By Thomas Albano
Note: Alright, so this is going to be part-editorial, part-column, part-Nick Fodera esque rant. This should be something.
At the beginning of the 2017-18 NBA season, I predicted on The Unspoken Podcast (complete with circus music in the background) that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers would meet in the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year in a row. I called the NBA the most predictable league there is today.
Guess what? I told you so. In seven games each, the Warriors and Cavs bested the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics, respectively, to reach the NBA Finals. What a joke.
I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of the NBA (if you already couldn’t tell), but I’ll give some credit and due where it goes to first before talking about the big problem…
First, I’ll quote something I told someone following the Cavs’ Game 7 win over the Rockets: “As much as I hate LeBron for his drama, for The Decision, his cockiness, his influence, and as much as I hate Cleveland [Cavs fans – for their reaction to The Decision], LeBron may have surpassed Michael Jordan as a player.”
I don’t like the MJ/LeBron debate, but if I’ve had to pick a side, I’ve been a big MJ guy. But this playoff series may have started to change my mind. Let’s face it — NBA problem or not — eight consecutive NBA Finals, four with two teams each, is unbelievable. Not only that, but he had to put the team on his back more than ever.
In the seven games against the Celtics, LeBron had five double-doubles, one triple-double and one 40+-point game. His overall numbers for the 2017-18 playoffs — 34 ppg, 9.2 rebounds per game and 8.8 assists per game — a near-double-double per game and a just as close triple-double per game. I don’t know how anyone can still not give him credit as a player.
The only arguments for me that keep MJ over LeBron are: 1. The rings argument. 2. When both MJ and LeBron had some backup (i.e. Pippen, Rodman, etc for Jordan and Bosh, Wade, etc for LeBron), at least Jordan didn’t make a whole overblown thing about his free agency that ended in The Decision. To paraphrase a podcaster in Kevin Mahn of The Attitude Era Podcast (though he was talking about something completely different), LeBron can apologize for it all he wants, he can talk about the money donated from it, but it happened, it’s there for the world to see and remember and meme, and it showed such an ego. And 3. his influence (he’s the coach, the GM, the owner, the NBA commissioner, the guy selling peanuts in Section 209, the parking valet and the custodian sweeping the floors after the game).
This philosophy, minus the ego, will come into play again soon.
The Cavs’ series against the Celtics was ugly — until “Big Playoff LeBron”/”Big Game 7 LeBron” showed up in the final, deciding game, neither team wanted to win on the road. And in Game 7, Boston just played too ugly of basketball to snatch victory away from LeBron and Cleveland — you never, EVER want to go up against LeBron in a Game 7. As much credit as you want to give to Boston for getting this far without Gordon Heyward and Kyrie Irving, the truth is they probably needed the two to get past LeBron. Instead, their Cinderella story is over. (Yes, I said Cinderella story. Even as a No. 2 seed, it’s risky to bet against LeBron in the playoffs).
That side note brings me briefly to the Toronto Raptors — the No. 1 seed in the East and the Cavs’ second-round opponent. As I said, it’s a big gamble to bet against LeBron. I expected the Raptors to lose the series — though the Raptors should’ve put up a better fight. I think there are worse things than getting swept as a No. 1 seed in the second round (ex: the No. 1 seeds who were beaten in the first round by No. 8 seeds). But I will admit it is really disappointing.
And speaking of disappointments, the Rockets. Oh, James Harden, why did you disintegrate at playoff time yet AGAIN? Oh Chris Paul, why did you have to not play in Games 6 and 7? The final two games of the series must’ve been difficult for your fans to watch — especially Game 7. The Rockets missed at least 27 three-point shots — the worst such streak in NBA Playoff history (yes, the WHOLE PLAYOFF HISTORY). I was worried teams like the Raptors and Rockets would live up to their history of being playoff chokers, and, damn, the truth is on point.
The Big Problem
So…here we are. Warriors-Cavs IV. Something most of us saw coming. And speaking of seeing things coming, check out Schlasser (aka UrinatingTree)’s season preview at the start of the 2017-18 season. Let’s see how many things he got wrong…
Here’s what I found:
- Celtics – kinda right, kinda wrong
- Cavs – Right for now
- Pacers – Underrated
- Clippers – Overrated
- Bucks – One round short
- T-Wolves – Wrong team in playoffs but right
- Pelicans – Perhaps underrated?
- Knicks – Was wrong…then Kristas Porzingis got severly injured
- Thunder – Overrated
- 76ers – Wrong
- Jazz – Underrated
So, still fairly accurate in my findings. But let’s do the old-fashion thing of canceling out the over- and under-rated team expectations.
In my findings, the only thing Schlasser truly got wrong was how the Philadelphia 76ers would do. And he expected about 80-85 percent of the league being boring and predictable. If you really want me to count some playoff stuff and the overrated/underrated teams, I still say it’s about 70-75 percent of the league — and that’s honestly unacceptable.
You can argue that the playoffs were something cool, and that we had both conference finals go to Game 7s for the first time since the 1970s, but, honestly, it doesn’t matter to me. Sometimes in sports it’s fun, or heart-wrenching, to look back at the could’ve, should’ve and would’ve. You can talk about the dreams, the journey, the could’ve, would’ve and should’ve. But it’s not the reality. It’s not the destination. And the cold, hard truth is we have yet another Warriors-Cavs finals that the networks will not shut up about for the next couple of weeks and probably end with, once again, Golden State winning the title 4-1. (Poor Stanley Cup Finals, a more exciting game, a more exciting playoffs and series, and two teams with the most intriguing and heart-filled storylines).
When something is easily predictable in the beginning, and it’s the end result — despite whatever bumps in the road — that’s not a good form of predictability.
And then once the NBA Finals is over, all the attention will shift to where LeBron goes to. If he goes to another team in the East, how do we not expect it to be the same as it ever was until either the Warriors or LeBron’s team is beaten before an NBA Finals? If he goes to a team in the West, then the Western Conference Finals might just become the true NBA Finals and the NBA Finals ratings will probably suffer. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has discussed potentially making the playoffs a 1-16 seeded tournament, which would be interesting, though I’d still be trepadatious until the Warriors and/or LeBron’s team finally miss the Finals. LeBron has complained about this potential move, however. So, does he not want to make more NBA Finals if he goes to the West?
I’ll just end by saying this…I have trouble watching basketball as it is. I can watch MLB games, NHL games, NFL games no problem. But basketball is kind of boring to me — well, most. I like the college atmosphere of NCAA basketball and the uniqueness of the BIG3, for example. Another Warriors-Cavs final isn’t going to get me to make sure my TV is on the NBA at this time.
Here’s the credit I’ll give Adam Silver — I love the TNT pregame crew. I like how he wants to create a Twitch-like atmosphere of broadcasting games (maybe viewers can have the ability to do their own play-by-play and color?) I like the social media focus. I like how he’s in the front of the sports gambling stuff. I like how Mr. Silver is on the cutting edge of technology and broadcasting.
I just wish the on-court stuff can get a shot of something. Now, he has fined Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban for discussing tanking. Is that a start, too? Maybe (though I think it had a bit more to do with the accusations of harrassment, toxic workplace, etc going on in the Mavs front office). But there needs to be something else…I just don’t know what. Fantasy-style re-draft? Ha! I wish.
I mean, at least we can look forward to the Draft right?
*REPORT COMES OUT ON LIANGELO BALL GETTING PRIVATE WORKOUTS WITH TEAMS*
F***! I HATE THIS LEAGUE!