James Goldstein: Well, yes, Spurs in six, that's what I'm expecting. If they continue to play like they are playing right now since the series against the Grizzlies, moving the ball so well to the open man and playing solid defense, they will win.
You are friends with Tony Parker, right?
JG: I like Tony very much. I know him since he was a rookie. He was fantastic in the earlier rounds this year and I'm happy to see that he's finally getting the recognition as being one of the top point guards in the NBA. He deserved it for a long time and he hasn't got the recognition until this season.
Even though he was the MVP of the Finals back in 2007…
JG: I'm not an MVP person. To me that's not very important.
Do you think he's one of the best 10 point guards of all time?
JG: Well, I don't like to rank the players like that. I've followed the game all my life and I think it's too difficult to rank them.
But do you think he's one of the best you've ever seen?
JG: He's certainly one of the best. I mean, the point guard position has changed a lot over the years. Now point guards are more important than they used to be. Quickness is more important now, and the ability of point guards to penetrate is much easier now than it used to be. Tony Parker excels at getting to the basket and knowing how to use screens, something I think he does better than anybody in the NBA.
How do you experience a game: from a die-hard NBA fan point of view, or maybe as a head coach trying to see the flaws of each team?
JG: I try to watch the game from an analytical standpoint, so you could say I try to pretend that I'm the coach. I study the matchups and the substitutions very carefully, and I try to feel in my own mind that I'm making the decisions.
So what do you think about the coaches in the Finals?
JG: Gregg Popovich has the recognition of being a great coach and I have to agree with the general opinion that he is a terrific head coach. Erik Spoelstra? I'm not so sure about him. It's hard to judge a coach when he has as much talent on the team as Miami has. A coach needs to be evaluated with a team that doesn't have so many superstars on it. So it makes it really difficult to evaluate Spoelstra with his team. I think he had a clear superiority in talent against Indiana, and they should have been able to win the series in less than seven games, so to me he didn't get high marks for coaching. But they played well when they had to in Game 7 so you have to give him the credit for that.
Well, now I'm thinking about one particular coach with more rings than fingers in his hands: Phil Jackson.
JG: I've always resented a little bit the credit that he's gotten for the same reason. He always had so much talent and he was never willing to accept a head coaching job unless the team had the talent to win a championship. So I don't think he was ever really tested.
Do you remember the first game you ever attended?
JG: I was 10 years old when I started attending NBA games. I don't recall the details of the game but I remember the sense of excitement that I had. I remember the first NBA Finals game that I ever attended, which was between the Boston Celtics and what was then the St. Louis Hawks. The game was played in Boston and I have a very vivid memory of it. I have not missed a single game of any Finals in more than 20 years and of course I plan to attend every game of this Heat-Spurs series.
You said that during all these years you developed lots of friendships – Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace, people from the Dallas Mavericks… Who are your best friends amon players, coaches, media and executives?
JG: First of all, I can say in general I know people in all capacities involved in the NBA. From owners of the teams to the general managers of the teams, players, all the media people, the trainers… All the way down, from top to bottom. If you ask me about some of my closest friends, I would have to say the one active player that I spend the most time off the court is probably Andrei Kirilenko. I spend time with him in places like Saint-Tropez, Moscow… So we have developed a very close friendship over the years.
What do you think about his future in the NBA?
JG: He's still a very good player. He played on a team [Wolves] this past season that had the misfortune of having so many injuries. They would have made the playoffs without the injuries. There wasn't much attention focused on Andrei this past season, but he's only one year removed of being the MVP in the Euroleague so he's still a very capable player. Also, two of my favorite players in the NBA who are also my friends for a long time are the Gasol brothers.
What do you think about the Pau's situation with the Lakers and Marc becoming one of the best centers in the NBA?
JG: Marc had a huge recognition this year being named Defensive Player of the Year, being named on the second All-NBA team and he has a very solid future in Memphis. As far as Pau goes, things are uncertain. I was very disturbed this year at all the criticism that he received in Los Angeles. Very unfair, I didn't like it. I didn't like when Mike D'Antoni became the coach of the Lakers and put Pau on the bench. Towards the end of the season they finally figured out how to use Pau and he played very well at the end of season and he was a starter. Now, next season the Lakers have to cut back on salaries. They are going to be paying luxury taxes if they keep everybody, something like $85 million. So Pau is in a vulnerable position with the Lakers and I think his future with the Lakers will depend on whether or not Dwight Howard leaves the team or stays with them. I personally think that Dwight is going to move to either Houston or Dallas, and the Lakers will then be required to keep Pau. But if I'm wrong on that I don't think they will keep both of them.
You are a fashion expert. The NBA has improved in a lot of ways, in fashion too. What do you think about the players getting more and more interested in fashion?
JG: I think it's great. A few years ago all the players were wearing baggy clothes with no style whatsoever and the only thing that were focused on was jewelry. They were buying this expensive jewelry and then buying cheap clothes. Now that's changed completely. Now they are becoming very fashion-conscious, they like to make a fashion statement at their press conferences, and I think that's terrific.
We've seen a lot of fashion as of late with some of the best players. Russell Westbrook wearing a sleeveless hoodie, a thick gold rope and translucent glasses; LeBron James and Kobe Bryant wearing a jacket and a Givenchy print t-shirt worth 400 bucks; Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and other players attending fashion shows in New York…
JG: Tyson is a good friend of mine and his brother-in-law is a fashion designer and also a friend of mine so I run into them when I go to the New York Fashion Week. I think Tyson has always had a good style.
Do you think he's the best dressed player?
JG: Well, as I said before I don't like to rank players, but you could say he's one of the Top 10 [laughs]. Also I want to say something about Dwyane Wade: he honoured me by making a t-shirt with a picture of me and wore it to a game against the Lakers in Los Angeles, so I have to tip my hat to Dwyane Wade.
And what do you think about reporter Craig Sager and his style?
JG: Craig has a completely different style than me. He's in a business where the television announcer wears suits and ties, and that's something I don't do. So I can't relate directly to the way he dresses in terms of my own style, but at the same time I give him a lot of credit.
One question about the Sheats Goldstein Residence, the beautiful house designed by architect John Lautner that you have worked on since the 70s. How's the situation right now with that?
JG: The nightclub and offices are really taking shape [bottom of the page]. It's not completely finished but within the next year I expect them to be. The tennis court up above the nightclub and offices is complete and is a beautiful court that I enjoy using every day when I'm in Los Angeles. The nightclub will be called 'Club James' and it will be used for parties and that sort of thing.
You wrote in GQ that Andrew Bynum was the only Laker player that didn't talk to you. What do you think about his future?
JG: Well, he acts in a very immature way with some of the things he's done. I'm horrified the way he acted against the Mavs when he was ejected. I was shocked that he would go bowling on a bad knee and at the same time I think he's a terrific talent. I've watched him shoot three-pointers in practice and make 90 percent of them for example. I can't say anything about his medical condition but if he can rehabilitate his knees he'll still be one of the top centers in the NBA. Whether that happens I have no idea.
Will we see you attending the games of the Finals on your own or with a beautiful guest?
JG: Well, in the first rounds of playoffs in Los Angeles I took a beautiful model from Denmark to the games. On the road I haven't been taking any models to the games so far but I have a friend from Moscow who will probably be meeting me in San Antonio. I'm not sure she'll be seating next to me but she might be at the games.
I'm sure you can talk to Peter Holt, RC Buford or even Gregg Popovich and they will help you out on that.
JG: [Laughs] Well… I think you're right.