By Justin Taylor
Until late this week there wasn’t much in the way of surprises in these playoffs. It was hard not to look ahead to the potentially great matchups rounding into shape in the Western Conference and the unwatchable ones in the east. That’s when Pau Gasol went back to sleep, Kobe got sick and Andrew Bynum got his “zen on!” Bay Area fans that can only root for the Lakers to lose this time of year got a chance for a great weekend. Not only have the Nuggets shown a pulse and pushed the Lakers to the brink but the Clippers (our perennial bottom feeding competition with their bandwagon fans) are about to fly to Memphis for a game 7 of their own.
Personally I was looking forward to seeing the Spurs take out the Clippers and to the Thunder shitting on the Lakers. I admit that the conference semifinals might not be as interesting with the Grizzlies and Nuggets (even though Spurs-Grizz could be a great series.) That being said it is impossible for me not to root for both SoCal teams to get taken out in bone crushing fashion on consecutive days. The thought of all those Laker flags on cars flying at half mast in bumper to bumper traffic (not to mention all of those brand new Clipper hats and jerseys getting buried deep in closets) all over LA has me genuinely excited.
That is a lot of weight to put on Kobe's aching knees
On Saturday Denver has a chance to send Laker fans into a state of panic that will last several months and Kobe on another trip to Germany. On Sunday the Grizzlies can devastate Clipper Darrell, Billy Crystal and Penny Marshall while raining on thousands of fair-weather fans. Losing this weekend will almost guarantee an entire offseason of “will Chris Paul stay in Lob City after next season; Will Kobe’s knees be able to carry the weight of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and RonMetta World Peace for one last run at a ring; and who will coach them when Mike Brown is fired?” I almost didn’t write about it because I don’t want to jinx it.
The Warriors season has been over for a loooong time and normally I’d probably be half-heartedly be rooting against the Lakers right about now. This season is different though. Chris Paul has carried the Clippers on his creaky knees (without booking any flights to Germany as far as I know) into the mix so now I’ve got to pour an extra glass of Haterade. It’s time for Bay Area die hards to join up with the fans in Denver and Memphis and show them how you really chant BEAT LA! Even if one or both of the Staples Center tenants advance we can still be confident that they will get mopped up against one of the squads already resting until someone limps in to play them.
If I had to choose between the L.A. teams Chris Paul would make it easier to choose the Clippers but I’m praying that the basketball gods will just handle business for me in the next two days. If the worst case scenario happens and the Lakers make it all the way to the finals I hope Boston is the team to meet them there. For the 2010 finals match up I went down to Staples Center to witness the most historical rivalry in basketball history. Since the Lake Show was clearly taking that game I had to high tail it out of there straight to the airport so I could catch a flight out of there before being swept up in a sea of purple and gold. I will try to do the same this year but until then I’ll be hoping I don’t see LAX or the 110 freeway for a long time.
No one will be smiling if Westbrook takes more shots then Durant
Picking another team to throw my playoff support behind is another time honored Trapped in Golden State tradition. This year I’m having a hard time picking between Oklahoma City and San Antonio out west while the only choice available in the east is Boston. KG, Pierce, Allen and Rondo deserve one more run at it before it’s curtains on their chances at a ring. I can’t get behind the Heat because it is more fun to see them implode then it is to see them win.
In the west I’m going with the Spurs but it wasn’t an easy choice. Supporting the most unselfish superstar in the league as he rides toward the sunset just seems like the right thing to do. There’s nothing more enjoyable than watching a team play the right way and Tim Duncan will make damn sure that’s what the Spurs do. I love Kevin Durant for the same reasons but he has a little less control with Russell Westbrook jacking up twenty shots a game. If I’m a point guard in Oklahoma City, no matter how confident I am in my own game, I’m setting up the scoring champion and most versatile shooter in the league every chance I get. If Duncan is The Big Fundamental, Durant is the heir apparent. Manu Ginobili is the deciding factor here because he makes me feel good about my own male pattern baldness issues.
Manu gets the Spurs my vote by a hair!
Right now we are in our usual spot, watching other teams in the playoffs while we wait for the ping pong balls to stop bouncing. The difference this time around is that I truly believe that our new management group has made strides and taken the chances necessary to make real changes. It won’t be nearly as infuriating when Joe Lacob and Mark Jackson come out talking playoffs during training camp like it was this year but I think they learned a valuable lesson about actions speaking louder than words. Eight games and six losses into the season I had officially gone from disheartened to being enraged. Next year it should be a legitimate expectation that this roster make a real playoff push so long as we don’t have ankle issues.
For the first time in years there is reason for true optimism outside of a late lottery pick because this time some other things are going to start going our way for once. 2013 will be the season that the Chris Paul and Blake Griffin contract situations drag the Clippers back into obscurity. Kobe’s knees will stop carrying the Lakers. Dirk may go back to Germany in the offseason but he’ll come back to the Mavs without new knees, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard. The Jazz will still be coughing teeth from their first round ass kicking and the Spurs best players will be filing for social security and AARP cards. Denver will lose a lot of the depth that got them this far while Portland remains cursed and Houston continues to have their trades vetoed.
By my calculations we need to stay healthy and have roughly half of my predictions come true to leap well into the playoffs. We’re not talking 8th seed this time around, our sights need to be set on the 4th or 5th spots approximately 350 days from now. Before we get into any of that we need to focus on the present. Go Grizz! Go Nuggets! Go Spurs! Go Thunder! Go Celtics and go anyone else that has what it takes to bring on the demise of the Staples Center!
I wouldn't mind the old guys getting one last shot at a second ring
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