Final thoughts from the 2024 NBA Finals

Final thoughts from the 2024 NBA Finals
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Every team needs a Derrick White (but maybe not a Kyrie Irving).

For the first time in forever, I did not provide a running commentary on the NBA playoffs and finals this year. Instead, I chose to live in the past, re-living and recounting the 2014 NBA playoffs which culminated in the Spurs Beautiful Game Redemption Finals championship. I figured that the tenth anniversary of those Finals was a terrific opportunity to rekindle those memories.

But I do have some thoughts about the 2024 playoffs and finals, as you probably expected. Here are a few of them.

1. This was the first time since the Weather Finals in 2012 (Heat vs. Thunder) that I did not have a strong rooting interest in the NBA Finals. After some consternation I settled on the Celtics, not an easy decision for this former Laker fan. But several things led to that decision. The Celtics had (at least) two excellent teammates – ex-Spur and Colorado Buffalo Derrick White and Jrue Holiday. Indeed, Holiday has been voted Best Teammate by his NBA peers several times. From

“NBA players have selected Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday as the recipient of the 2022-23 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award. This is the second straight season Holiday has won it and the third time in the last four seasons as well.”

Compare that to the Mavs’ Kyrie Irving. If the NBA had worst teammate awards, Kyrie would have made First Team several times, quitting on several teams over the years. As a former coach, I much prefer good teammates to bad ones — hence my decision to go with White/Holiday’s Celtics over the Mavs. The fact that White and Holiday are also great defenders sealed the deal. They also sealed up Kyrie, who did not play well except for one game in the Finals, with a very-satisfying-to-this-observer 5 for 16 stinker in the final game.

2. It turns out that I bet on the right horse. The Celtics were just better than everyone else. The only possible criticism is that the Celtics didn’t have to play another excellent team during their playoff run and their opponents (until the Finals) had serious injury problems. It would have been better if they faced the Nuggets in the Finals. But you can’t blame the Celtics for their opponents, and the Celtics pretty much crushed anyone that played them — both regular season and playoffs, although they were 0-2 against the Nuggets.

3. If D White and Holiday are your 4th and 5th best players, you have a very good team. (If Holiday is actually the 3rd best Celtic, and he might be, then I can make the same point about having Kristaps Porzingis and D White as your 4th and 5th best players.) I am not the only one who noticed the quality of the Celtics’ three through five. Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer just put out this post in which he lists ten players who could be what he calls The Derrick White All-Stars – basically players who could complete any contender’s roster.

4. On the same theme, and not to pick on Irving (OK, maybe I am), if 32-year old Kyrie is a team’s second best player, that team may not be championship material. Especially if the team is the Mavs. I don’t know if Mavs fans can even identify their third best player. P.J. Washington?

5. Spurs fans may be wondering the same thing about their team. We know who the Spurs’ best player is. Second is almost certainly Devin Vassell, and I believe Devin can be the second best player on a championship contender. We hope Jeremy Sochan develops into a solid number three. But for the Spurs to truly contend, it would be much better if Sochan makes the Derrick White All-Stars as the Spurs fifth best player. Which means the Spurs need to draft or acquire guys who can become the Spurs’ third and fourth best players. Luckily, Victor Wembanyama already satisfies the hardest spot to fill — a true Number One.

Finally, as is my tradition, like “One Shining Moment” at the end of March Madness, I will end this season with a list of Favorite Memories. I hope these Favorite Memories will sustain me (and you) during the barren wasteland of the NBA offseason — some from the distant past, some from the recent present. Upon further reflection, many of these are both Favorite Memories and things I look forward to seeing again once NBA play begins anew.

Michael Cooper in a defensive stance,

The Joker triple doubling,

The late great Jerry West dribbling hard right and pulling up for a clutch jumper,

The Spurs Beautiful Gaming the Miami Heat off the floor in the Redemption Finals,

Robert Horry spotting up in the last minute of a playoff game,

DannyGreen!! snuffing out an opponent’s fast break,

Al Horford smiling after winning his last game of the season for the first time since college,

Wilt finger-rolling,

Steph Curry sprinting around the court, using multiple screens, looking for a split-second opening to catch, shoot and make a three — from distance!,

DFish bellying up on a guy who is bigger faster quicker and more talented (even though Tony still dominated him),

Damian Lillard Dame-timing it,

Spurs youth movement players improving,

Mike Breen BANG-ing,

Jalen Brunson and the Knicks competing,

Luka Doncic creating,

Playoff Jimmy Butler “just ballin’” (Butler’s description of why he becomes Playoff Jimmy)

Magic Johnson running the middle dishing this way, wait, no, that way,

Patty Mills sprinting over to help a teammate to their feet after that teammate took a charge,

Rick Barry under-handing,

Giannis Euro-stepping,

The Oui Frenchman tear-dropping,

Dirk step-backing,

My Man Manu Ginobili dunking all over Bosh,

Earl the Pearl spin-dribbling

A Shooter heating up, with the crowd joining in,

Pistol Pete behind-the-backing,

The Great Duncan blocking a shot, controlling the ball, and throwing the long bounce outlet pass,

Dr. J dunking,

LeBron (or Giannis, or Bam) chasing down a seemingly uncontested breakaway lay-up,

Popovich teaching for (at least) one more season,

Victor debuting (and yes, that is a French word) and being so much better than even the most optimistic projections,

And in honor of the NBA champion Boston Celtics — champions enjoying each other’s company one last time as the season ends — celebrating.

Yep, those are my Favorite Hoops Memories. They will keep me going through the offseason — but I am also looking forward to the NBA draft, and the Spurs’ improvement next year.

That’s it from Coach Lee D. Thank you for following along.

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