Sunday, December 28, 2008

*****2014*****



By Moose

I know that I did a piece very similar to this one showcasing the 2011 Minnesota Timberwolves, but I decided to do another one like it for my Boston Celtics. If you haven't read the Minnesota one, check the October archives, it's one of my best pieces to date yet it didn't get much time posted, so it's there for the reading. Anyways, this is my first serious piece in a while, so here it goes. It was "assigned" to me from B. Long, so a tip of the cap to him for the idea (what grade did I get, Mr. Long?). And again, most likely, none of this will come true. And I'm not fully updated on the contracts of these players, so if something is factually impossible, please let it slide.


BOSTON GLOBE--March 10, 2014
Tonight the elusive Boston Celtics take on their longtime and historic rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, at home in a matchup that is to be aired on ABC, NBC, Fox Sports and ESPN5, expected to receive upwards of three times as many viewers than they've had for a single game all season. The rivalry began in the 80's, when the forever linked Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were at the height of their popularity. The hatred between the two foes seemed to go on a short hiatus for a bit more than a decade, only to be re-sparked by a Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals matchup against Paul Pierce and his newly acquired comrades, the cool Ray Allen and the intense Kevin Garnett in 2008.

The Celtics took that series in six highly-viewed games, coming out on top as the better team, the one that desired the win more, leaving the Kobe Byrant haters something to continue to heckle with; he hadn't won a championship without legendary big man Shaquille O'Neal. Hoops fans, commentators, players and coaches alike did not forget about this Finals series in the 2008-09 season, clearing their schedules for Christmas day at 5 o'clock, the time when the Celtics and Lakers were to next meet in the first highly anticipated matchup since the Finals.

The Lakers came out on top of that match at their own arena, the Staples Center in a thrilling game played with an intense desire to win from both sides of the court, thus ending the Celtics' 19 game winning streak and gaining storied coach Phil Jackson's 1,000th win. Boston, rattled by the defeat, had a newfound hunger for revenge on the Lake Show, inspired by the rising play of clubhouse leader and on-court intimidator Kevin Garnett. They went on a seemingly impossible tear for the remainder of the season, losing rarely and winning often.

That Boston Celtics finished at 71-11, coming extraordinarily close to becoming the best team the NBA has ever known, almost beating out the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record mark of 72 victories. They marched almost easily through the playoffs; the only team to put up a legitimate fight was LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, pushing Boston to seven games. LeBron almost singlehandedly led Cleveland past the Celtics, scoring over 32 in each game (exploding for 61 in game three), the reason being the Celtics had no player that could even come close to James's combination of athleticism and size, leaving Paul Pierce to do his best against the hellacious young forward.

Boston was the decided representative for the Eastern Conference in that 2009 tournament, and by the looks of it, the Lakers were to come out of the West. Like the Celtics, L.A. had a Conference Finals scare against the perennial powerhouse that was the San Antonio Spurs. In the previous series, the Spurs had outwitted the younger and less experienced New Orleans Hornets on a never-before-seen inbounds play created for Roger Mason Jr., who had an open look with two seconds left in game seven behind the arc in the corner, nailing the buzzer beater. A slightly old yet experienced and energized Spurs team took on the Lakers with force, but in the end, Kobe Bryant brought out his hyped and signature clutch play, sparking a fourth quarter rally over Tim Duncan and San Antonio in a 112-108 memorable game seven.

Thus, an NBA Finals rematch of the year before was to be held. They say that defense wins games, and even in a series energized with the scoring and offensive ability of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Sasha Vujacic, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza, the Celtics' highly acclaimed play on their own half of the court prevailed in a seven game contest. With five Defensive Player of the Year awards between Kevin Garnett and Dikembe Mutombo, at the time highlights of Boston's frontcourt, an undersized yet muscly and banging center in Kendrick Perkins, they had the post defense.

With Rajon Rondo, one of the best on-ball defender's in the league even at that time, Tony Allen, one of the best perimeter defenders, and Paul Pierce, a steady protector, Boston played world-class defense. And, with Boston not a team to be one-dimensional, they also had great offensive players in the Big Three, Rondo and Tony Allen and Eddie House off the bench, with moderate scoring from the rest of the team. The Celtics pulled away their second championship in a row, the first back-to-back since the Lakers' three peat from 2000-2002. It took seven games and a hell of a lot of blood, sweat and tears to do it, but Boston got to hoist banner 18 to the rafters the following years' opening day.

Five years later to the time that we are living in right now, the Celtics had never had the same fire and hunger that they had in their back-to-back championship bid. But then again, when they get matched up against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs almost annually, you really can't blame them for doing so. The 29 year old LeBron, holder of 15 Cavaliers' franchise records, emerged as the most feared player to ever play in the Association since His Airness, Michael Jordan. Four MVP awards and two championships will do that to your reputation; James was no exception.

Other than the emergence of the Cavs, other powerhouses started to make their way into the mainstream of the league as well. The Portland Trailblazers, led by the talented and versatile Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden, went on a tear during the 2010-11 season, finding themselves on top of the Western Conference at the end of the delightfully surprising year. Oden netted a Defensive Player of the Year Award, finally living up to the hype that was bestowed upon him as a rookie (Man, I hope so. -Ed.).

Since the Celtics' repeat, the NBA has changed considerably. It slowly evolved to become a young man's game, with players too fast and athletic for the 35 year old seasoned veteran to be able to compete with, causing retirements to come at an average of 34 years old. This was, of course, on exception among the big name stars like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, staying with their teams until the present when they have lost a step and are merely a shadow of their former selves. The Oklahoma City Thunder have improved dramatically since their 2008-09 historically terrible season, and the New Jersey Nets became, as we know it today, the Brooklyn Nets.

And, of course, the team itself has changed incredible amounts since that repeat, for better and for worse. Of course, gone are the Pierce's, Allen's and Garnett's, the championship cornerstones. In their place are the Walker's, Giddens' and O'Bryant's. Now, with the Celtics at a respectable 35-27 heading into tonight's action, they are battling for a playoff spot in the chock-full-of-talent Eastern Conference. Every win counts for both Boston and L.A. at this time of year, and if they want to compete for a title, this is a key win for whichever squad comes out on top, and it potentially could be a major setback for the losers.

At point guard for this game, there is no contest as to who's the superior. 27 year old Rajon Rondo is among the league's top court generals, along with Devin Harris, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Jameer Nelson. Rondo has made the all-star squad each of the last four years (starting three times), and he has the speed, quickness, defensive ability and passing to break down the Lakers. This has proven to be an outstanding year for Rondo, the key offensive cog on the Celtics, averaging 15.9 points, 8.3 assists, 6.1 boards and 2.4 steals per game. On the other side is 27 year old Jordan Farmar, who has emerged as a steady starting point for a respectable club, slightly above average, yet he is not superior to Rondo, averaging 13.4 points, 6.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game thus far.

At shooting guard, the athletic jumpmeister, 28 year old J.R. Giddens takes on an aging Kobe Bryant in the competition tonight. Although Kobe has already reached the 35 year plateau, he remains a force to be reckoned with and is still one of the key players on the Lakers. So far this year, Giddens has emerged as a steady two guard, if a bit unconventional, averaging 11.2 points, 6.2 boards, 1.7 assists and 1.1 blocks per game, bringing his athleticism to the defensive side as well as to the offensive. Kobe has averaged 17.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists, still close to on par with part of his earlier career, yet he has lost a step of quickness in his game, and youth and athleticism might win this battle.

At small forward for the Celtics and Lakers, athleticism rules both ends. On the Celtics' end is 26 year old Bill Walker, two-time Sprite T-Mobile AOL Slam Dunk Contest Winner. Walker has averaged a cool 14.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game so far in this 2013-2014 season, career highs in every category. The slasher has improved his three point shooting drastically since being drafted in 2008, and maintains his abilities to drive to the hole. Ariza shares many of the same qualities as Walker, just at 28, he's more developed than Bill. Experience and talent usually beats out just talent, but these are two hard workers with a will to win. So, let's call it a draw for this matchup.

Playing power forward for the Lakers is 7 footer Pau Gasol, the 33 year old Spanish veteran. Gasol has been legendarily soft in the paint for his career, but sports increasing levels of finesse and skill under the basket, along with a reliable hook shot and 15 foot jumper. On Boston's end they have Glen Davis; who is about 6 feet 8 inches tall with close to the same width as his height. Big Baby has averaged 11.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists this year, compared to Gasol's 13.1, 7.3 and 2.2. In the end, experience and size will win it's way out of this one.

Playing center for the Lakers is hellacious big man Andrew Bynum, starting all star center representative for the Western Conference in the all-star game this 2014 season. This 26 year old 7'1" beast has averaged 21.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game as one of the best big men in the league, the best if not for Dwight Howard (25.2, 16.3, 4.5). On Boston's end playing center, 29 year old Kendrick Perkins will be matching up against the more massive Bynum. Perkins' numbers have increased annually, so far this year he is averaging 11.4 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, as one of the steadiest, proven big men in the league.

As the Celtics and Lakers meet tonight, it is a must-win for both teams, leaving one potentially out of the playoff hunt in their respective conferences, and they are both going for the highest possible seed in the playoffs. Perhaps the rivalries of old will be re-hatched, the Basketball Gods pulling a surprise out of their sleeve in an exciting game played hard and fully to the end. It is entirely possible.

We can only wait and see for tonight.
(Moose's real name here) can be reached at (Moose's email address here).

--Moose

15 comments:

Justin Walsh said...

I LOVE THIS PIECE! However, I have to disagree on one point: LEON POWE WILL START OVER GBBD IN 2014! :)

Roy said...

Co-sign @ Justin Walsh :D

Moose said...

Thanks, Justin and Roy. I realized the part about Powe after I wrote it, but I have a hard time seeing Powe or Davis in a starting spot. They are both energymen off the bench who have their weaknesses, and they both foul a good deal (Powe less so than Davis). And I'm a huge Powe fan, I just don't know if either one will start. Thanks for the enthusiasm, fellas. I shoulda put Powe in Davis's place, sorry about that. Another thing on Powe: Leon is 6-7, he's undersized. Davis is undersized as well, at 6-8. They both get fouled a lot (Powe especially), so that might be to their advantage. But I don't know. My mistake, guys, sorry about that.

Moose said...

Another thing: I love writing about hoops, and I'll do it anytime. I'm looking for things to write about, so if somebody wants a bio, a story, or anything, just tell me, and I'd be more than happy to do it. I'd love requests.

Justin Walsh said...

Leon Powe is more than just energy, he's a talented forward already. He has the outrageous athleticism to compensate for lack of pure PF size. He also contributed solidly and consistently in the playoffs this year. He willll be a starter when KG is done. Glen Big Baby might not ever start in my eyes. But again, I loved the piece, it was great.

Moose said...

Thanks, Justin. The best part of Powe's game is footwork, certainly a bright spot. An expert at taking offensive fouls and being where he needs to be under the basket in great position. No lie, I am wearing a Leon Powe shirt as I type this. And Justin, thanks again. Did you get my email?

B. Long said...

I like the creativity Moose. I was hoping for a little more serious take on the potential that Bill and J.R. have and how they will be asked to step up and replace Ray and Paul in a few years. Patrick O'Bryant at least deserved a mention as well. He is definitely a project but on a team like this banging against KG, Perk, and Powe every day at practice something has to rub off on you. Mr. Long gives you an A-. Great creativity, needs more substance.

Moose said...

Aight B, thanks for the critique. I'm open to more assignments from everyone, by the way (as I said above). J! E! T! S! Jets! Jets! Jets! I can't believe I'm rooting for a New York team this afternoon. Get NE in the playoffs!

BETTHASTEAMHOTHIBACHI said...

hahahahahahahaha, moose u got the right to dream, but the Denver Nuggets will win the west this year and the Cavs got the East. Let me explain.

The Nuggets are by far the most balanced team in the NBA besides your Celtics. They are a team of superstars that flow PERFECTLY together and listen to the Coach no matter if what he is saying is questionable. They will beat the Lakers in the playoffs because of this. The Lakers swept a totaly different Nugget team last year. This year, Carmelo will be looking for redemtion and who is gonna hold him? Lamar? No, he dont start. Trevor? HAHAHAHA. The Lakers are a team of superstars that all require a hell of a lot of shots to get aquanited with scoring 30 points consistently (which they all do). Combine that with Phil's ability to polarize and Kobe's ability to be a HUGE ASSHOLE and i see the Lake Show crumbling. And the Spurs are getting old, Roger Mason is a good player, but when u rely on him to win games, u are aging.

As for the East, either the Cavs or the Celtics could grab it, but i see it going to Lebron last year. Lebron remembers that series well. Lebron remembers what his long forgotten Finals v. The Spurs did to his legacy. He now has chemistry and is preforming every night. It inspired his teammates too. Ben Wallace's dead corpse is now reborn, Big Z looks like Young Z. They will be too legit to quit. I dont know who will win, but i am pretty sure if i had to pick, it would be Cleavland, but your boys got a good shot too.
If its a Boston-Nuggets final u get, dont be surprised. But if its a Cavs-Nuggets finals, i told u so.

Just for the record i hate alternate history shit but this was entertaining to read.

BETTHASTEAMHOTHIBACHI said...

"Bill Walker, two-time Sprite T-Mobile AOL Slam Dunk Contest Winner" Never gonna happen as long as the NBA has such gifted dunkers year after year, plus Walker not getting in his rookie year hurts his chances of him getting in ever unless he does some bonkers shit in a gamee.

And if u think that all these players (Walker, O'Bryant, Giddens, Rondo) will be with the team in 2014, goooooooooooood luck with that.

BETTHASTEAMHOTHIBACHI said...

oh and 71-11 seems crazy, but i put my Cats at 82-0. I think Celtics get 65-70 wins this year.

Moose said...

Hey BET, I put the disclaimer at the top of the page, right? Lay off, man :).

Justin Walsh said...

BET, Bill Walker is one of the best dunkers in the NBA already. He's got VINCE CARTER DUNKS. He's been doing it since HS. Ask OJ MAYO

Hursty said...

Truth Justin.

BET said...

So what, it doesnt matter how good a dunker you are. If you arent in it your rookie year or were not in it your rookie, with the recent trends of compeitors shows you got a slim chance of getting it. If it was on nastiest dunker alone, J-Rich, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Desmond Mason, Dante Jones (or whatever that guy on the Nuggets name is), Stromile Swift, Amare, Dwight, Gerald Green, Josh Smith and Kobe would always be in leaving the Rudy Gay's, the Nate Robinson's, and the rookies to fight for it

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