We’re only two games in, but thus far, the NBA Finals has unfolded just as Kenny Smith envisioned. The series is tied 1-1, and we’ve got two evenly matched teams.
“To me, it just shows (there’s) very (little) margin of error for either team,” the TNT NBA analyst said on The Morning Show. “We saw that last year when the Heat won the championship. The margin of error was very slim. If you make one decision or make one strategic move that’s incorrect, it costs you the game. I think it’s going to be no different this year.”
While certain players dominate headlines – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, etc. – Smith doesn’t view the Finals through that star-driven prism.
“When you get to the NBA championship, it’s not about the stars,” he said. “The concept of the team is much more valuable than the individual performance. When you get to this point, there is no role player. There’s a role team – and if your team doesn’t have that role, you lose and you don’t win an NBA championship.”
Game 3 is Tuesday in Miami at 9 p.m. ET.
In other news, New York is reportedly close to finalizing a five-year, $25-million contract with Derek Fisher, who, mere weeks removed from playing in the Western Conference Finals, is poised to become the next head coach of the Knicks.
What do we make of this trend of former players becoming head coaches overnight?
“The funny thing I always say about the NBA is that you can work for a company for 20 years, and if you’re at IBM and you slide over to another position and you took over that department, everyone would say, ‘Well, of course he should. He’s been here for 20 years,’” Smith said. “But you’re playing experience, for some reason, no one wants to count as tenure. And they say, ‘Well, you need to start as an assistant coach and be there for 10 more years.’ I always looked at your playing experience as tenure. So Derek Fisher, Steve Kerr, Doc Rivers (and) Mark Jackson have played for great coaches. And if they haven’t learned anything (after being) around for decades, then they aren’t the players that I thought they were.”
Smith, a former Tar Heel, was also asked about Rashad McCants, who last week claimed that he rarely went to class at UNC. McCants, who last played in the NBA in 2009, also said that tutors wrote his term papers and that he remained eligible due to bogus classes that were created to help athletes focus on their sport.
“I got to tell you: Two things (about this) bothered me,” the 49-year-old Smith said. “The first is, I was a better player than him and nobody helped me with my grades. I was much better than him. I was a first-team All-American, and no one ever helped me. And that’s honestly the joke part of it. The serious part of it is anyone can find a loophole inside a college system. It is easy.”
Some students, for example, have access to old tests and share – if not sell – them to their peers.
“Anyone can find a loophole,” Smith said. “Now, if you choose to use it, that’s you who’s cheating. No one else. I know for a fact that at the University of North Carolina, there’s not a tutor alive today that could call the show and say they tutored me. I never had a tutor. I went to class, I had a certain grade point average (and) I didn’t have to go to study hall. So I just went to class, turned my papers in and went to practice. I never had a tutor in the four years that I was there at the university. So what he did – or is saying he did – that was his choice. I can bet there’s (other) people who (found a way to cheat, too).”