Greatness doesn’t last forever.
If you were to convey this sentiment to die-hard Laker or Celtics fans a year ago, they would give you a look of disgusted bewilderment at the fact that anyone could say such a thing about two teams that have garnered a combined 35 world championships.
Sadly though, this incomprehensible pessimism has become an inevitable reality for both of these teams who have had to deal with devastating loses in Rajon Rondo and, more recently, that of the legendary Kobe Bryant. While these are crippling blows in and of themselves it is really only just one depressing facet that has caused both of these teams to succumb to mediocrity.
Looking at these organizations now, both are on the verge of being swept by their respective playoff opponents. As a result, it has become undeniably clear that a drastic reformation needs to occur in order to restore these teams back to their expected prominence. However, the question isn’t so much if these teams will bounce back into relevancy, the more important inquiry is who will get there first?
Initially, it would appear that the Boston Celtics would have the edge because they suffered only one major loss in their elite point guard Rajon Rondo. On top of that, they still have the ever-reliable Doc Rivers as their head coach who was able to motivate his team to fight for a playoff berth despite all of the mounting adversity they had to overcome.
However, the main problem the Celtics are facing is not who they don’t have court, it’s what is currently there that is cause for concern. Future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the two iconic superstars of this franchise, have become former shells of themselves. While they are by no means irrelevant and useless on the court, the tenacity and ferocity that made this duo an intimidating force, seems to be slowly withering away. Even before the Celtics faced the red-hot Knicks in the playoffs, their overall performance in the last ten games of the regular season was lackluster at best, winning only 4 out of their last 10. Out of those four wins, only one was against a reputable playoff opponent (Atlanta Hawks).
The Los Angeles Lakers on the other hand, have been systematically demolished because of injuries. At one point or another, all of the Lakers elite players were ousted during the regular season with some form of debilitating injury or another. Dwight Howard, torn labrum. Pau Gasol, torn planar fascia. Kobe Bryant ruptured Achilles. The list goes on and on. Rarely, if ever, did you see these superstars ever play in tandem because when one seemed to be completely rejuvenated; another would succumb to another physical ailment to take his place on the bench.
However, as detrimental as these injuries were to the Lakers, it allowed the bench players to get more playing time to not only hone their own skills, but to get acclimated with each other as a team to prove that they could fight admirably in the places of their fallen comrades. Steve Blake showed us his talents at perimeter shooting and Antawn Jamison became a reliable rebounder and a clutch shooter when called upon. This is what will give the Lakers the edge when all is said and done. While they may lack the consistency to put up monumental numbers game in and game out, it at least gives them a blue print and even some inspiration for how they can improve in the offseason.
In the end however, both of these franchises have a lot of rebuilding and crucial decisions to make regarding both their upcoming rosters and their off the court personnel (I’m looking at you Mike D’antoni). This doesn’t mean that Celtics and Lakers fans alike should cast their woeful heads down in utter despair as these growing pains occur. Rather, they should take solace in the fact that their teams will return to greatness again because it’s not a question of if these teams will be champions again; it is simply a matter of when.