Dear Inside The NBA, I Miss You.
I promise I won’t start things off with a weather joke. Promise. See my fingers. They are not crossed.
The forecast for tonight’s NBA Finals Game One shows sunny skies, no wind, and scattering storms. (1) Temperatures will surely be running high in this season series finale. (2) Perhaps members of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Seattle Storm, Carolina Hurricanes and heck, even the Colorado Avalanche will make surprise cameos sometime this Finals. (3)
Now that the short-existing trust between you and I has been shattered, time to get somewhat serious.
The 2012 NBA Finals begin tonight on ABC, featuring the Oklahoma City Thunder out of the Western Conference for the first time since the team relocated from Seattle to OKC like nine minutes ago and the Miami Heat out of the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive season.
The incredible LeBron James saved the Heat’s season with a legendary 45 point 15 rebound performance, featuring 30 first half points that saw James hit tough shot after tough shot. Like tonight’s (and the series’) broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy says, “It’s a make or miss league,” and in Game 6 the league’s Most Valuable Player was certainly making as the Heat blew out the Celtics in Boston, re-capturing home court advantage for his “Heatles” and forcing a Game 7. The Celtics showed the elderly style of play that they too often displayed during the season and could only keep up with Miami for so long, eventually losing the game and the series to the Heat.
So here they are, back again. The super duo of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade fell just short of a title to MY Dallas Mavericks a season ago. An amazing season for a first-year group – well, for any other first year group. James and Wade were supposed to win title after title and without any time gone by. They were on the doorstep of the ultimate goal until dat dude Dirk said Nicht in meinem Haus.
Obvious factors haven’t helped the Heat, and particularly LeBron’s defense along the way. “The Decision,” the big introduction production extravaganza, the Heat Index on www.ESPN.com , and leaving poor Antawn Jamison back in Cleveland with waaaaaaaaaay too many white guys.
On the other end, the “OKC” “OKC” “OKC” “OKC” “OKC” Thunder had a wild, historic ride to the NBA Finals, their first trip since changing their identity from the Seattle Sonics to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008 (and the franchise’s first trip since 1996).
The incomparable Kevin Durant and the energetic, temperamental, (loud, annoying) and surprisingly not good but great Russell Westbrook anchor the most talented and poised young team that the NBA has seen in a long time. The emerging – or “serging” presence of Congo-Spanish hybrid Serge Ibaka is developing into one of the game’s best bigs, knocking down 18-footers and blocking just about everything around the basket the not goaltending way that Javale McGee has unfortunately perfected. Sixth man James Harden has had arguably the biggest impact relating to his role on any team this postseason, making amazing and clutch shots at the end of games. Kendrick Perkins is a solid core at the center position and along with rarely used backup center Nazr Mohammed and mid-season acquisition Derek Fisher, who was traded by the Lakers to Houston and then granted a release so he could choose where he wanted to play (familiar?) are the only Thunder players with Finals experience, while the Heat roster is littered with veterans who have appeared in an NBA Finals, certainly aided by last year’s appearance.
For that reason and many previously mentioned, like the drama surrounding the Heat’s big 3 of Wade-Bosh-James, the young silky coaching methods of Erik Spoelstra and his Sith Lord Master Pat Riley showing no interest in returning to coach but sitting within fire-breathing distance of the 41-year old former video intern Head Coach.
But mostly because LeBron James (and Chris Bosh) perfectly and absolutely fairly manipulated the NBA’s free agent market and gave up millions and millions and (30) millions of dollars to join forces with their best buddy Dwayne Wade in Miami to form a “Super Team,” a trend that General Manager Sam Presti has organically put together in OKC and (insert inept Knicks executive here) is trying to build in New York.
For the very reason that OKC built from the ground up and Miami “bought” there star-studded core, as well as this being the first time the still very, very young core of the Thunder has advanced to the Finals and it being the second rodeo for the Miami Heat in as many years, some-most-no…all the pressure is on the Miami Heat this NBA Finals, with the OKC Thunder essentially playing with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
A little note before I bless you with my sure-to-go-wrong prediction. If you know me you know I’m a Texas Longhorns and Kevin Durant fan. I don’t mind the UCLA Bruins at all and I actually love their colors and via fantasy basketball have developed a borderline-creepy appreciation for Kevin Love, but Russell Westbrook absolutely drives me bonkers. His lack of control over his mind, body, actions, clothing selection, and his constant bickering at officials and taking about 15 too many shots each game early in the shot clock when you have the NBA’s back-to-back-to-back scoring leader at your side – way too many things about the Thunder’s very talented but very obnoxious young point guard drive me nuts. I respect his game, though, no doubt about that. I also respect James Harden’s passion and talents, but his celebrations and flopping combined with Westbrook’s non-stop complaining added with Kendrick Perkin’s reckless shoving, trash talking, elbow after elbow followed by hands up and “That wasn’t me,” and “talk about that!” is too much.
Saving this note for last, I like LeBron James. I do. I have absolutely no problem with him. ESPN wanted “The Decision,” Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert gave him sidekicks in the form of Mo Williams and Larry Hughes (Larry Hughes!) in his seven Cleveland years, plus his allowing of his son’s draft lottery wardrobe screams arrogance that would even bother a professional athlete.
Let the Temperature Bowl begin!
Heat 4, Thunder 3
MVP: LeBron James who finishes the series with 4 triple doubles. (Games 1, 3, 5, 7)
oh and by the way…for another week or two…