Today was a long day for yours truly – lots of driving, little sleep, whine, whine, whine.
Luckily I got to come home and pay witness to a breathtaking playoff match-up between Miami and Boston – featuring a jaw-dropping performance from Rajon Rondo, who finished with 44 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds.
But first, since this is a Utah Jazz site, I should mention the lottery thing-a-ma-jig that took place around the same time. I didn’t watch it. Sorry. It’s nothing against the event (my face pressed firmly against my TV set last year when the Jazz wound up with the number three overall pick that allowed them to select Kanter), but I just didn’t feel like Utah had much of a shot. I was right. The Warriors walked away with the seventh pick (and to think, Utah could’ve gotten something for FREE out of this whole mishap due to Golden State’s overall paranoia), leaving the Jazz with, well the 47th pick in the second round.
I’m still kinda irked that Utah chose the playoffs over obtaining more free assets for the team (they held not only Golden State’s pick, but also Minnesota’s first round selection), but maybe O’Connor has a few tricks up his sleeve … ? Plans … ? Ideas … ? There had to be a reason to throw away those two picks in order to make the playoffs. At least that’s what I’d expect. Could it all have been to keep Big Al happy? Utah obviously likes the big fella and may have wanted to give him a trip to the post-season as a way of luring him back once his contract expires (after next season, methinks). Or maybe they really like this core group and figured they didn’t need any more youth, which, truthfully, really isn’t a bad excuse.
The Jazz core ensemble: Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, and Paul Milsap. These guys, for me anyway, are the players Utah needs to build around. I’m still divided on Big Al and Devin Harris. Both have shown an ability to take over games, but never consistently. I would rather bump Favors to the starting lineup and trade Big Al for a few more key assets or, perhaps, a better PG … From what I’ve read Jefferson is owed over $15-million next season. That’s a lot of money to give a player who only occasionally plays to his true potential.
Still, Jefferson gives us length and much needed outside shooting. When that bizarre push-shot of his drops, Utah’s offense crackles with awesome energy. But $15 million should give you more than an inconsistent jump shot. That’s why trading him makes sense. Unfortunately, I’m not sure we could get back much for him. We’d have to send him to a team in dire straits; a ball club looking to dump some salary. (I’m not going to go into all of the possible trade scenarios at this juncture … but I’ll have plenty of time in the future since the Jazz don’t have a first round pick!)
OK, so back to tonight’s BIG game. Something that’s really pissing me off right now: both ESPN and SI flaunt Wade and James on the front page, treating them like the over-hyped prima donnas they truly are. Look, anyone who watched that game will know Wade and (especially) James had nothing to do with the Heat winning that game. In fact, if they’d lost all of the world would call for LeBron’s over-inflated head on a stick. James had one field goal in overtime (a tip-in shot at that), and missed a BIG shot at the end of regulation, then let Rondo shoot a pair of treys over him as time expired that nearly brought Boston back from a seven point deficit. Wade, while fairing better, missed a pivotal free throw in regulation that would’ve bumped the Celtic deficit to four and more or less put the game away.
Instead, Ray Allen hit a BIG time 3-ball and sent the game into OT after James coughed up another lousy last second clutch effort. In overtime, Haslem and Wade were the only two Heat players to score (aside from LBJ’s tip), while James reduced himself to role player status.
The Heat won the game. I get that. James and Wade did their shadow-ploy-thingy that they seem to love so much, and the Other Guys produced. I dig the team play, but stop calling James the Greatest Ever. Great players make big time shots. They don’t hand the ball off to Udonis Haslem or Shane Battier. That’s something good TEAMS do, but not great PLAYERS. Against OKC the other night, did Parker unexpectedly dish the ball off to Matt Bonner with time winding down? Nope. He took the shot. Would Kobe pass the ball to Jordan Farmar with the game on the line? Nope.
That’s what I don’t understand about LeBron. And that’s what bugs me about him: he wants to fame and glory, but doesn’t want to work for it.
The Heat won the game. Great. But James should’ve been the closer.
Instead what we got was a horrible finish to a truly exciting game, marred by some God-awful officiating. Seriously. In one instance, Rajon Rondo drove to the hoop and got elbowed by Wade. But he didn’t get the call. Instead, Haslem dunked the ball on the other side of the court and then (on the next possession) Wade drew a foul whilst charging the basket … even though he obviously kicked Kevin Garnett in the process. That second foul should’ve been a no-call. Those two officiating goofs put the Heat up 110-105 with only a minute remaining. Boston never recovered.
And how could they? So far the zebras haven’t given them squat (the free throw discrepancy tonight: 47-29 in Miami’s favor). I get that the NBA needs Miami in the finals, but for cripes sakes don’t make the conspiracy so blatant!
And for the love of all that is holy, nay, all that is expedient for the good of mankind: Stop praising James for the actions of OTHER people. Tonight it was The Other Guys who pulled off the win. I’d give credit to Wade, but he gets far too many calls in his favor. It’s actually kinda sickening.
So bravo, Other Guys. That’s why I’m putting your mugshot at the top of tonight’s column. You certainly earned it.
(On a side note, Wade did say how much he appreciated the support from his role players at the end of the game – hey, how about letting one of them take front and center during an interview?)
I already mentioned Rondo’s stellar performance, but man … he played his guts out tonight. I’ve always liked the kid, but felt his inability to shoot the ball kept him from obtaining elite status. Man, if you can score 44 points in a playoff game without Paul Pierce (who fouled out) and with an ailing Ray Allen as your only wing man, then dammit! Shoot the ball more, son! Absolutely amazing basketball. It makes me wish the Celtics would pull off the upset just so I could watch Parker vs. Rondo for at least four games.
But, alas, while Boston isn’t exactly done, I don’t see them pulling off a miracle four-game win-streak. They are just too banged up. Even if they’d won tonight, Miami would’ve probably taken Game 3. That’s not to knock Boston. I love Doc Rivers (great coaching tonight) and his squad – they never quit – but they just don’t have the legs. Allen looks like he’s literally on the last leg of his career. Pierce wanders the court aimlessly committing turnovers like a drunken Harlem Globetrotter. And KG doesn’t even have enough juice to throw down his trash talk at game’s end. Too bad. I really wanted James and co. out of the Finals.
Then again, as that commercial states: