Ok, so this one is a bit late but it's been lurking in my head for weeks if that counts for anything.
The NBA playoffs are over, congrats to the San Antonio Spurs, and the NBA draft and silly season aka the off-season, where the trade rumors multiply almost exponentially on a daily basis, is upon us.
They say it was one of the most boring finals and that may be true not just because the Cleveland Cavs team was one of the weakest finalists in years but also because the vastly superior Spurs played down to their level and actually kept the series scores closer than they should have ever been. It could easily have been 4 straight complete blowouts if the Spurs had stayed focused instead of lapsing and allowing games 3 and 4 being as close as they were. The Spurs would play great in spurts, then realize they weren't playing against the Phoenix Suns or another elite team and start to coast on cruise control giving the Cavs a brief glimmer of hope and some viewers the belief that maybe the Cavs actually had a chance or were actually close to being an elite team.
I say not. As mentioned above the Cavs were one of the weakest teams I've ever seen in a finals. To be honest though Iverson's 76ers, finalists back in 2002 were probably as bad. Built around the same premise with a lone superstar and a complete bunch of scrubs they yet still managed to not get swept that series against theLakers of Shaq and Kobe. The complete single mindedness and resolute determination of Iverson managed to get them a lone win.
Well Lebron really ain't no Iverson ...yet in terms of willing a team to a win despite the game 5 heroics vs Detroit so his squad got swept.
Frankly, I blame this whole Cavs in the finals debacle all on the Chicago Bulls. If they had won that game against New Jersey on the last day of the season, the Cavs would have had a harder road to the finals playing Miami in the first round and possibly Detroit in the second and if they ever got that far Chicago in the conference finals. Plus my Raptors would have ended up playing the Wizards instead of New Jersey and might have actually made the second round. Damn you Chicago!. They (the Cavs ) would have never made it past all three of those teams. As it stands though they ended up having easy early round opponents in an injury depleted Washington and a so so New Jersey squad and then managed to get past a completely self destructing Detroit. Oh well Que Sera Que Sera!
What bugged me the most about the NBA finals though was not the standard of play on display but the premature coronation of Lebron James as the new King. I'll be honest I'm not his biggest fan so maybe I'm being a bit harsh and he was amazing in game 5 against the Pistons so maybe I should cut him some slack but.....
From the time the Cavs made the finals the talk was all about Lebron and his ascendancy. Yes I realize that the NBA needs or thinks they need that one uber-star, or superstar of superstars, for marketing purposes and its been devoid of one since Jordan took flight into the sunset over Washington a few years ago but why oh why must they keep trying to push force ripe superstars on us?
Lebron is good, possibly great even, but get over it people he is not Michael Jordan and he wasn't going to win against the Spurs. His willpower and mind state aren't there yet. He won against the Pistons or rather the Pistons lost mainly because the Pistons fell apart rather than any real supremacy of the Cavs squad. In the finals Tim Duncan and his crew of focused professionals were not about to let themselves fall apart and be upset like the Pistons were meaning the Lebrons just didn't stand a chance.
It was so annoying listening to the commentators push Lebron as the best thing since sliced bread when in truth they should have been telling us about how much help he really needs and how devoid of a second option his squad is, leaving everything on his broad but somewhat incapable shoulders (at least in the finals).
The commentators failed in this aspect hoping that he could somehow pull off the impossible against the Spurs. And when I say he I don't mean his team I literally mean he, Lebron, one man vs the Spurs because when you look at his teammates there wasn't much to write home about amongst the group. Marshall, Snow, Hughes, Ilguyskas, Gooden, Varejao etc are all bits and pieces players. Even the few who may have at earlier points in their career stepped up on other teams are now shells of themselves or perhaps overawed to be in Lebron's presence. In essence they sucked!
It was left to rookie Daniel Gibson to inject some life into the supporting cast and he really isn't that good.
But if the story is told truthfully and one really looks at the history of the NBA finals one gets a different story to what the numerous commentators were pushing. No matter what the hype NBA finals have never really been about one man.
Since Jordan has retired the teams that have won titles have won on the strength mainly of good all around teams anchored by a good if not great big man not anchored by solo swingman acts. The Spurs have Duncan and all stars in Ginobli and Parker, the three-peating Lakers had Shaq and Kobe, the Pistons had a starting 5 of potential all-stars including the two Wallaces up front even Wade although he was the superstar on the Miami Heat squad last year still had a decent enough Shaq and to a lesser extent Mourning to ease things for him a bit. The swingmen and guards may get all the glory and were integral parts but it wasn't a one man against a team thing. they all had competant big men teammates.
Then lets go back to the 90s, where as far as titles go the Pistons won one, Bulls won 6, Houston won 2 and Spurs one. Lets ignore the Spurs, Houston and Pistons wins since for the most part these teams fit the mould of the teams with good big men that have been winning in this decade and focus on Jordan's Bulls.
Jordans Bulls won 6 titles in the 90s broken up into two three-peats. There is no denying that Jordan was definitely a singular talent in his heyday but .......
The myth though is that on Jordan's strength alone his teams won their titles. Absolute hogwash! The Bulls knew the strength of having a team and especially of having excellent big men. Think about it. For the first three titles (91-93) pre-first retirement Jordan had a great swingman in perennial allstar Scottie Pippen, a decent point guard in BJ Armstrong and a premier rebounder and all defensive team power forward in Horace Grant along with decent role players like John Paxson, Stacey King and Bill Cartwright.
For his second batch of three championships (96-98) Jordan didn't exactly ride as solo as they would wish you to believe either. He had Pippen again, and a bit past his prime but still decent Ron Harper at point guard and one of the greatest rebounders of all time in Dennis Rodman, (ignore the off-court antics) at Power Forward. Then he had Tony Kukok, Steve Kerr, Bison Dele and other decent players.
Jordan was hardly playing one man against five here folks. Thats not to take anything away from his will and determination which were second to none in that era but lets just realize that its a myth to think that he was the only star on the court in a Bulls uniform when they won their titles. Bulls management was smart enough to surround him with, get this novel concept, a team something one hopes the Cavs management will clue into.
So I just wrote all that to say no matter how good Lebron is he will never win or rather it will be extremely difficult for him to win without a decent team supporting him and its wrong to accelerate his ascendacy and fill the airwaves with so much hyperbole when you know he and his squad still have quite a ways to go. Jordan for all his greatness could not have won with this asembled Cavs team. If you dont believe me look up the Jordan rules and see how hard it was for Jordan acting as one man army to get past the then dominant Detroit Pistons of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. The myth that is Jordan will have you believing that he could accomplish the impossible and to some intent it almost appears thus, but the truth is as great as he was in order to win his championships he needed help. Help which management graciously provided.