Somewhere, David Stern is using ratings sheets to dry his tears. So are the network execs at ABC.
Kobe Bryant held up his end of the bargain. And to an extent, so did LeBron James.
But averaging 38.5 points, 8 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game just was not enough to carry Sideshow Bob, The 7-foot, 3-point Sniper and "Where Did You Go?" Mo Williams to an appearance in the NBA Finals.
Part of the reason Kobe is gunning for his fourth title, and first since disposing of Shaquille O'Neal, is the talent around him. Pau Gasol, despite being (arguably) the NBA's ugliest player, is a true low-post scoring stud. Lamar Odom, who sometimes looks apathetic out on the court, is still 6-foot-11 with the ball handling skills of a 6-footer. Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar and Derrick Fisher are all usable parts on a championship team.
Delonte West can be that kind of player, and so can the aformentioned Williams. But Anderson Verajao, Daniel Gibson, Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic are laughable at best.
But the biggest difference in the teams might be at the head coaching position.
Sure, Mike Brown was named the NBA's Coach of the Year this season for being at the helm of a team that won 66 games this season. But check out the list of recent winners.
Byron Scott, Sam Mitchell, Avery Johnson, Mike D'Antoni, Hubie Brown, Greg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown and Doc Rivers.
Of these last eight winners, only Popovich and Scott still coach the team they won the award with. Johnson and Hubie Brown rep the ESPN family of networks. Rivers, Carlisle, D'Antoni and Larry Brown are coaching elsewhere.
Anyone seen Sam Mitchell, lately?
Phil Jackson is a master motivator and one hell of a coach. He is what Dusty Baker was to the Giants with Barry Bonds and what he should have been to the Cubs with Sammy Sosa. Jackson manages ballplayers and egos more effectively than anyone this generation has seen.
Meanwhile, Mike Brown was simply outcoached by Stan Van Gundy and outclassed by SVG's super 'stache.
Now, with its NBA season over and its stars gone fishin' with Kenny, Chuck and EJ, Cleveland can return to its worrisome roots as it preoccupies itself with trying to invent ways to keep its Favorite Son from abandoning home for greener pastures.
Or they can watch Mark DeRosa's average plummet and Kerry Wood's earned run average soar through the roof.
The choice is theirs to make.