Sunday, June 10, 2012

2012 NBA Finals notes/oddities

By Rick Morris
^ With the Big Two on both teams represented in the Finals, this marks the first time since 1998 (Jordan/Pippen, Stockton/Malone) in which it is plausible to say that four of the top ten players in the world are playing on the grandest stage.  Nobody would quibble with Kevin Durant and Lebron James – who themselves are jockeying for the title of Best Player in the World – and Dwyane Wade is considered by a great many to be Top Five.  Russell Westbrook is, in the eyes of many, right on the border of the Top Ten and probably would be a consensus player at that level if he played consistently smarter.  There’s no better time for him to cement his standing.
^ Much of the world is repulsed at the look-at-me stylings that went into the construction of the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010.  However, Clay Bennett’s dirty plot to yank the Seattle Sonics out of their beloved hometown and plop them into new surroundings complicates the otherwise obvious Good Vs. Evil storyline.  Seattle fans can be forgiven for failing to fully appreciate the workings of Sam Presti, who leveraged his time in San Antonio successfully to build a model team in OKC through the draft and stake a claim for the title of best general manager in the league.  Considering that this team also probably wouldn’t exist without Hurricane Katrina, which led to the New Orleans Hornets relocating to the Sooner state for a year, this championship series has certainly been paved over a lot of human misery.  But, as David Stern would say, try to enjoy anyway!
^ And speaking of 1998, these really are the Relocation Finals.  Obviously, Lebron’s on one side and OKC, which still claims the heritage of the Sonics, is on the other.  It’s the first time since the second Jazz run in ’98 that a relocated franchise is in the Finals.  Two years before that, Seattle made their last run to the Finals as the Sonics at the height of the Gary Payton/Shawn Kemp glory days.
^ With Oklahoma City having only had their team for a few years and never having a Big Four franchise in the city previously, this of course marks the city’s first championship appearance.  However, it is not the first time that a city with only one Big Four team squared off against one with teams in all four sports.  It last happened in the NBA back in 2005, when San Antonio beat Detroit.
^ This doesn’t happen very often in sports, but it’s happened three times since 2009 and twice in the NBA: a team losing the championship and returning the next year.  The Lakers won in their second attempt in 2009 and Miami is looking to do likewise this year.  In baseball, Texas failed again last fall.

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