Breckenridge/Devon O’Neill " For Boston and L.A., it’s been too long | SkyHiNews.com

Breckenridge/Devon O’Neill " For Boston and L.A., it’s been too long

Lakers-Celtics used to be like cobra-mongoose: A wildly entertaining conflict with high stakes on the line, and yet no matter the night or the venue, there was a good chance either would win.

Then one day Lakers-Celtics turned into Hawks-Bobcats. They played each other because the regular-season schedule dictated they should, not because there was an NBA championship to decide.

The fact that we are a few home wins away from seeing the feud reincarnated in the league finals is enough to turn you at least a little against San Antonio and Detroit.

We are talking about the two most successful basketball teams in the history of the world, after all.

Boston has won 16 championships to the Lakers’ 14 (part of the franchise’s record 28 finals appearances). Ten times the two teams have met with a title on the line; the Celtics won the first eight, and L.A. captured the subsequent two, including the last time the two clubs met in the finals, 1987.

Of course, that was back when Magic and Bird were Manning and Brady ” kings of the American sporting hemisphere. But the plot isn’t any less thick now.

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Should Irish Green meet SoCal Yellow, we’d have the most cocksure player in the game, Kobe the cobra, going after his fourth ring in the same year he won his first MVP; and in the other corner, we’d have three aging stars in pursuit of their long-awaited first title, backing down like a gang of hungry mongooses, which is to say not at all. …

Reigning Tour de France champ Alberto Contador took the overall lead Sunday in the 15th stage of the Giro d’Italia, one you doubt he’ll give up as the major race heads into its final week.

It is usually justified to call the Giro a preview of the Tour de France. But not this year, which is why it’s perfectly fitting Contador now leads. He rides for Astana, the most powerful team in the sport ” but also the glaring exclusion from the Tour field, an unfair penalty levied due to Astana’s prior conduct, when the club was populated by different riders and different leaders.

You had a feeling going into the race that one of Astana’s horses ” Contador, Leipheimer or Kloeden ” would lead the ponies into the homestretch. Each is plenty talented enough, but that wasn’t why. Sometimes sports come down to pure motivation, a critical need to prove oneself. You can bet those Astana boys went into the Giro feeling something like that. …

The Bulls won the NBA’s draft lottery last week despite entering with only a 1.7 percent chance at the No. 1 pick. And so continues the absurd luck of NBA guppies ” the lowest team on the league’s food chain.

Only three times in the lottery’s 18 years has the worst club in the league won the right to draft first. …

Charles Barkley has been fielding his share of questions thanks to the $400,000 he owed a Vegas casino, whose owners took the debt public to get their money. Barkley, who admitted in a previous interview that he’s lost an estimated $10 million gambling, paid the debt then addressed the issue in our Quote of the Week ” a particularly deep one from the Round Mound of Rebound.

“Just because I can afford to lose money,” he told the AP, “doesn’t mean I should do it.” …

Is it me, or is it hilarious watching Danica Patrick storm around the pits like she’s legitimately looking to fight somebody. …

Astros righty (and former Rockie) Shawn Chacon went his first nine starts this year without recording a decision, one of the more bizarre major league records there is. After pitching six or more innings in seven of those nine starts, he finally beat the Cubs with seven strong last week. …

In cleaning up for Kelvin Sampson ” who somehow lied his way out of Indiana straight into a job as an NBA assistant ” new Hoosiers hoops coach Tom Crean has fumigated his bench to the point where he only has two returning scholarship players. Which is kind of like finding out there’s extra room in heaven if you’re a walk-on at that school. …

In parting, it is about time respected NFL vets like Kevin Mawae started speaking out about the lunacy of rookies’ getting paid umpteen millions more than proven pros. “Disheartening,” Mawae called it, with excellent reason. Don’t expect this system to last more than another year or two.

Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at devononeil@hotmail.com.

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