Saturday, May 14, 2011

The End of the Renaissance?

Now that both the Lakers (YEAH GOODBYE!) and the Celtics (Boooooooo) have been eliminated from the NBA Playoffs, a new champion will be crowned. In the past three years the old rivals made up 83.3% of the NBA Final’s appearances (2 head to head matchups, the Celtics taking it in 07-08, and the Lakers winning last season, their second in a row).

Is this the end of their resurgences? All signs point to a likely blow-up of one or both of these rosters. The Kobe Bryant-led Lakers lose long-time guru/coach Phil Jackson to retirement. They have a lot of money tied up for the foreseeable future, with key pieces like Kobe and Pau Gasol up there in age. They’re slow and unathletic: the Dallas Mavericks embarrassed them in a (beautiful) sweep. With a new coach, this needs to change, and fast.

On the other side, Boston’s Big Three of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett are also up there in age. Allen and Garnett likely only have another year or so of elite play left in the tank, if that. Add in uncertainty about Doc Rivers’ future (will he take time off to watch his son play for that nauseating team in Durham?) and it’s not a rosy picture. Injuries have plagued them the past three years (Garnett in 09, Perkins last year, and Rondo this year).

There is good news for both teams: the Lakers are a prime place for players to WANT to play. Gasol is still talented, as is Lamar Odom. Andrew Bynum, if he can stay healthy, is coming into his own. Could a package of Bynum and Gasol get them superstar Dwight Howard? Time will tell.  The team needs to get more athletic, without a doubt. Young teams like Oklahoma City, Memphis, Portland, ad nauseum, will be able to give them fits if they don’t change soon. Kobe can only do so much.

The Celtics have their Big Four intact for another year most likely. The supporting cast are all free agents. This team, while having the spotlight on the superstars, could have a lot of new pieces come next season. The revolving door of centers will continue, as I can’t see Shaq coming back. He’s done. They will have to find weapons to spell their aging stars. My opinion is that they need to build around Rondo: he might not be able to drive the opposition into the ground with his scoring, but he makes everyone else better on the court. The transition needs to start now. Danny Ainge has worked magic before, is there any more in the tank?

At this point, I think both teams are flawed enough that they aren’t threats for the NBA Finals next season. That being said, there will be many a change coming, not disregarding the looming NBA lockout and new CBA.

-By Ryan Pratt

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