Required Reading: The NBA Finals

Every Thursday, we’ll be showcasing the best sports writing from around the web. Here’s our first installment, starring the NBA Finals.

The Mystery Guest Has Arrived
ESPN // Kevin Arnovitz
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has risen from “The Dungeon” to the NBA spotlight

Spoelstra doesn’t know jack about video: coordinating video, editing video, or the coordination of video editing. All he knows is that he wants to be around basketball. He has applied everywhere for a college coaching gig, but has come up empty. If the Heat are interested in having him stick around, then he’ll gladly take on whatever tasks they have for him.


It’s Time for Lebrondown, Part II
Grantland // Bill Simmons
Jordan would never do that: Lebron’s playoff irrelevancy

In pressure moments, he comes and goes … and when it goes, it’s gone. He starts throwing hot-potato passes, stops driving to the basket, shies away from open 3s, stands in the corner, hides as much as someone that gifted can hide on a basketball court. It started happening in Game 3, then fully manifested itself in Game 4’s stunning collapse, when he wouldn’t even consider beating DeShawn Stevenson off the dribble. Afterward, one of my closest basketball friends — someone who has been defending LeBron’s ceiling for years — finally threw up his hands and gave up. “It’s over,” he said. “Jordan never would have done THAT.”

[…]

Who are you, Lebron James? What’s inside you? And why do I care so much?

Dirk, Lebron, And Why They Seem To Take Turns Letting Us Down
GQ // Bethlehem Shoals

James still has the capacity to astound us, but it’s also turned into a burden. We never quite knew what to make of Dirk, which made it okay to stop, stare and wonder. He was an imaginary number in action. LeBron seems like the perfect basketball player, or at least a being stamped hot by Perfection herself. It’s excruciating to be reminded that he’s mortal, or realize that a man built to play basketball couldn’t possibly do everything.

Lebron James’ Passive Pick and Roll Play
NBA Playbook // Sebastian Prusti

For whatever reason in game 4, he just stopped attacking coming off of ballscreens. This wasn’t even him being a facilitator, either. Being a facilitator means hitting teammates and putting them in a position to score, and James wasn’t doing that. His passing was a result of not wanting to attack (especially in pick and roll situations).

On Jason Kidd, Hall-of-Fame Groundhog
GQ // Brian Phillips

The paradox of Kidd’s style, in other words, is that he makes being a visionary look less like liberation and more like doin’ work. Maybe for that reason, I can’t really imagine him winning a championship. That’s not because he’s not good enough, but because deep down (which is where his game lives, after all) he strikes me as a player whose style can only be validated by losing.

Kidd’s presence invaluable to Mavs’ title run
The Point Forward // Zach Lowe

Once those feet are set, though, Kidd can fight an opponent. Watch film of his pick-and-roll defense in this series, and one thing jumps out: He is never, ever out of position. He’s not a lockdown pick-and-roll defender; he falls behind Wade and James while chasing them over screens, just like everyone else does. He needs Tyson Chandler’s help in jumping off the screener and containing the ball-handler for a few seconds to recover from the pick.

5 things NBA TV should be showing during the Finals
The Basketball Jones // Andrew Unterberger

They should have been marathoning the 2006 Finals games for days straight before the series started, and now they should still be showing at least one of them a day. Maybe get some experts from both teams in the studio to compare the teams across the years, and talk about how Devin Harris in ‘06 stacks up against JJ Barea in ‘11, or whether Dwyane Wade was getting fairer foul calls then or now, or if Adrian Griffin is an even bigger “That guy started for a team that made the FINALS??” headfuck than DeShawn Stevenson.

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