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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Dominance bad for NBA

Posted by Eric Fisher On June 1

Fisher column logo2The NBA Finals should generate terrific ratings. The Cavaliers and Warriors are the NBA’s marquee teams and millions of fans want to see them tangle in the finals.

But is having the Warriors and Cavaliers in the finals for the third straight season a good thing?

Twenty-four years after Moses Malone boldy proclaimed “Fo, fo, fo,” that accomplishment seems rather routine. The Warriors followed the “fo, fo, fo” road to the final, sweeping the Trail Blazers, the Jazz and Spurs. The Cavaliers matched Malone and the 1983 Sixers by winning 12 out of 13 games en route to the finals.

Malone’s boast was viewed as cocky, even though he was playing on one of the greatest teams in NBA history. The Sixers, with a bye to skip the best-of-three first round, swept the Knicks, needed five games to beat the Bucks, and then swept a Lakers team that included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jamaal Wilkes, Norm Nixon and Michael Cooper in the finals.

The sweep of the Lakers was unexpected by everyone except perhaps Malone. By contrast, it would have been surprising if the Warriors or Cavaliers lost more than one game in any series leading up to the finals. And that’s the problem.

The NBA playoffs have been a bore. The outcome seemed so inevitable that it was difficult to get interested in the other series.

The Warriors and Cavaliers have been dominant. Ten of the Warriors’ 12 wins have been by double figures. After scraping by the Pacers in the first round with four single-digit victories, the Cavaliers’ next eight wins all were by double digits. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavaliers beat the Celtics by 44 points, 33 points and twice by 13 points.

By contrast, only one of the Sixers’ 12 wins during the 1983 playoffs was by more than 10 points. The games were competitive. That makes all the difference in the world.

It was difficult for the Sixers to remain atop the NBA. Today, the Warriors and Cavaliers meet in the finals for the third straight season.

And who is going to stop them next year?

The rest of the NBA teams aren’t playing for second place. They’re playing for a distant third. If the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard or the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas had remained healthy, their teams may have presented a great challenge to the Warriors or Cavaliers.

What’s disturbing about the current situation is that it was created, in part, by superstars looking for the best team with which to win a championship.

Kevin Durant followed the motto “If you can’t beat them, join them” this past offseason and signed with the Warriors. The Warriors had already been to the finals two straight years. Rather than stick with the Thunder and talented teammate Russell Westbrook, or join a team that needs a star to reach the top, Durant signed with the Western Conference’s crown jewel.

The Warriors deserve credit for selecting guard Stephen Curry with the seventh selection in the 2009 NBA Draft and guard Klay Thompson with the 11th pick of the 2011 draft. They selected center Draymond Green with the 35th pick in the 2012 draft. But the Warriors lost their underdog status when Durant signed with them as a free agent.

Durant, of course, was following a path blazed by the Cavaliers’ LeBron James when he left Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach and form a super team in Miami. James, of course, conveniently left the Heat as the team started to decline and rejoined the Cavaliers. And if you believe James would have returned to Cleveland without receiving a boatload of money and if the Cavaliers didn’t have several No. 1 overall draft picks on their roster, then I have a WNBA franchise to sell you.

James saw an opportunity to win a championship with the Cavaliers. That’s why he returned. The hometown hero stuff is hogwash. If he didn’t think the Cavaliers were in position to win a championship, James would have signed with a different team.

These super teams create a lot of interest for the NBA Finals. But they’ve ruined the regular season and the first three rounds of the postseason.

The NBA has been transformed into women’s college basketball, with a few virtually untouchable teams at the top and everyone else far below.

Super teams might be great for the finals, but they’re bad for the sport.

 

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