#IMHO: Finals, Finals, Finals

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Kelcey Wright Johnson weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Monday, July 5, 2021 9:52:07 AM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: IMHO

And we’re back. Well, not quite *back*. It’s the day after the 4th of July (plus a Happy Canada Day to you!) and while most of the world is taking today off, you and I and everyone else who cares about the NBA is tuned in and ready for the NBA Finals to start tomorrow night!

Do the Finals feel different to you this season? Last year everyone was bubbled up in Orlando, and to me things just felt off. This year there’s a little more anticipation, perhaps? Particularly since we’ve got two franchises involved who haven’t been in the title hunt in decades. And there’s no players on either team who have ever won a title before.

So Kelcey, who are you going with? The Suns? The Bucks? You go first and I’ll answer in my next email, along with whatever else you throw at me…


From: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Sent: Tuesday, July 6, 2021 8:49 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

Hey Lang,

I have been saying I thought the Suns were going to win it all this year since before the playoffs began…although I also thought it would be Philly or the Nets in the finals from the East, so what do I know?

I totally know the feeling you’re talking about though because I feel it too. And I think it’s probably a combination of having fanbases back at games, and also the excitement of not watching the same teams monopolize the finals again. It’s exciting for both the Suns and the Bucks, and I think fans around the league can get behind that raw emotion.

I saw a cool stat that said Jae Crowder is the only player to ever have even played in a finals — and that was last year. I kind of love that about this year’s finals…everyone is brand new and so hungry for the ring.

I can’t wait to see how it all ends up…I’m just hoping it goes to seven! I don’t want the season to end!!

Ok, now give me your take…who you taking?

Jae Crowder warming up

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Wednesday, July 7, 2021 2:49:31 PM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: Re: IMHO

Well, we’re one game in and the Suns looked pretty dang bright in that opening game. I loved seeing the Suns come out and play their style — uptempo, spreading the floor — and taking advantages of mismatches over and over. If the Bucks are going to switch everything, which suddenly seems to be their strategy, after refusing to switch anything for years, the Suns did a good job of getting the switch, opening the floor, and then beating defenders off the dribble.

I also really liked how the Suns would occasionally and randomly go to a zone defense, just often enough to make the Bucks think and keep them from getting comfortable offensively. I’m not a big zone defense proponent, but if you use it the way the Suns used it, it’s a great change of pace.

All that said, I think the Suns are going to win this thing. Ever since the bubble a year ago, the Suns have been red-hot, and even changing out their lineup and bringing in Chris Paul hasn’t changed that at all.

I know Giannis wasn’t one hundred percent, but he seemed awfully close to that mark, considering the way he was moving up and down the floor. I thought Giannis did enough to get the Bucks a win, but someone other than Giannis/Khris/Jrue has to step up and be a difference-maker for the Bucks. Maybe that’s PJ Tucker, or Brook Lopez, but their big three will need some consistent help to get to the next level and win a ring.

Or will they? Kelcey, there’s a time-honored tradition of having knee-jerk reactions after Game One of the Finals. So, if you were the Bucks, down 0-1 heading into Game Two of the Finals, what adjustments would you make? What would you do?

Giannis Antetokounmpo driving to the basket

From: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Sent: Wednesday, July 7, 2021 5:36 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

Lang,

I’ve always been a big believer in the either-or method. Obviously this game plan doesn’t always work, or even apply to the roster but it’s always my go-to advice; let Booker go off and stop everyone else. Unfortunately I don’t think it works for the Bucks right now though because everyone scores on the Suns; Booker, Paul, Payne, Ayton. That’s what makes the Suns so dangerous…on any given day, any player can go off for 30 points.

But my secret go-to plan just won’t work for Game 2. For the Bucks, they haven’t won a game against the Suns this season so Game 2 is gut-check time… they do not want to go 0-2 in the finals.

I think you’re right though; the Bucks need a fourth guy and an even bigger game from their superstar Giannis. I know it sounds crazy because Giannis had 20 points and 17 rebounds but he’s the engine to this team, he needs to have at least 25 points. The fourth guy needs to be Tucker or Connaughton — neither of which really showed up to play during the first game.

On the defensive end, the Bucks need to focus on limiting Bridges (and don’t expect Crowder to go 0-for again in Game 2) and boxing out Ayton. They’ve really got their hands full and that’s why I like the Suns so much.

While I sit here and write this to you, Lang. I was about to say the Suns don’t have superstars but they have stars and pieces that just work really well together. But would you consider CP3 or Book superstars? What is Book’s ceiling? I’m excited for his bright future.

PJ Tucker press conference

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Wednesday, July 7, 2021 2:49:31 PM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: Re: IMHO

Well, we can agree to disagree to begin with, because to me CP3 is absolutely a superstar. How do we determine a superstar? Well, he has his own signature sneaker line, he’s been on SLAM magazine covers, he’s made multiple All-Star Games, and perhaps most importantly, CP3 made the first cut of LeBron’s banana boat ride. If that isn’t superstar caliber I don’t know what is.

I don’t think Booker counts as a superstar just yet. He does have the Kardashian connection, and he played at UK, so he has a huge fanbase, but it feels like yesterday he just made his first All-Star Game. That being said, I think he has a ceiling higher than CP3. Booker has the opportunity to be a generational talent. If he can continue to play at this level and get better, and if the Suns keep winning, he’s going to be one of the faces of the NBA for the next decade.

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