Hopefully, Paul and Jed will wake up from their dormancy (Paul, running his radio show by his lonesome, and; Jed playing the Fairways and watching HBO On Demand all day and night) and post their own predictions about the NBA Finals, which begin tonight on ABC, live from San Antonio. That said, here's my take on the series.
There are too many interesting story lines to mention here (and I'm sure that Paul and Jed* (*see above) will want to have some of them) so I'll stick to some of my favorites. Perhaps the biggest thing that we will see is the match up between the game's most elite (or is it elitist?) players in the persons of LeBron James and Tim Duncan. A lot of people want to put this one in the win column for the Spurs but to them I give a Corso-esque "not so fast, my friend". Tim Duncan may be the league's best all-around player; beyond competent on D, O and everything in between. He's a leader, he's a student of the game (if one can say that about basketball) and he's proven that he can win an NBA Finals. Those are lofty heights up to which LeBron must aspire to live (and that was an incredibly good sentence). That said, it isn't like Lebron is some scrote JV ball boy in a D3 school in Iowa. For all that Tim Duncan has, LeBron has plenty himself. Duncan doesn't have the team around him in order to go for 48 (and the last 25) against a stout defense. LeBron does. Duncan is the second storyline behind the outstanding play by Ginobili and Parker. LeBron is page 1 above the fold with art. And in a game (the NBA) and a series (the Finals) where it may take an individual effort to win a game, I'll take LeBron any day of the week, twice on Sunday.
The other note that has been blasted through the AM dial this week is the fact that the East is so much worse than the West. This is true, and I can't argue it. But let's go on a team-by-team basis before we automatically give the Spurs the trophy. San Antonio had to go through the Nuggets in 5, the Suns in 6 and the Jazz in 5. They were by far the dominant team in the bookend match ups, but were all kinds of lucky to get out of the Conference Semis how they did. Let's face it: ifs and buts aren't candy and nuts, but Amare and Diaw make game 4 a lot more interesting and may have turned the series. I'm not ready to say that the Suns would be playing Cleveland had David Stern grown some testes, but it would have made things very different.
Meanwhile, Cleveland motored through Washington sans Hibachi but had to go to the Meadowlands to beat the Nets, who were a lot better than anyone gave them credit. Vince Carter is still a top-echelon guy in this NBA and Jason Kidd averaged a triple-double in the playoffs (and that's incredible). Then came the perennial Easter Conference powerhouse Detroit Pistons, the atrocity that was games 1 and 2, the incredulous game 5 and an Eastern Conference Championship. The Cavs had to jump through tremendous hoops to get where they are and they've grown into a very talented team who can play with anyone, including the West and a team that, in a more fair world, may not have even gotten this far.
So can the Cavs win? Sure. No one gave them a shot against the Pistons (I said Pistons in 6 and felt great about that after the first two games) and no one is giving them an inch against the Spurs (on SI.com every pick is Spurs in 5 or 6 across the board). Unfortunately, I think the Spurs will prove to be too much for the young Cavs. Cleveland will likely lose both games in San Antonio but will come back strong to take 2/3 at the Q. But the dream ends shortly thereafter (the way this playoffs has been scheduled, sometime next April) with the Spurs winning another title and beginning to draw comparisons to the Lakers of the beginning of this decade.
But I've been wrong before and for Cleveland's sake, I am right now.
Kopech's Pick: Spurs in 6