With the NBA Finals tipping-off in a little over seven hours, I have made a list of 10 things that I am hoping to see from the Finals this year. I know making a list sounds silly and I probably won’t get half of what I put on my list (happens to me every Christmas). But here is a short story: Two years ago, I made a Christmas list of 10 things, roughly, that I wanted. Some of the things were simple items like: a gas card, socks, shorts, and headphones. The other part of the list consisted of some bigger items: groceries (I am a college kid), money, and I think I wrote down something outrageous, like a new laptop. OK. I am getting side-tracked. Here’s my list:
10. Add Steve Kerr to the duo of Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy: This is something I have begged for since the start of the playoffs. I could listen to Kerr talk all day because I really think he knows the ins and outs of the game, even better than Van Gundy. I think he would bring a new perspective, a perspective that has lacked since Mark Jackson left for Golden State. This is like asking for a new car.
9. Better basketball from Dwyane Wade: I feel like Wade has gotten worse as a basketball player this season. To be honest, I don’t think he is a top 10 player in the league anymore: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose (when healthy), Tony Parker, Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony (despite his pathetic playoff performance), Chris Paul (despite playing like a noob against San Antonio), Dwight Howard, and Andrew Bynum. I just named 13 players, for some reason, who I think are better than Wade. I would love to see him come out every game and play like we know he is capable of playing. Quit whining to the refs and play basketball, dude.
8. White-Blue-White-Blue in OKC: I think you guys know what I am talking about here. Every home playoff game that the Thunder hosts, they put t-shirts on every seat and the fans wear them with great pride. One game it might be a “blue-out” and the next game it might be the traditional “white-out”. I am hoping that they do it by sections. One section is blue; the section next to it is white and so on. They have done it before and I hope they continue it again. It would be sweet if Miami did red-black or white-black. But I don’t know if you can expect anything from Miami fans.
7. I don’t want to anybody to get hurt: This series has enough star-power to go around. But losing one of the six main stars would be devastating to one of the two teams. Look what happened when Miami lost Chris Bosh! They struggled against the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics. When he came back, he was hitting three-pointers. Now I am starting to wonder whether he was really injured, because he came back a different and better player.
6. Russell Westbrook realizing his “moments” during this series: Westbrook needs to realize when he should shoot and pass. He needs to “feel” to the flow of the game more than ever now. This is the biggest stage and I don’t want to watch Westbrook attempt shot after shot only to see it clang-off the rim time after time. Realize the times when you need to score and when you need to pass. If he does that, I think the Thunder is in a good position to win their first title in Oklahoma City.
5. Time to earn your next contract, Mr. James Harden: I have talked about Harden for well over a year now. I keep telling people that this guy is the real deal. Well, now he has a chance to prove it. He has played extremely well in the playoffs, so far, and is already on his way to a big-time contract when he rookie contract is up. But if he wants the “real” $$$, he will need to play like a franchise player for the Thunder. His play-making ability is something special and now the world will be watching.
4. Fearlessness of Kevin Durant in big spots: We all know that Durant is a gym-rat, works hard, and wants to ball when the game is on the line. The NBA Finals can sometimes prohibit players from taking the big shots, because of the repercussions it might on their psyche if they miss a game-winning shot. Durant shouldn’t be worried about his psyche being broken. It’s time for this kid to realize that he is the “real deal” and has what it takes to either succeed or fail in the Finals. All of his previous clutch performances don’t matter now. These next two weeks are all that matter.
3. The refs not trying to control the game: Let these boys play, please! It’s the NBA Finals and people are not paying hundreds of dollars to watch the refs blow their whistle 40-50 times a game. I don’t want to see unnecessary technical or flagrant fouls called. I want these boys to be allowed to go at each other, commit hard, clean fouls, and chatter back-and-forth to one another. After all, this is the biggest stage and it’s about the athletes, not the officials.
2. LeBron James v. Kevin Durant: It’s well-documented that James is a three-time NBA MVP and Durant a three-time NBA scoring champion. These two will be guarding each other most of the time and I can’t wait to find out who is the better player between the two. Personally, I thought Durant should have won the MVP this season, but James’ contributions can’t go unnoticed. He is the reason the Heat beat the Celtics in the Conference Finals. James is physically bigger and stronger than Durant, but Durant possesses amazing shot-making ability and is longer than James. James is the better defender and Durant is the better offensive threat. It will be amazing to see these two go at it until the series is decided.
1. The greatest NBA Finals in the last 20 years: I have a feeling this series might go down as one of the greatest of all-time if we get big performances from big players. There will be plenty of opportunities to be the hero in this series and I hope players on both teams take advantage when those opportunities present themselves. We have six players who are either in or entering the prime of their career. When was the last time you could say that about an NBA Finals?
Simply put, there are no better playoffs in professional sports than the NBA playoffs. I might be asking for a lot here and I should know from experience when I go overboard on my Christmas list. Two years ago, I asked for 10 things. I didn’t get any of them.