If someone had told me during the NBA’s heyday in the 1980’s that Cleveland and Golden State would be meeting in the NBA Finals at any time ever I would have had a good chuckle.
In 1985, Sleepy Floyd and Joe Barry Carroll (AKA Joe Barely Cares) were anchoring a 33-49 Golden State team that had just drafted Chris Mullin. Meanwhile, John Bagley, Roy Hinson and Mel Turpin were leading the way for the 34-48 Cavaliers.
Golden State can close out one of the all-time great seasons by winning the championship. The Warriors are trying to end the jinx of what turned out to be trading the draft pick that ended up being Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for Barry Carroll. Incidentally, in another franchise-altering move a few years later, the Warriors also couldn’t afford to keep Bernard King so they had to trade him to the Knicks.
The City of Cleveland looks to their savior LeBron James to end the 51 year drought and all the frustration Clevelanders have endured including “The Shot”, “The Decision”, Earnest Byner, Kevin Mack …the list goes on.
I predict Golden State will capture their first title in 40 years. The Warriors are an excellent defensive team which many casual followers don’t realize. While Cleveland’s number one ranking in team defense is well -publicized, Golden State ranks fourth but has superior offensive firepower to Cleveland. LeBron has been amazing in the playoffs but the Cavs road to the championship has been laughable. The Celtics were easy fodder and shouldn’t have made the playoffs. Chicago put up a good fight but is a dysfunctional team and Atlanta was the worst #1 seed in either conference at least in the last 30 years.
With the many storylines in this NBA Finals, the one to me that is most interesting is for the people who thought LeBron James should have had the MVP over Stephen Curry. Let the real MVP step forward in this series.
By the way, if the Cavaliers lose, James will be 2-4 in the Finals compared to Jordan’s 6-0. Kind of like Brady’s four Superbowls to Peyton Manning’s one.
By the way, kudos to the New York Knicks who are represented by David Lee (GS) as well as Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith (Cleve) in the Finals.
Recently, there was an article published on ESPN http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-best-nba-teams-of-all-time-according-to-elo/ rating the best NBA teams/dynasties of all time with the premise that it is more impressive to be the best team in a 30-team league than a 10-team league. This logic has so many holes I don’t know where to begin. In a 30 team league, the talent is so watered down that you drown in mediocrity. This season, nine teams finished 15 games or more below .500 and seven more finished .500 or worse. More than half the league sucks. You could lop off haldf the players in this league and no one would miss them. The article ranks the current Spurs dynasty over the Celtics dynasty in the 1960’s when they won nine championships.
In the 60’s when there was a nine-team league that eventually grew to 14 by the end of the decade. You were playing each opponent 8-10 times per year. So the Celtics were playing 25% of their road games in CA against the Lakers and SF Warriors as opposed to 7.5% now. They were playing half of their games against Philly (Hal Greer, Chet Walker and Wilt Chamberlain), Cincy (Jerry Lucas, Oscar Robertson), Lakers (Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich and eventually Chamberlain) and the Knicks (Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere. That is half your season against multiple Hall of Famers on a nightly basis. Four games in five nights was commonplace.
Give me any team from the Celtics dynasty in the 60’s or the ’85-’86 Celtics team that featured Jerry Sichting beating up Ralph Sampson and those teams would beat any of the five championship Spurs teams.
Well the NHL was spared the indignity of having an Anaheim Ducks – Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup Finals. Outside of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on Anaheim and Steven Stamkos on Tampa Bay, most casual hockey fans haven’t heard of anybody else on those teams. At least the Blackhawks bring Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith.
Nevertheless, warm weather hockey has been a great success in the NHL and with the LA Kings winning last year, the future is bright in the land of palm trees. I predict Tampa Bay in six maybe seven games.
Looking forward to seeing Mike Babcock be the fourth coach to try and get Phil Kessel to care about defense.
As for the Boston Bruins, if you are a fan and watched these final four teams it has to be painfully obvious that the Bruins are not even close to competing with this group. They also aren’t close to competing with semifinalist Montreal either. These teams all have superior speed and skills that the Bruins sorely lack. Quick name the Bruins snipers and skill players. Okay, keep reading now.
The hiring of Don Sweeney was business as usual for Cam Neely’s team. The Bruins have won a grand total of one Stanley Cup in the last 42 years based on their big bad Bruin strategy and playing heavy. They have had tremendous difficulty sustaining success, they have drafted poorly and have yet to beef up international scouting on par with several other NHL franchises. In the old days, it was easy to blame Jeremy Jacobs because he wouldn’t spend the money. That excuse doesn’t fly and as of now, this Original Six franchise is heading in the wrong direction, with the wrong philosophy and with no money under the Salary Cap.
Lastly, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau became the first coach in NHL history to lose six Game 7’s and to lose three straight at home. In two of the last three Game 7’s his teams have lost, they have been completely blown out. Perhaps he can summon Doc Rivers (see last blog) who leads the NBA in Game 7 failure and is just a short ride down the freeway.
Kevin Stallings, head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores, missed a golden opportunity this week to not only make an important point, but set an example for athletes of all ages in regards to sportsmanship. After Vanderbilt beat the Tennessee Volunteers, Vandy player Wade Baldwin IV was seen clapping his hands in the face of Vols player Armani Moore. Stallings was informed of this by a Vols staff member. Stallings went off on Baldwin during the post-game handshake and berated him for his lack of sportsmanship. This was not the first time Baldwin has been involved in an incident of this nature. Unfortunately, he ended the tirade with “I am going to bleeping kill you.” It was actually nice to see a player being called out for poor sportsmanship as this is incredibly rare at least publicly in sports, but Stallings clearly went too far and that kind of outburst should cause us all to speculate about possible anger management problems for the Vandy coach. Coaches like Bobby Knight, Bob Huggins and Frank Martin should have taught us all a lesson.
One of the sure signs an athlete can’t control his anger is when that athlete (Rajon Rondo) in this case, can’t control his personality or frustration even though he knows it will perpetuate his image and directly impact his earning potential in the offseason. Typically, athletes are on their best behavior when it is a contract year. We all know the resume of Rondo. Difficult to coach, intensely competitive, high basketball IQ. But since he has joined Dallas, the Mavericks have not improved, his statistics have declined despite significantly more talent around him and now this blowup on the sidelines with Rick Carlisle. Apparently, Rondo was getting a lot of attention from Carlisle when he first arrived, but then when Amar’e Stoudemire arrived, Carlisle wasn’t paying as much attention to Rondo and this ruffled Rajon’s feathers. When Rondo is engaged, he is one of the most creative and exciting players in the league but Dallas has joined Boston in learning the hard way the baggage that comes with it.
LeBron James has a new source of stress. Colleges are already recruiting his 10-year old son. Is James upset because he thinks that is out-of-bounds or because he skipped college himself and sees college as unnecessary or maybe both? Recruiting has been out of hand for some time now and the limits are tested constantly. From the NCAA handbook: “In men’s basketball, a coaching staff member may observe an individual who has not entered the seventh grade participating in an athletically related activity, provided such observation occurs during a period when it is permissible to evaluate prospective student-athletes.” I’m getting a little nervous we are going to start seeing college and NBA scouts at the local Skyzone or Boys and Girls Club. The way the rule is written invites poor judgment and illicit behavior.
Russell Westbrook is having a truly dominant season for Oklahoma City and became only the second player (Michael Jordan) in 27 seasons to have 20 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds in five or more straight games. He is averaging 27 ppg, 7 rebounds and 8 assists per game on the season and has led the Thunder to a 9-3 record over the last 12 games. Westbrook has outperformed Kevin Durant in all three statistical categories.
What in the world were the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim thinking when they signed Josh Hamilton to a five year 125 million dollar contract? The contract by the way includes a no-trade clause, access to a luxury suite and incentives that can add up to another almost million because realistically who can survive on 25 million per year alone? Hamilton suffered yet another drug and alcohol release this offseason. Hamilton took off from 2002-2006 due to a litany of personal and chemical dependency problems and one of the conditions of his reinstatement was that he undergo drug testing three times per week. He had alcohol relapses in 2009 and 2012 and has frequently discussed (understandably) what a difficult battle this was for him. The Angels signed Albert Pujols for 10 years and 240 million in 2011 and Hamilton in 2012 and 365 million dollars later, the Angels have some big regrets.
Can athletes who make obvious individual mistakes stop pointing to themselves after the play and stop saying “My bad”? We know it’s your bad because we just saw it play out in front of our own eyes. How about taking some accountability when we don’t automatically know it’s your fault? For instance, we often don’t know in football whose fault it is when there is an interception or an incomplete pass because we don’t know whether the receiver ran the wrong route or the quarterback made a bad decision. Or how about in basketball when a player didn’t know the play being run. That’s when I want to know whose bad it is!
I know this is a topic that was decided on a long time ago but every time I think about this… I can’t believe you get a point in hockey when you lose. So for those of you who aren’t familiar, by accomplishing the amazing feat of bringing the game to overtime or the shootout (if no one scores in the five minute overtime), you are awarded one point. This was done of course for parity and so more teams have playoff chances which of course helps sell tickets. Winnipeg and L.A. lead the NHL with a whopping 12 overtime or shootout losses. So if they just counted as losses, the Kings would be 29-32 and six points out of a playoff spot and be the 10th seed as opposed to the eighth seed. The worst part is this rule allows an accepted strategy to at least walk away with a point and completely can alter the way a team approaches the third period of a hockey game. Can you imagine if MLB said, hey good job going into extra innings, we will give you a half a win for that or some kind of extra credit? The only thing worse than this is when kids get trophies for participation in sports!
Interesting trade in the NHL where Columbus trades former Bruin Nathan Horton (who probably will never suit up again) to the Maple Leafs for salary cap anchor David Clarkson. Apparently the logic here was for Toronto, they get salary cap relief and would rather have a cap hit of 2.5 million for someone who never plays than an approximately 5 million dollar cap hit for someone who does? So Toronto didn’t even think Clarkson was worth the extra 2.5 million to suit up. For Columbus, they feel that for 2.5 million Clarkson is worth it. Toronto will take any kind of relief.
Don’t forget the cricket doubleheader front and center on ESPN today as perennial rivals Sri Lanka takes on England followed by the clash of Zimbabwe and Pakistan.