I am a Boston Celtics fan. I have been since the late 1940s. I have enjoyed watching their rivalry with the Los Angles Lakers over the generations of players. I looked forward to the opportunity to avenge our seventh game loss in 2010 in this year’s finals. But this won’t happen. The Lakers have been swept by the Dallas Mavericks, and at this writing the Celtics are down two games to one with the Miami Heat.
But what a difference in heart between these two championship franchises. The Celtics led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo are the team with the tradition of pride, class, even nobility. Garnett on the floor is arguably the toughest trash-talkier in the league. Ray Allen’s career records inclulde making the most 3-point baskets in NBA history. Paul Pierce, the team’s captain, has his own set of bests. These three will one day be members of the Hall of Fame. Add the aging but future Hall of Fame candidate Shaquille O’Neal to the mix and you’ve got a great starting lineup.
The Spirit of Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn, Bill Russell, Larry Bird and other Celtic immortals has been breathed into Rajon Rondo. This young man has become the fire under the kettle, the pace setter, the play maker and play finisher…whatever is needed to win a given game.
His performance in last night’s victory over the Heat is already legend. Having had his left shoulder dislocated in the third quarter under his weight and Dwayne Wade’s, he returned to play the fourth quarter using only one hand almost exclulsively. The exception was a steal that he took to the basket. The video of his apparent season ending injury and his come-back minutes later were an inspiration to his team. That’s the Celtics tradition. No whining. No crying. No excuses. I hope young players will also be inspired by his unselfishness, his team orientation, and his personal committment to the Celtics legacy of championship teams.
Today the Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks in their fourth semi-final meeting. It was their final opportunity to win at least one game before being swept. By half-time, they were down by 23 points. The Mavericks played the Lakers as if it were a scrimmage game. The Dallas defense was almost impenetrable. Their offense included record setting volleys of three-point shots. The lead just kept increasing throughout the second half. It was obvious that they were by far the better team.
The game announcers were astonished. Questions were asked about personal agendas and what really went on in the Lakers’ locker room. Statements were made about the sad ending to Phil Jackson’s glorious career as a Hall of Fame head coach. But the true character of at least two of the Laker players was revealed in the final minutes of the game when Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum were ejected for flagrant fouls committed on Maverick star Dirk Nowitzke and back up point guard J.J. Barrea. Nowitzke walked away from his attacker while Barrea lay on the floor a while after being dumped by an elbow while ascending for a lay up. The Lakers were behind by more than 30 points at this point.
As big a bad mouth as Kevin Garnett has, as many times as Ray Allen has been dumped, as much abuse as “Shorty”, Rajon Rondo has taken, these men and their team mates don’t make problems for themselves or their team. They put the team first and don’t do things that jeapordize their ability to play. They don’t risk suspensions. Yet there is no one in the league that would call them cowards or sissies for not deliberately trying to take out an opponent. Certainly not in a situation that Odom and Bynum were in. Down 0-3 in games and down 30 points in the fourth game. They’ll both certainly miss games at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season.
The outcome of the Celtics-Heat matchup is yet to be decided. If the Celtics win, they’ll most likely play the cinderella Chicago Bulls for the Eastern Conference title. The winner will go on to face the Western Conference champions. But it won’t be the Los Angeles Lakers.