Finals Thoughts: 7 Considerations for Game 7

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Why is there so much smoke? Somebody save the trophy…
  1. Avoid Twitter for a few days and you might not get hit with a mouthpiece.

I have very little sympathy for those uber-wealthy fans who sit in court-side seats, screaming taunts, pointing their manicured fingers at NBA players who are playing the most important games of their career. The guy who got hit with Steph Curry’s mouthpiece will be okay. He’s probably excited to tell everyone he knows that he has Steph’s mouthpiece. He’s probably selling it on E-Bay.

That being said, obviously Steph needs to keep his mouthpiece to himself. Not only is it a bad look for those children who emulate him, watching from all over the world, it is a saliva-ridden object, flying through the air.

Yes, those 5th and 6th fouls were bullshit calls. Yes, Steph is the MVP. The game was in Cleveland. Home court officiating may be more uneven that it has been in the recent past, but go back to the ’80s and ’90s and you’ll realize that home court always means more the deeper you go into the playoffs. It’s never even. We have better televisions, better technology on the court, and better replay than ever before, so we take a microscope to every play and then scream in frustration.

2. Remember Golden State won 73 games: NBA history hangs in the balance on Sunday night. In order to stop old-school dummies from dissing jump-shooting teams, we need the Warriors to win.

If Golden State loses Game 7, those 73 wins (and the 15 more they’ve won in the playoffs) will mean a lot less in future debates. Yes, the Warriors have dominated the NBA over the last two years. Yes, they had an unprecedented regular season. Yes, Steph, Klay and Draymond form the ideal modern “Big Three.” Still, epic moments come from epic situations. Game 7 may provide some of those, just as Game 6 of the West Finals in Oklahoma City did.

3. An overly-long season ends Sunday night. For NBA lovers who can see the big picture without financial interests polluting their mind, we know 82 games is way too many.

It is a negative in terms of player health. It is a negative in terms of how the season unfolds. We call it a slog because of “schedule losses,” meaningless games in which the best players are not on the court, as teams realize the relative importance of being healthy in March and April versus December and January.

It is a negative in terms of relative importance of each regular season game. 1/82 is 0.012. 1/70 is 0.014. Doesn’t sound like much when you compare 0.012 to 0.014. It sounds like a lot when you recognize 0.014 is about 17% more than 0.012. I would rather watch a game that is worth 117% rather than a game that is worth 100%, wouldn’t you? Plus, the better version of many of those games, thanks to better scheduling (fewer 5 in 7 stretches), and the best players being healthier.

Financial interests control a product when the consumer of the product doesn’t demand better. We can demand better. Same is true with politics.

With the new television deal and the rising cap ($94 million is the expected number) player salaries and team profits are growing. It would benefit the players, in terms of career longevity, to take a small yearly pay cut (10 percent pay cut would be equivalent to cutting 8 games). The career length of the NBA’s best players would increase. As Tom Haberstroh’s excellent examination of player health highlights, health science researchers have observed the most damaging injuries in basketball usually come when a player is already exhausted. Not fatigued. Not simply tired, but more like drained of their resources. Sleep is the best resource for healing the body. Due to travel, sleep deprivation comes as a result of the NBA’s schedule. Yes, NBA players can make wise choices about sleep when they check into a hotel, but no human sleeps well on a cross-country flight. Not a single human. Not one.

4. Neither Steve Kerr or Tyronn Lue are geniuses, and neither are calling all the shots.

It’s been funny to hear LeBron’s post-game press conferences. He makes so many references to the coaching staff’s game plans, its as if he’s lobbying for people to take Lue seriously.

Watch Kerr’s post-game reaction to the Bogut question. Body language was telling. Kerr knows that Bogut’s Game 5 injury was a psychological blow, as well as a 15-minute defensive-tone-setting blow to his team.

Not to take away from the strategic importance or the motivational impact of NBA head coaches, but fans are often too quick to praise or blame a coach, as voters are often quick to praise or blame a politician, regardless of context.

I appreciate the fact that head coaches have to manage people, which means managing ego, managing emotions, and managing/delegating authority among their staff. I appreciate their devotion to their jobs, and the sacrifices they make in order to do their jobs well. Just as teachers sacrifice much of themselves for the betterment of their students, coaches sacrifice themselves and their personal lives for the team.

However, a consideration of the entire coaching staff is overlooked by most fans, just as presidential and campaign advisers are rarely discussed in most political conversations.

It’s healthy and simple: recognize that authority doesn’t exist the way it did in the 1950’s. Once we move on from the hierarchical, military-style ideas surrounding coaching, we will all be more in touch with today’s NBA and modern Major League Baseball. Today’s coaches and managers are more like well-paid shift supervisors and psychologists (each game is a shift, each film session is professional sports therapy) than the managers of decades past.

5. Jeff Van Gundy is the best NBA broadcaster working today.

You can have your irrationally excitable Kevin Harlan. You can have your ageless, catch-phrase spouting Marv Albert. Chris Webber seems like a nice guy, but he’s always positive, and he rambles on. Sometimes less is more. You can have your Reggie Miller and those cornball antics. Give me Jeff Van Gundy and his curmudgeonly persona. JVG has a sense of humor, a mix of playing, coaching, and broadcasting experience, and he doesn’t bullshit. Smart and funny wins.

6. Expect an anti-climactic Game 7.

These playoffs have been full of blowouts. Lopsided victories abound. The abundance of three-pointers creates more potent swings within each game. A 10–0 run today means less than a 10–0 run meant in the 1990s or 2000s.

The final two minutes of the 4th quarter have rarely held the tension that makes playoff games most memorable. If you don’t expect a close game, you won’t be disappointed. If the game happens to be close, you’ll be pleasantly surprised…and on the edge of whatever you happen to be sitting. You may even get so excited you stand up.

7. Watch the game on DVR.

The NBA Playoffs are overstuffed with commercials. Save yourself. Don’t watch them. Fly past them in 1/60th of the time they take, by pressing the 30-second skip button on your remote. If you don’t know about the 30-second skip code, look it up. If you want to get specific, the best time to start a 6:10 tip (PST) is about 6:45. Halftime is just over 15 actual minutes. Assuming you’ll have to pause the game a few times, you’ll be live by the 4th quarter.

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Jonah Hall’s writing can also be found at Splice Today, Propeller Magazine, and www.darkoindex.com.

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