After the exciting 2007-08 season, the NBA playoffs haven’t lived up to the hype as of yet.
Sure, the Spurs-Suns had an instant classic, but the series quickly devolved into nothing special.
Now we are faced with both conferences’ one through four seeds in the second round. Let no mistake be made, there is no glory in losing in the second round.
If you lose in the first, it’s either a big upset or a case of “at least we made it to the playoffs, this is something to build on next season.”
If you lose in the conference finals, at least you sniffed the NBA Finals. But no one remembers the second round losers. It’s a vacuum of hellish mediocrity.
As the second round gets off of the ground, let’s take a look at the four most intriguing people left in the playoffs, in no particular order.
David West, New Orleans Hornets
As soon as my beloved Mavs were eliminated by the Hornets, I immediately was excited.
One, because maybe the Mavs will make some drastic off-season changes and finally get Dirk his well-deserved ring. Two, I can finally root for the Hornets and Chris Paul and David West to win.
I was thinking of writing about Paul, but I think everything that can be said about him had been said ad nauseum, but very little has been said about West’s contribution.
The Hornets are the most exciting team left in the playoffs, and now they are playing my most hated team, the San Antonio Spurs. I find delight in watching Chris Paul carve up Tony Parker and float runners over Tim Duncan.
More than anything, though, I couldn’t wait to watch David West play against the Spurs.
Call the Spurs boring, but they are also is a dirty team. You can’t deny it. The fact that they resorted to Hack-A-Shaq shows this team will sink to any level.
Hack-A-Shaq isn’t dirty, but Bruce Bowen and Fabricio Oberto are absolutely filthy. In play and soul. Bowen’s proclivities are well known in the NBA world, but Oberto’s seem to fall by the wayside.
It was towards the end of the season when the Spurs were playing the Warriors and Oberto and Baron Davis went after a loose ball. Davis, who has a history of getting hurt, was favoring his knee, but in the playoff push he was gutting it out.
Davis gets the ball and Oberto goes after it to try and force a jump.
When Oberto goes to the ground, he not only goes down knees first, but he goes right after Davis’ bum knee.
Not only did Davis shove him off and get called for the tech, but Oberto got that signature Spurs look, “What? I didn’t do anything!”
Those are the kind of things that make we want to nuke San Antonio.
Back to David West.
West is one guy who does not take crap. He got in Dirk’s face in the last series, and he already has been called for a tech in the Spurs series. I can definitely see him giving Bowen a well-deserved punch to the face.
Besides his attitude, West can ball.
He’s got a jump shot and pretty good speed to blow by a rapidly aging Tim Duncan. Add his physical presence with Paul’s finesse, and the Spurs, and any other team, may find themselves in trouble when they play the Hornets.
Kevin Garnett – Boston Celtics
While a lot of pixels were devoted to the struggles of LBJ, Pierce, and Allen, KG got very few props.
Sure, he was the high scorer, but a fundamental change in the Big Ticket may have taken place last night.
KG’s rep before last night was of a dominant presence that seemed to disappear with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Last night he took some huge steps to get rid of that.
On the second to last possession, with the game tied at 72-72, Garnett was fed the ball and he backed down Joe Smith. As recent as two weeks ago, he would have passed to the 0-for-4 Ray Allen or the 2-for-14 Paul Pierce for a jumper.
Instead, he decided that the game was his to win. He gave Smith a bump, and then spun by him for a quick layup to give the C’s the lead for good.
Could this be a shift in the way KG approaches the end of games? Probably nothing that drastic, but it did show him that he can take over the game.
Maybe if Pierce or Allen were having a better night he might have fed it to them, but at least he learned that he is the closest to the basket and he can make that last shot if he wants to.
LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
What to say about LBJ?
Bron Bron is an interesting study. He is the next likely successor to Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan before him, an athlete who is his own brand name.
What’s interesting about LeBron is his awareness of the situation.
Can you imagine him driving drunk like ‘Melo? Can you see him talking about smoking pot, dog fighting, allegedly raping a hotel worker, or putting out a rap album?
The closest thing to controversy LeBron has been involved with is when he wore a Yankees cap to and Indians playoff game.
LeBron is unique in the fact that he knows if he doesn’t do stupid things, he is going to make hundreds of millions of dollars before he turns 30.
And he’s smart enough to know that nothing is worth putting that in jeopardy.
Before the playoffs started, I had a lot of respect for LeBron because he didn’t let his brand name get in the way of his fierceness on the court. After his bellyaching over the hard fouls courtesy of the Wizards, now I’m not so sure.
During the regular season LeBron wouldn’t have aired his beef in the media, he would have gone straight at Haywood, Songaila, Stevenson, and any other Wizard who dared get in his way.
After all, he is King James.
What his complaints to the media tell me is that LeBron is becoming increasingly concerned with his standing in the eyes of the public and the league.
Imagine if he goes hard into Brendan Haywood and gets a charge call. Then Haywood fouls him hard. Then it escalates into a flagrant foul on LeBron.
While that would usually be a natural course of events in the playoffs, LeBron doesn’t know if he could risk it. For all we know, he has an advisor telling him exactly how much a flagrant would cost him in sponsorship dollars.
Say he gets called for that flagrant. Maybe the league starts looking at him in the way they do Rasheed Wallace. Maybe people start to think Bron Bron is a dirty player.
More hard fouls will inevitably follow in what is destined to be a great career. Then maybe LeBron does get into some trouble. Something like what happened to Marvin Harrison.
Quick side note: Is there any player that has more goodwill stored up than Marvin Harrison? If it had been almost any other professional sports player, he would be getting skewered right now. Athletes.
Unlike Harrison, LeBron no longer has the squeaky clean image, and people start thinking that he’s not the role model he was cracked up to be. This has repercussions in a marketing sense.
Now, I don’t know if this is true, or if events would shake out this way. But when there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, LeBron might have someone spelling all of this out and warning him to be careful.
At the very least, there seems to be something that caused LeBron to voice his complaints to the media and not on the floor. For the sake of good basketball, let’s hope this trend doesn’t continue.
Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
Quick question: How is someone considered the most valuable player on a team, much less the league, when he demands a trade less than a year ago?
If you do have an answer, let me know because I haven’t come up with anything.
Bitterness aside, the thing that makes Kobe so fascinating is the same reason that people either love him or hate him. A lot of time and effort has been wasted in trying to figure out what about Kobe is so polarizing, but it’s pretty simple:
Kobe is a phenomenal basketball player, but a big jerk. He doesn’t seem like a nice guy. Even his teammates seem to be on edge around him, as if they don’t want to piss him off.
Does that sound like an MVP (that’s the last time I’ll get bitter, seriously)?
It does make Kobe an interesting study. Will he be able to get his fourth title, putting him at Shaq’s level? Considered Kobe and Shaq’s respective ages, Kobe might have a shot at a few more.
Considering the team around him, it will definitely be a disappointment if Kobe does not at least get to the Finals.
That’s what makes sports so fascinating.
A lot of teams have put themselves in the position that anything less than a title is a disappointment.
Some teams are already disappointed (Suns, Mavericks) and some teams are still fighting for that chance.
But there can be only one winner, which means all but one of the Lakers, Celtics, Pistons, Cavaliers, and Spurs is going to go home disappointed.