“With the 5th Pick in the NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz select…. Dante Exum”
With those words from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver a new chapter in Australian Basketball began. Then another one did about an hour later when Brisbane Power Forward Cameron Bairstow was picked at #49 by the Chicago Bulls, adding another Aussie to the history of the storied franchise following on from Luc Longley’s 3 championships in The Windy City, along with brief stints from current Melbourne Tigers coach Chris Anstey and Adelaide 36er Luke Schenscher.
Exum and Bairstow should take the number of Aussies in the NBA next season to a minimum of 6, with a couple of others a sneaky chance to make a roster after the NBA’s Summer League and training camps are run in a few months.
It’s an amazing number for a country that has only had 8 other players in the league in it’s history. Aside from Exum and Bairstow the other players who will be in the NBA next season are former #1 pick Andrew Bogut of the Golden State Warriors, Matthew Dellavedova of the Cleveland Cavaliers and recent NBA Championship winners with the San Antonio Spurs Patty Mills and Aron Baynes.
As unlikely as it may have seemed given their aging roster, the San Antonio Spurs are NBA Champions for 2013-2014.
The Spurs were able to take revenge on last year’s conquerors, the Miami Heat, winning game 5 and taking the Finals series 4-1.
The win will go down through the ages as one where beautiful basketball and team ethos triumphed over individual greatness collectively harnessed. Not that the Spurs don’t have great individual players; they do, but the Heat are the team known best for it’s ‘big 3’ of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
To be honest it’s always been more of a ‘big 1 + 2’, and that was never more evident than in game 5. Despite the struggles of Wade and Bosh LeBron was brilliant with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, yet the Spurs essentially had the game wrapped up with 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter when they took a 21 point lead on the back of an avalanche of 3 pointers from Australian Patty Mills and Argentinian Manu Ginobli, and a signature block on Wade from Brazilian center Tiago Splitter.
The NBA Finals series continues in Miami today with the pivotal game 4 matchup, following on from the Spurs blowout 19 point win in game 3.
The Heat will be hoping for a better performance from center Chris Bosh who was unusually quiet in game 3, managing just 9 points and more importantly just 3 rebounds. The Spurs threw a matchup curveball at Bosh, with famously crafty coach Greg Poppovich trying to engineer a mismatch of sorts by starting Boris Diaw at center. It’s not the first lineup change Poppovich has made these playoffs, with incumbent starter Brazilian Tiago Splitter starting at center in games 1 & 2 and the long range shooting Matt Bonner starting at times in the previous conference finals versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Spurs goal is to spread out the Miami defense, Miami for their part have countered with heavy minutes for former big time scorer Rashard Lewis at Power Forward who is enjoying a career renaissance of sorts, while Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem continue to struggle to earn the minutes they once owned for the Heat.