Thursday, June 05, 2014

Some Thoughts Before the 2014 NBA Finals Starts

With my beloved Lakers out of the playoffs, I was rooting for a Warriors (or Grizzlies)-Pacers NBA Finals match-up.   And I’ve rooted for every team the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat faced against.  Why?  I’m a Lakers fan.  I want neither the Spurs nor the Heat to win the championship.  If either of these two teams will be glorified by a championship this time, they would significantly steal a significant piece of my beloved Lakers’ celebrated “championship thunder.”  But those two are what came out on top of their respective conferences.   Argh.     

This NBA Finals' storyline
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Just like the Lakers, the Spurs have been a championship pedigree team.  Ever since I’ve started following the NBA, the Spurs have consistently been one of the best teams through the seasons.  Even when they were not considered as title contenders, they have always made the playoffs (On the other hand, the Lakers have missed the playoffs twice already ever since I’ve got into the NBA fandom).  This is a large thanks to the fantastic tutelage of their Coach Gregg Popovich and the leadership of Tim “The Big Fundamental” Duncan.  The Spurs have won four titles during this Tim Duncan era.  If they win another one, they will tie the Lakers’ five titles under the Kobe Bryant era.   I don’t want the tie to happen.  Tim Duncan would rival Kobe Bryant in being the “winniest” among modern NBA superstars.  And a 5th championship could even be enough for Duncan supporters (and Kobe haters) to use as ammunition to argue that Duncan is better than Kobe.  Would like to avoid that.        

And I don’t want the Heat to win another championship because…. well, they’re the Heat. 

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Look, as a Kobe fan, I have nothing but “hate” for LeBron as a basketball personality.   But as an objective basketball fan, I respect and am impressed by the guy.  He’s a real beast of a baller.  He doesn’t possess the same rich arsenal of beautiful moves and mental badassery that Kobe possesses, but it’s because he doesn’t need to.  His innate build, athleticism, strength, quickness, and talent are enough to overwhelm opponents and propel himself to victory.    That has always been his game.  Ever since his Cavs days, the philosophy of the team LeBron plays in has always been about deferring to him to dominate.  Before, I thought such style won’t ever get him a championship.   I was proven wrong.

He has the basketball gifts to excel in almost every aspect of the game: defense, steals, blocks, rebounds, dunks, assists, and playing all five positions to an extent.  His dribble and drive are ugly to watch, but he can amazingly muscle himself inside.  His shooting is ungraceful, but it does make results half of the time.   Still, the point is, there’s probably no other basketball player that ever has been as “all-around” as LeBron. 

Therefore, if LeBron James leads the Heat to a threepeat, I will acknowledge that he’s, hands down, within the Top 10 players in NBA history.  Really.  LeBron’s personal awards and achievements are already impressive at this point.  But winning three straight rings, and getting another Finals MVP, would really solidify LeBron among that pantheon of basketball legends. 

But I’m not cheering for LeBron.  Again, I “hate” him.  I will only cheer for him if he’s winning championships in purple and gold.    

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The Spurs is actually a team that nobody hates. Unless you’re David Stern.  They are an admirable basketball team.  In a league of superstars, they maintained an identity of “no single individual is bigger than the whole team.”  They are not concerned about impressing audience with glamorous plays. Teamwork, hardwork, and solid foundation on the fundamentals are their bread and butter, and they find success by sticking to these principles.  They are often called “boring.”  But they don’t care, as long as they win.  And I can’t help but respect and like this team.  Simply, the Spurs are the anti-thesis of the Heat (and the Lakers, actually).    

So I’m choosing the “lesser of two evils” route here.  I will go with the Spurs in this Finals.  Just I did last season.  It’s a no-brainer, really.

And I really thought they were going to do it last year.  But this happened…   
I was rooting against the Heat, but I have to admit that that was an enjoyable epic moment.  I got to witness that live, and it’s one of the most awesome NBA performances I’ve ever seen.

The Spurs are usually a poised team, cool under the pressures of late game.  But there are times that they do blunder. Like that epic regular season game against T-Mac where he scored 13 points in 35 seconds to steal the win from them.  Another was that Game 6 wherein Ray Allen got the chance to save the Heat.    

If the Spurs win, it would be wonderful for a Spur other than Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to win the Finals MVP.   Last Finals, I was hoping Danny Green would win it (though it was far likely for Parker to win it; despite Green’s record-breaking Finals performance, the Spurs offensive success was all possible due to Parker’s ability to break the Heat defense inside with his drives). This time around, I’ll go with Manu Ginobili.   With that, each one of the Spurs’ “Big 3” would have won a Finals MVP.  And I like Manu.  Would want to let him enjoy an MVP.  And it would be in sync with the Spurs’ identity that no single superstar has won the championship by himself.          
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So (reluctantly), #GoSpurs then.

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