NBA Playoffs: I’ll Ask You One More Time

Well, I’ve been busy, that’s why there haven’t been more NBA cud-chewing. I had an earlier series of NBA questions about the fire-breathing, where’s-the-basketball gossip-fest that the NBA Finals have made of themselves. Anyway, been runnin’: two weeks left of school, and three weeks in this amazing country. (If you’d like a sense of what it’s like following the NBA from China, there’s this blow-by-commercial-blow account from another Miami-in-the-Finals episode of Sports TV in the Middle Kingdom.) Anyway, Game 5 starts in an hour. Here we go.

Slingshot Lewis. It goes *in*, though, and has for a long time.

Slingshot Lewis. It goes *in*, though, and has for a long time.

Can you imagine how brilliant a shooter Rashard Lewis could’ve been had someone taught him how at a younger age? What would that behind-the-head slingshot, what little kids trying to hoist a rock towards an unreachably high rim, look like if he’d been drafted by the Spurs and coached by shot-meister Chip Engelland? (Surely, not like this.)

Is it necessary to point to subterranean racism when LeBron’s cramping in game one draws the howls of Internet Toldja Boys reminding us that he’s not only human but morally inferior? (Answers, like a jerk, his own rhetorical question: Yes.)

How do the Game One officials miss that four-steps-after-the –bounce journey by LeBron – even James Harden only takes three in his chronic travels – with the change in direction after the first two? (The Jerk, again: it was the Superstar call, plus he did it so smoothly. They froze. That would’ve been an oh-s—t moment in the whistle-blower film review.) Or does the fact that I’m still harping about the best players on the planet getting away with sloppy face-ups and 2 or 3 extra steps on drives — passes that my mediocre high school players never got — a sign of rampant resentment and unresolved OCD issues? (Don’t answer that.)

Was that meaningless last-minute corner three by Kawhi Leonard actually brilliant teamsmanship by Ginobili to get him feeling good heading for game 2, or am I just too Spursy? (No need to reply to that one, either.)

When it rains in San Antonio, does it always pour? (Meteorological Heat-check – get it? tee-hee – Metaphor Alert! An MHMA!)

What in the world were we seeing in Games 3 and 4?

How did the Spurs just keep getting better when the jock punditocracy wrote them off starting, when, 2009? And especially after the Thunder threw a wrench in that dominant playoff run San Antonio was on in 2012? (Back then, it looked like the Spurs had been solved. Remember?)

How are the Mavericks feeling about themselves as they watch the Spurs work over the Blazers in 5 and the Thunder in 6, and especially the absolute dowsing of the Heat in Games 3 and 4? Do they think they could’ve played this Spurs team to a standstill? Does hope spring eternal in Dallas? (Will they pursue Carmelo Anthony?)

Concerning Chris Bosh’s Open Mouth: could there be a much greater contrast between his yawning cage of hyper-masculine attempted-alpha-male victory roars (spookily large, weirdly sustained, primitive) and the measured, obviously intelligent and surprisingly candid things that come out when he just, you know, talks?

Have you thought of how and what kind of work Greg Popovich has done, over years, to be able to sit down a well-established starter in Tiago Splitter and not have locker-room mutterings and crises? And is Duncan’s career of low-key, team-first ability to take the heat of Pop’s coaching, thereby setting an example for successive wearers of the black and silver, even a greater contribution to Spursian success than his Hall of Fame skills?

How bad are Dwyane Wade’s knees? Or has he just been allowed to defend so lackadaisically for so long that there’s no going back?

How big are Kawhi Leonard’s hands? (And does his pulse ever get over, say, 70 beats/min.?) How much does it get into teams’ heads that they just can’t get to him mentally, no matter how he’s playing? (I read Shaq recently, talking about how he could never get into Duncan’s head like he did with other great opponents: “I’d trash talk him, and he’d just look at me like I was stupid”. Gary Payton said similar things about the trouble with playing John Stockton: no sign, ever, that he even noticed the Great Glove was even there.)

While it may not be surprising that Shane Battier isn’t the supremo defender that he was when younger, how is it that he also doesn’t seem able to shoot the ball anymore? (Confidence: so powerful, so ephemeral.) Or is he just not willing to put in the work anymore after 12 grinding years?

Are humility and resolve being built up, say, in a Michael Beasley as he sees championship-calibre men and teamwork up close, or is he just glad to be around the Big Dogs?

I remember a thinner Boris Diaw being a funky, creative and versatile player for the Steve Nash Suns; how did everybody forget what he could do? How did he get reduced to man-boob jokes? (I blame Bill Simmons.)

Do we underrate coaching at the NBA level? (Yes.)

Do we credit the Spurs exclusively for bringing back the old-world adjective “delightful” into the lexicons of sports scribblers? Or is Grantland’s Zach Lowe also to be cited?

Is LeBron James wilting – no, not under pressure, come on, the man’s got two Finals MVPs and a gold medal! – but under the incredible minutes-load he’s had to carry this season, and for years now?

Did the Heat get comfy in the (L)Eastern Conference, knowing their next gear would be enough, or are they just worn down? Or are the Spurs playing at one of the highest levels we’ve seen a team sustain since, well, the early 2000s Spurs? (Or the three-peat Lakers.)

Am I the only one having flashbacks to Game 6 of the Finals last year? There were seconds, not a minimum of 48 minutes, to go, and I was asking myself, So who’s the MVP? Tony Parker? Could it be Leonard? Am I again experiencing, as a dyed-in-the-wool Spurs devotee, premature coronation?

How ridiculous is it that we are widely devaluing the Heat’s 4-year run of Finals appearances? Isn’t that actually pretty darned good?

A younger Mills, Australia on one arm and his Aboriginal roots on the other.

A younger Mills, Australia on one arm and his Aboriginal roots on the other.

Is Patty Mills a big deal in Australia? (For me, he’s a little like Danny Green – an apparently one-dimensional player who has Pop’s green light to do what he does, even when on most teams the pecking order would prevent him from launching so freely. He’s got a more complete offensive game that DG, though. Tough kid. All team.) Remember Cathy Freeman winning gold, as an Aboriginal Australian, in the Sydney Olympics 400 metres? Is the maniacally defending, ever-more confidently gunning Mills getting the same kind of socio-cultural run Down Under, given his heritage and the historic racism his people have experienced?

Do the Spurs consciously take a different approach to strength training than other NBA teams do? Have you noticed how their guys don’t tend to have mirror-friendly biceps? (Dwight Howard scoffs.) Has the North American game skewed too far towards muscle/power and away from quickness/skill? (Rhetorical Answer: Absolutely. Will young American players model themselves on players from the model NBA franchise? Not bloody likely.)

Do the Heat come out with something different for Game 5, or do they just try to do what they do better? Can anybody besides LeBron handle the ball up top for them?

Does Timmy go for his sixth title next year?

Okay, ‘nough o’ that. I really do sense a disturbance in your psycho-sportive Force, however, which might be eased by reading this. It will ease your way through the litany of commercials you’ve seen too many times by substituting the ads I’m sick of on CCTV 5 (China’s ESPN, sort of), or was, once upon a Dalian day.



Comment (1)

  1. Martin

    My Heat lost but I have to give it to the Spurs — they were incredible. Even last year I felt that Miami stole the victory. I wonder how the rumours about getting Anthony will play out.

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