The NBA Finals Left Me Feeling Empty
June 29, 2009 by Sean Crowe • Print Story •
The Los Angeles Lakers are NBA champions.
Kobe Bryant finally won his championship without Shaq. The Orlando Magic put up a valiant struggle, but in the end, could muster only a single win; the first NBA Finals victory in their franchise's history.
Kobe was MVP, Phil Jackson won his record 10th NBA championship, and we were entertained by those puppet commercials constantly kicking LeBron James in the groin for a week and a half.
And yet the Finals left me feeling ... empty. Unfulfilled.
At first, I just assumed it was because the Lakers won. I can't stand the Lakers, and I completely and utterly loathe Kobe Bryant. To add insult to injury, Phil Jackson star-bleeped his way past Red Auerbach into the records books as the most decorated head coach in NBA history.
You can understand why that would leave me feeling a little empty inside.
But that wasn't the reason. The Lakers were actually one of three teams who should have won the championship this year. The Lakers did exactly what they were supposed to do. They're deserving champions. Congratulations to them.
My issue is with the way the Eastern Conference shook out.
The Orlando Magic made bad basketball an art form and three-point shot their way into the NBA Finals. They featured a bunch of talented players who did nothing but settle for bad three-pointers and a "dominating" center without a single offensive move in his repertoire.
They had no business in the NBA Finals. None. They went on an insane run where every three-pointer they took went in. The step-back-fade-away-three is supposed to be a once in a lifetime shot, but they were hitting four or five of them every fourth quarter.
It was unbelievable, to the point where I still sometimes choose to believe it never happened.
In a way, this all reminds me of the 1985-86 season. The Celtics lost to the Lakers in the previous NBA Finals. Everyone knew it would be a Celtics/Lakers rematch in 1986.
The Celtics held up their part of the bargain and made it to the Finals, but the Lakers didn't. The Lakers choked to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, effectively stealing the Celtics' chance at redemption.
By the time the Celtics and Rockets met, the result was a foregone conclusion. Just like this year's Lakers/Magic series.
I don't remember feeling empty in 1986, and I'm sure Lakers fans don't feel empty right now. But you have to admit, a victory over the Celtics would have meant a little more than a victory over the Magic. Just like a victory over the Lakers would have meant a little more to Boston than the victory over Houston did in '86.
At least the Celtics had an excuse. Kevin Garnett's injury effectively destroyed their shot at an NBA championship. They put up a valiant effort, but in the end The Truth was they just weren't good enough without their Hall of Fame big man.
The Cavs are a completely different story. Once it became apparent that the Celtics weren't going to win a championship, the next best thing was a LeBron/Kobe death match.
Who's number one? Who's the best in the NBA? Who's the next Michael Jordan?
But the Cavs were done in by the worst head coaching job in recent NBA history and a superstar who completely ran out of gas.
Memo to Mike Brown: MAKE A GOD DAMN DEFENSIVE ADJUSTMENT EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE!
Expecting James to be the scorer, playmaker, best defender, and head coach is too much to put on any player. Even one that's superhuman like LeBron.
All Mike Brown, NBA Coach of the Year, had to do was make a defensive adjustment. Any adjustment. He was coaching against Stan Van Gundy, for crying out loud.
Draw up a defense that involved either double-teaming Dwight Howard or staying with the three-point shooters. The half-assed, almost-doing-both plan that he went with the entire Eastern Conference Finals should have resulted in him being fired.
God only knows why he wasn't.
In a way, the Shaq trade is good for Cleveland. Say what you want about Shaq (he's old, doesn't fit into their offense, will clog up the lane and turn James into a jump shooter, etc.), but when it comes to a head coach, he's perfectly willing to call a spade a spade.
Just ask Stan Van Gundy.
The Magic were able to take advantage of a beat up Celtics team and a completely over-his-head head coach to steal the Eastern Conference championship. Good for them. Congratulations.
But they'll have to forgive me if the beating they took by the Lakers wasn't the ending I was hoping to get out of the 2008-09 NBA season.
Let's all hope that Kevin Garnett stays healthy and Mike Brown is fired during the 2009-10 season so we don't have to put up with this again.
The NBA Gods righted themselves after the 1985-86 season by giving us the Lakers/Celtics rematch we deserved. Here's the hoping the NBA Gods do the same thing next season.