It was the best of seasons and the worst of seasons. So here’s what I liked and didn’t like during the entire shebang.
• Why does owning an NBA team make guys like Donald Sterling, “Guitar Jimmy” Dolan, and Robert Sarver think they understand the game more than their general managers and coaches? Although his dad owns the Lakers, Jimmy Buss runs the show so he also fits into this category of nincompoops.
• How boring was Detroit? Rather than have to suffer through eyeballing a Pistons game, I’d prefer to watch 24 hours of The Sound of Music reruns.
• What a sorry end to Shaq’s career. That last stumbling reverse layup he made against the Heat was certainly embarrassing and was probably physically painful. In truth, Shaq should have retired two years ago but was reluctant to give up the spotlight.
• The Knicks’ failure to keep Donnie Walsh is a disaster of major proportions. There were several sound reasons why Walsh didn’t sign off on the ‘Melo trade. Besides being selfish, defenseless, having sticky fingers, passing only under the most extreme duress and not coming to play every game, ‘Melo is a loser. (He shot a measly 37.5 percent during the playoffs.) The Knicks will never seriously contend for a championship as long as Anthony is on the team.
• As LeBron’s stats proved in Game 5 of the championship series, double-doubles and triple-doubles are mostly meaningless. The sheer accumulation of numbers fails to address when the points were scored, how many assists accrued because of a sensational move by the recipient, and what kind of rebounds were counted (missed free throws and other uncontested grabs?). By simply watching the progress of a game and noting the final score, an interested observer should be able to determine the impact that any given player had without resorting to numbers. But without endlessly keeping track of, and referring to numbers what would the majority of play-by-play and color guys have to yap about?
• Speaking of misleading numbers, those racked up by Kevin Love should be viewed with suspicion. Good stats tallied by a player on a very bad team offer no clue as to how the player will react in pressure situations. High-volume scoring and rebounding are easy tasks when a team is rarely competing for a win.
• How to account for the dismal playoff performances of Pau Gasol and Glen Davis? Some personal unresolved dramas? Lack of adequate game preparation? Secret injuries? Whatever the reasons might be, there are no acceptable excuses. Business is business.
• When is LeBron going to stop relying on his buddies for advice? The immature leading the immature only leads to misguided “decisions” and dumb post-series pronouncements that lame apologies cannot correct. It’s past time for LeBron to put a certified grownup in charge of his advisory group.
• Is it me? Or has the officiating gone from bad to worse?
Aside from the multitude of calls they either got wrong or simply missed, it seems the whistle tooters were too quick to call flagrant fouls. Every flop, every necessarily unequal collision between bigs and smalls resulted in penalties and outright banishments.
Yes, officiating NBA games is a difficult task because the players are so big, so quick and so incredibly athletic. At the same time, the tooters should have a better understanding of what is meaningless contact and what contact creates an advantage.
As it is, instead of truly appreciating the beauty of the game and the requisite physicality therein, refs are trained to look for mistakes.
• The inevitable lockout is infuriating. Worse, I find it difficult to sympathize with either the millionaires or the billionaires. A pox on both their houses.
• I’m not ashamed to admit I thoroughly enjoyed the Mavs’ triumph over the Heat. The righteousness of team play over individual brilliance should be self-evident to all but the most zealous Miami-LeBron fanatics.
• My displeasure with the vast canon of LeBron’s arrogant deeds, braggadocio and petulant whinings (not to mention his "The Chosen 1" tattoo) has been well documented. While it’s too strong to call me a LBJ "hater," a "disliker" would be more appropriate. In any event, my strongest feeling regarding LeBron is disappointment. He has had (and still has) the ability to command such an enormous amount of media attention as to be a positive presence. If Charles Barkley shuns being a role model for anyone, LeBron has the opportunity to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and be a feel-good inspirational figure to basketball fans and children of all ages.
• Even though Dwyane Wade adopted several of LBJ’s more disagreeable characteristics, here’s why he still remains the superior player:
D-Wade has a better post-up game, as well as a better mid-range game. He’s also a better baseline-driver.
D-Wade is quicker making decisions and quicker implementing them.
His behind-the-back change-of-direction is tighter, quicker and much more effective.
Wade takes better care of the ball and he’s at least an equable passer.
His straight-up man-to-man defense is better.
Against the Mavs, the Heat were more effective when LeBron was sitting and Wade was the focus of the offense.
D-Wade is a proven winner, while James is still dreaming of winning.
• While he was coaching the Pistons, Rick Carlisle was lambasted for not getting along with his players and for not being a good interview. Since he was cut loose by Detroit, none of his successors — Larry Brown, Flip Saunders, Michael Curry or John Kuester — has likewise been able to get along with the squad’s veteran players. Also, Carlisle’s obvious impatience with pointless questions has been ameliorated by his stint in front of the camera at ESPN.
The point being that coaches don’t suddenly become championship-winning geniuses.
• The Clippers were still a bad team but the dynamic emergence of Blake Griffin was a major surprise (at least to me), and made the team more interesting than it’s been in years.
• Nate McMillan is as good a coach as there is in the NBA. Even though Greg Oden was lost for the duration and injuries greatly limited Brandon Roy’s effectiveness, McMillan still managed to lead Portland to a 48-34 record and extend Dallas to six games in the opening round of the playoffs.
• A tip of the proverbial cap to Amar’e Stoudemire for his courageous performances throughout the season. He undeniably demonstrated heart and leadership by playing excess minutes during the regular season, and by playing hurt in the postseason series against Boston. The fact that he really can’t coexist with ‘Melo isn’t Stoudemire’s fault. But "STAT" deserves credit for evolving into a mature individual.
If he doesn’t suffer any additional debilitating injuries (thinking that such an outcome was inevitable is the main reason Phoenix failed to make a serious attempt to re-sign him), Stoudemire certainly has Hall-of-Fame skills. His ultimate destination is up to him — and to (ugh!) Dolan.