Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NBA Playoffs

As much as I love the NBA playoffs, we can all agree that they stretch the games out too long. I mean, each team has only played four games and it’s been like two weeks. It’s no wonder the playoffs take two months to finish. I fully understand why the system is the way it is, the NBA and the TV corporations are attempting to maximize their dollars. I get that, but do we really need a best of seven series for every series? I loved the best of five format that we had in the first round (with the notable exception of the ’94 playoffs when the Sonics had the look of a championship-caliber team and lost to the goddamn Nuggets).

I doubt very seriously that they’ll revert to a five-game series in the first round, despite how much people would actually like it. People would love an NFL Playoffs vibe even more because any team can beat any other team if they’re both good on any night. The NCAA Tournament captures this as well, and that’s what makes it so special. The beauty of the postseason generally is the win-or-go-home mentality. It’s so much fun to watch these games because the finality ratchets up the intensity.

Contrast that with the win-four-times-or-go-home mentality of the NBA playoffs. Not quite as exciting is it? Of course elimination games are fun and game sevens are incredible to watch, but we just have to wait so damn long to get there. I suppose they’re worth the wait though. Also, the best team usually will prevail in a seven-game series, which is somewhat satisfying. It’s pretty uncommon for an inferior team to beat a clearly superior team in a seven-game series. It’s just too hard to hide weaknesses and unless certain players on an inferior team are just treeing for an entire series, that team is typically going to lose. There are exceptions, of course, but the better team usually prevails, not that it matters in the least, unless you have rooting interest, in which case then it definitely matters.

While I’m complaining about the length of these playoffs, I’ve definitely been interested. Since I work for a living and have a wife who would threaten, and probably follow through with, murder if I watched every single game that’s on TV, I have to pick and choose which games to watch, and even then, it’s hard. Plus, it’s nice outside now and it makes it very difficult to justify sitting inside when it’s 70 degrees and sunny. That’s what happens when you live in the Seattle area, I spend at least half of my time bitching about the weather, so when it’s finally tolerable to be outside, I must go outside, games be damned. But that’s what DVR is for, if I’m willing to stay up until 3:00 a.m. to pound out all of the games.

Back to the subject, there are only two of these series that I’ve dubbed appointment TV. Chicago v. Boston and Houston v. Portland.

Chicago and Boston
I’m heavily intrigued by the Bulls and Derrick Rose and their mighty rise from freaking nowhere, so I’m enthralled by that series. I’m somewhat invested in the Blazers solely because of Brandon Roy, and tangentially interested in the Rockets because of Aaron Brooks; Seattle ballplayers, both of them. I guess, for the same reason, I should care about Atlanta (Marvin Williams), Detroit (Rodney Stuckey), and Dallas (Jason Terry), but I don’t, at least not as much because those other three series just aren’t as interesting. Houston and Portland, beyond the Seattle connection, is a very interesting matchup because Houston hasn’t gotten out of the first round in forever and Portland is making its first trip back in forever. Both teams are talented and could do some damage to LA. The series has produced some very close games, but sadly, it looks like Houston is going to take this, and that’s a damn shame considering how good Portland has looked at times. That said, if not for Ron Artest attempting to shoot his team out of the playoffs, Houston would have beaten Portland by at least 10 the other night, instead of winning a close one down the stretch.

Chicago and Boston, on the other hand, has been an otherworldly series. Taking a step back, it looked like Chicago was headed this way a few years ago when they made the playoffs and looked good. They had a young, talented team that was hungry and making noise. But then they got greedy, trade rumors were swirling, they started to hate their coach (more), and eventually fell on their face. Then they ass backward into Rose and everything changed.

Rose, simply put, is amazing. I fawn over him. He will be legitimately discussed as the best player in the league within five years, easily. I doubt that he (or anyone else) will ever dethrone LeBron while he’s in his prime (that would be NOW until about 9 or 10 years from now), but Kobe Bryant (who is probably too old for this discussion) Rose, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Brandon Roy, Deron Williams, and maybe Carmelo Anthony will be contenders for ‘Bron’s crown. Of course, Ricky Rubio, John Wall, and some other young bucks may storm the castle too. We just don’t know if they’ll get hit by the cauldron of oil or make it through the gate yet.

Orlando and Philly
The other games don’t interest me as much. Orlando and Philly has some intrigue, but I don’t care about either team. I like Orlando a little bit because Rashard Lewis plays for them and he was always a decent guy here in Seattle. Dwight Howard is fun to watch because he’s looks so strangely huge amongst huge people. Plus, he’s abundantly talented, but ultimately flawed because he really can’t be counted on yet. I’d love to see him put it all together and become a 35 point scorer. He could easily do that if he shot 75% from the free throw line, but somehow I doubt he’ll ever approach that mark. Philly is kind of interesting, but ultimately how can I even dedicate any time to a team that has killed itself with that horrible Elton Brand signing? They’re doomed for years and it was their own damn fault. Why bail out the Clippers like that? I do like Thaddeus Young, though. The kid seems like a very solid player and I will forever like Andre Igudola for the singular reason that he nearly decapitated himself in a dunk contest. So I like some individuals on those teams, but neither one has a legit shot at winning the title or even pushing a team very much (no, Orlando has no shot) so I’m uninterested ultimately.

San Antonio and Dallas
San Antonio and Dallas couldn’t bore me more. There is no chance I’ll watch any part of that series. I’m dog tired of San Antonio and have been for years, I’d really prefer it if both of these teams would just exit out of the playoffs after this series is over, sort of like an instant double elimination, but without having to lose twice… wait, that doesn’t make any sense. Maybe it’s a single elimination spread over two teams simultaneously. Whatever. I just don’t want to see either one advance, despite Jason Terry’s excellence.

Atlanta and Miami
Atlanta and Miami presents two young teams who may be on their way to better things, but probably not. I haven’t seen anything but the highlights of this series and I doubt they’ll make it into the regular rotation. I am interested to see how Michael Beasely plays, since I haven’t seen one minute of him this year, but I suspect I’ll be underwhelemed. Is it just me, or do people get way, way, way to proud of big guys? How could he ever have been considered by any team over Derrick Rose? He had a rep for being a lazy, immature dude prior to the draft, but he could score and rebound. Rose had a rep for being emotionally invested in the outcomes of games, being massively unselfish, and possessing unspeakable talent and played maybe the most important position on the team, depending on the offense a team runs. This isn’t revisionist history. He’s always been the better player. Whatever, I’m just saying that teams and the media over-emphasize “big” guys. A point I’ll get to in a separate post.

I guess I was talking about the Atlanta/Miami series. I’m somewhat interested in this Hawks team because they seem to be properly constructed with some really good young players and they finally have a point guard who can do some things for them in Nougat All-Star Mike Bibby. I just can’t get into them. Hopefully they’ll advance and I’ll get to check them out in the next round.

Denver and New Orleans
Before I say anything here, I’ve got to start with the following number: 58. It’s amazing that a team with Chris Paul, David West, James Posey, and Tyson Chandler would lose by fifty eight points. Those guys are legitimately good players who are extremely prideful, it’s striking to me that they’d roll over like that. At home. To a Denver team that is good, but certainly not whip-your-ass-on-an-historic level good. I’ve read that there are issues (to put it mildly) with Byron Scott as a coach. Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski, wrote about it today. ESPN’s Bill Simmons has written about it earlier this year after watching Scott and Paul’s interaction (if it can be called that) live at a Clippers game. I don’t understand how, as a coach at the highest level of sport, Byron Scott could be unprepared and pay little attention to detail. Is it that difficult to do? Do you not have various scouts and assistant coaches informing you of things or do you simply choose not to listen? The whole thing confuses me. Why not be prepared even if you don’t manically control every part of the game (like Larry Brown or Avery Johnson), at least have an answer for things if whatever gameplan that you’ve cooked up isn’t working. How the hell is a player supposed to respect a coach who doesn’t put in the time to help his team perform to the best of its ability, especially when the players are busting their asses? If Byron Scott is truly the way that he’s portrayed, then how in the hell is he still the coach of a team like New Orleans with the best point guard in the game? I’m glad I’m not a New Orleans fan (although, as I’ve stated in the past I will gladly, if not gleefully, accept their team as the new Sonics).

As for the series itself, aside from the last game, it didn’t really look like New Orleans had a shot. Denver has been playing too well and Chauncey Billups has been rubbing New Orleans players’ faces in their own feces, and then swatting them with a rolled up magazine all series. He’s been unstoppable. He was great in Detroit, but he’s been incredible for Denver. He’s been hitting his shots, which had been a missing ingredient in his game in the post-championship years in Detroit. Plus, there is the whole hometown thing going for him. I love seeing guys get a chance to play where they grew up, there’s just something cool about that.

Another thing that Denver has working for it is their cumulative ink. I defy you to find me a team who sports more tats than these Nuggets. It’s not just the amount of tats they have, but the shocking amount of surface area that these tats cover. J.R. Smith is literally wearing long sleeves, Kenyon Martin has been tagged by a “writer” from the Bronx, and the Birdman looks like an entire grade school pelted him with Easter eggs and Fun Dip.

Speaking of the Birdman, just because you were once down-and-out as a drug-addled idiot does not mean you must continue to look the part. He’s the latter day Rodman, right down to the hustle and annoyance factors. How soon until he dons a wedding gown to marry himself? Although, he’s so militantly ugly that I doubt he has the stomach to even masturbate, let alone be his own bride.

Los Angeles and Utah
I’m beginning to wonder if anyone, even Cleveland, is going to beat this Lakers team. They are pissing on Utah, and while Utah is an eight seed, they’re not a garden-variety eight seed. They have talented players with great size, a good coach, and a great home court advantage. But this Lakers team is frightening. It’s insane that they can legitimately roll out a lineup like this:

  • Center: Bynum: 7’0
  • Power Forward: Gasol: 7’0
  • Small Forward: Ariza: 6’7
  • Shooting Guard: Bryant: 6’7
  • Point Guard: Odom: 6’10
That’s preposterous. Not only is this lineup huge, but it's highly skilled. Odom is more than capable of bringing the ball up and setting up the offense just as Ariza and Kobe are capable of guarding smaller players. This eliminates the Lakers’s weakness at the PG spot and pretty much guarantees that they’ll get nearly every rebound. If the Lakers lose more than twice the rest of the way in the Western Conference I’ll be surprised.

I don’t have much to say about Utah except that I don’t understand why you’d live there unless you love skiing and are Mormon. Why else would you bother? But I will say this, they’ve made a great uniform switch over the years. Their present gear is pretty awesome. Good job there, guys.

Detroit and Cleveland
Everytime I watch LeBron play I feel like Anton Ego, the restaurant critic in “Ratatouille,” when he takes his first bite of the dish of the same name at the end of the movie.
LeBron is so mesmerizing it makes me weep and transports me to a time where basketball is pure and beautiful to watch. He’s the most gifted and perfect basketball creation. I am amazed that this team has been able to do so much when it trots out a starting five with a center who is not a post presence, a power forward who is absolutely no threat offensively (to the point where, if left completely alone at 15 feet will frantically look around for someone to pass to), LeBron, an undersized, streaky, and sort of diseased-looking guy with a neck-tat, and Mo Williams. That’s not an imposing team. Not even close and they won 67 games. In order for us, the basketball watching world, to fully experience the Holy LeBron Experience, he needs to have more awesome guys around him. I don’t know if he’ll leave Cleveland (I hope he doesn’t, because I’m sentimental and I know a guy from Cleveland), but I do hope that they continue to bring in guys that can play.

I didn’t catch much, if any, of this series, but Detroit simply had no chance. It will be interesting to see what they do next year now that they have money to spend after shedding ‘Sheed and Iverson. By the way, what the hell is going to happen to Iverson next year? Obviously someone will sign him, but who? No team with a young nucleus is going to sign him because he won’t be worth it and will stifle the growth of any young player. Look, I love A.I. and it’s fun watching him play, but he’s not and never has been the best example. He could probably work in a place like Houston because sometimes that squad gets bogged down and has trouble scoring, something A.I. has never had a problem with. I can’t see him co-existing with McGrady, but isn’t McGrady all but finished?

Anyway, as much as I’d like to see the NBA playoffs changed, I’ll still watch what’s on and the games will get a lot more interesting once the pretenders get weeded out.

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