Sometimes watching the chase is just as satisfying as watching the goal being achieved. Hell, sometimes the chase is just as entertaining even when the goal isn't achieved at all. That was the 2015 NBA Finals, which Golden State clinched surgically and methodically in Game 6 last night in Cleveland, 105—97.
LeBron James was dealt what turned out to be an impossible hand one game into these NBA Finals, when point guard Kyrie Irving went down with a fractured kneecap. With All-Star forward Kevin Love already done for the postseason, this meant that going forward LeBron's best teammate would be…. J.R. Smith? Timofey Mozgov? DELLY?!? Who knows, who cares.
What it ultimately meant was we got to see a version of LeBron James we'd never seen before, a version that I've clamored for for years now — the wreck-shop-every-time-down-the-floor version of LeBron, where he just looks to dominate the guy in front of him as opposed to involving all of his teammates. It's probably not a sustainable model for 82 games, let alone a postseason, but if there's one guy who's always looked like he could pull off "THAT GUY", it's LeBron.
In the end, we got an NBA Finals stat line that was damn near a triple double (35/13/8), and a glorious ride that ended two wins short of knocking off an historically good Golden State Warriors team. I hope you all enjoyed "2015 Finals LeBron", because next season Irving and (maybe) Love will be back, and we won't see that version of the King ever again.
So sad. I feel like one of the "Losers" I'm about to lay out for you here.
Winners, losers, let go get 'em…..
4. Andre Iguodala
Holy crap…. I mean, HOLY CRAP. Andre Iguodala is the NBA Finals MVP. Let that sink in. That prop bet opened at 125/1, according to R.J. Bell of pregame.com. That's the NBA equivalent of Kevin Malone's "John Cougar Mellencamp" bet on The Office — "If someone gives you 10,000 to 1 on anything, YOU TAKE IT. If John Mellencamp wins an Oscar, I'm gonna be one happy dude…" (By the way, internet, why is that Malone clip not on YouTube?) Anyway, here's the MVP voting. My vote would've gone to LeBron, but whatever...
3. Draymond Green
A few years ago, Green was a try-hard, blue collar power forward getting drafted in the second round by an average Golden State Warriors squad. Now he's viewed as a perfect-fit, indispensable piece of what appears to be a perennial title contender for the next five or six years, having just gone for a triple double in the title clinching victory within days of becoming a free agent. Go get those max dollars, Dray!
2. Internet memes
There's a lot to love about the internet, and there's most certainly plenty with which to be disgusted. If I had to tabulate, I'd say that videos like this one essentially cancel out and make up for approximately 100 bad things on the internet. Please, please, PLEASE more videos like this one, internet gods...
1. Steve Kerr
There's a lot to like about Steve Kerr the Coach and Steve Kerr the Person. I said it earlier in the postseason that, upon viewing one of his "wired up" segments in a huddle during a timeout, Kerr is one of the few coaches in the league whom I listen to and say "Now, I dig what this guy is dishing out." Most other coaches, I feel like they're not saying anything that an overzealous fan wouldn't be saying. "Come on guys! Effort here! Get back on defense! Protect the ball!" YAWN. Maybe my favorite Kerr quote of the postseason came ten seconds into his presser after Game 6 last night:
"We were fortunate in a lot of ways this year," he said in starting his presser. "Maybe number one was health. And to win a title, there's obviously a lot of work, but a lot of luck as well, and we had a lot of luck on our side this year. And our guys took advantage of it, and they were fantastic.
His was a team that was, no doubt, great. However, they caught four straight teams with injury issues at point guard. That's an incredible string of luck. Kerr's self awareness may be his most endearing quality.
4. @CBSSports on Twitter
So here we go…. LeBron James is part of a losing team in the Finals, so instead of focusing on just how great he was to even get his team to the Finals, let alone win two games without a second player who is even in an All-Star conversation, the media chooses to focus on his 2-4 record in the Finals, like somehow he lost those four series instead of willing a team there that shouldn't have even been there. CBS is my employer. Go ahead and assume that I will not be talking at the company picnic to whoever posted this tweet….
So dumb. Soooooo dumb. Why not just put Robert Horry and his 7-for-7 up there and crown him "King of the World"? (And I like Robert Horry, but that graphic is ludicrous to use as evidence in a comparative greatness argument without any nuance whatsoever.)
3. J.R. Smith
Another 5-15 chuckfest for the Least Valuable Player of these NBA Finals, Smith finished with 19 points. Of course, nine of those points came in the last 1:14 of the game when all that was left to do was throw up three pointers as quickly as possible to try to somehow claw back into the game (J.R.'s specialty!). Smith was terrible in every way, shape, and form in this series, up to and including his body language during Dave Blatt's halftime speech last night….
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Good look, J.R.
2. Sports books (possibly)
The talk heading into this series was the Catch 22 in which some online books (and actual books) found themselves. There were some out there that had tickets out there for the Cavaliers to win the NBA title at as much as 60/1 (obviously, wagers placed pre-LeBron's decision to return to Ohio). Add that into much of America being a "favorite backing" society, and there would be plenty of exposure on both sides. As it turned out, many bettors backed the Cavs heading into the series at +165, but I'm guessing when the Cavs went up 2-1, the Warriors as a virtual even money bet to win the title got pounded. The fly in the wagering ointment would be the books that had to pay off on any Iguodala bets for MVP of the Finals, 125/1 at jump and still at 75/1 after two games. Yikes.
1. 29 other NBA teams
While many potential contending teams have some work to do in free agency signing their own guys (Cleveland, good God) or finding that final piece or two to allow them to compete for a title (Houston, what's up), the Golden State Warriors have about as clean a cap sheet as you could hope for as a defending champion. They have one free agent of note, and it's Draymond Green, and he's a restricted free agent so they can (and will) match any offer. Once that's done, they'll have the core of Curry/Thompson/Green/Iguodala/Livingston/Bogut locked up for two more seasons, and David Lee coming off the books after 2015-2016, and the cap set to explode. This is a champ that's built perfectly and built to last.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.