Some quickie thoughts to finish up the NBA season. And remember, a list is just a column without transitions:
Anderson Varejao: That poor son of a gun. Spent 12+ years with the hapless Cavaliers, including 31 games earlier this season. Traded away, lands with the defending champion Warriors … who lose to the Cavaliers in a crushing NBA Finals. I imagine Varejao congratulated his good friend LeBron James after the win, went back to the Golden State locker room, found a spot away from everybody and immediately flopped. [He may get a ring, seeing as he served his time in Cleveland. But it’s not as if he can wear it anywhere.]
LeBron James: He is not as good a shooter as Stephen Curry. His team wasn’t as good as Curry’s in either of the past two years. But, man, was he at his bowling-ball best in this series. I still cringe when he goes up for a jumper, and he still goes up for jumpers too often. But his play overall in this series — and that block of Andre Iguodala at the end of Game 7 [click on image at right, or see the video below], something already being dubbed LeBlock — was MVPish.
I can make an argument for Curry as being the best player in basketball right now, I really can. Again, he’s maybe the best shooter of all time and was critical to the Warriors winning a record 73 games this season.
But if you’re asking me who I want to pick first for my team, after that Finals, I’m taking LeBron.
Stephen Curry: He’s going to have to live with the now-screaming doubts — Did we have this kid all wrong? — about the validity of his MVPs and whether he choked in the moment. But LeBron has been there and he came out of it all right. One thing Curry should know is that he has little, skinny people everywhere rooting for him.
J. R. Smith: Much of America looks at this tatted-up dude (especially those painful-looking neck tattoos) and thinks, “Let’s move to the other side of the street.” He’s a punk, they say. Or a thug. Or worse. And he is, for sure, (understatement alert!) no angel.
Smith didn’t play a particularly big part in this series. He helped some in Game 7 with an early outburst in the third quarter. But his bawling-like-a-baby shoutout to his dad after Game 7, on Father’s Day, was so heartfelt it hurt. I don’t know whether he’s generally a jerk or a stand-up guy. But this, I know, after that: He’s human. Give him a break. [And if I’d have been in that interview room, I’d have busted all protocol and applauded like the son and the dad that I am.]
Dan Gilbert: Sometimes, guys who don’t even deserve it get to be on the winning side. His comic sans writeoff of LeBron after he left for Miami — which, remember, was done rather poorly on LeBron’s part — was so low-class as to be laughable. Yet there he is, rich guy with an NBA title, a hero to the entire city of Cleveland. Some guys. Some guys.
Cleveland: This city has been the brunt of so many jokes for so many years it’s downright cliché. (Do you remember the bit about the Cuyahoga River catching on fire?) But like Kansas City last year, like Boston in 2004 — like Golden State last year — seeing a city break a longstanding jinx is a reaffirming thing, something that breathes hope into downtrodden fans everywhere. Expect millions to be on the streets of The Land on Wednesday. Be happy for them.
History: We always put a stamp on these things too early. This NBA Finals already has been called epic, one of the best ever, a classic. Point here: It wasn’t.
It’s hard to forget, even if you try, that the first six games were wildly uncompetitive, that a key member of one team was suspended for one game, that there were huge no-shows, from both teams, in those first six games. Game 7 won’t be in any all-time Finals beauty contests. The fourth-quarter score was 18-13, for god’s sake.
“It was 89-89, felt like, for three days,” Smith said before he got all emotional talking about his dad.
The Warriors didn’t score in the last 4:30 and missed their last nine shots. The Cavs in the crunchiest of crunch time, were barely better: 1-for-8. And that one shot was a wild, off-balance 3-pointer from a 32 percent 3-point shooter. But, yeah, it went in.
Still, for the drama, the tension and the last couple minutes — Kyrie Irving’s 3, LeBron’s block and the final result; the Cavs overcoming long odds to win, in Oakland, for Cleveland’s first title since 1952 — that Game 7 will be hard to beat.