The last two games of the 2013 NBA Finals were as good for drama as it gets.
Nip-and-tuck nights where every late-game and overtime possession had the game on the line. Decorated and respected Tim Duncan against the reigning king LeBron James. Big shots. Big rebounds. Big turnovers. Big time. The early TV returns indicate it was the second-highest viewed NBA game on ABC, and, despite the somewhat diminished popularity of the sport, all the drama had our undivided attention.
But all the talk about how this series is one for the ages? Not from my seat. In fact, before the last five minutes of regulation in Game 6, this series was among one of the more boring in recent memory.
Each of the first five games were decided by double digits. In a series with LeBron, Duncan, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Chris Bosh and Manu Ginobili, the story after five games was Danny Green’s three-pointers. (By the way, Green was 2-for-19 from the floor in the final two games in Miami. Can you say John Starks?)
It took unexpected coaching mistakes from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich in the final minute of regulation in Game 6 to turn what would have been a humdrum series into some great basketball theater. If Duncan is on the floor to corral a rebound, the Spurs win in six games and all the talk is about how James choked away a championship with missed shots and turnovers down the stretch.
But Popovich and Ray Allen gave James a second kick at the can, and The King didn’t waste it.
• I agree that LeBron has earned the right to have a say in whether “The Big Three” stay together and what kind of deal could be made for Bosh. But what exactly has Chris Paul done to warrant giving him complete control of the Los Angeles Clippers?
I think before you can get one coach fired and orchestrate a trade for another one, you should have a championship ring on your finger; or at least have played in a conference final. Paul has been to the postseason five times in his eight-year career, and he’s won two playoff series. That might impress a perennial loser like Donald Sterling, but you should have to accomplish more before you start calling the shots upstairs.
• Give the Diamondbacks some credit for making the right call with Josh Collmenter. Given the pratfall of the Arizona rotation and Collmenter’s dominant stints in long relief, it made sense to many (including me) to move “The Windmill” back into a starting spot, where he won 10 games in 2011.
But Collmenter is right where he belongs. He allowed one hit over six innings with seven strikeouts in a win over Miami on June 19, and he’s won three extra-inning games already this year. His unique delivery and sneaky change of speeds is a perfect mid-game change of pace, and since you never know when he’ll be pitching, the opposition can’t prepare for him with film work or stack the lineup with players who’ve had success against him.
Of course, that doesn’t solve the injured and ineffective starters that have prevented Arizona from expanding its lead in the National League West. But with every team in the league either holding on to their arms or looking to add more, the answer likely has to come from within the organization.
• Signing coach Dave Tippett to a five-year deal — no matter where the Coyotes wind up this fall — was a no-brainer for incoming ownership.
Look at the Phoenix roster from 2011-12. Now look at the firepower the Chicago Blackhawks have on display in the Stanley Cup finals. The Coyotes shut down Chicago in six games and came within two overtime goals of sweeping the Blackhawks.
Imagine what Tippett could do with a healthy NHL payroll, more skill to go with all the grinders and grit, and enough depth so every short-term injury doesn’t result in a huge drop-off in production. Phoenix’s farm system has some players on the way, so the future is bright, wherever it plays out.
• The Suns should get a decent building block in Thursday’s NBA Draft (Ben McLemore of Kansas is the current Flavor of the Moment). But it won’t be enough to make them much better than last year, and, truth be told, that likely suits them just fine. The 2014 draft class is already being touted as a bumper crop and lottery picks will be more valuable.
Count on the Suns having one.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.