It would be easy to blame Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
However, the trio labeled as the “Big Three” or “Boston Three Party” when they formed an all-star-powered Boston Celtics team in 2007 should not be held accountable for what has led to the worst NBA playoffs in recent memory.
Blame Danny Ainge.
The then and current Celtics general manager in the summer of 2007 put together the first new era “Big Three” – you know, the kind formulated through either trades or free agency unlike the old days when teams built through the draft and were able to keep many of their best players for the entirety of their careers. He managed to land Allen in a trade with the then-Seattle SuperSonics and wrestled Garnett away in a deal with his old Celtics teammate, Kevin McHale, then with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Boston Celtics acquired Ray Allen from the Seattle SuperSonics for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and the rights to 2007 No. 5 draft pick Jeff Green.
The Boston Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, two first-round draft picks and cash.
Since, the concept of “Big Threes” – or even “Big Fours” in the Golden State Warriors’ case – has taken over the league. Often, though, these tandems are made through free agency, where the players have the most say, unlike the trades that dispersed Allen and Garnett to Boston.
Last summer, in fact, the Warriors found a way to trump the term of “Big Three” by becoming a “Super Team.” Having already sported a “Big Three” in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Golden State lured Kevin Durant from Oklahoma City to form a “Big Four,” something we had never seen.
Now, the Warriors are gearing up for their third straight NBA Finals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who happen to have a “Big Three” of their own.
When LeBron James retreated his talents back to Cleveland in 2014, he joined a team already with a budding star in Kyrie Irving. Then, the franchise accommodated his wishes by trading the No. 1 pick – which wound up being Andrew Wiggins – to get Kevin Love from Minnesota.
Therefore, after leaving Miami, where he won NBA titles in 2012 and 2013 while teamed with his previous “Big Three” members, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, “The King” was able to quickly join another powerful triumvirate.
It’s no wonder we’re getting set to watch a third straight Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals, a first for the league.
While it is a promising matchup that I’m certainly looking forward to, I believe this is a problem for the NBA.
I argued with colleagues before last year’s playoffs that four teams had a shot to win the title – the Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder (then with Durant) and Cavs. That proved pretty accurate as each was eliminated by one or the other in the West’s case and Cleveland cruised through the East. This year, I argued that three teams – all those four except Oklahoma City, thanks again, Kevin – had a shot.
Well, it looked like the Spurs might play a factor before a clumsy or dirty play – however you look at it – Zaza Pachulia ended Spurs star Kawhi Leonard’s playoffs by invading his landing space on a 3-point attempt in which “The Claw” further injured a bad ankle. That, as most everyone had the foresight to realize at the time, ended San Antonio’s chances and meant Cavs-Warriors III was inevitable.
I guess there’s two converse ways to look at it. One, being predictable means the truest of champions will be crowned and there are no flukes in the sport. Two, it signals that the rest of the playoffs are pretty meaningless.
7Consecutive NBA Finals appearances for LeBron James
This year’s postseason might have been the best example.
As an avid NBA fan (yes, I’m one of the few who like it better than college basketball), April, May and June provide one of the best times of the year. But this year I tuned in less because there were only a handful of games that weren’t absolute blowouts.
As much as it pains me to say this, I have to admit the NBA playoffs were boring this year.
We’re set for what I think will be a great NBA Finals. I had always wanted to see James vs. Durant II, but not in this manner. But as good – and suspenseful – as last year’s Finals was, this year’s could be just as good.
3Consecutive NBA Finals matchups between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors
For myself, there’s a clear hero (LeBron and the Cavs) and villain (KD and the Warriors). If you’ve read my column before, you may well know I’m a Thunder fan, and it would sting greatly to see Durant holding up a trophy this season after he himself helped OKC squander a great opportunity to do it last year. You may also know that I’m originally from Ohio despite spending most of my life here; therefore, LeBron and Co. are the hometown team.
It’s a bit ironic because when James was with the Heat I rooted hard against them because of the whole “Big Three” thing.
For me, it used to be anybody but the “Big Three.” Now, it’s “which ‘Big Three or Four’ do I despise the least?”
It likely will only get worse. Stars these days want to play with other stars rather than beat them.
It’s a different league these days, one that you often hear people say they only tune in for during the playoffs.
Well, if this postseason was any indicator, those playoffs-only fans may just wander off.
The Celtics’ “Big Three” wound up winning just one title. Meanwhile, LeBron James is headed to his seventh straight NBA Finals and the Warriors are in their third straight.
The “Big Three” – or probably more likely in the future, “Super Team” – trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Indeed, I blame you, Mr. Ainge, for starting this. However, I can’t blame you for your genius.
The Coastal Carolina, Clemson and South Carolina baseball teams will find out they made it into the NCAA tournament during the selection show, which begins at noon Monday (ESPN2). … The Myrtle Beach Pelicans complete at four-game series at the Carolina Mudcats at 2 p.m. Tuesday before returning home Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a four-game set against the Down East Wood Ducks (all games 7:05 p.m.). … The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Dover International Speedway for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at 1 p.m. Sunday. … The NHL’s Stanley Cup finals – pitting the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the Nashville Predators – drops the puck with Game 1 on Monday at 8 p.m. (NBC). Game 2 is at 8 p.m. Wednesday (NBCSN) and Game 3 is 8 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN). … The NBA Finals – featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors – tips off with Game 1 at 9 p.m. Thursday (ABC). Game 2 is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sunday (ABC). … The PGA Tour heads to Dublin, Ohio, for the Memorial Tournament from Thursday through Sunday. … In tennis, the ATP and WTA tours continue play in the French Open.
Thursday, June 1: Cleveland at Golden State, 9 p.m.
Sunday, June 4: Cleveland at Golden State, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, June 7: Golden State at Cleveland, 9 p.m.
Friday, June 9: Golden State at Cleveland, 9 p.m.
x-Monday, June 12: Cleveland at Golden State, 9 p.m.
x-Thursday, June 15: Golden State at Cleveland, 9 p.m.
x-Sunday, June 18: Cleveland at Golden State, 8 p.m.