You remember the NBA Playoffs, don’t you?
Well, maybe not. It’s been eight days since the Conference Finals were completed and some fans may already have forgotten who the participants are when they mercifully open tonight as we swelter from the summer heat to watch a game that is played all winter.
To refresh your memory, it’s Cleveland and Golden State, two teams which have been relatively foreign when it comes to the Finals. I didn’t even know Cleveland still had a team until this year since they have been irrelevant for the last four years since the infamous “I’m heading to South Beach” words were uttered by you know who.
The only saving grace from this being one of the most nondescript Finals in NBA history is that returning-home hero LeBron James, the best player on the planet, will carry the Cavaliers while the new No. 2 player Steph Curry, who has replaced the injured Kevin Durant as the would-be successor to The King, is the Warriors’ pinwheel.
Thank goodness for LeBron. Had he not powered the Cavaliers into the championship round, we would have been left with the faceless Atlanta Hawks, who until this year had barely drawn more than crickets and mice to their games. Quick, name the starting five for the Hawks.
I guess you could say that for almost every NBA team. Since the era of Bird and Magic came to an end, followed by the Michael years, the NBA has become stagnant and in desperate need of star power. At least LeBron and Curry provide that (I’m not sure Curry is a first-name player yet).
You can be assured the ABC executives have to be breathing a sigh of relief as they could have been stuck with a ratings clunker that would have finished second to summer reruns. I liken the NBA audience to that of the PGA Tour. If Tiger Woods isn’t playing a particular week (which is most of the time these days), the golf ratings drop like a rock. Games without LeBron being shown are far less viewed than those with him.
Getting back to the series, the country is going to be introduced to the Warriors, who toil in virtual anonymity out West. While the playoffs have acquainted us with them, now they’re going to be Prime Time Players, especially the velvety Curry, who is the best stand-alone shooter I’ve seen except for McPherson High sophomore Taylor Robertson, who I’d still take in a game of horse against anybody.
Golden State is the closest in style to Magic’s “Showtime” Lakers that I’ve seen. Defense sometimes is only an afterthought in its mind, but I’d much rather watch a 125-122 shootout than one of those grind-it-out 88-85 games that have been played in recent years.
Cleveland, of course, is LeBron and then four guys standing around waiting for him to create. It’s ugly basketball, though watching LeBron work is a privilege. He’s one of the best 10 players of all time and you have to wonder who will ever be “the next LeBron.”
So this series is the racehorse against the plow horse. While I don’t have a horse in this race, I’m a big fan of speed. It’ll be the Warriors in six because LeBron’s back is going to give out from carrying his team.