Wednesday, June 04, 2008

This is It...The Waiting Is Over...

First and foremost, you aren’t crazy, today’s title is lifted straight from a Kenny Loggins song. Given the fact that it was the song that blared as Michael Spinks entered the ring against Tyson before the most devastating 91 seconds in boxing history, it will always have a place on The WAD, and I don’t feel like less of a man for quoting Kenny Loggins. Not to mention, since we’ve been waiting what seems like months for this damn series to start, the lyrics seemed to fit. (This is where I was going to rant about having to wait over a week from the end of the conference finals for the Finals to start, but I’m trying to channel more positive energy these days, so suffice it to say, I think this delay was a little unnecessary. And, I won’t even mention the ridiculously outdated and pointless 2-3-2 setup. Okay, I mentioned it, but I’m not going to ramble on about how ridiculous it is that the Championship Series is played under a completely different set of rules than every other playoff series. Seriously, sometimes I’m ashamed David Stern and I went to the same law school. Then again, I’m sure he would feel the same way about me if he had a clue who I was. I’m a little depressed now, so I’ll just move on).

Now that I go that off my chest, let’s make sure we are clear about one more thing before we go any further: Larry Bird is not walking through that door…Kevin McHale is not walking through that door….Robert Parish is not walking through that door, and neither are Magic, Worthy, and Kareem for that matter. Don’t worry, though. We have plenty of star power in this series to keep your interest. Seriously, with Garnett, Allen, Pierce, Kobe, Gasol, Odom, and Phil Jackson, you have to go back to the Pippen, Jordan, Malone and Stockton wars to find this kind of star power in an NBA Finals. Let’s just hope we don’t have to watch a grown man choke on his own vomit in the last two minutes of every game this time around. Sorry, Mailman. Some memories are just hard to forget.

So, who is going to win this thing? Well, given the fact that Kobe Bryant is the best player on the planet right now, and he has apparently instilled his DNA in all his teammates, this should be easy, right? (While we are here, I should give a nod to Fite for so astutely pointing out this week that Kobe has as much business making statements about infusing DNA in others as he does claiming he felt violated in short shorts! Why do you make it so hard to like you, Kobe? Why?). Well, fortunately for us, this isn’t just as simple as handing the trophy to Kobe. Late last week, Shuman and Stats did a nice job debating the merits of this series in the comments section, so I won’t waste your time beating a dead horse. Suffice it to say, some folks are convinced that the 67 win team with three super, or impersonators of former superstars, with the crazed maniac roaming the middle, Jesus Shuttlesworth roaming the three point area, and everybody’s favorite Blood doing all the little things will parlay their two regular season wins over the Lakers, as well as their clutch post season wins in Games 5 & 7 against Atlanta, Games 5 & 7 against the LeBrons, and Games 3 & 6 against Detroit into the ultimate victory. On the other hand, others are convinced that the Lakers will continue to be the best team in the playoffs on the backs of the best player in the game and the best Coach of all time on their way to Phil’s 10th ring. I think it is safe to say that both sides have valid points. Vegas, however, thinks the Celtics backers are out of their mind as they have dubbed the Lakers a 2-1 favorite.

So, who has it right? Vegas and Shuman? Stats? Well, at the end of the day, I think you can dissect this series every which way possible, and it is always going to come back to the same thing. That is, I think one player is going to make the difference in this series. One player is going to finally shed all the labels, dispel all the doubters, and assert himself as one of the truly greats of our time. One player is going to hit clutch baskets at desperate times, play lock down defense on the other team’s best player, and forever cement his legacy as one of L.A.’s greatest basketball legends. Yes, one player from L.A. is going to enter this series a great player and leave a legend. That player? The kid that grew up in the shadow of the Great Western Forum in The Wood: Paul Pierce. That’s right, I said it. Paul Pierce is going to carry the Celtics to their 17th NBA Title.

Everybody talks about Kobe’s maniacal will to win and how he relishes the role of the “assassin”. Well, in Game 7 against the Hawks, Pierce led his team in points (22), and added 8 boards and 3 assists as he led the C’s to a route over my beloved Hawks. Then, in Game 7 against the LeBrons, all Pierce did was go toe to toe with Bron Bron and throw up 41 points. And then, in Game 6 against the Pistons, on the road in one of the most hostile environments in the Association, Pierce decided to go ahead and put Flip Saunders on the unemployment line with another team high 27 points and 8 boards while leading the C’s to a furious and somewhat stunning double digit comeback in about 2 minutes.

In simple terms, in the C’s three biggest games of what has been a magical season, Pierce has taken the reigns and willed his team to victory. Yet, somehow, nobody seems to use words like “assassin” or terms like “imposes his will” when talking about Pierce. Maybe it’s because he has toiled away on less than memorable Boston teams for the past decade, or maybe it’s because he’s the type of guy that is known to flash gang signs from time to time? Whatever the reason, Paul Pierce’s days of being under-appreciated are about to end. It would be a perfect fairy tale if he could lift the Finals MVP trophy in front of his family and hometown crowd after Game 5, but life isn’t always a fairy tale. Nope, he will have to wait until after Game 6 in the New Garden, but something tells me he won’t mind too much. That’s right, I’m taking the Celtics in 6. And, just in case you are wondering, I reserve the right to change my mind as soon as 24 hours from now.

One final note: Regardless of the outcome, this playoff season has truly been a re-birth of the NBA. I honestly can’t think of a game that wasn’t entertaining and/or compelling. And, based on TNT’s ratings, people have taken notice. As a guy who grew up loving the NBA, I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this re-birth. Forget $4.20/gallon…forget the deplorable housing market…you can even forget that “Sex and the City” is the number 1 movie in America…The Lakers and Celtics are about to go toe to toe for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, so all is right in the world.

One really final note: Don’t faint, I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m commenting on the NHL. Are you ready…here it is: Sidney Crosby is AWESOME. How do I know this? Well, it certainly isn’t because I know anything about hockey. Nope, I know this because I happened to watch the last 10 minutes of tonight’s Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and every time the puck touched Crosby’s stick, the entire Pittsburgh crowd audibly gasped! I’m not kidding. The incoherent screaming stopped, and the entire arena, all in one breadth, took a collective gasp of anticipation. This would be a much better story if he actually scored a goal after one of these moments, but still, you don’t cause an entire arena to simultaneously gasp unless you are AWESOME. (And, as a side note, that was 10 incredibly entertaining minutes, especially the last 1:25…Good times!).