- 06/03/2008, 11:50AM ET
David DuPree said 06/03, 11:50 AM
My Celtics team: starters Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, Kevin Garnett, Bill Russell; reserves Dave Cowens, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Paul Pierce, Dennis Johnson, Sam Jones, JoJo White; coach Red Auerbach.
I'm old school. I still believe that defense wins, first and foremost. The Lakers have plenty of firepower, but the Celtics will make it so difficult to score that it will come down to a defensive struggle. With Russell and Garnett inside, the paint will be out of bounds for the Lakers. I've also got Havlicek as my perimeter man-to-man stopper.
This doesn't mean that the C's aren't going to play offense. They will still run at every opportunity and pound the ball inside when they can't run. Bird will be able to do whatever he wants and Cousy will keep everybody happy.
I also have Parish, Cowens and McHale -- all just as effective at the defensive end as at the offensive end -- to deal with the abundance of Lakers big men. I've got DJ, another defensive genius. Pierce is my get-my-own-shot guy. And if the Lakers just pack in their defense, Jones and White can spot up along with Bird.
This is a blue-collar, hard-hat team that will be physical for 48 minutes.
Jack McCallum said 06/03, 12:01 PM
My Lakers team: starters Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; reserves Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal, George Mikan, James Worthy, Gail Goodrich, Vern Mikkelson, Michael Cooper; co-coaches Pat Riley, Phil Jackson.
I hope you're not still buying into that belief that the Lakers are soft and unwilling to play defense. Though Kareem's sky hook overshadowed everything he did, he was a great defender and shot-blocker in his prime, and ''prime" is what we're talking about here. In fact, whomever is playing center is going to protect the paint, too.
OK, I'd be stretching a point to say that the Lakers would defend the inside as well as the Russell-KG combo. But it's not like the Lakers have to be that good inside when they don't have the ball. "Firepower" doesn't begin to describe what this arsenal is capable of. The trio of Magic, West and Kobe alone can get, oh, 80 or so, even without much penestration. Baylor would find a way to slither to 25 or 30. The C's would have trouble stopping Worthy and Goodrich, too.
And if the game becomes a defensive struggle, the Lakers can call on two old-school guys themselves: Mikkelson and Cooper.
David DuPree said 06/03, 12:17 PM
I never implied that the Lakers were soft. I'm just saying they are softer than the C's. I also certainly concede that Kareem's sky hook is the single greatest shot devised, but when we're talking about big men guarding the paint, I mean big men who are going to move and not just camp inside. Mikan, Wilt and Shaq aren't going to go out on the floor and properly defend a pick-and-roll. And by the way, be prepared for the Hack-a Shaq and the Whack-a-Wilt.
I'm going to say the Bird-Magic showdown will be entertaining, but a wash. The Lakers who scare me the most are West, Baylor and Kobe. They may go to the line a lot, but they are going to earn every trip there. By rotating defenders on them and doubling them right away, hopefully they won't be able to get into a rhythm.
Here's something else to deal with: One of Magic's biggest advantages is that he can see over anybody who ever guards him. But let's him try seeing over Garnett when he is matched against him late in games.
Also, what's up with the goggles -- Kareem, Mikan, Worthy. I'm surprised Kurt Rambis isn't on the team. Fine. Lakers wear goggles, but Celtics wear hard hats.
Jack McCallum said 06/03, 12:42 PM
Hmm, first thing I want to see is Garnett guarding Magic. The Big Ticket is the Big Legit, but, Dave, guard Magic? I don't think so.
Anyway, this won't be a half-court test, even though it's the postseason and, yes, things will slow down a little. All this talk about the C's lockdown D won't make a speck of difference if the Lakers are running. Which they will be.
And there will be offensive balance, too. Wilt will be so eager to prove that he's more unselfish than Russell that the Riley/Jackson coaching duo (did I mention I loaded up on X's and O's and motivation with those two Hall of Famers?) will have to beg him to shoot. And Kobe will bring out his most unselfish game because he's in the company of his hero, the one guy in the game he truly respects: Jerry West.
The Purple and Gold will be prepared for any deliberate fouling, but I can't see it happening because that's not Celtic basketball. Anyway, down the stretch, when games are won, Wilt and Shaq will represent 14-plus-feet of spectating.
As for the goggles comment, what's next: Are you going to stand on the sideline and yell "Four Eyes" at my team? Of course, that's exactly what Red Auerbach would do.
David DuPree said 06/03, 01:35 PM
KG is only going to be on Magic in certain late-game situations. I grant you the Lakers will run and get some easy baskets, but the C's aren't afraid to run with them when the opportunities are there. There are plenty of athletes on this team, too, you know. They may not be flashy, but they are effective.
Do you really think Kobe is going to be able to resist taking over? Maybe for a little while, but if you get down 3-1 or go into a Game 7, do you really think he will still be deferring? I'm sure Wilt will love sitting it out when the game is on the line, too. The man is going to want to play 48 minutes every game.
As for your two-headed coaching monster, Phil will sit in his high chair while Riles paces the sideline imploring them to get out of that triangle nonsense and just "play your game." Then he'll turn to Jackson and tell him he didn't read "The Secret Life of Bees" that Jackson left for him. Red, as is his tradition, won't even have an assistant coach because, excuse me, he will have Russell, who won two rings as a coach playing.
And finally, whichever arena the series is played in, there will be smoking, because Red will be lighting up four victory cigars.
Jack McCallum said 06/03, 02:14 PM
You're dealing in ancient stereotypes, Dave, the idea that the Lakers will be all dysfunctional and the Celtics will be meek little lambs, eager to follow good ol' Red into battle.
Well, Bird, to name just one of the modern players, loved Red for sure, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that he never had to play for him and listen to his yapping day after day. The Lakers, under the best floor leader ever (Magic) and two of the best bench leaders ever (Riley and Jackson), will be ready for this series.
It comes down to being able to play two styles exquisitely. The Lakers will run and get fast-break baskets when they have to, and they'll slow it down and pound it into Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, Wilt, Mikan or even Bryant when they have to. They won't go with a straight triangle, but the coaches will get together and figure out some other geometric alignment. The rhombus, perhaps. After all, Phil read a whole book about the rhombus once.
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