As instant as the court of public opinion is I thought I would jump in with my instant reaction/analysis of the coronation… so in my typical bullet point fashion, here are my thoughts as the confetti continues to fall:
Old is New Again: I’m not talking about age here. Back when I began watching basketball (oh so long ago!) it seemed like teams on the rise simply could never make it to the top until they had experienced setbacks along the way. The Celtics and Lakers paid their dues…then the Pistons did…then the Bulls did. For a while that seemed to have waned a bit, but it seems to be on its way back to the norm. Miami, even brought together by the benjamins instead of from the ground up, had to learn how to win through disappointment. Oklahoma City seems to be heading down that same path after Western Conference finals and NBA finals disappointment in back to back years. Their time will come, and soon. And we also may be looking at a matchup that could repeat in years to come like the Celtics & Lakers used to.
Lebron – He did it. He didn’t have to hit last second shots, but that doesn’t diminish that he finally didn’t shrink on the biggest stage, and he even thrived. Two triple-doubles, a clutch 3 in game 4 with both quads cramping severely, all-out hustle, excellent defense… there’s nothing about his finals performance that leaves question about his greatness.
Mike Miller – Really?! Miller is the second name off my lips? I’ve liked Mike Miller for a while (with a direct correlation to a fantasy basketball season where he took care of me) and felt bad as he ran into injury after injury. Either coming into the series or after Game 1, Miller told his teammates that they needed to make this happen because this is probably it for his career due to all of his injuries. I am very confident that after this, we have seen the last of Mike Miller on the court. This season he didn’t average even 20 minutes in the regular season and averaged even fewer in the postseason. In the previous 3 games he played 11 minutes COMBINED and made only 1 field goal. But with everything on the line and a chance to go out a winner he turned back the clock for one amazing night. In 23 minutes Miller was a sniper, shooting 7-8 from behind the arch and finishing with 23 points and 5 rebounds. His is the kind of story that makes me love sports.
Battier – There are special basketball players that statistics will never be able to quantify. Shane Battier is one of those players. He was the most important free agent signing in the offseason. Yep, he of the 4.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 23 minutes per game in the regular season was the lynchpin of a championship run. How many guys do you know that could, when they get to the biggest stage, be asked to defend the current year’s scoring title winner and respond by playing great defense, while seeing an increase in their minutes by over 60%, and increase their scoring by 240%?! Only Lebron and Wade were on the court more minutes than Battier in the Finals for the Heat. It’s said that winners win (from the department of redundancy department)…and Battier is a perfect example (and well-rounded to boot!). He won 3 state championships in high school and was Mr. Basketball in the state of Michigan. He went to Duke University and at an elite academic institution was a 2 time Academic All-American including being THE Academic All-American of the Year his senior year. And by the way he won a national title while getting his 3rd national defensive player of the year award and scoring over 700 points his senior year. And after years of showing his belief that the team was far more important than the individual, he elevated his team from bridesmaid to bride and got yet another championship.
Winners – Speaking of winners just winning… I believe that Mario Chalmers has again proved that he is more than willing to hit key shots on the road to a championship.
Bosh – The third wheel of the All-Star trio proved his value this postseason once he returned from injury toward the end of the Celtics series. He was a key part of the Game 7 victory and then stepped up his minutes in the finals back toward his normal levels and averaged a double-double in the Finals. And let’s be honest…his getting a ring is the best thing that’s happened to Georgia Tech basketball in a couple of years.
I could keep going, but I really should have already called it a night… But I would be remiss if I didn’t have a couple of parting thoughts about the Thunder:
Durant – He is the real deal. He’s an artist and an assassin in the 4th quarter. I’d love to be looking at the future knowing that he’s in my corner. And mark my words… this loss will only elevate his game.
Harden – Instead of fearing the beard, it really felt like the beard was trying to cover his fear. I fully expect Harden to bounce back and handle things differently in the future, but his disappearance was probably the biggest anvil that kept the Thunder from rising.
Westbrook – He had flashes of absolute brilliance. He had a game where all but the final 3 minutes were worthy of and ESPN Instant Classic. He’s special. But he has to figure out that when THE shot has to happen, Durant is the one that needs to have the ball in his hands. And he has to stop the foolish turnovers that seem like a lack of concentration. He’s too good for that.
Rolling Thunder – Next year their big 4 will be 24, 24, 23, & 23 and they all have NBA Finals experience. I had a really good year with my predictions this year and nailed the finals. What does that have to do with OKC?! If you are a Thunder fan you should hope for my same level of accuracy next season, because I can already tell you where I’m leaning…