The NBA can sometimes be engaging, paradoxical, unpredictable, hilarious, brilliant, crazy and addictive, and sometimes all of them, all at the same time. So in honour of my favourite piece of fiction that features all of the above characteristics – Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 – I bring to you this column highlighting the 22 most interesting short stories from the NBA in recent days. Try and catch them all!
From the vaults of NBA Strange comes Metta World Peace’s hilarious running commentary during the NBA Finals. The “Artist Formerly Known as Artest” says a lot of interesting things, but it was his analogy in comparing to the two Finals’ squads to a cheeseburger that definitely hit a special nerve. Metta compared the role players in each squad to the lettuce in a cheeseburger. Superstars can only take a team so far, but no perfect burger – um, team – would be complete without the supporting cast. The 2013 Finals have been a showcase of the importance of role players.
1. The biggest surprise of the NBA Finals has been Danny Green
, a former backup to LeBron James in Cleveland who has added deadly three-point range to his two-way arsenal. In a series that features half a dozen future Hall of Famers, it is Green who has been the leading scorer so far, amassing 56 points over the first three games. This included a 7-for-9 shooting night from 3-point range in Game 3.
2. The Game 3 blowout win for the Spurs was also due to 24 points by unheralded backup point guard Gary Neal, who was 6-for-10 from the 3-point line to aid Green’s offensive onslaught.
3. The Spurs made history in Game 3 by making an NBA Finals record 16 three-pointers in the contest!
4. Don’t forget the efforts of Kawhi Leonard for San Antonio too: the sophomore has blossomed into a fantastic defensive, rebounding, and occasional scoring threat, and helped keep LeBron James relatively in check for the third consecutive contest.
5. LeBron’s first three games are starting to mirror his performance at the 2011 Finals. Although he continues to be an incredible playmaker, rebounder, and defender, his scoring touch has left him at the worst possible moment. Through three games, LeBron has only averaged 16.7 ppg on 37.5 percent shooting.
6. But every once in a while, LeBron still reminds us that he is a basketball machine. Such as our Highlight of the Week: his epic block on Tiago Splitter in Game 2!
7. The other play that has had everyone going in these Finals was Tony Parker’s incredible shot in Game 1 over LeBron. Parker’s shot-clock beating jumper in the game’s last minute put the Spurs up four and helped San Antonio steal the game. It could very well go down as one of the most important shots in NBA Finals history.
8. Miami’s second superstar - Dwyane Wade - has been a man of two halves thus far in the Finals, scoring nearly 80 percent of his total points before the halftime break, before potentially fatigue and/or injury hobbles catch up with him in the second.
9. Lucky for the Heat, they’ve had their own ‘lettuce’, too. Mario Chalmers was the unlikely superstar in Game 2, scoring a game-high 19 points in a Heat win.
10. Chalmers is something of a Finals connoisseur. Before his disappearing act in Game 3, he had averaged 11.5 ppg in 13 career Finals games, as compared to his career scoring average of 8.4 ppg.
11. Another player stepping up for Miami has been Mike Miller
, who has found his range in the Finals despite being out of the rotation for most of the season.
12. In back-to-back games, Miami and San Antonio traded blowout wins without any of their All-Star players scoring over 17 points. Lettuce.
13. If recent history is to be believed, Miami won’t be too fussed about losing Game 3. In their five previous playoff losses this season, Miami have bounced back with thumping, blowout victories, defeating opponents by an average of 21.6 points.
14. Whatever happens from here-on forth, Miami have achieved quite a feat by making it to their third consecutive Finals. It is a feat accomplished just 12 other times in NBA history, although Boston’s nine consecutive appearances from 1957-66 should really count as three teams!
15. Here’s something special about these NBA Finals: the matchup features a record 10 international players in the Final, including nine from the Spurs. Outside of USA, players from France, Argentina, Virgin Islands, Brazil, Canada, and Australia are adding international flavour to the matchup.
16. One of the strangest sights in these Finals has been of Tracy McGrady. A 7-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, and two-time member of the All-NBA First Team, McGrady was one of the league’s marquee players in the last decade. But he never even played past the First Round of the Playoffs. Now, after briefly being a journeyman and playing in China, he is back in the league and closer to a championship than ever before. Even if his role has been reduced from being team leader to getting limited minutes.
17. Quote of the week: When asked on live broadcast how his team is hoping to continue containing LeBron James in the fourth quarter, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gave a simple, succinct, and hilarious response: “I can’t tell you that!”
18. Popovich and Eric Spoelstra are two great coaches who can consider their jobs safe – for now. In an amazing coaching carousel, six out of the 16 playoff coaches have already lost their job over the past month, including Coach of the Year George Karl of the Nuggets.
19. The past few weeks the NBA world also waved goodbye to two of its greatest talents: Grant Hill and Jason Kidd; co-Rookies of the Year in 1994 who retired together!
20. We may have focused on the ‘lettuce’ in this column, but it will be the stars who will be coming closer to us very soon. Recently, NBA India announced that one of the All-Star players in this year’s NBA Finals may be coming to India this summer!
21. Tweet of the Week: Who else but Mr. World Peace himself? “The bench players are the lettuce but they are important!! Cheese is for looks.”
22. Watch the NBA Finals on NBA League Pass.