So this happened.
Here’s a stat via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
Strangest math in all of sports, ever. Eddy Curry: 525 career regular-season games. ZERO career playoff games. One championship ring.
Curry is now forever a part of NBA folklore, along with Darko Milicic and Adam Morrison as players who won NBA championships by sitting on the bench. (Granted, Darko has become a serviceable player in these past several seasons, but won a ring with the Detroit Pistons back in 2004 while playing only 1.8 minutes per game in 8 playoff games, only 3 of which were in the finals… thanks basketball-reference).
I will admit that I have been a little more than upset at the fact that a player like Curry, known for being out of shape and has lived on the bench for almost all of the past three seasons (here’s me on my personal blog), but you honestly can’t be too upset with what he’s been through, especially in his career. From cardiac problems to alleged harassment charges to murdered family to foreclosure, if anyone needed a break in life, it was Eddy Curry. I try to not be judgmental on anyone, so I won’t make assumptions on Curry’s character or life, so all I can really do is congratulate the man. Congrats Eddy Curry, you’re an NBA Champion.
Miami Heat: 2012 NBA Champions (via jose3030)
2012 NBA Finals - Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat: The Blueprint
Looks like we’re finally getting the Finals matchup we as fans have hoped we would get ever since this lockout shortened season started. And with this particular pairing, we are given a variety of narratives to follow. The top two MVP vote-getters in Lebron James and Kevin Durant will be going head-to-head. The “Good Guy” Thunder team will go up against the “Bad Guy” Heat team (a terrible story line if you think about it). The narrative that interests me the most, though, is how these two teams represent two different (and essentially polarizing) ways to build a contending team.
Let’s start with the Miami Heat. We all know how this story begins: some of the top NBA players of their positions headline an incredibly stacked 2010 free agent class, led by big names like Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Wade ultimately decided to resign with the team who drafted him, the Miami Heat, while recruiting Bosh in the process. Then on July 8th, 2010, Lebron made one of the worst PR moves with a television broadcasted decision to join Wade and Bosh in Miami. Thus, the super team, Big Three Miami Heat was actualized.
Of course, this was only possible because of the Heat’s player contract situation. The team made it so that every players’ salary, with the exception of Mario Chalmers’ and Michael Beasley’s, would only go up until 2010, in anticipation for the high profile free agent class. Beasley’s contract was ended up being traded for two second round picks and cash considerations, thus freeing even more cap space for the team. These moves allowed for the signings of three top free agents, being able to resign key role players for less money (Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, James Jones), and signed cheaper free agents as well (Mike Miller, Mike Bibby, Juwan Howard, to name a few).
As for the Oklahoma City Thunder, they were able to accomplish what every terrible, lottery bound team attempts to do: rebuild through drafting great players that hopefully develop into stars. In 2007, the Sonics had the 5th worst record (31-51) and was awarded the 2nd pick which became Kevin Durant (they also had the Boston Celtics’ 5th pick through the Ray Allen trade, which became Jeff Green). In 2008, the Sonics had the 2nd worst record (20-62), was awarded the 4th pick, and drafted Russell Westbrook. In the same year, they obtained the 24th pick via a trade with the Phoenix Suns, and drafted Serge Ibaka. In 2009, the now relocated Thunder had the 4th worst record (23-59) and were awarded the 3rd pick, drafting James Harden. From this point on, the Thunder would only see improvement.
In the 2009-10 season, the Thunder would improve their record by 27 wins to 50-32, clinching the 8th seed in the West. They would take the eventual champion Lakers to 6 games before being eliminated from the playoffs. In the 2010-11 season, the Thunder would improve by 5 games, solidifying the 4th seed in the West, and would reach the Western Conference Finals where they would fall in 5 games to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks. Now in the 2011-12 season, the Thunder earned the 2nd seed in the West, won 4 games in a row against a San Antonio Spurs team that previously was on a 20 game win streak, and now face the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
And in that span, Kevin Durant was Rookie of the Year, made 3 All-Star appearances, made 3 All-NBA first team appearances, was awarded the 2012 All-Star MVP, won 3 scoring titles in a row, and came in 2nd in MVP votes in 2012 behind Lebron James. Russell Westbrook also has two All-Star appearances and two All-NBA second team appearances. Also, don’t forget that James Harden is the 2012 Sixth Man of the Year and that Serge Ibaka came in 2nd in Defensive Player of the Year voting behind Tyson Chandler.
Though both the Heat and the Thunder present two different blueprints as to how a team can be built into contenders, I doubt any other team can replicate what either of these Finalists have done.
With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (you know, the whole reason why a lockout occurred in the first place), it will be tougher for teams to hold onto so many max contracts (the Thunder will have to deal with this problem once contract negotiations begin with Harden and Ibaka). Also, not only does a team need a ton of cap space in order to make signings like this work, but the city needs to be a destination in which high profile players would like to go. In 2010, teams like New Jersey and the LA Clippers had enough cap space for at least one max contract, but (at least at that time) neither team had a history of enough success that would garner interest.
And if teams wishing to rebuild through the draft are essentially gambling. Even if a team gets high draft picks a few years straight, those picks mean nothing if the players chosen don’t pan out into star players. The Thunder just happened to hit home runs three years in a row, none of which happened to be #1 draft picks in the first place.
The only exceptions I can think of either situation came years before: The Celtics gathering their Big 3, and the San Antonio Spurs. Granted, the Celtics had to trade for both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo happened to pan out at that season, thus leading to a Championship. The Spurs on the other hand, didn’t have a plethora of high draft picks. After drafting Tim Duncan with the #1 pick in 1997, they have always had success year after year, winning 4 total Championships. In that span, they were able to draft value picks: Manu Ginobili at #57 in 1999 and Tony Parker at #28 in 2001. Either way, these scenarios are still very unique and will be difficult to replicate.
By no means do I think that one way to build a contender is better than the other. Obviously, both teams are great (the best in each conference at this moment) and I honestly believe that the Finals this year are a complete toss-up as to who will win it all. Each team has a trio of incredible talent, each with a player than can be the greatest player on the court for an entire game. The Thunder have an outstanding offense with a great defense. The Heat have an outstanding defense with a great offense. Both teams are playing better than how they were in the regular season. It’s the 1st, 4th, and 5th picks of the 2003 draft against the 2nd, 4th, and 3rd picks of the 2007-2009 drafts. When it comes down to it, I’m going with my gut:
Oklahoma City Thunder in 6.
The site shows the shot tendencies of both teams overall, as well as main six players on each team (James, Wade, Bosh, Chalmers, Haslem, and Battier for the Heat; Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, Perkins, and Sefolosha for the Thunder). It’s a great resource if you want to keep track of two incredible offenses that will go head-to-head tonight.
This is all types of amazing.
Quick post: Good Job, Good Effort
NBA Playoffs Round 1 Round-Up: Miami Heat (2) defeat the New York Knicks (7) 4-1
And so the peculiar case of the New York Knicks’ season ends.
I thought that the Knicks would at least push the series to two games, one win coming from Melo singlehandedly throwing up some hero ball and the other coming from Novak and JR Smith shooting lights out, but I guess we have to settle for only one. Hey, at least they snapped that 13 game playoff losing streak!
This 5 game series has been as ridiculous, confusing, and heartbreaking for the Knicks as their regular season has. First, Iman Shumpert (one of my favorite rookies) tears his ACL in Game 1. Then after a Game 2 loss, Amar’e inexplicably pushes a fire extinguisher, cutting his hand badly and goes out for Game 3. Game 4 saw the Knicks breaking their losing streak as well as staving off elimination… but at the loss of veteran guard Baron Davis (one of my favorite players in the past 10 years). Plus, JR Smith had gone cold all series and Steve Novak never got enough touches.
Was this series indicative of what the Miami Heat will do in the rest of the playoffs? Well, I wouldn’t say so just yet. This Knicks squad has been incredibly inconsistent all year with roster changes, coaching changes, injuries, etc, and these 5 games alone have been no different. The Heat’s defense will be there, but it’s always there, but they will be going up against a team with a more cohesive identity that has a great frontline (the Pacers). Granted, the Heat’s overall talent can overcome any team, but I expect to see some closer battles than we are used to. I never think the regular season is indicative of anything that will happen in the post season (example: did anyone see the Mavs coming last year?).
So with a farewell to the Knicks, I’ll leave you with this amazing moment from STAT himself:
R-n-G Picks - Most Valuable Player: Lebron James, Miami Heat
Runner-Ups: Kevin Durant, Tony Parker, Chris Paul
Let’s look at Lebron’s basic stats:
27.1 PPG, 53.1% FG*, 36.3% 3PT*, 7.9 RPG*, 6.3 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG
(* - career highs). Those stats alone are very impressive, but he’s also leading the league in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) with an incredible 30.8, which also happens to be one of the best PER ratings in the modern NBA era. He also has a career high in True Shooting Percentage (TS%) with .605. Stats aside, out of all the players in consideration, he has had arguably the most consistent year, and has been able to dominate more with less talent. ”What? Less talent?” Yes, because Dwyane Wade had missed 17 games, most of which the Heat have won because of Lebron.
If you don’t believe that Lebron is having the best season out of every player in the NBA, then you might just not like him very much.
Kevin Durant has had similar basic stats to Lebron James, but he has always had Russell Westbrook and James Harden by his side. Tony Parker has had an MVP like season, leading the Spurs to an NBA high 50 wins with a different type of offensive system. If you haven’t caught Tony Parker playing out of his mind, then you’ve been missing out. As for Chris Paul, he was able to change the entire culture of the Los Angeles Clippers team, and the way he dominates 4th quarters is incredible.
Something Special Happened These Past Two Days in the NBA World
It’s not too often that people begin talking about “Dunk of the Year” as early as January (especially in a shortened season)… but it’s even rarer for that supposed DOTY to be replaced within 24 hours.
Lebron’s dunk over John Lucas III on Sunday is one of those in which you had to double-take once it happened. First, you barely even noticed what happened since Dwyane Wade was handling the ball, looking for the alley. Once you see the replay, that’s when you got apeshit. It’s a glory to watch Lebron totally soar completely over Lucas in slow motion.
On the other hand, yesterday you had the living highlight reel in the reigning Slam Dunk Champion, Blake Griffin. To appreciate his dunk, you have to watch it in real time. That grunt, and the earth-shattering sound of the ball going through the hoop, added with his stone cold stare could send shivers down your spine.
These are reasons why I love twitter. After both of these dunks, NBA writers, analysts, bloggers, as well as enthusiasts and fans alike, kept posting youtube link after youtube link of some of the greatest dunks of all time in order to reminisce. You got Vince Carter’s unforgettable slam over France’s Frederic Weis, Carter’s crazy extension over Alonzo Mourning, Baron Davis over AK47, Shawn Kemp on Alton Lister, etc.
By the way, if you haven’t gotten a chance to see these dunks yet, please do yourself a favor and click on these links:
All I gotta say is this: basketball is a beautiful sport.
The Miami Heat are Throwing it Back this Season
The Heat are one of several teams sporting throwback ABA jerseys during several games of this season. The Heat will call back to the ABA’s Miami Floridians of the 1971-72 season, and the whole team goes retro on their Facebook page.
I love it when teams bring back some throwbacks, especially this season where teams are calling back to their city’s ABA roots pre-merger. I doubt these jerseys will look good with their red and yellow court, but I appreciate it.
And if Chris Bosh’s picture isn’t your favorite, then you’re a fool.