Any drama that accompanies the upcoming NBA season does not particularly relate to who will win the league title or even get to the Finals. Though injuries and upsets happen and surprise contenders emerge, the extremely safe money is on the Golden State Warriors to win the Western Conference for the fourth straight season and for the Cleveland Cavaliers to do the same in the East. It would be less than absurd to say the entire regular season and playoffs are a prelude to one seven-game series in June.
That reality presents a bit of a problem for people whose job requires they act like every game matters.
In an interview with the New York Times (new Times national NBA writer Marc Stein, to be precise), TNT commentator and notoriously unfiltered loudmouth Charles Barkley put this dynamic quite bluntly.
Looking ahead to his broadcasting duties with Turner Sports, Barkley didn’t hesitate to voice his frustration with the perceived gulf between the Warriors and the 29 other teams, even after all the summer shuffling.
“The toughest thing for me is I have to get on TV and fake it for seven months that it’s not going to be the Warriors and Cavs in the finals again,” Barkley said.
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The prospect of Golden State losing four games in one playoff series, Van Gundy said, “seems almost impossible to me.”
“Minus a major injury,” he continued, “I just can’t see how a team could score well enough against them by putting offensive players out there and still have enough defenders to be able to guard them.”
Luckily for Barkley and Van Gundy, there’s more to a season that who wins the title. Can new stars in Houston, Oklahoma City, and Boston mesh with their new teams? How will the young core in Philadelphia look? What about in Los Angeles? Who is the MVP favorite? People care about these things, and they offer plenty of fodder for commentary.
In truth, every season brings games that commentators have to pretend are more relevant than they are. On Oct. 26, TNT will air New Orleans at Sacramento. The following week, the Lakers at Portland. Those games wouldn’t have title implications even if the Cavs and Warriors weren’t so dominant, but they’re important to fans of those teams and therefore warrant some open-minded analysis. At the end of the day, yes the Cavs and Warriors will likely rend the next seven or eight months moot. But sports can be fun even when there are no fancy rings on the line.
And frankly, we’re a bit surprised to hear Barkley has the Warriors and Cavs locked into the Finals. Golden State is, after all, a “jump-shooting team,” and we all know those don’t win titles.