The Olympics have begun and rightly so the world’s biggest sports spectacle and everything about it including fighting doping, has taken over the media landscape. One of the flagship events basketball, has taken off on a blistering note as shocks have rocked the early days of the competition.
Medal favourites France got stunned by Australia losing 67-88 and Spain losing 70-72 to Croatia despite its hoard of NBA talents. The intrigue has piqued a competition many considered over before it started with the United States slated to win gold even with the absence of LeBron James, James Harden and Chris Paul.
The Aussie’s surprising run which has seen them win two consecutive games mean Wednesday’s matchup against America is a must watch. But lost in all the spectacular dunks by Paul George and DeMar DeRozan and the stifling defence Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler channels on the court at the behest of his former trainer Tom Thibodeau, is the schedule for next season’s NBA season.
It must be noted the schedule is tentative and the league can make changes before late September when preseason is in full swing. In the best interest commercially, the NBA has held top rated games on Christmas Day for as long as I can remember and those games always produce something tasty for fans.
Keeping in line with the long held tradition of having the defending champions play the beaten finalists, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will reignite its rivalry on the biggest day in the season of giving for next season. In last year’s matchup, Golden State beat Cleveland 89-83 at the Oracle Arena; a loss which fast tracked David Blatt’s firing as Coach. This arrangement is pretty much a no brainer looking at how last year’s finals series between the sides was played out.
In seven enthralling games, Cleveland earned a maiden NBA title by piping Golden State to prevent a second straight title for the Oakland based franchise. In the process, the league witnessed its first ever rally from a 1-3 deficit in the best of sevens series to win a title that further immortalized Cavaliers leader LeBron James name among the greats of the game. Losing in that manner- blowing a 3-1 lead, losing the final game before their home fans and seeing Most Valuable Player of the Year Steph Curry chuck away from three point range-gives inertia to a power struggle between the faces of the game. Toss in the post game reactions from Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and what brews on Christmas Day ought to be another for the history books.
However, a Cavaliers-Warriors game on Christmas Day checks in behind Oklahoma City Thunder’s game against Golden State in the next season. That game has been billed for February 11 but the NBA has done a great disservice to fans by fixing a game of immense magnitude in the month of love. Kevin Durant’s shock move from Oklahoma to Golden State and now former teammate Russell Westbrook’s three year $85.7 million extension to stay with Thunder comes with so much intrigue that places LeBron and Curry’s matchup to the back burners. Durant’s acrimonious departure has been bedevilled with reports of his broken relationship with Westbrook in light of how he handled the issue.
At the presser following his extension, Russell cited getting wind of the situation like everyone else via text and emails which doesn’t spell out the right communication path between “brothers” who shared Oklahoma’s spotlight for eight straight years. Their bond outlasted James Harden’s and Serge Ibaka’s bond with the Thunder and looked like holding strong for one more year, had Durant signed a year’s deal, before both guys became free agents. But Durant ditched the plan and now Westbrook is on a mission to take the team to the place it belongs after failing to do so in his first attempt when Durant and Ibaka were out injured.
Westbrook’s ultra competitive urge which His Airness himself acknowledged is comparable to his, will make him ready for Durant when they meet. Fans should brace themselves for a great matchup between the two since Warriors switch everyone on every player system means there would be several instances where Westbrook and Durant guard each other. This is the spectacle we are going to see on February 11. This is the spectacle that dominates storylines for the new season and this is the spectacle that fans will be denied on Christmas Day. All can change with a bit of tweaking from the league’s top brass but till that happens, fans will be denied presents on Christmas Day.
This tasty treat will be denied on December 25 because aside Golden State’s – Oklahoma matchup, Chicago Bulls duel with Miami Heat is another to keep an eye on in the aftermath of Dwayne Wade’s move to the Windy City after 13 years in Florida. But neither duel will take place on December 25.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah