Thursday, June 08, 2006

Finally Here


The NBA Finals begin tonight, which is great, but please pardon me if I'm coming off as a bit of a sour puss here, but it's about time. Listen, I don't mean to be a wet rag, but amd I the only one who thinks the NBA playoffs are just too long?

I mean, we've reached the point where they're extending almost into July. That's ridiculous.

This past weekend I got my first sunburn of the season. You know the one I'm talking about. The first time each summer you spend a lengthy amount of time in the sun and end up looking as red as Bill O'Reilly worked up about some damn liberal. The pain was awful and is only beginning to subside now. Movement is slowly returning. I began putting a t-shirt on Monday morning and I almost have it in place. Slowly, slowly does it.

The point is, once I get my first good sunburn of the season, my body subconsciously switches out of basketball mode for the year and won't kick back into gear in earnest until about the middle of January, 2007. Basketball is a winter/spring sport. It just is. It's meant to be watched while nestled on a warm couch as it snows or rains outside. I'm looking out my window at halftime of these games and the sun is still high and kids are playing. It doesn't seem right.

Toss in the fact that the World Cup starts tomorrow and, I have to admit, my attention span, or what's left of it, is way out of wack at the moment. Hell, the Tigers are in town playing the White Sox in a huge matchup featuring the teams with the two best records in baseball, so yeah, that's kind of important. Not to mention this weekend's series with the hated Tribe. The Red sox are playing the Yankees. Roger Clemems has removed the mothballs. Believe ot or not, pennant races are already blooming.

And basketball should be done by now. I'm sorry, and I'm not complaing, but it should be. I realize David Stern likes to make the playoffs virtually an entirely new season in and of themselves to maximize profits, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. It seems so freakin' long ago that I was all pumped about the Bulls playing the Heat in the first round. Tony Kornheiser mentioned on PTI recently that in the old days the first round was best of three, the second best of five, and only after that would series be best of seven. I like that system. It's never coming back, but I'd like it if it did. I mean, did the world really need the possibilty of seeing the Bucks or Grizzlies for seven games?

Anyway, now that I'm done bitching, let me just say that this is a very attractive matchup, and that has nothing to do with the women who populate South Beach. I love the fact that there is new blood present and both are emminently likeable. Had the Spurs and Pistons met in a rematch of last year I think my interest level would have sunk to somewhere between NASCAR and the mating habits of chimps. Between Shaq and Mark Cuban, who are 1 and 1A on the list of most enjoyable characters in the NBA as far as I'm concerned, you really can't go wrong. It also doesn't hurt that following all the raging debate about who should have been MVP, the two dudes who have looked most deserving in the all-important post-season, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade, are both here.

How great is that we will be spared Larry Brown rumors, Rasheed Wallace's childish outbursts, and the continual whining of the Spurs that would make the Italian soccer team proud? We should consider ourselves lucky.

It's actually amazing how little parity there has been in the NBA since the start of the 1980's. Think about it. It seems as though if a team makes it to the Finals once, they're destined to be back several more times in the near future. From the Celtics and Lakers in the days of Magic and Bird to the Bad Boys Pistons to MJ's Bulls to the repeat Rockets to the dysfuntional Lakers of Shaq and Kobe right up until the Spurs and Pistons of recent years there has been a shocking number of return visitors. It's a far cry from the Super Bowl, the history of which is littered with teams who rose up for one year and then disappeared. So in this regard I'm gald to know that somebody new will be lifting the trophy. If there is one thing I find boring it's a dynasty, provided it does not take place in Chitown, in which case I'm all for it.

You also have to love the fact that, on paper at least, this series is up in the air. It's highly conceivable that Shaq and Wade are the best 1-2 combo in the league right now and playing their best basketball of the season and on the verge of winning Pat Riley his first championship ring since Magic had hair. It's also conceivable that the good thing the Mavs have been building up ever since Cuban purchased the team is about to bubble over and Avery Johnson is about to emerge as the coach of the future and Dirk Nowitzki as the baddest man of the present. There is no definite favorite. There isn't even a slight favorite here and I like that. Hell, I may even find time to watch as I slowly slip into a nirvana-like state of pure bliss where nothing, and I mean nothing, exists except the World Cup. And really, I think I'm already just about there.

The pick? I'm going to go with the Mavericks in seven. The thought of the very bad things Shaq is going to do to Eric Dampier, combined with my rooting interest in the South Side-bred Wade, had me momentarily leaning in Miami's direction, but this is one of those series where, after much examinantion and crunching of numbers, you're still cluless and eventually just say, Ah, to hell with it, give me the home team in the seventh game. Well, at least that's what I'm saying.

So there you have it. Now that's analysis.

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