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NBA Finals Observations

June 12, 2013

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With the amount of time I spend each year on the NFL Draft and the fact that it was obvious for all to see that this wasn’t the Mavs year I took a bit of a hiatus from the 2012-2013 NBA Season and only watched about a dozen games during the regular season. That continued in these playoffs as I only caught a few games here or there (the Spurs-Warriors series being the exception as that was an outstanding series that really caught my interest) but ended with the NBA Finals. These Finals were intriguing from the get go as the predictions were all over the board: I had the Heat winning in 6 while I saw some analysts pick the Spurs in as little as 5 games. The first 3 games have set this up to be a great series so before it gets too far in I wanted to write a few observations I’ve seen to this point.

Chris “Birdman” Andersen is washed up: In Denver he was a force of nature with his tattoos, spiked hair, long wingspan, and elite athleticism yet in Miami he’s just another “banger.” When watching him I can’t help but think drugs are related as his decline has become so precipitous the past few seasons and the rumors have become so wild (his own mother doesn’t talk to him anymore due to his supposed heroin use) that it’s hard to not correlate the two. Maybe it’s just his poor man to man defense (interestingly enough it’s always been a weak point of his as he’s always been a much better off the ball defender than on the ball) that’s been exploited by Tim Duncan but he’s been pretty much unplayable this series and appears completely washed up. He’s a free agent at the end of the season and one can only hope that he leaves the club life of Miami beach and heads to a more stable environment like Milwaukee where he can get his personal and professional life back in order.

LeBron: LeBron is such an amazing player as he’s one of the few players in history that can dramatically impact a game without scoring. Yet in every game there are moments where the momentum is shifting against your team or the seconds are ticking down in a close game and you just need to score a bucket. In those moments LeBron comes up empty far too often to be compared in the same breath with Michael Jordan. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that LeBron will go down as one of the 10 greatest players in NBA History but no matter how many MVP awards he wins (he already has 4 and easily could beat the record of 6 by Kareem Abdul Jabar) or how many titles he wins (he currently has 1 and easily could get 3 or 4 in his career) I will never put him in the same category as those Top 5 guys. When the game was on the line Jordan, Bird, even Bryant (borderline Top 10 guy) demanded the ball and LeBron just doesn’t. In Game 1 they lost when at around the 6 minute mark in the game he stopped aggressively attacking. In a series of a half dozen or so possessions he took a few dribbles each time, sucked in the defense to him, and gladly passed the ball to a teammate. His lack of aggression was something I’ve never seen in a key playoff game by a superstar and it continues to baffle me. I’ll be the first to admit he’s a superior rebounder, assister, help side defender, and overall teammate than Michael Jordan but he just isn’t a superior player. Jordan would die trying to beat you and LeBron seems quite content to get his triple double and watch as his teammates flounder in the biggest moments of a series. He did it against Boston in his last season in Cleveland, he did it in the Finals against Dallas in 2011, and I’m catching it again in these NBA Finals.

East Coast: I normally couldn’t care less about the East Coast as ESPN, Notre Dame, the New York Knicks, Tim Tebow as a Jet, etc. have indoctrinated me lately about “East Coast bias” yet the NBA surprises me by how little they care about the East Coast. Game 3 was a big deal as statistics have proven over time that the winner of Game 3 in the NBA Finals controls the series yet here I was in Texas waiting for the 2nd half to start back up at 9:30. I was already checking the clock as it’s a Tuesday folks and I don’t party on a Tuesday so imagine the 18 million residents of New York City and their thoughts on watching the 2nd half that just began again at 10:30! I doubt viewership was terribly high by the 4th quarter for too many in the Northeast especially considering the Spurs led by 17 late in the 3rd quarter (around 11pm ET). Now I know my readers in Texas might wonder why the heck I’m sticking up for them Yankees? Well I say “Faggetabboutit” and just read the next article. All I’m saying is it’s bad business.

Chris Bosh is so overpaid: Wow Jon you really went out on a limb on that one. I know I know this is hardly a groundbreaking thesis but these NBA Finals (and the Eastern Conference Finals vs. the Pacers before this) have caused Bosh’s value to plummet to new lows. When he joined the Heat he wasn’t considered a Top 5 or even Top 10 player in the NBA yet, despite signing one of the 10 richest contract in the NBA, it wasn’t considered THAT bad of a move as he was considered one of the Top 20 players in the NBA. His last season in Toronto justified that ranking (24pt 10.8 reb 52% FG) yet in hindsight that was the apex of his career as that was a career high in each of those three categories and since then his numbers have slowly dropped to the point where he now doesn’t even average 17 pts or 7 rebounds a game. That is absolutely laughable for a player that is currently the 13th highest paid NBA player (ironically enough he’s tied with LeBron James at #13) and puts the Heat in quite a predicament. If they try and trade him this offseason they risk the chance that no one shows any interest and they publicize their dislike of Bosh which will ruin the chemistry between management and the players (a key component for a team built on free agent acquisitions) but if they don’t try and trade him they risk watching Bosh further deteriorate and become even less valuable as an NBA player. That last scenario is the most likely as to me the Heat aren’t built for a dynasty but are built for one final run next year. Next season the “Big 3” come back intact and they’ll be able to cobble together a capable supporting cast of hungry veterans and inexpensive young players but at the end of the 2013-2014 season the Big 3 all become free agents. At that time LeBron will be only 29 years old and free to opt out of his contract and sign with any team he chooses. With the new restrictions on spending by NBA teams I’d be shocked if Chris Bosh opted out of a contract that will pay him $20.5 and $22.1 million in the final 2 years of his deal and I’d be equally shocked if LeBron re-signed with the Heat due to the salary restrictions caused by Bosh and the age and injury issues related to Dwyane Wade (will be 32 years old and hasn’t played in more than 69 games in a season since 2010). It all adds up to one last run in 2013-2014 for the Big 3 of Miami with LeBron then spurning a second franchise in Miami for greener pastures while Bosh quietly re-ups for the final leg of a historically bad contract and Wade decides on whether to join LeBron in a new city at a cheaper rate or stay in Miami in obscurity for the larger check. No one is talking about it but Bosh in 9-12 months will soon be the talk of the town not just for being horribly overpaid but also for being the cause of the dismantling of a potential dynasty. Stay tuned as you heard it here first.

Be careful what you wish for Mavs fans: I know this isn’t NBA Finals related but there’s become this growing phenonmenon in the DFW area lately that I’ll call dallasbasketballitis after Mike Fisher and his following (a perfect example here: http://mavericks.scout.com/2/1296163.html), that has completely changed the way Mavs fans view the NBA. No longer is it about competing each year, adding to your core roster, and looking for any advantage that can improve your chances of a title this year as now it’s about tanking for a higher draft choice (we never had a shot anyway right?), signing nothing but one year contract free agents (who cares about chemistry?), and going all in for the max free agent offer (I hear Chris Paul is angry as a Clipper!). I’ve been sucked in at times to the rants as they’re quite addictive to a fan like me when imagining Dirk spotting up at the 3 point line while Chris Paul races up court to feed a perfect lob pass to the post to Dwight Howard for an easy jam. Now you’ve gone and distracted me and look where we’ve gotten. Anyway I’m back. The problem is that Dallas has been attempting this “lasso a star and build the supporting cast from there” strategy for two years now and all it’s resulted in is Tyson Chandler leaving for the New York Knicks (and a Defensive Player of the Year Award), Dirk losing two more of his prime years without any legit chance at a title, and the Dallas community giving a collective yawn after inarguably the greatest month of basketball in the history of Dallas due to how Cuban decided to respond to winning a title. I’m not a liberal but I do agree that George W. Bush squandered a lot of free will from the collective world after 9/11 by unilaterally attacking Iraq and agree even more wholeheartedly, as I am a MFFL, that Cuban squandered a huge amount of fan support and community excitement by not even attempting to defend his NBA Title after the 2011 season. I will always wonder what the 2011-2012 season would have been like if they had re-signed Chandler to re-join Dirk, Kidd, and Terry for one last run and don’t even have to point out how it wouldn’t have effected the team’s salary cap situation in 2013 (the Lakers would have been ecstatic to add a defensive oriented center like Chandler in exchange for the poorly used Dwight Howard and a throw in contract albatross like Ron Artest) to make my point. All of these websites love to focus on the pipe dreams but the reality is that for every Miami Heat there are three teams like the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, or Oklahoma Thunder who built their team almost solely through the draft. If you were to read the Mike Fishers of the world the past few years they would have sold you that the Mavs are just a Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, or Deron Williams away from contending for a title but that just isn’t the case. Last year Chris Paul had Blake Griffin (18.0 pt 8.3 reb 54% FG), Dwight Howard had Kobe Bryant (27.3 pt 5.6 reb 6.0 ast 46% FG), and Deron Williams had Brook Lopez (19.4 pt 6.9 reb 2.1 blk 52% FG). Each of those supporting players (Griffin, Bryant, Lopez) put up superior numbers than Dirk last year (17.3 pt 6.8 reb 2.5 ast 0.7 blk 47% FG) yet somehow the Dallas community has become convinced that Dirk + Paul or Howard or Williams = Championship. It’s ludicrous folks! Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and Deron Williams each had similarly talented or superior “second fiddles” this season and THEY ALL LOST IN THE FIRST ROUND! It’s time we realize Dirk for what he is, a third fiddle. Unless he’s paired with LeBron James or Kevin Durant I don’t see how Dirk can be the #2 option on a championship caliber team. I love me some Dirk but the guy’s rebounding numbers are atrocious, his defense is below average, and he’s injury prone. He needs to recede into the background as the consistent #2 scorer on a team and the #3 overall player and thankfully his lack of ego appears to have allowed him to do that as there are rumblings that he is ready to take a below market deal in 2014 to help the team. That is good as until we as a public, and he in his salary, accept that he no longer is a Top 15 player in the league then the Mavs will go nowhere.

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