The NBA is a abuzz with playoff stories and images. Unfortunately, this isn’t always enough to satisfy the 24 hour news cycle, but I’ll focus on the stories I feel are relevant.
The Pacers survive the first round
The Indiana Pacers as may well have been in a World War I trench during the last month. A slow decline during the end of the regular season seemed poised to culminate in a first round exit from the playoffs. However, it was not to be. The Pacers outlasted the Atlanta Hawks in a seven game series to advance to face the Washington Wizards. For many, making it to a game seven is a sign of weakness, but not to me. If anything, it reiterates that the Pacers want it, and they finally found the footing they need to go out and grab it.
I get that a lot of people don’t understand what a game seven means, and if I’m honest, I’ll never fully grasp it myself. However, what I do know is when you face a do-or-die game, you can either rise to the occasion, or fall flat. The Pacers had it one worse, where even if they arose and played at a high level, but fell short, they would hear the endless calls of ‘they turned it on way too late to matter’. We should be talking about them in context of their potential turnaround, especially if they beat the Wizards. At bare minimum, they did not let themselves fall in the first round.
Kevin Durant wins the MVP
Kevin Durant is a full force, amazing basketball player, and after an amazing season that many said topped LeBron James’, he won the NBA’s greatest honor: the Most Valuable Player award. After the Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) beat the Memphis Grizzlies in seven, it seems like a well deserved award too. Durant is not Michael Jordan, don’t get me wrong, but even Jordan’s Batman needed a Robin to become the legend he was; and Durant seems to recognize that, working as a team player, scorer, and facilitator in the eternal quest for a championship.
The Miami Heat take on the Nets
The Miami Heat swept the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round, being the only team to complete a sweep in this year’s first round. They face the Brooklyn Nets, fresh off a seven game series win against the Toronto Raptors. Of note, the Nets won all four games against the Heat in the regular season. Does this mean anything? It was the first time the Heat were swept in the regular season by any team since the Big 3 arrived. It was to a Nets team that was inconsistent in the regular season and has increasingly found its footing as time has progressed, perhaps best exemplified by a resilient game 7 victory away from home.
Dwayne Wade, two years ago, commented that he viewed the playoffs as the start of the ‘real season’. I wonder if that’s true for him now, with the Heat struggling during the regular season and himself struggling with injury. The NBA is not a forgiving league; unlike the NFL, where the most games a team can play is 20 (including playoffs), and MLB, where the long season requires players to be given pre-planned days off, the NBA is a league that potentially gives the worst of both the aforementioned leagues: it’s 82 games in the regular season, but players are expected to play until you’re either in the playoffs or definitely out of the running.
The Nets have a shot against the Heat, and I have a feeling it will be a grueling series for the Heat, although I hesitate to predict a victor. At bare minimum, we’ll see the real teams, and hopefully a good show.
The Los Angeles Clippers saga continues
The news hurricane the Clippers continues. In addition to winning their series against the Golden State (really Oakland) Warriors, moving onto face the previously mentioned Thunder, they’ve had to deal with the seemingly nonstop Donald Sterling fallout. Fortunately for all of us, the Sterling story is slowing down, and it would seem that it’ll fall into the background until the playoffs are over… hopefully.
However, even if he isn’t named, the news continues. A recent LA Times article reveals that a group is trying to move the Clippers down to Orange County, complete with a public-private cooperative push to give the Clippers a ‘fresh start’ away from Los Angeles. On the surface, this isn’t a horrific idea, especially considering that the only reason the Clippers left San Diego for LA in the first place was because of Donald Sterling.
However, as with the Sacramento Kings several years ago, it will likely fail because most potential owners will want to keep the Clippers in LA, which is a huge market that not only can hold two basketball teams, but also doesn’t have an NFL team to divert local fan money away from NBA merchandise. Not to mention that the NBA will want to, even if it’s only for another year or two, reward those faithful fans who stuck with the Clippers in spite of the Sterling controversy.