The Best and Worst of the NBA Playoffs
It's a love-hate thing.
You can love the drama of the NBA Playoffs, but you can also hate some of the drama found therein.
The best things are why you keep watching, even if it is grudgingly after your team has been ousted. The worst things make your hand twitch towards the remote, or even walk away momentarily until they pass.
The good makes you go "Did that just happen?!" The bad makes you say the same thing, or maybe "Not again..."
In short, the playoffs are a microcosm of everything that's right and wrong with the NBA under a nationally viewed microscope.
With some things, you want to be that close. With others, you'd rather they just go away completely.
Here's a look at the best and worst of the NBA Playoffs.
Good: Expecting the Unexpected
Dallas ousted in the first round?
Steve Nash kept on the bench in favor of his backup?
An Andrew Bogut-less team forcing Game 7?
The playoffs prove sports' greatest adage: anything can happen.
Suns fans were ready for anything...negative. Instead, they're on the verge of sweeping their Spurs' curse out the door and out of the playoffs.
Atlanta's regular season had many thinking they'd taken the step from second-round fodder to Eastern contender. Instead, the Bucks nearly embarrassed them, and Orlando is currently doing so.
All that and more has only happened through the first round-and-a-half. As the stakes get bigger, so will the eye-openers.
Bad: Exceptionally bad officiating
I'd love to believe the officiating is simply magnified rather than worse in the postseason.
Unfortunately, this is one belief that fact shatters all too well.
Despite consistent penetration, the Suns didn't get a foul call in Game 3 until 16 minutes into the game.
That's just not possible, especially in the playoffs, which everyone unanimously agrees features a far more physical brand of ball than the regular season.
That's an example of a huge officiating issue: home court advantage. With referees, there shouldn't be any.
All too often, though, it's clear that even officials with 20-to-30 years of experience favor the home team.
Two more egregious flaws here. 1) The recently sprung habit of calling a foul 2-to-4 seconds after the fact. Inexcusable.
2) Joey Crawford. He's been suspended twice in his career for stealing the limelight with crunch-time power trips on the whistle. Signs of a repeat have sprung up this year, and you have to wonder when, not if, his next over-the-top sequence will occur.
Whoever came up with the hip-hop quote-editing NBA commercials deserves the raise of his/her life if it hasn't already been doled out. I never get tired of them. I've got one for a ring tone and I keep searching for more.
Plus, it's impossible not to get goosebumps seeing the clip of Kevin Garnett's expression while he says, "Focus."
Other companies also deliver in their 30 seconds X 1,000,000 of precious airtime. Dockers "Wear no pants" and Miller Lite's similarly man-deriding campaign are also worth repeated laughs (to me, anyway).
And Geico actually does a good job pumping out a new slew of commercials to keep us accent-crazy watchers entertained.
These commercials almost make the seemingly endless commercial breaks seem bearable. If only it weren't for...
I told you, it's a love-hate thing.
Some things are clever the first time, and all too redundant the following 999,999,999 times.
"This ain't a sandwich. It's a tortada."
The Most Interesting Man in the World. A buddy of mine last year said, "The Most Interesting Man in the World gets less interesting every time I see him."
Autotrader's army-of-cars-on-the-highway commercial that's been running at least five years.
Ford trucks. Not just the commerical itself, but the fact that George Clooney may or may not be the voice behind the repetition.
This kind of advertising might end up being counterproductive.
Good: New Stars Born
Dwight Howard's got the nickname.
Rashard Lewis has the big contract.
Vince Carter's got the name recognition.
But if you've been watching, you know Jameer Nelson is the motor behind Orlando's dominance.
Nelson got a bum rap in last year's playoffs. Injured, he watched in street clothes as Rafer Alston engineered the Magic's unlikely Finals run.
Nelson's return during the Finals was the worst thing that could of happened to Orlando.
It threw off their groove in general and Alston's in particular, making the Lakers' championship that much easier (that was Van Gundy's fault, not Nelson's).
Healthy and playing, Nelson has been nothing short of spectacular, something both he, his team, and his agent all appreciate.
Similar coming-to-life experiences have happened and will continue to happen, including the Suns' Jason Richardson, the Jazz's Deron Williams (always comes alive in the playoffs) and the Bucks' Brandon Jennings.
Players like these show they're the real deal. Unfortunately, other similar performances are just teasers, which lead to...
Bad: Playoff-driven Contracts
I call this the Jerome James Effect.
A notorious under-performer decides, usually at the end of a contract year, to play up to his potential for a couple playoff games, getting announcers to over-gush about his performance.
Team owners and GM's take the gushing in like a kid takes to Gushers, and suddenly start outbidding each other for the guy.
Tim Thomas (left) is a prime example of this. After helping the Suns to an incredible playoff run sans Stoudemire in '06, Thomas waited for the Suns to show the dough.
Phoenix was smart enough to realize that 1) Thomas was a classic example of the unmotivated NBA player and 2) they already had Boris Diaw plus Amare coming back. The Clippers, of course, swooped in for the kill.
Now luckily, the poor economy has diminished the frequency of this sickening occurrence, but every year it seems one guy makes a name and a contract for himself in the playoffs only to make his next team regret being teased.
Charlotte's Raymond Felton is this year's pick to fleece his future team his tantalizing playoff performance.
Good: The NBA on TNT
The TNT crew is a perfect team. I thought C-Webb would throw the ship's even keel, but instead he's added a contagious laugh and mature insight when Barkley and Kenny get too argumentative.
While the show is fine with Webber, if one of the main troika of Ernie, Kenny, or Chuck is missing, it's just not the same. The wheels come off and the show loses its originality and appeal.
That's how essential each of them is to the program's overall greatness.
Kenny's Pics, Ask Chuck (great way to get Barkley doing what we all want him to do...express himself), and Neat-O Stat make us keep the tube on when normally we would just call it a night.
Bad: ESPN NBA analysts
It's easy to see why the Mavericks tuned Johnson out so quickly. I can't turn him off quick enough.
Some guys just weren't meant to talk in front of the camera. Ever. Johnson, along with his nails-on-chalkboard accent and I'm-the-only-guy-laughing-at-my-own-wit humor, is one of them.
So is Jalen Rose, who reminds me of a high school or college Communications major doing his required camera assignment in a good-natured, badly delivered kind of way.
Magic Johnson, after nearly two decades, still doesn't have me convinced he can pull it off. He's just one of those guys who's more of a person-to-person guy than a person-to-audience guy.
Finally, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy should never ever ever be allowed together on the camera. They're like an old married couple that refuses to pass up an argument.
Plus, it's impossible to tell who has the bigger crush on whom: Jackson on Kobe, or Van Gundy on Yao Ming.
Good: Playoff format, Rounds 1 through 3
Stan Van Gundy recently complained about the NBA's playoff scheduling, saying games with two days between them was way too much time off.
Personally, I'd rather see guys like Kobe, Nash, Duncan, and Derek Fisher performing at the top of their games instead of looking like YMCA guys who've played one game too many.
Van Gundy's probably just scared his Magic will lose their FOCUS.
Besides, with each series getting breaks at different times, it allows almost constant game nights for viewers (big NBA money, there). That's a lot better than the NBA on NBC days, when you would here this:
AT 8 EASTERN, BULLS-KNICKS, OR SUNS-ROCKETS, ON EN-BEE-SEE!
There should never be an "or" in terms of viewing playoff games. It just isn't fan-friendly.
Speaking of unfriendly setups...
Bad: Playoff format, the Finals
The team with the best record does not get home court advantage in the Finals.
It's true. The 2-3-2 home-away-home format is the most stupid and stubborn tradition in the NBA world right now.
Suppose this year's dream scenario happen, and it's Cavs-Lakers in the Finals. The Lakers probably split the first two games.
Suddenly, they've got three at home. I guarantee the Lakers win two of those three. Now, despite the series swinging back to Cleveland, the Lakers are the ones with the momentum with two games still remaining in the series.
That momentum is due to the Lakers having better grounds to gain it due to their three straight at home.
On the other side of the coin, Los Angeles' reward for getting the upper hand in this hypothetical situation? Going back to Cleveland? Please.
In the first three rounds, the visiting team is always rewarded with upsetting the higher seed with possible stranglehold/elimination games on their own court.
In the Finals, that doesn't happen unless the visitors win the first two or three out of four.
The NBA, where illogical happens.