With the Miami Heat’s ouster of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, are we beginning to see the signs of a shift in the NBA? Add to that, last week’s rather embarrassing four game sweep that knocked the Los Angeles Lakers clear out of the postseason. The Lakers and Celtics, two perennial powerhouses, could now be seeing their better days in the rear view mirror.
The Celtics are aging faster than any other team out there and it looks like this season could very well be their last hurrah. Team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge says he believes the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, can still win. But the reality is with each passing year that will become more and more difficult. Their coach, Doc Rivers, was uncertain as to whether he would return, but just signed a whopping $35 million five-year deal. Rivers guided the proud Celtics organization to heights they had not seen in quite awhile, capped off by a 2008 NBA Championship. Seventeen championship banners currently reside in the rafters of the TD Garden.
The Lakers, on the other hand, know for sure that their head coach, Phil Jackson, will not be returning. Kobe Bryant is still an outstanding player by any measure, but questions this season have been cropping up about his ability to be the dominant player he has always shown himself to be. The poor play by Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum contributes to an air of uncertainty with the organization.
LeBron James’ decision to take his talents to Miami may turn out to bear fruit right away despite the torrent of criticism that has surrounded that decision. If the Heat win it all this year, it could indeed create a dynasty that will last for the foreseeable future. A team like the Oklahoma City Thunder, considered a joke when they first moved from Seattle, has quickly become one of the most exciting teams to watch, led by Kevin Durant. And the Chicago Bulls, under the leadership of newly minted MVP, Derrick Rose, have given the Windy City a reason to stand up and cheer for the first time since the days of Jordan and Pippin. Even the woeful Los Angeles Clippers are able to see Blake Griffin perform acts of amazement on a nightly basis during the regular season.
The landscape of the NBA is changing as shifting alliances and the next generation of great players start to make themselves heard. Hopefully, this transformation will not be stunted by a possible strike looming next year that could make the NFL labor negotiations look like a walk in the park.