As we enter the NBA playoffs, conjecture and speculation is rampant.
Will LA pull off a miracle or a Dallas this time, or will Boston reach no more than the Eastern Finals?
Will there be upsets galore or will the top seeds all get through?
Will Denver upset LA or will the Spurs rejuvenate and recover lost steam?
So much to discuss, so much more to prove.
Alas...everyone's missing the big picture-that the regular season is over. The top seeds have as much to fear as their opponents. Any team can upset the best on any given night. It's unpredictable to try predict just who will come through. Let us put fantasy aside and ponder upon a possible reality.
The real test starts now.
Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul, Lebron James, Tracy McGrady, and company will surely realize that the glory and adventure of the regular season is over, that much has been sweated over, much has been achieved, and much more still remains to be realized.
Of this lot, common sense prevails that Bryant, Duncan, and Garnett will carry their teams forward, for they are all seasoned playoff campaigners. But then, we have seen surprises every year in the playoffs.
Who's to say that this year will be any different?
The fact that much of the media attention is on LA, Boston, and their much-anticipated Finals showdown, is actually an advantage for the rest of the teams. It should help their preparations and allow them a considerable break from the all- pervading media attention and scrutiny.
This game is now, more than ever, as much competitive outside the basketball court as it is inside it.
No team, however impressive their season has been, is invulnerable to unpredictability.
No team is all-potent and unstoppable, heaven knows we know it well from the regular season.
LA lost to Memphis and Charlotte. Boston lost to teams it should have whipped-both in pivotal times, and so did other top seeds. That in itself is a strong reminder for the rest of us, that anything is possible.
For me, all the 16 playoff teams are the favorites, for there's no such thing as an underdog. When one plays the other, as long as all ten men are on the court, whether the opposition be Bryant or Garnett, it is pretty much the same-it's still a team game.
The team that adapts the fastest and adheres to the concept of the team will win. It's as much about the individual elevating his game as much as the team elevating itself through its prime individuals. It's about the psychology and mentality that grounds their foundation for existence.
No team can pride itself on its weapons and characters.
It is all about that one evening, that one night, when a team needs to pull itself out from its inner depths, find a way to assimilate and trust in one another, in each other.
Defenses will need to buckle up, double teams, triple teams, guarding the open man, denying the ball, and most importantly, heighten the sense of intuition and occupation.
The best strategy-go not by reputation, but by sense. The sense of anticipation, expectation, wisdom, and cunning....that's what wins basketball games, playoff encounters.
Not necessarily the Bryants and the Nowitzkis. It's now time for the mental games-instigate and rile up Bryant, that usually gets him in trouble.
Deny AI the ball, and even Anthony can't keep his Nuggets rolling.
Give the ball low, very low to Nowitzki, and get Arenas to pester LeBron, straight on his face, the verbal trash, and more.....get it all rolling....it's playoff time.
We want action, real, unadulterated, passion and guts, but please, no more flagrant fouls and vicious altercations.
Kids come to see their heroes in action, as mortal as they may be, let them be part of something heroic and memorable.
The grudge matches have already started, and the psychological warfare too.
Already Gilbert Arenas has stated that LeBron James' game is 'overrated'.
AI has already prepared himself for the 'Kobe meeting', and already, the 'underdogs' are preparing for upsets.
Just as well-it ain't over till it's really over.
What I'm personally waiting for is the Conference Finals-regardless of whoever reaches, I'll wish the best teams carry on.
And by 'best', I mean, not the ones who had a terrific regular season, but the ones who did it when it counted most.
The ones who came through in the first and second rounds of the playoffs.
That in itself is as satiating a thought as seeing Kobe and his Lakers go to work against AI and Carmelo.
Arenas against LeBron.
Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler against Nowitzki, Kidd, and the Mavericks.
And remember, I'm not even counting on my personal favorites to make it alive, because it's the NBA, nothing ever goes to plan.
Just ask Isiah Thomas and Stephon Marbury. Or, for that matter, a certain Mr. Sprewell (just where's this former All-star, by the way?)
On a last note, Boston vs LA for the finals? Whew!......That should blow the roof!
The analysts have said that that's just not possible, historically at least. Even then, what's wrong with fantasy, right?
For the five MVP candidates: Bryant, Garnett, Paul, James, and Howard the real season starts now.
For the 'outsiders' AI, 'Melo, Bosh, Agent 0, Iguodala, Nash, Shaq, Stoudemire, Nowitzki: now is the time to make some major damage.
This playoff season will be a cracker! I wish you all the very best!
Let the playoffs begin!