We've heard the collective groan. Or maybe that was the channel changing. Either way, America, we feel your concern.
Fans of the Pistons and Spurs, don't let the hate-fest bother you. Your teams are playing for the championship. Why care what anyone else thinks?
For certain, the rest of the country won't think much at all. Television ratings may get ugly, and the media will lament the series' style of play, lack of superstars, blah, blah, blah. Whatever.
Here are five reasons not only to watch the NBA Finals when they open Thursday but also to get excited about it.
1. So much for that excuse
The No. 1 criticism of the NBA is that it is a league full of overpaid, unlikable, spoiled players who care only about individual glory and not winning. This is what NBA haters love to repeat and repeat.
Well, I guess those people will be tuning in then.
OK, the Rasheed Wallace technical-fest can get a bit much (but his championship belt makes up for it). And Tim Duncan's face isn't much better (but his game makes up for it). But for the most part, when it comes to collections of good guys who play a good, well-rounded game and care more about winning than shoe deals, you can't beat Detroit and San Antonio.
These are two teams with mostly likable personalities, fundamentally sound styles of play and all-for-one, one-for-all mentalities. Gil Thorp could play for these teams.
2. Be an aficionado
Amare Stoudemire is awesome, Dwyane Wade is dazzling and Shaquille O'Neal is sensational. When it comes to awe-inspiring spin moves or jaw-dropping dunks, those are the guys you want to see. There is nothing wrong with loving the high-flying part of basketball.
But watch the way the Pistons execute plays coming out of timeouts. Check out the way the Spurs buckle down and produce at both ends of the court in crunch time. Appreciate Chauncey Billups' knack for making big free throws and Duncan's ability to dominate consecutive possessions at both ends of the court. Concentrate on Tony Parker's court vision, Tayshaun Prince's slow but oh-so effective shooting release, Bruce Bowen's defense and Richard Hamilton's mid-range jumper.
If you like the flashy stuff, fine. Who doesn't? But love the game, too. No one plays it better than these two teams.
3. Manu Ginobili
The Spurs' off guard has a chance at this double – the (unofficial) MVP of the Olympics, where his native Argentina won gold, and (official) MVP of the NBA Finals. All in a 10-month span.
He gets overshadowed a bit in San Antonio because he isn't named Tim Duncan, he doesn't date Eva Longoria and, well, he plays in San Antonio. But Manu Ginobili is a bad-ass basketball player and a do-it-all guard who is capable of taking over this series if he heats up. Doubt it? Just ask Larry Brown, who saw him up close in Athens.
Oh, and to boot, Ginobili has just enough of that Danny Ainge type of love-to-hate-him style to be truly entertaining.
4. Larry Brown
In terms of fun drama, you can't beat the living, breathing soap opera of the Pistons' head coach, who may or may not also be currently employed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. His press conferences consist of him having trouble hearing questions, then speaking in a monotone often in a way that is a meandering parsing of words. It's good TV.
Who knows what Brown will do in the Finals? Who knows what will happen? For his possible disloyalty to the Pistons he was booed by some fans during the Eastern Conference finals in probably the only time in sports history the coach of a defending champion was jeered at home.
With Brown, it is always something. There is always a storyline. And that includes great coaching.
5. No conspiracy
Just imagine what Michael Moore could do with a documentary on David Stern's NBA. Stern can't order an iced tea at lunch without someone coming up with a conspiracy theory.
He fixes games. He fixes the refs. He fixes the draft lottery. It got so bad the New York Times, in an actual, serious column, complained that the league isn't doing enough to help big-market teams win the lottery more often.
Folks, you can eat the Pop Rocks and suck down a Coke. Give it up. Stern couldn't get his own dog fixed.
Detroit and San Antonio, the two best teams in the NBA, will meet in the Finals.
If that isn't enough reason to watch, there is always the Stanley Cup Finals.
- San Antonio
- NBA Finals