Lakers, Celtics share Chicago roots
BOSTON -- The next Proviso East High School newsletter will have a lot to talk about in its "alumni news" section.
Located just outside Chicago in Maywood, Ill., the prep basketball powerhouse has three of its former Proviso East Pirates participating in the NBA Finals -- Doc Rivers (class of 1980) and Michael Finley ('91) for Boston and Shannon Brown ('03) for Los Angeles.
The three are connected not only on the basketball court. Their families have known each other for years.
"We went to the same high school so I knew the history," Brown said after practice Wednesday. "My pops, he came up under Doc's dad in the police force and he's friends with Mitch Finley [Michael's father].
Back in February before the Celtics played the Lakers in Los Angeles, Rivers recalled his relationship with Brown.
"I've known Shannon before Shannon knew his name, literally," Rivers said. "I've known him his whole life. His brother worked with my brother in the fire station. I've watched him play in grade school and high school. I've known Shannon for a long time. I've been hard on him over the last three or four years because he has this ability and he's starting to get it out of him. I don't like that he's going to do it against us, but I'm very happy for him. He's a great kid and it's good to see him maturing. It really is."
When Finley left the Spurs in March to join the Celtics, he already had a built-in relationship with the coach, Rivers from the Proviso East connection.
"It helped in my transition," Finley said. "Being that I knew him as a kid growing up, he just welcomed me with open arms and made my transition a smooth one."
Finley said that Rivers was the best player to come out of their high school, followed by Brown.
"Then there's several other guys and I'm somewhere on that list at the bottom," Finley said.
Like Rivers who finished playing in the NBA in 1996, Finley is in his 15th season and at the tail end of his career (he's played just two minutes in the Finals) so he lives vicariously through the 24-year-old Brown who is just getting started with his.
"I always knew Shannon had a chance to make his stamp on the league if he got into the right situation," Finley said. "He's a kid who worked hard during the summers and got MVP of my camp when he was a real young kid. He found a great situation here in L.A. and ultimately can do some great things for this organization."
Brown said when he was a kid he was a camper at Finley's basketball camps every year ever since the first one back in the mid 1990s.
"I actually lost the MVP a couple times ... I smacked a kid one time, just being a kid, having fun," Brown said, cracking a smile that's been rare for him these days as he's averaging just 2.7 points over his last six playoff games after putting up 8.1 points per game in the regular season.
"The talent was never a question," Finley said. "He was always if not the best on the court, one of the best. We always knew if he kept his head on straight and did the right things and listened to the right people, then he'd have a chance to do some good things."
Finley said that they hoped that Brown, who is generously listed at 6-foot-4, would grow to be 6-6 or 6-7, but "he never grew in height wise, everything else grew -- his arms, his hands, his feet."
Brown appreciates the path that Rivers and Finley laid out from his high school to the league before him.
"I always looked up to them guys, they brought guys around from the NBA, all these guys that we could look forward to seeing in the future," Brown said. "Those guys have always been mentors, I've always looked up to them, walked around, seen the pictures of them in the gym and see the jerseys hanging up. People are always talking about them and I'm just glad to be part of that tradition now."
Finley said he's "always been Brown's biggest fan."
Rivers said back in February: "As good as he's played, he's got a lot ahead of him. I'll be there cheering for him 80 games a year."
(Or whenever Rivers doesn't have to game plan on how to contain Brown's freakish athleticism.)
Brown said that for the two weeks during the Finals, he will exchange pleasantries with Rivers and Finley, but there will be no group dinners to catch up on old times or anything of that nature.
"We definitely stop, shake hands, speak and pay respects but now we're kind of enemies," Brown said. "We're going for the same goal. What's crazy is, for the last three years, each one of us have won one. First it was Finley [with San Antonio in 2007], then Doc and last year it was me. So, it's going back to Maywood. It all depends on who's bringing it."
Artest actively learning
Ron Artest joined the Los Angeles Lakers not only as the only member of the team without a ring, but the only player to have never reached the Finals. He's now got three games under his belt, but the experience has provided a lot to absorb. For advice, he's turned to Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.
"Fish and Kobe is just taking me for a ride and taking me to school. They're giving me a lesson every day," he said. "That's why I've had most of my good games after I've had bad games so far in this playoffs. Individually. Which I don't even care about. At all."
What specific wisdom is being passed along by the four-time champions?
"Stay locked in. There's always another day," he said. "That's why I have so many ups and downs. Because I stay locked in, rather than having a bunch of down days. I've had some days where I really do a lot offensively, close out games, some key games. So I'm always [feeling] steady."
In particular, these lessons have made it easy for Artest to maintain his focus even when his shot isn't falling.
"If you have so many scorers on one team and if you're playing together, when it's working, it's working. Don't fix something that's not broke. When the team is fixed already, there's no need to try to do anything else.
"I've been learning a lot in my first Finals. I played better [in Game 3 of the Finals] than I did in the previous game because I stayed within the team. If that means just having two points for the whole game, that's what it means. I'm totally fine with that."
Game 4 a distant memory
Before the Celtics literally closed the door on the Lakers in the 2008 Finals with a 39-point beatdown in the sixth and deciding game, Boston swung the series in their favor by winning Game 4 in Los Angeles to go up 3-1.
Two years later, the Lakers are the higher-seeded team with the 2-1 series lead, going into the road arena for Game 4 and looking to put the Celtics in a situation where they would need to win three games in a row if they wanted to capture the championship.
Boston point guard Rajon Rondo said his team didn't learn any lessons from the Lakers losing Game 4 in 2008 that it plans to apply on Thursday night.
"I don't even remember Game 4 in L.A.," Rondo said. "Who won? I was there but I don't remember. The only game I remember was Game 6 when we won. That's it. The other games are a blur.
"This Game 4 is different. It's a different team. The starting five may be the same, but it's still a different team, a different mindset, we play a different style. It's hard to compare to Game 4 last time."
They said it
"He jokingly refers to it as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King in terms of how we go about balancing it." -- Derek Fisher on how Kobe Bryant characterizes their two leadership styles as the Lakers co-captains.
Andy Kamenetzky of the Land O'Lakers blog contributed to this report. Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. http://twitter.com/mcten.