For Stern, a Matchup Between the Celtics and Lakers Comes Full Circle

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 9, 2008

BOSTON, June 8 -- NBA Commissioner David Stern succeeded Larry O'Brien on Feb. 1, 1984, and his first NBA Finals featured the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.

"You know, I thought if it was June, you're supposed to go from L.A. to Boston and back again," Stern said in a news conference before Game 2 of the NBA Finals. "It was the old Garden, the fabulous Forum, the differences in the crowds, the differences in the ambience. I just was like a kid."

The tone of the 1984 series, which the Celtics won in seven games, intensified in Game 4, when Kevin McHale clotheslined Kurt Rambis on a fast break. The highlight has been replayed repeatedly the past week to illustrate the animosity that existed between the two teams in the 1980s. The game has changed in the past 24 years, and Stern admitted that McHale would have received much more than a personal foul if he had made that play today.

"I think there might have been some games lost by the player involved," Stern said. "We have, over the years, made a determination that the sport is really quite beautiful and quite graceful and quite extraordinary, and that our players are capable of inflicting great harm on each other if we don't regulate it."

Stern said the individual rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and the Hall of Fame rosters on those Lakers and Celtics teams provided a significant boost to the league and spoiled him in some ways.

"It was a good time," Stern said. "But the good old days sometimes were not quite as good as people say they are, and these may be the good new days, and the richness of talent, the 75 international players that we didn't have available to us in 1984, all of the young talent that's coming in. I'm a fan, and I think it's as good as it's ever been."

Pierce, Perkins Start

Celtics center Kendrick Perkins and forward Paul Pierce both started in Game 2. Pierce wore a protective sleeve over his sprained right knee, and Perkins took a cortizone shot so that he could play on his sprained left ankle. Pierce is the Celtics' captain and provided an emotional lift to his team in Game 1, but the Lakers were well aware of the physical presence Perkins brings. "You run into Perkins and [Lakers center] Pau [Gasol] in an alley, you're probably going to go Pau's direction," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant joked. . . .

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had some more fun with Pierce's Game 1 injury. He said the team didn't address Pierce's dramatic return. "We discussed the wheelchair a little bit, but that's the only thing I think was discussed," he said. "First time I think we've ever seen it." . . .

Celtics Coach Doc Rivers is not a fan of the 2-3-2, home-road-home format for the NBA Finals. "You fight all year to have Game 7 at home and Game 5 at home. We've had two huge Game 5s in the first three rounds. All of them have been at home."

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