In a perfect world, there would be no NBA champion this season.
How close we came to that. The players struck; the owners locked out. Talks broke down again and again. Charges were leveled. Bad blood. Greed. Insults. Stern warnings. Deadlines were missed.
You know what fellows, why didn’t you just bang the season already. Apathy ruled and we should have kept it at that. Yet rational heads prevailed and they put together a hurried abridged season that began on Christmas Day.
The problem was, we still didn’t care, at least I didn’t. I was done with the NBA this season before it even started. For the first time in at least 20 years, I declined to join my NBA fantasy league, in which I was essentially the Clippers representative. I’ve never won it but finished second three times. I couldn’t stomach going through a draft. It would mean I’d have to care, and I didn’t.
Then we had to endured those winter months with the games on different channels. But I never stopped. I clicked right through broadcasts. The total amount of time I spent watching the regular season was approximately one minute. Maybe less. Whatever it takes to pass from one station to another on the channel changer.
It’s not that I hate the game. I just didn’t care. The regular season has virtually no value even in a non-strike year and this season was a grade below that.
It wasn’t until the playoffs that I allowed myself some interest. It’s amazing what you learn when you don’t pay attention. I discovered that teams such as Indiana, Memphis and the Clippers made the playoffs. I knew that Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard were injured so you knew that the Bulls and Magic had no shot.
I also knew that the defending champion Mavericks were not the same team as a year ago and had to face talented Oklahoma City in the first round. Bye, bye Dirk.
So now, who’s left? It has gotten to the point that I don’t want ANY team to win. My rooting interest is for teams to lose, not win.
Some background is needed here. I grew up in Cleveland and am still loyal to that city’s teams even though I have not lived in Ohio in more than 30 years. You know. You can’t let go. So there’s LeBron James. You probably know how we all feel about him. He is as much disliked by me now – and most Clevelanders – as he was beloved when he played for the Cavs. But when he took his talents to South Beach, he broke hearts. Those don’t heal. They fester.
I also have spent the past 27 years in Seattle, 20 of those working as a sportswriter for the Seattle Times. I covered the Sonics for a couple seasons in the late 1990s when they played the Bulls for the NBA title.
Then soul-selling Commissioner David Stern, in a duplicitous conspiracy with greasy Oklahoma City oilman Clay Bennett, moved the Sonics to woebegone Oklahoma City in 2008. No hard feelings? Not quite.
So with all that oversized baggage, how do you be objective?
What I fear is that Miami is going win it all. The one bright hope we have is Chris Bosh sidelined indefinitely with a pulled stomach muscle. Maybe that will expose their vulnerable inside game. Don’t think Indiana has the ability to do that and Bosh likely will be back before the Eastern Conference finals. So the Heat may dodge a bullet here.
What I fear even more is a Miami-OKC Finals. Then how do I direct my misdirected anger and vengeance? How can both teams lose? The thought of hulking, haughty LeBron or slinking sleazeball Bennett lifting the championship trophy is more than I can sustain. It’s why I can’t watch.
Then there’s second-tier of disfavored, the Lakers and the Celtics. Both franchises have won the title way, way too many times. Give it up already. Let someone else share the glory. For that reason, I can’t support either one of those teams, although I really like a lot of the Celtics players, especially Ray Allen, who I covered here in Seattle.
If either team can knock off the Thunder or Heat, then I could consider a temporary allegiance.
As a reporter, I’ve always had an affinity for the underdog (remember? Cleveland). How wonderful it would be for the Clippers to win the title. That’s a dream. Even with the best team they’ve ever had, it’s still not good enough to get to the Finals.
Alas, if I am to turn on the NBA Finals this season, if any modicum of interest returns, the one hope I have is the San Antonio Spurs. They are on a collision course not only with the Thunder in the conference finals but likely the Heat in the Finals. At least that’s the way I see it.
From my time covering the league, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was one of the biggest jerks to deal with but I’m willing to overlook that disaffection. He’s got a talented, experienced team to effectively deal with Durant-Westbrook and Wade-James.
Spurs in 2012. That would be the perfect world.