Monday, June 11th, 2007 at 2:19 pm  |  58 responses

Links: NBA Finals Diary, Day 5

Don’t stop believin’ Cavs fans. OK, maybe you can stop now.

by Lang Whitaker

It’s 6:00 a.m. and I’m sitting in the airport in Austin, Texas. Ben and I left San Antonio at 4:10 a.m. and made the hour drive in the darkness, listening to the XM radio in our rental car and trying to see if the stars at night really do shine big (not particularly) and bright (nope) deep in the heart of Texas.

Why are we in Austin instead of San Antonio? There are no direct flights from San Antonio to any of the three airports in the New York City area. And there’s nothing worse than having to make a connection somewhere in Kansas or Chicago or wherever when all you really want to be is at home.

Actually, I don’t really want to be at home today. I’d much rather have gone from San Antonio directly to Cleveland, where I could check in to my hotel, do some work and catch up on some sleep. But today is Wifey’s birthday, and try as I might — and please believe me, I really tried — there was no getting around missing it. So I’m flying into NYC for about 14 hours and then flying back out to Cleveland early tomorrow morning. Ah, the things we do for love…or at least for marriage and a joint bank account.

When Game Two ended last night, Ben and I went down toward the locker rooms but skipped out on the Cavs room, which must have been moribund. We ended up rapping with a couple of people who are each well-known by one name and then swinging by the Spurs locker room, where Sisqo Elson was speaking to a huge posse of cameras. When he finished with the larger group, several local San Antonio sports anchors began jockeying for one-on-one time. With Francisco Elson. We also saw Eva Longoria in the hallway again. No way she weighs more than 80 pounds. This doesn’t particularly bother me but Ben seemed to take extreme personal offense at her fitness. Terence Howard was with her too, wearing a Tony Parker jersey. Ben remembered Terence Howard hails from Cleveland, and there were a couple of dudes in Cavs shirts giving him a hard time about something, which he was trying to laugh off. I wanted to give him a hard time about being the guy who had no rhythm in “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”

Also, as we were leaving, we ended up behind Mike Brown as he walked to the interview room to face the media. We were walking one way and Terrell Owens came around a corner, alone, and shook Brown’s hand.

After the game we went back downtown, where once again Spurs fans were running the takeover on the city streets. Those people are nothing if not dedicated to celebrating NBA Finals wins. A few people even had the brooms out.

We decided to walk over to the media hospitality joint so I could grab my 8,126th Shiner Bock of the last few days. A few minutes after we arrived, David Aldridge came in and informed us that a showing of The Sopranos finale was going to take place at 12:30 a.m. We grabbed chairs and settled in, and right at 12:30 someone pressed play. It was amusing to see a room full of well-known journalists all sitting on top of each other and on the floor, completely silent for an hour. It was also amusing when Jason Whitlock got tired of people hitting the buffet spread behind him and decided to move the table out of the way. I ended up helping a security guy from the hotel slide the table over to the corner, and as I ran back to my seat the security guy knocked over a huge plate of cheese and meats. The plate shattered on the floor and food went everywhere. I think Ben is still laughing about this. Also, a shoutout to Dan Wetzel for reserving my seat for me.

While we were watching the show, about halfway through it the quality of the tape got pretty bad, so the audio was all screwy. Then, when the show ended suddenly, everyone immediately figured it was the tape messing up. Then the credits started rolling. Everyone kind of stood up and looked around. I asked Aldridge if Mike Brown had written that final scene. Then we all left. As Ben and I walked back to the hotel we discussed it and couldn’t really figure it out. Did he die? Didn’t he? I don’t know, and I don’t think it matters, really. Yes, it might matter if you’re the kind of person who needs linear story-telling with absolute endings, but if you can just appreciate it as an entertaining hour of your life, then you should have loved it.

I also like this theory I saw posted over at Deadspin: “So here is what I found out. The guy at the bar is also credited as Nikki Leotardo. The same actor played him in the first part of season 6 during a brief sit down concerning the future of Vito. That wasn’t that long ago. Apparently, he is the nephew of Phil. Phil’s brother Nikki Senior was killed in 1976 in a car accident. Absolutely Genius!!! David Chase is truly rewarding the true fans who pay attention to detail. So the point would have been that life continues and we may never know the end of the Sopranos. But if you pay attention to the history, you will find that all the answers lie in the characters in the restaurant. The trucker was the brother of the guy who was robbed by Christopher in Season 2. Remember the DVD players? The trucker had to identify the body. The boy scouts were in the train store and the black guys at the end were the ones who tried to kill Tony and only clipped him in the ear (was that season 2 or 3?).”

Anyway, two games are dunzo and the Spurs have presented a completely convincing argument that they are a better basketball team than the Cleveland Cavaliers. Everyone in San Antonio seemed to think Cleveland’s only chance to beat the Spurs would be to try and out-run the Spurs. Which may be more effective than trying to play them in a halfcourt game, but that’s not the way the Cavs played this season, and I’ve got my own conspiracy theory about this.

The Cavs have made little secret of the fact that they’re trying to build something bigger for the long-term. When I went to Cleveland for that LeBron cover story a few months ago, they said a few times that they were aiming for a title next season. And now they’re there a year early. The things Mike Brown stressed all year was their defense and their halfcourt offense. Right now they’re being exposed as not very good at either of those things, at least not as good as the Spurs at either thing. And maybe Mike Brown and Danny Ferry are looking at this trip to the Finals as a little bonus — they made it, they weren’t expecting to be good enough to make it, but they made it, so instead of scrapping what they want this team to be about, the Cavs decided to stick to their game and keep playing their way. If that means losing four straight, that means losing four straight. But to the Cavs, nothing is more important than sticking to their system. Perhaps not even a championship.

Now, I’m not saying I’m correct about this theory, but I’ve had a lot of time to sit around and think about nothing the last few days, and it’s the only logical reason I can come up with to explain what the Cavs are doing — the stubborn refusal to push tempo, the odd substitutions and matchups. And unless they start Tony Soprano at the three for Game Three, this is going to be a short Finals.

Also, let’s open these comments up to Sopranos talk. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read the comments. Enough of everyone tip-toeing around what they thought. Have at it.

That’s it. More tomorrow.

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  • Detroit11

    Hi Lang

  • white hot eboy

    Lang, just like the Cavs, we (the viewers) were “wacked” at the end of the episode last night. Since we are never going to see the future of the Soprano family play out. That’s what the cut to black meant. Chase hinted at it a few weeks ago in an interview. And that guy in the Members Only jacket was not the same actor as the one who played Phil’s nephew ealrier. Just speculation on other people’s part. The cast sheet doesn’t list him as anything else than “guy in the Members Only jacket”. Kind of like Lebrons extremely pedestrian play for the last two games.

  • JJ

    Lang, why does the XML link go to XXL’s feed and not SLAM’s?

  • http://espn.com Reggie Evans

    I think it’s an allegory. I get allegories in the spring.

  • http://vacationlane.blogspot.com Punisher

    I think pushing the tempo would give the Cavs less of a chance of winning. If high-powered O’s like the Nuggets and Suns couldn’t win that way, how could Cleveland do better?

  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    Since we’re talking about it now… I liked how the Sphinx cat started looking at Paulie when he took the job, signifying that Paulie is going to die on the job.
    A.J. had a huge role in the episode, and that was unfortunate. Although the Rocky scene was a highlight.
    As someone who does not need a linear ending and can be entertained for an hour, it was still disappointing. I guess they are trying to say that when you are killed, it’s just bam everything goes black and that’s how it ends.
    Parallel parking can be frustrating, they nailed that.

  • white hot eboy

    Sam, which theory about the cat do you like better? That the cat kept staring at Christopher’s picture because he knew Chrissy was a rat or that the cat was Adrianna re-incarnated?

  • white hot eboy

    And what about the idea that the guy at the counter was actually an FBI agent keeping tabs on Tony. So many questions…

  • Cheryl

    I’ve heard they just wanted to end it like that to be followed by a big screen version. Remember how the X-Files did that? Wasn’t very successful. LOST better not end like that, after having invested what, six years?? I will shoot somebody…

  • white hot eboy

    Cheryl, if you knew Tony was “whacked” and wouldn’t be in the movie, would you still be interested in seeing it? My vote is no.

  • nic

    im sorry, but according to “the way of the gun” a Member’s Only jacket automatically equals a bagman. and we all know what that means…

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Sam, I don’t think Tony died, though. I think it was us, the viewer, who died. We were in their lives, watching them like some omniscient narrator, and then then suddenly we were cut out from their lives, just like that.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Also, my favorite scene was probably when Paulie was going to kill the cat with that broom and Tony walked in, so Paulie had to half-heartedly pretend to be sweeping the floor. In that case Paulie was the Spurs and the Cavs were the cat. The Spurs were going to end it in one fell swoop, but the Sternbot reminded them that they have to win 4 games, so instead the Spurs are just kind of hanging around.
    I also loved the line where AJ blurted out something extreme — maybe it was about ending the dependence on foreign oil — and Paulie let out a classic, “Oh!”

  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    Lang, that is what I meant. We are the ones that were whacked and left in darkness and not knowing why it happened. It was unsatisfying as I suppose death is. That doesn’t make it a good ending for a TV show.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    I guess you wanted The Others to ride in on a boat and let all the Heroes climb on board?

  • http://www.nba.com MALONE_FT_CLOCK

    tony soprano is my bitch

  • Homie

    moribund, lang? nice vocab!

  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    We can argue about this in Cleveland if we have to.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Sam: The show was always trying to be realistic, and what in life is more realistic than unsatisfying endings?

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Ryan, I don’t know if that was a zing, but it was a good one.

  • Cheryl

    No, but attempts to whack Tony, and how he gets out of it, might make me want to rent the DVD…

  • Cheryl

    Ryan, you sound like a guy who’s had his heart broken a time or two, or maybe went past the 36 hour limit on your dosage… ;-) –ASPOV

  • Ltrain3000

    Paulie was just money the whole episode. Like Pedro coming out of the bullpen against the Indians, he was just firing on all cylinders at the most crucial time. The broom sweep maneuver was the capper to the whole thing. And screw it, I like the deadspin explanation.

  • Brian

    All the songs on the jukebox seemed to be songs that closed each episode. I like the finale the first time and it keeps growing on me.

  • http://myspace.com/mrdangdang Mr. Dang-Dang

    David Chase is a smug prick.

    The final episode of The Soprano’s was the worst television I’ve ever seen. It was a pretentious, pseudo-intellectual ‘cliffhanger’ ending to a pretentious, pseudo-intellectual season. The writers took that approach because they are smug. As a fan, I feel like I have egg yolk all over my face. This is supposed to be television entertainment, not literature. Even interpreted AS symbolic literature, it’s still terrible. If you’re ending a series, there should be a reason. The only reason that makes sense is Tony getting killed, thrown in jail, SOMETHING THAT CONCLUDES A STORY ARC. If people ask me if they should get into the Soprano’s on DVD, I’m going to tell them to do it, seasons 1-5. When they’re done, I’ll just tell them the strong bullet points in season six and save them 23 hours of their lives to do something else.

    David Chase, you and your whole smug ‘intellectual’ writing staff are probably engaged in a huge jolly laugh right now, getting off on how badly you toyed with the common fan of your series. I wish you all the most distasteful fall from grace ever imaginable, full of broken marriages, foreclosed homes, drug habits, and begging for change on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, where the highest writing accolade between all of you is the opportunity to write the script for a “Facts of Life” reunion. F*** you, f*** you, F*** YOU.

    -Mr Double D.

  • SK

    That “system” quote doesn’t make sense. How is it going to affect the long-term health of the Cavs to sit an injured Larry Hughes and a bricklaying Ilgauskas? Sticking to your plan is fine in theory, but when it doesn’t work in practice it’s time to try something new. Maybe a zone to stop Parker’s midrange game and drives to the paint? Spread the floor for LeBron instead of bringing the double-team to him with an endless series of failed pick-and-rolls?

  • Cheryl

    Whoa. Kinda mad, huh?

  • joe

    Those black guys were capped later on. I think Chris took care of that.

    There are a lot of people on the HBO board who have NO clue what they were talking about.

    My two favorite were, the dude walking into the bathroom was Tony’s dad (sup Godfather) and Furio was in the Ice Cream shop with a haircut.

  • peteb80

    I kinda believe Tony is dead. But I’m happy they left it open. I wouldn’t have wanted to see him murdered, while Leotardo dying was classic. Also, I believe Meadow is pregnant. Life goes on.

  • peteb80

    Dang-Dang: I say f*ck the common fan. Now go watch some Prison Break. You won’t have to use your brain (heard of it?) for that.

  • deestarbuckz

    Damn Mr. Dang-Dang!!! I was a little disappointed but not ANGRY! I thought that something was wrong with my TIVO… Well, no Lost, no Heroes and now no Soprano’s. At least Rescue Me is about to start! And Cavs fans have not given up Lang. We already knew that our team was flawed and perhaps we had a good draw… yet and still you play the games!

  • Kadavour

    After watching the Sopranos Finale, the only words that came to mind were, “Mom, did we pay the cable bill?”

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    I really appreciate how well Lang quoted me throughout this entry. Dudes who are known by one name rule. I didn’t love the sopranos finale, but I am content. Definitely not worth getting angry about. And I loved the sweeping incident from Paulie too, but not nearly as much as seeing the guy drop the platter in the media hospitality suite.

  • http://myspace.com/mrdangdang Mr. Dang-Dang

    I guess I was a little pent up this whole season…Just waiting for something to happen, and having to sit through scene after scene of arbitrary nonsense…I put up with it with the idea that at least everything would conclude in the end…And it didn’t…Just more ‘artsy’ drivel.

  • Danny W UK

    Cavs Fans need to be like (Soccer team) Dinamo Zagreb fans. After a poor performance the fans punctured the players car tyres. After a second poor performance, the cars were trashed. Now get this, after a third poor performance, 50 masked fans stormed the practice facility, and stripped the players naked, as the players ‘ Did not deserve to were the teams kit’. I doubt anyone would take a shot from outside 15 feet, except Gibson.

    It’s fun over here in Europe.

  • Rasheedionics

    I don’t think the finale was disappointing as a whole. I do have a problem with the ending. Since when Sopranos turned into “Lost”? What was the point to generate such a huge mystery with that restaurant scene and make people go crazy trying to come with different theories and explanations? There’s no more episodes left or next season to give us answers to our theories. The beauty of Lost is that slowly but surely we are getting answers and it’s worth the time for people to come up with theories and to see if they were right or wrong… In Sopranos case, there’s no answers coming so why waste time trying to come up with some kind of theory that explains it all… David Chase, you’re no JJ Abrams. Nice try though.

  • http://espn.com Reggie Evans

    Hey Lang, is that Nets-Lakers trade still going through?

  • Zack Kinnoin

    I’ve NEVER SEEN the Sopranos and I NEVER WILL.

  • http://www.nba.com Both Teams Played Hard

    wheres my broom??

  • http://www.nba.com Both Teams Played Hard

    greatest blog ever, except maybe mr. swag. http://www.nba.com/finals2007/barry_blog.html


    MR. DANG DANG! I still have that song from a while back on my itunes…

  • http://myspace.com/mrdangdang Mr. Dang-Dang

    Oh snap…Talk about obscure references! The fact that you remember me makes you, momoney, a TRUE BLUE linkstigator. You make me proud.

  • bigmike407

    I’m in the same boat as Zack Kinnon. Never watched the Sopranos and never will. But I think the writer dropped the ball by not killing Tony. What mob boss gets to ‘fade to black’? NONE! It just don’t happen like that.

  • http://www.limeadvertisng.com Paps

    Zack and bigmike.

    One of the best shows ever. dont miss out.

  • http://www.friendster.com/sesa Sesa

    Push the tempo?

    Who’s gonna be LeBron’s running mate?

    Hughes? Ilgauskas?

  • tike

    Lang, please spare us with the sopranos garbage we come on here too talk sports and the first thing you see is Tony…i felt as if i was gettin whacked!…be a sportswrite for goodness sake.

  • Chukaz

    Hughes is playing like crap. The Cavs might as well start Big Z at the point if his bad play keeps up!!!

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @tike: I will try my best to be a sportswrite from now on.

  • http://yahoo.com DP

    I watch the t.v. series if you guys give me the first eight seasons. play wit it.

  • Holiday

    I’ve seen the Sopranos maybe 7 or 8 times and aint a bad show but from what I’ve seen it don’t hold a candle to movie’s like Goodfella’s, or Casino not to mention others but I guess it’s the best you can do for a T.V. Show! Oh and I can’t believe A&E is showing it now what a Joke!!!!!

  • German Reignman

    MR.DANG-DANG …. comin through with the basketball know-how …. still runnin on my mp3-player … never deleted

  • Celtic Fan

    I like the finale.
    remember how serene the first episode and season was?
    that’s how the finale episode felt at the end.
    life goes on, Tony has family issues and job issues, he sorts them out and at the end all is good in both worlds until the charges are laid. Tony will beat them and life will go on again…
    I’d have been more surprised if there had been closure at the end than this ambiguous ending.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Mr. Dang-Dang is old school like Bob Pettit in our new issue.

  • Redrum

    remember I told you I had a 500 quid bet on what happens in the finalle? well… with the ending not being clear if Tony dies, I saved myself 500 quid… I thought he was going to be on protection program or get straight some sort, my buddy said he dies… no-one wins I guess…

  • Brian

    Mob bosses don’t fade to black? How ’bout Whitey Bulger?

  • http://myspace.com/mrdangdang Mr. Dang-Dang

    “Comin’ through with the basketball know-how, we know how Slamonline Lang Whitaker throw it down…
    Pound for pound the best basketball site in the land…
    Subscription $13 bucks but worth about a Grand…”

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    By the way, good stuff from Sopranos creator David Chase on the final show here:

  • Mariado

    Uh, the black guys that shot at Tony (when he was outside Dr Melfi’s office, holding the orange juice) got killed right then. So that theory was complete BS, although a good one.