NBA fans have been waiting 49 weeks for the seemingly inevitable: another Cavaliers-Warriors Finals, which finally will begin on Thursday.
Along the way, one storyline for the two powerhouses has been rest — not only for the long week leading up to Game 1 but also during the regular season, when many stars took nights off, disappointing fans and TV networks.
It is a strategy that was widespread across the league, and that some believe has benefitted the Cavs and Warriors during their waltz through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
ABC/ESPN analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson are not buying it — not as a factor in the Finalists’ performances this spring and not as something teams should be doing during the regular season even if it would help.
“I’ve read that both teams chose to rest and it proved to be successful,” Van Gundy said Tuesday on a conference call to promote the Finals coverage. “There are other teams who’ve rested who went out early, but very little is said about that as a failure.
“So, again, I think you have to be careful with the whole idea of what it is that’s worked. LeBron James has worked. What we know to be effective is him on the floor.
“As far as the regular season, even if I would say that it worked, resting, which I’m not convinced it had anything to do with their success either way, I still think it’s wrong.
“We market our star players. We ask our fans to watch games, to buy tickets to games, to pay astronomical sums of money to come and watch and then we bait and switch them without any notice and we expect it to be OK.
“I’ve read that many, including the commissioner, have said it’s not a big problem. I’ve always been of the thought when you get ripped off or when somebody gets ripped off if it’s not you it’s not a big problem. But if it’s you, it’s a big problem.
“So I think how the fans, since they drive this whole business and they generate the vast sums of money that our players earn, that we should be more judicious in how we treat them.
“Because right now I think we’re treating them very poorly when it comes to taking nights off that have nothing to do with injury.
“Talent is what allowed [the Finalists] to flip the switch. We would all hope as coaches that very few teams are capable of doing what Cleveland has done in that flipping of the switch, but you can’t deny if you’re myself, even though I would love to say it’s all about habit, what this shows me is some teams are so ultra-talented that they can shortchange themselves in the regular season, flip the switch and still get back to where they wanted to be, which is the Finals.
“Now, whether they have the habits that are good enough when matched up against an equally talented team in Golden State, that’s what the Finals are going to be about.”
Said Jackson, “I’m in agreement with Jeff. Something’s got to be done. It is a concern. We want to see the best players on the floor. It’s a disservice to the fans and to the game.”