What did you think?
The Cavs were outclassed in every single facet of the game imaginable. Even if Larry Hughes had been available I don't think it would have made a shred of difference.
No doubt the Spurs are the class of the league right now, playing defense and fundamental basketball at a higher level than nearly anyone except for Sloan's Jazz teams. But damned if that's not killing interest in the league...ratings this year were way down.
I have a couple explanations for this, first is the NBAs continued insistence on promoting their players over their teams, ie they want fans rooting for the name on the back of the jersey rather than the front. This rather than MLB or NFL style marketing has led to some dire misperceptions about the league and led to steadily declining ratings in the Finals.
My second point is perhaps a true change in officiating is needed. The league often trumpets the sea change in game style that's been occurring the last couple of years with teams like Dallas and Phoenix spreading the floor, shooting 3s and scoring, scoring, scoring. But inevitably those high octane fast paced teams are nowhere to be found as the current NBA officiating culture rewards the slug it out, hard nosed defensive style. That's been the case for nearly a decade now, and without the prospect of a truly marketable crossover athlete like MJ to give the league a face Middle America can deal with I see further marginalization in the future. LeBron may end up being that guy, but I kind of doubt it.
My three solutions to fix this decline, I know they aren't necessarily realistic but here they are anyways:
1. At the end of the current CBA either change the guaranteed contract length to 3 years or give GMs the ability to cut guys similarly to the NFL. Players would receive the bulk of their contract money as a signing bonus with the rest of their bonus due the year after they are cut; again similarly to the NFL. Also change the date of the draft and free agency ... that's one thing Myk is right about, it really doesn't make any sense as presently set up.
2. Start a comprehensive marketing program built around the teams and the communities they reside in rather than the superstar. This would need to be part of a complete culture change in the NBA and probably in college basketball as well.
3. Overhaul the officiating ranks or make rule changes and STICK TO THEM. If instant replay is what it takes to get rid of the dumb flops and make sure the call is made correctly then do it. If adding a 4th official is what it takes do it. If making the act of flopping a technical foul is what it takes then do it. But too many games and series are being decided on borderline calls or the NBAs own reactive rules. In retrospect it is a shame that the Phoenix Suns are not in these Finals basically because of a technicality. Which is not to say that the Spurs might not have beat them in the WC Finals, but the worst part is we the fans will never know...we were robbed of seeing the best matchup the league had to offer. Too many times the league has paid lip service to wanting to change how games are called and inevitably the changes only last for a few months before sinking back into the same old same old.
I hope that the Commissioner's Office takes a look at the poor ratings and decides to make some positive changes soon before the league goes the way of the pre-strike NHL. If it isn't almost there already.