ESPN 710 LA’s John Ireland often tells the story of an interview he once did with Dr. Buss just following the 2008 NBA Finals loss that came at the hands of the rival Boston Celtics. Ireland, of the Mason & Ireland show (also, the radio voice of the Los Angeles Lakers), describes how he asked Dr. Buss (at the time) if the Finals defeat could at least be seen as a “moderate success” following several difficult years during the post-Shaq era.
According to Ireland, without batting an eye, Dr. Buss vehemently stated, “If it hadn’t been to them, maybe. Never when it comes at the hands of them (Celtics).” Dr. Buss’ response was precisely why fans, Lakers Nation around the globe, and sports fans (in general) loved and respected him. His will to win rivaled that of the players, and beyond…in some cases.
It shouldn’t take a “win one for the Gipper” moment, nor should any of us have to explain why tonight’s game is so significant. At four games under .500, following the death of the greatest Laker of all time, and on the heels of being obliterated by both the Celtics and crosstown Clippers just before the break, if these Lakers cannot find a way to place aside differences and simply play with pride/passion (now), they will never get it.
Put simply, it is an absolute shame that Dr. Buss wasn’t able to see one last Finals run prior to passing, and it would be that much worse if this group can’t (at least) find a way to honor Dr. Buss’ dedication to greatness.
Frontcourt: Throw out records and ages when the Lakers and Celtics face one another. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will always come to play when it involves facing the Lakers. Neither of the two are the players they once were, but they can still be highly effective players in big moments and games. In fact, Garnett and Pierce are a large part of why the Celtics have been able to go 8-1 in Rondo’s absence (ACL). Having played together for the past six seasons and made two Finals appearances along the way, Garnett/Pierce still approach the game with the type of pride/passion much of Lakers Nation has been pleading with the Purple and Gold to consistently display this year.
Although the numbers on Brandon Bass won’t impress you, he remains one of those “glue guys” that will kill you with his energy/effort an mid-range jumper if you aren’t careful. Jeff Green, while up and down at times, has been much better in terms of productivity in Rondo’s absence as well.
Backcourt: As mentioned, Rajon Rondo’s injury was a shocking blow to the Celtics’ chances to compete for the Eastern Conference. Even though they also lost Leandro Barbosa, the injuries have not been devastating, as they’ve also received increased productivity from Avery Bradley and Jason Terry. Bradley remains one of the leagues best perimeter defenders, and Terry can still score in bunches if you fail to close out and defend the 3-point line.
Courtney Lee has been somewhat of a disappointment for Boston fans, but has the type of athleticism and skill set that can give the Lakers trouble in the open court and around the perimeter if Lee gets hot.
Play With Pride: Represent Lakers Nation with the type of pride and professionalism the fans deserve and the jersey/organization should demand. Enough of the back and forth within the media, enough of the selfishness, enough of the nonsense. This is an organization, rich in history, that has been built/centered around greatness and maintained excellence. While a down year is always a possibility, the turmoil and unnecessary drama must end. Dr. Buss lived, breathed, and bled for this organization. It’s about time everyone associated with the organization place aside their differences and personal agendas, and went about playing the game the right way. For each other.
Forget About Expectations & Hype: All of the hype and hoopla that surrounded the team prior to the year is a distant memory. I appreciated the “one game at a time” mentality they seemed to adopt just prior to the Grammy Trip. I recommend finding at least that harmony, once again. The team cannot afford to watch the scoreboard and obsess over what is taking place in other cities and locker rooms. If they take care of their own business, everything should work out for itself.
Respect The Rivalry: The Lakers can ill-afford another sub par performance against this team. Not just because of the standings, but for their own personal (and team) psyche(s). Again, it isn’t necessarily about winning one for Dr. Buss, but it sure would be nice to see this team not only perform well in this game, but also find a way to honor the ll-around greatness this organization has always been about.
Boston Celtics (28-24) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (25-29)
7:30 PM PST, February 20, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Celtics Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Avery Bradley
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Kevin Garnett
Key Reserves: G Jason Terry F Jeff Green F Chris Wilcox