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Doc Rivers Blasting L.A.'s Handling of Phil Jackson Fuels Lakers-Celtics Rivalry

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Doc Rivers Blasting L.A.'s Handling of Phil Jackson Fuels Lakers-Celtics Rivalry
Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

For those unfamiliar with the history of the NBA, there are no two organizations quite as influential as the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. From the 62 Hall of Famers that have graced one of the two respective organizations to the collective 33 NBA Championships, it's been all Boston and L.A. from day one.

Fast forward to 2012 and you'll see Celtics head coach Doc Rivers blasting L.A.'s handling of former head coach Phil Jackson— a move that will fuel the resurgence of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.

From the 1959 NBA Finals onwards, the fierce rivalry between the two organizations brought about international interest to the league. Over the past two seasons, however, the ferocity of the NBA's greatest rivalry appears to have been lost.

An unfortunate twist, considering the illustrious history.

The two teams have met in the NBA Finals on 12 separate occasions, the most of any two franchises in NBA history. From the early battles of Elgin Baylor and Bill Russell to the legendary Larry Bird and Magic Johnson days, the C's and Lakers have been at each other's throats for over 50 years.

When the Lakers opted to hire Mike D'Antoni over Jackson in unsanctimonious fashion, few expected the move to have an impact on the rivalry (via NBA.com). Rivers certainly changed that.

According to Eric Pincus of Fox Sports West, Rivers had choice words for the Lakers' treatment of Phil Jackson during their search for a new head coach. In fact, Rivers claims that the Lakers "embarrassed" the 11-time NBA champion.

The rivalry is recovering.

"I didn't like the way it was done," said Rivers.  "I don't think you embarrass anybody."

"Whether you like Phil [Jackson] or not, he's won a lot of titles and I think he was owed more than that treatment, in my opinion, especially [from] that franchise," continued Rivers.

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Putting the rivalry aside for a moment, it's hard to argue with anything that Rivers said. The Lakers reportedly informed Jackson that it was his decision to make on whether he'd accept the job (via ESPN Los Angeles).

Mere hours later, the Lakers opted to name D'Antoni as Mike Brown's successor. A crushing move to both Jackson and the Lakers' fan base.

With that being said, don't expect Laker die-hards to side with anything a Celtics member says. Rivers has become public enemy No. 1 and the rivalry has gained new traction.

 

 

If You're Not With Them, You're Against Them

When coach Rivers defended Phil Jackson, it became clear that the unspoken code about the Lakers had been reinstated. If you're not with them, all you can possibly be is against them.

Enter Jackson in the latter pool.

Rivers is not approaching this situation with a lack of insight on the Lakers-Celtics rivalry. Rivers has coached the Celtics to two NBA Finals appearances against the Jackson-led Lakers, winning in 2008 and dropping the 2010 series.

In other words, Rivers has first-hand knowledge of how brilliantly Jackson has been as coach of the Lakers. Perhaps more than any other person at any level of the NBA.

After all, it's one thing to hire him or play for him. It's another to specifically design your game plan around what he's going to do.

Rivers did just that on the grandest stage of them all.

With that being said, it is sacrilegious amongst die-hards to support the opposing side. That would be equivalent to a New York Yankees fan rooting for the Boston Red Sox or a Michigan Wolverine alum pulling for Ohio State.

If you're not with them, you're against them.

 

 

Making It Personal

With this rivalry becoming legitimate once again, the NBA can prepare for battles that grow far more personal than in recent years. This is not a group of veterans each looking to pad their resumes with three to five more years of championship contention.

It is a fair balance of Hall of Famers entering the final stage of their career and elite young talent.

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo for Boston. Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard for Los Angeles.

Throw in grizzled veterans such as Boston's Jason Terry and Los Angeles' Pau Gasol and you have yourself a legitimate battle for supremacy. A battle that just got even more personal with all that is on the line.

Coach D'Antoni's reputation. Kobe, Pierce and Garnett's final pursuit of gold. Best of all, the battle between the young leaders.

Rondo will continue his journey of returning the Celtics to prominence. On the opposite end, Howard is the latest in the line of great Lakers centers who will look to bring multiple titles to Los Angeles.

Keep in mind, George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal and even Andrew Bynum have won at least two titles in L.A. Wilt Chamberlain won just one, but he took home a second with Philadelphia.

The only question here is quite simple. Which of the two legendary franchises will win their battle for supremacy with similarly constructed rosters?

That answer becomes all the more important to answer with coach Rivers' comments on Phil Jackson.

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