The return of a rivalry


The return of a rivalry

Last night, I tweeted about a brief run-in I had with Pau Gasol at a local Starbucks.

Heres the tweet:

@rich_levine: Just ran into Pau Gasol at Starbucks and jokingly asked if he was apartment hunting. He hadn't heard the Rondo rumor, so it was pretty awkward from there.

Just for fun, heres the full story:

It was about 5:30 pm, and I was sitting at a table, working (aka playing Words with Friends) with my back to the door. All of sudden, I felt this enormous presence.

I eventually saw him, too. But I felt him first. From the second he walked in you could just sense that there was a giant in the room.

When I looked up, my initial reaction was: Damn, that guys huge.

One second later it was: Hey wait, that guys Pau Gasol!

He was there with a friend looked like a trainer and the two stood, speaking Spanish, as they waited in line to order. After they did, his buddy went to the bathroom, leaving Gasol to wait for his Raspberry Passion Tea Lemonade about two steps from my table. (Just kidding, but that would have been amazing)

Anyway, about five minutes before he walked in, I'd been reading about the ridiculous Pau-for-Rondo rumor. I figured he'd heard about it, too. So I thought I'd be friendly and crack a joke:

Rich: "You here apartment hunting?"

Gasol: "Excuse me?"

Rich:: "Are you here apartment hunting?"

Gasol: "Uhhh"

Rich: "Oh sorry, man. I'm just joking about that crazy Rondo rumor."

Gasol: "Umm, which one is that?"

Rich: "Oh, you didn't hear? They have you being traded for Rondo now Never stops, right?"

He finally lightened up and let out a smile

Gasol: "Haha. Oh yeah. There are a lot rumors. But no, I'm not apartment hunting."

I laughed, threw my coffee at him and told him to get out of Boston.

Nah, I wished him luck. And that was that.

But then something interesting happened.

Gasol didn't leave.

When the coffee came, he and his buddy took their drinks, grabbed a table and just sat there talking for about 30 minutes. Right in the middle of a Starbucks in the heart of Boston.

I guess this shouldn't be a big deal. Maybe it means we've grown as a society. But I couldn't help but think: Would Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Michael Cooper or Kurt Rambis ever have felt comfortable hanging out like this in a Boston coffee shop?

Would Gasol himself have felt this comfortable even as recently as last year?

No way. So as Gasol sat there in peace aside from this one jerk who cracked a joke about trade rumors there was only one thought on my mind:

"Man, we're LONG overdue for a CelticsLakers game."

In reality, tomorrow marks exactly one year since the last meeting between these rivals, but doesn't it feel so much longer than that?

After all, the last time these two played, Kendrick Perkins was Boston's starting center and Phil Jackson was the Lakers coach. On top of that, Lamar Odom was the clear Sixth Man of the Year, Brandon Bass was Glen Davis and Metta World Peace was Ron Artest.

When they last met, the Celtics were 38-13 and a half game up on Miami in the East. The Lakers were 36-16, and second to only the surging Spurs in the West.

They were both on top of the world, on top of their games and, we thought, headed for their third Finals match-up in four years.

But it never happened, and since then, so much has changed. First, they were both eliminated, rather handedly, in the second round of the playoffs. Then the lockout came and choked the life out of the entire league. After that, both teams spent the abridged training camp stuck in Chris Paul drama. Consequently, each began the shortened regular season in shambles.

There was a time not so long ago, when the Lakers were all we really worried about here in Boston. Likewise, the Celtics were the chief concern out in LA. But in the year since that last meeting and even more in the 20 months since they met in the Finals that has certainly changed. For one, because each team has found plenty of internal issues to keep them occupied. And second, because these days, neither the Celtics nor the Lakers are a team that others particularly worry about. In one year, in the eyes of many, the once respective conference favorites are now barely contenders.

As a result, the build up to this year's LakersCeltics game hasn't been quite as intense as we've grown accustomed to these last four years. Sure, the hate's still there, but it's not overflowing.

Not yet.

But here's what's so great about this rivalry:

Once the ball goes up tonight, none of that other stuff matters. It doesn't matter that Perk's gone or Phil's gone or that both teams are currently more worried about staying above .500 than raising another banner.

Once it's on, it's on. And all the ill will that's been built up over the last few years the last 30 years the last 50 years will come soaring back. Just like it never left.

Call me crazy, but after tonight, win or lose, something tells me that Pau Gasol won't be so comfortable in a Boston area Starbucks.

That is, unless he's already been traded for Rondo.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win


Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

GOLD STAR: Jake DeBrusk gave the Bruins all kinds of energy out of the starting gate, and made a couple of plays that allowed his team to hold a lead despite getting outplayed in the opening 20 minutes. DeBrusk went hard to the net splitting a couple of San Jose defenders on the first goal, and fired a shot on net that created a rebound for Peter Cehlarik to cash in on. Then DeBrusk scored a little bit later on a rush where he beat Brent Burns in a foot race to a loose puck, then whistled a wrist shot past Aaron Dell for his fourth goal of the season. DeBrusk finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net while falling just short of 16 minutes of ice time in the victory. It was a strong effort from DeBrusk shortly after being a healthy scratch, and showed what he’s capable of when he gets his skating legs going.

BLACK EYE: Brent Burns was a complete mess for the Sharks. He was burnt by Jake DeBrusk in each of the first two Bruins goals in the first period with the B’s rookie going right at him with the attack. He also didn’t make it to the net with 12 of the 16 shots that he attempted and Burns finished with seven giveaways as well. It’s been a rough follow-up season for Burns after last year’s Norris Trophy season where he’s tried to do too much for the Sharks, and his game has suffered as a result. That seemed to be the case for Burns against the Bruins as well where his mistakes played a big role in the Sharks dropping the game.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins won the game when they managed to survive an opening 20 minutes where they were outshot 17-5, and even better they had a 2-1 lead based on some offensive fireworks from Jake DeBrusk. They were also aided by a couple of video reviews where the Bruins took a San Jose goal off the board when it was ruled that a crashing Joonas Donskoi punched a puck into the net with his glove. The Peter Cehlarik goal was also upheld at the other end after a challenge from the San Jose bench. It looked like DeBrusk was tripped before he partially crashed into Aaron Dell that set up the Cehlarik goal, and that’s clearly how the referees saw it after reviewing the play.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s got to be Anton Khudobin, who stopped 36-of-37 shots and improved to 5-0-2 on the season with another strong win aided by a stalwart defensive effort in front of him. Khudobin now has 12 of the 20 points that the Bruins have amassed on the season, and he absolutely rewarded the B’s for opting to go with the Bruins backup for a second game in a row as they ride the hot goaltender. Khudobin was helped by a number of Bruins blocked shots in the third period when the game was still very tight, but it was also about Khudobin coming up with 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were getting outplayed by the Sharks.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the number of Bruins rookies that have scored their first NHL goals this season, including Peter Cehlarik finally getting his first NHL score Saturday night in his 14th career game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We need them. They’re in the lineup and they’re playing significant minutes. We need them to produce for us. Tonight we needed some offense early, and they provided it for us.” – Bruce Cassidy, on the role of the rookies in the win where it was all first-year players Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen doing the scoring vs. San Jose. 

Khudobin stops 36 shots to help Bruins beat Sharks, 3-1


Khudobin stops 36 shots to help Bruins beat Sharks, 3-1

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Anton Khudobin enjoyed getting pestered with shots early. He didn't have time to let his mind wander.

Khudobin stopped 36 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

"I like it busy," Khudobin said. "I don't have to think about anything else. The third-period start was unbelievable . . . I don't think I faced a shot until halfway through the period."

Peter CehlarikJake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen scored to help the Bruins get their second straight win after a four-game skid (0-3-1). Boston had totaled nine goals in its previous five games, scoring more than two for just the second time in nine November games.

"It went our way," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "They were clearly better than us but we come out 2-1 (in the three games on West Coast). If you stick with it, good things happen."

Khudobin remained unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) and improved to 4-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average in five games against the Sharks.

Timo Meier scored and Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves for the Sharks, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. San Jose has been held to two of fewer goals in five of their seven games this month.

"Guys in this room can score; we just have to do it," Sharks Logan Couture said. "I thought we had good chances and a lot of them at the end. We've got to create offense. If you don't score goals, you're not going to win."

Meier gave the Sharks, losers of two straight following wins in six of seven, a short-lived 1-0 lead after tapping in a rebound 4:50 into the game. Daniel O'Regan, making his season debut, won the puck behind the net and skated around to take the shot that bounced to Meier. It was O'Regan's first career assist and second career point.

"I just kind of fished it out and wanted to bring it to the net," O'Regan said. "Timo made a nice finish."

Cehlarik, in his 14th game, scored his first career goal about 1 1/2 minutes later to tie it for the Bruins.

Boston took the lead on DeBrusk's goal with 9:14 left in the first. Charlie McAvoy cleared a puck in his zone that DeBrusk, one of three rookies who scored, chased down and easily beat Dell 1-on-1.

"It's massive," DeBrusk said. "We all want it so bad and we all work so hard. These are big games for us."

Heinen made it 3-1 with 5:51 left in the third. Kevan Miller skated down the ice, drawing all the attention on the right side. He passed across the crease, from where Heinen tapped it in.

"He made a heck of a play," Heinen said. "I just put my stick on the ice."

The Sharks had a goal negated for the second straight game, this one two minutes in.

"We got enough looks tonight to score," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "We're doing more good than bad we're just not being rewarded."

NOTES: O'Regan was recalled before the game. He's the leading scorer for the Barracuda of the AHL. ... The Sharks have had three consecutive goals reversed after challenges dating to Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. ... Sharks F Joel Ward has recorded points in six of his last eight games. ... DeBrusk, who assisted on Cehlarik's goal, recorded his first multi-point game since Oct. 14, a span of 14 games.


Bruins: At the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Sharks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.