Having watched the first two games of the Finals I can honestly say I am finding them compelling. Normally anything involving the Lakers sits alongside movies like Bride of Chucky...completely irrelevant to my viewing habits. I have absolutely no interest. However, since I am at least a passing fan of the Celtics and would love to see Da Kid win a title and I like watching Rajon Rondo, one of the most maligned point guards around...and unfairly, in my opinion.
Sure, he is limited. He will never shoot the lights out from downtown. Then again, with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the floor, he shouldn't need to. He provides speed, some ability to penetrate the lane, he knows enough to make sure Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce get their shots...though not in that order...and doesn't try to do things he can't do. Last time I checked, Tony Parker is not exactly a feared sharp shooter, but he is certainly considered a good point guard.
Be that as it may, game 2 of the Finals was very fun to watch. The explosion of Leon "the Show" Powe was fun to watch but should not have been unexpected. If you watch the Finals for long, seemingly every year some role player steps up and has an outstanding game and/or series where they provide an unexpectedly large number of points, rebounds, or something. Last year it was Daniel Gibson, for example.
The fourth quarter provided us with a record as the Lakers bombed away from 3 point land and took less than 7 minutes to pull within 2 after trailing by 20. With seconds left to go the game finally was put away when Pierce dropped in a pair of free throws to give Boston a near insurmountable 4 point lead.
The end of the game was a relief...not just because the hated Lakers are looking up at a 2 game deficit but more because it put an end to the drivel Jeff Van Gundy was spewing. Has there ever been a worse commentator than him?
Not too long ago I criticized the broadcast team of Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Van Gundy. That was unfair. Breen does a very solid job of staying on topic, talking about the game, and relating his anecdotes to what is going on.
Van Gundy, on the other hand, inflicts us with commentary so banal it makes Miss Teen South Carolina seem like a Mensa candidate. In this game he jumped the shark even by his own standards.
At one point Kobe Bryant threw an elbow trying to back off Ray Allen...who was not even glued to him at that point. He had given Bryant an unexpected bit of space. It was an obvious foul and was very properly called. Well...properly except by the standards of Van Gundy who ignored the game for a while so he could talk about how "you can call that every trip down the floor. The players need to be on the floor, they should not call that".
Interesting. So a star should not be called for the fouls he commits because he needs to be on the floor? Yeah, nice work Van Gundy. That is the same argument that has people complaining, "Let the players decide the game!" when fouls are called in the closing seconds, ignoring the indisputable fact that committing a foul DOES decide the game. Fouls are called on things that create a competitive disadvantage. If a player is prevented from making a shot by a foul, that foul HAS decided the game...if it is not called, then negatively and if it is called the positively by allowing the player an opportunity to complete the play at the line. Yet in Van Gundy's world the ref has made a mistake.
He then dropped this bomb: "If you want to ruin the NBA game, just call it the way the rules are written." In his world of banality, that probably makes some sort of twisted logic. The rules are there for a reason. A large part of the reason we have had games decided by the first team to 90 is precisely because numerous infractions are not called. For years Shaquille O'Neal committed offensive fouls nearly every time he touched the ball and they were not called. How entertaining was it watching him run over people and have them get called for the foul every time he lowered his shoulder and laid them out? For some people, it may have been...for many of us, it was not.
Ironically, my own favorite team, the Trailblazers, would benefit greatly if the referees continue to throw out the rule book. By all accounts, Greg Oden is likely to pick up a huge number of fouls next year. He has stated he plans to try to block every shot, he has a tendency to lower his shoulder a bit...so if they don't call the fouls he commits, it will give him and, by extension, the Blazers, a huge competitive advantage. And an unfair one.
Ignoring the rules is not good basketball regardless of who it benefits. Not calling fouls because someone is a bigger star is a horrific system with numerous abuses resulting from it. And having an ex-coach begging the NBA not to call the game properly is bad business.
Of course, he was not done there. He went on to use a very entertaining Finals game as a platform to lobby for his plan to not allow players to ever foul out. I hope he is paying the station to be their commentator because if they are paying him he is robbing them blind.
There is an old adage that if you notice the referees they are doing a poor job. The same thing holds for commentators, apparently. When they detract from the game it is time for them to go. Do whatever it takes to get rid of Van Gundy. Let him go coach the WNBA. The NBA is pushing that hard, maybe it will keep him where he can do the least harm.
Other than Van Gundy, these Finals have some great storylines developing and I look forward to watching the next few games.
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6 months ago