Running the Rule Over the East
And going with what feels right.
by Ben Taylor / @benitaylor
Those of you who read my first post here at SLAMonline will know that I’m on the hunt for a team. If you didn’t, and haven’t got the time to read it, I’ll summarize. Me: Plaid shirt-wearing British guy, 26, likes reading and traveling. You: NBA team situated in a fun city, open minded (I might get my friends involved), no kids.
It was great going through all your comments and suggestions from the first post, they’ve genuinely all gone into the mix and gave me a great place to start picking a team.
First to go through the entirely unscientific process was the Eastern Conference. For the sake of clarity, I have a slight preference for the East because the time difference makes watching EST games easier than PST games. Welcome to the boring reality of being an international fan of the NBA.
The aim was to pick four teams to go up against four from the West, from which I’ll pick my team. My agents are in discussion with ESPN about a live TV special to announce my decision- what’s the worst that can happen?
Charlotte, Cleveland, Washington and Indiana were the first to go. As you all rightly said in the comments last week, go with what feels right, and these four were never really in the race. I would like to give a special mention to the Wizards for their new uniforms, and to Charlotte for their Kemba/Biyombo picks.
I spent a lot of time pondering Detroit. Something about them intrigued me- maybe it’s the history of the team and the city, and the fact that they retired Rodman’s jersey (one of my all-time heroes). I always like a good underdog, and they strike me as the perennial underdog city. Fellow Brits will also be aware that Ben Gordon will be suiting up for Team GB this summer (insurance issues pending), which definitely stood in the Pistons favor. Ultimately, I couldn’t look past the fact that they have a complete dog of a team. Sorry Detroit.
I considered Toronto for a little while- I’d quite like to visit Canada. But then it dawned on me that there are probably a million better things to do in Canada than watch the Toronto Raptors.
I had a similar issue with the Nets. They are moving to Brooklyn, which is plus in my book, but if I was in Brooklyn watching the Nets, I can’t help but think I’d be wishing I was at MSG watching the Knicks.
There were eight or nine teams left at this point. One of which was the Heat. I have a lot of respect for what the Heat have done this year, but when I thought about being in the American Airlines Arena, surrounded by Miami Heat fans, cheering on the Miami Heat, I broke out into cold sweats.
I was in two minds over Milwaukee. I like Brandon Jennings, he seems like a good guy. But, I know very little about Milwaukee, so I turned to the trust internet to help me out. It says a lot when two of the first three search results on Google for a city are websites about power tools.
The remaining teams required considerable research. I sought the advice of my dad, a well-traveled man. He enthusiastically informed me that Atlanta has some of the finest strip clubs he’s ever been to. It’s a valid point, but that’s not what this search is all about…
I don’t know what it is about Philly, but I feel drawn to them. Maybe it’s the Iverson connection (if you haven’t already, check out the story behind the legendary SLAM 32 cover), maybe it’s years of watching Rocky, but something about the Sixers definitely feels right. They were also personally recommended to me by Farmer Jones himself, so they are definitely in the running. The only downside- I worry that they might actually be the Tottenham of the NBA. Maybe one of you good people can ease my concerns.
I want Boston and Chicago in my Eastern final four. Both easily meet all of my requirements for a team, as quite a lot of you guys pointed out last week. Proper teams with proper fans. Great cities with basketball history. I’ve got a good feeling about both of them.
Which leaves us with Orlando and the Knicks, both of whom got a lot of mentions. What none of you will know is that I’ve got history with Orlando.
When I was 12 we went on a family vacation to Orlando. I persuaded my dad to pay a fortune to a scalper for tickets to see the Magic play the Clippers. The game was dreadful (LA won) but we got randomly selected to go down to the court at half time for a contest. It was pretty simple: my mum, dad and sister had one minute to run round an obstacle course, and then I had to lay up the ball. It was all going perfectly, until my dad totally screwed it up, fell over and had to start again.
Eventually, I got the ball around the three-point line. There were a couple of seconds left. No time to lay it up, so I turn around and let go of the most perfect shot of my life. Everything seemed to go in slow motion. The buzzer sounded as the ball clipped the edge of the rim and dropped through the hoop. The crowd went wild (this is how I remember it in my head, in reality they probably just applauded politely). Penny (warming up to my left) high-fived me. Horace Grant picked me up. After the game had finished and we were heading back to our hotel, there were still people shaking my hand in the street.
It was a once in a lifetime experience, one that, to this day, I still can’t believe actually happened. Realistically, if I pick Orlando, they’d never be able to top that day. So, the Knicks take the final spot from the Eastern Conference.
Next week I’ll be looking at the West. There were some great Western Conference suggestions last time round (a lot of love for Sacramento and Golden State), so keep the comments and ideas coming, you guys are making this whole thing a lot of fun.