Comment: It’s time for ‘blue-collar ball’ in the NBA playoffs

COMMENT: By Paul Brown (@pbsportswriter)

Okay, I admit it. I want to see a Spurs v Celtics NBA playoffs Finals series.

I grew up a Boston fan because I always admired the hard working, team-first, ball-sharing basketball they represented.

The flashy arrogance of the glitzy Showtime Lakers never appealed. I was for blue-collar ball instead.

And yeah okay I was always fascinated how a guy like Larry Bird, who wasn’t blessed with the speed, power or athleticism of half the NBA, could do the things he did.

But mainly it was about the joy of seeing the ball whipped around the court. Everybody getting touches. Everybody getting their shots.

Today’s Celtics are still built on that, despite their reliance on Isiah Thomas. So are the Spurs, despite Kawhi Leonard needing to be superhuman most nights.

Kawhi actually reminds me of Larry. He’s not constantly in the media. He doesn’t do big endorsement deals. He isn’t flashy.

And to do what he is doing in a system like Pop’s in San Antonio, where everything is about making the extra pass and taking good shots, is pretty remarkable.

But I’m getting off the point.

A little part of me wants to see these two teams in the finals because they represent something that might just be dying out in the NBA.

We all know last year’s finals were about LeBron and Kyrie taking over the fourth and about the Splash Brothers choking.

Well nothing’s changed for the Cavs (except they seem to have forgotten how to play defence). They’re still a team dominated by two superstars calling all the shots.

Things have changed in Golden State, sure. KD’s arrival means they’re now a “Superteam”.

But KD in Golden State just means a third superstar taking big shots (and no-one takes bigger shots than the Dubs – look at how many airballs and bricks from way out Curry shot in last year’s play-offs).

And, call me a hater, but it’s just hard to like Superteams. They assume that if you have enough big names, you can throw any mug in there with them and win.

I find it hard to get too excited about that (plus I remember the Lakers “Superteam” that got beat 4-1 in the finals by Detroit…).

Kawhi might be doing it all for the Spurs in an even bigger way than Kobe used to for some of the more recent incarnations of LA ball.

But he doesn’t take 34 shots a night.

And that team is still DEEP. I bet you Pop will go deeper into that bench than most coaches during the play-offs.
Deeper than Houston, who have played an eight-man rotation against the Thunder at times and relied on James Harden iso’s to win.

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Is there anything more dull than watching a “superstar” force up shot after shot, good or bad, hit or miss? “Kobeeee… CLUNK.”

Harden took 28 shots to score 37 points in one game against the Thunder. Kawhi took 14 to score the same number against Memphis (honourable mention to Russell Westbrook who took 23 shots just to score 22 points…).

Get excited about that if you like. It’s ball movement, backdoor cuts, shot selection and team-first ball that excites me.

Call me old school. But that’s why I want to see the Spurs and Celtics in the finals.

Two solid franchises that haven’t spent bags of money tempting as many mercenaries to join them as possible.

Two teams who know how to share the ball and get everyone involved looking for the right shot. Two teams with a deep bench and a smart coach who isn’t constantly battling a load of inflated egos.

Two teams who don’t rely on a couple of superstars and whatever else they can scrape together to get it done.

In today’s NBA, that seems pretty rare.

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