Blathering about the NBA Playoffs 2008

Basketball Jones
a Basketball Jones in Alaska, on the good ship, Amsterdam

I'll admit to being slightly conflicted this NBA playoff season. I've never really like the Celtics (in the Laker-Celtic epic rivalries, I was always a Showtime Laker fan), that is until they traded for Kevin Garnett, always one of my favorite players to watch. Of the eight teams from the Eastern Conference, I don't really like any of the other teams (Detroit-too whiny; Cleveland -too much negative history; Orlando - too right-wing Christian; Wizards - well they have Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, but still, meh; Philadelphia - maybe if they had the original A.I; Toronto - they'll be lucky to win a game, much less a series; Atlanta -no fracking way). Sports playoff series aren't fun to watch unless you are rooting for a team, thus despite the presence of James Posey, the Celtics are my Eastern Conference team. At least Tommy Heinsohn won't pollute the airwaves with his unhinged homerism since the games will have a national telecast team to bestow Tommy points.

Anyway, Bill Simmons manages to work in a reference to the late, great Ralph Wiley , and explain why Kevin Garnett has long been a fan favorite.

But that's not why I'm picking him. On May 22, 2007, professional basketball was effectively murdered in Boston. Garnett transformed every single facet of the franchise upon his arrival, from playing for the Celtics to coaching them to following them to owning them to working for them. What he did can't be measured by statistics; it can't even be measured in a few paragraphs like the section you're reading right now. It would belittle what he did. He transformed the culture of the team. He taught everyone to care about defense, to care about practice, to care about being a professional, to care about leaving everything they had on the court, to stop caring about stats and start caring about wins. He single-handedly transformed the careers of three young players (Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe and Kendrick Perkins), one veteran (Pierce) and one coach (Doc Rivers), all five of whom could have gone the other way. He played every exhibition game like it was the seventh game of the Finals. During blowouts, he stood on the sidelines and cheered on his teammates like it was a tight game; because of that, the bench guys did the same thing for the starters and basically turned into a bunch of giddy scrubs on a 14-seed in a March Madness upset during every game.

The best word for him would either be "contagious" or "selfless." By Thanksgiving, the entire team was emulating him. Every time a young player got carried away with himself during a game -- like the time Perkins started going for his own stats or the time Rondo snapped at his coach -- KG was there to set him straight and scare the living hell out him. Every time one of his teammates was intimidated, KG had his back. Every time one of his teammates got knocked down, KG rushed over to pick him up; eventually, four teammates were rushing over to help that fifth guy up, and that's just the way it goes with the team now. Every time an opponent kept going for a shot after a whistle, KG defiantly blocked the shot just out of principle. Eventually, everyone started doing it. No shots after the whistle against the Celtics. That was the rule. It was a series of little things, baby steps if you will, but they added up to something much bigger.

You can't measure Garnett's impact with individual statistics, but these numbers seem pretty relevant: 24 (number of '07 Celtics wins); 16 (number of '08 Celtics losses); four (number of useful free agents who signed with Boston after the KG trade); 0 (number of useful free agents who signed with Boston in the 15 years before that); 10.2 (Boston's point differential this season, an historic number); three (number of Texas teams they beat on the road in a four-day span, as well as the Celtics' total number of double-digit defeats this season); 4,753 (estimated number of teammate hugs during games this season, shattering the record of the '84 Lakers); 42 (field-goal percentage for Boston opponents this season); 41 (number of home sellouts this season); and 3-to-2 (the Celtics' odds to win the 2008 title).

[Click to read thousands of words more of ESPN Page 2 - Simmons: NBA MVP breakdown, Part II]

For the Western Conference, there is always my near-home town Spurs who I hope can overcome the obstacle of an aging roster and troubling injuries with their veteran wiles. That said, even without Yao Ming, I inexplicably like the Houston Rockets, and hope they can beat the also likable New Orleans Hornets (who have both smoothy-Chris Paul and a favorite ex-Chicago Bull, Tyson Chandler). And as much as it burns me to say it, I wouldn't be totally devastated if this years edition of the Lakers went to the Finals, and lost to the Celtics. I'd rather the Spurs repeat, but my second choice would be the Celtics. And if the Spurs play the Celtics, I couldn't enjoy the games, even though I've seen some great matchups with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett as a Minnesota Timberwolf.

Who else, well the Suns are run by one of my favorite players, and one of the most quotable coaches (and a literate fan). Denver has A.I. and Marcus Camby, but the rest of that team irritates me, including their coach, George Karl, and Fugazi Kenyon Martin. Utah is a hack-centric team, plus there's the Mormon angle. Oh, and the Dallas Mavericks. I'd like to hang out with Dirk Nowitzki, seems like a cool dude, but most of the rest of that team is annoying. Plus, I love to see the Sad Eyed Billionaire Face of my buddy, Mark Cuban.

Boiled down, that translates to five teams I support with varying degrees of loyalty in the Western Conference, and one and a half in the Eastern. Yikes. I better watch every game, and try to avoid divorce.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on April 18, 2008 12:25 AM.

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