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Finals Thoughts

Well, it's over.  Boston won, like, four games all at once in their last effort, capturing the Larry O'Brien trophy and adding another banner to the already-crowded rafters.

The first thought, of course, is congratulations to the Celtics.  If you want to see what all this feels like from a blog perspective you can always head over to sister-site  Boston hushed their detractors from early in the playoffs showed that they truly deserve those rings.

The second thought that should begin filtering through the minds of Blazers fans is:  "for now..."  If you didn't behold this day and think at least a little bit about what it would be like to see guys in scarlet and black hoisting that trophy then check your fan card in immediately.  The Blazers won't be doing anything of the sort next year, of course, but within a few years they should be right there.  They should also stay there for a long time.  Not to disparage the Celtics, but the team is going to begin making a mental shift soon, regarding that trophy as rightfully theirs.  That shift begins in a small way this season.  What you saw today is an exact view of where this team ought to be aiming, both in quality and result.

Another obvious thought is how much the championship transforms people's perceptions.  The careers of three great players just got validated in a way that can't be duplicated.  Kevin Garnett was a clear hall-of-famer in any case but now he'll be front and center in the conversation among the best big forwards ever.  Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (the latter of whom deserves a huge round of applause for sticking with the Celtics through every storm in the last decade) have just turned very good careers into legitimately great ones.  Everything they've put in has just become worth it.  Their achievements will now be described completely free of asterisks...a fate not afforded the likes of Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, for instance.  The biggest transformation by far will belong to Celtics GM Danny Ainge.  A little over a year ago he was on the short list of the worst GM's in the league, saved from scrutiny only by the constant, overshadowing presence of Isiah Thomas in New York.  Now one year and two moves later he'll be described as the genius who assembled this glitzy juggernaut.  Personally I have a hard time removing him entirely from the former list, as I think he fell into a couple of opportune trades in perfect storm-type summer.  I doubt he could duplicate his success in any other situation.  Butchering a team by taking on high salaries and spare parts and then somehow hitting the exact combination of salary and high draft picks to land two available-once-in-a-lifetime All-Stars doesn't seem like a formula for success.  But then again what do I know, I'm just a blogger.  In any case, had Boston never won Ainge might well have been panned for collecting expensive, aging players.  Now that will not be the case and in a very real sense everything he's done has become justified because of this one moment.

This is a lesson Portland players would do well to understand.  No matter how talented, smart, and friendly you are, this is the criterion by which history will ultimate judge you.  A foolish hack who half-stumbles into a championship will generally be regarded more highly than a genius who goes ringless.

And speaking of falling short, it wouldn't be a real post without a word about the L*kers.  Actually I'm not much in the mood to pan them, rather I'm revved up about the silliness of the national media (as is often the case, I'm afraid).  I listen to ESPN Radio a bit and much of the talk before the Finals surrounded Kobe and his legacy.  It seemed a foregone conclusion that the L*kers would win and the main question was whether this victory put him on a par with Michael Jordan.  The wind seemed to be blowing in the direction of "Yes!"  My response when I heard it, as my left and right blinker and gearshift can testify, was, "How about you let him actually win it first?"  Oops!  Small technicality there.  I think the question is pretty much answered now, especially since Kobe himself had a sub-par series.  Of course now you're starting to hear about the Boston defensive scheme and how hard they tried to shut him down.  You're saying that wasn't attempted with Michael?  I don't recall him losing many or fading like a sunburned violet in the face of any defense.  You're also hearing about the poor quality of Kobe's supporting cast.  Yet these same guys got him past the toughest teams in the West.  Under those conditions you have to say that if you were good enough to get to the Finals you should have been good enough to win them, or at least put up a better fight.  The L*kers didn't.

I understand the pressure to fill airtime with topics every day.  I'm not saying I could do better than the great sports talk hosts of our time.  But once again you see the propensity of the national press to jump the gun on a ton of issues and how brutally wrong they can be when they do.  The irony is that most of these guys really know their stuff.  The trouble is they get carried away to the point of silliness sometimes, and much of that seems to be hyperbole surrounding the obvious teams in any sport. Look before you leap, guys. If and when you see the next Jordan you won't have to ask if it's real. It'll be so obvious that it'll make an awfully poor discussion topic on your show.

--Dave (