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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.”