No player will ever hold a television special announcing a relocation to San Antonio or Oklahoma City. Superstars will not combine their rings as a Spur or a Thunder to summon Captain Planet to win a championship for them. Sorry Lebron, that was an unfair jab, because you do not have a championship ring to combine with Wade. However, the two franchises that have built from within and used their basketball knowledge control the NBA playoffs over the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics series.
The two teams have every disadvantage regionally. San Antonio is the 36th largest market in the country; Oklahoma City is the 44th, with the two Eastern Conference squads in top 20 markets. Boston and Miami dominate ESPN coverage along with the Lakers. The Eastern Conference is also always favored over the spread out West. Despite this, the slow style of the East, and poor basketball, is finally starting to wear on the public as everyone is more interested in the Western Conference series.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker have had a big enough impact on the league to carry a team that is full of role players. They were the second highest scoring team in the league and run a game that college basketball fans envy. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s small arrogance is dwarfed by the Big Three in Miami, but their determination and skill is fun to watch. Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook create a dynamic duo hard to match and while they trail in the series, they have stayed close enough in both games to keep fan interested.
In the East, the games are low scoring and the basketball is of poor quality. The Celtics were the original Big Three and the Heat have followed their strategy. The Celtics’ hopes now rest on Rondo as he joins aging Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the court. For the Heat, it’s all about Lebron James and Dwayne Wade, and was even before Chris Bosh went down to injury. The other players on the court are insignificant. This is what creates such poor basketball.
The Conference Finals should demonstrate hope for all teams not in a big city. These small markets can be relevant without three superstars, they just have to build the right kind of team. From a fan’s perspective, good basketball trumps individual skill. If David Stern cannot see this as a primary reason for contraction, then nothing will. The NBA Finals are taking place, down in the Southwest.