Hoop Logic with God Forbid’s Doc Coyle: This Is The End
Welcome back to Hoop Logic, the only NBA column by, for, of, and at heavy metal dudes! Its author? God Forbid superstud Doc Coyle. Its awesomeness? Staggering. Today’s edition? This season’s final one!
And where are we at? A wild Finals series ended with the Miami Heat crowned champions for the second straight year. NBA draft night turned into a shocker via unexpected picks and weird trades. We shall bid farewell to retiring commissioner David Stern. Dwight Howard and other free agents are set to begin messing with everybody and reconsidering their own intentions. Good thing we have an ace to make sense of it all! Thanks Doc we love you!
So Doc, how about that Heat-Spurs Finals series?! At what points did your brain explode?
Doc Coyle, God Forbid: This series figured to be one of the all-time greats. You had the reigning champion Miami Heat, whose talent is worthy of a dynasty, meeting one of the few dynastic franchises in the NBA. The Tim Duncan era of the Spurs yielded four championship titles in eight years, and bookending his career with title wins would have cemented Duncan as the best and most consistent player of his era — with only Kobe and Shaq in the conversation. Each of their resumes is littered with titles and individual accolades. And there was the storyline of LeBron James avenging a seminal Finals loss to the Spurs in 2007, although that’s is a tad far-fetched because his Cavs really had no chance. Finally, there were eight potential Hall of Fame players in this series. These were the two best teams in the league. We couldn’t have had it any better.
The 2013 Finals lived up to the all the hype. As far as head-exploding moments, I think there were three. First was in Game 1 when Tony Parker hit that dagger shot at the end of the shot clock after two broken plays (below). Parker had no business getting that shot off, let alone hitting it. He had lost the dribble twice, and LeBron was half an inch from blocking the shot. For most of the game, the Heat outplayed the Spurs, but stumbled to the finish. I expected the Spurs to be a bit rusty after such a long break, but maybe the Heat ran out of steam due to exhaustion from their series against Indy. The Spurs stole Game 1 and really put the world on notice that this wasn’t the same old Spurs team.
Next, we have to talk about Game 6, which may be the greatest basketball game I’ve ever seen. The Heat were faring well until the Spurs lit them up in the third quarter to stretch their lead to double digits. LeBron was having a bad game, similar to his mental letdown against the Mavs in 2011. I started to feel bad for him, because of all the shit he would take all summer — or maybe over the rest of career for being 1-3 in Finals, and shrinking in a closeout game at home. Then all of the sudden, that guy from Game 6 vs. the Celtics in 2012 went fucking bananas. He scored 18 points in the fourth just to give the Heat a chance. It would have been nice to see the Spurs win, but at I least wanted to see LeBron to go out on his shield. With the Heat seemingly in control, Parker — himself in the midst of a shitty game — hit an absurdly long three-pointer, and then a very Parker-esque jumper in the lane to put the game out of reach. The game and series looked to be over. Security got ready to hold the crowd back for the Spurs celebration.
The Spurs were up five points with 27 seconds left. After dominating for the entire fourth quarter, LeBron forgot how to play basketball when Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were reinserted late in the game. He committed back-to-back turnovers, looked passive, and missed a couple shots badly. Somehow, he hit a three off an offensive rebound to climb within two points. Then, another missed Spurs free throw and Heat offensive rebound, then Ray Allen hit the biggest shot of his career to force overtime (below). I couldn’t believe it! They needed some luck and they got it. Then the Heat won it in overtime as the Spurs were just stunned. Something tells me that Duncan would have grabbed one of those rebounds had he been in the game. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
If you remember, I reluctantly chose the Spurs in seven games. Even though the series as then going seven games as I predicted, the circumstances of the Heat’s Game 6 win made a Spurs win seem unlikely. I stand by my prediction though. The Spurs were the better team, but the bounce of the ball just didn’t go their way. LeBron was the MVP in Game 7, perhaps the most iconic game of his career on a huge stage. It seemed very symbolic that Duncan missed a bunny and easy put-back (below) — while LeBron hit the dagger jumper and got a steal on the following possession. The torch had officially been passed. I feel for the Spurs, but they have nothing to feel bad for. They are a great team that played their hearts out. Unfortunately, our news media and fan culture praise the victor and do not give enough credit to the runner-up.
Let me address LeBron haters quickly. Since the Heat victory, I have gotten into a couple debates over the merit of this back-to-back champ and four-time MVP. I’ve realized something. The LeBron haters just hate the guy. There doesn’t seem to be any logic attached to it. They start with an emotional dislike, and then construct a narrative to justify how they feel. For years it was that he wasn’t clutch, or couldn’t win a title. Now that he’s done all of that, they have to come up with new reasons. “He’s a crybaby.” “He’s arrogant.” “He’s only won because he’s playing with superstars.” It’s like talking to a brick wall. If new information doesn’t alter your opinion of something, you are stubborn and dimwitted. I like basketball, therefore I like people who do it well. Either you like the game or you don’t. Get with it, or watch something else. Ignorant negativity will get you nowhere. Or perhaps you should figure out why you’ve invested so much time in hating some rich, black guy whom you will never meet — and who is the best at his job in the world.
Doc, what’s a fan’s take on the Celtics-Nets trade? Is it lopsided, smart, significant?
DOC: At first glance, it seems like a really bad trade for the Celtics. I liked the Clippers trade idea, because at least they’d get young guns with upside in DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe, but the NBA squashed that and I’m still not sure why. Regardless, there are only three reasons to make a deal like this:
- Get young talent to rebuild around. That’s the point of “rebuilding.” This was not achieved. Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans, and Keith Bogans aren’t bad, but they aren’t great either. Wallace is past his All-Star prime, and would be more valuable to a contender who needs an energy guy who plays D. The others are solid role players, but nothing to build around. None of these guys are really young either; only Humphries is under 30.
- Cut salary. Also not really achieved. The Celtics ended up with the worst contract in the trade: Wallace is owed more than $10 million per year through 2016. Paul Pierce‘s deal has a $5 million buy-out and could be let go at the end of the year. Jason Terry‘s contract is only $5 million per year through 2015. Although you don’t want Terry for a rebuild, the Nets got the better end of this deal because Terry can still contribute.
- Acquire good draft picks. This was achieved, but not impressively. The Celtics got three first-round picks, but if Brooklyn is supposed to be a contender, than theoretically their next few first-round picks will be in the mid-20’s. That’s not a great shot. I predict some of these picks will be flipped in other trades.
If I’m a Celtics fan, I’m disappointed. It reminds me of last year’s Dwight Howard trade except the Magic at least got young talent in Aaron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic. But it may be one piece of a broader move; the Celtics still may trade some this haul and flip them in other deals.. This could also be a tank move to land Andrew Wiggins in next year’s draft.
On the other hand, the Nets will have an interesting team. Their entire starting five have made an All-Star team in the last two years. I’m not sure if any other teams can say that. Shortage of role players could pose a problem though. Still, they should be much improved barring injury, which is very possible with older players. Look at how the Laker superstar experiment went this season. Pierce should elevate the offense and Kevin Garnett the defense, and there is still depth — although they lose size off the bench if Andray Blatche gets away in free agency. They may edge the Knicks in the Atlantic Division. This will be very interesting indeed.
DOC: I don’t follow college ball very closely. There are too many teams, and the good players only stick around for a year or two. So following college sports seems like a full time job considering how much NBA I watch. To truly get a gauge for the strength of the incoming talent would require a lot of time and energy I don’t have.
With that said, I see the biggest and most surprising move seems to be the New Orleans Pelicans trade of sixth pick Nerlins Noel to the 76ers for Jrue Holiday. NBA fans know that Noel was the presumed #1 overall pick going back to last year, until he tore his ACL. With questions about his knee, concerns about his limited offensive skill set, and also a very small build (listed at 6 ft 11 and only 205 lbs), Noel fell all the way to the sixth pick — which was shocking to many pundits.
My immediate reaction was different: I hate the Sixers trading Holiday. The guy has finally came into his own, and seems like a player to build around. It seems risky to give up a proven, young commodity for an unknown. Especially since they made the same gamble last year when they moved Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bynum, a big with knee problems. I really hope this pans out for Philly because their fans don’t deserve to get burned twice. I hope Noel blossoms into the #1 pick we thought he would be.
The New Orleans Pelicans became a much better team overnight. If Eric Gordon can stay healthy, this team will be young, running and scary next season. Psyched for this bunch. It kind of sucks for Greivis Vasquez, who had a breakout season and will be relegated to the bench.
Despite low production, bad chemistry, and nagging injuries, C Dwight Howard is being begged by the Lakers organization to return next season. Is it the bottom line that Howard is a horrible fit for their system? Would you advise him to re-sign if coach Mike D’Antoni were replaced?
DOC: I agree that L.A. is a bad fit for Dwight Howard. First, Kobe is the top dog and Dwight had never been in a situation where he wasn’t “The Man.” We heard throughout the year that the two didn’t get along and that it may have gotten physical. Kobe had a Hot Tub Time Machine year and Dwight regressed due to injury, so Howard didn’t have much of a case as to why he should have been the man. Secondly, D’Antoni’s system tends to neuter traditional bigs. Pau Gasol didn’t seem to know where he fit in the system either, and greatly underperformed despite injury. He was out taking threes for a chunk of the season. Rumors circulated that D’Antoni’s system has Howard leaning towards a departure from L.A. TNT commentator Steve Kerr told me (below) that Gasol/Bynum worked much better than Gasol/Howard because of the triangle offense and how it works better with two big men. Food for thought — and not encouraging for coach D’Antoni. The final factor into why L.A. and D12 don’t mix is the devastating size and power of the Los Angeles news media. Howard is emotionally fragile, and I think he needs go to a market with less pressure. He was the king of Orlando until the Dwightmare. But if you lose in L.A. or New York, it’s like you shot the mayor. You have to be built for it.
@Doc4bid The triangle is easier for 2 bigs to coexist and work in unison. D’Antoni’s offense is much better with a stretch 4.
— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) December 3, 2012
My standpoint on Howard has never changed. If I were him, I would go to Houston and team up with James Harden. They have a young core that can flat-out score. He would automatically be the veteran on the team, the guy everyone looks up to. His head coach would be one of history’s best low-post scorers, Kevin McHale, giving him all the secrets to be a badass on the block. I also bet those Hakeem Olajuwon post move classes would be at a discount rate as well. Houston has a championship background, and following in the footsteps of “The Dream” ain’t shabby at all. Also, no state tax in Texas, so Dwight would save around $9 million with the Rockets or Mavericks.
If he goes back to L.A., he risks playing half the year without Kobe, going back to a team that was clearly not young enough or deep enough to have the talent to compete at a championship level. It’s a bad move to accept another year of mediocrity just to be with a franchise that has a great history would be a bad move. Your prime only lasts 5-7 years. You better use them to contend if you have the opportunity — and he does.