NBA Finals: Game 1 Report

by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

With all the talk about the humiliation they faced at the hands of the Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals — how they were outrebounded, out-toughed, got their “manhood” taken away, and so on — you knew the Lakers would come out with a vengeance to kick start these NBA Finals.

L.A. did just that: the Lakers grabbed more boards (42 -31); the guards neutralized Rondo to some extent (though he did end up with 13/8/6); and the Lakers’ two biggest stars outshined Boston’s stars (Kobe and Gasol were simply spectacular last night.)

Walking around Staples Center, you could feel that things had changed since 2008. Back then, when I talked to folks in the stadium, there really was no hatred of the Celtics. Instead, people spoke of how “cool” or “neat” it was that L.A. and Boston were playing for the championship again. Not this time around.

“Boston Sucks!” chants could be heard well before tip-off, and the crowd was loud from beginning to well past the final whistle.

Due to the soul-crushing traffic in Los Angeles, it took me nearly two hours to drive from where I’m staying in Hollywood to the arena, and I was unable to make it down to Staples early enough for all the press conferences and pregame fun (though, Lang did). However, I did stick around long enough after the game to jot some notes down.

Here are some of the things I spotted and heard while taking it all in following Game 1 of the 2010 Finals:

-The immortal (and omnipresent) Jimmy Goldstein was stalking the hallways beneath the Staples Center, and so was Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant — with their two daughters in tow. And even though Vanessa was talking and laughing easily with a friend of hers, I maintain that she’s more intimidating that 99% of the players in the League, and that includes her husband.

-I ended up sharing an elevator with Brent Barry, and was shocked to see how many people stopped him and asked to take pictures. I guess they must like his NBA TV work. That, or they still remember the warmup jacket he wore during his Dunk Contest triumph.

-‘Sheed was the first Celtic to bolt from the over-crowded locker room. Soon as the media walked in, Wallace had already showered, dressed and had his shades on. He stormed past all of us without uttering a peep, robbing the world of what would surely have been hilarious and controversial commentary on what took place in the series opener. Oh well.

-When you hear the term “media crush”, that’s exactly what it is. A crush of humanity. Journos, bloggers, photographers and camera men/women jostle for position in front of the dressing players as though they were fighting for a rebound. Standing in an NBA locker room is not exactly the most enjoyable of experiences. As Chuck Klosterman once wrote, people are tired, people are naked and people are tall.

-Speaking of naked, Glen “Big Baby” Davis found a clever way to clear a path through the crowd. After taking a few questions, Davis stood up and began marching toward the showers while loudly announcing the following: “Naked man coming through! Naked man coming through”

(Needless to say, we all quickly moved out of his way.)

-Two strange and unexpected sights in the Celtics locker room: Tyronn Lue, and Felipe Lopez (who, due to the sweltering heat, was sweating profusely.)

-Boston had a postgame spread of pasta, leaky mashed potatoes, lettuce, and some other strange-looking greenery. Yum. It was telling that no one approached the food.

-Rajon Rondo’s enormous tattoo on his back — which reads, not so imaginatively, “RR” — is a pretty jarring sight to see up close. The thing is simply huge.

(Rondo, conversely, is absolutely tiny. I’m about six-foot three, and when we crossed paths, I immediately felt like posting him up.)

-Nate Robinson, another diminutive human being, was rocking some bespoke AF1’s, gray jeans, a multi-color backpack, with a fitted to complete the ensemble. His outfit was a lot more impressive than his performance in the game.

-Just before I walked out of the C’s locker room, Big Baby re-entered after taking a shower, this time bellowing out, “Wet man coming through! Wet man coming through!” I took that as my cue to hightail it out of there.

-Walking toward the large media room, where the postgame news conference takes place at Staples, Lang and I bumped into Scoop Jackson and chatted him up for a while. I had introduced myself to Scoop outside the arena prior the game, and having been a big fan of his work since way back in his SLAM days, it was a pretty big thrill for me. Nicest guy in the world (hugs, pounds, etc. immediately after the intro); funny, too.

-On his way to the podium to answer questions, Pau Gasol stopped and gave a hug and kiss on the cheek to a camera woman. He then tried to downplay how much he dominated KG and the rest of the Boston front-line. With the 2008 Finals still fresh in every Laker fan’s mind, Gasol faces enormous pressure to be the aggressor against the rough and tumble Celtic bigs during this series. So far, so good.

-Kobe Bryant tries extremely hard to seem as bored and disinterested as humanly possible when taking questions from journalists. One day, I’m convinced he’s going to fall asleep mid-sentence with the cameras rolling.

-The most telling sign of just how frustrating and disappointing a night this was for the Celtics was a single (and unidentified) voice coming from their showers, which screamed out at the top of their lungs: “F*CK!”

We’ll have much more from L.A. prior to Game 2 on Sunday night … stay tuned.