And You Work For Who, Again?

CNN has served up a real gem this week with Chris Isidore’s “Star-Free Finals Are Hurting NBA.”

First of all, what the hell is a writer for CNN/Money doing writing about sports? You don’t know anything about basketball, buddy. And now I’m going to prove it to you.

Isidore places the entire blame for the NBA’s ratings and merchandise sales slide on the so-called “star-free” finals.


For starters, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili pretty much count as stars. Ben Wallace, who has won three of the last four Defensive Player of the Year awards, damn well counts as a star. And compared to some two-bit economist hack, even Darko “The Human Victory Cigar” Milicic is a star. I’m lookin’ at you, Isidore.

The NBA can place the blame wherever it wants, but the problem isn’t the brand of basketball the Pistons and Spurs play. They’re the two best teams — with emphasis on the word “team” — in the NBA, and possibly in the world.

The Pistons utterly destroyed the most star-studded team in recent memory, the 2004 Lakers, whose starting roster consisted of no fewer than four future Hall-of-Famers, a team that was widely expected to sweep the Pistons under the rug and ask for more. As everyone knows, the Pistons rolled into L.A. out for blood, and but for a very lucky shot by Kobe Bryant in Game 2, just flat-out obliterated the hapless Lakers.

The Spurs were NBA champs two years ago, and led the NBA in defense this season. (The Pistons were second.) They steamrolled through the Western Conference playoffs, knocking off the “fun-n-gun” teams of the NBA with ease. Averaging over 100 points a game? Not when San Antone is in town. See if you can score 80.

No, the NBA’s problem isn’t with the two teams in the finals.

The NBA’s problem is largely the result of Team USA’s shellacking in the 2004 Olympics.

Which occurred for precisely the same reason that the 2004 Lakers struggled to win one game — at home, no less! — against the supposedly inferior Pistons. It all comes down to one very tired and overused cliché:

There is no “I” in “team.”

The 2004 Lakers had five individuals on the court, and a couple more on the bench.

Team USA 2004 had 12 individuals. Calling it a “team” would be like calling Microsoft and Apple “strategic partners.” Everyone involved knows it’s a freakin’ joke.

The NBA needs to wake up. Until something else comes along, the Olympics are the World Cup of basketball, the premiere international stage for showing off talent and building “buzz” around individual stars. It’s awfully hard to build buzz when your haphazard collection of individuals gets shown up by a team, led by Manu Ginobili, wearing baby-blue uniforms from some country in South America.

That team wouldn’t have beaten — much less beaten up on — Larry Brown’s Pistons, and it wouldn’t stand a chance against the 2005 Spurs, either (lack of a duplicate Ginobili notwithstanding).

There’s another old saying in the sports biz that Isidore forgot about: “Offense wins games; defense wins championships.”

Viva la defense!

posted by Chris on 12 June 2005 at 2059 in sports


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