The 2014 NBA Finals are upon us and we’re set for an epic re-match of last year’s gut punch of a Finals. In my life there have only been two non-Chicago/Notre Dame related losses that brought me to tears, I mean near tears obviously I never cry. The first was the 2009 British Open when 59-year old Tom Watson needed a par to win his 6th Open Championship. What was about to be the greatest golf victory of all-time was ruined by a trampoline bounce on a ball that landed 20 yards short of the green and rolled to a stop a few yards passed. This unfortunate bounce led to a tired Watson praying that he could manufacture a two-putt for the win only to miss his par attempt several inches to the right and end up in a playoff. Completely out of gas, Watson lost the four-hole playoff by six strokes to Stewart Cink. I was completely devastated, Cink immediately became my least favorite golfer for robbing me of witnessing an aged, wise Watson lift the Claret Jug one more time.
The second was last year’s NBA Finals. The San Antonio Spurs have been my second favorite team to watch play my favorite sport. I never understood why people found them so boring. Is it boring to watch a team play the game fundamentally sound? To be connected both on defense and offense? Even Dr. James Naismith could not have imagined a team perfecting his sport to the level the Spurs have. And there they were, seconds away from a fifth championship. Tim Duncan about to seal best player of his generation title and just like that it all went away. Brutal, absolutely brutal. It was as if George RR Martin took over the NBA Finals and decided that crushing our hearts 10 weeks a year was not enough, he had to do it one more time.
Stewart Cink already got his justice with this awful tan line.
Now it is time for the Miami Heat to get its comeuppance. And to get us ready, I thought it would be a good time to dip into the mailbag. As always, these are actual questions from actual readers.
Be honest, you wrote an article about how awesome the Stanley Cup Playoffs are to ignore the complete collapse of your favorite team, the Chicago Bulls, since getting bounced by the Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. – Matt, Detroit
How dare you make such an accusation. I never have alternative motives for my articles. The NHL just has a more exciting product come playoff time and the NBA playoffs were a snooze fest this spring.
Suck it! How do you like your precious Blackhawks now? The Kings rule the roost! #Dynasty – Jessica, Los Angeles
It would be easy for me to be the lesser man and point out that a dynasty requires actual fans. To point out that I didn’t see too many Kings fans till they came back from 3-0 down to the Sharks. If I were a lesser man, I could bring out evidence like the local ratings for Game 7, a 22.7 share in Chicago compared to LA with a 4.8. It actually did a better share in Buffalo than it did in LA. Or how Forbes just named Blackhawk fans the most loyal in all of the NHL. But I’m not a lesser man, so I’ll take the high road and simply offer my congratulations. And honestly, a part of me is happy that you won because it adds a lot of fuel to a budding rivalry. See you next year Kings fans that is if you remember what Hockey is still.
Does Tim Duncan really become the best player of his generation if he wins this title? He would only tie Kobe and his stats are not nearly as impressive. – George, Los Angeles
Not nearly as impressive? Tell me which player you’d rather have.
Player A: 21.4 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.4 BPG, .499 FG%, .692 FT%
Player B: 25.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, .448 FG%, .816 FT%
Alright, so it is obvious who is who here, but give me Tim Duncan’s career playoff averages over Kobe’s. Yes Kobe scores more, but he also shoots a lower percentage and Duncan affects the game in more ways. Yes Kobe has the head-to-head playoff edge, but he had Shaq while Duncan had an over the hill David Robinson and a young Parker and Ginobili for the ’01 and ’02 playoffs. Plus Derek Fisher’s ridiculous 0.04 second game winner remains the difference maker in the series. Give me Duncan’s career over Kobe’s every time.
When are you Chicago people going to get over yourselves and admit that Lebron is better than MJ? If they played one-on-one it would be no contest. Lebron is way too big and fast for Jordan to handle? – Hannah, Miami.
How about, never. Does that work for you?
Why do people hate Lebron so much? He’s the most talented guy to ever play the game. From all accounts he is a gracious, charitable, and loyal guy. He didn’t constantly cheat on his wife, bitch out all his teammates, gamble his way into a “retirement” to play baseball for a year and a half, and be a dickhead like the supposed G.O.A.T. – Colin, Seattle
First off, easy with the loose accusations there, Colin. Secondly, sports hate is illogical. There is no valid reason to hate Lebron. Like you said he is a jovial guy who is extremely loyal to the people close to him. All admirable traits, but for some reason the illogical Id that drives being a sports fan takes over and makes me just hate the guy. It’s called being a fan, or fanatic, for a reason – you have to be a little crazy. Part of it is just not letting go of the fucking Decision or the even more appalling celebration ceremony before they even played a game, but the other part is just cause I want to. I want to hate Lebron, it feels good to hate Lebron. Even though I know I’m being a total asshole, I still like to do it anyway. None of it has to make sense, it just is.
Has Tony Parker is underrated reached a new level of over used? Should his license read “The Underrated” Tony Parker? Is it just me or does the fact that the Spurs dominated the Thunder in the second half of Game 6 without Parker prove that he is actually overrated? The way he dominates the ball at times seems to take the Spurs out of the beautiful flow of their offense- Mark, Dallas
Quite the scatter brained question there. Let me provide the answer for you, no. Parker is definitely not overrated, nor is he underrated, he is properly rated. Can he dominate the ball at times, sure, but the Spurs need him. They can play in spurts without him, but they don’t have a chance in this series if he doesn’t play. Patty Mills and Curtis Joseph cannot do what he does. Parker is a creator on team that doesn’t have many. When you’re going up against the best playmaker in the game today, you need a Tony Parker. A great offensive flow is terrific, but even the splendid Spurs cannot keep the ball moving for 48 minutes. Offenses slow down, whether from great defense or fatigue, eventually they slow down. In those times you need a guy that can create something out of nothing. Duncan can’t do it for an entire series anymore. Although he will have one throwback game in this series, you best believe that. Kawhi Leonard isn’t quite there yet to be able to do it consistently for an entire series. And Ginobili is in the same boat as Duncan. Parker is the only guy with the experience to do it consistently and the legs, when healthy, to do it every night. The Spurs need to hit 10 or more threes in four games this series and have Parker be able to operate at at least 80% capacity. If not Pat Riley will be cashing in on his Three-peat trademark.
Where would this Heat three-peat rank on the list of all-time three peats? – Jonesy, Atlanta
There have only ever been 16 three-peats in the history of American Professional sports, five in the NBA. To save time let’s just focus on the NBA three-peats.
- 1952-54 Minneapolis Lakers
- 1959-66 Boston Celtics (8-peat)
- 1991-93 Chicago Bulls
- 1996-98 Chicago Bulls
- 2000-02 Los Angeles Lakers
The Celtics have to be number one just because they did 8 years in a row. No matter the competition that is impressive. Next would have to be the 91-93 Bulls because that was at the peak of the NBA. The 1993 NBA playoffs is considered by many to be the greatest of all-time. Well at least by Uncle Bill Simmons in the Book of Basketball. Then the 96-98 Bulls because it won 72 games and beat one of the best Finals runner-ups, the Utah Jazz, in consecutive years. Fourth, the 00-02 Lakers, despite the Eastern Conference delivering subpar opponents in the Finals, the Western Conference was a gauntlet all three years and the Lakers defeated many top teams. The Heat would probably fall fifth, just because the league did not offer much competition in 52-54 and simply having the best big man, George Mikan, was enough to win a title. The Heat have made it through a crap Eastern Conference four years in a row, one year losing the title, then beating a young, inexperienced Thunder team, and getting extremely fortunate to beat the Spurs last year. Which brings us to our next question…
Am I crazy to think that the Miami Heat would not have reached a NBA Finals if they had been in the Western Conference the past four seasons? – Mike, Chicago
Yes, but not four straight that is for sure. Winning these past four Eastern Conference Championships is not much of a feat. Look who they beat this year, the Charlotte Bobcats, the Senior Tour NBA Champs – Brooklyn Nets, and an Indiana Pacers team that unraveled like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Certainly less impressive than the Spurs route, a Dallas Mavericks team that won 49 games and knows them better than any team, a young and talented Portland Trailblazers team, and the MVP with the most dominant athlete not named Lebron James – Russell Westbrook. Clearly the Heat would not have made the Finals in 2011 since it lost to Mavs, who were dominant all postseason. They would’ve made it in 2012 since they were clearly better than the young Thunder team that got past a cap shedding Mavs team, an aging Lakers team, and the Spurs whose young corp had not quite gelled at that point. Last year would’ve been interesting considering that the Spurs might have finished the deal had they had one less series on its odometer. Plus there was the chance it could’ve matched up against the Memphis Grizzles, a terrible matchup that I don’t think they could’ve handled if Lebron had to guard Z-Bo for 7 games. I know I come off as a Heat hater, but I legitimately think that they would not have gotten out of last year’s Western Conference. And this year’s was even tougher considering only 3 teams in the East had a better record than the Suns who did not make the playoffs. Actually, I apologize, Mike. You’re not that crazy to think that as I think they only would’ve made one Finals.
How good is Kevin Love going to look in a Warriors jersey next year? Are Love and Curry pick n’ rolls going to be the most unguardable plays since Kareem’s skyhook? I think so. – Matt C., Santa Monica
Why am I not surprised that you would hijack this NBA Finals mailbag with a question about a team that hasn’t been to one since the 70s, Matt C. Since you’re a loyal reader I’ll address it. Love would be a great fit for the Warriors, especially if they can get him for just David Lee and Klay Thompson. Obviously Lee and Harrison Barnes would be even better, but since David Khan is no longer Minnesota’s GM that will never happen. But they won’t be a title contender unless Bogut can stay healthy for an entire season. Love can do a lot of things, but defend is not one of them. They can get away with having two sub-par defenders on the floor if Bogut is out there, as Iggy can guard the best perimeter player and Bogut can protect the rim as well as anyone. But at this point there is nothing to convince me that Bogut is capable of staying healthy, so the Warriors ceiling would remain the second round. The only other way around this is if they luck into a rim protector in the draft, but even then he would not be ready to compete in year one. I still say it is worth making as a nucleus of Curry-Love-Iggy still puts them closer to a championship in the highly competitive Western conference than they currently are. Best of luck.
I can’t handle getting my heart broken a second year in a row. Please tell me you see a happy ending at the end of this season? I need to see Timmy and Pop embrace and let out 17 years of emotion as confetti rains down at the AT&T Center. – Michelle, San Antonio
I hate to break your heart, Michelle, but I just can’t in good conscious predict a happy ending for your Spurs. Unfortunately the NBA is no longer about the best team winning, but the best player. Lebron James is that good and no amount of late night Pop strategy is going to be able to contain him. When the chips are down and the Heat’s backs are against the wall they always rise to the occasion. We’re talking about a team that hasn’t lost back-to-back playoff games in three years. It is just too hard to beat them four times over a 7 game series. I don’t see enough left in the Spurs tank to finish the job they should’ve last year. Plus a shitty Eastern Conference allowed Dwayne Wade to get the rest he needed to have fresh legs for this series. The Heat are the more rested, less banged up team and that will prove to be too much to handle over the course of this series. As much as it pains me to write this I have to make the prediction I believe in, Heat in 6. Congrats Pat Riley, you finally get that three-peat you trademarked all those years ago.