There's something notably missing from this year's
LeBron James made nice with the people of Cleveland, casually flicking away four years of ill will from his hometown team and scads of
Dwight Howard haters had to lay down their resentment after
Matt Barnes, enemy of the state? Hardly. The Clippers couldn't even make it past the second round (yet again).
No one can boo and hiss at
When Cleveland opens the NBA Finals at Golden State on Thursday, there will be fascination derived from angst more than anger, two franchises largely devoid of proud moments finally getting the chance at one.
What to do? Who to hate?
One of the nicest coaches of all time, a guy who couldn't say a cruel word about anybody, pretty much summed it up.
"Two refreshing stories and there's no sort of negativity. They're both the good guys," said former Lakers and Houston Coach Rudy Tomjanovich, currently touting an
Really? The Finals drama will be only within the games themselves? As in, who makes the last-second shot, who has the better night between James and Stephen Curry, and which franchise's thirst is finally rewarded?
The Warriors are a delight to watch, hoisting three-point attempts as if they're playing Pop-A-Shot at the local tavern. They've already made 173 three-pointers in 15 games and will surely hammer the playoff record of 203 set by last year's
Curry can do no wrong as a person (charming and introspective) and player (winning his first MVP), and his podium-embracing daughter, Riley, can probably get her own reality show at this point.
"With their speed, their change of pace, their ballhandling, and then their ability to shoot the ball … they can absolutely just shoot the rock," James said in mild wonderment Wednesday, and it could be his words that carry the greatest weight the next two weeks.
He is the only rotation player on either team with championship experience (
There are still James haters out there — Green might become one after being forced to guard him this series — but there are plenty of people who just want to see Cleveland win a championship. In any sport. Please.
"I understand the drought our city has been in as far as a major championship, so it's a huge motivation inside of me," James said. "And it's helped me get to this point, but I'm not done. I've still got a lot left in me in this season, and I'm going to command a lot out of my guys."
James, 30, couldn't have done much more the last six weeks, meshing a sore knee and aching back with playoff averages of 27.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 8.3 assists.
Kyrie Irving missed two games in the East finals because of knee tendinitis and
Only 22 years old when the Cavaliers were last in the Finals, James fell flat with largely unimpressive fellow starters
The four-time MVP winner will be compared throughout the series to Curry, who hated James so much that he practically thanked him for past guidance Wednesday.
Curry was a rookie when the Warriors lost a regular-season game in Cleveland. James took him aside afterward and, in Curry's words, told him how to be a leader.
"I was trying to find my way as a player, and he basically just said the one thing you control is your preparation every single game…No matter what's going on around you, you can control your effort every game, your professionalism and just what you do day in and day out to get yourself ready," Curry said. "There is going to be a time when it's all going to work out because you'll be ready for that moment."
No animosity in the Finals? No off-court drama? Fun, high-caliber games predicted by all? How refreshing.