King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

The NBA's twofer Tuesday: Labor peace and a Pistons win that guarantees the first Finals Game 7 in 11 years.


It was a good news, bad news kind of Tuesday for the NBA.

The good news: They’ll be playing basketball in the fall. The league and the players association have agreed on a new six-year collective bargaining agreement. There won’t be a lockout July 1, as had been feared.

The bad news: They’ll be playing basketball Thursday night.

The Flyover Finals aren’t over yet. The series that’s made America stand up and say, “What else is on?” is going to a seventh game. The Detroit Pistons won in San Antonio for the first time in eight years Tuesday, beating the Spurs 95-86, tying the series at 3-3.

OK, that’s a joke. The Pistons’ victory wasn’t bad news for the NBA. In fact, Rasheed Wallace will tell you that the NBA wants seventh games so badly it’s willing to put the fix in to get them.

Wallace’s expensive conspiracy theory aside — he was fined $20,000 for his comments before Game 6 of the Heat series — it really is always great to have a Game 7. There hasn’t been one in the Finals since 1994. And while you were watching “Family Guy” and “Law & Order: SVU,” the Pistons and Spurs were turning in a pair of close games won by the visiting team.

All of a sudden, this series of blowouts upon blowouts has turned into what most of us expected it to be: a close, hard-fought, intense, grinding battle in which every possession is crucial.

It isn’t Michael Jordan soaring through the lane or Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant putting aside their soap opera for 48 minutes to make some Eastern Conference team look like the Washington Generals. But it’s turned into every bit the intriguing series it should have been from the start.

There’s no way to look at those first six games and predict with any confidence what might happen in Game 7. The Spurs have the home floor, where they rarely lose and where they blew the Pistons away twice last week — but also where they got beat Tuesday. The Pistons have the momentum — which they also had Sunday, right before they lost.

The Pistons earned a seventh game and a chance to repeat as champs by doing something not many teams can do. They shut down Tim Duncan, which they also did in their two previous wins, and in one of their losses too.

Duncan had 21 points and 15 rebounds Tuesday, which is actually an improvement on his averages for both the regular season (20.3 points, 11.1 rebounds) and the playoffs (19.8 points, 14.7 rebounds). Which just goes to show you how averages sometimes don’t tell you much.

Duncan got his numbers, but he wasn’t much of a factor. The Spurs offense didn’t go through him, as it does when it’s working well. He went long stretches without touching the ball.

At one point — from late in the third quarter to a little past midway through the fourth — he went 10 minutes without scoring. In that time, he took one shot, got fouled and missed both free throws.

“I’m being as aggressive as I can be,” he said after the game. “I’m not going to demand the ball.”

That’s good news for Detroit, who don’t need Duncan being as aggressive as he should be as they try to become the first team to win Games 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals on the road. Only three of 15 Finals seventh games have been won by the visiting team, most recently when the Washington Bullets beat the Seattle Sonics in 1978.

These Finals have athleticism and muscle, offensive fireworks and — mostly — defensive stoutness. And for the last two games they’ve even had suspense. They have everything but star power. The CBA agreement is the second time the Finals have been overshadowed by a news story, the first being Phil Jackson’s rehiring by the Lakers.

You get the idea a stray cat having kittens in the SBC Center parking lot would overshadow this series.

But let’s not downplay the NBA’s achievement in getting a deal done. Just because it was clear to any rational person that a lockout would have been a towering achievement in stupidity doesn’t mean it was a foregone conclusion that a lockout would be avoided.

The NHL, after all, was flying a lot closer to the ground than the NBA is, and that league — a reminder: it was in the hockey business — shuttered itself.

But commissioner David Stern and union chief Billy Hunter put an end to their little game of brinksmanship and sensibly made the compromise deal that was obviously there to be made.

The players gave a little, agreeing to slightly shorter maximum contracts, slightly lower raises, increased drug testing and a minimum age of 19, marked down from 20, which Stern had said he wanted.

The owners gave a little, agreeing to some minor, player-friendly changes in the escrow system, which holds money back from salaries in case total league payroll exceeds 57 percent of revenue, as well as a guarantee that that 57 percent of revenue will go to salaries and an appeals system for long suspensions.

It was smart to get this done on Tuesday, before the first elimination game started. With no issue creating a major rift between the players and owners, and with salaries and team values both on the rise, it would have been idiotic to let the specter of a work stoppage hang over the winning of the championship either Tuesday or Thursday night.

The NBA is having a hard enough time getting people interested in the Pistons and the Spurs without giving them an excuse to tune out because the league’s about to shut down anyway.

Now the trophy can be awarded and the champagne can flow in a time of labor peace. Labor strife is boring in your own industry, deadly in someone else’s. Thanks to the new CBA, we won’t have to hear about it in the NBA until 2011.

And that’s the best news of all.

Previous column: The readers write

- – - – - – - – - – - -

  • Bookmark to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Discuss this column and the sports news of the day in Table Talk.
  • Send an e-mail to King Kaufman.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to

  • More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 11
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
      Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
      Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Here by Richard McGuire
      A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
      The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
      This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
      For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Over Easy by Mimi Pond
      When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
      You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Shoplifter by Michael Cho
      Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
      This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

    • Recent Slide Shows



    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>