Celtics Lakers

This is Part 6 of our The Worst of Celtics-Lakers series. And I hate to break this to you, but it turns out that, sometimes, '69 isn't gratifying for both parties involved.

1969 NBA Finals

Deck stacking: Some NBA conspiracy theorists -- Jeff Van Gundy prime among them -- have half-seriously suggested that there should be an investigation into the Lakers' acquisition of Pau Gasol this season. But with all due respect to Mitch Kupchak, that transaction was nothing compared to the coup that Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke pulled off on July 9, 1968. That was the day he sent Darrall Imhoff, Jerry Chambers and Archie Clark -- otherwise known as "Who, who, and who?" -- to Philadelphia for one Wilton Norman Chamberlain. For comparisons sake, that would have been like Kupchak getting Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard for Ronny Turiaf, Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic.

Of course, the transaction was made possible by the fact that Cooke was willing to pay out the ass for Wilt: An NBA record-busting $250,000 after taxes. (Yes, Wilt insisted that his employers pay his taxes as part of his contract.) To provide some perspective, Jerry West -- who had been the Lakers top moneymaker -- was getting $100,000 before taxes. And in case you were wondering, the answer is: Yes, this kind of deal would be impossible today given the current salary cap restrictions.

Expectations: This was supposed to be The Year for the Lakers, no question about it. Adding Wilt to a championship-caliber squad that already included Jerry West and Elgin Baylor made them the NBA's first superteam. It was literally impossible at the time to imagine they would lose to anybody, let alone the creaky, old Celtics. Not that Boston didn't receive an appropriate level of respect and reverence for what they had accomplished over the last decade, but come on. Sam Jones was 36. Bill Russell was 35 and playing through leg injuries that had hospitalized him during the regular season. They snuck into the playoffs with a 48-34 record, last among the Eastern Division playoff teams and their worst record since 1950. (And yes, that was BA; Before Auerbach.) Of course, that record was a little deceiving because of...

The first Shaq. You know how The Big Coffee Break likes to take mini-vacations during the regular season so that he'll have that oh-so-fresh feeling for the playoffs? Well, Bill Russell was way, way ahead of him on that front. According to John Havlicek: "One of the reasons we finished fourth (in the Eastern Division) was that Russell missed a lot of games near the end of the season, and that was a blessing because he had two or three weeks where he didn't play. He sort of came back to the playoffs rejuvenated." Yup. Bill Russell did a little sandbagging in his time. Funny how nobody ever mentions that.

Getting it wrong (again): Sports Illustrated declared as early as 1963 that the Celtics were too old to win another championship -- good call, huh? -- and their opinion certainly hadn't changed with the passing of six more years. This is how SI's Frank Deford put it: "As all schoolchildren know, the Celtics are too old. Too old. Too old. This is a recording." But in all fairness, Frank wasn't alone. At the time, many sportswriters were regularly referring to Bill Russell as "the old man." Oh, and Las Vegas had the Lakers as nine-to-five favorites to beat their hated rivals. So, yeah, pretty much everybody was getting it wrong.

Misdirection: On the subject of sandbagging, Bill Russell passed Jerry West while on his way to the Celtics pregame practice before the series opener, and he asked The Logo how he was feeling. This is how Jerry responded: "I feel like I got nothing in me. This season's been two years long."

West's "nothing" turned out to be good for 53 points in 46 minutes, which propelled the Lakers to a thrilling 120-118 win (despite 39 points from John Havlicek). West was so hot that Russell approached him during the third quarter and said: "Empty, huh? I'm getting so I just don't believe you country boys anymore."

Fun fact: Mr. Clutch said that his hot hand actually started to embarrass him late in the game, causing him to pass off to Elgin Baylor and Johnny Egan rather than take more shots. Seriously. (Can you imagine, say, Kobe getting embarrassed by how many shots he was taking?) After the game, West's shooting arm was so sore that it had to be iced down.

The Boston defense: During their championship years, the Celtics had always used defense as their primary weapon. It failed them in the first two games. By a lot. As noted, they got shelled by West and the Lakers in Game 1, and it happened again in Game 2: West finished with 41 of his team's 118 points and the Lakers took a 2-0 lead that felt more like a 7-0 lead...to everybody outside the Boston locker room.

A critical turnover, Part I: Boston won Game 3 to get back into the series, and Game 4 turned into an all-out defensive battle that the Lakers should have won. But of course they didn't. L.A. was ahead 88-87 with 15 seconds left and they had the ball. The only thing standing between them and a 3-1 series lead was a simple inbounds play...which they totally screwed up. Emmette Bryant stole the pass and the Celtics broke downcourt to try and steal the game.

A critical turnover, Part II (or "Home cooking, Part I"): After Bryant's steal, Sam Jones misfired on a potential go-ahead basket. Wilt slapped the rebound to Elgin Baylor and the game should have been over. But it wasn't. Referee Joe Gushue called Baylor for stepping out of bounds. Suffice to say, Baylor disagreed -- vehemently -- but Gushue ignored him and awarded the ball to the Celtics...giving the home team one last shot at, well, a miracle.

The unstoppable miracle, Part I: This is only a "worst of" if you're a Lakers fan. The Celtics had seven seconds to score. John Havlicek and Larry Siegfried convinced Russell to run a triple-pick play they called "Ohio" (so named because John and Larry had used it when they played together at Ohio State). The play was complicated, almost ridiculously so, and the Celtics had never actually used it in a game (Russell hadn't even attended the practice at which the play had been introduced). But they ran it anyway.

Sam Jones, who was the designated shooter, ran into teammate Baily Howell, which caused him to slip up while shooting. Knowing he had little chance to hit while off-balance, Jones threw up a high-arcing shot hoping not that it would go in but that Russell would get the rebound. There was only one problem with that idea: Russell had taken himself out of the game, figuring the Celtics needed another shooter more than they needed a rebounder. It didn't matter. Sam's shot went in, and Boston won.

Stat curse, Part I: The Lakers went on to win Game 5 at home (117-104) but Wilt got poked in the eye by Emmette Bryant and Jerry West strained his hamstring. Both players seemed to have recovered by Game 6, but the Celtics won anyway (99-90). After that loss, The Big Dipper was unable to restrain his titanic ego and boldly predicted that the Lakers were a mortal lock to win Game 7 back in L.A. Nostradamus he wasn't.

Bill Russell, quote machine: When Wilt's brash (read that: stupid) words were related to Russell, Boston's player-coach went nuclear: "Who cares what Wilt says? That's all I've heard over and over again through the years -- 'Wilt this and Wilt that.' I don't give a damn what Wilt has to say." Wow. Overreact much, Bill? (Seriously, doesn't that sound more like something you'd expect Rasheed Wallace to say rather than Bill "Mr. Classy" Russell? Yeah, me too.)

Stat curse, Part II: Jack Kent Cooke was a confident man. So confident, in fact, that he planned a wild celebration for his team's inevitable Game 7 victory. The locker room was stocked with expensive champagne. More than 5,000 balloons were strung up in nets on the ceiling to be released after the game. And the University of Southern California's marching band was waiting behind the scenes to play "Happy Days Are Here Again" after the game. Why, Cooke even had a post-game program printed up outlining how the celebration was going to play out (Elgin Baylor was to speak first, followed by Jerry West, and concluding with Wilt).

Unfortunately for Cooke and the Lakers, Bill Russell got a hold of that program. And the Celtics were not amused. Boston literally ran out to a huge lead, using a fastbreaking attack to build a double-digit lead that grew as large as 21 points in the fourth quarter. But the Lakers came back, even despite...

The Big Dipper Quitter: With five minutes left and the Celtic lead cut to a manageable nine points, Wilt came down with a rebound -- his 27th -- and twisted his knee. Lakers trainer Frank O'Neill sprayed Chamberlain's knee with Freon (no, seriously), but Wilt couldn't go and asked to be taken out.

These days, it's fairly common for an injured player to take himself out of a game, even if only temporarily. But in the 1960s, it simply wasn't done. "Real men" were expected to play unless a limb fell off or they exploded. (Red Auerbach, in fact, had once said: "There are no such thing as injuries.") So while it's entirely probable that Wilt really was too hurt to play at that moment, Russell (among others) thought he was faking to avoid getting blamed for losing to the Celtics once again. However, some people (as Basketbawful reader David pointed out) felt as though Wilt was protecting his perfect record of having never fouled out of a game (Chamberlain had 5 fouls at the time).

Butch Van Breda Kolff: Of course, the Laker comeback continued and they eventually cut the deficit to only three points. It was at that point that Wilt asked to be put back into the game. Van Breda Kolff refused, choosing instead to stick with Mel Counts. Chamberlain was enraged and kept stalking around, asking again and again to re-enter the game. Butch finally told him: "I'm not putting you back in. We're playing better without you."

Van Breda Kolff was as good as his word; he never did put Wilt back in. After the game, Butch called Wilt a quitter and Wilt called Butch a liar, and the two men nearly came to blows before being restrained. Which was much better for Van Breda Kolff than it was for Chamberlain, who would have torn the (relatively) teeny man to even teenier pieces.

A critical turnover, Part III: With less than two minutes left, Counts hit a shot to put the Lakers up by one point. It would have been L.A.'s first lead of the game, but Counts was called for traveling and the basket was taken away. It was a huge mistake. Huuuuuge.

The unstoppable miracle, Part II: With less than a minute to go, the Celtics had the ball and a one-point lead. West poked the ball away from John Havlicek, but it ended up in the hands of Don Nelson, who immediately tossed up a 15-footer that hit the back rim, flew up about 30 feet, and dropped straight back down into the basket to give Boston a three-point lead. And that lead would turn out to be insurmountable.

Of his famous shot, Nelson later said: "That was the luckiest shot I ever made in my life. The 24-second clock was running down, and Havlicek made a move. Somebody from behind hit the ball, and it came right to me. I was cutting across the paint. I just grabbed it and shot it very poorly, and it made that crazy bounce and went in. There was no time to chuckle. It was like I planned it that way."

Update! The Lakers' freethrow shooting: Talk about shooting yourself in the foot: L.A. was 28-for-47 from the foul line in that fateful Game 7. Wilt, naturally, was responsible for nine of those misses (he was 4-for-13 on the night). I'm not a mathematologist, but even I know that 19 bonked freethrows probably had an impact on the Lakers' two-point loss. (Thanks to David for the reminder.)

The consolation prize: Despite being a member of the losing team, Jerry West was named Finals MVP...mostly because everybody felt so damn sorry for him. (Also, it probably didn't hurt that he was white.) It remains the one and only time that the Finals MVP went to someone who wasn't on the winning team. West averaged nearly 40 PPG for the series and had a triple double (42 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists) in Game 7.

West received a car for winning that award. But here's the ironic part: The car was green.

More sour grapes: Wilt, being Wilt, was angry and bitter after the game. And again, being Wilt, he chose to vent to the press: "The thing that kills me, they didn't beat us. We beat ourselves. You don't mind too much being beaten by a really superior team, but to go out and beat yourself, it's a shame." Naturally, Bill Russell heard about Wilt's remarks, and that might be at least part of the reason he eventually said whe he said...

Post-mortem: Shortly after the Finals had ended, Bill Russell was speaking at the University of Wisconsin when a student said that the only reason Russell had always defeated Wilt was because he, Russell, always had the better teammates. Not only did Bill disagree -- naming off Wilt's past and present teammates such as Paul Arizin, Tom Gola, Guy Rogers, Billy Cunningham, Hal Greer, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West -- he blasted Wilt for taking himself out of Game 7 while his team still had a chance to win.

Mind you, Russell was retired. He would never have to face Chamberlain on the court again. He could finally speak his mind, and it seems as though there was a little bitterness built up. Russell continued: "Now, in my opinion, if he's hurt so bad that he can't play in the seventh game, he should go straight to the hospital. But if he's hurt and then five minutes later recovers, there's something wrong with that injury. You can't quit like that and win championships." And he wasn't done: "Wilt copped out in the last game. Any injury short of a broken leg or a broken back isn't good enough. When he took himself out of that game, when he hurt his knee, well, I wouldn't have put him back in either." Finally, Russell said: "He asks for [criticism]. He talks a lot about what he's going to do. What it's all about is winning and losing, and he's done a lot of losing. He thinks he's a genius. He isn't."

When Wilt heard about what Russell had said, he was outraged. After all, the two men were longtime friends. Said Chamberlain: "He's been my house guest and he's broken bread with me. I'd like to jam a ball down his throat." Russell refused to apologize or even amend what he had said, and the two men didn't speak for over 20 years. Which, really, was quite a waste of time they could never get back.

Sources: NBA.com, Wikipedia, Basketball-reference.com, Ever Green by Dan Shaughnessy, The Rivalry by John Taylor, and Wilt: Just Like Any Other 7-foot Black Millionaire Who Lives Next Door, by Wilt Chamberlain and David Shaw.

Further reading: Go read my Lakers Versus Celtics: A Not-So-Brief History post at Deadspin.

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Blogger Wild Yams said...
I wonder if those same conspiracy theorists think there should be an investigation into the Celtics' acquisition of Kevin Garnett last summer.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Yams -- Come on, man. There's a world of difference between the Gasol-for-Brown theft and the Garnett deal. Let's look at what Minny got in return for an aging superstar:

Good young talent (Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, and Gerald Green), a huge expiring contract (Theo Ratliff), cash considerations, Boston's 2009 first-round draft pick, and the 2009 first-round pick Minnesota had traded to Boston in the Ricky Davis-Wally Szczerbiak trade.

That's a huge return for Minnesota, and I can hardly imagine them getting a better deal from anyone else, especially since Al Jefferson immediately transformed into a 20-10 guy.

Everybody has wanted to go all nutty about the fact that Kevin McHale supposedly facilitated the trade only because it was with the Celtics. But you name me one superstar trade in the history of the league that landed the trading team as much bounty as the T-Wolves got. I mean, a 20-10 guy, three young, talented players, immediate salary cap relief, cash, AND two first-round draft picks?! Holy hell, people.

Blogger David said...
Three comments:
1. I read somewhere (Hoop Lore: A History of the NBA by Connie Kirchberg, I think) that Wilt was 4-13 from the free throw line in Game 7. However, I couldn't confirm it online and I don't own the book. If my memory is accurate, then 9 missed free throws in a 2-point Finals Game 7 loss deserves mention.

2. Regarding Wilt's absence at the end of Game 7, I thought the theory was that Wilt didn't want to endanger his record of never fouling out of a game, so he wasn't in a hurry to get back into the game, or he even sent himself out, depending who you ask.

3. Great work with all the Wort of Celtics-Lakers's.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
david -- 1. I believe you're right. Unfortunately, I didn't come across that number in my sources, or I missed it. I'm going to look into it and if that stat is correct, I'll add it. 2. That was one theory I forgot. I added it, crediting you. 3. Thanks!

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful, the fact remains that McHale brokered the deal that essentially took the Celtics from a borderline playoff team to a championship contender while simultaneously taking the Wolves to the bottom of the league. Wallace did essentially the same thing in Memphis, but the only difference is that Wallace has no ties to Los Angeles the way that McHale does to Boston.

Both the TWolves and the Grizzlies had the same goals in mind: to get young talent, draft picks and cap space in exchange for their marquee player. Garnett netted more in trade than Gasol did because Garnett is a vastly better player, and better known as well (which means excitement and butts in seats). Gasol is a 1 time All Star, Garnett is an MVP winner.

Teams have had firesales before and have given away a blue chip player for a bunch of crap (just look at the Ray Allen trade, maybe they should investigate that one as well). To be fair since the Garnett, Gasol and Allen deals were all trades where one team swapped long term prospects for short term success, rather than focusing on the short term success of the Lakers and Celtics for now we should wait and see how the long term plans of the "losers" in these trades fare before passing judgment.

That said, some teams just have crappy GMs and crappy GMs make bad trades. But if there really was collusion going on in any of these deals, the one most likely of foul play was the Garnett deal simply because of McHale's ties to Boston. Gasol asked for a trade last season and was put on the trade block then and just left there for over a year. Other teams had shots at getting him (namely Chicago) and passed repeatedly. There is no conspiracy there, Memphis just was tired of hemorrhaging money and wanted to rebuild. Could they have got more for Gasol? Almost surely, but their GM stinks (you should know, he was equally bad in Boston), and whether he just got tired of shopping Gasol or whether Kupchak just rooked him, we'll never know.

If there really was some collusion between Memphis and LA, wouldn't this trade have gone down last year when Jerry West was working for the Grizzlies and Gasol was most vocal about wanting to be shipped? My guess is that West is too shrewd a GM to be suckered like that, so he didn't cash Gasol out for far less than his worth. But Wallace is nowhere near the NBA executive that West is, and that's why he led the Celtics through a decade of awful seasons and it's why he made that boneheaded trade to the Lakers. I wouldn't expect him to stay there too much longer.

All the Laker conspiracy talk around here is incredibly stale and bitter. I can only imagine what this place is gonna be like if the Lakers win the title.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Yams -- First of all, what's all this "around here" talk? Did I state in this post that I believe there was anything underhanded going on in the Gasol trade? Have I ever said that? The point of bringing it up in the first place was because bad, lopsided trades happen all the time...and have happened since day 1 (as evidenced by the Wilt trade).

Methinks you're overreacting because you think I was saying something I wasn't. Give me some credit, Yams. I've never said the Gasol trade was suspect. And you read my site closely enough to know that.

That said, I think all the talk that's gone on about McHale's supposed collusion with the Celtics was bogus. The Timberwolves were going nowhere with or without Garnett. McHale had to make a move while KG still had significant trade value. If there had been any collusion, Boston would have gotten KG for Ratliff's contract and maybe Green and Telfair. They sure wouldn't have gotten Jefferson, and cash, and two first round draft picks. As I said, you will not find, anywhere in the history of this league, a superstar trade that netted the trading team that much. You just won't.

Which is why I think the whole "collusion" theory on that trade is bunk. If anything, it was more a case of two buddies -- Ainge and McHale -- trying to help each other out by making the most equitable deal possible.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful, sorry, since you only insinuated a conspiracy regarding the Gasol trade, I guess I should have said "all the Laker conspiracy insinuations around here are getting stale and bitter." And hopefully you read my comments enough to know when I say that I'm not just referring to this one not-so-thinly veiled claim when I'm referencing all the Laker conspiracy, uh, insinuations that are posted here with alarming regularity. I've been watching as the whining has ratcheted up from one round to the next on this topic and I worry that now that the hated Lakers are playing your beloved Celtics that if things don't turn out as you hope that it's going to boil over and really get ugly. Maybe we'll all get lucky and the Celtics will sweep with huge margins of victory so there will be little left to complain about.

My bringing up the Garnett & Allen trades was simply to illustrate that Celtics fans are the last people who should be calling for investigations into any recent trades, since they are the ones sitting in the house made of the most brittle glass right now.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Yams -- Not to go 'round and 'round on this, but it wasn't an insinuation. In point of fact, it was the opposite of an insinuation, since I was pointing out that more lopsided (and equally legitimate) trades have taken place throughout time.

You know what's also happening with "alarming regularity"? People looking for conspiracy theories -- sorry, insinuations -- that aren't there. I've said more than once that I don't believe in true NBA consipracies, and any suggestions of them are done for the sake of sarcasm and/or humor.

And I'm tired of pointing and re-pointing that out. So I'm officially done. If you want to misread what I wrote in this post, that's your business. Sorry you can't see it for what it is. Maybe you're being blinded by the feelings you have for your beloved Lakers.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Where does Wild Yams get her info? Fox News? Try getting some real info.

McHale traded KG (who wanted to leave) for a legit Al Jefferson, a bunch of crap, Theo Ratliff's expiring contract, and Minnesota's #1 pick (which is now a top 5 pick). Minnesota will do much better next season. In addition, McHale actually shopped McHale for a good 4 months meaning that any team (including the Lakers) had a chance to pick him up.

The Ray Allen trade was even fairer because the Celtics traded the #5 pick (which should've accomodated the #2 pick) Delonte West and Wally Sz. for an aging Ray Allen.

OTOH, Chris Wallace traded the team MVP Pau Gasol for a toal loser (K. Brown) a backup PG that didn't play (Javaris) and the Lakers #1 pick (which is in the late 20s). And Wallace did this on the hush hush while not allowing other teams to bid for Gasol and he did it THREE WEEKS before the trade deadline. One can fully expect Memphis to lose AGAIN and possibly contract.

Clearly these two trades are not the same at all. In fact, if any other team (other than the Celtics) had done what the Lakers did, David Stern would open a quiet investigation and stop the trade. Only a Laker homer would think this trade had any semblance of fairness.

Blogger Trev said...
Lets see Lakers get a 28 year old in his prime Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown (cap relief and little else) Jarvis Creighton (so good he was getting 8 minutes a game behind Fisher and Farmar, not to mention the Grizz already have Lowry and Conley at the PG position). Marc Gasol, Arron McKie (more cap relief) and two draft picks that will both be in the late 20's.

Boston gets a 32 year old Garnett towards the very end of his prime for Al Jefferson (21 and 11 guy), Theo Ratliff (the equivlant of Brown and McKie in this deal), Sebastian Telfair, Gomes and Gerald Green (starters and sometimes starters the year before even if it was for a bad, very bad Celtics team) and what will likely be a late 20's pick AND a top 3 pick next year.

Yea those trades are totally the same.

Blogger Trev said...
Also I'd like to add I don't think there was collusion in either deal just the fact that some how Wallace (I once traded for an alcoholic) is an even worse GM than McHale (I once surrendered 18 draft picks for signing Joe Smith to an under the table max deal) and that's pretty impressive.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
On a positive note, I'm pretty happy with the current state of the NBA- flopping/reffing aside- the teams that are left standing are FUN to watch, have superstars, deep benches (even if they underperform at times), and guys on both teams that I want to see win- even if I despise their franchises (*cough Lakers *cough)

Seriously- I think everyone should re-visit the post where Kobe talks about Ginobili "shooting in his face" (the huge smile on his face just kills me- Evil Ted: Kobe DOES enjoy the money shot) before posting on this blog- I do, and it makes me laugh and puts me in a happy place before I start writing. Go ahead- try it!

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful, maybe you yourself don't believe in conspiracies, but it does sometimes seem like you & Evil Ted enjoy fanning the flames for the people who do. I'd like to give you more credit than that, as you said you hoped I would above, but to be honest after the way you focused only on the incorrect call that went against the Spurs at the end of Game 4 of the WCF it definitely gave me pause. I thought that was a case where two horribly bad calls ultimately offset each other and didn't change the correct outcome of that game (and would really defy anyone to explain how that's not the case), and I figured in your anger over the poor officiating would want to address that; but instead you wanted to just focus on Joey Crawford's non-call at the end and why Crawford was even allowed to ref in a Spurs game. The one-sidedness of that did make me legitimately wonder for the first time if you really were just more interested in fanning the conspiracy flames than you were in expressing outrage over crappy officiating (after all, if you're upset about the officiating, why leave out such a great example of it like that?). Sorry man, just being honest.

Getting off that though, I don't think there's a conspiracy in the NBA and I never have. I think the most compelling evidence that there isn't one is the fact that the team in the league's biggest market hasn't won in 35 years. Furthermore, a small market, ratings-killing team like the Spurs is the current reigning dynasty in the NBA, and you would think if the league wanted to have prevented that then they would have.

I believe there are good GMs and bad GMs, and Wallace and McHale are both bad GMs. I do believe that McHale still very much has Celtic roots and very much hates the Lakers, to the point where he won't trade with them. That was made pretty clear years ago when rather than trade Tom Gugilotta to LA for Eddie Jones he let Googs walk as a free agent. That was further evidenced this past summer when he turned his nose up at the Lamar Odom & Andrew Bynum package the Lakers offered for Kevin Garnett, instead settling on the Celtics offer. It wasn't a conspiracy though and no one from the league intervened or anything, I just think McHale is so stubborn in his thinking that he'll actually cut off his nose to spite his face and will risk hurting his own team just to make sure he doesn't help the Lakers.

I can fully understand why the Wolves needed to dump Garnett and start over with young talent, just as I can understand why the Sonics wanted to trim their payroll to the bone for their anticipated move, just as I can understand the Grizzlies desire to rebuild around young players while dumping the huge contract Gasol had (there's also rumors Memphis wants to move or sell the team in the near future). The Gasol trade is legendarily bad and lopsided, and anyone who argues otherwise is lying or just ignorant. But I think it happened because Wallace is a disgrace as a GM, and because Kupchak and/or the Laker management is quite shrewd, rather than because David Stern wished it to be so.

The other reason the trade happened (and why a great many other horrendous trades happen) is because big market teams have a definite competitive advantage over smaller market teams. Teams like the Lakers, Knicks, Celtics and Bulls can afford to take on more expensive players not because their owners are so rich (Jerry Buss is not one of the league's wealthiest owners), but because their franchises are wildly profitable for them. Many other NBA teams actually lose money, and lots of it, and as such just can not afford to keep many expensive players around if they're not winning. Memphis and Minnesota clearly just said "we're not winning anyway, so lets dump as much money as possible and start over with young, cheap guys." Memphis took this approach to the extreme, and reportedly even turned down the Lakers' first offer of Lamar Odom for Gasol simply because Odom's contract extends beyond this season, while Kwame Brown's did not. While the Grizzlies certainly could have got more in return for Gasol, the simple fact is that Kwame Brown had the largest expiring contract available, so if they wanted to cut salary, that was the best way to do it. It made them worse as a team, but they were already pretty miserable even before the trade (something like 13-32), so they probably figured the difference was negligible.

It's unfortunate that in the NBA many owners need to legitimately decide whether they want to lose huge sums of money every year just to stay competitive, or even more to be successful, but that's the reality for most teams in the league. This is why a team like the Lakers has been able to acquire guys like Wilt, Kareem, Shaq and Gasol over the years: it's not a conspiracy, it's just because the Lakers can actually do that and still make a profit doing it. In another year or two the Lakers may have four max contract players on their team, but if they end up winning championships then Buss will still make money. If the Grizzlies had the exact same roster and contracts that the Lakers are going to have once they re-sign Bynum, even though the Grizzlies would probably win the title with that team, odds are good they'd lose millions upon millions of dollars in the process.

Hopefully the NBA can restructure the revenue sharing or the luxury tax to more evenly balance this out in the future; but to Jerry Buss's credit, after the last league agreement he actually tried to stay under the luxury tax at first (which caused Mark Cuban and some members of the media to label him as being "cheap"), until just about every team was crossing that threshold, at which point he did too. Something definitely needs to be done though, because the safeguards the owners and league agreed upon last time are not working at all. The Lakers are always competitive not because Stern wishes it to be that way, but because with the money they generate through merchandise sales, ticket sales, and TV contracts they just have much more to spend while still being profitable. Jerry Buss doesn't need to worry about not being a multi-billionaire like Paul Allen or Mark Cuban when he can spend the way he does without having to take a loss to do it. Even Mark Cuban eventually realized he wasn't OK with losing lots of money to stay at the top when he let Steve Nash walk as a free agent cause he thought Nash wanted too much. When the Lakers take on a bunch of highly paid players, they're just cutting into their profits. When most other teams do it, they're going into their pocket, and that's the difference.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Yams -- You said: "After all, if you're upset about the officiating, why leave out such a great example of it like that?" Presumably, that was in reference to the goaltending call that went against the Lakers.

And you know what I find funny about that? The fact that you provided a link to my second post regarding the Fisher no-call while completely ignoring my first post on the subject, in which I wrote this: "And let's face it, that grand faux pas wasn't an isolated case. Not historically, and not even in this particular game. The refs did not impress last night. Kobe Bryant managed to play 41 minutes without making a single trip to the charity stripe -- his series total for freethrow attempts is six -- leading Phil Jackson to quip: 'It is impossible to take 29 shots and not be fouled, but tonight was one of those exceptions, I guess.' But wait, there's more! Before the foul that wasn't a foul even though it really was a foul, the Lakers had the ball and a two-point lead with 28 seconds left. L.A. dribbled out most of the shot clock before Fisher jacked up a baseline jumper that missed almost everything and got knocked out of bounds by Robert Horry with 5.6 seconds left. The official call was that the shot didn't hit the rim and so only two seconds were left on the shot clock. However...the replays sure made it look like the ball skimmed off the hoop. If the Lakers had gotten a new 24, the Spurs would have had to foul and the game would have been over. Instead, Kobe had to force up a shot that missed and fell right into the hands of the Spurs, who were left with 2.1 seconds to make a miracle happen."

Am I to presume you totally forgot about that post? I find that hard to believe, particularly since you left the following comment on it: "Pretty even analysis of the officiating disaster last night." Yet now you're accusing me of fanning the flames of conspiracy and not providing fair coverage? Dude, I call shenanigans.

The fact is, the second post was a response to the the NBA's admission that the end-of-game call was blown. And it's different than the other calls for a few reasons. First off, the goaltending and shot clock error are understandable; they both happened very quickly and were only obvious with the benefit of instant replay. Whereas, in the case of the game-ending no-call, Fisher clearly jumped into the air and collided with Barry's upper body. This call is made about 100 percent of the time in non-game-deciding situations. The other two calls, I can see how they were missed. The last call? Not so much.

Here's the thing. I don't think that the refs conspired to screw the Lakers with the shot clock and goaltending errors. I think those were honest mistakes. And I don't think they were trying to screw the Spurs, per se, but I do think they consciously chose not to make a call -- even though it would have been the correct call -- because of that unspoken (and unwritten) rule refs have to not "decide" a game with a foul call.

Which, as stated, I think is bullshit. A foul is a foul, no matter when it happens. That's why the whole foul system was created. And it should not be levied in an arbitrary fashion.

Also, I don't believe in makeup calls. If a call is blown, it shouldn't be negated by another bad call. The refs should try to get every one right without regard to any past mistakes. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
so all the 60´s finals were lame as fuck

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful, the reason I linked to your second post was because that was the one I took umbrage with (clearly I was fine with the first one, and said so). I basically thought your opening and closing statements in that second post were absurd:

"Well, the NBA finally got it right. Unfortunately, they got it right about a day and one crippling loss too late for the San Antonio Spurs."

"So, anyway, it appears that although they Spurs will probably get knocked out of the playoffs tonight because of that now officially incorrect no-call, they at least get the moral victory from knowing they got jobbed. Too bad there's no such thing as the Moral NBA Finals."

This was my point: the Spurs got screwed on that one particular call, but they weren't robbed of the win or the series over it because by all rights they shouldn't have even had the ball to begin with. Taking the particular stance that this one call is what eliminated the Spurs I think is really trying to direct undue attention to a call that while incorrect, ultimately did not incorrectly affect the outcome of the game. The officials made a bad call there, but if they'd made the right call seconds earlier then the Lakers would have won anyway, so it's a bizarre thing to get that bent out of shaped about and to fixate on to that extent. Even Spurs fans thought that call didn't make a difference. You're correct that two wrongs don't make a right, and whenever an official makes a bad call it robs one team or the other. At least in this case the bad calls robbed both teams and ultimately didn't give a win to the team that didn't deserve it. While I as a fan can still be infuriated by the piss-poor officiating in that game, and while I still badly long for some kind of change there, at least I can comfort myself in knowing that neither team nor fanbase should feel robbed in this particular case.

So I'm sorry, but the credit I would normally give you in this area was decreased a bit because you once again chose to fixate on perceived injustice only when it worked out in the Lakers' favor. Repeatedly railing against the powers that be when something questionable goes the Lakers' way, but then staying oddly silent when the questionable things go against them does show bias; and while you may not come out and say "here is new evidence to prove there is a conspiracy to help the Lakers," it does end up reading as "look at this and ask yourself if there is something else at work here - you decide." You may not be claiming conspiracy, but you do end up appearing like you're pointing people in that direction.

Today's from left field comment about how some people were only half joking when they said they should investigate the Gasol trade (in reference to the 1969 Finals, of all things) is more of this kind of stuff. I can't help but feel like if you really and truly did not think there was a conspiracy or manipulation behind the scenes then you'd quit making these insinuations. If you really think it's league-wide poor officiating or injustice, then you'd hammer on the instances when it hurts the Lakers as well as when it helps them, but instead you typically gloss over those instances while focusing on the times when LA is the beneficiary. If you really think there's a conspiracy, then say it and own that stance. If you did, even though I'd disagree with you over it, I'd respect that a lot more than passively-aggressively insinuating that that is the case.

I do hope you realize that I greatly respect your opinion and have great respect for your knowledge of the game, and I absolutely love what you guys do here on this site. If I didn't I wouldn't even bother saying anything. I only bring it up because I feel like it can occasionally take away from what you do here, and because I feel like you guys are better than that. You guys are too smart and too funny to be as bitter as you sometimes appear to be. I also bring it up in light of the matchup we have before us, because I am truly a little worried about what will happen here if the Lakers win.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Can't we all just get along?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You guys hug it out and let's move on

Blogger 80's NBA said...

Great recaps of the 60's C's & L's Finals. I ran across footage of the 69 Finals - the entire fourth quarter of Game 7 (you get to see some of Wilt's bricks at the line). Part 1 starts here...

Also, I remember reading in one of Auerbach's books (I think it was "On And Off The Court") that Russell hated practice (practice, we're talking bout practice). He said that sometimes he (Auerbach) would have to scream at Russell because Russell was being so lazy. But he also realized that he couldn't really be pissed at him, because he almost always came through in the big game.

One last thing...there's a great book named, "The NBA Finals", by Roland Lazenby. I think the last edition was published in the 90's. There are some great write-ups of all of the Finals up to that point. It's a great book.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
For what it's worth, here is what the Grizzlies' owner, Michael Heisley, just had to say about the Gasol trade (via TrueHoop):

"Mr. Heisley isn't saying that everyone has to love the deal he made. However, you should understand the deal he made. He tried for over a year to get a deal done where he received back what he believed to be equal talent. All the other teams in the league knew this. No one was offering anything close to fair value. Once the decision was made to go with a youth movement and acquiring cap space relief the Grizzlies again approached teams about acquiring Gasol. He made public the negotiations with Chicago but that doesn't mean there weren't negotiations with other teams. Only Los Angeles was willing to provide a huge salary cap savings, 2 #1 draft picks and young talent that the Grizzlies wanted. No one else was coming to the table with comparable offers. Mr. Heisley made the decision to take the LA offer and it was his decision alone. Any team now pretending to not know Gasol was available is not telling the truth. Memphis contacted many teams but they did not conduct an auction for Gasol. You can't do that in the NBA. Any team could contact the Grizzlies and many did. Memphis also initiated contact with many teams. "

I guess the investigation into collusion can be called off now.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Yams -- Once again, I am not nor have I ever insinuated there was collusion in the Gasol trade...but really, do you think that, if there had been collusion, Heisley would come out and say it? Or d'you suppose he'd give some kind of "It was our only option" explanation? Not to mention the fact that it cames several months after the fact. I'm just sayin', as "proof" goes, that's kinda weak.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful, once again I didn't say that you could call off your investigation, just that whatever investigation was suggested (presumably by Jeff Van Gundy et al) could now be called off. However to answer your question about whether Heisley would admit if there had been collusion, well of course not. He'd no more admit it than Kevin McHale would if he had colluded with Ainge. But really, what possible reason could there be for an owner to take a shit on his team like that? I find it incredibly hard to believe that any owner out there wants to help either make the Lakers more successful or make them more money. I would think the owner of the Grizzlies, a team that probably loses money most years, would tell Stern or Buss or whomever to take a flying leap if they came to him and asked him to make his team worse for the good of the league or something.

The main reason I believe Heisley's statement is because it is quite clearly just common sense, and because it does match up with what the media was reporting about Gasol for the last two seasons. I said above that Memphis had been shopping him for both last year and this year, and Heisley just confirmed that was true. Also, the whole strategy of trading the one expensive player on a crappy team for cap relief, draft picks and young players is an extremely common practice that you see every single season.

If there's any investigation to be had with anything here, it really should be why owners like Heisley employ and keep GMs like Wallace around, and Memphis is definitely not the only example of this. Why did it take Dolan so long to get rid of Isiah? What the hell is Kohl thinking in Milwaukee? Too many teams make their coach the fall guy (i.e. Memphis) when the real problem lies either with the GM or the owner. In the case of the Grizzlies I think it's probably both Heisley and Wallace. Neither one knows what they're doing, and as such they got swindled by the Lakers (who evidently, do know what they're doing). There's no conspiracy or collusion with any of these trades, just people who are good at what they do taking advantage of the people who are bad at what they do.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Yams -- The only plausible reason I've heard for Heisley wanting to take a dump on his team is that he wants to sell and this cost-reducing measure would make the purchase more appealing to potential buyers. That said: So what? No matter how you look at it, it's a business decision and basketball, above everything else, is a business.

Anyway, I'll call Jeff Van Gundy and ask him to call off the dogs. I think he's just trying to draw attention away from his ghastly on-screen appearance.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
I too had heard that Heisley wants to sell his team, and as such he's going the Sonics route and just trying to dump everything and make his team a "young, cheap team with potential" to make it appealing to buyers. This is not that surprising, but I think that because the Gasol trade was so lopsided they actually scrapped other trade proposals they may have had in the works out of shame due to the enormous media backlash. Supposedly they had some things working to try to dump Mike Miller in a similar deal somewhere, but they held off on that (although I wouldn't be surprised to see that revisited this summer).

I'm curious, and I'm serious when I ask this: do you think there should be some kind of committee to oversee and approve trades, or should the commissioner have to approve them the way it is in fantasy leagues? Or even, if there was such procedures in place and this trade had gone through would people have felt like it was more legit, or would it just have heightened their conspiracy worries?

IMO there shouldn't be someone overseeing trades like that, but I very much would like to see owners have to re-qualify themselves to some kind of committee every couple years with their track record as evidence of whether they really should own a team or not. There are some teams that just really go to waste because the owners are such morons, and that more than anything is bad for the game. Sterling should have been forced to sell the Clippers a long time ago, and same with Dolan and the Knicks. Owners who flat out stink should be forced to sell their teams, and if they can't find anyone to buy them for what they paid for the team in the first place, then the other owners should pool their money and make up the difference just to get people in there who know what they're doing.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You might want to include Wilt's four point stinker in Game 2 and his two point effort in Game 6 in the Worst Of.

Blogger Unknown said...
Elgin Baylor should have been at fault in this game 7 but nobody ever seems to mention that. Elgin was Butch Van Breda Kolff's favorite player but he took him out during that game 7 because he was ineffective against the running game of the Celtics for the 3 quarters. Look at Youtube when they show the last quarter, you don't see Elgin much.

Butch was the first designer of the motion offense that NBA teams used throughout the 70's as well as college teams. However, he couldn't handle pressure moments or criticisms(he quit after 10 games in Detroit because of the fan heckling of Leon "The Barber"). Yet, he wanted to be the star and kept Wilt out in the last minute when Wilt was ready to come back. People forget that knee injury sidelined him for almost the whole 1969-1970 season.

Butch didn't like the signing of Wilt Chamberlain and got into a fight with him during that season in Seattle. Wilt didn't respect Van Breda Kolff as a man. Though he was a tireless worker and courageous, he was a bit of a sissy particularly when he lost. On the other hand, Frank McGuire was strong, handsome and classy on and off the court. He handled losses but wasn't going to get pushed around by nobody.

This year's Celtics was like the Lakers of 1968-1969 except one thing, all three were healthy and the bench stepped up as well the assistant coaches. In short, it was a team effort which included the stars, role-players, and practice players working in unison with the coaches from day one.

Nobody wanted individual glory but team including the coaches. I don't like Red Auerbach because he was a hog but Phil Jackson used his assistants well in the past but in this 2008 series, he tried to be a star and looked what happened.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Van Breda Kolff admitted that the ijury to Wilt WAS legit. Plus Wilt never took himself out of a game, even with 5 fouls. Why would he suddenly do it in such a cititical situation? The Lakers were down by 17 points and had cut it to 9, plus West was about to sink both of his free throws.

The refereeing in this game was terrible! All these calls against the Lakers. Baylor got called for a light push off which would never be called in today's game. Baylor grabs all ball on a Nelson drive and gets called for a foul. Tom Hawkins bats the ball away cleanly from Havlicek, foul on Tommy. Baylor, on an attempt for the tying basket, gets shoved by Nelson, no call.

Wilt did shoot 4-13 for the line. But I wouldn't say the loss was entirely his fault. He shot 7 for 8 from the field and out-rebounded Russell 27 to 21 despite playing about six minutes less. Russell shot 2 for 7 from the field and 2 for 4 from the line.

As for the rest of the Lakers, Baylor shot 8 for 22, Erickson 2 for 11, Egan 3 for 10, (Plus 3 for 6 from the line), Hawkins 1 for 4, Counts 4 for 13. AND he got called for travelling on a basket that would have put the Lakers within 1 point of the Celtics.

Other than Wilt, only West shot good from the field (14 for 29, but that's STILL less than 50 percent)

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Wilt was ready to return after 1 minute. He never changed his defense when he had 5 fouls. Never. The knee that locked up in game 7 exploded the next season and they thought he would be out for at least 2 years. He returned at the end of the season to take the Lakers to the finals against the knicks on a very bad knee. Russell has a sore ankle in 58 and whined that was why the Hawks beat them. Butch was fired as soon as game 7 was over and never coached a team to a title. Wilt career minutes per game was the highest of all time. Not a sign of a lazy player.