regular season meetings 3-3. Both teams are 2-1 at home. Over the six-game stretch, Boston has out-scored Los Angeles by 22 points, 585-563, or roughly 3.7 points per game.

Last year's meetings were both relatively low-scoring affairs and played to a cumulative draw, as each team escaped with a one point victory on the road. The Lakers beat the Celtics, 90-89, in Boston on Jan. 31. The Celtics beat the Lakers, 87-86, in Los Angeles on February 18th. It cannot get any closer than that.

Coaches

To further reinforce just how even these teams have been since 2007-2008, take a gander at the coaching records for the two coaches. Lakers coach Phil Jackson is 212-80 in regular season games while Celtics coach Doc Rivers is 213-78. Over the course of nearly 300 regular season games, that's just one win and two losses separating the two. Ridiculous.

In the playoffs, Jackson enjoys a slightly larger edge: holding a 46-21 record since 2007-2008, topping Rivers' 38-26. Head to head, however, Rivers holds a one-up on Jackson, leading 7-6.
Posted on: January 28, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2011 3:20 am
 

Celtics at Lakers: What it means for Boston

What Sunday's Celtics-Lakers game means for the Boston Celtics in the first rematch since the 2010 Finals. 

Posted by Matt Moore



On Sunday, Boston travels to L.A. for Modern Celtics-Lakers XX.  The 20th time these two have met since the 07-08 season (twice in the regular season for three years, plus 13 playoff games) will still represent what many feel is a clash of the two best teams in basketball currently, as well as the resumption of the oldest and greatest rivalry the sport has ever known. With Los Angeles at 33-13 and the Celtics 35-10, the two look every bit ready to see each other once more in the Finals, even with challengers like San Antonio and Miami in their path. 

This rivalry extends beyond the history and legacies of their franchises, though. There's a genuine dislike between the two teams, even if they share a mutual respect.  The Celtics' brutally tough, bullying defense and marksman like precision clashes organically with the Lakers' smooth ball movement and overpowering height and athleticism run through the Triangle.  Doc Rivers' explosive motivational coaching approach runs in contrast to Phil Jackson's zen-like trust in his players and press-conference tweaking.  And at the end of it, they just don't like one another. 

But as the two meet in the rare regular season game that actually does seem to matter (although afterward the loser will predictably dismiss such claims), what does this matchup actually mean for Boston? 

Just for Kicks

Kevin Garnett has never been one to back down from an opportunity for dramatics. As much as his reputation is for visceral toughness and unbridled intensity, he is also a showman.  While the legitimacy of his stanchion-smashing, cobra-weaving, "Anything is possible" lunacy is up for debate, he does know how to send a message in outright terms. Nothing proves that like the shoes it was announced Garnett would be wearing for the game. Yes, his shoes. Have a look, courtesy of Nice Kicks /Aaron Knows and The Basketball Jones :




On the tongue there? That's the Celtics all time record against the Lakers, 152-120. The shoe is delicately titled "Beat L.A.."  Kevin Garnett had shoes produced for one game.  If that doesn't serve as proof of Garnett's intentions in this game, nothing will. It's just his feet, but in basketball terms, that's as good as wearing a T-shirt that reads "I plan on kicking your face in because that's what my team does to your team."  It's an outright signal of the Celtics' entire attitude, which isn't just "We're going to win" but "We're going to win because we're better than you, our franchise is better than you, and our collective being in every way is superior to yours."

It's why the Celtics don't really respect Orlando, nor do they show real signs of respect for anyone. It's part of their own personal code of conduct. But it's amped to another level with L.A. That will always be part of it as the players seek to carry on the legacy of the game built into the rivalry. But it's even more prevalent because of how things were the last time these two stepped on a court together. 

Revenge and the Art of Maniacal Maintenance

Losing to the Lakers in the Finals was devastating for the Celtics. Losing a championship series is hard for any player, but these are the Celtics, a group of veterans trying to make good on promises to themselves as well as their fans that they would collect multiple rings once among players of their caliber. Beyond that, though, losing to L.A. creates a sense of failure beyond just disappointment. You've let down the players that came before you, the players who managed to beat the Lakers, who protected that legacy (despite the Lakers having won quite a few of their own throughout the years).  It's the darkest of all places, as Garnett told WEEI this fall about his mindset after Game 7: 
“Very dark, to be honest, dark. ‘Just leave me alone, let me be my myself. I don’t want to deal with anything right now. Let me just be in a dark place.’ Just the way I replay the game over and over in my mind, trying to get a resolution to some type of place to where you can settle with it. I never found it, but that’s what it is. I say it’s fuel to the fire. [Expletive? (Bleeped completely out] .“
via Sports Radio Interviews » Blog Archive » Kevin Garnett Goes To A Dark Place In The Off-Season .

Paul Pierce wasn't in a great place afterward either, when WEEI spoke to him about it: 
How long does it take a competitive person like you to get over a seventh-game loss in the NBA (Finals)? A week? A month? Ever?

“I still haven’t gotten over it. It’s tough. Because you envision back, and say, ‘If we could have done this different, that different in the game, it would have been a different outcome.’ So, it’s hard. You think about the what ifs and all of that. I don’t think you ever forget it.”

What’s the process? Do you go in your bedroom for a couple of days and sleep, and then don’t shave for a while, or don’t bathe, and then finally come out of the shell?

“I didn’t talk to people for a long time. I didn’t watch any basketball for a long time. I sort of kind of did go into a shell. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t even want to go out and eat for a while, because you just felt that bad about the loss. But then as I got back into the gym and working out, I just used it for motivation and just sort of loosened up from there.”
via Sports Radio Interviews » Blog Archive » Paul Pierce on Losing Game 7 .

This is just speculation, but I'm betting Glen Davis' reaction was to eat a muffin. Or a boar whole, or something. Regardless, things were pretty rough for the C's after that loss. 

Nothing will really provide the Celtics with a satisfied feeling of revenge short of winning the championship, preferably over the Lakers this spring.  But this game is a chance to send a message.  It's an opportunity to go into the Lakers' house and show them that they are still every bit as tough as they have been, and even tougher with their improved depth. It's a chance to illustrate that they are the ones in control of this rivalry, even after last spring, and that even though this is just a regular season game, they can dominate at will. 

This isn't about just showing L.A. who's boss, it's about testing themselves. Being 35-10 means little to them because they don't care about beating the Nets, or the Bobcats, or even the Magic or Heat.  They want to show they can beat the Lakers.  Everything else is just a means to get there. 

And in part, the Celtics want the opportunity to show that they're right: Kendrick Perkins was the reason they lost. 

Man Down, Ring Down

Losing Kendrick Perkins before Game 7 hurt .  One of the Celtics' biggest advantages against the Lakers as opposed to nearly every team in the league is their ability to counter the Lakers' length with their own interior defense.  Perkins isn't a behemoth like Andrew Bynum, but what he lacks in height he makes up for in toughness, physicality, and savvy.  Losing him meant the Celtics lost just enough of an edge down low.

At the end of the matchup considerations, though, is this: the Celtics were without a starter for Game 7 of the Finals.  That's enough to prompt anyone to keep an excuse at the back of their minds, even if they'll publicly give the other team credit.  Perkins means a lot to this team, and even in limited minutes now that he's back, you can see what he brings the team.  

Sunday is an opportunity to showcase what they look like at full-strength, should they stay healthy till then (which is far from guaranteed, this is the Celtics, after all).  Even with Shaquille O'Neal nursing an injury and Jermaine O'Neal still struggling through his knee problems, this is the Celtics, at their core.  Sunday provides an opportunity to show the difference in the Celtics with and without Perkins. Perkins wasn't even expected to be available for this game, supposedly out another week.

But of course Tuesday he pops up healthy.  That's how this works. Some, like myself, never questioned that Perkins would be back for this game. This game matters to him. You'll have a hard time keeping him out of a game like this, even in the regular season. Because this is like a dress rehearsal.

Trial Run

There's no way to duplicate the intensity of the Finals, but this will be as close as it will get for a while, at least until the Lakers visit Boston in a few weeks.  And it's a chance to test things for future reference. How will Shaquille O'Neal do against Andrew Bynum?  How will Nate Robinson do as backup against Shannon Brown or Steve Blake?  What can a healthy Marquis Daniels do against Ron Artest

These are the questions that will be in Doc Rivers' mind, as they try and get a regular season win, but also try and figure out some things to rely on should these two meet again.  There's no way to block it out, though they may try. "It's just another game" will likely be a refrain at practice and shootaround. Don't be fooled. This is the setup, the first act of the 2011 chapter of Lakers-Celtics.  Let's draw the curtain, and see what happens.




 
 
 
 
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