Celtics, Lakers Meet In Championship Game Rematch

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The NBA is offering a holiday gift of sorts to its fans — a Christmas Day rematch between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. Those two teams met in the NBA finals last year. Six coaches have been fired so far this season, and teams are worried about empty seats.


Christmas day in the NBA means basketball, specifically the first network telecast of the season, with a total of five games. The highlight game will be on ABC this evening. East coast meets west coast with defending champion Boston Celtics playing the Los Angeles Lakers. It's their first meeting since the Celtics beat the Lakers in the NBA finals last June. Commentator John Feinstein joins us now. Good morning John.

JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: I guess it's fair to say that both the Celtics and the Lakers have picked up where they left off last seasons.

FEINSTEIN: More than fair, particularly the Celtics who were off to a record-breaking 27 and 2 start. And come into the game on a 19-game winning streak. Not only have their big three of Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce played well, but their point guard Rajon Rondo has really developed into a star. And the Lakers haven't been too shabby, themselves. They're 23 and 5, Kobe Bryant is playing like an MVP, but the Celtics have just been a little bit better, just as they were last spring.

MONTAGNE: Am I pushing it to ask you for a prediction, on a possible rematch in the finals?

(Soundbite of laughter)

FEINSTEIN: Well, as you know the NBA season lasts 14 months every year, Renee. So, we're a long way from the finals in June. But the eastern conference which has been so weak the last few years, really has a couple of very good teams. The Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James are 24 and 4. And the Orlando Magic with one of the really rising young players in Dwight Howard, are only a couple of games behind the Cavaliers. So, the competition in the east is much better than it's been, and interestingly, the west is a little bit down. There's nobody really that you look at to challenge the Lakers at the moment. But it - so if both teams stay healthy, yes, they could very easily meet in the finals, but we're a long way off.

MONTAGNE: And just back to the Cavaliers, John. As well as they played, a lot of the talk hasn't been how well they're playing now, but where LeBron James might be playing in two years.

FEINSTEIN: Exactly. You know when the Cavaliers went into New York to play the Knicks earlier this season, LeBron James was treated like a star Knicks player, because that's what the people in New York want him to become. He's a free agent after the 2010 season is over, and already, there's huge speculation that he's going to end up signing a massive contract to move to New York, the glamour city, and revive the Knicks. Now, he wanted to take some of the pressure off, so he said he might consider resigning with the Cavaliers next summer. My theory is that's just a way to keep the Cleveland fans on his side, and he will become a free agent in two years, and that will be one of the great merry-go-rounds we've seen in free-agent history.

MONTAGNE: Let's finish by touching on some teams not playing so well. There have been six coaches fired already, and John, the season's not even half over.

FEINSTEIN: Yeah, I really think, Renee, this is a reflection of the economy, believe it or not. That when teams get off to terrible starts the way the Oklahoma City Thunder did in a new city, the way the Washington Wizards did, the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers, and when you've got half-empty arenas, when your season ticket holders aren't even showing up, when licensing goes down, TV ratings go down. They feel they have to make a move. Eddie Jordan had taken the Wizards to the playoffs three years in row. And he got fired a month into the season. So, you're seeing a lot of trigger happy general managers here. They can't fire all the players, so they're firing their coaches.

MONTAGNE: Well, that's not such a great thought for the holiday, but let me wish you a happy holiday, John.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you Renee. Happy holidays to everybody there.

MONTAGNE: John Feinstein is author of "Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery." It's NPR News.

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