The NBA Finals bubble was a movie. It had the storied franchise trying to regain its lost glory, led by the best basketball player today, the LeBron James of hoops, LeBron James.
It had the underdog, Rocky-like figure who just had no quit in him, Jimmy Butler.
Themes of legacy, destiny, entrepreneurship (shoutout Big Face Coffee), and resiliency served as a backdrop for a finals series that became more competitive than it should have been, featuring characters that gave more than what was expected of them.
It was awesome. That iconic image of Butler—who averaged 26 points, 8 rebounds, and close to 10 assists per game in the finals—slumped at the baseline railing, with his resting left-it-out-there face, is still so vivid as if the NBA bubble didn’t happen four years ago.
Wait, what?! That was just four months ago? And we’re getting another episode of LeBron versus Butler? The NBA is awesome.
A lot has happened since the previous episode, so here’s a quick recap:
LeBron, in a truly mystifying way, is somehow still getting better. Plus, he got new friends in Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, and Wesley Matthews.
Butler, on the other hand, has missed almost half the season because of health protocols and a hurt right ankle.
Lately, though, there have been signs of Finals Jimmy. In his last three games, Butler’s stat line looked like this:
- 30 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists
- 13 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists
- 12 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists
If only all those games resulted in Miami Heat wins (they were 1-2 in that stretch).
Things aren’t going smoothly for the East champs and they’ve found themselves at 11th place in the conference, below the New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, and Chicago Bulls. It feels like they’re still gassed from the long climb to the finals coming off the fifth seed and then pushing the Lakers to six games. They’re missing Goran Dragic, Avery Bradley, and Meyers Leonard due to injuries.
Bam Adebayo, meanwhile, has been trying to make up for those two games he missed in the finals, averaging close to 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, one steal, and one block per game this season. Only one other player, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, has numbers like these.
The Lakers versus Heat (9:30 AM on TV5) will look different this time around—gone is the bubble magic for the Heat; the Lakers are without Anthony Davis (right calf strain). But somehow it feels the same.
LeBron is still gunning for legacy and Jimmy is still the poster boy for resiliency. Interesting how these two competitors will pick up from where they left off. Get your popcorn ready, coffee optional.