What: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Phoenix Suns
When: 6:30 PM AZ Time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
It is unfortunate that we live in a sports world where most of the dialogue between my peers and I this week revolved around whether or not they should pony up $50 - $75 for a nosebleed seat to tonight’s game.
Are LeBron and Kyrie going to play? Is it worth the risk of spending money that I really shouldn’t be spending in the first place?
I didn’t really have an answer for them, and that is the problem we face as fans in today’s NBA. The talent is oozing no matter where you turn — each night there are at least three games that will elicit joy, and more times than not they end up delivering. The trade off for the myriad of talent is that a home crowd may fall victim to a “DNP - rest” from a star player or three.
The simple solution for fans would be to not dish out their cash towards attending the game live since they are aware of the risks at hand. Watching a game at home is at the very least 85% as rewarding as attending a game, and sometimes that percentage supersedes the in-arena experience where there is a fighter’s chance that John Doe sitting next to you in section 227, row 16 will spill his nachos all over your new kicks.
Like everything, there are pros and cons, and although I get the end game that goes into the decision for players and coaches when they toss up a “DNP - rest” every now and then, that doesn’t mean that it still can’t bum fans out. There is a palpable magic that resonates within when you have the opportunity to see the best in action. And I say that as a 21-year-old adult — I can’t even imagine the feels that a preteen fan who adores James and/or Irving would experience.
Players don’t owe the fans anything during the regular season with the way both they and the media have formulated the narrative on their careers. Every Twitter thread, discussion board, group text chain, and debate=style studio show revolves around the mantra that postseason success is the only measurement of a player’s impact or “legacy.” The regular season has become merely a formality in the NBA, so who could blame the players for going out of their way to maintenance their body for the stretch run?
Rather than the players changing their ways, I believe that we must change ours. Disregarding the regular season and so emphatically emphasizing championships has had a domino effect on the way the league is run. Do LeBron James and Kevin Durant ditch the teams that drafted them for a nearly guaranteed shot to play in The Finals the next season if there isn’t this suffocating pressure to win a title? Do players opt for rest now with an eye on May and June if the regular season was a little more celebrated?
I do not know the answers to those questions, but here we are. We made our bed, now as fans we must lie in it.
As for the game today, it looks like (for now) that James, Irving and Kevin Love will all be playing with the intentions of regaining a rhythm. Love and Irving have been in and out of the lineup as of late, so both will have extra incentive to put on a clinic tonight.
Cleveland is likely going to win this game by double digits, but I will be looking forward to seeing how the Suns respond to playing against the defending champs. Each of the young guns showcase a different spunk when they go against stiffer competition before eventually running out gas at the end.
I expect Devin Booker to look for his shot early and often and for Eric Bledsoe to do much of the same. It will be important for both to be aggressive, but stay within the scope of the offense. A few forced bricks here and there will turn into lethal opportunities for Cleveland on the break, and I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to deal with James’ locomotive tactics in the open court.
The game will ultimately come down to the Suns ability to run the Cavaliers off of the three-point line — a task that is way easier said than done. Orbit a LeBron post-up or pick-and-roll with four shooters, and you can pretty much bank on an open shot being the end result.
Enjoy peak LeBron while you can everyone, he truly is a marvel.