Gene Collier: Dropping in on the fuss of Game 7 in the NBA


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First thought as I settled in for Game 7 of the NBA Finals the other night: OK, which one is Kobe?

Wait, Kobe Bryant isn't in this thing?

Is that legal?

All right, no, I'm not that ignorant; just awfully close. I don't follow the NBA, but the general presumption that people who don't follow the NBA hate the NBA can't be validated by me.

I don't hate it; I'm just not terribly amused by it, and judging from Game 7, I'm not the only one, because there was Bill Russell in a courtside seat in Miami yawning the biggest, longest, brain-oxygenating, 6-foot-11 yawn you'll ever see right in the middle of the action.

OK, maybe it was during a timeout.

"Hearts are racing, heads are pounding," play-by-play guy Mike Breen was telling me, but Bill Russell was yawning.

Bill Russell.

This was long after Breen mentioned that Russell led his team to victory in all 10 Game 7s he played in as the legendary center of the Boston Celtics, and that that included Russell's 5-0 record in Game 7s of the NBA Finals.

It would not surprise me if every one of those games was against the Philadelphia 76ers. To youthful 76ers fans such as myself, Russell was Darth Vader before anyone had ever even dreamed of Darth Vader.

Because that seems like 150 years ago, and because I've been in Pittsburgh for the most recent 30 of 'em, the NBA has been in a long, slow fade from my consciousness due to its diminishing utility for my purposes. There's no team here, and neither that fact nor the fact that I haven't watched an NBA game all the way through in three decades causes me undue heartache.

Michael Jordan? Missed that whole thing. I'm good with it.

But since there was such a kerfuffle over the wondrous Game 6 of these Finals and since the Pirates are out of town and since the Steelers are just trying to stay out of trouble until training camp and since the Penguins remain scoreless, I decided to go a full 48 minutes (or more?!) with the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.

First thought when Tony Parker scored the first basket of the game for the Spurs: Well, two points won't win it.

As it happens, I've actually got a problem with that. I like team sports where the first team to score can win on the merits of that score. You know, like whoever is playing the Penguins. A first-inning run or a first-possession touchdown that holds up feels more like drama to me than 183 points in 48 minutes, but again, that's just me. Please though, could we agree on an end to the reporting of NBA partial scores? What, Denver 44, Minnesota 38 in the second quarter? Oh yeah, that one's over.

LeBron James tied Game 7 at 2-2 in less time than it took to type that last sentence. Now this James kid I've heard of. Saw him recently on the Internet hitting consecutive shots from half court as easily as if he'd been standing at the foul line. I'm no expert (established), but I doubt that King James' level of strength and skill has ever come to this game in the same individual.

With the Heat playing for a final shot at the end of the first quarter, James dribbled toward the intersection of the sideline and the half court line to gather himself before starting the last play. It's no longer obvious why he shouldn't just fire it from there and save everybody a lot of banging.

The size and speed and skill of the players is astounding, but the basic geometric problem of the game is much the same as it was 30 years ago: The basket is either too low or the players are too high, by which I mean tall, or long -- yes that's the relevant term now. They're very long.

The basket, just about 10 feet off the floor since Naismith first nailed it to the wall, should be raised to about, oh, 20 feet. That would change a few things, length wise, but scientists have warned it could also slash ESPN's highlights inventory by roughly 69 percent.

It takes a really sophisticated analyst to give any legitimate commentary about players with skill sets so immense as the Heat and the Spurs, but Jeff Van Gundy is up to it, even if he insists on saying that certain players should or should not be putting the ball "on the ground."

There's no need to be stealing football clichés for these telecasts. Putting it on the ground has replaced fumbling in the football lexicon, but there is still a floor in basketball. The analyst should refer to the floor when necessary, and the play-by-play guy can stick entirely to the five basic basketball clichés by which any game can still be fully covered: push it up, pound it in, kick it out, put it up, knock it down.

There's no need to say anything during the foul shooting portion of the program, unless someone wants to explain to me why the players who are not shooting feel compelled to go to the line and congratulate their shooting teammate whether he makes the shot or not.

He makes it, he gets two fist bumps.

He misses it, he gets two fist bumps.

It'll be another 30 years before I understand that.

Overall though, I guess I enjoyed Game 7, although probably not as much as Bill Russell.

mobilehome - nba - genecollier

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com.


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