2008 NBA Finals Talk
June 10th, 2008

By unpopular demand, I won’t talk about baseball. Instead, I’ll talk about basketball. I shall retread the observations of the hundreds of other writers who are covering the subject, while adding no unique spin. It’s how we roll around here.

1) There’s no reason why Lamar Odom shouldn’t be able to defend Kevin Garnett better than he does. None whatsoever. He has the length to bother his jump shots as well as anyone can bother them, the athleticism to prevent any easy drives to the basket, and the reasonable man-to-man post defence to cope with the rare times that Garnett plays back to the basket. But he doesn’t do it that well. And not only does he struggle at it, but he doesn’t do it much at all, as Pau Gasol seems to end up with the assignment a lot of the time. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Also, this is somewhere where Andrew Bynum would come in handy.

2) Something that also doesn’t make a lot of sense is Vlad Rad starting and playing as much as he is. I understand the Lakers’ need for shooting and spacing. I do. But Radmanovic is bad in all other aspects of the game. (His rebounding numbers in this series have been quite good, but try and think of a single Radmanovic rebound. You can’t – they were all gimmies that his replacement could have gotten, too.) And when you’re matched up against a team that starts Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Garnett at the 2-3-4 spots, you’re left with the unattractive prospect of having Radmanovic guarding one of those three, particularly when Kobe Bryant spends so much time on Rajon Rondo. And Radmanovic just can’t do that. Leave him in as a token starter if you must, but don’t actually PLAY him. Trevor Ariza can’t shoot, but he still needs these minutes. Note – this is also a situation where Andrew Bynum would come in handy, as Radmanovic wouldn’t be a starter.

3) This is more of a general point than a Finals specific point, given his performance thus far, but people should probably stop calling the “Celtics Big Three” by that name. Ray Allen never was as good as his two peers, and unlike those two, Ray Allen has also lost something. He’s a great third option to have, but the label “Big Three” implies some kind of parallel between all parties, that everything is equal, and that each is as important as the others. And that’s wrong. Maybe they should switch it to Rondo instead.

4) In the fourth quarter of game three, Kevin Garnett hit a long jump shot, one that boosted his shooting percentage to about 84%. The camera cut to Garnett running back on defence, and showed him puffing his cheeks with gusto, like a man who had just narrowly avoided driving into his own mother. Perhaps there’s something in this “Garnett not clutch” thing. (Still, at least it wasn’t a fall-away.)

5) Kobe picked up a technical in the first half of game three. At some point in the fourth quarter, when Kobe protested a rather obvious foul call made against him, he complained for a minute, and then walked away. Mark Wunderlich (great name by the way) walked after Kobe, yelling aggressively, almost as if he was goading Kobe into his second technical. Am I the only one who saw this? Is this really kosher? It seems unlikely that Wunderlich wanted to T him up given the Donaghy accusations out this week, but still.

6) Last year, Sasha Vujacic couldn’t dribble and run at the same time. He couldn’t shoot, pass, play defence, or generally avoid screwing up. Now he’s the second-best player in the NBA Finals. How did that happen? I will now go grow my hair out long, hone my jump shot, and give myself an Eastern European girls name. Hi, I’m Martha.

7) Sam Cassell’s play in this series is startling, weird, and amusing if you don’t like the Celtics. Every time he touches the ball, he winds up shooting it, and whether he hits the shot or not, it wasn’t a good one to take. Essentially, Sam Cassell is out there playing like Eddie House…..on a team that also has Eddie House. (Insert Anchorman quote beginning “Take it easy, Champ”.) Doc Rivers finally figured this out in game three, gave Cassell the quick hook, and let Eddie House himself play the Eddie House role, but not before Cassell had managed to get up four shots in seven minutes. Hooray for heady veteran play!

8) Speaking of heady veteran play, congratulations to P.J. Brown for needlessly starting on Jordan Farmar, travelling, setting moving screens, being unable to get his lay-ups above rim height (that old quandary) and generally doing little worthwhile apart from one frozen rope jump shot. It was certainly the signing that put the Celtics over the top. And I heartily endorse having P.J. stay out there for 18 minutes in game three doing little worthwhile as Leon Powe watches on the sidelines, wondering quite what he did wrong in game two where he had more points scored than minutes played. I heartily endorse this because I want the Celtics to lose.

9) At some point in this series, there’s going to be a game where the Celtics score 21 in the fourth quarter, and Kobe scores 23 by himself. It may be tomorrow. You need to remember this.

10) You know that thing where a player runs into a cameraman while chasing a loose ball, there’s a few seconds of silence as the director whispers into the announcer’s ear, and then the announcer (now aware of the man’s name) goes on to congratulate the cameraman’s professionalism while generally acting all buddy-buddy towards a man whose name he didn’t know until ten seconds previously? We could probably do without this.

11) The announcing crew for these games has been awesome. Mike Breen is the new industry standard, Jeff Van Gundy is FAR better than I ever would have thought possible, and Mark Jackson is a lot more comfortable when you give him a third guy to work alongside. They have been intelligent, humorous, and fair. The presentation has been good in general, although bear in mind that I don’t get to see the ESPN studio line-up with Jon Barry and friends. We even managed to get through game three without a single unnecessary Michael Jordan comparison. Good times.

If they could stop the courtside celebrity shots, particularly those of Jack Nicholson, then we’re onto a winner.


Posted by at 5:04 AM