The return of a rivalry

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The return of a rivalry

Last night, I tweeted about a brief run-in I had with Pau Gasol at a local Starbucks.

Heres the tweet:

@rich_levine: Just ran into Pau Gasol at Starbucks and jokingly asked if he was apartment hunting. He hadn't heard the Rondo rumor, so it was pretty awkward from there.

Just for fun, heres the full story:

It was about 5:30 pm, and I was sitting at a table, working (aka playing Words with Friends) with my back to the door. All of sudden, I felt this enormous presence.

I eventually saw him, too. But I felt him first. From the second he walked in you could just sense that there was a giant in the room.

When I looked up, my initial reaction was: Damn, that guys huge.

One second later it was: Hey wait, that guys Pau Gasol!

He was there with a friend looked like a trainer and the two stood, speaking Spanish, as they waited in line to order. After they did, his buddy went to the bathroom, leaving Gasol to wait for his Raspberry Passion Tea Lemonade about two steps from my table. (Just kidding, but that would have been amazing)

Anyway, about five minutes before he walked in, I'd been reading about the ridiculous Pau-for-Rondo rumor. I figured he'd heard about it, too. So I thought I'd be friendly and crack a joke:

Rich: "You here apartment hunting?"

Gasol: "Excuse me?"

Rich:: "Are you here apartment hunting?"

Gasol: "Uhhh"

Rich: "Oh sorry, man. I'm just joking about that crazy Rondo rumor."

Gasol: "Umm, which one is that?"

Rich: "Oh, you didn't hear? They have you being traded for Rondo now Never stops, right?"

He finally lightened up and let out a smile

Gasol: "Haha. Oh yeah. There are a lot rumors. But no, I'm not apartment hunting."

I laughed, threw my coffee at him and told him to get out of Boston.

Nah, I wished him luck. And that was that.

But then something interesting happened.

Gasol didn't leave.

When the coffee came, he and his buddy took their drinks, grabbed a table and just sat there talking for about 30 minutes. Right in the middle of a Starbucks in the heart of Boston.

I guess this shouldn't be a big deal. Maybe it means we've grown as a society. But I couldn't help but think: Would Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Michael Cooper or Kurt Rambis ever have felt comfortable hanging out like this in a Boston coffee shop?

Would Gasol himself have felt this comfortable even as recently as last year?

No way. So as Gasol sat there in peace aside from this one jerk who cracked a joke about trade rumors there was only one thought on my mind:

"Man, we're LONG overdue for a CelticsLakers game."

In reality, tomorrow marks exactly one year since the last meeting between these rivals, but doesn't it feel so much longer than that?

After all, the last time these two played, Kendrick Perkins was Boston's starting center and Phil Jackson was the Lakers coach. On top of that, Lamar Odom was the clear Sixth Man of the Year, Brandon Bass was Glen Davis and Metta World Peace was Ron Artest.

When they last met, the Celtics were 38-13 and a half game up on Miami in the East. The Lakers were 36-16, and second to only the surging Spurs in the West.

They were both on top of the world, on top of their games and, we thought, headed for their third Finals match-up in four years.

But it never happened, and since then, so much has changed. First, they were both eliminated, rather handedly, in the second round of the playoffs. Then the lockout came and choked the life out of the entire league. After that, both teams spent the abridged training camp stuck in Chris Paul drama. Consequently, each began the shortened regular season in shambles.

There was a time not so long ago, when the Lakers were all we really worried about here in Boston. Likewise, the Celtics were the chief concern out in LA. But in the year since that last meeting and even more in the 20 months since they met in the Finals that has certainly changed. For one, because each team has found plenty of internal issues to keep them occupied. And second, because these days, neither the Celtics nor the Lakers are a team that others particularly worry about. In one year, in the eyes of many, the once respective conference favorites are now barely contenders.

As a result, the build up to this year's LakersCeltics game hasn't been quite as intense as we've grown accustomed to these last four years. Sure, the hate's still there, but it's not overflowing.

Not yet.

But here's what's so great about this rivalry:

Once the ball goes up tonight, none of that other stuff matters. It doesn't matter that Perk's gone or Phil's gone or that both teams are currently more worried about staying above .500 than raising another banner.

Once it's on, it's on. And all the ill will that's been built up over the last few years the last 30 years the last 50 years will come soaring back. Just like it never left.

Call me crazy, but after tonight, win or lose, something tells me that Pau Gasol won't be so comfortable in a Boston area Starbucks.

That is, unless he's already been traded for Rondo.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Crowder and Booker exchange Instagram barbs following 70-point game

Crowder and Booker exchange Instagram barbs following 70-point game

Jae Crowder is not known for being shy on social media.

He was at it again on Friday night, commenting on an Instagram post of the Phoenix Suns celebrating Devin Booker's 70-point game at the TD Garden.

“NEVER SEEN SO MANY GUYS HAPPY AFTER AN ‘L’’” Crowder said in the Instagram comment.

Booker responded, telling the Celtics veteran, “you can’t guard me.”

Booker became just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game,  the most scored ever at the TD Garden.

Stars, studs and duds: Booker 'in one of those zones' in 70-point game

Stars, studs and duds: Booker 'in one of those zones' in 70-point game

BOSTON – Al Horford knew Devin Booker was having a big game, but it wasn’t until the third quarter was over and he looked up saw Booker already had 42 points.

“When I looked up and saw (his points total) … it’s just impressive.”

Booker would finish with a franchise-record 70 points against the Celtics, a ridiculously unheard of tally that still wasn’t enough as Boston came away with a 130-120 win.

The 6-foot-6 guard became just the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game.

While Celtics players were quick to praise Booker for his historic performance, there were a few Celtics who were clearly bothered by Suns coach Earl Watson having his team commit fouls late in the game in order to get the ball back so Booker could have more shots at the franchise record.

“It was weird what they were doing,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “I’ve never seen anything like that. It is what it is. I don’t think anybody has ever seen that; continuing to call time-outs, continuing to foul when we are up 15, but I mean it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him the most points possible. Hat off to him (Booker). He played a hell of a game.”

That said, it wasn’t like the Celtics were willing to give him all those points.

“No matter who we tried on him, what we tried on him, he was in one of those zones in a rhythm,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He was in that rhythm early in the game, and we didn’t do a very good job of breaking that rhythm.”

Putting Booker’s performance in words let alone perspective, was not easy – not even for Booker.

“It’s a zone that’s kind of hard to explain,” he said. “I’ve been in those zones before but never to this extent. It’s hard to explain … when you’re in the gym alone. You’re taking shots and making them consecutively. That’s what it starts feeling like for me. Felt comfortable, at my home gym draining.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

Devin Booker

It was a historic night for the second-year guard, setting a Suns franchise record with 70 points on 21-for-40 shooting. The 70 points were also the most scored at the TD Garden, with Booker becoming only the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game.

Isaiah Thomas

Very efficient game for Thomas who is steadily getting his groove back after missing a couple games with a knee injury. He led the Celtics with 34 points on 10-for-20 shooting along with dishing out seven assists.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

The Celtics got another strong game from Horford who had 15 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double this season. He also dished out six assists.

Gerald Green

The Celtics hit a bit of a scoring slump in the first half, but there was Green to the rescue. He finished with 15 points off the bench, all of which came in the first half.

Alex Len

One of the players besides Booker to make somewhat of an impact for Phoenix, Len finished with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting with six rebounds and two blocked shots.

Jae Crowder

He had 13 points and 10 rebounds, giving him his eighth double-double this season, while shooting 4-for-8 from the field.

 

DUDS

Celtics defense

Missing Avery Bradley was obviously a factor in Devin Booker’s big night for Phoenix. Boston reverted back to play way too casual defensively and Booker made them pay all night long. The Celtics have to correct this before it costs to something more than pride; but potentially being what winds up getting them eliminated from the playoffs.