After letting game 7 between the Spurs and Heat sink in for almost 24 hours, I’m still incredibly impressed by the quality of play and the competitiveness of the series. It could be the best series I have watched in my nearly 20 years of watching basketball. I think I texted “This is AWESOME!” about 53 times last night to friends, family and random numbers.
Here are a few of my thoughts about what we just witnessed:
- Even with Danny Green’s subpar shooting in games 6 and 7, what we witnessed in the first 5 games of the series was pretty incredible. Not unbelievable considering the guy led the league in 3pt shooting percentage on spot up threes. But many of those “heat check” shots came off the bounce or from way downtown.
- I think Tony Parker clearly wasn’t healthy. I’m not sure if the Spurs would have won the title with a full healthy Parker, and it’s not like the series could be any closer, but who knows… He is really, really, really good, and the only point guards I think might be better, MIGHT, are Chris Paul and Russel Westbrook. I see no other reason why he didn’t play well in the final games of the series, especially for a guy who has been so good in big games in his career.
- Don’t hate on Chris Bosh too much. The guy is still a great NBA player. He has transformed himself into a Nowitski level mid range shooter over the past few years and is integral to the way the Heat play. Even though his offensive and rebounding stats don’t jump off the board much from the Finals, he had a very impactful series and was a big part of the Heat’s victory, not to mention their amazing regular season. Maybe I don’t want him on my team for $19 million next season if I’m another team, but with how he fits with the other Heat players and organization, they should not trade him.
- Even with Dwyane Wade’s resurgence in game 7 and in the latter part of the series, he is not someone that can be counted on to be a superstar anymore. Sure there are flashes of brilliance, as he showed, but he can’t be counted on to play an 82 game series at All NBA level and through the 4 rounds of the playoffs. This is no fault of his own. When a player that athletic plays as hard as he has over the past decade, his body is bound to wear down. He is going to be 32 midway through next season. I think it is time that Spoelstra takes the Popovich approach and rests him more in the regular season a la Tim Duncan. He can still be a bona fide star in this league, just no longer a Superstar. There is a difference.
- Speaking of Tim Duncan, the guy is truly amazing. I know he missed that gimme that he has made thousands of times that would have tied the game late, but the Spurs wouldn’t be anything without him. Since he was drafted he has been incredible. Year in and year out an All NBA performer for the better part of 15 years. The guy is efficient of offense, the leader on defense and the rock that is the Spurs. He will go down as the greatest power forward of all time and one of the top 5 players ever. And he isn’t even done. I’m convinced he could play another 3 years at 25-30 minutes a game. He is the focal point of that team and allows the other players to play their game, and allows the front office to be flexible and creative in filling out the roster. As much as I hated the Spurs as they were beating up the Kings in the late 90′s and early 2000′s, I can’t imagine the Spurs without Duncan, and don’t want him to retire anytime soon. His game is just too good.
- Ginobli on the other hand looks done. I’ve never been a fan of him, mostly because he always killed the Kings, but there is no denying his impact on the Spurs, the NBA and the world of basketball. His game is unique, exciting, reckless and until this year fantastic. Except for his one good game, he was pretty terrible. My friends were even joking last night that with how poorly he played down the stretch, he must have had a bunch of money on the Heat at +6. He’s like that Toby Keith song, As Good As I Once Was. Youtube Video. Maybe the Spurs bring him back in a reduced role on a greatly reduced salary, but I think he might end up hanging ‘em up. Not based on inside info, I’m just a kid in front of my computer and TV, but based on what the talking heads on TV say.
- I think it is ludicrous for us and all the talking heads on TV to be questioning Greg Popovich’s decisions at the end of game 6 and game 7. The guy is the best coach in the league and one of the greatest coaches of ALL TIME. He knows his players, the situation and has a better feel about what to do than pretty much anyone else. Unless Phil Jackson mentions something on Twitter about it, I don’t think any of us have any place to talk.
- On that note, Erik Spoelstra is having quite a start to his career. Two straight championships, three straight trips to the NBA Finals and some great adjustments such as going to small ball last year when Bosh got hurt, continuing it this year and switching to Mike Miller in the starting lineup during the later part of these playoffs. I don’t know how much of his success is a product of Pat Riley, or the super stars on his team, but it is still impressive what he has accomplished already. Jeff VanGundy surely thinks highly of him.
- Now to LeBron James. WOW. The guy is amazing. As Zach Lowe wrote today on Grantland.com, it is definitely time to stop questioning LeBron’s greatness. The guy is an absolute stud. He plays 4 defensive positions at an All Pro level, is efficient on offense while still scoring in the high twenties every game, has the highest scoring average OF ALL TIME in game sevens, is as versatile as can be, and despite Skip Bayless’s attempts to convince us all he doesn’t have the clutch gene, there is far more evidence showing him as clutch and one of the greatest players of all time. On Inside the Numbers, or whatever that ESPN daytime show is called, they were showing how LeBron is ahead of Jordan at this point in their careers in playoff series wins, playoff win percentage, NBA titles, All Star Games and a number of other stats, basically saying he is on pace to become the GOAT, by a numbers stand point. My full opinion on this may come in another blog post in the future, but for now I will leave it with a point my friend Abe said; it is all about eras. People who experienced the entirety of Jordan’s career or are Bulls fans will always be pro Jordan. Those of us who missed the majority of Jordan’s peak and who have witnessed LeBron these past ten years, will lean towards James, as long as the trajectory continues. There is no way to legitimately claim LeBron as the greatest right now (maybe just HALFWAY through his career), but in 5 years, who knows.
- Perhaps my favorite thing about the entire series was the performance by Kawhi Leonard. My friends and I were texting during the Spurs v Warriors series about who we would rather have, Leonard or Harrison Barnes. We were split about 50/50 based on the great offensive performance of Barnes during the beginning of that series. Now however, it is Leonard in a landslide. His offensive game is growing rapidly, but where he really shines is on defense and more specifically rebounding. I want him on my team, no matter who the other 5 players are. He makes winning hustle plays. Even though he missed that free throw in game 6, he is still a winner in my opinion. He plays in an absolute calm, boards over bigger defenders, shoots over smaller defenders, posts up weaker defenders like Mike Miller and played James about as well as anyone could possibly play him, until James’s shot started falling in game 7. I expect him to be a bigger part of the team next year and average a double double. Something like 18 ppg and 11 rpg wouldn’t be out of the question and would make him one of the best small forwards in the league, and one of only two players, (Paul George being the other), that have a chance at slowing down LeBron or Kevin Durant. With Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs have their emotional rock, team leader and all-star of the future. They probably need another stud to pair with Leonard and Tony Parker once Duncan retires, but for a team that has been to the playoffs 16 straight years with a similar core, their future still looks bright thanks to this kid. He vaulted into one of my favorite players in the league, despite being a Spur.