Sports Talk with Chris Grant: A few words from the hardwood…

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The NBA held its draft lottery Tuesday night and the winner was… the Boston Celtics? Yep, the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, the team that will take on the Cleveland Cavaliers for the right to play in the NBA Finals is also the team with the first pick in this year’s draft.

How did this happen, you might be asking yourself? Well, four years ago the Celtics dealt Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the New Jersey Nets in return for a bunch of draft picks. One of the stipulations of the deal was the chance to have the Nets’ first-round pick in 2017. The Nets were the worst team in basketball this year, so the Celtics obviously took that pick and ended up winning the draft lottery in the process.

I would like to say this is a case of the rich getting richer, but I don’t necessarily see it as that. It is more a case of a shrewd front office taking advantage of a team that four years ago thought they might be able to win it all. Let’s be honest here. The Celtics haven’t exactly been the dominant team of my youth for a long time. Yes, they’ve had some nice years, and even won it all back in 2008, but for the most part, they are an afterthought in the NBA. This year they took positive steps to change that and the first pick in this year’s draft should certainly help them continue on that course.

Of course, beating the Cavaliers and getting to the finals would make an even more positive change to their reputation. But most people don’t see this happening. Despite the fact Boston is the top seed, the Cavaliers are heavy favorites to return to the finals and defend their title.

I get that. In fact, if you’ve been reading along during the playoffs, you know I’ve repeatedly written the Celtics off and I would do it again here, if you asked me who I think will win the series. Experience and talent typically prevail, especially this late in the playoffs, and I doubt it will be any different this year. LeBron James and company have more talent than Boston and they are the defending champions. I expect to see them still playing once this series is over.

There also seems to be little doubt they will take on Golden State when they get to the finals. The Warriors are already up 2-0 on San Antonio, who played game two without their best player, Kawhi Leonard, after he suffered an injury on what may have been a cheap shot by Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia.

My first question here is, how is this series already two games deep when the other series hasn’t even started? That seems like bad planning by the NBA. My second is, did Pachulia really hurt Leonard on purpose? Spurs head coach Greg Popovich certainly thinks so. I’ve watched the video multiple times and I don’t see it as a particularly dirty play. Did he need to box him out that far away from the basket? Probably not, and maybe his contact was a little hard. But the fact Leonard landed awkwardly and hurt himself is more bad luck than anything else. I am also pretty sure it dooms the Spurs. Even if he comes back to play, he will not be 100 percent and San Antonio stands no chance of beating Golden State without a healthy Leonard. Which means we end up with a rematch of last year’s final. Which I think would be okay with most people who don’t reside in Central Texas or New England.