Celtics vs. Lakers 2010: LA Claims 16th Title Plus the Levels of an Elite Player

David DeRyderCorrespondent IJune 18, 2010

It took seven games, but we finally have a 2010 NBA champion.

The Los Angeles Lakers bested their biggest rival, the Boston Celtics, to claim their 16th ring. The 83-79 final score is a good indication of how the game was played.

At one point during the game, one of the announcers claimed that the Lakers were playing their best defense of the season. It would be hard to find a better defensive effort from the Lakers this season.

Ron Artest was the unlikely hero. He got out of his shooting slump in Game Six and continued to score the ball efficiently in Game Seven.

He scored 20 points on seven for 18 shooting. He also hit a huge three pointer late in the game. It's safe the say that the Lakers made the right decision by signing Ron-Ron.

A lot of people will criticize Kobe Bryant for his performance. It took him 24 shots to make six field goals.

However, he did get to the line 15 times and ended with a tough 23 points. His biggest contribution was his rebounding. He pulled in 15 boards which helped the Lakers have a +13 rebounding margin over the Celtics.

Kobe's game reminded me a lot of Kevin Durant's Game Three against the Lakers in the first round.

Durant might be the best pure scorer in the game right now. He is the only sure thing on the Thunder offense.

In Game Three he struggled from the field, but still made an impact by rebounding and playing shut down defense on Kobe in the fourth quarter. Great players find ways to help their team, regardless of if they're feeling it or not.

The Celtics missed their starting center, Kendrick Perkins. Rebounding was difficult for Boston. They allowed 23 offensive rebounds. Great defense is wasted if you don't rebound the ball.

It seemed to me that Celtics had not yet solved their alpha dog issues. Earlier in the postseason, it looked like the Big Three had embraced the fact that Rajon Rondo was the best player on the team.

In Game Seven, it looked like Rondo was not so sure.

Rondo created the biggest mismatch against the Lakers' defense. He needed to shoot more than 13 times. With Perkins out, Rondo had the potential to swing the battle of the paint in Boston's favor.

I'm not trying to be hard on Rondo. His line of 14-8-10 illustrates his excellent all round play. Still, he was the one player who could have put the team on his back.

It was surprising to see how many times Boston tried to run isolation plays on offense. One would think that isolation plays have no place in Boston's team oriented offense.

However, if Doc Rivers insisted on calling them, he should have ran them with Rondo, not Paul Pierce. Rajon Rondo could have gotten by Derek Fisher the majority of the time.

One of the most interesting moments of the night occurred after the final whistle. When Kobe Bryant was interviewed, he openly acknowledge that he played a sub-par game. He complimented his teammates. Rather than claim glory, he recognized the importance of his team. He knew that he would not have his fifth ring without them, especially the "Spaniard," Paul Gasol.

His post game interview makes me wonder if he has reached the fourth and final level of a star player. What are the four levels of elite players?

Level One

This is where a player is at his most athletic.

A player is usually at this level when he comes into the league. He uses his physical ability to drive and get easy baskets. The word that describes this level would be unpolished.

While a player can average over 20 a night at Level One, they lack the ability to consistently hit outside shots.

Level Two

This is when a player adds outside shooting to their game. Getting here required repetition and practice. For an elite player to push themselves to be better takes determination.

When a player is at Level Two they have the potential to put up the best numbers of their career. The ability to hit mid range jumpers forces the defense to crowd the player. This makes it easier for them to get to the rim. Just imagine if/when Rajon Rondo reaches this level.

Level Three

Here is when a player develops their basketball I.Q. They learn things like how to get to the free throw line and effectively pass out of double teams.

Basketball is very much a mental game. Awareness is key to winning. Players who reach level three have the potential to be all time greats. Unfortunately, by the time most players reach Level Three they have lost a step.

Kobe Bryant is a perfect example of this. He doesn't have the athleticism he had when he came into the league, yet he is still among the scoring leaders. He uses his head and jump shot to get baskets and retain his status as one the best players in the world.

Level Four

At this level a player becomes a great leader. He can impact the game without ever touching the ball. Here is where a player makes everyone on the team better just by being there.

It is important to distinguish players at this level from players who are great play makers. For example, LeBron James definitely makes his teammates better via his passing.

However, I don't think he has reached this level. Players at Level Four don't have their teams quite with a minute left in a playoff game like the Cavaliers did in Game Six against Boston.

A player's career is often determined by how long these levels intersect with each other. For example, Kevin Durant already has a great jump shot. He can drive or shoot and have success with both.

Also, his ability to get the line indicates he is close to entering Level Three. If he can make the jump and efficiently distribute the ball, the Thunder could be an extremely dangerous team in the 2010-2011 season.

I do not know if Kobe Bryant has reached Level Four. He can still be a bad teammate at times. It will be interesting to see how he evolves next season. Kobe demands perfection from himself and his team.

At times, his perfectionism can hurt the play of his teammates. Granted, I'm sure some players need a Kobe to push them. On the other hand, some players need to be relaxed to play at their best. Great leaders know the difference. When Kobe Bryant won Finals MVP trophy, his acceptance speech indicates that he may finally get it.

One unrelated note: America should have won 3-2 in their World Cup game against Slovenia. After falling behind 0-2, they fought back to tie it.

How could the referees take away Edu's goal? Where was the penalty? It was a terrible call.

The only defense for the officials is that maybe something occurred off camera that nobody picked up on.

If this was the case, the "penalty" did not affect the play. Wouldn't that be like calling an off-ball foul on a game winning shot in the NBA?


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