Bill Simmons picks Lakers to win title

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    Bill Simmons picks Lakers to win title

    1. L.A. Lakers
    The favorites until someone takes them down. Obviously. But one thing has been lost in the shuffle because there was so much else going on: if the Lakers win three in a row, that puts them on a whole other level historically. Here are all the NBA teams that won three straight:

    Minneapolis: 1952-54
    Boston: 1959-66
    Chicago: 1991-93
    Chicago: 1996-98
    LA Lakers: 2000-02

    That's a pretty insane list. Minneapolis had Mikan, the first great center. Boston had Russell, Auerbach and the greatest collection of talent ever assembled on one team. The 1991-93 Bulls had the greatest player ever at the peak of his powers; the 1996-98 Bulls had Jordan and Pippen dominating an expansion-diluted league. And the 2000-02 Lakers had Shaq (the dominant center of his era) and Kobe (who would eventually become one of the 10 best players ever).

    It's really, really, REALLY hard for me to believe that the 2009-11 Lakers are 16 wins away from joining that group. But I think they will. L.A. over Chicago in six. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go wander into traffic.

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    Re: Bill Simmons picks Lakers to win title

    5. Boston
    This could be 450 words or 45,000. I will spare you -- we'll go for 450. Just know that I can't remember another deadline deal knocking a team from "favorites" to "also-rans." There's no historical precedent. The trade undermined everything the Celtics were about: size, toughness, togetherness, chemistry, friendship, relationships ... it erased their identity Jason Bourne-style. Whether it was true or not, this particular Celtics team really did believe in the whole "nobody has ever beaten us in a series when we had our starting five" mantra, just like they believed in "ubuntu" and their ability to protect that aforementioned six feet at all times. Well, how do you preach "ubuntu" after you just blindsided one of your core guys in a trade that didn't totally need to happen? So it's conditional ubuntu?

    The more I watch this Celtics team, the more I realized that they were overachieving those first 3½ months because of chemistry and swagger. Watching Chicago rough them up Thursday was pretty depressing. Keith Bogans pushed Ray Allen around like a rag doll. Kurt Thomas and Glen Davis fell into a heap, then Thomas jumped up and stood over Davis like he had just tripped him in a prison cafeteria and wanted to send him a message before they both got sent to the hole. Joakim Noah pranced around and did Noah things knowing that everyone had his back. With 20 seconds left in a blowout, Carlos Boozer got tangled with Nenad Krstic and decided to shove him six feet, got called for a foul, then stared him down before sauntering back to his bench and being greeted by smiling teammates. Honestly, it was like watching a deleted Cobra Kai scene. The trade was bad enough -- watching my team get punked out on national TV was something else. That game made me ill. So does the trade. I don't know what the Celtics are anymore, and neither do they.

    One more thing: Every Celtics fan is in "last year, we wrote them off and we made the Finals" mode. Which is fine. That's what you do when you're grieving. You make excuses. Just know that ...