Okay, so now I’m finally writing again. In the larger scale, I’m posting on the blog again for the first time in 11 days (I haven’t exactly kept up with the pace I had hoped to write at), but in a microcosm I’m also finally getting around to typing words after deciding I was going to start writing over two hours ago. For the last half hour or so there has been something in my eye that has just been driving me bonkers. Like I would have punched Rachel Weisz in the face to get this thing out (after which I would simultaneously apologize, telling her what a fan I am, and pull whomever is closest to me in front of me to defend myself from Daniel Craig’s incoming fist, which has at least 25% of James Bond punching power stored in it). Anyway, I’m going to press on with the annoying thing in my eye at a tolerable level of pain right now and get going on writing about stuff that matters.
And when I say matters, I mean yeah, this is the part where I’m telling the story and I lower my voice and you all hush and you know “Oh wow, this really is a big deal. He’s not kidding around.” Humor (which is what I attempted to do in that first paragraph) has become a staple of sportswriting, particularly in online editions. Walking hand in hand with humor is snarkiness, the overall tendency to focus on making snide criticisms of players and teams and taking sports a little less seriously than maybe they deserve. Humor and snarkiness have a place, despite being taken a little too far by some writers.
The 2014 NBA Finals have no room for humor and snarkiness.
There isn’t time to talk about a receding hairline when LeBron James is ready to move one step closer to becoming the greatest ever. There are no Decision jokes to be made when he is about to enter another realm of superstardom.
There is not time to make jokes about Dwyane Wade’s attire when one of the five most lethal 2-guards in history is healthy and ready to unleash a season of rest in his quest for a fourth ring.
There is no value in dinosaur comparisons when Chris Bosh is hunting the next big moment in his career.
There is no applicability in AARP jokes when Tim Duncan is grimly striding forward to avenge last season’s defeat in what may finally be his Swan Song.
There isn’t a reason to bring up flopping and old-man basketball when Manu Ginobili is flat-out beating down opponents in a revival of the world champion’s game.
There is no taste in bringing up the quenelle, Eva Longoria, barfights, or France jokes in general when talking about Tony Parker’s race against time.
There is a great degree of foolishness in making observations on anything or anyone in the stands when there are 7 or 8 Hall of Famers on the court.
There is little originality calling Ray Allen “Jesus Shuttlesworth” when his obsessively constructed jumper could once again assassinate the Spurs’ hopes of a championship.
There is no humor in jokes about Patty Mills’ enthusiasm, Matt Bonner’s whiteness and red-headedness, or Boris Diaw’s rotundity when their contributions could swing any given game.
There will not be laughing about draft busts and picture messages if Greg Oden has a moment in just one minute of one game.
There is a limit to recycling Greg Popovich cliches concerning interviews when he is four wins away from engineering one of the three most impressive coaching runs in the history of the NBA.
There is no time for Johnny Football when the NBA Finals is going on.
This is for real. The things I’ve just mentioned are just a brief overview of the storylines and implications that this Finals has in store. Tomorrow night begins as great a Finals as we could have hoped for (and one that I, btw, predicted would happen). We cannot squander this opportunity with humor and snarkiness. Nor can we waste our time shrouding our vision with obtuse Skip Bayless arguments, Stephen A. Smith soliloquies, or any other unobjective observation of what will be the greatest sporting spectacle this year (yes, narrowly edging the World Cup).
If you’re more interested in the Stanley Cup I respect that. That sport and its championship has plenty to offer as well. If you don’t much care for the NBA and the sport of basketball, that’s fine. Unfortunate for you, but that’s your choice. You don’t have to like this. You don’t have to watch.
Just don’t come late to this party. Don’t show up on social media after watching the SportsCenter of Game 7 saying “Ha LeBron choked! See he will never be MJ!” or “Wow those Spurs are so old” or “Wake me up when the Finals are done. Oh, they are?”
Because if you don’t live this, you’re opinion doesn’t matter. You won’t get it. Just like I can’t ever tell someone what I really think about Russell, Bird, Magic, or Jordan, you can’t tell me what you really think about this Finals if you “watch” them through the diluted view of Twitter, FirstTake, or TMZ I mean, uh, SportsCenter.
To explain why basketball, specifically, is so beautiful and so able to produce games that become life experiences, I’d need about 5,000 more words. To explain why these particular games are so meaningful, I’d also need about another 5,000.
I’m not going to do that. Rather, I’ll jot down what I think will happen in this series, since that’s what we sportswriters do. (Throwing linguistics out the window now. Let’s just talk basketball for a few paragraphs).
The Heat will win the series if: If the Heat play their best they cannot lose, which is not the case with the Spurs. LeBron James is, of course, the best player on the planet, and he hasn’t had this little amount of pressure on him going into a Finals yet in his career. Dwyane Wade is healthy and is still better than anyone on the Spurs. Chris Bosh has not only established his role; he has mastered it. If they Heat get rolling, the Spurs cannot stop them.
The greatest concern for the Heat is: The Spurs are going to be ferocious at home and they have homecourt advantage this year. If the Spurs shoot the ball well, the Heat could find themselves down 2 games to none in a hurry. They will need to try to overcome the Spurs’ intensity in San Antonio with calm, assured play on offense and disciplined, organized defense.
X Factor: Point guards. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole both have a huge role to play in this series. If they can score and play strong defense on Tony Parker, they will give much more freedom to the Big 3. We know we’ll see 3’s from Chalmers and tough plays from Cole, but if they can put together close to 48 minutes of excellent all-around play each game, that will really swing the series.
The Spurs will win the series if: The Spurs cannot “take” this series by simply running their gameplan to the best of their abilities. Jumpshots from Green, Mills, Diaw, and Bellineli might fall in bunches, but the hopes of a series cannot be put in 3’s. The Spurs will win this series if they continuously force the Heat to adapt. One game that might mean letting Tim Duncan attempt post-up after post-up. The next it might mean double-teaming LeBron on the perimeter. Then they might try using more size and daring LeBron to shoot. If the Spurs just play their game, they can really only hope that LeBron and the Heat come up short. They improve their odds by letting Popovich try to confound the plans of Erik Spoelstra.
The greatest concern for the Spurs is: Besides the fact that they have to find a way to guard James, Wade, Bosh, and all the shooters playing for Miami (which is concern enough), the Spurs might find that one of their key players wilts. Maybe Duncan suddenly looks old, Ginobili looks like he did last year, Parker gets too injured, Kawhi loses his confidence guarding LeBron, or any one of their shooters loses their focus and can’t make anything. Or maybe Popovich overthinks late-game scenarios like he did in Game 6 last year. They need all hands on deck.
X Factor: Tim Duncan. He used to dominate games, not just steadily contribute using the fundamentals. If he attacks with the fury of a younger Duncan, fueled by the desire for a fifth ring, a legacy of greatness, and revenge, the Heat could be in trouble.
Prediction: Heat in 6. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are all better than we give them credit for. Not long ago we were wondering if the Spurs would lose four straight versus OKC. Pressure is on San Antonio. That being said, if this thing makes it to Game 7, I don’t think the Spurs will let this one get away.
Hopefully I can get back into writing consistently now. In the coming days and weeks I’ll write about Lance and the Pacers, the Brooks Brothers and the Thunder, the games as they happen, the World Cup, the NBA Draft, and (hopefully) much more. But for now I’m going to leave it here and just let you know it’s time to just let all the other nonsense float on by and focus on the six or seven games that are going to be historic in their importance.
So if while at work, looking forward to getting home to watch the DVR’d game, I seem like I’m not really paying attention to you at the register, I’m sorry. Actually, not really.
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Soli Deo Gloria