Sam here. Once again, we turn it over to the commenters for a guest post. Tariq submitted his early Western Conference Playoff preview, which is doubly fun because no team has clinched their spot yet. Take it away Tariq…
You Don’t Know Jack:
An Entirely Superfluous Playoff Preview
OK. So we all know that the Western Conference is as unpredictable as a drunken Courtney Love wandering around New York City during Fleet Week. Actually, it would be easier to prophesize how the second half of that simile would play out: the former Mrs. Cobain would more than likely infect a few sailors with something unpleasant before passing out somewhere between Times Square and the Egyptian gyro vendor on 54th and 6th. How the Western Playoffs come to pass, on the other hand, is anyone’s guess. Here’s mine. I promise that this will not be informative in the least. It will, however, be entertaining. Although anything I say is educational AND entertaining by definition, so there you go.
I was going to include an Eastern Conference Preview as well, but since the Sternbot decreed that the EC playoffs will be shortened to include only four teams…wait, what? He didn’t? Oh, then maybe he should. All you need to know at this stage in the East is this: The Celtics are the frontrunners, The Pistons are creaky but dangerous, LeBron is now officially part of the X-Men, and ANY team, including Penn State, has a chance of making the playoffs in the Leastern Conference as long as they don’t lose all their remaining games by an average of 756 points.
By the time the playoffs roll around, everything said here will probably be null and void, hence the title of this piece. Hell, Memphis may even nab the number one seed. OK, let’s not get completely crazy. Contained chaos, like Ginobili. Speaking of which:
1- The San Antonio Spurs
At the time of writing, the Lakers had the top spot. In the interest of transferring any possible jinx, I am placing the Spurs here. I seriously doubt, however, that San Antonio will break a sweat in the first round. Especially if they face Denver or Golden State. Here’s hoping Eva spikes the Gatorade with Nyquil.
12 of the Spurs’ remaining 19 opponents have winning records. Whether or not they clinch top spot in the West will depend largely on the two-week stretch during which they face the Rockets, Warriors, Jazz, Blazers, Suns and L.A. MacKenzies. At least they get the Sonics in there before their showdown in Los Angeles with the Lakers.
Potential Banana Skin:
Dallas. I, like Russ and them, believe that the Mavs’ window has closed. But they still pose match-up problems for San Antonio. Nobody can handle Dirk. But the loss of Devin Harris will allow Tony Parker to become the first player since Eric Montross to average 50 pts and 50 assists in a playoff series. So, come to think of it, there really is no banana skin.
2- The Los Angeles Lakers (aka The MacKenzies)
General Outlook/ Remaining Schedule:
Everybody has the Lakers winning the West. I sincerely hope they do. I’d like to see another Lakers – Celtics finals. If Bynum were healthy, I’d have more confidence. I don’t think they can defeat the Spurs in the playoffs unless they clinch the #1 seed. The next four games will be crucial. They have New Orleans, Houston, Dallas and Utah. And in case you haven’t done so already, go ahead and grab a big magic marker, preferably hot magenta (if you don’t have that color, vivid tangerine will do), and mark April 13th on your calendars, kiddies. That’s when potentially the most significant regular-season game in a while will transpire. The Miami Heat will not participate in this epic battle (sorry Eboy).
Most Intriguing Playoff Mathcup:
Captain Obvious here. Can I please see a Lakers-Suns first round match-up? The Suns have bounced L.A. from the first round for the last 17 years. Plus, it would be interesting to see the ghost of Shaquille O’Neal back in the city of smog.
Most Intense Celebratory Recap:
If the Lakers win the big one, and Kobe wins Finals MVP, can you imagine what Holly MacKenzie will do? I assume she will alphabetize the list of Kobe’s favorite Capri Sun flavors. Ryan Jones will respond by muttering “LeBron” a lot and then screaming incoherently for several hours while holding a hoe.
3- The Houston Rockets
A Mystifying Turnaround Explained:
When the all-star starters were announced, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Thank God. For once, the fans didn’t screw things up. They could have voted for Tracy McGrady, and it wouldn’t have been right. Two weeks ago, the Rockets had won 12 straight when Yao shut down. We all assumed they would just hand Denver their playoff spot. It didn’t work out that way. Why? I can go into boring hoops analysis mode, but the real reason lies in that YouTube video where the Rockets all imitate Dikembe Mutombo.
Russ said something about “identity.” I wasn’t paying attention.
4- The Utah Jazz
Speaking of Identity:
Utah is a very dangerous squad, but they still can’t beat San Antonio, mostly because they can’t handle Ginobili. But the Jazz are getting there. It helps when you have not only the second-best young point guard in basketball, but also a former Thundercat (Panthro). Marvin Williams better develop into an all-star mighty quick.
While the Jazz will surely be in contention for years to come, their horrid road form makes me doubt them in this season’s stacked West. The only way I see them advancing to the second round is if they clinch home-court advantage for that first series. Hanging on to the fourth seed will be tough, especially since they close the season with a brutal six-game coda which sees them traveling to New Orleans, Dallas and San Antonio while they also face the Spurs, Nuggets and Rockets at home. If the Jazz drop below the 4 seed, it’s one and out. Guess we’ll have to wait for that SLAM cover.
5- The New Orleans Hornets
People have been talking about Pau Gasol like he’s the biggest difference-maker among newly-acquired talent. Hogwash, I say. It’s the Birrrrrrdman. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr. How many dudes does it take to dunk a ball? If two of those dudes are Nate Robinson and Chris Andersen, the answer is three. Or 2404303874989303.3 attempts.
I’ve said this before, but the most impressive aspect of Chris Paul’s game is that he never turns the ball over. Believe it or not, he has not turned the ball over since November 29.
The Ebb and Flow of Playoff Seeding:
There is one scenario where I see the Hornets being eliminated in the first round: if they end up as the fifth seed and have to play Utah. Their next six games are back-breaking. They faced San Antonio, then the Lakers at home. After that, they travel to Detroit. They also face Houston and Boston during that stretch, with the only “respite” they get being against the Chicago Bulls featuring Gooden’s Beard. The Bulls suck, but Gooden’s Beard, much like the Wu-Tang Clan, ain’t nuthin to f*ck with.
6,7- Los Dallas Suns
Now is the Winter of Their Dis— …Forget the adorned rhetoric, these two are Dunzo:
What a difference a year makes. In 2007, these two were perky and firm. Now they’re droopy and wrinkly. They still can pose problems for a couple of teams, but it’s just too depressing to consider that a second-round berth would be an achievement for the Mavs or the Suns. It reminds me of my own mortality.
Kevin McHale is now relatively smart. Can Steve Kerr give back his rings? I get the feeling that Kerr saw the “opportunity” to get Shaq and went into an extended hallucination where he thinks he’s playing NBA 2K2. As Sam pointed out a few days ago, a frontline of Shaq and Grant Hill would have been killer in NBA Live 95. Well, at least they only have to pay the Big Mother Walrus $230394949490303039020 over the next two seasons.
Stupidest GM, Part II: Return of the Stupid GM:
I realize that Jason Kidd can still play, but why invest so much in a guy who would demand not to run windsprints if he were with the Rockets? Well, maybe the trade will pay off and Dallas reaches the second round. Well, at least they only have to pay Joumana’s Man $3039400404494000 over the next two seasons. And don’t get me started on Devin Harris.
Incidentally, didn’t Cuban choose not to match Phoenix’s offer for Nash because it didn’t make financial sense? What a difference several years make.
8- The Gully State Warriors
State of the Union:
The Warriors should have acquired Ron Artest, just so they could lay claim to being the gangsterest, most pimpish squad in the known world. Actually, they can still claim that with little to no objection. Unlike Gooden’s Beard, Baron’s Beard doesn’t have to carry the player it’s attached to. Baron himself can relieve some of the pressure off his beard by raining threes like Khalid in New Orleans or dunking on everyone and everything in sight. And when your lockdown perimeter defender has a tattoo of praying palms and a pistol, look out.
But, as fun as Golden State are, they are a flameout waiting to happen. They are a Supernova about to burst. They will surely lose in the first round, but it’ll be beautiful while it lasts.
9- The Denver Nuggets:
Frankenstein’s Wet Nightmare:
I love Allen Iverson. I really like Carmelo Anthony. Marcus Camby is kinda cute. But the Nuggets just don’t… They have a lot of great parts, but collectively they just don’t work. Kind of like a tranny with a great rack. Sorry, Cub.