Playoffs!

The NBA playoffs finally arrive on Saturday. 

Thanks for competing in the compressed regular season schedule, everyone.

For your efforts, you have one day of rest before the tournament starts.

There’s a long list of reasons to get excited for these playoffs many of which I’ve listed below.

But before we get to that, perhaps the best thing that happened this season was that we moved away from the there’s the Miami Heat as favorites and everyone else view of the league.

The Heat inflated expectations of themselves and in turn we inflated our view of them.

Sure, they are perennial contenders and no matter what the belief is of their title chances this season, the consensus is that their time will come.

But if not this year, then when? And when have franchises, rosters and the health of teams ever been stable in this league?

So we have a bunch of teams - Miami, Chicago, Oklahoma City and Memphis to name a few - looking for reach new heights with their current core. And a different set of teams - the Lakers, Boston and Dallas - who are hoping for one more run.

And then there are the Spurs.

Yes, they were the number one seed last year and didn’t even win a playoff round. And yes, their core players are aging. But if you think the circumstances are the same this year, and that the Spurs are just a bunch of players past their prime, you are terribly misinformed.

This is the deepest Spurs’ squad in perhaps forever, they are the most complete team, with all the prerequisites you want from a champion.

So favorites until further review, in this year’s tournament, that might not hold much weight a week from now.

And that’s one of the main reasons to be excited for these playoffs.

Here are a bunch of other ones:

No more Charlotte Bobcats games on national television.

Every team that makes the Conference Finals in the playoffs will have won more games in the post-season than the Bobcats did over four months. It’s really fun to play around with stats when a team wins just seven times in the regular season.

Lebron in the playoffs at Madison Square Garden.

These will be James’ first playoff games at the Garden.

No better place to start what is the most crucial playoffs of James’ career - I think we’ve said this the past five seasons by the way.

As for the Knicks, they’ve somehow come full circle.

That opening day win at home against the Celtics seemed ages ago, when Carmelo Anthony proved the promise and optimism that the Knicks had coming into the year to be worthy.

But than the team struggled, until Jeremy Lin happened. But that only lasted for so long and soon Mike D’Antoni was on his way out the door. Then injuries to Lin and Amare Stoudemire returned Anthony to the starring role, and he heads into the playoffs on his best individual run since entering the league.

If the Heat want to redeem their playoff run of last year, this series should not go for too long.

But if the teams split the first two games, the Garden is going to be jumping for the next two.

I take that back.

The Garden’s going to be jumping regardless.

It’s going to be great theater.

Kobe and Bynum.

Forget about all the talk about how the Artest suspension is going to upset the Lakers’ rotation, it’s the Kobe-Bynum dynamic that will emerge as the main storyline for this team if the Lakers make an early exit in these playoffs.

They remain a team that needs to be accounted if only because of Kobe Bryant’s reputation and stellar play, and Gasol and Bynum in the low post.

But they’ve done nothing this year to show me they’re capable of winning three straight rounds against this Western Conference lineup.

And when Kobe doesn’t win in these tournaments, it tends to get ugly.

From watching the team come apart game by game in his last run with Shaq against the Pistons, to his not very friendly exits in elimination games against the Suns and Celtics: Kobe knows drama like TNT. I can’t believe I just made that comparison. Great preview so far.

Anyhow, if things play out like I expect, Kobe will hero ball his team out of the playoffs in the second round, and Bynum will express his dismay at being under utilized, culminating a strange season where he finally became a dominant force on the court and ratcheted his ignorance and immaturity at the same time.

This will lead to an off-season of whose team it is, and whether a transition phase is in order.

For the record, it’ll always be Kobe’s team as long as he’s there, regardless of whether that’s the best option for the Lakers as they go forward.

For the record, it’s not.

The Jazz front court.

After clinching the eighth spot with a home win against Phoenix, Al Jefferson said that the Jazz are now ready to go and shock the world.

I’m here to break the news: your first playoff appearance since 2005 will be relatively short.

However, even if it makes no sense, seeing the trio of Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Jefferson together on the court is a revelation.

Specifically, Millsap has become one of my favorite players in the league to watch. Just an efficient and smart forward who gets the most out of his skill set. An absolutely delight to watch him find his space on the floor.

And while we’re on this team, We’re just a few months away from Deron Williams signing with another team from officially declaring that as one of the shrewdest and most lopsided trades in awhile.

The one seed.

Seriously, Derrick Rose missed what seemed like the entire season, and somehow this team managed to finish with the one seed.

Tom Thibodeau somehow managed to outdo his coaching performance from last year.

Just an incredible story.

Add to the way they compete, and their offensive flaws will likely not be a problem until the eventual match-up with Miami.

Their bench has been much criticized, but they’ve come up huge this year and I love watching Omer Asik and Taj Gibson on the floor.

I seriously would believe if you told me Asik has never been negative in the plus-minus column just because he’s always making something happen out there.

By the way, we all know that Gibson is going to get a max contract when he finally becomes a free agent and immediately become the most undersized, overpaid player in the league, right? That’s just how it works.

Because there’s any basketball at all.

It was just about four months ago that we were following basketball reporters on Twitter as they camped out at New York hotels waiting for players and owners to come to an agreement.

Night after night.

Remember when the players association decertified which led to commissioner Stern to declare that nuclear winter was upon us.

Turns out not so much.

But because we all have such short memories these days, let’s not forget this season might’ve not happened at all.

And since we’re on this topic, let me say for the record that I don’t care a single bit about the entire fiasco with Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher.

I’m still recovering from the lockout and right now I’d like to just follow what’s happening on the court.

The title for best white perimeter player is on the line.

I’m not sure who has the title right now.

Let’s consider it vacated, hang it up in the middle of the ring and see if favorite Steve Novak can secure that crown, which would make sense since he already has an invisible belt around his waist.

Also in contention: Gordon Hayward, Kyle Korver and Mike Miller, even though I swear Mike Miller hasn’t had a significant NBA moment in five years.

The uninspired champs.

Mark Cuban basically saw the new salary cap rules, and pulled a Florida Marlins this year. He put nothing into trying to win the title this year, but having Dirk around gives you the illusion that they’re trying.

Still think this is a dangerous team that will put up a fight in the first round. But maybe just for a few games.

The villain.

The most universally hated people in the world right now, real and fictional:  Blake Griffin of the Clippers and Joffrey Baratheon from Game Of Thrones. I’m not sure in what order.

Monty Williams might’ve spoke for every opposing team, coaches and fans when he said after his team lost to the Clippers last week:

”I thought some of the calls just didn’t go our way and our guys didn’t give into that. It’s hard to play against all the flopping and nonsense that goes on with that team. Who is the common denominator with all this fluff going on around the league? Blake Griffin. We don’t dunk, we don’t stare at people, we play the game the same way every night. But all the extra stuff, we’ve never been about that.”

What’s suppose to be a feel good story feels like the exact opposite. Maybe it’s because of the way Chris Paul ended up with this team, or the fact that you wonder whether Vinny Del Negro is drawing up put back dunks at the end of games on his clipboard, or the fact that this is Donald Sterling’s team.

But in a season when the Clippers became a top team in the West, they felt a lot like the franchise who no one respects still.

That can still change with some positive playoff results, but I’d be surprised if they made it out of the first round.

The Manimal.

Kenneth Faried has gone from energy guy off the bench, to useful rotation player, to one of the best players of the rookie class and an emerging force in the NBA.

And as a bonus: the playoff debut of JaVale McGee.

This team will be a must watch for as long as they’re around.

Anyone talking about the Pacers?

You do know this is record-wise, the best team in the East behind the Bulls and Heat right? They’re going to be a very, very tough out. In fact, would not surprise me one bit if they made it to the Conference Finals.

I’m serious.

The team most ready to make the leap this post-season. Any type of playoff run and we could be talking about a big three in the East next year that includes Indiana and the current top two.

The sleeper out West.

Still waiting for the real and healthy Zach Randolph to please stand up.

I’ve had the Grizzlies as sleepers in the West for over a month now that I’ve over thought it to the point where I talked myself out of it.

Regardless, their top eight is as good as anyone.

Celtics-Hawks II

Once in awhile, you get first round matchups that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things but are enjoyable in isolation anyways. Kind of like the Bulls-Celtics epic first round battle from several years ago.

I think the Celtics-Hawks series has a chance to surprise everyone as the best of the first round.

These teams never quite developed a rivalry, but the main characters from their last playoff matchup remains, and you have to figure some residual bad blood remains.

Add to the fact that the Hawks are a little better than most people give them credit for, and despite their recent run, the Celtics are not as strong as when they last met, this has the makings of a memorable series.

The eventual end of the Magic season.

Their playoff appearance should be quick, right?

Almost scared to assume the obvious here.

I can’t wait for all the Dwight Howard headlines to resume in the off-season.

The window closing before you know it.

I’m about to drop a crazy stat on all of you: only one team wins the championship every year.

I’ll give you a second to process this breakthrough I had.

The point is this though: lots of teams with aspirations come away disappointed. For older teams, it means they’re a year older. For younger teams, it’s construed as experience, a matter of paying dues until they’re ready.

The Thunder are the it team for this post-season. But I can off the top of my head name you a bunch of former it teams that never won a title: the Shaq-Penny Orlando Magic, the entire Patrick Ewing era in New York, the Tim Hardaway-Alonzo Mourning Heat, the Kemp-Payton Supersonics, the late 90s Trail Blazers, the Webber era in Sacramento, every team in Phoenix this past decade, and so on.

Young teams have time on their hands, but only to a certain extent. Free agency and health are just a few things that can easily break up a core before you know it.

Many people think this version of the Thunder are just beginning their run, but if they don’t win this year, that’s one year closer to having to deal with Harden and Ibaka’s impending free agency, another set of questions for Scott Brooks’ strategy and the team’s execution down the stretch.

And so on.

For all these reasons, just remember that every run at the title this year might be that team’s last. That applies not just to the older teams.

Can’t wait for all of this to get going.

28 notes

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    Ugh all this analysis before breakfast…
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  14. thetickr reblogged this from stevenlebron and added:
    Thought The Tickr followers might enjoy this NBA playoff preview.
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  16. gangrelatedactivity said: What a great post. Thank you.
  17. stevenlebron posted this


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