Get off the fence: A guide to picking a side to root for in the 2019 NBA Finals

Get off the fence: A guide to picking a side to root for in the 2019 NBA Finals

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It's been over two weeks since the Rockets were ripped from the playoffs at the hands of the fearsome Golden State Warriors, and the overall level of basketball interest has waned noticeably across the city. But if you love pro hoops that's all about to change as the league prepares for its first new Finals matchup in four years (Well, 50% new). And while the conference championships have been plenty of fun with some remarkable moments mixed in, theres just nothing like the NBA Finals.

With that being said, unless you have some money on the line it can be a little difficult to get invested in the outcome when you don't have a rooting interest in either team. Well, we here at SportsMap have done the work for you and are proud to present the definitive guide to picking a side as a neutral fan.

The case for Toronto

Gamblers Delight - Whether you have money on the series or not, if you're a fan of the degenerate arts might I point your attention to one of the highest rollers in professional basketball, Raptors president Masai Ujiri.

Having already established his reputation as a shark around the card table (especially around the likes of James Dolan), Masai traded one of the cornerstones of his franchise for a one year rental of then injured superstar Kawhi Leonard. This move is the equivalent of putting your wife's engagement ring on the table at the end of a long night of almost winning, and when the series is over we'll find out if Masai blew it all for nothing or if he gets to slip the ring back into his pocket as if he knew it was going there all along.

From Canada with Love - While it may be exciting that the Raptors are the first team to push the Finals to the international stage, thats hardly a compelling reason to root them on in a best-of-seven series. But considering how diverse of a population we have here in Houston, it wouldn't be surprising if you find yourself having some overlap in background with one of the seven nationalities that spans Toronto's roster (none of which are actually Canadian, but Drake is like six feet away from the bench at all times so you guys are represented).

Perhaps you have an affinity for African phenom's Pascal Siakam or Serge Ibaka, or maybe you would like rooting for the fiery Spanish passion of Marc Gasol and, ugh… also Serge Ibaka? International basketball is confusing. Between Caribbean representation from Chris Boucher and the waning force that is Linsantiy, theres plenty of room to engage in the kind of sports fueled nationalism usually reserved only for the FIFA world cup. One thing is for sure, this teams only in favor of building a wall if it keeps Greek Freaks out of the paint!

The Case for Golden State

Evil Corp - This postseason Kawhi Leonard is averaging 31.2 points on 62% true shooting, a feat accomplished only by the likes of Lebron, Jordan, Kareem, and Shaq. And yet it still feels like it could barely be enough to even keep things competitive against the team that "ruined basketball". If you like cheering on the bad guy, the Darth Vader or Dick Cheney of the story, the Warriors are your team.

I'm not saying the team or their fans are evil (although it is difficult to make a case that the people of Oakland are "Good"…), but if you are just starting to root for Golden State in 2019, you are the embodiment of evil and sunlight is probably not your friend. And thats ok! Rooting on the Warriors is the perfect fit for you, (also have you heard of the Yankees or Patriots) and you wont be disappointed how deep their bag of tricks runs. The Warriors can do anything from setting unlimited moving screens, injuring Kawhi in the playoffs, or even worse they could…

Play the Best Basketball, Probably of all time - It's the most unfair thing they do actually. The Warriors combine one of the most complex and intricate offensive schemes with a penchant for high caliber defending, and guess what they actually do it better without 2x Finals MVP Kevin Durant playing. They've broken countless records and are probably gunning for the Harlem Globetrotters winning percentage at this point in their dynasty. So if you like blowouts and hate the teetering, lead switching nature of competitive basketball, its time to say hello to the best drug the Bay Area has to offer, winning.

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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