The Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat put on a memorable series in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat won the first three games and then the Celtics won the next three. In a Game 7 that might have been the first time an NBA team had come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series, the Heat prevailed 103-84 in Boston. Jimmy Butler was named the MVP of the Eastern Conference Finals and I doubt that many folks would argue with that selection.
Last week, I mentioned the Sixers and their rebuilding activity that came to be called “The Process”. My conclusion then was that amassing high draft picks to staff the core of an excellent team “down the road” sounds like a reasonable strategic approach but it demands that those high draft selections turn out to be very good NBA players who are happy to be with the team that drafted then. In the Sixers’ case, that was not the outcome by a long shot. Here is the link to my rant from last week enumerating the problematic draft picks.
However, the results of this year’s Eastern Conference Finals point to another personnel decision made by the Sixers that was just plain wrong. In 2019, the Sixers decided to trade Jimmy Butler to the Heat in a multi-player and multi-team deal. In doing that, the Sixers chose to keep Tobias Harris instead of Jimmy Butler. Harris is a fine player; Butler is an even better player. What the Sixers got in return in that trade was nothing close to a replacement for Butler and it is now clear that the decision to trade Butler was another ill-conceived personnel move by the Sixers’ management who were overseeing “The Process”.
In any event, congratulations to the Miami Heat as they prepare for the Finals against the Denver Nuggets…
Last week, I also wrote about the passing of Jim Brown and his football accomplishments. David Whitley had this note about Jim Brown in his column in the Gainesville Sun:
“RIP Jim Brown. Of all his athletic accomplishments, the most astounding was that he was making only $60,000 a year when he retired over a contract dispute with Cleveland in 1966. Browns QB Deshaun Watson now pays that much every week to massage therapists.”
The English Premier League season is over and there are a few surprises and a very positive story based on the results. The top seven finishers in the EPL this year will get to participate in European competition next season. Two names are missing from this year’s list of the “Top 7” that are normally there. Neither Chelsea nor Tottenham made the cut this year.
- Tottenham finished 8th in the league and missed out on 7th place by a single point.
- Chelsea finished 12th in the EPL this year, a full 17 points behind the 7th place finisher, Aston Villa.
At the bottom of the standings, three EPL teams get relegated to the Championship League next year. One of those teams being “sent down” was Leicester City who won the EPL outright in 2016. It is quite a fall from first place to relegation – – but the relegation and promotion system used in the English leagues creates a heartwarming story this year.
Three teams from the Championship League get “promoted” to the EPL to replace the three relegated teams. The three promoted teams this year are:
- Sheffield United
- Luton Town.
And Luton Town is the story … In 2009, Luton Town was relegated to the Fifth Tier of English Football. In baseball terms, this is equivalent to a Class A rookie league; basically, fifth tier football isn’t really a league; it’s a bunch of teams that play one another in a tournament fashion to determine which teams can join the fourth tier to replace the relegated teams there. Luton Town was in a shambles and was accused of “financial irregularities”; they spent 5 years in that Fifth Tier of English football.
In 2014 they “got the call-up” to the lowest level of league football – League Two. They were promoted to League One in the next year and then to the Championship League in 2020. And now, they are in the EPL having won a tournament among four teams in the Championship with the winner getting the third promotion slot. And even that game was dramatic.
- Luton Town beat Coventry City in that tournament playoff game on penalty kicks 6-5.
Luton Town has been competing in various leagues – – and non-leagues – – since 1885. Next season will be their first time competing at the EPL level. Luton is located just north of London. There may have been no joy in Mudville, but there must be plenty of joy in Luton this week.
Finally, I will close today with a couplet by Ogden Nash:
“I myself am more and more inclined to agree with Omar and Satchell Paige as I grow older.
“Don’t try to rewrite what the moving finger has writ and don’t look over your shoulder.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports……….