NBA franchises play 82 games for the chance to contend in “the second season” and win 16 that actually matter. Still, the playoffs are far from being rocket science. Sixteen teams enter the postseason, but a select few have a legit chance to actually hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy come June. Think about a group of girls who go out on the town together. Sure, all of them may dress nice, but only two are going to get the majority of free drinks and attention the entire night.
As cruel as it sounds, it’s reality and David Stern’s battleship operates under the same unwritten rules. Only a handful of teams present widespread entertainment value to command even the most novice of basketball viewers’ attention, according to the people I’ve less than scientifically surveyed over the past few months, ESPN, blogs and every Black barbershop in America. The small contingent of troops compose what I like to call, for better or worse, the “glamour teams.”
Last year, the Bulls won 41 games and notched the eighth seed in the playoffs. This year, the Bulls won 62 games and secured the top overall seed in the East. For those keeping score at home, that’s like coming up from Natalie Nunn to Paula Patton. I almost used Amber Rose there, but the French judge probably would have only given me a five for “originality.” Chicago has been the feel good story of the league for awhile now. The Bulls clear cap space to prepare for “The Summer of 2010” – which will one day be made into a movie with Denzel somehow playing LeBron and, if we’re lucky, Robert DeNiro as Pat Riley.
Dwyane Wade shuns them. LeBron has everyone thinking for a moment he’s signing with Chicago only to pull the biggest free agent surprise of all time. And Chris Bosh? He voluntarily places himself in a flap jacket as to not tweet the plan away (which I’m sure almost happened on more than one occasion). The Bulls land consolation prizes Carlos Boozer and Ashton Kutcher’s stunt double Kyle Korver. No one picks them to finish atop the conference. Boozer has a mysterious hand injury no one to this day has really (cared to) figured out. Resident goon, and full time post game press conference icon, Joakim Noah, then suffers a hand injury sidelining him for weeks in the middle of the season.
Through all that mumbo jumbo, they got better. A lot better. Derrick Rose, the presumptive MVP, made one of those quantum leaps which turned him from “physical freak” to a “hold-on-this-guy-is-one-of-the-best-in-the-league-and-it’s-not-up-for-debate” kind of player. He added a jump shot making him clinically impossible to defend and his media savviness improves (slowly) each day. Pretty soon, he’ll be attacking microphones like another Chi-town superstar and we’ll all long for the days of the “humble D-Rose.” Such is life. Oh yeah, and they tout a first year defensive minded coach who was long overdue for the position, but garnered the co-sign of President Obama.
C’mon, what’s not to like about these guys?!? The 2010-2011 Chicago Bulls are the family member at the reunion who says all the right things, makes all the right moves and overcomes a bit of adversity, yet still goes on to receive a degree from school. They’re Calvin from WacArnolds when everyone was happy he got the job.
Everyone may not be a fan of the Bulls in the traditional sense, but they wouldn’t be mad if they won the whole thing either. It’s weird because as a number one seed, they’re in a win-win situation. Win it all and Derrick Rose becomes the biggest thing to hit the city since Kanye’s first album, making him that much closer to a shrine outside the United Center. Lose and they weren’t supposed to accomplish this much anyway. It’s like rolling the dice knowing you could either marry Paula Patton or spend a night alone with Rihanna.
That, in a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen, is your Chicago Bulls.
A few weeks ago my cousin came to D.C. on business trip and wanted me to meet him at a bar near his hotel. After having one those what I like to call “perfect planning Metro trips” (you know when you catch each train as it’s pulling up so you don’t have to wait), we entered this small, yet lively establishment and parked right at the bar. We were the lone people of pigment there, so it only made sense the guy beside me sparked a conversation about basketball. Luckily, the stereotype was true in this case and the gentleman went on to explain he was a Seattle native and a diehard Supersonics fan. He then proceeded to tear up when talking about Gary Payton, which made the entire situation odd and great all at the same time.
To make a long story short, he still kept up with the Thunder because it was all he knew and since became infatuated with their style of play. In fact, that is why so many people love Oklahoma City. They’re young and fun to watch with more talent than most coaches know what to do with. Kevin Durant can easily have one of those series this year we’ll all tell our kids about one day when this lanky fellow averaged 39 points over five or six games shooting 55% from the field. That’s not the x-factor though. Molesting the Celtics for Kendrick Perkins was.
Before the Perkins trade, OKC was a threat in the playoffs, but not really a team one would expect to push for a title this year. After? Now I find myself praying to whoever will listen for a Lakers/Thunder Western Conference Finals match-up. Workplace performance nationwide would suffer a beautiful struggle from staying up until two in the morning watching the game and the Inside The NBA post game show the previous night. We’re already in a recession, so let’s all say eff it and go for the gusto!
Perk provides Oklahoma City what they did not have prior to his arrival – a bonafide player who will rip your head off while enjoying the process of doing so. Don’t believe me? Honestly convince yourself he wouldn’t have worked NeNe if it came down to it the other night while yelling “Beaumont” like it was his set. I’m compelled to be a fan out of fear. His presence is infectious as well. Two of the biggest benefactors of Kendrick’s time on the floor have been Serge “I had a real free throw line dunk” Ibaka and James Harden, one of the best sixth men in the league since the trade. Perk, however, is the biggest winner. What Kendrick loved so much about his previous situation back east was that Boston bonded together like brothers, the same thing Oklahoma City prides itself in. It’s almost as if Perk was traded to the same team, only younger.
This is why Boston fans will “Bill Buckner” Danny Ainge if this trade blows up in their face and why Oklahoma City fans are no longer satisfied being called “the team of the future.” At some point, then becomes now. So, why not this year?
Watching Tuesday night’s clumsy win against the Spurs D-League squad was uncomfortable to say the least. There were points where the Lakers appeared to not give a damn. Kobe’s evil eye, chair assaulting and homophobic slurs and Phil’s “I’m not calling a timeout even if the Bloods and Crips have a gang war right at halfcourt” mentality didn’t work. And this game actually meant something, too!
Then, Andrew Bynum’s knee happened.
At this point, Young Money has more confidence in Drake jumping around on stage than Mitch Kupchak has in Bynum running up and down a basketball court on tendons held together by Pixie Sticks and corner store chewing gum. The true extent of this bone bruise appears to not be serious and that giant gust of wind you just felt is Laker Nation breathing a sign of relief. One thing is for sure though. The way he sat on the court looking like I do whenever the episode of New York Undercover airs when Torres is killed in the car explosion was not a good sign. The Lakers “cloak of invicibility” is the fact they are bigger than any other team. I remember Bynum at 60% and it wasn’t an attractive sight. It’s like asking for a condom from your friend and he hands you a Lifestyles rubber. It may get the job done, but it won’t come without its fair share of paranoia.
This is the Lakers. Drama is what defines them. I mean, for Christ’s sake, Lamar Odom is in the middle of a playoff run and debuting a reality show with his wife! They’re the odds on favorite to three peat because when a big shot is needed, the ball always bounces in their favor (that and Phil doesn’t do non-three peats).
Call it divine intervention or sheer luck, but ask the Thunder about Game 5 of their series last year and the Suns about Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. And you know what? It’s going to happen again this year. Whether they end up winning it all or not remains to be seen, but it will happen. Kobe will have two or three of those performances that kick-starts those pesky Jordan comparisons all over again and Derek Fisher will hit some miraculous shot. There’s no stopping that type of stuff. You just have to live with it.
And for all the talk about the Lakers apathetic finish to the regular season and who they don’t want to play come the postseason, let this marinate. Who’s actually champing at the bit to play them? Just because Mike Tyson hasn’t won a professional fight in God knows how many years doesn’t mean I’m going to open hand slap him because I didn’t like his treatment of Alan from The Hangover.
The Celtics and I have a relationship comparable to Martin and Pam. Things work best when we hate each other. So with Boston’s trainwreck of a finish, I hate myself for not relishing in every moment. With age comes wisdom though. I’ve seen this movie before and the ending has slapped me in the face on more than one occasion.
That same trip to the D.C. bar also had me talking to a guy from Beantown. He was in Boston Garden the night Jordan dropped 63 and claimed it was the greatest, single performance he had ever seen from an athlete. When I asked him about the C’s chances this year, his response was telling. It went something like this. “Do I want us to win it? Of course. Do I think we’ll win it? Hopefully. Do I expect us to win it? I really can’t answer that.”
That statement, in some form or fashion, is the type of answer every Celtics fan has given me. “Uneasy confidence” is the best way I’ve been able to describe it. But like I’ve said, I’m not fooled. For the sanity of everyone who prays to their Larry Bird jersey at night, Rajon Rondo has to remember he is one of the more special players in the league. In recent weeks, he’s looked about as interested in basketball as George W. Bush was his last month and half in office.
For the duration of this section, I’ve been constantly knocking Boston for what they aren’t doing. So why exactly are they still one of the top five choices for a Finals team? Simple, because they’re still the Boston Celtics. You still place faith in Boston because what they’re capable of isn’t exactly that hard to reclaim. Hard nose defense, great team offense, Shaq playing more than 6.3 seconds and a rebound here and there wouldn’t hurt. It can happen. It probably should happen in their first round series against the Knicks. Yet, as Bill Simmons put it:
A. The 2011 Bulls are better than any 2010 Eastern team. There’s no comparison, actually. All season long I’ve been watching them with the same frightened look that Mickey had during Clubber Lang’s fights in the beginning if “Rocky 3.”
B. The odds of the 2011 Celtics getting a gift on the level of WTHHTLBJBG3G6 (Whatever The Hell Happened To LeBron James Between Game 3 and Game 6) are about 100-to-1. Miracles don’t happen twice.
He said it, not me.
I know, I know. “Tins, you’re so far up LeBron’s ass that you can’t possibly write on this team without being biased. And no, you cannot make an argument for him to be MVP.” Okay, fine. You got it. We may as well settle something once and for all though. You hate the Miami Heat, don’t you? You despise everything the Miami Heat stand for, don’t you? You think LeBron is the most overrated superstar in the league, don’t you? All that’s fine and you have all the right in the world to believe such, but answer me this.
Even if it is to see them lose in the most heartbreaking fashion possible, you like watching the Miami Heat, don’t you?
When they’re at at their finest, the mid-90’s Death Row Records is an interesting comparison. Suge Knight (Pat Riley) somehow landed Dr. Dre (Dwyane Wade) and Snoop Dogg (Chris Bosh) making them a powerful record label. It was after the highly controversial addition of Tupac Shakur (LeBron James) that the label (team) helped increase their already “larger-than-life” mystique. Want more completely irrelevant and enthralling comparisons? Death Row had “the cover” and Miami had “the probate.” Now hopefully the Heat do not meet the same fate as Death Row, but the point is they’re a polarizing bunch with the opportunity to leave an impact on a culture which may have not always met them with open arms.
For Wade, this postseason marks his best chance to escape the first round since winning the whole thing in 2006. Crazy, right? For Bosh, this is actually his first relevant experience in the second season. For LeBron, a career 30-9-7 playoff performer, it’s another chance to exercise the demons (mainly that ugly exit at the hand of the Celtics last year) many chose to remember him by. The success of the Heat really all boils down to the other nine guys on the team doing their part and somehow providing 40 points (probably asking too much) to go along with the Big Three’s usual 70-80.
If the Heat is the first to 16 wins, it wouldn’t surprise me. I alluded to this in the Lakers section, but they’re going to have moments when they will make everyone’s jaw drop. Wade will have one of those amazing fourth quarters to close out a game. LeBron will have a patent 40-10-6-4 game causing Marv Albert and Steve Kerr (ok, me three) to have a fangasm. And if they lay an egg, that wouldn’t be surprising either. That’s the Miami Heat. They can be inexplicably atrocious one night and unapologetically amazing the next. I couldn’t explain it if I tried.
But you know what, screw it: LEBRON 4 MVP!!
*Does the George Jefferson strut out of article*