A tale of two cities: Boston and Los Angeles confront Father Time
The Lakers and Celtics are old teams and Father Time may catch up to them. Four men 30 years old and older are in the starting lineup for both and their benches don’t offer much help for a variety of reasons.
Kobe Bryant, 33 has played through a torn wrist ligament that blows up to the size of a piece of fruit after games and is anesthetized before each contest. While he remains at the top of the league in scoring whenever he’s in the line-up, the talk is that he can’t keep it up for even a shortened season and expect to go deep into the playoffs.
There are still rumors in L.A. about a Dwight Howard trade bringing the pretend Superman to town, but the Lakers as currently configured will just have to do until further notice.
On the opposite coast in Boston, Paul Pierce, 34 missed time early in the season and the team lost a string of games until his return. With losing streaks arriving in Beantown early in the season, the buzzards have circled with GM Danny Ainge under fire to right the ship.
The loss of Glen Davis to Orlando and Jeff Green to season ending surgery hurt the Celtics immeasurably and when fans look at K.G., 35 they see an aging player who can’t jump very high for very long.
The Celts and Lakers were on a run for the final few years of the last decade, but their end to the 2011 playoffs came swiftly and ugly. Danny Ainge and Celts’ coach Doc Rivers said they had a three to four year window to win when Garnett and Ray Allen, 36 arrived in 2007. That window has closed after the team won the championship in 2008 and lost in seven games in the 2009-10 NBA Finals.
The Lakers didn’t realize until being swept out the 2011 second round by the Mavs, eventual NBA champs that their window was probably shut too. The addition of Pau Gasol in 2008 and the former Ron Artest in 2009 gave them heft and their two titles, one at the expense of the Celtics.
When the pre-season trade for Chris Paul fell through and Lamar Odom asked to be shipped out of town, the Lakers were left with Derek Fisher, 38 and Steve Blake, 31 to carry on.
The Lakers still have Kobe who can make it happen, in fact he scored 40 points in four consecutive games early in the season but the Celts can’t ride Rondo every night.
A member of the Celtics’ radio broadcast team put it succinctly during a losing streak earlier this season. The team was getting more than 50% of assists and points from Rajon Rondo and until that stopped, the team’s performance wouldn’t turn around.
The Lakers know that they need more consistent scoring from someone other than Kobe and while they’ve managed to get it game-to-game from different contributors, there is no hope in Laker Land that the present situation can continue without dire consequences.
The changing of the guard began during the latter part of the 2011 regular season and certainly in the playoffs, without either L.A. or Boston going past the second round.
It was a portent of things to come if changes weren’t made and made fast. You can’t say they didn’t try in the off season, with the Celts dangling Rondo for Chris Paul and the NBA interim-management of the N.O. Hornets squashing a Paul to the Lakers swap.
What’s left isn’t pretty to look at although the Lakers continue to push through victories on the back of Bryant.
At the time of this writing GM Danny Ainge has not acted to dismantle his team but could do so if someone would give him value for Paul Pierce. Mitch Kupchak has said publicly that there were no blockbuster moves in the immediate future of the Lakers.
The saying in the NBA is that even without terrific skills, a tall man will always have a home somewhere —”You can’t teach tall.” In the case of the Celts and Lakers it can be edited to the following, “You can’t beat Father Time.”
Used with permission of the author.
Paula Duffy is a national sports columnist for Examiner.com and the Huffington Post and regularly comments on sports/legal matters for radio affiliates of ESPN and Fox Sports. She founded the sports information site, Incidental Contact, is the author of a line of audio books designed for sports novices and in her spare time practices law in Los Angeles.
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