Realistically… no one has a clue which teams will play in the NBA’s Spring Classic.
Oh, sure, there are millions who want the spoon-fed Cleveland Cavaliers/Los Angeles Lakers matchup just as they clamored for these same Lakers against the eventual champion Boston Celtics eleven months ago.
There are millions who just don’t want to see Kobe Bryant playing in his sixth Finals; skeptically wondering if – or vehemently demanding to know why – we’re supposed to forget about Colorado as the arguably best player in the world has found himself back in the spotlight for sterling play. He’s also finding himself back in the good graces with some on Madison Avenue as there is a player of comparable skills, intensity and jersey sales that he can be paired up with (hint: it’s LeBron James!).
There are plenty who do want to see KB81, Pau Gasol and their teammates lose again in June; harkening the pointing and laughing that the New England Patriots endured after losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42 as if the word ‘hubris’ was created for that thrilling, but agonizing night.
There are many in the masses who want to see James shine again in the Finals, but with a different result. After being annihilated by Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs in 2007, the Cavs reloaded for what has been destined to be a return appearance. The cast of characters should be far better in this play as Mo Williams, an underrated Delonte West and a very good team defense should give us a better show. For all of the Biblical references that surround him, James has done everything humanly possible to match the hype and expectations since he arrived on the scene. Yet, as we all know, that means little in this ‘win today or leave tomorrow’ culture.
Deep down, I want to see the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic ruin all of our visions of seven grueling games of Number 24 versus Number 23.
I don’t want to sabotage the Dream Finals so much as I wonder how many of these recently converted NBA fans are really going to hunker down and watch teams from seemingly unsexy markets do battle for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Neither the Nuggets nor the Magic have that superstar – a term used far too loosely these days – who brings instant recognition from the unfamiliar. Denver’s Carmelo Anthony has been one of the best players in the NBA since he arrived with James and Miami’s Dwayne Wade, his fellow classmates of the 2003 Draft who have actually reached (in Wade’s case, won) the Finals before Anthony finally made it out of the first round during these playoffs. Dwight Howard came out of high school one year later and is a consistent jump shot away from truly becoming the league’s most dominant big man. Yet, ‘Melo has never seemed comfortable in the non-basketball glare while for Howard and his goofy-but-fun personality, big men other than Shaquille O’Neal or Yao Ming don’t sell the way the ‘little’ guys do, regardless of what Greg Oden tells you.
Neither the Nuggets nor the Magic were supposed to be in the conversation of the best teams in the league. Yet, despite Boston’s title defense and hype around western teams such as New Orleans and San Antonio, this quartet features the teams that have been the absolute best from start to finish all season long. It took a long time to warm up to Denver, even after the trade for Chauncey Billups, because of the franchise’s recent implosions. The Magic were supposed to have been a second-round casualty because their offensive playbook consisted of just two plays: throw the ball inside to Howard and shoot a three.
These are two teams that outside of the keenest NBA observers are not following the script. In Johnny Ludden’s column for Yahoo! Sports, Kenyon Martin said it perfectly after his team spoiled The Lake Show in Game 2:
“Y’all can go home and play NBA Live or something,” K-Mart grunted, “if y’all want to see that matchup.”If both of these teams win out and meet in the Finals, will many of you turn off the TV because the Dream Series that has been projected since last fall did not come to fruition? Any combination of these final four teams will provide us with a great championship series, no matter which names receive top billing. Let’s just hope that the sporting public will afford the same interest and appreciation, regardless of which teams are left standing.
“They got a fight on their hand over here,” Martin said. “And Cleveland got a fight on their hand, as well. It ain’t just going to be us and Orlando lay down, so they can play in two weeks.
“That ain’t going to happen. I’m going to make sure it don’t.”
Say What?!?!: Speaking of Madison Avenue, this article just came through Advertising Age's website while putting this post together. Not everyone will be excited if this 'dream' comes true.