The 2010 NBA Finals are about to get underway. It’s not the Kobe – LeBron matchup that virtually everyone in the world outside of Boston wanted to see, but a rematch of the classic 2008 finals is a pretty good consolation prize. With a long break between games for both teams leading into this series the media has been forced to fill a lot of pages without a game to write about. Not surprisingly, a lot of what they have focused on isn’t likely to be a massive factor in the series, and serves only as a distraction for serious bettors. Here are five of the more overhyped storylines that the media is focusing too much time and ink on:
Rondo’s emergence – I don’t want to take anything away from the incredible playoff run that Boston’s point guard has had, but the coverage he has gotten recently is ridiculous. If you believe the press then the guy walks on water and will be completely unguardable for the Lakers. First, it’s not like the Lakers haven’t faced a good point guard who is playing well before. In the first round they handled Russell Westbrook easily. Deron Williams was red hot coming into the second round, but the Lakers shut him down and humiliated his team. Last time out they beat some guy named Steve Nash. During the regular season the Lakers somehow managed to win 57 games despite playing some pretty good point guards – including Rondo twice. Rondo was fine but far from dominant in the second of the two meetings with the Lakers, and Kobe Bryant wasn’t even playing. More significantly, we don’t even know how healthy Rondo is going to be. He took a beating in the last series and is dealing with back issues that could be a real issue for him in this series. Rondo is undeniable a major factor in this series, but his portrayal as the difference maker is overstated.
Andrew Bynum’s knee – There has been much concern raised about Bynum’s knee after it was drained earlier this week. He’s dealing with a torn meniscus, and it’s farfrom certain that he’ll be able to contribute at full strength here. Who cares? Bynum missed 17 games this year, and the Lakers still managed to play decent basketball without him. They also managed to make it to the finals despite a less than stunning effort from Bynum in the playoffs – he averaged just 7.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in May. The Lakers are a better team when Bynum is in and healthy, but he’s not going to be the difference between a win and a loss in the series regardless of what happens.
Kobe’s health – I’ve read concerns about his knee – which was drained earlier in the playoffs – along with his shoulder, elbow, and pretty much everything else. Irrelevant. There isn’t a guy in the league who is even close to as competitive as Kobe is. Unless the injury reports that his head has been chopped off Kobe is going to be ready to contribute in this series. He’s the best there is for a reason, and that goes far beyond his talent. You really don’t have a choice in handicapping this series other than to assume that Kobe will be Kobe.
Rivalry – I’ve read far to much about the importance of this rivalry and how it will fire this series up to a whole new level. I’m just not buying it. The roots of the rivalry were set down before most of the players in the game were even born. They played each other in the finals in 20o8, and most of the key players on both sides are still around, but this rivalry just doesn’t feel like one of those hate-filled, all-consuming matchups that can have an impact on the series. Te teams don’t see each other often enough, and it’s not like they are the twin titans of the league that are head and shoulders above everyone else. This is a rivalry, but the impact of that is easy to overstate.
Coaches – Far too much is being made of the job status of both coaches in this series. There is much speculation that both Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers could leave their respective teams after this series regardless of the result. Over the last couple of days I have read more than one article talking about how that could serve to be a distraction in the series. I couldn’t think of anything more ridiculous. These guys are two of the best and most professional coaches in the league – Jackson is the very best – so there is no way they are going to let thoughts about their futures get in the way of the most important task in the sport – winning championships. It’s not like either would give less than full effort to spite their current employers. Besides, by the time a team has made it this far the biggest coaching jobs have already been done, so it’s not particularly likely that the series is going to be decided because one guy outcoaches the other.