Honest Doc: 'Everybody Is Excited About It'
WALTHAM, Mass. -- They're trying to sell it and are even making a good, sound case. But nobody is buying it, especially the coach.
As they finished up their preparations for Tuesday's mega season opener with the Miami Heat, many Boston Celtics were quick to shrug off all hype for the start of the season. A veteran-laden team with a stockpile of championship rings, the Celtics are used to the eight-month grind. And they're presenting a compelling case they're unaffected by the attention.
It's just the first Tuesday of the regular season, they say.
"It means more to the media and the fans than to us," Paul Pierce said.
"The media has done a good job with the marketing," Shaquille O'Neal said. "There's talk of losing money. Not on Tuesday night. We ain't losing money, so thanks for that."
So it's just media, marketing and some overexuberant fans who are manufacturing the hysteria?
"Let's just be honest," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Everybody is excited about it. Our guys try to downplay it until you walk through the locker room and you can hear them talking about it. And the film is on all day watching Miami."
That's what we thought. Say what they will, the Celtics are quite interested in getting the first crack at Team John Dillinger, as LeBron James branded his new squad over the summer. So is the rest of the NBA, which likely won't just be watching from a fan perspective but also trying to get an early scouting report on how to handle the new Heat.
Lakers The Favorite?
Access Approved For Best Of Times
Now that my heyday was officially back in the day, I'm at the point that I keep noticing how much better things used to be. All it takes is one airline trip with a $150 change fee, a forced disrobing at security and a $5 charge for a box of cold, dry food to make me nostalgic. And don't even get me started about the decline of popular music. I'm starting to feel like my grandfather, who spent the final 20 years of his life convinced that the 1983 Toyota Camry was the greatest car ever made. There are only two important aspects of my youth that I can say have definitively improved: communication and watching the NBA.
First of all, as my "Around the Horn" doppelganger Michael Smith once said, whoever invented text messaging needs to go straight to the Hall of Fame.
And when it comes to the NBA, we have more access to more quality teams than ever. These are the good old days.
There are almost as many watchable teams now as there were in the entire league in the 1980s. Here's my list of teams I'd deem screen-worthy under any circumstance: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards. That's a winning blackjack hand's worth of teams.
Whether it's learning about the teams we expect to see in May (Lakers, Heat, Celtics, Thunder, Magic) or simply watching the players I like (Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, John Wall), there's a game I want to watch on some channel.
Granted, the elite teams aren't as good. There isn't a squad around today that could match up with the 1982-83 76ers. The Showtime Lakers would beat the current Lakers by 20 points. The 1980s teams would laugh at the rush to dub the Heat a "Superteam" without a former MVP or No. 1 overall pick coming off the bench.
Schedule: Tuesday, October 26
OPENING DAY CHAT LINEUP
12 p.m. ET: Chad Ford, ESPN.com
1 ET: Rasheed Malek, Warriors World
2 ET: Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles
3 ET: Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com
4 ET: Chris Forsberg, ESPN Boston; Kevin Arnovitz, Heat Index
5 ET: Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com
6 ET: Marc Stein, ESPN.com
7 ET: Zach Harper/TrueHoop Network
Begin At The End
ESPN Los Angeles.com
In other seasons there has been talk of monuments and records. Mile-markers on the lonely road toward individual and franchise greatness: Seventy-two wins. Passing Red Auerbach's nine NBA titles. Winning more titles than Shaquille O'Neal.
And when the conversation shifted to other subjects, there was talk of revenge and retribution for what had gone so wrong on that warm mid-June night in Boston in 2008.
But this season, at the beginning, there is mostly talk of endings.
Of Phil Jackson's career, probably.
Of Kobe Bryant's prime, maybe.
Of June and the NBA Finals, because that's all that really matters.
The mile-markers and emotional signposts from Lakers seasons past seem irrelevant now, either because they've already been passed (Auerbach, O'Neal) or they probably can never be passed (72 wins).
In the places where those external motivators once stood, stands a veteran team with a pretty good idea of how to get back to the Finals, how to win the Finals and very little patience for talk of rivals, old or new.
"It doesn't sway us either way," Lakers guard Shannon Brown said, when asked for probably the 200th time this month about what the Miami Heat did in the offseason by adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh. "We know what we have to do.
"We have to play every game like there's a target on our backs, because it is. We're still the defending NBA champions for two years in a row."
The Lakers enter this season having proven their mettle to the rest of the league and themselves.
Which makes them, in a way, a little boring.
For once, the brightest lights are focused elsewhere. The pressure and the expectations resting on James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade down in Miami.
Which is, in every way, completely fine with the Lakers.