Biggest winners and losers from a forgettable series
Posted: Friday June 15, 2007 6:32PM; Updated: Friday June 15, 2007 11:36PM
CLEVELAND -- The Spurs' title celebration had barely begun on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday night when the question began racing through the media work area like Tony Parker through the Cavs' defense.
Was this the worst Finals in recent memory?
Many reporters who cover the league on a regular basis answered affirmatively, ranking it alongside the Lakers' 4-0 sweep of the Nets in 2002. But at least that series had some offensive fireworks, with Jason Kidd piloting a fast-breaking New Jersey team that could actually score in the 90s.
San Antonio's 4-0 sweep of the offensively challenged Cavs, by comparison, was like watching a NASCAR pit crew change a tire. It was efficient. It was workmanlike. It was methodical.
But it didn't exactly get the heart rate rising or the blood pumping.
As the dismal TV ratings suggest, it was also difficult to watch. The Spurs and Cavs combined for 668 points in the four games, or an 83.5-point average for each team. Cleveland's offense was a joke throughout the series, while the Spurs had their own moments in Games 3 and 4 when they couldn't seem to throw the ball in Lake Erie.
"We set the Western world of offensive basketball back 10 years," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after his team's 75-72 win in Game 3, the second-lowest-scoring game in NBA Finals history.
Meanwhile, LeBron James' much-ballyhooed debut on the Finals stage fizzled like a flat soda. What will we remember about The King in this series? Tim Duncan blocking his shot in Game 1; LeBron discussing The Sopranos finale before Game 2; LeBron dishing the ball to Anderson Varejao at the end of Game 3; LeBron becoming a papa before Game 4, and then shooting the ball like a guy who had been up all night.
No 40-point explosions. No game-winning shots. No highlight-reel dunks (he had just two all series).
The best thing about LeBron's showing in these Finals was that he never quit or let the frustration get to him. The 22-year-old competed hard, played unselfishly and never blamed his supporting cast for their dismal shooting. Indeed, practically the first words out of his mouth after Game 4 were, "I've got a lot of things to work on to get better for next year."
Given the experience -- and the fact that he got the Cavaliers to the Finals in the first place -- James manages to come out a winner in the big picture, despite his disappointing play.
As for the NBA, it's a different story.
Here's a quick look at the biggest winners and losers from this year's Finals.
Though a two-time All-Star, Parker came into the Finals as almost an afterthought behind Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. But he showed he deserves to be mentioned among the top points in the game, even if he did benefit from getting to play against a hobbled Larry Hughes (foot) and a rookie in Gibson. Parker even drew the highest compliment from none other than James.
"He's very good, probably the second-best point guard we've played in this postseason," James said after Game 2. "Jason Kidd is one. I think Tony Parker is two. No matter what you do, he's going to find a way to get into the paint. He can finish over big guys, finish over small guys. They have a great one in Tony Parker, for sure."
Popovich also showed during these Finals one reason why he's been so successful. Despite all the accolades and questions about his part in building the Spurs' dynasty, the 58-year-old refused to take the bait. Instead, he just kept deflecting the credit to his players as always.
"This game is about players and what they do," he said. "Players win and lose. As coaches we do the best job we can to create an environment for success to hopefully happen, but when it does happen, that praise or credit should definitely go to the players."
Popovich's no-nonsense attitude is refreshing. When asked about the Spurs being a dynasty, he called it "psychobabble" and said the only real dynasties were UCLA and the Bill Russell Celtics. To a question after Game 4 about whether his team's inability in the past to repeat as NBA champs would be motivation next year, he joked: "I don't give a s---."
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