LOS ANGELES – It hasn’t been pretty. In fact, at times, it’s been downright ugly.
But for the last two weeks, the focus in the NBA has been on the Finals instead of the future of free agent LeBron James.
LeBron-mania has been pushed to the back burner until at least Thursday night when either the Boston or Los Angeles will be awarded the 2010 NBA Championship after the Lakers forced a Game 7 in an 89-67 victory Tuesday night at Staples Center.
We have seen a little bit of everything in this year’s NBA Finals from Ray Allen’s record-breaking Game 2 performance followed by a streak of 18 missed three-pointers to Kobe Bryant scoring the first 19 points in the third quarter of Game 5 and not making a dent in an 11-point Celtics lead.
Before the NBA Finals started, the media (myself included) was obsessed with James’ every move.
Will he stay with Cleveland?
Is he headed to Chicago to play alongside Derek Rose and Joakim Noah?
Who is on the invite list for the free agent summit?
Admit it — we were all waiting for the 60-minute SportsCenter Special that had the ESPN talking heads breaking down possible destinations for James the day after the Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs.
Trust me, the guys in Bristol are waiting to ramp up their LeBron coverage. But even ESPN knows it doesn’t make sense to compete against themselves when the NBA Finals features the two greatest franchises in basketball history.
When James decided to hold his first interview with CNN’s Larry King following his team’s loss to the Boston Celtics on the eve of the NBA’s biggest event, commissioner David Stern wasn’t phased one bit. In fact, Stern was almost pleased at James’ appearance on Larry King Live.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” Stern said prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals. “It’s actually, I think, demonstrates — I mean, we’re really up there now with Bill Gates, President Obama and Lady Gaga. How can you beat that trifecta, to add LeBron James to that?”
“It’s fine,” Stern added. “The same way it’s fine to have the president talk to Marv Albert about where LeBron is going or about our game. It’s sort of tells me that our players have, through their hard work, captured the imagination of many, many people.”
What Stern was really saying is the NBA doesn’t revolve around James or any other player in the league, especially one that has routinely come up short on the NBA’s biggest stage.
Ironically enough, the latest chapter in the LeBron offseason saga came to a conclusion during Game 6 of the NBA Finals when Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo turned down a reported five-year, $30 million contract from the Cavaliers.
During countless hours spent in the media room while covering the NBA Finals the last couple of weeks, I can count on one hand the number of times James has come up in a discussion with my colleagues.
There’s been more discussion about what was being served as the pre-game meal than where James will sign come July 1.
Outside of Celtics fans, who might have witnessed their best shot at Boston winning the title go out the window, is there anyone who doesn’t want to see a Game 7 instead of two weeks of speculation regarding James’ future?
“That’s what the fans want,” Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said on a Game 7 between the Lakers and Celtics.
Sorry, LeBron. Your day in the spotlight will have to wait a little bit longer.