The NBA playoffs have been a bore to watch- I’m sure watching paint dry on a wall is more exciting than these nightly bludgeonings when it seems as if a priest is needed to administer last rites. When you know the outcome before you even turn the game on, it has failed it’s most basic test of keeping you guessing. The playoffs have been less a competition and more a mutilation of the average on behalf of the extraordinary and unless you live in Cleveland and Oakland, the product is numbing to the mind. Give them credit, the two teams kicking their opponents teeth in. The Cavaliers and Warriors, through the draft lottery and free agency, have built teams that can both score and defend shooters. Their stars exit and the second unit comes in and continues applying the pressure. They are well coached, poised, and arrogant on top of everything else. Both the Warriors and Cavs are experienced enough to have been around the block a little bit so they are not intimidated by their own laziness at times and they know how to fight
Speaking of fighting. Some big men in the playoffs have, unfortunately for them, contracted the Dwight Howard flu. The Dwight Howard flu requires you to give less and less and think it is more. But it is less. It is viral. Viruses have no cure, they are infectious and they change the structure of an organism. You’d think with big men they would have an advantage in a league that is small but with these three there is a different way of being: big is small.
1. LaMarcus Aldridge: When your coach calls you “timid” in the midst of the conference finals it is a look in the mirror moment. People in Portland are clowning L.A. because he couldn’t wait to get out of town to be the man and replace Tim Duncan. Here he is with the moment hanging over him and he can’t lead. Great players have another gear they can go to. They know how to drive others to be better while maintaining their game. Simply, they do what it takes. Aldridge has been average and in spurts he does things that make you wonder “is he a max player?” And the next question is, “why was he paid like that if this is what we get?” It’s easy to talk the talk but can you do the walk? Conference Finals Numbers: 18 points, 42% shooting, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, -20.3
2. Pau Gasol: What has happened to Gasol’s game isn’t original. Everyone gets old, everyone’s skills diminish, every player is a memory inside his once athletic great player body. Gasol will be 37 year in a couple of months and his legs look shot. He barely jumps. He threw up an airball in the lane, he threw passes away, he was just awful in Game 3 and that is how he has been for much of the playoffs. (6.9 points, 40%). Gasol has had a great career and this is how it is at the end of days. Still, his attrition doesn’t exonerate how much he looks like a ghost. Gasol was never a tough guy in the paint, he lacked aggression and so it isn’t a surprise he is that same player, just older. But. He is playing small like he isn’t a big. He doesn’t make an impact anymore which means he doesn’t have much of a role any more. Conference Finals Numbers: 8 points, 47%, 6.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, -5.3.
3. Marcin Gortat: Gortat welcome to your new life!!! He is now the fourth wheel on the Wizards when he was, once upon a time, the go-to after John Wall. Gortat has slowed down a lot. He struggles in pick and roll. He is too slow to go out and guard bigs on the perimeter. He struggles in the paint to be an efficient scorer, though he is still is a competent rebounder. He is troubled by athleticism and can easily be contained and his shot now is always contested, even by smaller players who think they have the athlete advantage. Run and gun with Wall isn’t the best for Gortat anymore. He was a liability late in game 7, unable to guard any of the Celtics. Game 7 Numbers: 6 points, 33%, 10 rebounds, 0 assists, +7