Don’t give up yet, kids, we’re almost there. I know it seems like a hundred years since the Western Conference Finals ended – largely because it has been – but there is actually a new game on the horizon. Finish that last water bottle (with the worm on the bottom; you’re not fooling us with that body-is-a-temple hydration scam) and march forward.
The Finals are finally upon us.
And while there is nothing left on the pregame bone upon which to chew (the price we all pay for excellent finalists and the needs of network executives), there is still the beast to fill. The glorious and agonizing pasts have been re-plowed, the metrics (or as people fluent in simple English say, numbers) have been bent behind their tensile strength, the video analysis has been reduced to dying pixels, and the predictions (almost all of them running the gamut from Warriors in 4 to Warriors in 5) have come and gone with nobody remembering any of them.
In short, there’s nothing left. Well, except this – the last and quite likely worst Keys To The Series.
DRAYMOND GREEN vs. DRAYMOND GREEN’S FACE: There are few more expressive players in the league, and fewer still who do aggrieved better than he does. That said, he knows what is at stake if he allows the moment to bring on the red mist that cost him Game 5 of the Finals and replaced with a reputation. The officials made a great show of early season re-education attempts, but the most enduring memory of the season is of him walking the length of the court to remonstrate with Scott Foster and Foster choosing not to T him up, which he would well have been within the rights of conventional behavior to do. Maybe they’ve all reached détente and Green won’t end up with Rasheed Wallace’s M.O. for disputatiousness.
THE OFFICIATING CONSPIRACIES: Speaking of which, as we know from reading Twitter, the leading source of truth for Wingnut America, every NBA game since 1977 has been fixed by gamblers or the league office, usually through officials who apparently can be bought off with a bag of Tootsie Roll Pops. So here’s what you need to know:
Cleveland is 7-0 this year with Mike Callahan and 3-5 with Monty McCutchen, and Golden State is 7-0 with Foster and 7-3 with Ken Mauer. None of this is of any use to you, but it’s important to note that Mendy Rudolph ain’t walking through that door. Whatever the hell that means.
LAS VEGAS UNCHAINED: Some books have already released odds for the 2018 Finals, and – yes, you guessed it – it’s Warriors followed by Cavaliers again. In other words, you’re being asked to bet on next year’s championship before this year’s championship, and if that isn’t a cry for help, it’s at least a cry for a cricket bat across the throat.
This breaks the old record of looking ahead from the current 344 days (since the end of Game 7 last year), a record for luring degenerates that rivals the books that put out opening NFL lines the day after the 2017 schedule was released.
OAKLAND – CRADLE OF MIGRAINES: This is not about Steve Kerr necessarily, but it has been noticed that he is the second most successful coach in NBA history by winning percentage (.804 including playoffs) behind only Not Steve Kerr (.925). His own record is 201-49, which means we completely overlooked the wins in Games 1 and 2 over Portland as milestones.
That said, the post-mothership history is daunting. Luke Walton, who was 39-4 with Kerr looking over his shoulder last year, got the job of his dreams in Los Angeles, got a bad team and a massive front office upheaval, and now he’s likely to get LaVar Ball as a freelance consultant. Alvin Gentry, the 2015 assistant who took the New Orleans job, ended up with 30- and 34-win teams and DeMarcus Cousins. And Mike Brown (10-0 and running), whose nightmares in Cleveland and Los Angeles are things of reputation-denting legend, is on the verge of being sponsored for new bad jobs. In short, it’s like the old saying, “The grass is always full of scorpions on the other side of the fence.”
JONES v. JONES: How did we all miss the Dahntay Jones-Damian Jones matchup? Because we stink, that’s why. Nevertheless, in a battle of DNP-CDs, I know the Cavs’ Jones (Dahntay) is only making $9,127 this year (courtesy Spotrac), and that isn’t a typo, so at least we know he will sit hungrier than the Warriors’ Jones (Damian).
THE JACKSON-VAN GUNDY SCALE: A televised game’s inherent entertainment value has an inverse relationship to the amount of time spent by Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy arguing on topics like dessert toppings, check-ducking in restaurants, rules complaints, dress shoes v. sneakers in church, whether Jinder Mahal will be a better WWE champion than Randy Orton, throwing dead, pre-flattened and perfumed seafood on the ice as opposed to throwing it on the floor, and the underrated worth of a really top-quality goat. In short, if they’re bored, chances are you will be too.
PARKING LOT WARS: The Warriors are 13-3 when sharing the Coliseum parking lot with the Athletics, while the Cavaliers are a mere 9-3 when doing so with the lots near the Q and Progressive Field. Game-changing ingress-egress issues seem to be a wash here, but Games 2, 4, 6 and 7 are clearly in play.
NARRATIVE WARS: Which will be adjudicated now. LeBron James is not better than Michael Jordan – yet. The Warriors are not the best team ever – yet. If you think you have something new to say, shut up and remember that you don’t (and yeah, the parking lot thing is all mine). Oh, and if you say the word “legacy” during the next two weeks and change, you ought to be jailed and given all the time Neil DeGrasse Tyson can imagine.
There. Now we can all stop worrying about what we’re going to see and finally get around to seeing it. There are finally games coming. Sit back, watch, enjoy, and work really hard not to play smartest-kid-in-the-room – for once. Not everything has to be a matchup debate. Except of course this.