April 18, 2009



“The NCAA basketball department was often numbingly predictable,” said Bob Molinaro on “Now, everybody presumes the NBA Finals will pit the Cavaliers against the Lakers. Basketball is due for something unexpected.

This is just one view of the playoffs.

Then we had Michael Wilbon writing in the DC Post, “It would be great if the NBA didn’t follow March Madness into complete predictability over the next eight weeks, if the NBA stuffed its postseason, which begins this weekend, with one surprise outcome after another. It would cause quite a stir if appealing young teams like the Portland Trail Blazers or Chicago Bulls disrupted the playoffs, but they’re still too unripe. It would make for a nice story if Yao Ming or Dwight Howard was the last man standing but it’s pure fiction.  Come the first week of June, the Los Angeles Lakers are going to play the Cleveland Cavaliers for the league’s championship. The thrill will come in the adventure, in seeing who if anybody can scare the Lakers and Cavaliers along the way. And one of those teams, the defending champion Boston Celtics, won’t be nearly as scary as fans of great basketball would hope because the great Kevin Garnett is lost for the playoffs with a knee injury. The Lakers and Cavaliers begin the playoffs glaring down at everybody else, Los Angeles still stinging over a loss in the NBA Finals a year ago and Cleveland supremely confident because it has LeBron James, the best end-to-end, four-quarter player and team leader since Michael Jordan was with the Bulls. Who could even give the Lakers and Cavaliers trouble? Who could take a two-games-to-one lead in a series against Cleveland? Who, in the preliminary rounds, could wipe that look of certainty off Kobe Bryant’s face? Who could make Phil Jackson stand up and call a timeout? Oh, the first couple of rounds should be a lot of fun for the simple reason that it’s so difficult to separate the combatants, especially in the Western Conference, where Denver, San Antonio, Portland, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans are so completely indistinguishable. But the Trail Blazers are absolutely stacked. They’ve got the bigs (Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, LaMarcus Aldridge, Channing Frye) to battle Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum; a star in Brandon Roy who can hold his own (at least in terms of scoring) with Bryant; and more usable depth than any team in the NBA. Truth is, the Lakers need to win the championship now because the Blazers are coming, and after they get some playoff seasoning it’s going to be difficult for anybody, even the Lakers, to beat them. But it’s difficult to make the case that it’s bad news for basketball fans, should they survive the first six weeks of the interminable NBA postseason, to arrive at a point where they can watch two final weeks of Bryant vs. James, exactly the kind of personal matchup of basketball gods that makes some of us wait patiently until the end of June in the first place, that allows the two best teams in the league to decide, rightfully, the 2009 champion.

Mike Bianci created no doubt that he roots for the Orlando Magic. That’s good because he writes for the Orlando Sentinel. He said, “Eastern Conference Finals.
Bare minimum.
Anything less and the Magic’s playoff run will have been a failure.
When you look at how things are setting up as the NBA playoffs begin this weekend, there’s absolutely no logical reason the Magic shouldn’t be playing in the conference finals and perhaps even bringing a franchise-first championship trophy back home to Orlando. There had been some talk among Magic players that they actually wanted Detroit in the first round just to prove they could conquer the mental mountain known as the Pistons. Silly kids.
That would be like the nail acting happy it drew the hammer in the first round.
But the biggest break of all for the Magic came Thursday when Doc Rivers, the coach of the defending champion Boston Celtics, announced that superstar Kevin Garnett will likely be out for the rest of the season. Last year, winning just one playoff series was considered a monumental success.
This year, it would be a massive disappointment.
Eastern Conference Finals.
Or bust.





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