Tuesday, June 2, 2015

And now, the NBA Finallys

Eventually they will play the NBA Finals, a statement very much akin these days to "Eventually, the pyramids will be finished" or "Eventually, our electoral process will stop being a clown car versus another clown car in a contest to see who is more shamelessly  willing to do the bidding of billionaires."

By that I mean, it's been six days since Golden State wrapped up the Western Conference title, and the Finals still haven't started.  Entire dynasties have risen and fallen. Children have grown to honorable adulthood. James Naismith has invented basketball, grown old and disowned the game because, dammit, they just won't call traveling anymore.

Silly as all that is, when the Finals begin this week or next month or in 2017, it will be the Warriors vs. the Cavaliers, and conventional wisdom says the Warriors are deeper and healthier and have more weapons. I agree. But there's one thing the Warriors don't have.

They don't have LeBron James.

He said the other day he might be playing the best basketball of his career, and it's hard to argue the point. With Kevin love and Anderson Varejao out and Kylie Irving limping from game-to-game on one good foot, the greatest basketball player on the planet has been, well, the greatest basketball player on the planet. In the Cavs' sweep of Atlanta in the Eastern finals, he nearly averaged a triple-double (30.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 9.0 assists), a bit of Oscar Robertson performance art that indicates you might not want to bet against him at the moment.

He's doing what all the great ones do, which is make everyone around him better. And he's doing it at a level unseen since the days of Magic and Bird.

(Please, Michael Jordan acolytes, no protesting here. Michael was a great player, maybe the greatest ever. But he never facilitated the way Magic and Bird did. Or the way LeBron does.)

So you're not crazy if you pick the Cavs. LeBron is, after all, playing well enough to buck the tide of history.

It's history that tells us it's almost always the better team and not the best player who wins these things, no matter how heroic that player might be. Jerry West was frequently the best player on the floor in the old Lakers-Celtics days, yet the Celtics always won. In 1977, the Philadelphia 76ers had the superstars (Dr. J and George McGinnis), but the Portland Trailblazers had the team, and the Blazers won. And last year, of course, it was LeBron vs. the team ethos of the San Antonio Spurs, and the Spurs won laughing.

The Warriors are not the Spurs, of course. They haven't been in the Finals in 40 years. But they clearly have that same ethos going for them, and that's why I'm picking them.

Steph Curry and them others in seven. Jerry West loses again.


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