Lakers target free agent veteran forward Raja Bell

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The defending two-time NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers aren’t even a month removed from winning their second straight NBA title, but they are already starting to think about their future and assembling a team to compete for yet another three-peat in the Phil Jackson era.

Even though the Lakers will almost certainly make some moves in the offseason, the team’s top priority as of right now is re-signing Phil Jackson. Over the past couple of years, the Zen Master has flirted with the possibility of retirement, but has stuck with the team and now has two more NBA titles to add to his legacy.

Now that Phil Jackson has 11 NBA titles to his credit and has officially passed Boston Celtics legendary head coach Red Auerbach by two NBA titles on the all-time list, there really isn’t much left for him to prove and he might feel that it is the right time to walk away from the game.

Even though Phil Jackson has still yet to make up his mind about his future, the Lakers must move on and continue to pursue other options for other areas of the team like upgrading the bench.

There have been a few rumors surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers recently with some pretty big names getting thrown in the mix. The one proposed trade that might still happen which has been talked about almost all season long was All-Star forward Chris Bosh heading to Los Angeles in exchange for Andrew Bynum and Sasha Vujacic.

This trade is obviously a stretch as it would have to be a sign-and-trade deal and the numbers would have to match up perfectly depending on what kind of deal Chris Bosh would want. Even though the deal could be very difficult to pull off, the Lakers are no strangers to one sided blockbusters as they were able to do just that back in 2008 with the addition of Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies for virtually nothing.

Although the Chris Bosh deal might still go down if the Lakers are bold enough to pull off another trade like that, the moves that the Lakers will most likely make will all be in free agency.

Obviously, the Lakers are a bit strapped for cash at the moment as they have very big salaries on the books with just Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol alone, so signing big-name free agents like Amare Stoudemire are pretty much impossible but there will be quite a few prominent players that will be available.

The one free agent that is getting more attention than other by the Lakers so far in this offseason is defensive minded forward Raja Bell.
It is no secret that Raja Bell and the Los Angeles Lakers have history, especially Bryant and Bell, but the addition of Bell would be perfect for the Lakers next season.

Raja Bell brings some much needed hardnosed defense (much like Ron Artest’s defensive mindset) and a great outside shot. Not only would Bell be a great addition for the Lakers in their attempt for a three-peat, but apparently Kobe Bryant really wants this to happen as he has squashed the past beef with the forward and would love to have him on the squad next season.

Everyone is waiting for LeBron

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The NBA free market is almost open for business as July 1st is just around the corner with the futures of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to be determined.

At midnight on the first day of July, the big-name free agents that everyone has been talking about lately will officially become available to the highest bidder. Not only will these big-name free agents be courted by the teams in the league with the most cap space this summer, but the decisions that they make will forever change the NBA and the possible title contenders for the next five to ten years.

Even though there are plenty of big-names that will be available come July 1st, there is nothing set in stone as to where any of these NBA superstars will be headed. At this point in time, any of these players could re-sign with their current teams or chose to go elsewhere, but as we come closer and closer to the 1st of July, the future of Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh seems to weigh heavily on where LeBron James will be going.

Never in the history of the NBA has one player been able to dictate that outcome of an entire free agent class, but that is exactly the kind of responsibility that LeBron James has unknowingly taken on as his decision will be the biggest of any free agent in the history of the league.

Not only will LeBron’s decision directly affect every other big-name free agent this summer, but his decision will also determine what the league will look like for the foreseeable future.

As of right now, the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers own the NBA after winning two straight NBA titles and possibly winning a few more over the next five years or so. Kobe Bryant and company consistently put a competitive basketball team on the floor every single season, but if LeBron James and someone like Amare Stoudemire or Chris Bosh team up with the likes of Derrick Rose in Chicago, the Bulls could quickly turn into the NBA’s next superpower.

Obviously, if LeBron decides to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the next three years or so, the Cavs will still be a serious force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. The problem is that the role players on that team aren’t getting any younger as both Antawn Jamison and Shaquille O’Neal are arguably past their prime.

Personally, I really can’t see LeBron staying in Cleveland. He is a hometown, that has become clear over the past two years or so, but the temptation to go elsewhere and possibly win his first NBA title alongside another NBA superstar will be too much for the two-time NBA MVP to resist.

Even though anything can happen this summer in terms of free agency, I believe that LeBron will end up playing alongside either Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire in Chicago or New York.

Golden State Warriors trade Corey Maggette to the Milwaukee Bucks

Ever since point guard Baron Davis signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Clippers a few years ago, the Golden State Warriors have been in a serious rebuilding mode as they quickly went from one of the most promising young teams in the league to arguably one of the worst.

This past NBA season, the Warriors were able to draft a promising young point guard in the form of Stephon Curry out of Davidson. During his college days, Curry was arguably one of the best scorers in the country with the ability to score 30 to 40 points a night with his sweet shooting stroke. Even though he was an early draft pick by the Warriors, many questioned his ability to transcend his game on the professional level.

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Fortunately for the Warriors, Curry was able to do just that as he became the team’s second leading scorer behind Monte Ellis and finished the season second in the voting for the Rookie of the Year award behind Tyreke Evans.

Needless to say, the Golden State Warriors do have a promising future with Stephon Curry and Monte Ellis leading the way, but there are still some moves that need to be made in order to surround these talented players with the right pieces to make a run at the playoffs in the Western Conference.

Recently, the Warriors made a trade just before the 2010 NBA Draft by sending versatile forward Corey Maggette to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for guard Charlie Bell and center Dan Gadzuric.

Obviously, adding Bell and Gadzuric isn’t exactly an upgrade for the Golden State Warriors, but getting Maggette’s contract off the books was probably the deciding factor for the Warriors in this move.

The Milwaukee Bucks on the other hand may have made a considerable upgrade to their roster with the addition of Corey Maggette. This summer the Bucks could be the verge of losing forward John Salmons to free agency, so this move may have been a backup plan for Milwaukee, but if Salmons stays with the Bucks, Maggette would be great player off the bench as he could bring a much needed scoring punch for the Bucks.

The big question mark for the Milwaukee Bucks right now is whether or not John Salmons will test free agency come July 1st. Before the end of last season, the Salmons said that he probably would test the free agent market this summer and could quite possibly head back to the Chicago Bulls.

It is uncertain if John Salmons still intends to put himself out there in the free agent market, there will definitely be some takers if he does, but if Salmons does stay in Milwaukee for the next three years or so, the Bucks will be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference for quite some time.

With John Salmons, Corey Maggette, Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut as the core of the Milwaukee Bucks franchise, they could bring in some other great players and contend for a title in the near future.

Will Paul Pierce opt out this summer?

The Boston Celtics are coming off the bad end of a thrilling NBA Finals series with their archrivals in the Los Angeles Lakers, but despite being unable to beat Kobe Bryant and company in game seven and win their second NBA title in three years, the Celtics are optimistic about their future.

Even though the Boston Celtics will almost certainly be able to put a competitive basketball team on the floor next season with All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo leading the way, the Eastern Conference heavyweights will have a few moves to make this offseason starting with head coach Doc Rivers, sharp shooter Ray Allen and leading scorer Paul Pierce.

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The Celtics head coach Doc Rivers still has a year to go on his contract, much like Paul Pierce, but he might be thinking about calling it quits to spend some time with his family in Orlando. There is no question that Rivers is a player’s coach and well liked by all of the Boston Celtics, but could be leaning towards retirement or taking some time off do to the fact that he feels he is missing out on important times in his children’s lives.

Celtics Coach Rivers

A good majority of the Boston Celtics players have already talked to Doc Rivers during this NBA offseason trying to convince him to stick with the team a little longer, but the popular head coach has said that he is leaning one way and won’t say which way that is.
In the meantime, the Boston Celtics have some players that they need to take care of in the form of free agent Ray Allen and superstar Paul Pierce. It is uncertain whether or not Allen will be re-signed as he might get some lucrative offers from other teams like the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, but he has said that he wants to come back to Boston.

Paul Pierce on the other hand is another story altogether as he has the ability to opt out of his current contract this summer and become a free agent along with the rest of the superstars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The All-Star forward has given no indication that he intends to opt out, but with other superstar players that have played with the same team their entire NBA career like the Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki most likely opting out, Pierce testing the free agent market is always a possibility.

The one thing that will probably keep the Boston Celtics leading scorer from opting out of his contract this summer is the fact that he is owed $21.5 million next season which will be forfeited if he chooses to test free agency.

In all likelihood, the All-Star will remain with the Boston Celtics for at least one more year as he would be crazy to leave $21.5 million dollars on the table next season. Not only would he be leaving a lot of money on the table, but there probably isn’t a team out there that is willing to pay this aging forward that kind of money.

So in my opinion, Paul Pierce will stay in Boston and eventually retire as one of the greatest Celtics of all-time and might be able to add one more NBA title to his legacy if the Celtics can bring back Ray Allen, Doc Rivers and one or two veteran free agents.

Chicago Bulls trade Kirk Hinrich and 17th pick to the Washington Wizards

NBA free agency is right around the corner as July 1st draws near and the big-name free agents like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will officially become available to the highest bidder.

With the extremely talented free agent market almost upon us, the teams expected to make offers to these big-name NBA superstars are trying to clear as much cap space as possible. The one team that has made more moves than any other team recently in an effort to clear cap space is the Chicago Bulls.

The New Jersey Nets, Miami Heat and the New York Knicks are three other teams in the league that will have a lot of cap space to wheel and deal with this summer, but the Chicago Bulls may have cleared enough space to sign not just one big-name free agent, but two.

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The one player that the Chicago Bulls have their sights set on this summer is LeBron James. With promising young players on their squad like center Joakim Noah and All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, the Bulls have the right pieces of the puzzle to build around and with LeBron in the mix they would instantly be a title contender in many people’s opinion.

As of right now, the Cleveland Cavaliers are arguably the frontrunners to re-sign LeBron James this summer, but as July 1st draws near the chances of the Cavs bringing LeBron back to Cleveland seems to get worse and worse.

The Chicago Bulls on the other hand seem to keep improving their chances of signing the most desired free agent this summer and they continue to make moves in order to bring in some other big-name free agents to play alongside LeBron in Chicago.

One move the Bulls made recently to clear some more cap space for this summer’s free agent market was trading away defensive minded point guard Kirk Hinrich and the 17th overall pick in the NBA Draft to the Washington Wizards. The 17th overall pick in the draft turned out to be French power forward Kevin Seraphin who will now head to Washington instead of Chicago.

With the departure of Kirk Hinrich, the Chicago Bulls will have his contract off the books and much more cap room to deal with. Along with Hinrich off the books, the Bulls will also not have to pay the 17th overall pick Kevin Seraphin.

So with all this cap room this summer, the Chicago Bulls will give it their best shot to sign two big-name free agents come July 1st. LeBron James is the Bulls number one target and for good reason, but some other players mentioned as possible targets for Chicago are Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen.

It is uncertain what big-name free agents the Chicago Bulls will be able to sign this summer, but they will definitely be on the verge of seriously upgrading their roster this offseason and could be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference once again from here on out.

Los Angeles Lakers win second straight NBA title

The defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers came into their title defense this season with high hopes as repeating as NBA champs. Not only was their championship team relatively intact this season with the exception of Trevor Ariza who signed with the Houston Rockets in the offseason, the Lakers were thought to have a legitimate shot of winning their second straight NBA title.

Even though they would be without a key piece the championship puzzle in Ariza, the Lakers made a bold move in the offseason to sign arguably one of the best defenders in the league in Ron Artest. Despite being a head case in public opinion, Artest’s skills and determination on the defensive end of the floor is undeniable as he would be a major upgrade of the Lakers on the defense with his physical play and ability to guard the best offensive play on the opposing team.

It was somewhat of a rocky start for the Los Angeles Lakers to start this NBA regular season as they struggled with some injuries and team chemistry, but once this team got going, there seemed to be no stopping them as they started to dominate on both sides of the floor and become arguably the best all around team in the league once again.

Despite dominating their Western Conference opponents throughout the majority of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers weren’t getting as much recognition as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Even though many people believed that the Cleveland Cavaliers were the true best all around team in the league, the Cavs failed to come through in the playoffs once again as they were knocked out by the defensive minded Boston Celtics in the second round and sent home with their tail between their legs and a lot of questions surrounding the future of LeBron James in Cleveland.

With the Cavs officially knocked out of the playoffs, all the attention turned to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics as these two archrivals seemed destined to meet in the NBA Finals once again. Despite being the underdogs once again against the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, Rajon Rondo and company dominated Dwight Howard’s squad and cruised to the NBA Finals to face off against the defending champs.

Obviously, this NBA Finals got a lot of attention for the heated rivalry and possible redemption for the Lakers who lost in convincing fashion to the Celtics back in 2008, but was also getting some much needed recognition was the emergence of Kobe Bryant as arguably the best player in the league once again.

Not only did Kobe Bryant make everyone forget about LeBron James throughout these playoffs, but he proved his worth the team in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics with some memorable performances which ultimately gave him his second consecutive NBA Finals MVP award for his efforts.

Along with Kobe Bryant, the Lakers role players finally stepped up at the right time alongside the Black Mamba as Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom played a big part of the Los Angeles Lakers second straight NBA title.

The Boston Celtics put up a valiant effort in these NBA Finals as they played with a never say die attitude and forced the defending champs to an epic game seven, but in the end, Phil Jackson and company were just too much as they overcame a 13 point deficit and were able to win yet another NBA title!

Boston’s Bench Huge in Win

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Looks like we’re headed back to Los Angeles after all. Subs Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Tiny Nate Robinson spearheaded a terrific fourth quarter run that helped the Celtics tie up the series two games apiece with the Lakers.

Davis scored 18 points total, but nine was scored in the deciding quarter. His energy was a huge factor for the Celtics. Despite having shorter arms than his counterparts, Davis was very active inside and was determined to put a body on someone.

“Just will, that’s all it is,” Davis said. “This is what legends are made of, this is where you grasp the moment. … Just play in the moment.”

Boston’s Big Three combined for 44 points. Ray Allen, who did not make a field goal in Game 3, scored 12 points. Paul Pierce dictated the Celtics offensive pace early on by playing aggressively and attacking the rim. Pierce scored 19 points. Kevin Garnett’s relatively huge game in Game 3 was wasted. He didn’t have a repeat performance but managed to notch 13 points and six rebounds.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Lakers were up by two. Phil Jackson took a gamble and kept Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in at the start of the fourth. Jackson figured that the Lakers should go for the kill, but boy was he wrong. Not only did the Celtics pull away with its bench midway through the fourth, but Bryant and Gasol had dead legs in crucial moments in the game.

Nate Robinson scored 12 points in a span of 17 minutes. His energy brought the Celtics play to a new level the Lakers just couldn’t match. Robinson’s energy was so high that he was issued a technical foul after reacting to a hard foul from Lamar Odom.

Robinson had this to say about Boston’s bench performance, “We just knew we had to bring our energy, that’s the main thing for us. The more energy we bring, the better offensively we are and the better defensively we are.”

Bryant scored 33 points and tried to keep the Lakers in the game in the fourth. He brought the Lakers within six by sinking two free throws, but Rasheed Wallace hit a three to push the lead to nine. From then on the Lakers didn’t have enough left in the tank to pull off a comeback.

Gasol scored 21 for the Lakers, but like Bryant, was highly ineffective in the fourth.

Carmelo Anthony talking three-year extension with the Denver Nuggets

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During the 2009 NBA regular season and playoffs, the Denver Nuggets went through a resurgence of sorts as they quickly evolved from a first round playoff exit team to a possible title contender. This move could be directly contributed to a bold move by the Nuggets as they pulled the trigger on perhaps their biggest trade in franchise history.

The trade involved bringing in hometown boy Chauncey Billups from the Detroit Pistons while sending future hall of famer and fan favorite Allen Iverson to Motown. Initially, this trade was heavily criticized by loyal fans of both the Pistons and the Nuggets, but it turned out to be the missing piece to the puzzle for Denver as they went from a second tier team to a Western Conference title contender over night.

Both Billups and Iverson aren’t getting any younger were thought to have no more than five years left in them, but Chauncey heading back to his hometown was just what he needed to resurrect his career once again as he was a major contributor to the team and one of the main reasons the Denver Nuggets were able to reach the Western Conference Finals in 2009.

Unfortunately, the Denver Nuggets were unable to take down Kobe Bryant and the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, but the consensus was that Carmelo Anthony and company would be a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future.

Even though the Denver Nuggets started this past NBA regular season the right way and seemed to not miss a beat since the 2009 NBA playoffs, the team started to breakdown as the season progressed, but they were still able to clinch a high seed in the West once again.

Despite the Nuggets getting back into the playoffs with high hopes of competing for an NBA title with the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers standing in their way, the team took a severe blow just before the postseason as Nuggets head coach George Karl was ruled out of the first round of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz.

George Karl was ruled out due to being diagnosed with cancer for the second time in his life. Despite his advanced age and nature of the disease, this was something he could be yet again and that he did, but just not in time to help lead his boys back to a possible NBA title.

As a result, the Denver Nuggets really struggled with their team chemistry and were dominated by what was thought to be a lesser opponent in the Utah Jazz.

Now the question of whether or not the Nuggets will shake up the roster for the foreseeable future has been asked with the one key piece to the puzzle being Carmelo Anthony and a possible contract extension after next season.

Much like LeBron James this summer, Carmelo Anthony will without a doubt be the top free agent next summer, but the Nuggets will look to try and avoid all the hoopla and sign the All-Star to a contract extension as soon as possible.

Reportedly, the Denver Nuggets have been in talks with Carmelo Anthony about a possible three-year contract extension, but he will almost certainly wait until LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sign contracts after July 1st to determine his worth to the Nuggets.

Dirk Nowitzki will opt out of his contract this summer

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During the NBA offseason this summer, there will be a number of big name free agents available to the highest bidder and ready to either turn around a struggling NBA franchise or turn a good team into a great team with NBA title aspirations.

The big fish in this NBA free agent market pool this summer is without a doubt LeBron James. The three teams with the most amount of money to spend this summer (New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat) will be going after arguably the best player in the league, but there’ll be plenty of other players that could be possible game changers if they decide to sign with another team like Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer and Dwyane Wade.

The one player that has gone unnoticed until recently as another big name that could be available this summer is the Dallas Mavericks sharp shooting Dirk Nowitzki.

The first round playoff series between San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks was not pretty to say the least for Mark Cuban’s team. Heading into the playoffs as the second overall seed in the Western Conference, the Mavs had high hopes of being able to compete with the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in an effort to get back to the NBA Finals.

Unfortunately, they fell short against the Southwest division rivals as Manu Ginobili and company just dominated the Mavs in convincing fashion and the first round playoff exit was just another disappointment in the postseason for Dallas.

Before the NBA trade deadline went down during the regular season, the Dallas Mavericks drew first blood as they made deal which sent Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood to Dallas from the Washington Wizards.

Even though the Washington Wizards gave up two potential All-Stars in deal, the Dallas Mavericks gave up relatively nothing as they sent troubled small forward Josh Howard and veteran forward Drew Gooden to Washington in exchange.

Despite the trade being criticized early, most NBA analysts thought it was the biggest deal that went down since the Boston Celtics traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen before the 2008 season. The team struggled with their chemistry early on, but once they got going, there was no stopping the Dallas Mavericks as they just had too many weapons in the starting lineup and off the bench.

Ultimately, the team became much better and Dallas Mavericks looked like a title contender once again, but obviously that wasn’t the case as they suffered another early round playoff exit.

As if that wasn’t bad enough to see the Mavs get knocked out in the first round by their division rivals ,after clinching the second seed in the Western Conference, Mark Cuban has received more bad news as of late as his star player Dirk Nowitzki seems destined to opt out this summer.

This might not be the devastating news that everyone thinks it is for Dallas as it has become obvious to this point that the Mavericks can’t win that elusive NBA title with Dirk Nowitzki. With Dirk opting out, the Mavs can go after a big name free agent or two to fill the void and possible make the Mavs a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

Differences between 2008 and 2010 Finals Evident In Game 1

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The Los Angeles Lakers are out for revenge as shown in their performance in Game 1. This time around they were the bullies and the more physical team. They outrebounded the Celtics 42-31 on the boards, including 12-8 on the offensive glass. No one expected the Lakers to be more physical than the Celtics. Having Andrew Bynum around, despite not a hundred percent, has benefitted the Lakers. They now have an extra body to clog the lane and prevent Rajon Rondo from wrecking havoc in the lane. Bynum’s presence also keeps Kendrick Perkins off the glass and forces the 34-year-old Kevin Garnett to cover Pau Gasol sinlge handily. Gasol scored 23 points and grabbed 14 boards and that’s with Garnett guarding him all game. It was a different story this time around. After two years of getting pushed around in the 2008 Finals, Gasol’s game matured while Garnett’s regressed. It was really Gasol’s aggressiveness, willingness to use his 7-foot frame and motivation to shed the ‘soft’ label that really set the tone for the Lakers.

Bynum has not been getting a lot of credit for the Lakers victory. His presence gives Gasol confidence because it means that the Spaniard doesn’t have to battle in the paint alone against Garnett and Perkins. Bynum was also efficient on offense – he scored 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds.

Of course, Kobe is still Kobe. He dropped 30 on the same Celtics team that gave him such a hard time two years ago. The Celtics missed rotations, tried to cover him one-on-one and allowed him to involve his teammates. Poor Ray Allen was in foul trouble all night long and was unable to establish any offensive rhythm to his game. That was also a big difference of Game 1 – Kobe trusting his teammates. His teammates responded by drilling threes or making the extra pass to open shooters.

Somebody tell defensive coordinator Tom Thibodeau that he still works for the Celtics and not the Bulls or whatever team that has interviewed him.

Without the streaking shooting of Eddie House and energy of Leon Powe, the Celtics starters had no support off the bench. Instead these 2010 Celtics had to field Nate Robinson and Rasheed Wallace who combined for nine points. A big reason why the 2008 Celtics beat the Lakers was their bench support.

Of course the biggest and most important difference is Ron Artest. Artest got into Paul Pierce’s head early on by tangling him up just 27 seconds into the game. Pierce still scored 24 points but half were from the free throw line. Artest made sure Pierce had to work for his points. His presence allows Kobe to check Rondo, unlike two years ago where Kobe had to guard Pierce in the closing moments of games. In Artest, the Lakers have an enforcer on the defensive end.

Things are different now between the Celtics and Lakers. Will the result be different too?

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