Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I had ESPN on the other day and couldn't
tell if the NBA playoffs had begun.
Ah, just kidding about that. You know, uh, because all ESPN bores us with is
its continual droning on and on about the NBA and how important all of these
first-round matchups are.
Just wait until the NFL Draft is over. It will be all hoops all the time.
The NHL? Go away because we don't show your games anymore. And now you want us
to acknowledge you exist? Please. Maybe we'll show a couple highlights. Maybe.
Major League Baseball? Unless the New York Yankees are playing the Boston Red
Sox and we're televising it (which ESPN only does 418 times a season), the rest
of you can go pound sand with the NHL.
All of this is a shame, really, because, to a degree, ESPN is so popular, but
when you force something down someone's throat they're usually not too happy
about it. And that's what's being done with the NBA.
We get it. Enough already. Let us enjoy the games. And let us take a look at
where we stand as the early part of the postseason gets rolling. We're not
going to pick a champion in this space today, that will come a little down the
road. This is more about what is happening now.
Let's start out West. Normally, in any discussion of the NBA, the talk starts
in the East and begins with the Miami Heat, but we're going to switch it up a
The big reason being is the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers without Kobe.
Kobe is one of my all-time favorite players, but when he tore up his Achilles -
a nasty, nasty injury - you just had to shake your head.
He seemed like a guy immune to such a fate, but now one wonders when, or if,
he'll ever get back to what he was.
His team scrapped and scraped just to make it into the playoffs, and even
finished seventh to avoid Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, but
without their maestro leading the orchestra, the Lakers will fold up and go
away against the San Antonio Spurs.
Now, nobody roots for injuries, let alone to one of the game's all-time greats,
but if you're a Spurs fan, life just got a lot easier with Bryant out.
I thought San Antonio was going to make it to the Western Conference finals
anyway, but the path was a little littered by the Lakers until Bryant went
down. Nonetheless, a Spurs-Thunder matchup will be intriguing in a couple of
In the East, let's look at the Heat. They are such an overwhelming favorite in
their conference that a ton of talk seemed to be about how to avoid playing
them in the first round.
To that I just ask, what's the difference?
They are not going away and if you're an Eastern Conference team hoping to win
the NBA title, you're going to have to beat them at some point.
Oh, boy, we don't have to play Miami in the first round! Oh, no, we won our
first-round series and now we have to play Miami. That's pretty much how the
deal works, fellas.
You can light all the candles, and rub all of the rabbit's feet you want, but
if you want to do away with them, you better be bringing it for seven games.
But enough about the Heat for now. Growing up a Philadelphia 76ers fan, it's
odd to be writing this, but I feel a little bad for the Celtics.
It's hard to believe that last title came five seasons ago, but it's the truth.
And five years in pro sports are like dog years. They add up very quickly and
the New York Knicks will see to that.
New York, a No. 2 seed like the Spurs, seems destined to have to tangle with
Miami if it wants to make the Finals.
Of course, being this early in the playoffs, there will be upsets at some point
(and ESPN will be right there to overanalyze all of it), and that's what helps
make all of this so interesting. Just let us enjoy it at our own pace.
Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia-
area newspapers for over 25 years.
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