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Celtics and Lakers show their age

Published 8:22am Thursday, May 12, 2011

Out with the old, in with the new.

These NBA playoffs have been exciting like none other in recent memory and they’ve also proven that the league is set to enter a new era.

Both teams that played in the NBA finals – the Lakers and Celtics – last season have been eliminated before the conference finals. L.A. went down in a sweep and Boston went down in five games.

I’m sure their fans are rationalizing it and saying they’ll both be back on top next year, but the fact of the mater is, both teams are probably going to have to make some major changes to stay competitive.

The Celtics are in much bigger trouble than the Lakers as they look eerily similar to the Pistons, who won the title in 2004, lost the title in seven games in 2005, and then made a couple of more conference finals trips before fading into obscurity.

Like that group, the Celtics have a lot of veterans who play together and focus on defense, and the Celtics confidence has been sky high over their run that has seen them win the NBA finals in 2008 and lose the title in game seven in 2010.

Once the Pistons fell, they fell hard. A trade of Chauncey Billups led the team to finish with a No. 8 seed in 2008 and they haven’t been back to the playoffs since.

I don’t know if the Celtics are looking at that far a of a fall next year, but it’s not too far off as they get older and older. With the way the Heat and Bulls are emerging with much more athletic rosters, Boston’s days in the title series is likely over for awhile.

For the Lakers, they have a chance to rebuild. Their best bet is to go after Dwight Howard, who most certainly will want to leave the Magic after the way they’ve handled the team since making the finals two years ago. Orlando traded away Hedo Turkoglu after he helped get them to the finals and then traded back for him two years later while he was struggling with the Suns – not exactly the smartest of moves.

The Lakers also have the pieces to get Howard. If they throw a package of Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, they could get the Magic to bite. But L.A. must also find a point guard who isn’t a statue on defense, which is much easier said than done.

Chris Paul may be on his way out of New Orleans in the next year or two, and maybe the purple and gold could convince him if Howard and Kobe Bryant are both on board.

As for the eliminations themselves it was a matter of redemption for some NBA players.

On the Mavericks, Jason Kidd lost two NBA finals at the hands of the Lakers in his prime, Peja Stojakavic had his heart broken while losing to the Lakers in the playoffs while playing for the Sacramento Kings, and Shawn Marion saw some pretty good Suns teams get denied by the Lakers and Spurs.

All three of those guys played huge roles as they blew out the Lakers in game four.

For Miami, which finished off the Celtics with a late run in the fourth, it was the definition of redemption for LeBron James, who struggled against the Celtics last season.

This time around, with Dwayne Wade at his side, James dominated the series on both ends of the floor and even found an outside shooting touch.

You could see how much it meant to James as he had on over-the-top reaction that rivals most championship celebrations. After screaming like a mad man, he was seen curled up on the court before hugging Wade with tears in his eyes.

I’m sure he’ll catch flack for it, but there’s nothing wrong with an athlete showing some emotion.

So now that my predicted champs (the Lakers) are knocked off, I’ll say that Dallas goes on to play Miami in the finals.

I’m not gutsy enough to pick a winner, but it would be pretty big redemption for Dirk Nowitzki if the Mavs could beat the Heat, who beat Dallas in four straight games in the 2006 finals.


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