Friday, February 23, 2007

Extremely early NBA Western Playoff shakedown preview, specifically looking at the trash heap at the bottom, ie, where the Clippers are holding court with the other jesters and pretenders, a cacophony of delusion and blind dancing for the right to take a firm kick to the skull from the big boys.

Anyway, out west the 1-5 spots are virtual locks: Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, Utah, & Houston

From there it gets interesting. The contenders for the last three spots are as follows. Bear in mind that the last three seeds will likely have to play the 3 best teams in the West, while the 4 & 5 seeds (likely Houston & Utah) battle it out. Basically this is a battle to be first round sacrificial lambs, although, yes, that’s why they play the games, etc. Yeah, there’s always a chance, but history has shown that in 7 game series (no more 5 game first rounds anymore) that the best team almost always comes out on top. NCAA single elimination March Madness randomness exposition the NBA playoffs is not (although randomness does rear its cute head at odd times; I recall Dikembe laying on his back with a basketball in hand screaming at the heavens, er, the rafters).

Ok, so now that I’ve taken all the fun out of the prognosticating (well, maybe for you, not for me, well, not ALL of it), here are the nominees:

Lakers – currently in 6 spot, 15.5 games behind Dallas (conference leader)

Just a couple weeks ago, they looked like mortal locks to make the playoffs and possibly dark horses to knock down a goliath in the first & maybe 2nd round. Suddenly they’ve lost 6 in a row (the longest losing streak of Phil Jackson’s career), and now that the trade deadline passed without them making any kind of move, they’re stuck with what they’ve got, which will be better when they get Walton & Kwame back, but, well, a big part of their positive outlook had to be the hope of getting the 5 or even 4 seed, but now 5 games back of Houston and not much relief (besides, admittedly, a fairly light schedule) in sight, that 5 games is big. Still the chance they’ll pick up Pippen, which would be, hmm, interesting? That’s a wild card for you. Nobody knows the triangle better, but does he still have the legs? (and does the trade deadline stop them from signing free agents? I don’t think so, but don’t know for sure…)

Denver – currently in 7 spot– 18 games back

The Iverson Carmelo marriage has not seemingly gone as planned. Plus JR Smith is out for a while. They could make a lot of noise, they could make a little noise, they could make no noise. Could be meat, could be cake. I honestly have no idea. They get on a roll and all that talent starts coalescing, they could do something interesting, (like the Clippers.) The problem is, in my heart of hearts, I don’t see it happening for them, for the clips neither. Kinda like a cake that seems like it has so many good ingredients in it & then it comes out of the oven & tastes like crap.

Golden state – tied for 8 spot, 19.5 games back

Their road record has been brutal this year, a major Achilles heel (not that the clippers have been much better in that department). Yeah, they’re getting Richardson back, but unless they start winning a few away from Oaktown, it’ll be rough, as in, uh, kind of impossible. Maybe I'm just drinking too much of Kawakami's kool aid, though, because I still hold out hope for Elton Brand & company, so why not the warriors. Montay Ellis has been lighting it up, they got a team that seems to be able to run, a little coaching up by Nellie, crazier things have happened. Would love to see them in the playoffs, actually, I'm a clipper man, but 4 years in the bay left me with a weak spot for the former home of Run-TMC (and no I will not take this opportunity to address the Tim Hardaway situation, although I will note that Scoop Jackson's follow up interview with Timmy is mildly, disturbingly, interesting.)

NOOCH - tied for 8 spot, 19.5 games back

I like the Hornets to sneak into the playoffs. Chris Paul is the future of the NBA prototypical point guard, after Kidd & Nash retire (love Deron William’s game, too, but he’s a BIT more of a scorer, but still a nice distributor, and he runs Sloan’s offense wonderfully). I used to, just a few months ago, and I still hold out hope, that Shaun Livingston would be part of this discussion, but if the future is now, then I’m a scared feller, cuz Livie just ain’t taking the reigns. But, sigh, this is the Hornets I’m talking about right? Right. And you gotta love Tyson Chandler and all the rebounds he’s grabbing this year, and if Peja is healthy and shooting straight for the playoffs, hmmm. If there’s a dark horse in the playoffs, a real genuine surprise, I have to think it comes outta Oklahoma City and the Louisiana Bayou.

Minnesota – 20 games back

Ack. The everlong saga of Kevin Garnett and his casts of inevitably (except for that one shining year when he had Sprewell and Cassell) mediocre characters. SO MUCH has been written elsewhere, and infinitely better than I could proscribe within these chambers, on this subject. Yeah, they might sneak into the playoffs, and no, there is no way in HELL they will make it out of the first round, and there will be much KG screaming and solemn looks of frustration involved, and throughout it all Kevin McHale will somehow hold on to both his job and that crappy collection of sweaters.

Clippers - 20 games back (although Minnie has the tie-breaker, won season series 2-1)

I could say sigh slash shalom 80 thousand times and still not quite correctly vociferate my sorrow and pain and inability to understand what in the hell is happening with the Clippers, my beloved former Braves, this year. Last year was the banner season that no Clipper fan ever expected to happen, and with success came a drastic reappraisal of what could potentially happen with this team, and then reality set in like a drunken hooker with caked on makeup in a Slovenian Hotel lobby, with ex-KGB rushing up the stairs with MAC-10’s and emptied wallets of broken dreams, yadda yadda yadda. You get the picture, or not. Besides possibly the Nets in the East, the Clips are the biggest disappointment in the league this year, and they are right there to grab the 7 or 8 spot, and maybe they will, maybe they won’t, I don’t know, I mean, they’re only half a game back of a playoff ticket, but it will be a shortlived journey, a la the Utah series of 96 in which 3 games and about 300 Karl Malone mid range jumpers and a plethora of John Stockton back door screen rolls later we were on our collective asses sobbing outside of the LA Sports Arena waiting for Bozo the clown to walk out and honk his horn and laugh in our faces and call us idiots. Metaphorically (of course).

Sacramento – 21.5 games back

Eh. Ron Artest, Mike Bibby? It just does nothing for me. Doubt they’ll get in, but if they do, quick exit, of course. One of Artest’s dogs has a better chance of getting a bath and a solid meal then these guys do of knocking on any doors that possibly matter. Still not sure why they sent Bonzi Wells packing after their near upset of San Antonio last year (which was closer than appeared).

Portland – 22 games back

Interesting, lot of young talent, WAY too green. Next year, I have a feeling these guys will be turning a lot of heads in the league, surprising a lot of people. The pure physical skill is off the charts, just young. Roy is gonna get better, and Aldridge bears watching as well. Let's just say I like next year's Blazer's chances more than this year's Clipper chances, uh, by quite a large margin. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Seattle – 23.5 games back

A complete and total mess, they don’t even know for sure if they’ll BE in Seattle for more than the next couple years (or the next several months) and yet they’re STILL somehow, possibly, in the playoff picture (though not really, but crazier things have happened.) And yes, I'm not to the second up to date on the whole arena issue vis a vis moving or whatever, but from what I can understand it's basically way up in the air and the spin control artists are crafting mozartish masterpieces as we speak.

Memphis – 32 games back

The only team that can legitimately sit back, strum a guitar, and ponder what Elvis might have thought rather than put forth or at least feel like they have to appear to put out any type of effort. They can tank away with absolutely no regard for human decency and hope that Oden or Durant comes to grace their hallowed halls and then leave for greener pastures a few years later.

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