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2 posts from June 20, 2013

June 20, 2013

Media column: Bayless resorts to old tricks; Media musings from the NBA Finals

Please check back Friday afternoon for a ton of reaction from the Heat's postgame locker-room from late Thursday night/early Friday morning. In the meantime, here's the...



Media musings from The NBA Finals:

### It was the middle of the night Tuesday when a Heat fan called a local radio station to remark that one of the best developments to come out of Game 6 was that he wouldn’t need to spend the summer listening to Skip Bayless crucifying the Heat.

Naturally, it would seem easy enough for Heat fans and other Bayless-bashers to spare themselves the aggravation, to simply turn off ESPN2’s First Take and ignore Bayless’ reactionary rants, hyperventilating declarations, premature conclusions and artificial indignation.

But therein lies Bayless’ greatest gift: The ability to make people pay attention to him, to make them care enough about what he says to repeat it, re-tweet it and grouse about it.

Bayless’ repertoire includes a couple of intellectually lazy go-to moves, and he resorted to one of them this week while in town to co-host First Take with sparring partner Stephen A. Smith. Bayless loves to accuse players of choking because, well, it’s an easy and convenient – though not necessarily accurate - way to explain failure.

Bayless said Manu Ginobili missed the first of two free throws with 28 seconds left in Game 6, and the Spurs ahead five, because he choked.

Other reasonable explanations certainly could be identified: Ginobili has been erratic with his free throws all postseason, shooting 72.4 percent from line. He was in the midst of a dreadful eight-turnover game.

But Bayless opted instead to shout “choke,” because it is the explanation that requires the least amount of thought and one that cannot be completely disproved because, well, there aren’t medical tests for that.

Talking about “clutch” is another Bayless crutch. He has asserted LeBron James “has no clutch gene,” as if a player has some sort of genetic pre-disposition to make or miss shots with the game on the line.

Bayless ranted about that earlier this year, ignoring that James’ clutch shooting (as defined by the NBA, final five minutes of close games) has been far better than Kobe Bryant’s and many other players in the past three years.

This week, Bayless seemed to take great pleasure in declaring that James “lapsed into shaky late-game LeBron” when he missed two threes (he also made one) late in regulation and committed a turnover in the final minute of overtime of Game 6.

Never mind that James entered Game 7 with a higher career shooting percentage than Bryant on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime of playoff games. You won’t hear that from Bayless, an unabashed Spurs fan.

Bayless declined to be interviewed when I approached him this week, saying he didn’t know my “angle” and wasn’t prepared to answer questions. An ESPN publicist later said he would answer one or two questions via e-mail, but he changed his mind when provided the questions – including one about whether he believes everything he says, or sometimes instead simply takes the position different from Smith’s.

The most amusing moment of Bayless’ visit to South Florida this week?

When First Take moderator Cari Champion said Tim Duncan looked tired late in Game 6, Bayless scolded her. “Don’t editorialize!” Bayless snapped.

Because, well, opining on sports must be left to the experts. Heaven forbid if someone not as qualified as Bayless should inadvertently misdiagnose whether a player is missing the “clutch gene.”

### Strong series by ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy, who quickly identified lineup mismatches and eyeballed and explained shifts in strategy. His quirky observations add flavor to his commentary, but Van Gundy wisely pulled back some during the Finals because of the significance of the games. 

### Sign of the times: Besides San Antonio and Miami, only five other NBA markets – New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles – had English-language newspapers covering the series; most NBA markets staffed the Finals in the 1990s. That’s not a reflection of interest in the league, but of newspapers reducing travel budgets. But the international media presence at the Finals has never been bigger, and the major U.S. sports web sites were out in full force.

### Popular blogger/author/sportscaster Bill Simmons said he enjoyed his first season on the ABC/ESPN studio show but hasn’t decided whether to return next year.

“The schedule, once the playoffs start, is pretty intense,” he said. “I thought I would have more time to do other stuff…. I want to take a couple weeks and think about what makes sense.”

### Entering Game 7, none of the Finals games on ABC generated a local rating as high as the 37.1 for Game 7 of the Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference Finals. But a greater share of Dade/Broward adults ages 25 to 54 watched Tuesday night’s Game 6 than any of the past five Super Bowls.

### From the sometimes-reporters-can-be-helpful file: James thanked NBA TV’s David Aldridge for asking, earlier in the series, whether it would help him, offensively, to get the ball on the move more often. James said he liked the idea…. And credit ESPN’s Tim Legler for suggesting, on air, that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich start Ginobili beginning in Game 5.

### The best news about the Finals ending? We need not be subjected any more to WPLG-Channel 10’s unoriginal, repetitive, cringe-inducing pom-pom waving pre-game show, the one that preempted ABC’s pregame coverage five out of the seven games.

Among the things we learned: Heat fans were excited before all of the games. Many of them were loud. Sports bars did a lot of business on game nights. For WPLG, none of those scoops could be emphasized enough.

### San Antonio forward Tracy McGrady smashed the Finals record for most questions asked of The Guy Who Rarely Plays, beating Juwan Howard’s old mark. “I watch, just like you,” McGrady told reporters earlier in the series. “I just have a better seat.”      

UM adds DE; Heat rejects Spike Lee; Haslem's return?; Prices soaring; Riley's stories

### Quick UM note before we get to Heat: UM has added to its roster Julio Derosier, a former three-star defensive end out of Homestead who played for College of the Sequoias in California last season. An impressive physical specimen at 6-6 and 265 pounds, Derosier had 15 tackles in five games in 2012 but missed part of the season with a foot injury.He also had been considering Washington and Colorado.

Some Heat notes, hours before Game 7:

Knicks fan/movie director Spike Lee, of all people, showed up at the Heat’s media availability nine hours before Game 7, but no Heat players agreed to an interview with him Thursday morning for a video project that he was trying to put together for ABC’s telecast.

According to ABC, Lee wanted to do a short variation of his 1998 movie, He Got Game, which featured Ray Allen playing the role of fictitious character Jesus Shuttlesworth, the nation’s top basketball prospect. Denzel Washington played Allen’s father.

Allen declined Lee’s interview request on Thursday morning because he does not speak after shoot-arounds.

Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier, who do speak after shoot-arounds, also declined Lee’s request, as did Mike Miller.

Heat players might have been more willing to participate if Lee had approached them Wednesday, a practice day.

An ABC spokesperson said because of timing issues, Lee’s project did not materialize. But the network was unsure whether Lee would continue efforts to do some sort of Heat-related project on his own.

Lee shook Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s hand Thursday morning and wished him luck.

But last August, Lee told MTV News that if the Knicks did not win the championship this season: “I rather the Lakers win it than the Heat. I do not want the Heat to win back-to-back. Hell, no. Hell to the nah.”

###  According to TiqIQ, the average ticket price for Game 7 had risen to $1537.79, as of Thursday morning – an increase of $225 over the price listed Wednesday morning.

By comparison, ticket seller Vivid Seats said the average ticket price was $2400 for the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami and $1600 for January’s BCS title game at Sun Life Stadium.

### Spoelstra said Udonis Haslem likely will play tonight after getting his first DNP-CD (did not play/coach’s decision) of the season on Tuesday. Spoelstra said not using Haslem Tuesday was “one of the tougher things I’ve ever done.”

### Spoelstra, reflecting before Game 7 on his 10 years with Dwyane Wade and Haslem:

“I’ve probably aged 50 years. Those guys look the same. It’s been 10 long years. We’ve been through everything in those 10 years, even in different roles. That season [2003] was my first year I moved up to the bench with Stan [Van Gundy]. Dwyane and U.D. were rookies.

“We’ve been through the championship years and we’ve been through the bust years. That helps you build character, and you get to know each other for real – when you win 15 games and when you climb that mountaintop.”

### For those who ask, Wade said it’s simply not realistic to expect LeBron James to be in attack mode the entire game.

“He’s in unbelievable shape. Unbelievable,” Wade said. “But he can’t do it four quarters that way. A lot of people say, ‘Why can’t he play like that every day?’

“It takes so much out of you, so much energy, to be able to do that. If he doesn’t then he’s not playing any defense on the other end. He’s not making incredible blocks, incredible rebounds. You have to pick your spots when you do that.”

### Spoelstra said Heat president Pat Riley reminded him that the first time his Lakers won back-to-back title in 1987 and 1988, “they had three Game 7s that nobody seems to remember. They almost got beat every time.”

Riley’s recent interaction with the players has been limited, Chris Bosh indicated.

“He’s not telling stories to us right now,” Spoelstra said. “He’s done enough of that during the year.”

### LeBron James entered averaging 33.8 points in Game 7s – highest in NBA history, minimum two games.

### As ESPN’s Stats and Information noted Thursday morning, the Heat entered Game 7 having been outscored by 56 points in this series during the 194 minutes that James and Wade have played together. When James is playing without Wade, the Heat has outscored the Spurs by 48. James is shooting 54.1 percent without Wade alongside, 38.9 with Wade.

But this is a big difference from the regular season, when the Heat outscored opponents by 14 per 48 minutes when James and Wade played together.

### Whereas the Heat entered having not lost back-to-back games since Jan. 8 and 10, ESPN noted the Spurs haven't lost consecutive games with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the lineup since Dec. 12 and 13, 2012.