Rest was a popular talking point throughout the NBA season. There are too many games, too many back-to-backs, and not enough days in the season. Stars would rest, screwing the ticket-buying public. Ratings suffered. Rest was bad. And now the playoffs are even worse.
The two best teams in the NBA – the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and 67-win Golden State Warriors – both swept their first and second round opponents. The regular season ended on April 12th. The Wizards – Celtics series won’t end until at least Friday. Spurs – Rockets could wrap up as early as tomorrow. Either way, both Cleveland and Golden State will have played just 8 times in more than a month. No matter when the Conference Finals begin.
If you thought rest in the regular season was bad, this is your nightmare. Many thought the regular season was a formality standing in the way of Golden State – Cleveland round 3 and that looks accurate. The Warriors and Cavaliers are 1 and 2 in scoring, point differential, field goal percentage and points per shot in the playoffs. They’ve both been better than advertised.
So is the greatness of LeBron James (34.4 points, 9 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.5 blocks, 2.1 steals, 56% FG, 47% 3P% in 42.4 minutes a game) and the Warriors (115.3 points per game while allowing 98.8 points) incredible or boring? Draymond Green, like everyone rooting for the Warriors, says what the Warriors are doing is exciting while what the Cavaliers are doing is boring. Via San Francisco Chronicle:
“I like to watch good basketball, but when you watch Cleveland play, you only watch one side of good basketball. That’s kind of weak. I want to watch a good game — not necessarily a close game. You watch them play, you’re watching one team play good basketball. And then you watch everyone else do something, and I don’t know what that something is.”
The obvious explanation for why the Warriors destroying the Jazz was more exciting to Draymond Green than the Cavaliers destroying the Raptors is that Draymond Green played in one of those series and watched the other on television. Still, his point stands. There hasn’t been much drama in the playoffs. Mostly because the important matchups haven’t been close, but also because there are only a few important matchups.
The only series to go 7 games so far was Jazz – Clippers and no one honestly thought either of those teams could beat the Warriors. The Rockets or Spurs might have, but now Tony Parker and Nene are gone and Kawhi Leonard has been hobbled. It’s only a matter of time until the Cavs and Warriors meet again. The overwhelming predictions of everything being a formality were correct. That’s not exciting in the moment and if you’re not entertained, it’s sometimes hard to appreciate the greatness we’re witnessing.
People probably didn’t entirely enjoy the Los Angeles Lakers go 15-1 in the playoffs on the way to their second of three consecutive titles in 2001. If blogs or take-based shows existed back then people would have told you what you were watching was bad. It didn’t matter how much drama there was in the Hornets first round sweep of the Heat that season. People would only care that ratings were still down from the Michael Jordan era and that Shaquille O'Neal was pretty good but he wasn’t the greatest center of all-time. He’d only won 2 titles in 3 trips to the Finals.
In 2017 we can appreciate how insane it was that Kobe Bryant and Shaq combined for 59.8 points, 22.7 rebounds, 9.3 assists a game and rolled through the postseason with just 7 games decided by single-digits. Someday we’ll look back at these iterations of the Warriors and Cavaliers and be shocked that whichever team loses in the 2017 NBA Finals actually lost in the 2017 NBA Finals.
So what if the regular season was a mere formality? A boring formality that included Russell Westbrook and James Harden’s nightly greatness, both on and on the way to the court. Kawhi Leonard’s quiet dominance. Isaiah Thomas’ undersized underdog over-achievements. The ascension of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic Brief flashes of Joel Embiid. 32-year old LeBron James possibly having his best season ever. And the team he’d eventually meet in the Finals trying to make two MVP’s and 4 All-Stars gel as they struggled to win 67 games (tied for 7th most in league history).
Aside from all that its easy to think this entire season was too long, too boring, and just an overall waste of time. Just remember that someday these will turn into the good old days and people will yearn for the era where some of the greatest players of all time battled for another championship. That sure sounds like something people would like to have seen.