I’ve been a basketball fan all my life. And when my sports watching days started way back yonder as a kiddie propped on my dad’s knee, it was the hardscrabble 90’s NY Knicks I was glued to. The era of defense and toughness and Charles Oakley carwash commercials. Tangent: his catchphrase, “work hard, be da best” is emblazoned in my brain at any mention of oak, lay, or Oakley; if I ever get a tattoo on my chest, it will be that quote etched over his burly mug.
These NBA playoffs have been gritty, grimy, and plain ol’ great. Yes, the Andrew Bynum flagrant 2 in game 4 of the Mavericks series was vomit-inducing, but other than that tomfoolery, the action has been constant and delightful.
Take the triple OT knockout by OKC over Memphis. These playoffs are showing the diverse talent flourishing in the NBA. Russell Westbrook, you can laugh now, it's ok. You're officially better than everyone thought you were, much better. And the old guns are silencing, LAL, SAS, BOS down next. New blood. And some think Rose will exceed MJ. And he just well might if he developed an automatic outside shot, which he almost has. Not to mention he's the fastest and most exciting player in the league.
This has been a year of GM chess. Pat Riley playing the role of Mad Men account mastermind in convincing LeBron to head down to South Beach AND keep Wade happy AND pair them with Bosh who is now showing some clutch talent in the brawny dogfight with Boston.
The matchups are all tight, even if they don't go seven games, and there's a lot of uncertainty in the air, especially now that LAL is out. (I thought they were a lock for a threepeat.) Uncertainty makes for entertaining playoffs.
And back to chemistry--these playoffs are about teamwork. Boston was built as a complete package, but is being taken down by the Heat whose coach has them playing lock-down defense.
The Bulls upgraded almost their whole roster and play old-school Warriors-style 10-man basketball with Thibodeau fielding the massive army. The team plays with fire and energy and may just have what it takes to muscle its way to the crown this year.
The Mavericks' Rick Carlisle has the team playing as a hive mind. Knocking off the Lakers, their confidence is now boundless and their path to the NBA finals paved in gold. These Mavs play the most beautiful basketball in the league, passing crisply, roughhousing when needed on defense, and shooting effectively from every position. If one word coincides with the Mavs playstyle, it's intelligence. That makes them my team for this postseason.
Memphis and OKC are showing the world how good they both are, reaching down to bring out the fire, but also relying on great coaching, and well-balanced rosters. Both GMs should be proud of the lockerooms they've crafted.
Do yourself a favor and indulge nightly in the magic of this current NBA--it's just pretty, so pretty.