(Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The rivalry is dead, put to rest because the deep roster of talent for both the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics grew old in front of our eyes. Each tried to squeeze out one more title run, find one last hurrah before the team had to do what everybody knew it needed to do: rebuild.
The Celtics should have realized as much in the off-season. When GM Danny Ainge let Ray Allen go, they had to know that it was time to recalibrate, cut salary and rebuild for the next Celtics dynasty. Aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce couldn’t carry the team as they used to.
The Lakers made a similar miscalculation. In their off-season, they added an old, one-dimensional point guard in Steve Nash, and to compound their troubles, they replaced one lousy coach with someone who was worse.
Though the Lakers brought in Dwight Howard, he was hardly the answer. In fact, Howard wasn’t much of an upgrade over Andrew Bynum, whom the Lakers had to trade to fit Howard into their salary cap. Yet what the Lakers were unable to do was find a way to rest Kobe Bryant. They ended up running him into the ground.
The NBA is a hard league. It gives no quarter. Its stars come and go, replaced by the next generation of stronger, faster and more electric performers, which we are seeing now. The NBA is no league for old men.
So here we are, the first round of the NBA playoffs done, and the Lakers and Celtics are both gone. Not that either of these teams would have gone much farther; and who doesn’t know that neither team could beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs or the Miami Heat?
The NBA postseason ain’t the same without the Lakers and the Celtics, the league’s two marquee franchises. Both franchises have won titles in the past decade, and they remain must-see teams whenever they appear on TV or make it to the arena near you.
But sports aren’t about the past; sports are about the now and the future. For the Celtics and the Lakers, they now run like a 1985 Yugo GV. Their future looks worse still. In recent years, neither team has infused much youth into its roster; nor have they added the right complementary star who could ease some of the burden on their stalwarts.
Sports franchises have their ups and downs. Just look at the New York Yankees. No team stays on top of a league forever. But it always seems as if the Lakers and the Celtics were exceptions. They found ways to stay contenders – retooling as their challengers struggled to stay apace. Each year you expected to see both of them in the NBA Finals; if not both, then at least one. You could count on that like Seattle can count on rain.
With the injured Kobe idled for who knows how long, with Pierce and Garnett limping toward farewell tours, NBA fans will have to wait awhile before they can pencil in a Finals with the Lakers or Celtics in it.
The NBA will never recreate the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry. Those playoffs were special times; they were what made the NBA so popular. Now, all we have of those times are watercolor memories.
It’s sad to see mediocrity replace greatness, but that’s what we’ve seen happen to the Lakers and the Celtics: They are ordinary teams that are trending toward lousy.
Yes, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry is dead. Killed by bad talent evaluation and old age, the latter something the stars could not defend against.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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