After the sudden demise of my computer over the weekend, I am back at the keyboard with a new device – – albeit without any major change of attitude. The NBA Finals are over; the Golden State Warriors are the champions; we saw two interesting/competitive games in the Finals and that should be taken as a blessing in this year of boring/blowout NBA games. At one point during the early stages of the playoffs, I thought about labeling the NBA as the National Blowout Association but did not because trying to define “blowout” so that I could make the case was convoluted and the amount of research necessary to go back a month or so into regular season games quickly convinced me to do other things.
The MVP of the Finals is Kevin Durant and he played last night just like an MVP shooting 14 for 20 and totaling 39 points. Nevertheless, the biggest advantage the Warriors had last night – and for the balance of the Finals – was their bench. Compare these aggregate numbers from last night:
- Warriors’’ bench played 70 minutes; Cavs’ bench played 49 minutes.
- Warriors’ bench scored 35 points; Cavs’ bench scored 7 points.
- Warriors bench had 9 rebounds; Cavs’ bench had 4 rebounds.
- Warriors’ bench committed 6 fouls; Cavs’ bench committed 11 fouls.
After the game, LeBron James said that he needed time to “figure things out”. That’s fair; it should be unreasonable to expect that he already knows what needs to be done to change the outcome for him and the Cavaliers next year. However, since I had the luxury to watch the games in the Finals without having to worry about how to do things on the court to thwart the Warriors, let me make one solid suggestion to LeBron James and anyone else in the Cavaliers’ Front Office who may be involved in off-season changes:
- The Cavaliers need significant improvement on defense. James is a good defender and Tristan Thompson is sometimes a good defender. Iman Shumpert is a good defender off the bench most of the time. If the Cavs are to beat the Warriors’ offensive machine, they need a major upgrading on defense. If I read the contracts correctly, the Cavs will have 5 veteran bench players heading into free agency this summer. That is the window of opportunity for the Cavs to find a couple of defensive specialists as replacements.
This season’s Warriors’ team might be summarized algebraically like this:
- 2016 Warriors minus Harrison Barnes plus Kevin Durant = 2017 Warriors.
- Therefore – – – 2017 Warriors > 2016 Warriors.
Meanwhile, the Cavs made only cosmetic changes from 2016 to 2017 adding Kyle Korver – who plays zero defense – and Deron Williams who is well past his sell-by date. The Cavs were able to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals in 2016, but the simple fact is that the Warriors got significantly better and the Cavs did not.
Meanwhile, the Stanley Cup Finals also concluded with the Pittsburgh Penguins as the repeat Stanley Cup champions. The NHL revenue for the season appears to have been flat as compared to the previous season and that would suggest a lack of growing interest in the sport. However, according to the folks who measure TV viewership, the Finals did very well. The games in the Finals averaged almost 4.5 million viewers and if that is accurate, that means these Finals attracted a bigger audience in the US than any previous NHL Finals that did not have one of the “Original Six” in the series. The last game of the Finals had an audience in excess of 7 million viewers.
I find that even more impressive given that Pittsburgh and Nashville are not “major-markets”; a Stanley Cup Final series between LA and Philly would not have “Original Six” teams in it but the number of people in those cities dwarfs the numbers in Pittsburgh and Nashville.
I mentioned that the NHL revenues for the season were flat and according to this report in the NY Post, that puts the NHLPA in a delicate position. I am not going to pretend to understand all of the ramifications here, but if there is agita on the union side as it starts to prepare its negotiating position for the next CBA in a couple of years, that is not a good sign. Remember, the two folks sitting across the bargaining table from each other:
- Gary Bettman – the man who sacrificed an entire season of NHL hockey in order to get concessions in a previous set of CBA negotiations.
- Donald Fehr – the former leader of the MLBPA and a co-conspirator in the work stoppages that plagued MLB in the 80s and 90s.
In college basketball, Chris Holtmann is the new coach at Ohio State after 3 successful seasons at Butler where his teams made the NCAA Tournament each year. Holtmann was originally hired at Butler on a “1-year/show us what you can do” contract at Butler; that was his first head coaching job. Now he has gone to Ohio State with an 8-year contract that could – with incentives – approach $25M. After Ohio State fired Thad Matta and went hunting for a replacement, I said that the school had the ability to “money-whip” a replacement. I think these numbers indicate that I was onto something with that comment.
Finally, since I said above that I was back to ranting without a change of attitude, let me close with a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Air: The glorious God-given substance that provides us our very breath of life while also containing the disgusting contagious pathogens that will one day kill us.”
Have a good day …
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………