Sports Editors Wai Sallas (in red text) and Michael Kasdan (in blue text) let you peer into the random workings of their minds as they riff their way through a stream of consciousness discussion of NBA Playoff basketball, while touching on various and other sundry matters of great import. We cover which series is the most disrespectful, predict legendary moments, pick our favorite ‘Other Guys,’ and make our NBA Finals predictions!
This is the latest edition of our Sports Exchange series, where we compose a sports piece on a topic of interest through a series of email exchanges. (And we give a shout-out to Bill Simmons here for his ‘Curious Guy’ series of email exchanges between he and “successful” and “interesting” people like Malcolm Gladwell. That, in part, served as the inspiration for what you see here. Except instead of emailing someone successful or interesting, I, Mike Kasdan, just emailed Wai Salas.)
Another NBA regular season draws to a close, and here stand on the cusp of the second season: the NBA Playoffs.
Once again, for the 2nd decade or so in a row, my NY Knicks, that model of mediocrity and hopelessness, again will not be in the playoffs.
It wasn’t so long ago, Michael that the Knicks were the second seed in the East with Carmelo Anthony, way back when he was an elite scorer, Six Man of the Year Winner and pipe enthusiast JR Smith, and a who’s who of “they’re still playing all stars” Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, and Amar’e Stoudemire (remember him? he used to bathe in wine…literally). Alas, those days are gone, now they resemble the last scene in Thelma & Louise. In the season finale of As New York Turns, social studies teacher Phil Jackson decides to let his troubled pupil, Anthony spread his wings because he no longer can help him. Foreign exchange honor student Kristaps Porzingas is frustrated that he has transferred to a school that is in disarray and fears his talents will be wasted. And of course headmaster James Dolan was caught trying to burn down the school for the insurance money. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next season in As New York Turns…
At any rate, before going down that deep (DEEP) dark hole, we should probably re-focus back on the teams that are actually in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
So…away we go!
The Conference Semifinals are upon us and the biggest stories so far is LeBron trying to sneak a beer during a beatdown of the Raptors. (The whole city of Toronto probably had that same thought during the game)
After being down 0-2 to Chicago, Boston won four straight and sent Isaiah Thomas is on his way to cementing his legacy as the greatest Isaiah since 700 BC. Now the Wizards are proving to be a tough test.
In the West, Houston has – at times – made San Antonio look like they were also from 700 BC.
Over in the Bay Area, the biggest challenge for Golden State might have been be figuring out what to do after Game 3 in Utah. According to Matt Barnes, they were hoping to play the Clippers for the night life.
- Cleveland-Toronto and LeBron playing drinking games in the middle of Game 1?
- Boston-Washington and Otto Porter knocking out Thomas’ tooth, accidentally?
- San Antonio-Houston and the Rockets not respecting their elders?
- Golden State-Utah and hitting the clubs in Salt Lake City?
Stay classy, Matt Barnes. I have heard that he does just love the nightlife; he’s got to boogie, on the disco ’round, oh yeah. Personally, I think he should get sent on a two year Mormon mission for that remark.
Although, it is, you know, true. Los Angeles does have it in the nightlife over Salt Lake City. Just like it’s true the “Lob City” trio of CP3, Blake Griffin, and the Center Who Should Have Been on the Mavericks may have more star power than the Gordon Hayward led Jazz. But the Clippers are planning golf outings and figuring out where to play next year once the team is blown up, while the Jazz advanced to be sacrificed to the Gods of Basketball that are The Golden State Warriors.
So, I guess Matt Barnes will have to order some room service and hotel porn like the rest of us, and suck it up for just a few days, because that Series is not going more than 4 games. (Editors Note: Confirmed. It did not.)
Over in the Cleveland/Toronto Series, as the Raptors surely “Witnessed” if they watched any of that first round mauling of the Pacers, Playoff LeBron has arrived. I’m not sure the Raptors – or anyone in the East – has an answer to that. Time for Canada to focus on playoff hockey and preparing for the coming U.S. citizen refugee crisis. Please don’t build a wall. Seriously. We’re coming. We’ll even be Raptors fans if we have to be.
Meanwhile, after losing their first two playoff games this year, Boston ripped off six in a row. The recipe is depth, defense, and the dominance of Isaiah Thomas, who is dominating the game as a scorer in a way last seen when Allen Iverson was breaking ankles with the Sixers. The Wizards even knocked out his tooth and he came back and ruthlessly dominated to the tune of 50+ points the next game. Bringing to my mind, NWA’s ‘Gangsta Gangsa’ lyrics: “right left, now you toothless; and then you say “Goddamn, they ruthless.” Should be interesting if the electric John Wall and Company can keep this series tight or even steal it.
The Beard is doing similar work for the Rockets over in the San Antonio series, where he scores at will and whips passes to set up a barrage of threes that rained down on the Spurs from all angles. When LaMarcus Aldridge completely forgot to show up for a few games, the results were shocking pastings of the Spurs. The Spurs look old and slow and the match-ups with Houston look poor. But they’ve also come back to even it up. This series is going long.
So, you asked about respect. Or the lack thereof. On the disrespect scale, at this point I would rank the series – from most disrespectful to least – thusly:
1. Golden State Warriors vs. Utah Jazz – I just hope that Draymond doesn’t kick anyone in the balls for good measure. Keep it clean, boys. (Editors Note: This Series just ended in a sweep.)
2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors – LeBron and Kyrie will be hitting the bars early and comparing notes with Matt Barnes. (Editors Note: This Series just ended in a sweep.)
3. Houston Rockets v. San Antonio Spurs – I am looking for Kawhi to drop some mild-mannered Spurs-like disrespect on Harden and Company very soon.
4. Boston Celtics v. Washington Wizards – If they lose, the Wizards should change their name back to the Bullets. The NRA would totally support it, and Trump has their back.
So, Wai, which series are you finding the most intriguing and which under-the-radar players are you most liking to watch?
I have to admit, when you first referenced lyrics to I love the Nightlife, I had no idea what you were talking about…and I consider myself a somewhat musical savant.
After verbally abusing myself for not knowing a somewhat popular song, I went on YouTube and ah yes, who does not like to boogie…In full disclosure, when I think of the night life, I’m thinking of this or this. Hell, Usher’s catalog in the Oughts was full of club anthems; like this, or this, or my personal favorite, this.
Great, now I want to go to a club. Do they allow babies? And are there any clubs that are open from around 10-noon. Those are my ideal clubbing hours now.
Having said that, someone should really speak to Matt Barnes and ask him, what’s a 37-year-old doing wanting to go to a club. It’s not like he lives in Amish country and he’s trying to spread his wild oats. The man is form Santa Clara, went to UCLA, played for both the Clippers and the Lakers. There has to be some point when you’ve reached your maximum amount of clubbing minutes. If Malcolm Gladwell were to use his formula of 10,000 hours towards Barnes, there’s no doubt the man has already reached Greatness.
Speaking of Greatness, I know teams/players say they don’t get intimidated by other teams/players, but the Utah Jazz played like a JV kid who just got called up to the varsity. They were constantly looking over their shoulder for an extra defender. Gordon Hayward was hesitant on offense. The only guy who looked like he wasn’t scared was Rodney Hood. And if Hood is the only one attacking…well, the writing is on the wall. So no, this series doesn’t intrigue me. I am not a fan of bullying and for all intents and purposes, the Warriors are just big bullies right now, and the Jazz need to be featured in an anti-bullying campaign after the season to make sure we curb such abuse.
The series I am most excited about is the one taking place in the East between Boston and Washington. These two teams HATE each other. The Celtics and Wizards have gotten into multiple altercations throughout the season, including in Game 2 between Markeif Morris and Al Horford.
It reminds me of a different Wizards squad and the young LeBron-led Cavs. When the trio of Gilbert Arenas, Deshawn Stevenson and Caron Butler used to go head to head with LeBron and company. Stevenson called James overrated. James responded by comparing Stevenson to Soulja boy (remember him?!) and him to Jay-Z. That got those respected rappers involved, with Soulja Boy showing up to the next Wizards game in a Stevenson jersey. That battle didn’t last long though, Jay-Z had to step in and ether Stevenson. Two years later, James was in Cleveland and Stevenson was in Dallas winning a title. So it all worked out.
Sorry, what was I talking about?
Oh yeah, I am here to watch Isaiah Thomas and John Wall attack each other like two Samurai warriors fighting to the death. In Game 2, Thomas had 53 points while Wall had 40 and 14 assists. Wall got his revenge in Games 3 and 4, and the Series stands deadlocked at 2 a piece. Forget Samurai warriors. This is like two crazy people with no eyelids having a staring contest to see who’s eye balls pop out of their heads first. I am invested in this series 100%. I have already told my wife to clear my calendar and don’t ask me for anything during the remainder of the games in this Series, through Game 7 (And, yes it’s going 7!). She of course laughed and included some choice words, and I apologized, but we both know who makes the decisions in this family.
My ‘disrespect meter’ runs akin to yours.
My only question for you now is this: Each playoff run has its legendary moment. Last year it was Draymond Green and his “balls out” aggression. In 2015, it was the Clippers, defeating San Antonio in 7 games in THE GREATEST OPENING SERIES IN NBA HISTORY followed by falling flat on their faces like the Lakers tied all their shoelaces together in the locker room while they were not looking and giving up a 3-1 lead to the Rockets in the Semifinals. In 2014, it was the Heat literally getting overheated in Game 1 when the Spurs Air Conditioning went out and the birth of Kawhi Leonard as the heir-apparent in San Antonio. In 2013, it was Miami’s fans leaving game 6 only to miss one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history.
What will be this year’s legen -wait for it- dary moment?
Wait, you get to do the Club Mix Dance Catalog in your section, but for mine I need to predict the future?
OK. On it.
Players willing themselves to legend status by making legendary plays in clutch circumstances…or at least moments we can make memes out of…that is why we watch sports. Isn’t it?
You want Legendary?
Like Larry Bird, so legendary that Legend became his last name?
Like Derek Jeter, who is so legendary that he now has a WEEK OF FIFTY HOURS OF PROGRAMMING ON THE YES NETWORK LEADING UP TO DEREK JETER DAY?
Like Lance Stephenson blowing in the ear of LeBron James at the free throw line? Or that time when LeBron cramped up in Miami and had to be carried off the court?
My assignment, if I choose to accept it, is to predict this year’s Legendary Moment. The direct line to Nostradamus remains open, so I’ll give you a bunch. And if any of these hit, you’re coming to New Jersey and buying me 4 rounds at my local watering hole.
Isaiah Thomas loses the rest of his teeth while driving to the hoop with his characteristic reckless abandon. He returns – toothless – in the 4th Quarter of Game 7 to score 20 and lead the Cs to a series win, prompting a hordes of octogenarian Celtics fans in Boston to don Thomas jerseys and honor the win by removing their dentures for the day.
James Harden becomes the first Bearded Man to tally a quadruple double in a game in an NBA playoff series. Russell Westbrook is seen sporting a peach-fuzz beard.
The Unsettling Disappearance of LaMarcus Aldridge crescendos when he falls into a wormhole at center court during a road game in Houston and never returns.
Heretobefore reluctant political activist LeBron James shocks the world by screaming “America! Are You Getting Tired of All The Winning Yet!!” and announcing that he will be moving to Canada and signing with the Raptors next season. Fans burn his Jersey. Again.
The Jazz ambush the Warriors in Game 4 to stave off elimination, after video of Matt Barnes hanging out with Johnny Manziel and Dennis Rodman at a downtown Salt Lake City strip club called The Duces Wild surfaces and goes viral.
So. There you go.
Now, kicking it back to you. I’ll re-ask my question from above that we didn’t quite get to — which under-the-radar players are you most liking to watch during the playoffs. Not the superstars. The “other guys”?
Let’s go through a process of elimination to figure out one of the “other guys” I’m excited to watch:
Toronto? Pass. Are we not sure the entire team is not actively auditioning for a Canadian reboot of The Walking Dead?
Boston? Pass. As much as I love Isaiah Thomas and the heart he is showing given all the set backs he’s faced this postseason. He. Is. A. Bonafide. Superstar. To wit, he does not qualify under the rules and regulations stated above. The rest of the team reminds me of one of Brad Stevens’ Butler teams. Playing great X’s and O’s, excellent out of time out inbounds plays, and beating you down mentally. They’re the new Spurs East.
Washington? Pass. As I said before, I’m a big John Wall guy. I love everything about this Boston-Washington series, but there is no one on the Wizards who strikes me as someone worthy of an “other guy” man crush.
(Sidebar: This is a very important subject to me. The Other Guy should never be overlooked and as someone who consistently cheers for The Other Guy to do great things, the importance of this selection can not be overlooked. By the way “The Other Guys” movie with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Fantastic movie and a perfect symbol for its namesake.)
The Rockets-Spurs series is gonna be an all-timer, but we’re here for The Beard and Kawhi.
Which leaves us with the Jazz and Warriors. While the Warriors, as stated in an earlier NBA Preview, could probably beat anyone but Jesus and four dudes he picked up out of Heaven, they have a nice mix of role players and stars. There’s two who I really love and one who could be considered ineligible for “Other Guys” status. In fact, let’s just rule him out to avoid controversy…sorry, Andre Iguodala, the tribe has spoken. The other two guys are the headband brigade, or at least that’s what I call them. They should have a nickname, because they provide everything you are looking for in an other guy. They give you energy off the bench. They allow your stars to catch a breath. And finally there is the unpredictability. When “other guy” is in the air, will it be catastrophic or celebratory. He is one/fifth of the hottest quintet to come out of Oakland, The Clampdown Five. Ian Clark. Love this guy. Unheralded, undrafted player out of Belmont. A school more known for their music than its basketball. He’s been called up and sent back down more times than a footman at Downton Abbey (are those analogies still relevant?). He checks all the boxes. The other guys for the Warriors is JaVale McGee. Why do I love McGee so much. This play sums it up quite nicely. The give and take from McGee is the “other guy” motto.
For the Jazz, is Gordon Hayward a star? He was an all-star this year, but while I was watching I had to google to find out who the white guy was. I’ve been a big fan of Hayward since he almost drilled that half-court buzzer beater to win the national championship against Duke while at Butler.
Oh, and I was also going to add Kelly Oubre. Not to look like I’m jumping on the bandwagon…
Did I cheat? Are you disappointed in me, Michael?
I’m down with your “Other Guys” picks – Clark is a good one, love what Javale McGee is doing (shut up, Shaq!), and Kelly Oubre is providing fire and passion to the Wiz. No argument there.
I humbly submit, for your further consideration, Nene!
First of all, he’s got one name. Madonna. Beyonce. Neymar. You see where I’m going here.
Second, most people probably don’t realize that he’s in the league anymore, but he keeps showing up on Playoff Teams and playing well in April and May, this time as an X-Factor big man for the Rockets.
I like me some Nene.
Now, let’s close with some predictions. When the Cavaliers face the Warriors in the Finals, who will win, how many games, and why? (Or, if you dare, pick another team . . . to be the last one standing . . . )
In Hawaii, the Nene Goose is the state bird. Having said that, it is written in my contract as native Hawaiian to be a fan of Nene, even though he’s Brazilian. Nene reminds me of the dude at the Y during pick up games, that never says anything but just goes out there and dominates all the other weekend warriors. At the end of the day, he just unties he shoes, gives a wry smile to the rest of the competitors and walks off into the sunset, never to be heard from again. Come to think of it, Nene is Kawhi.
Before the playoffs started, I really liked the Spurs…Like loved them like every white woman in America likes Ryan Gosling, like. Then I watched the first two games of the Spurs-Rockets series and realized that they don’t have the horses to go up and down for 48 minutes for seven games. The Rockets, are not nearly as talented as the Warriors, but when they are hitting their shots are just as dangerous. And let’s be honest, Thompson, Curry, Green, Durant can’t all have bad games at the same time. When that happens, smoke em if you got ’em because 45* just put in the launch codes and the world is coming to a close. Add to that Tony Parker out of the line up, and it’s Cavs and Warriors in the Finals.
While I want to say, Dubs in 5…LeBron and Kyrie are worth at least two games, so I say Golden State will win in six. Draymond Green will be named MVP because he’ll take Hillary’s advice and won’t go low, but luckily for the Warriors their result will be better than the former Secretary of State. There you have it, Golden State in six, but the Cavs will win the popular vote.
(Editors Note: Sadly, after the writing of the above passages, dripping with Nene Man Love, Nene got injured. He will miss the remainder of the playoffs. We claim no responsibility for this unfortunate turn of events.)
Everyone is picking a rematch of Cavs and Warriors. That is because they are the only SuperTeams* in the league.
(* A SuperTeam is a team with three or more All-Star Level players.)
On paper, the LeBron-Kyrie-Love Cavs should easily win the East and take on the Curry-Durant-Thompson-Draymond Warriors, a ridiculously well put together team with 2 of the top five players in the NBA. To add Durant to last year’s version of this team was just ridiculous.
But I’m not going to do it. With Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon in attendance at games, watching over this team like the apparitions of Ben Kenobi and Yoda watching over Luke, I’m going with the Beard, and picking the Rockets, against all odds to oust Golden State in seven games, and advance to the NBA Finals.
There, they will be decimated by Playoff LeBron, who will grow a special playoff beard for the occasion, both to get under Harden’s skin and to distract attention from his receding hairline.
Enjoy the playoff action. It is, I hear, FAN-TAS-TIC!
Photo Credit: YouTube/Screencap