SALT LAKE CITY — It's easy to say now that it's over, but I was in the minority that thought Miami would win the NBA Finals. I couldn't understand the experts who said the Western Conference final between Oklahoma City and San Antonio was the real NBA Final.
Why not the Heat? They were older and more experienced than the Thunder, and they still had a Big Three that a couple of years earlier everyone was afraid would win too many titles over the next decade.
Oklahoma City, on the other hand, while enjoying top talent in Kevin Durrant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, were very young — second-youngest team in the league — and not playoff-tested as most teams that win the NBA title are.
What's not as easy to say is that I'm happy LeBron James won a title. That's not a popular sentiment among NBA followers who will never forgive James for taking his talents to South Beach. While I've never been a LeBron or Heat fan, I've also never been a LeBron hater.
I think most folks overreacted to what happened two years ago when LeBron decided to leave Cleveland and announced his intentions in a nationally-televised half-hour special. It was definitely tacky the way James approached it, but he certainly wasn't the first free agent to move to a new city. Superstars in every sport move to new teams almost every year, often in hopes of chasing a championship and no one blinks an eye.
Unlike a lot of NBA athletes, LeBron seems to be a genuinely good guy. He doesn't get in trouble, he rarely acts like a jerk on or off on the floor and he's almost unselfish to a fault. He might be one of the best passing big men ever.
Besides LeBron, I was happy to see coach Erik Spoelstra win a title. He's certainly not the greatest coach in the NBA but he was put in a difficult situation, almost a no-win situation, coaching a trio of superstars with little head-coaching experience. He seems like a truly nice guy, unlike many NBA coaches who are arrogant and condescending.
As for Oklahoma City, its time will come. Unfortunately the Thunder will likely get an NBA title before the Utah Jazz. But if the Jazz's young players can continue to develop, the two division foes could have a exciting rivalry for years to come.
The NBA Draft is this week and for the first time in 18 years, the Jazz won't have a first-round draft choice. At least they don't right now.
The Jazz brought in a couple of dozen players over the past two weeks, attracting plenty of media attention during one of the slowest times of the local sports season. The reporters and TV and radio guys had a chance to talk to such household names as Negueba Samake, Greg Somogyi and Tomislav Zubcic.
About half of the Jazz hopefuls were big guys, 6-9 or taller and about half were point guards 6-2 or smaller, with only a couple of players in between. So there's little doubt what the Jazz are looking for in this week's draft.
If the Jazz decide to go big, I like Justin Hamilton, the former Lone Peak player, who left LSU a year early after averaging 13 points and 7.2 rebounds last year. His numbers aren't outstanding, but he's 7-feet, 260 pounds and seems to have a tremendous upside, having improved every year since scoring four total points in his junior season at Lone Peak.5 comments on this story
Among the point guards, two to keep an eye on are former Iona star Scott Machado and Alabama-Huntsville's Josh Magette. Both are four year starters who are pass-first guys. Machado led the nation with 9.9 assists, while Magette (pronounced Mah-jet) dished out 8.9 assists per game as a Division II first-team all-American.
Neither player is a future NBA star, but each could be good enough for a team to use a second-round pick in hopes of developing down the line. After what happened with Jeremy Lin last winter, NBA teams might be more apt to check out overlooked, unheralded players like Machado and Magette.
It's also possible that the Jazz will get a better player than the aforementioned players. I have a sneaking suspicion that Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor will try to find a way to move into the first round.