Charlie Pallilo: Plenty to see at the NBA Finals, what's next for the Rockets and Astros-Red Sox
So, do you care about these NBA Finals? If not and you are a basketball fan you should, despite the major letdown of knowing it was sooooo close to being the Rockets against the Cavaliers. Alas, it’s the Cavs-Warriors quadrilogy. A lot of basketball fans probably have had enough of Cleveland-Golden State, but you know what? Meritocracy rules. They earned their way back, so deal with it. Or ignore it. It’s the first time ever in big league sports the same teams play for the championship four years in a row. Game 1 was a doozy. The almost incomparable LeBron with 51 points, but the Warriors got the victory aided by an all-time NBA moronic moment courtesy of the Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith.
Versus the Rockets Golden State was a 2-1 favorite. The Warriors were better than 7-1 favorites over the Cavs. The Warriors are bidding to strengthen their dynasty stature with a third title in four years. James is trying to add for a fourth title to his personal dynasty. That would still be two shy of Michael Jordan’s six ring haul, but James has led his team to nine NBA Finals, three more than did Michael. And Jordan never took a team with as weak a supporting cast to the Finals.
Before you say “the East stinks, LeBron has had it easy!” consider the following: What other player at his current playing level if swapped for James over the last eight seasons would be making an eighth straight Finals appearance? Durant? Curry? Davis? Harden? Stop it already. The correct answer is there isn’t one. Jordan himself may well have done it. But it’s not as if MJ slayed all sharks while LeBron has beaten only guppies. Those Knicks teams Jordan battled in the 90s? One Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing. The Pacer teams? One Hall of Famer, Reggie Miller. And the Jordan Bulls never in the Finals faced a team with at least three (maybe four) future Hall of Famers like this Warriors team has, or an individual opponent as great as Tim Duncan.
If James pulls this off, as unlikely as it is, he will very arguably have had as great an NBA career as Jordan.
On the Rockets…
Phenomenal season, hugely disappointing ending with the unanswerable what if…Chris Paul’s hamstring didn’t give out? But be real, that the Rockets definitely would have won with a healthy Paul is silly. They may well have won. Just as if Golden State hadn’t lost Andre Iguodala, it’s plausible the Warriors would have wrapped the series in five.
Going forward, Paul is not worth a full maximum contract. His skill level remains sensational. But 5 years about $205 million for a 33-year-old point guard with a history of breaking down physically? Not smart. Daryl Morey is smart. The most Paul could get from another team is four years a little over $150 mil. No way should the Rockets offer beyond that.
Clint Capela is not worth a max contract, but with his restricted free agent status the Rockets are at the mercy of any team crazy enough to offer him one (or close to one). Capela’s max would start at about $25 mil the first season. Still, the Rockets almost have to match whatever comes Capela’s way. At least he’s only 24 years old.
Battle with Boston
It would have been a lot of fun to have Rockets-Celtics games one and two going on here while the Astros and Red Sox were playing up the street. Still, Astros-Red Sox as a stand-alone HTown-Beantown battle is pretty good. The Sox rolled into Minute Maid Park as the best team in baseball. Mookie Betts is the only other player in the Majors on Mike Trout’s level this season, and Boston’s addition of former Astros’ prospect flop J.D. Martinez has been brilliant. Betts-Martinez is the best one-two punch in the bigs this year, and to this point there isn’t a close second.
The Astros gave up on Martinez in spring training 2014, and not unreasonably so. J.D. had stunk for two years, was 26 years old, and offered little value beyond whatever his hitting ability was. Since then, you don’t need a third hand to count players who’ve been better in the batter’s box. Context: this will be the fourth time in five years Martinez’s OPS is higher than Jose Altuve’s. We can’t reasonably presume that if given more time Martinez would have figured it out as an Astro.
1. June is busting out all over. Good chance Carlos Correa will too. Despite homering in the last game of May Correa’s batting average for the month was just .192. 2. The Capitals-Knights Stanley Cup Final thus far has been spectacular. Watch some! 3. Tastiest sugary cereals: Bronze-Frosted mini-wheats Silver-Lucky Charms Gold-Raisin Bran.