Friday, June 08, 2007

Finals Examination

Game 1 of the NBA Finals provided many an insightful inspiration. Here are a few thoughts:

ABC's requisite over-produced stock-footage intro was interesting, but noticeably lacking the 1994-95 Houston Rockets--the back-to-back championship teams. They included other teams of that era; the 1990 Detroit Pistons and Barkley's Suns from 93. Couldn't they dust off a clip of Hakeem putting the dream shake on Shaq? Inexcusable.

Of course, instead of Olajuwon, we're treated to the same old clip of Bill Walton grabbing a rebound. What is it with the NBA and Bill Walton? He must have some kind of clandestine arrangement with David Stern that requires NBA pundits to sing his praises. It's not enough that we are forced to endure Walton's inanity on ABC and ESPN, but during the broadcast, Jeff Van Gundy spent at least two full minutes describing how much he admired Walton's game and how the NBA would be a different game now, with big men utilized more as passers, if Walton had not been forced to leave the game so early due to injury. Okay, we get it: he was good. But so were Kareem, Bill Russell, Bird, Magic (among so many others) and they're not a constant presence at every NBA telecast. Jeez.

This gives me an idea: someone needs to make a movie about a group of inner-city youths who embrace an aging hippie ex-ballplayer as a role model. Similar to the 2001 film "Hardball," but with Bill Walton in the Keanu Reeves role. Bill could even keep Keanu's gambling problem. I'm calling Spike Lee right after I finish this.

One of my favorite things about the NBA Finals is the individual player introductions. I have always wondered why the TV producers bother to provide close-ups when most players stare blankly into the camera or ignore it altogether. The reason: so we can see LeBron rep the Roc-a-fella diamond during his introduction. It's called viral marketing, folks. Plus, we are treated to the spectacle known as Scot Pollard's new hairstyle, and--hey, they threw in a Melvin Ely highlight. I was not aware that one existed.

Overall, the game went as expected; the Spurs toyed with different defensive looks and never allowed Cleveland to get into a rhythm, LeBron threw up a bunch of off-balance shots, the camera's gratuitously cut to Eva Longoria, Varejao and Ginobili flopped a bunch of times, and the Spurs blew out the Cavaliers in the third quarter. The Cavs--who, by the way, looked very happy to be there--made the game interesting with a late run that included back-to-back three-point buckets by LeBron, but it was clear that San Antonio was not going to lose.

There were bright spots for Cleveland: Daniel Gibson looks like he will be a solid pro. Even if he's not a true point guard, he makes his shots and can guard opposing point guards. Plus we get to hear the announcers call him "Boobie" on television. And you have to love Anderson Varejao's energy--even though the refs refused to make a call in his favor, the kid never quit flopping. He's relentless, as if he has a personal vendetta against the floor. With flopping becoming such an art form, I would love to see an event added to All-Star weekend which features players runing past each other and finding creative ways to flop. They could have Bill Laimbeer as a judge. Wouldn't this be better than 2-ball or that awful shooting stars contest?

One thing, hopefully, is guaranteed. At some point, LeBron's 2-for-terrible performance in Game One will be vindicated by an offensive outburst the NBA has never seen. Remember, Tim Duncan was named 2003 NBA Finals MVP on the strength of his 21-point, 20-rebounds, 10-assists, six-block performance in Game Six. Don't you think LeBron can top that? If he can't then it appears as though Cleveland is doomed, and Duncan will have another NBA Finals MVP trophy soon enough.

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