June 2005 - Posts
The League and Player's Union had been bickering pretty fiercely over the past month or so, with the threat of a lockout looming. Thankfully the two sides have come together and reached an agreement, signing a six-year work contract. So no lockout and a guaranteed season in the NBA for the next six years. Woo!
It's always kind of annoying seeing the players and owners fight it out. I understand the perspective from both sides, but as a fan, making peanuts compared to what even the most underplayed players make, it's kind of frustrating to see them bicker over such issues. Personally I think the owners have more at stake than the players. They are the ones who could be looking at losing real money in a year. (I assume there are NBA teams that operate at a net loss in a year, but I cannot say that for certain; the business side really doesn't interest me, to be honest.) The players are only losing “potential” money if they sign a less favorable contract, but they're still making insane amounts of money.
Regardless, it's great to see an agreement reached and to be able to enjoy this summer without having to worry about basketball foolishly following in hockey's footsteps.
Let's face it, Games 1 through 4 of these Finals were a bit lackluster, as chowell kindly pointed out. However, Game 5 was the exact opposite of those first four games - exciting, tight the entire way, an overtime, a big, huge, monumental three from Bob Horry to win the game... in other words, exciting, exciting, exciting, from tip-off to the buzzer. The most exciting game since Phoenix exited these playoffs.
A couple comments on the game:
- Timmy, thou art no Jordan - it may be unfair to try to compare anyone with MJ, but anytime a team has a natural leader who is as gifted and talented as Tim Duncan, the comparisons are likely to come. Duncan is a great power forward, one of the best to play the position, but he doesn't appear to have the ice water in his veins that great winners have always exhibited. In Game 5 Duncan, at one point, missed six straight free throws - had he made one of those six missed, the game never would have gone into overtime. He missed the little putback at the end of regulation that would have prevented overtime. And in overtime he had a handful of bad plays - a bad shot here, a turnover there - that could have very easily cost the Spurs the game.
Let me put it this way - Tim is great, but he's not clutch. He's not hungry enough. He's not a real champion. A real champion says, when time is running out, “GIVE ME THE BALL.“ A real leader says, “If we win or lose, it will be on my shoulders.“ A real leader is someone like Chauncey Billups who, in Game 7 in the ECF, said, “Give me the ball“ when it came down to the end-game free throws (and he went on to hit 4 of 4).
I know Timmy is supposed to be the consummate teammate, the guy who doesn't put his own glory ahead of his teammates, the guy who will defer to others and do so without feeling threatened or upset. And I don't fault him for this fact, I just think he can't be a true leader without this quality. Duncan is great, but if I had to pick between him and Billups coming out of a timeout with a handful of seconds left, I'd take Billups, even though Timmy is a much better player on so many levels.
- 'Sheed, what were you thinking!?!? - I like 'Sheed, I think he's a very talented player and is gifted with his size and length, but how can a playoff veteran make such critical mistakes down the stretch? It wasn't just the doubling on Ginolbli in the corner, but at the end of regulation Rasheed tried to call a timeout when the Pistons had none, which would have led to a technical foul shot for the Spurs (and a W, then, most likely) had the clock not expired. Could you have imagined the riot in Detroit if the Pistons lost Game 5 on a timeout call? Eep, it would have reminded the great folks in Michigan of Chris Webber's timeout blunder in the NCAA tourny.
Of course Sheed's biggest mistake of the night was leaving Horry open, the same Horry who scored the lion's share of his team's points in the fourth quarter and overtime, the same Horry who was 4/5 from behind the arc for the evening, the same Horry who has hit innumerous big shots throughout the playoffs.... ick. What's kind of cool, though, is that I called it - I was watching the game with my father-in-law and said, as the Spurs were coming out of the timeout, “I bet the Spurs win it on an Horry three.“ And, bing, down it went.
- Horry's legend grows - they don't call him “Big Shot Bob“ for nothing, and Horry proved his mettle again tonight, not only hitting the final go-ahead bucket, but also having a monsterous fourth quarter and overtime. Bill Simmons gives a heapful of praise to Horry in Big Shot Bob Bags Another. What's cool is he starts the article with a quote of his from an article written two years ago:
Somebody needs to go through Robert Horry's playoff games, pluck out all the big plays and shots, then run them in sequence for like 10 straight minutes with one of those cool sports video songs playing (like Aerosmith's "Dream On," or Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song"). Who wouldn't enjoy that? I bet Horry has made at least 20 to 25 humongous shots over the years. Seriously.
Simmons gives Horry a little too much love, though, I think, stating he wouldn't be surprised if Horry was eventually a Hall of Famer. Horry's a great role player and can definitely hit the high-pressure shot, but let's not get too excited here, Bill. He struggles against defending stronger or quicker forwards and has a limited offensive game inside. He does draw out the floor, though, and is obviously not afraid of taking The Big Shot. He's an excellent piece in a complete team, one that has the bigs to play D and command an inside presence. But you just have to look back at his years with the Lakers to see how he can be a liability when playing against a team with a strong, offensive forward, such as Sacramento. There's a reason Duncan matches up against Sheed and Horry sticks to the less offensive-skilled Ben Wallace.
Well, Game 6 ought to be a good one. The Pistons are going to have a tough time, not having had much luck in San Antonio, but they are the champions and I don't think they're about to roll over. The Spurs, though, should be bouyed by this tough win and be playing hard to wrap up this series ASAP. My pick is that the Spurs win another close game on Tuesday. I just hope Game 6's excitement can come close to Game 5's!
The Lakers have resigned Phil Jackson as their head coach. Wow. I knew there were serious talks between PJ and the Lakers, but I, honestly, didn't think they would materialize. After the last season together, after Phil and Kobe's personality conflicts, after Phil's scathing The Last Season book..... well, I just didn't think that Phil would be able to fit back into the Lakers smoothly. Personally I had hoped he would find his way to Cleveland, could you imagine how much better he could have made that team? Now, however, I fear that the Cavs will plummit back to the pre-LeBron ways with a rookie NBA coach and Larry Brown running the show.
But Phil back in L.A..... who woulda thunk it, especially at the end of last year's offseason. So, will this make the Lakers back into contenders next season? Nah, but I do think they win more with PJ, look sharper and (gasp) make the playoffs. Yes, I'm already making next year's playoff picks before this season is officially over. Of course, that assumes that there is a season next year... with the player's union and the owners bickering like only spoiled billionaires can, I'm worried that we might have a delayed or missed season entirely next year, which would truly suck.