(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Friday, June 13, 2014


If you're a basketball fan -- a pure basketball fan -- you have to love watching the Spurs.  What they are doing in this series is high art.  They're a global team -- an all-timer from St. Croix, two other Hall of Famers from France and Argentina, another Frenchman playing a key role, a starter from Brazil and an Aussie.  They communicate in one language -- basketball.  They share the ball extremely well, and are a treat to watch because of that.  They also have a few Americans -- a sharpshooter from UNC whom they cut twice and a small forward they got in a trade who probably is one of the top 50 players in the game (if not higher).  Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Paddy Mills, Danny Green and Kahwi Leonard.  They are simply a great team.

And, yes, you're also watching the greatest player of the modern era, LeBron James.  What this series has demonstrated, though, is that LeBron's supporting cast isn't strong enough to go the entire season -- through the finals.  Somehow, some way, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh have disappeared, and the other role players have not made that much of a difference.  In Miami's only win, Ginobli outscored the entire Heat bench.  Now, you can argue that had the air conditioning been on in the first game, LeBron wouldn't have cramped, and then the Heat would have won Game 1 and the series might have been different.  I get all that, but if that had happened, it's hard to see that the Heat would have won the second game, too.  Both teams came into the game riding the wave they created for themselves -- a great season.  It's just that the Spurs have taken their game to a higher level; the Heat have not.

All this makes speculation about what LeBron might do in the off-season run rampant.  Does he return to the Heat with the hope that Miami can buttress his supporting cast, or does he return to Cleveland to play with Kyrie Irving and someone like Jabari Parker?  Will he have the patience with younger players, players on the rise?  Or will he remain in Miami?  It is not clear whether the Heat have hit a peak, or whether they've simply run into the last chapter of a dynasty.  It could be a little bit of both.

But make no mistake, the Spurs are a dynasty.  They are a great blend of fundamentally sound basketball players who let themselves be coached and subordinate any instincts they have to build their own brand name into a team game (and by doing that, each players has polished his own brand, with the best still yet to come for Leonard).  So enjoy the rest of the NBA Finals -- you might not see a time like come around for a while.

(And true to form in trying to write a global column, I'd like to point out that if you say the word "Spurs" in the U.S., people will think San Antonio.  Say it in England and perhaps also in the rest of Europe, and people will think you're saying the nickname for Tottenham Hotspur, a team in London in the English Premier League).


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