We’ve Seen This Team Before
Do the 2010 L.A. Lakers remind anyone else of the 1986 Boston Celtics???
by Eddie Maisonet, III
I’ve been wanting to write this article for months, but to be honest I haven’t had the nerve to write it. You’ve got to have some nerve to write an article where you compare one of the most talented, all-around teams of all-time in the ’86 Celtics to one of the more mercurial and loquacious very good teams with flashes of great ’10 Lakers.
There’s just one problem…these two teams are the mirror images of each other.
The 1986 Celtics and 2010 Lakers were lead by the unquestioned leaders of their respective teams. Larry Bird was the indefatigable force that led the Celtic pride to three championships in the 1980’s. He made every big shot, every big pass, and found a way to make a crucial play when his team desperately needed it. It’s safe to say that Kobe Bryant holds the same job responsibilities for his Lakers squad. Just like #33, Black Mamba is without a doubt the best shot maker in the league.
(Aside. Also like #33, his chief rival in the league during his time is a larger-than-life ball handler extraordinaire that frequently flirts with triple-doubles….but I digress. End aside.)
I made a point on my first-ever SLAM post to make another audacious statement, that Pau Gasol was the MVP of the Los Angeles Lakers. To the readers of SLAM, you all are a ruthless bunch, but I appreciate you guys. You can’t come half-stepping when you come ‘round these parts. Yet, I to this day still firmly believe in the proclamation I made on February 18th, 2010 that he is the key to success of the 2010 Los Angeles Lakers. Pau Gasol has proven himself to, in my opinion, be the best big man in the game today. Yeah, I said it. He’s got every post move in the book, can shoot the J quite well, can make any pass, great free throw shooter, an excellent rebounder, and a very good defender. Ok so he’s a bit soft, but he’s like double-ply toilet paper: He’s soft, but he’s still strong. His contemporary, Dwight Howard does three things really well: get weak side blocks, grab tons of rebounds and jump real real high. So who would you really rather have? I’d take Gasol. In retrospect, Pau Gasol’s game is the mirror image of Kevin McHale. A man who had at least 12 go-to moves in the post, a man whose arms were so long that he could sit in a chair and they would drag on the floor. Plus, weren’t Gasol and McHale two of the most awkward looking big men of all-time? Again, I digress…
Robert Parish and Andrew Bynum aren’t too hard to figure out, they’re both limited to what all they can do, but they were both very long and were physically superior to almost any big man they went up against. On most nights, the matchup of Parish or Bynum is simply not fair. So who’s left? Lamar Odom and Bill Walton? You have two players whose background had them predestined for greatness. Walton was able to taste it for 18 months of his career in 1977-78, winning an NBA Championship. Odom? His talent never materialized to be the 6’10” point guard that everyone wanted out of Rhode Island, but Odom’s play in the 2009 Playoffs was just as integral as anyone on that team. Walton and Odom found ways to fit into their roles. Most teams would die to have them as starters, and yet they come in as the third big man off the bench and keep the machine rolling.
The ’86 Celtics and the ’10 Lakers also have had the fortune of having superb great players as role players outside of their closers and frontline bigs. Danny Ainge and Dennis Johnson would’ve been most teams second and third options; for the Celtics they were the four and fifth. “Not fair” are the first two words that come to mind. For the Lakers, Ron Artest is DJ’s equivalent. After beating up on Kobe last postseason, Artest was a must-have for this Laker team.
A main point of contention to this comparison is the team’s coaching, as most folks would say that Phil Jackson and K.C. Jones don’t compare at all. However, Phil Jackson’s Zen-like coaching style is very reminiscent to the laid-back, laissez-faire approach of K.C. Jones. Both coaches had a way of letting the players work out of their situations, and the benefit of coaching a world-class roster. You could argue that these coaching jobs were cakewalks, but someone’s got to manage those egos in the huddle.
There’s a reason for the question marks in the headline, and I think you have the same doubts about this Lakers’ team as I do. The Lakers have the best team in the NBA, we all know that. The question is: will they be able to keep that light switch on all the way until June rolls around. It seems fitting that the Boston Celtics seem to be prepared to come out of the East and challenge for the 2010 crown. The 1986 Celtics found a way to win their third title of the decade, they had that championship pedigree, and they beat a champ to become champions. Can L.A. do the same this year?
If they do, maybe I’ll take the question marks out of the headline.
Eddie Maisonet is a freelance sports writer, blogger and big-time hoops fan from Oklahoma who currently resides in Cincinnati. Keep up with Eddie at SLAMonline as well as on his award-winning blog Ed The Sports Fan and on Twitter.