So after the seemingly endless playoff period, the NBA finals have finally rolled around. As I write this the score of Game 1 is 37-33 Spurs with just half a minute left in the first half. I moved to Cleveland a month and a half ago and the town is pretty excited just to be here. When I came out of the gym downtown after my workout today, folks were already drifting into the Gund Arena for the big watch party. The game is in Texas, but they’re showing it up here on a big screen so the fans can gather and scream, yell and spend money on overpriced sports arena food.
San Antonio has been here plenty. If they win this one, I have a feeling they will be receive the “dynasty” tag. Of course, to many who live down in Texas, they already are. Oh how I long for the days of Da Bulls in the 90’s or even further back when the Lakers and the Celtics were duking it out and it always go billed as Magic vs. Bird. (40-35 Spurs at the half).
Now there are those out there, especially a two and a half drive around the west side of lake Erie, who will more than intimate that there was some sort of conspiracy to put Cleveland into the finals because the NBA want to turn LeBron into the next Michael Jordan – like their marketing is hurting right now; baseball hasn’t even reached the all-star break yet so it’s not interesting and the Ducks just buried the Sens 4-1 to take home the oldest active trophy in professional sports and very few south of the Canadian border even took notice. There’s no need to pump up the finals; it’s the only show in town right now.
Neither team seems to be playing all that well offensively in the first half and the Cavs are still very much in the game. They did beat the Spurs both times they met in the regular season.
Lebron didn’t score any points in the first half and I would say Cleveland is very fortunate to be in the game at this point (wow, it just occurred to me that by the time anyone reads this, the game will be waaaay over).
Tim Duncan is definitely going to be leaving his mark on the game after making it to the finals yet again. As much as we’ve heard about LeBron around here this week, they sure seem to be talking a lot about Duncan and his humble roots in St. Croix. Look for some other veterans out there to make a mark or two before it’s all over with – Michael Finley is in his first NBA finals and Robert Horry has been here and I’m sure he’ll make his mark . . .well probably by tattooing a key player for the Cavs and knocking him into the third row.
One last note (because I’m such an antagonist of the nonsense that is the BCS system for determining the NCAA division 1A football “champion”), if the BCS were in charge of the NBA playoffs, the finals would have been between Phoenix (eliminated in the 2nd round) and Dallas (eliminated in the 1st round by the 8th seed out of the west). Who is going to say that neither San Antonio or Cleveland in the champs after this series?
By Adam J. (aka A.J. Dove)
So after much anticipation (maybe only by me) the NBA draft went off with a bang. Danny Ainge filled the point guard spot with a past lottery mistake in Sebastian Telfair. Some drunk guy in a Knicks jersey called Isiah Thomas a bum, and nobody even blinked an eye (rightly so). And the Blazers, ah yes the once mighty Blazers seemed willing to trade anyone on the roster not named Zach Randolph. Which begs the question: Since you’re taking out the garbage why not get rid of some dead weight in Randolph as well?
In all honesty though I do think the Blazers were right to make so many moves (even if my Bulls took advantage of them like a three year old kid playing marbles in a prison yard). They were awful last season, and there is an obvious reason why they are called the “Jail-Blazers”. That squad is in definite need of a huge shake up.
Now on to the topic of my afore-mentioned Chicago Bulls. Going into the draft they needed to get a lot longer, and way more athletic. Done and done.
Now starting at forward for your Chicago Bulls, at 6 foot 9 out of Louisiana State University… TYRUS “FREAK OF NATURE” THOMAS!!!
Many people will look at the pick of Tyrus Thomas as just a more athletic Tyson Chandler, and they are probably right, but here’s the thing; Tyson Chandler, despite being a bonafide defensive presence (especially at the end of games) has found it impossible to learn how to play offense in the Bulls system. In fact I’m not even sure if there is a system he would feel comfortable in. Scott Skiles lost his last vestiges of hair watching Chandler fumble pass after pass out of bounds, or worse yet into the hands of opposing players the last couple of seasons. It got so bad at times it looked like Tyson didn’t even want the ball on offense. This from a guy with a huge contract, and the only legit seven footer (besides that Australian Yetti Luke Schenscher on the bench) on a squad that features Michael Sweetney and Othella Harrington in the post. Two guys who measure 6’8” and 6’9” respectively. I know the NBA is getting smaller inside and taller outside, but that’s plain ridiculous.
With Tyrus the Bulls should have a bit more flexibility in the post as teams will have to be aware of him on the floor at all times. It’s one thing to box out a smaller Othella Harrington and grab a rebound, it’s another thing to box him out and then end up in a Tyrus Thomas poster because he slips in and yolks it on your face! Tyson Chandler may have just become expendable, and with Ben Wallace looming in free agency I can already envision John Paxson licking his chops in a sign and trade.
Tyrus Thomas should also not have Chandler’s offensive problems. He is still very young (as is Tyson), but Thomas hasn’t been coached by Scott Skiles yet. All indications right now are that the kid is hungry to learn and develop into a multi faceted player. If that happens look out! His freakish athleticism might someday be described as a cross between Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion. Anybody doubting his upside need only watch his highlight reel from LSU and watch how fast he gets up. His reaction time on defense is unreal, and his ability to attack the rim for put back dunks on offense can only mean more playing time next to a shot happy Ben Gordon. Sure, he could someday be described as a just more athletic Tyson Chandler, but let’s wait and see. I for one will be tuning in to find out, and that’s exactly the way John Paxson and Jerry Reinsdorf want it.
Here at Average Joe Sports, we speak for the hoi polloi. This may arouse confusion, as the hoi polloi don’t generally use terms derived from ancient Greek to describe themselves, but the common man is savvier than marketing executives would lead you to believe.
But savvy has its limits. For example, if you asked your Average Joe back in 1998, “Hey, Joe – what’s the most impressive thing going on in baseball these days,” your Average Joe would likely have given you an incorrect answer: “Whaddaya, deef?! It’s McGuire v. Sosa v. Griffey v. Maris v. Ruth v. The Gods of All Sport!” But flying under the radar of these chemically-enhanced jersey-sellers, the real story was the New York Yankees having a season where they won a ridonkulous! 114 games en route to a World Series championship for the pinstripe nation.
“Say what?!” quoth the Average Joe, “The Yanks’ ’98 season more important than Mark and Sammy?” “Not more important, no,” quoth I, “but certainly more impressive.” Home run totals per season steadily increased after the strike until stronger testing and a Congressional inquiry put steroid testing under the microscope; they have quietly decreased since then. The Bronx Bombers’ 114, however? Seasons like that Just Don’t Happen.
You can hardly blame the Average Joe, though, because everything he is told is fed to him by an interconnected industry of distribution pipelines and profit growth. So when Kobe Bryant dropped 81 points on the Toronto Extinct Prehistoric Creatures last week, you could almost hear the armies of industry mobilizing to memorialize and merchandize the event. Sportswriters fell over themselves trying to find new adjectives to describe his performance. The Gods of ESPN dissected every free throw, freezing in on close-ups of his manicure, as if to speculate that his cuticles scored at least seventeen.
Kobe’s an odd figure to the Average Joe. We wish he would have played a season of college ball somewhere (preferably our alma mater), but respected his humility and intelligence. He compared very favorably with Kevin Garnett, with bright eyes and a certain “Aww, shucks” attitude. We were treated to pages dedicated to his feud with Shaq, but also his respect for Phil Jackson. We even liked his Sprite commercials.
The Big Aristotle dieseled it out of town and it seemed for a moment that the first of the many “next Jordans” would finally be able to lead his team without distraction. Then came The Trial.
If there’s one thing the American people love watching more than sports, it’s people falling off pedestals. ESPN did its part, and the ensuing media circus would have made P.T. Barnum proud. The sexual assault charges were eventually dropped, but at the cost of Bryant’s nice-young-man cred, his advertising deals, and whatever that ring on his wife’s finger cost. (She now has more carbon on her hand than you’d find in the drain of a coal mine shower.)
Then BOOM: 81.
The performance was amazing. I didn’t see it, and I haven’t seen it, but I’m told it was amazing. Bryant apparently made more free throws than he actually attempted, made lay-ups from beyond the three-point line, telekinetically willed a put-back into the hole, literally carried his team on his back in the fourth quarter, and was only taken out at the end of the game because Phil Jackson needed him to help Jack Bauer save Los Angeles from terrorists with deadly nerve gas.
The NBA, which has gradually been losing touch with the Average Joe since MJ left (the second time), cried havoc and let slip the dogs of hype. Columnists forgave him for his marital indiscretions (a fact for which I’m sure his wife is grateful?). Predictions of breaking Wilt’s record were asked in hushed tones. And jerseys sold and advertisers lined up and ticket sales increased and cash registers went ka-ching!
At the time of this writing, Average Joes, the Detroit Pistons are a ridonkulous! 38-6. That’s a better pace than the ’96 Bulls record-setting season. ‘Sheed, Big Ben, Chauncy, Tayshaun, and Rip play solid team ball. Defense. Rebounding. The box out. The extra pass. The high-percentage shot. The kind of stuff you can hear Gene Hackman talking about when you put a seashell to your ear. (If you’re me, anyway.)
But across the nation, young men and women still practicing their behind-the-back dribble, turn on the television and see replay after replay of every facet of Kobe’s 81 and wonder what he’s going to do next. The better question: who are the Lakers going to draft next? Will they trade to get Kobe the kind of supporting cast that will make it such that he shouldn’t have to score 81 points to save a game? That ka-chinging I still hear makes me somehow doubtful. And for those young Average Joes and Janes watching SportsCenter and dreaming of playing professional basketball, that’s a damned shame.