Doc Rivers' suggestion that Kendrick Perkins' injury resulted in Lakers' 2010 NBA Finals win proves unfounded
Let the revisionist history begin.
The Lakers didn't win the 2010 NBA Championship because of Ron Artest's Game 7 heroics. They didn't win the 2010 title after becoming much tougher than in the 2008 campaign. And they didn't win after Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Artest and Sasha Vujacic made key shots late in the game. No, the Lakers are back-to-back champions simply because Boston center Kendrick Perkins tore the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee, causing him to miss the final three quarters of Game 6 and all of Game 7. Or so that's what Celtics Coach Doc Rivers would like you to think.
"They still have not beaten our starting five," Rivers recently told ESPN 980's John Thompson, as provided by Sports Radio Interviews. "Our starting five against the Lakers starting five has a ring. Tell him [a Lakers fan] don't forget that. We will be back strong and Perk will be there next year if there's a Game 7."
I'm not the only one who's scratching his head and wondering if I saw the same game Doc saw. Silver Screen and Roll's DexterFishmore wrote, "Doc. If you're going to say something stupid, did it also have to be so inflammatory and grotesquely ill informed? One needn't be a Laker fan to be enraged by this. One need only possess a respect for historical accuracy and a memory that stretches back three whole years." Ball Don't Lie's Trey Kerby mused, "That's a very specific set of circumstances, but it's valid. That's a good team and the Lakers haven't beat them. But the thing is, that's not necessarily going to be the team that faces the Lakers, and even when they don't, the games still count. On the other hand, if Boston can petition the league to only count games in which the expected Celtics starting five takes the court, we might be looking at the first undefeated team in NBA history. It might only be for six games, but still."
Unfortunately for the Celtics, games aren't played under perfect scenarios. Every team, particularly ones that play further into the postseason, have to deal with less-than-ideal circumstances regarding injury, fatigue, etc. That's essentially what sports are, playing the best you can with the cards you're dealt. In no way am I downplaying Perkins' absence, but for Rivers to suggest he was the primary reason the Lakers won the title, as former NBA great Julius Erving also suggested to me at the ESPY's, proves absurd for various reasons.
Let's first deal with the logic that the Celtics still have not defended their title from 2008. That title defense stopped once Boston was eliminated in the 2009 East semifinals by Orlando. And the Celtics won in 2008 against the Lakers, which featured an absent Andrew Bynum and a limited Trevor Ariza. Leading up to the 2010 Finals, many members of the media, including myself, asked various Lakers how much different the 2008 campaign would have gone had they been fully healthy. With not wanting to appear as if they were downgrading Bynum's and Ariza's potential contributions, the Lakers made it clear they would've helped, but in the end, the players on the floor didn't execute properly. Likewise, Boston failed to do the same thing in Game 7, allowing the Lakers to dominate the offensive glass, 23-8, and holding the Celtics' perimeter players in Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to 14 of 42 shooting (33%).
So much for Rivers' pregame contention that the Celtics would respond to Perkins' injury with a rallying cry. But he was right about one thing before the game: "The game is going to dictate everything."
"We're here, and we'll be ready," he said before the game. "It is a little emotional losing Perk. He's so important to our team. But he's still in the locker room, he just will not be in uniform. And I think our guys in some ways, they want to do it for him. Listen, the game is going to dictate everything, and I don't know, but as far as our emotions, I think we're pretty much in check."
After the game, when he was asked how much Perkins' absence affected the Celtics, Rivers brought up "the starting lineup hasn't lost" argument while making it clear it didn't make or break the team.
"I can't say," Rivers said after Boston's Game 7 loss. "I know, and I told our guys this, the starting lineup still hasn't lost. It was a shame we didn't have that starting lineup tonight. But I told them, you're still yet to have a true chance to defend your title because Perk wasn't there. But listen, give the Lakers credit. They were terrific."
That much was true. Even with Bryant having an uncharacteristically poor Game 7, the Lakers came through. Despite Lamar Odom's NBA Finals disappearing act, the Lakers came through. And despite Bynum's significant limitations because of the torn cartilage in his right knee, the Lakers came through. The Lakers, frankly, went through similar adversities as did the Celtics and it revealed two things. The Lakers made adjustments, while the Celtics just provided excuses.
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Celtics Coach Doc Rivers recently suggested that the Lakers wouldn't have won the 2010 NBA Finals if Boston center Kendrick Perkins hadn't gotten injured. Credit: Elsa / Getty Images.
Photo: Celtics Coach Doc Rivers receives a Gatorade bath from Paul Pierce moments before winning the 2008 Finals, when the Lakers were missing Andrew Bynum. Credit: Winslow Townson / Associated Press