Before the NBA went international, you heard the association needed the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers to contend for championships every year.  

However, the association seems to be flourishing, despite the fact the Knicks haven’t even made the playoffs since 2013 when they were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They have only made the playoffs 35 times in 65 seasons and haven’t won a title since the 1972-73 season.  

The Lakers, despite the addition of LeBron James, have gone six seasons without making the postseason and they haven’t won it all since beating the Boston Celtics in the 2009-10 season.

Look at the top players in history and you would be hard-pressed to find a Knick who would be in the Lakers’ starting lineup. Most reputable observers would place, in order, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Earl Monroe and Dave DeBusschere in the starting New York lineup, with Bernard King and Carmelo Anthony as reserves. The Lakers would counter with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Jerry West and James Worthy. I would make an argument the Boston Celtics could field a better all-star lineup.

The point is the league seems to be thriving, even if this year’s conference finals will feature Golden State, Portland, Milwaukee and Toronto – two small markets and one non-American city. It didn’t matter who played in the conference semifinal Game 7. Those were tremendous games. Toronto edged Philadelphia on Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer beater, 92-90, and Portland beat Denver, 100-96.

The NBA brass would have shuddered if it knew the four survivors would be those teams. But the league came out smelling like roses with the greatness of the finishes in Game 7. Leonard’s four-bounce shot was even better than if the shot was missed, and the game instead went into overtime. And watching in

Game 6, Houston’s James Harden scored a game-high 35 points but disappeared against Golden State as he always does, while the Warriors’ Steph Curry scored 33 points – all in the second half– showing how one great player can rise to the occasion, while another one avoids it.

While in Cleveland, James again proved small markets can have great players and teams and the players can build their brands in those cities. You don’t need great franchises in New York or Los Angeles to flourish as the international brand is succeeding.

Cavs hire Beilein

The Cavs went back to school to find their next head coach.

They needed a month-long search, which ended May 13 when they hired John Beilein, a 66-year-old offensive genius who made the University of Michigan (yes, that school up north), a perennial powerhouse. He received a five-year deal from the Cavs, who believe he can make the successful leap from campus.

“We interviewed several strong and talented candidates who, no doubt, will get an opportunity to become an NBA head coach somewhere down the line,” Cavs General Manager Koby Altman said in a statement. “Following the end of those interviews, it became clear to us that coach Beilein was the right choice and best fit for our franchise.

“John is one of the most accomplished and innovative basketball minds and leaders in the entire game. He has a unique ability to create an outstanding culture that will promote the development of young players and provide a solid structure to the entire program; not to mention the fact that John Beilein wins everywhere he goes.”

Follow Les at Facebook.com/Columbus JewishNews. 

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Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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