Hoping for a little churn at the top of the NBA and not the seemingly inevitable Warriors-Cavs rematch

 

Surely in the minority here, but I’m glad Dwyane Wade is with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the simple reason that it makes the 2018 NBA Finals worth watching.

It’s going to be Golden State vs Cleveland again next June. You know that. Every other team in the league knows that, too, though they will try to convince themselves otherwise as the new season kicks off this week.

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant defends Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

Does this make the 82-game regular season that stretches before us a crashing bore? Of course not. There will be all kinds of drama. Sensational and courageous playmaking. Comebacks and upsets and teams, like the Miami Heat last year, playing absolutely out of their heads for significant stretches.

In the end, though, it we wind up with Warriors vs. Cavs again, for what would be the fourth year in a row, it will be abundantly clear why fans get so worked up about the free-agency signing period each summer. It’s the only time when competitive conditions across the league are subject to real change.

Come to think of it, even that has become a bit of a wash in recent years, with all kinds of great talent going all kinds of interesting places but the Warriors negating that collective energy by taking Kevin Durant for themselves.

Which new talent grouping interests you most? My choice is Oklahoma City, with Billy Donovan trying to find a formula that works for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Fascinating stuff, but again the Thunder aren’t expected to measure up to the Warriors in the Western Conference, so there they go again.

Trying not to be so cynical here, but a little churn at the top keeps the interest going stronger and longer for me.

Even with all the talk of Tom Brady and New England dominating the NFL, the last 10 Super Bowls have been won by eight teams. Two each by the Patriots and Giants, and the rest spread around among Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle and Denver. That grows hope in more fan bases. It makes the regular season count for more than just playoff seeding.

As for baseball, here’s one that surprised me. There hasn’t been a World Series rematch since the Yankees beat the Dodgers in 1977 and again in 1978. And here we are looking at the Warriors and the Cavs for a possible fourth year in a row?

Thanks goodness it’s a league and an industry driven by stars because the teams alone seem to be fairly ordered.

As for the Boston Celtics winning eight NBA titles in a row from 1959-66 and a total of 11 in 13 years over the same stretch, we won’t go there, hopefully, ever again.

[What Miami will get from Syracuse, the team that lost to Middle Tennessee?]

[Flying high again with the ever-changing Central Florida Knights]

[Even greatest UM teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

 

 

Not to dampen NBA draft enthusiasm, but has anyone seen Darko?

Where are you, Darko Milicic? More specifically, how could the 7-footer who got drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in 2003 get lost in the first place?

These are important questions as we prepare to spin the roulette wheel of another NBA draft next Thursday. Here’s another one. Do you know the only player to be drafted ahead of Milicic, the Serbian skyscraper who started with Detroit and in 12 NBA seasons averaged 6.0 points per game?

His name is LeBron James. Like Milicic, LeBron never played a minute of college ball in this country. Like Milicic, he had an NBA body as a teenager.

[Deciphering ‘Nerdgate,’ the St. Louis Cardinals childish hack job]

[It’s better this way, with LeBron coming up short in NBA Finals]

[A tip of the cap to Ichiro Suzuki, Japan’s gift to the Marlins]

NEW YORK - JUNE 26:  Darko Milicic is selected #2 overall in the first round by the Detroit Pistons holds up a Pistons #31 jersey during the 2003 NBA Draft at the Paramount Theatre at Madison Square Garden on June 26, 2003 in New York, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) ORG XMIT:   ORG XMIT: MER0705071350323490
Darko Milicic was selected #2 overall in the 2003 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons.  (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

The difference is that LeBron was and is so unstoppable that it comes as a shock all these years later when he doesn’t win an NBA title, even if the mission is to do it almost single-handedly.

Milicic? Not so much. An internet search turned him up playing these days for a Serbian pro team called Metalac Farmakom, which probably means something to Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic but doesn’t mean anything to me.

The names Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja don’t mean that much to me, either, though it seems they each will be drafted in the top 10 next week by NBA teams that can’t resist their slick Euro moves and towering builds. With the buzz that’s growing in all the mock drafts, Porzingis, the 7-foot-1 Latvian, even looks like top-five.

This institutes added mystery to a draft process that already is baffling enough.

LeBron didn’t have to be LeBron, for instance. He could have turned instead into Kwame Brown, a player considered such a sure thing that he was the NBA’s first No. 1 overall pick drafted straight out of high school.

The Washington Wizards and team president Michael Jordan took Brown over all others in 2001 based on the shot blocker’s play at Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga. That was a disappointment to Billy Donovan, who had Brown signed to a scholarship at Florida, but hardly a surprise. Brown was ready for the NBA, everybody agreed, but after bouncing around the league with seven different teams the 6-foot-11 project retired, uncompleted, with a career average of 6.6 points right in Milicic’s neighborhood.

Add it all up and I’m glad that Pat Riley is in charge of using the Heat’s No. 10 overall pick. He doesn’t get them all right, as we’re reminded every time Michael Beasley comes and goes in Miami, but he has a good feel for what players will be worth to the franchise a year or two from now.

That’s what the NBA draft is for most organizations, a facet of the team’s long-term development, an acquisition phase to be utilized in future trades.

Once a player’s been around the league for a while and showed himself adaptable and tough enough to stand out, then it’s time to get excited about him.

That’s how you tell the difference between Goran Dragic and his brother Zoran.

That’s how you learn to make your plans as if the draft might not work out at all.