Let’s go all over the place today…
• You know, it’s not that the NBA Conference Finals are boring. It’s just that they’ve been predictable. Is anyone surprised that the Cleveland/Detroit series has been low-scoring? Or that San Antonio has run their offense through Tim Duncan again and again? Or that LeBron gets more touches than A-Rod at a Toronto strip club? All four of these teams do what they’re good at and ask you to stop them. And maybe that’s why they’re where they are.
But what made LeBron’s outburst last night so amazing was that it was completely unpredictable. All those off-balance jumpers he was nailing? All those drives and hammer dunks? Each time he got the ball you had no idea what was going to happen, and each of those jumpers seemed less and less likely to go in. But they kept falling and falling. When he fired up that airball, I thought he was finally done, but a few minutes later he went left and hit a fadeaway three over a passive double team.
(By the way, Reggie Miller, LeBron didn’t go right every time.)
The greatest game I’ve ever seen in person was Game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals, which was also in Detroit. You know, the game where Robert Horry came out of nowhere and went completely nuts, hitting threes and dunking on dudes. Each time Horry lined up a three, the chances of it dropping seemed to diminsh. But they kept falling and everyone in the building was rolling their eyes and tossing their heads back. Difference was, Horry’s outburst lasted about 5 minutes, total. Bron did it for two overtimes and the last 6 minutes of regulation.
• In the post-game quick notes I posted last night, I made the comment: “Bron’s performance was the most Jordan-esque performance I’ve seen since…MJ.” Someone later noted that Kobe has had a few MJ-esque performances, and he has, but you have to account for the gravity of the situation.
Remember: This was the most important game LeBron had ever played. And did he ever step it up.
So was it the greatest Playoff performance in the history of the NBA, as my man Vince asserted? I hesitate to say yes, only because it there wasn’t a Championship on the line. For my money, the greatest Playoff performance in NBA history still belongs to Magic Johnson and that Game 6 in Philly, where he started at center, and went for 42, 15 and 7 to get the Lakers the chip.
Last night was a helluva game, though.
• My favorite Bron play last night might have been one he made on the defensive end. The Cavs were down 104-102 with about 2:14 to go, and Tayshaun was backing down Eric Snow. Prince then whipped a pass cross-court, and LeBron flew in out of nowhere and snatched the ball from mid-air, landing with his toes right along the baseline like a cat. They never showed a replay of that possession, but it was such an impressive read for a defender to make.
• The scariest part of all this is that Bron is still only 22 years old. If he never improves his game, he’s already one of the best players in the history of the NBA. What’s he going to be like in five years? Is this as good as he gets? Can he get any better?
• Completely unsubstantiated NBA rumors I’ve heard over the last few days:
— Stan Van Gundy didn’t turn down the Indiana job because of his family.
— Denver might be willing to part with Marcus Camby for a lottery pick.
— The Sonics are almost surely moving after this season.
— Regardless of what you read in the mock drafts, there’s no way the Hawks are drafting Yi Jianlin. Or trading for Zach Randolph.
— Detroit’s problems against Cleveland might be slightly related to Chauncey’s upcoming contract extension.
• By the way, the downfall of Pete Babcock in Atlanta turned out to be when he got tired of rebuilding and decided to trade for a questionable character guy from Portland (in that case JR Rider). I don’t think Billy Knight’s going to make the same mistake.
• Sometimes at the NBA Finals, a bunch of basketball writers will get together for late-night poker games. This year I’m going to try and weasel my way in, but only if Mike Wilbon is playing. Because if you watch Wilbon’s face whenever Stephen A. Smith is hollering about stuff, it’s obvious that Wilbon’s poker face needs work. A lot of work.
• I assume they give referees occasional vision tests, but do they test their hearing? Bennett Salvatore missed a play last night where Larry Hughes yelled for a time out, claiming he couldn’t hear Hughes asking for the TO (from four feet away). Bennett also missed Steve Nash trying to get a TO during the Playoffs last season. Someone forward him this link.
• I guess it had to be done.
• Looks like Billy Donovan is heading to Orlando, while Jim O’Brien is going to Indiana.
I have no real beef with O’Brien, although I’ve always thought he looks kind of like Paulie Walnuts. I just don’t understand why these coaches who’ve done fair jobs in previous cities keep getting chances over and over again. It’s not like Indiana is a team in need of an old-school coach, considering Rick Carlisle flamed out there.
Kudos to Orlando for at least trying something new and hiring a guy who is unproven at the NBA level, which at least gives the fans hope that something might work out well. And for what it’s worth, I think Donovan will be a really good NBA coach — his halfcourt offenses at Florida were always imaginative. Kind of funny that they don’t have a first-round pick this year when his entire college team will be available. Also, I wonder if he’ll be able to turn JJ Reddick into Lee Humphrey?
I did like Reggie Miller crapping on the Pacers for hiring O’Brien without even giving Mark Jackson a call.
• XXL editor-in-chief Elliot Wilson passed along this link to Allen Iverson’s entire unreleased rap album (supposedly called “Non-Fiction”) from a few years ago. Download it now, before it disappears. 40 Bars, son.
• Last weekend I went in a hot air balloon ride. It was a family member’s 50th birthday party, and we all piled into 5 balloons about an hour outside the ATL and went for a ride. It was surprisingly calm up there, like you’re standing still and the earth is just moving beneath you. They go slow, at most about 10 miles per hour, and there’s no way to control how fast you’re moving or what direction you’re going — it’s all up to the wind. You can control height and hope you hit a current to push you a particular way, but that’s about it.
The only real noise up there, actually, comes when they fire the burner, which is similar to standing right underneath the basket during introductions at the Palace of Auburn Hills. It’s loud, it’s hot as hell, but it only lasts for a few seconds at a time.
Also, I wasn’t prepared for how lawless ballooning is. When it came time to land, for instance, our pilot pointed to some random small backyard and said that’s where we’d set down. He put the balloon down between some power lines, a house and a chain link fence. I was wondering if the home owner (well, trailer owner in this case) might be upset that a huge hot air balloon just landed in his backyard, but the shirtless man who came outside was surprisingly agreeable to the idea. Which was a good thing, since a huge hot air balloon had just landed in his backyard and we weren’t going anywhere any time soon.
• While I’m thinking about it, might as well mention that I’m not doing any more columns for SI.com. I did them for about three years, one a week, every week. And I will not miss having to pound out 1,000 words last thing every Sunday night before going to bed. Now they’ve changed around the page I write for and asked me to continue contributing, so now I’m going to do a couple of the The List columns each week. Easier for me, more for you to read. You’ll be able to leave comments on there now, too.