The NBA Finals has been as entertaining as advertised between two teams with great talent playing at the highest level. It appears that today's media always has to have a scapegoat when a team loses. When Miami lost Game 1, it was Dwayne Wade. Many pointed out that he was underperforming.
When the Thunder came up short in Game 2, Russell Westbrook was widely criticized for playing selfishly and not feeding the ball to his team's best player, Kevin Durant. Criticism is sometimes warranted; however, what many analysts fail to mention is that these players are only playing like they always have. Maybe the other team was just better that night.
D-Wade averaged 22 point, 4 assists, and 5 rebound, during the regular season. In the Heat's loss he had 19 points 8 assists and 4 rebounds. In their win he had 24pts, 5 assists, and 6 rebounds. These numbers are fairly consistent. Wade is a streaky player at this point in his career.
He can have moments of brilliance, looking like a top five NBA player. He can also have lapses where he looks like he is visibly hurt and unable to explode to the basket. Wade's acrobatic style of play leads to a lot of bumps and bruises. At 30 years of age, we may be seeing the early signs of a declining player.
Russell Westbrook is today's whipping boy since the Thunder suffered the most recent loss. Westbrook's stats have improved over his regular season averages. In Oklahoma City's loss, he had 27 points, 7 assists, and 8 rebounds. These appear to be great numbers., however, he did have a low shooting percentage. In his defense, Westbrook was doing what he felt was needed to get his team a win. Westbrook is a natural scorer. He has been a shooting guard all of his life, even at UCLA. Learning how to become a distributor is difficult and something most learn in grade school, not in the big leagues. Nevertheless, he is still averaging 9 assists per contest in the Finals.
I loved Magic Johnson as a player, but calling Westbrook out as having the worst point guard play in NBA history is pure hyperbole. It's like the producers told him to inject some controversy into his analysis. Johnson has to understand that he is an icon in his sport. Unlike the other commentators, whose opinions are like mine, his is universally accepted as he is thought to be one of the greatest ever to play. Magic has to be more responsible in what he says.
The bottom-line is that Westbrook is a phenomenal talent who is still learning the point guard position. He is really a hybrid guard who at this point is his career is better at scoring the ball. To expect him to be a traditional set up guy would take away the unique gifts he brings to the table, especially his aggressiveness. Westbrook is an opposing team's nightmare. He is explosive and hard to guard on defense. Miami better win the title this year, because with more seasoning, Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder are going to be difficult to beat.
Thus far, Lebron James and Kevin Durant have been special players. Chris Bosh and James Harden having been filling their roles. The difference in the series has been the play of Shane Battier. The 11-year veteran out of Duke has been draining threes. If Battier can continue to score 15 or more a game, I see the Heat winning in 6. The Thunder can't afford to fall behind like they have and expect to win. Coach Scottie Brooks needs to play Harden sooner. He may even need to start him. Harden can play the point and let Westbrook be the shooting guard. I predict the Heat will win the next 2 to go up 3-1.
In other NBA news, Phil Jackson has indicated that he is still interested in coaching. At 66 years old and with his legacy firmly in place, it is surprising to hear this. He briefly negotiated with the Orlando Magic but stated that Orlando was too far from his home in Montana.
He also intimated that the New York team was too dysfunctional for him. He didn't think that their pieces, with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, fit. The Los Angeles Clippers with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and another piece might be intriguing to Jackson. Their coach, Vinny Del Negro, was on the hot seat most of the season as many thought the players had tuned him out. Jackson knows the landscape of LA. The Clippers seem like an ideal spot for him.
Also, in a battle of pretty boy entertainers, San Antonio's Tony Parker suffered an eye injury as Drake and Parker's friend, Chris Brown, were involved in a bottle throwing brawl at a popular New York hot spot. Parker, who is in France preparing for the Olympics, will be out of action for at least a week. Don't these guys realize that their lyrics and videos are all make believe? No one is confusing Drake or Brown for Floyd Mayweather or Mike Tyson.
Enjoy the games.