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Some home-baked perspective from Cornbread Maxwell

The former Celtic who bedeviled the Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals offers his insights on this latest edition of the storied rivalry. All things considered, he thinks Boston is in good shape.

June 11, 2010|Bill Plaschke

Reporting from Boston — In the unlikely event that Los Angeles isn't worried enough about its Lakers today, on the strange chance you're not concerned that history is about to plant a green shoe on a purple neck, today I have summoned a guest columnist.

Cedric Maxwell in the house.

"There was a time, if I saw a Laker on fire and I was holding a glass of water, I'd drink the water," said Maxwell.

Mocking, insulting, Game 7-winning Cornbread in the house.

"There was a time I couldn't say the name ' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar' without throwing up," Maxwell said.

For longtime Angeleno basketball fans, nothing says Boston Celtic loathing like the 1984 Finals, and nobody epitomized that series more than the ordinary, ostentatious Maxwell.

"I remember after I was traded to the Clippers, I spent the whole year being booed by my home fans, so I guess 'hated in L.A.' is a good way to put it," he said.

This was the guy who walked across the foul line in Game 4 in 1984 with his hands around his neck in a choking motion to taunt James Worthy after he missed a free throw.

"I wish I would have done it more," Maxwell said. "Did Worthy just miss the shot? Did he choke, or did he choke?"

This was the guy who donned horn-rimmed glasses and threw up a brick to mock Kurt Rambis.

"I got the glasses from one of those kids in the Rambis Youth. What was I supposed to do with them?" he said.

Far worse than all that, this was the guy who, before Game 7, told his acclaimed teammates, "Climb on my back, boys," before scoring 24 points with eight rebounds and eight assists to lead the Celtics to another title. He was in the middle of "The Heat Game," he was there for the Kevin McHale clotheslines of Rambis, he was the symbolic bad guy on a team full of them.

"Last week I was playing cards at Hollywood Park and people are ragging me up and down, telling me they want to kick my butt, and I totally understand," he said. "But I'm like, I don't think attacking a 6-foot-8, 280-pounder is something you really want to do."

So here he is, safe and sound, a current Boston Celtics broadcaster and one of the most insightful guys in the game, filling this space as a reminder of how bad these 2-all Finals could get.

"Do yourself a favor, go out to Disneyland, get on one of those roller coasters, the scariest one there, get up there without a seat belt, that's how this series is going to be the rest of the way," Maxwell said.

Like the rest of the world, Maxwell concedes that the Celtics entered the Finals as big underdogs playing with house money. "It defies logic that the Celtics are even here," he said.

But with more green-tinged perspective than the rest of the world, Maxwell sees the Celtics growing stronger while the Lakers have grown weaker. And, of course, Cornbread being Cornbread, he seems delighted to point out those Laker weaknesses.

First up, Andrew Bynum.

"With Bynum hurt, the series could be turning on his knee," Maxwell said. "Can the Lakers afford to risk the long-term health of their big man and even keep playing him? I've had that injury, and you tend to put your weight on other areas and you end up hurting something else, and can the Lakers afford that? Will they have to shut him down?"

Next up, Ron Artest.

"He's done a great job putting pressure on Paul Pierce, but offensively he's a wild card, you don't know what you're going to get," he said. "If he's taking jump shots, which he's been doing, then he's helping the Celtics."

Your turn, Lamar Odom.

"I sympathize with Lamar, because when I played, I was in that same kind of position," he said. "You play a subservient role all year, then people ask you to suddenly turn it on, and it doesn't always happen."

Leaving few Lakers unturned, Maxwell then analyzed Kobe Bryant.

"You don't stop superstars like that, but if Kobe Bryant shoots 29 shots to get 29 points, the Celtics will take that every day, because the other guys are not getting in the flow of the offense," he said.

So who wins this? What do you think he thinks?

"The good thing for Celtic fans is, they haven't played their best team game yet, everything hasn't come together on one night yet, and it's still 2-2," he said.

Ah, but don't the Lakers have that one guy in the locker room who can say what Maxwell said 26 years ago, a guy fearless enough to promise to carry his team to a title?

"Yeah, they've got one guy, Kobe," Maxwell said. "But the Celtics have more of those guys. It's all coming down to a battle of wills and …"

Thank you, Cedric Maxwell, guest columnist.

My bad.

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