Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A few years ago, the NBA ran promotional
commercials involving players from both the past and present to spike interest
for the upcoming postseason.
Images ranging from Larry Bird's steal underneath and quick dish to a cutting
Dennis Johnson to LeBron James transforming into beast mode on a driving dunk
appeared as a melodic tune played in the background. James looked as if he
could breathe smoke after his rim-rocker on Kevin Garnett.
The ad would close with the question: Where will amazing happen this year?
Amazing players and moments arise during the playoffs, so let's take a look at
some individuals who will leave their mark over the next few months.
AVERY BRADLEY - He's not your typical headliner as far as studs go, but Avery
Bradley has a lot on his plate. That old cliche rings true for Bradley since
he's responsible for getting the ball into the hands of Boston's playmakers.
Bradley has been a permanent fixture in the Celtics' lineup when Rajon Rondo
was lost for the season and is about to plunge into what should be a grueling
playoff series against the rival New York Knicks. Remember, Bradley missed the
first 30 games recovering from shoulder surgery.
STEPH CURRY - An unproven "Warrior" when it comes to the postseason, Golden
State sharpshooter Steph Curry can take his game to another level by leading
his team deep into the playoffs. The Warriors aren't expected to move past the
Denver Nuggets and Curry has to use that as motivation. Quick off the dribble
and lights out from any spot on the floor, Curry put himself on the cusp of
elite status with a tremendous regular season. He set the NBA's single-season
3-point record, so look for some deep shots over the next week or so.
DWIGHT HOWARD - Dwight Howard, here's your chance to prove you are worthy of a
lucrative contract extension. If Howard can't put the Los Angeles Lakers on his
back like he did with Orlando, then why would L.A. even entertain the thought
of bringing him back? Actually, they probably will with Kobe Bryant on the mend
from an Achilles injury and leaving many to wonder if he'll ever be the same.
Howard can lead the Lakers deep into the playoffs as long as he has help around
him. Coach Mike D'Antoni could revert back to his Phoenix days. Also, more
hands will touch the ball instead of waiting on Kobe's next move.
BROOK LOPEZ - This Brooklyn center is set to make his maiden voyage into the
postseason and the Nets have high hopes he, along with point guard Deron
Williams, will add even more flare to the team's inaugural season. Lopez
scored a team-best 19.4 ppg in the regular season and earned an All-Star nod,
but he has a daunting task ahead of him in the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are
a rowdy bunch with a handful of bigs who can ruin one's day. Lopez, though,
can bang himself and is first among centers in scoring. He averaged a career
high in blocks per game (2.1) and set a personal best for blocks in a season
with 154. Note to coach P.J. Carlesimo: Unleash Lopez on the Bulls.
ROY HIBBERT - Indiana Pacers big man Roy Hibbert knows what he's up against in
a conference quarterfinal matchup with the Atlanta Hawks. Hibbert said recently
the Hawks like to play tough inside and added that he will move a little more
outside of the paint to throw Atlanta off its game. Since Hibbert revealed that
information publicly, Hawks forward Josh Smith and center Al Horford should be
aware of what he might do for an edge. Hibbert is one of several long and rangy
players Indiana has at its disposal, and that is a major advantage in hopes of
moving to the East semifinals and beyond.
JAMES HARDEN - Whether Houston Rockets All-Star James Harden has an axe to
grind against his former Oklahoma City squad remains to be seen, but you can
bet the beard that his shooting stroke will be on full blast in the first
round. Harden wanted to be paid like a superstar and have superstar treatment.
He got his wish prior to the season when the Thunder sent Harden to Houston,
where he had an opportunity to start and play out of the shadows of Kevin
Durant and Russell Westbrook. Harden was fifth in scoring with 25.9 ppg,
reached the 2,000-point mark and ended first in free-throw attempts (792).
Expect Harden to average more than 20 points per game in the series against
LEBRON JAMES AND DWYANE WADE - No need to explain here.
KEVIN DURANT AND RUSSELL WESTBROOK - Refer to previous annotation above.
CARMELO ANTHONY - Really? He's the scoring champion (28.7 ppg).
ZACH RANDOLPH - Zach Randolph can be a mismatch nightmare when he's on his
game. A big man with swift feet and a dangerous outside shot, Randolph has to
run the floor in order to get Memphis past the Los Angeles Clippers in Western
quarterfinals. Nicknamed "Z-Bo," Randolph had 45 double-doubles on the season
and led the NBA with 310 offensive rebounds. Can he pull off those numbers
against DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin down low? All signs point to yes and
the Grizzlies exacting revenge on the Clippers from last year's playoff
downer. If Randolph somehow chokes, then look for big man Marc Gasol and point
guard Mike Conley to handle the offensive burden.
TIM DUNCAN - Jackson Browne's tune "Running on Empty" comes to mind when Tim
Duncan's name is thrown around. But is the San Antonio Spurs big man really
running on empty? The numbers don't lie and Duncan played the regular season
with a resurgence, posting averages of 17.8 points and 9.9 rebounds and making
50.2 percent of his shots. Duncan is an aging man on a mission for a fifth NBA
title and will need his legs against a Lakers squad determined to shock the
world and prove that life goes on without Kobe. L.A.'s chance are slim because
guess who Duncan has on his side? That's right, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and
HONORABLE MENTION - MONTA ELLIS, BRANDON JENNINGS, JEFF TEAGUE, NATE ROBINSON,
TY LAWSON, ANDRE IGUODALA, CHRIS PAUL, TYSON CHANDLER, J.R. SMITH
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