I've been a Lakers fan in the very dark days of the early 90s. Immediately upon signing up with the team - I'd never previously been a fan team sports - Magic Johnson, the greatest player in the history of the franchise retired - only to return later to become the coach with the worst record in team history. Bad Times. Shortly before he retired himself at the behest of Marshall 'Do' Applewhite and the Hale-Bopp comet in Rancho Santa Fe in '97 a friend of mine maintained that the NBA was merely Sportainment more akin to the WWF than a professional sports league. Who knows what insights he had, after all, he had the perspicacity to catch the tail of a comet, even if he had to wear black Nike's - then popular with NBA players - to do it.
Some of this seasons' blockbuster NBA trades are so peculiar they might as well have been conceived by Do Applewhite, so suicidal have they been from the losers' perspective, so off-balance, out of whack, that they lend themselves to the very idea that the NBA is scripted by a none too subtle hand. However you view it, I say congrats to NBA Commish David Stern for his oversight of the game. I'm not much of a fan. I'm a Laker fan. I'd happily see them play their D-League team in the finals, but you know how it is with all old men and that wistful hankering to revisit the halcyon days of our youth - few things in the NBA conjure up magical memories on the coasts like that ol' Lakers-Celtics rivalry. Which I don't even remember or care about at all.
The Boston Celtics haven't managed to do business of consequence in the NBA for about 30 years. This past summer, somehow they traded away some raw meat and some dead wood for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, not one, but two all-stars to join Paul Pierce, the one they already had... Unlike the recent failed Lakers John, Paul, George and Ringo experiment - this one has worked. They most exalted of Power Trios has delivered by far the best record in the NBA. Running away with it in the East.
The Lakers have been good with what they've got this season. Yet somehow, inexplicably in the middle of the longest roadtrip in history, they traded away a player with a ten million dollar deal who couldn't catch the ball for All-Star Pau Gasol who has so far been simply brilliant. Pau has yet to play a home game - above you can see how many of SoCal's TW DVR's including my own are primed to record this weeks Lakers-ShaqSuns match up - which surely will attract more viewers than the All-Star game itself. In Gasol's first half-dozen outings with the Lakers on the road he has averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game - I may be a digit or two out but you can see he is a superior being on the basketball court. And he was had for nothing.
Lakers-Celtics final? Well, Kobe Bryant's torn little finger ligament is not the only bump in the road... There are the Spurs, Mavericks and the Suns (the latter now rumbling along at a different pace with Shaq on board) will all have plenty to say in the West. No one has anything much to say in the East. Well, maybe Detroit will whimper. But out West, once prodigy Andrew 'Big Night' Bynum returns, the Lakers will be once more the team to beat to get to the title. Not just the team to beat because of their storied history and the circus has come to town.