THE 2019 NBA FINALS have finally arrived and not a moment too soon! This entire season has been in my opinion, a glorified “tax write off” because we have seen the NBA’s “chosen one” LeBron James change teams (again), so called superstars not finish the season out (again), and the Draft Lottery and NBA Draft take more precedence than the actual season. Before the season even started, it was announced that the NBA ALL STAR WEEKEND would be moved from Houston, TX to Charlotte, NC due to a vote on the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which was passed in 2016. It was a bill that said that a person has to use the restroom of their gender. And it also gave the state the exclusive right to determine it’s minimum wage, the 2018 -19 season started in high anticipation as LeBron James took his talents to the West Coast and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was seen as a sign that the Lakers were back and they were going to dethrone the Golden State Warriors as the Western Conference champions. Many people picked Los Angeles to win as many as 54 games and challenge the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. More NBA teams also signed up for sponsorship on their respective jerseys as the league looked for more ways to generate revenue. There were changes in the rules on the court as well, which included shortening the shot clock on offensive rebounds from 24 to 14 seconds. The season was record breaking and record making at the same time. And most of those involved three point scoring, attempts and three point baskets made were at a scorched earth rate. The season was highlighted by the Houston Rockets star James Harden, who had the second most consecutive thirty point games in NBA history with 32. Some notable retirements included Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, who retired after 21 seasons in Dallas and finishing his career with the third most games played and passing Wilt Chamberlain for sixth place on the all time scoring list. Dwayne Wade also finished his career with team he started his career with, the Miami Heat. Many records were surpassed and broken this past season which carved path for exciting playoff run down the stretch. The Eastern Conference was basically a three team race all season between favorites: Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Toronto. The Western Conference which was expected to be dominated by Golden State was turned into a race by the upstart Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers, two teams who were expected to be better but not necessarily do better. Toronto defeated the Orlando Magic in 5 games after being thoroughly beaten at home in opening game of series. Golden State knocked off a very good Los Angeles Clippers team in six exciting games. Toronto then faced Philadelphia in a back and forth series that went seven games and was ended by first series  winning buzzer beater in NBA history. And it sent Joel Embiid and the Seventy Sixers home crying… literally. The West Semi Finals placed Golden State against the Houston Rockets, who were defeated by Golden State in last seasons West Conference Finals. The series went six games and was taken by the Warriors in a more convincing fashion. Toronto faced the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals while Golden State went up against the Portland Trail Blazers in the West Conference Finals. Those series were good but did not provide the excitement that took place in the second round. Toronto knocked Milwaukee off in six games , after being down 0-2 in the series. It served as an indictment on the season that the Bucks had, the best record in the East and one of the games new superstars in Giannis Antetokounmpo had his comeuppance and it served as the launching point for Toronto Raptors first ever appearance in the NBA Finals. While Golden State swept past Portland in a series that did not look that way at first glance. The Warriors were outplayed for the majority of the series, but they still managed to pull out the brooms on a game Portland squad. Now we are at the last stage of this “tax write off” of  season and we have arrived at the first ever international NBA Finals. Toronto will be a gracious host for the this series because they finished the season with more regular season wins (60) than Golden State (57). So they already have a built in advantage, star player Kevin Durant will miss at least the start of this series. Andre Iguodola, former Finals MVP will be available for the Warriors and that will give Golden State a boost in trying to defend its championship. And Demarcus Cousins has been cleared  to play in Game 1. Toronto brings a healthy  and fresh opponent into this series with Golden State and they beat the Warriors twice in the regular season, once without Leonard. This series will be decided on which team can continue its hot stretch of play throughout this postseason. It will be a very exciting series and I think we re going to see what the Warriors are built with without Kevin Durant, which means their bench must be consistent,and they have been for the most part. And for Toronto they have players that have contributed all season long and this will be their coming out party. Can Pascal Siakam make his presence felt on the biggest stage? Will Kyle Lowry make his detractors respect him? Can Nick Nurse lead this team to its biggest four victories ever? Will Golden State solidify its standing as one of best “dynasties” ever? It starts tonight in Toronto… we like Toronto in 6 and then we can write this season off and get ready for July 1 at exactly 12:01 am, when free agency starts.

Troy Hendrickson