Unfortunately, it seems as if the shortened, crammed, whirlwind strike season of 2012 will bear out some nervous nellies’ worst fears because this year’s NBA playoffshave been defined by exhaustion and injury.
The Knicks’ promising rookie Iman Shumpert was first (and point guard Baron Davis would follow mere games later). Zach Randolph’s stunted season and middling performance is likely the reason the Memphis Grizzlies kept failing to put away the Clippers late in winnable games. Now Chris Bosh has gone down indefinitely even though the Heat really shouldn’t need him to get out of the crippled Eastern Conference.
Oh yeah, and Derrick Rose’s injury cemented the Heat’s easy path.
First of all, let me just say that my “Trade Derrick Rose Now” column garnered me the most hate-Tweets I’ve ever received, although to be fair I wasn’t on Twitter yet when I wrote columns about how I hate dogs or why I thought the circus around Michael Jackson’s death was way overblown. It definitely set an all-time Markley record for "Gay Slurs Recieved." I've notified the people at Guinness.
Nevertheless, let me make a few more points: Count me among the few people in Chicago who didn’t buy the Bulls at all and thought they stood no chance of coming out of the East. They’re a tough, defensively impressive team that can win a lot of regular season games against teams they’re supposed to beat but are always essentially relying on one guy to create offensive opportunity. Without Rose, the Bulls lost to a team that couldn’t have even made the playoffs in the West. As currently constituted, the Bulls are never going to win a championship. They are drastically overrated in a league that’s turned into an arms race of collecting huge reserves of offensive firepower (see: OKC). Sure, they could amnesty Carlos Boozer and try to improve through free agency, but last year that ended in Rip Hamilton. Obviously, there’s every chance that Rose will return as good as new. As so many people were pointing out on Twitter, Michael Jordan broke his foot early in his career and went on to be the best player ever.
However, for every Michael Jordan there are endless Penny Hardaways, Brandon Roys, Grant Hills, and Greg Odens—guys who became injury-prone to the point where they were never the same player. I’m not a Bulls fan, so it doesn’t make a shit bit of difference to me what y’all do. I’m just saying your team will never win a championship even with a healthy Rose if he’s backed by a crew that got smoked by Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes. Best of luck.
Anyway, Rose’s exit means the rest of the Eastern Conference is basically Tyson vs. welterweights. We’ll see how many games the Pacers and (probably) the Celtics can take from the Heat but if it’s more than four total, I’ll be pretty surprised. Even with Bosh injured, LeBron James is in the midst of the best statistical season a basketball player has ever had. Obviously, it means nothing if he doesn’t pair it with a championship (of all the players to win three or more MVPs, LeBron is the only one without a ring), and as a jilted Cavs fan, that means I’m rooting for the field. Right now I’m a huge Indiana Pacers fan until the next round when I may have to swallow my pride and root for the (vomit, barf, Jesus) Celtics.
The West is where all the fun is at with the up-and-comers of the Thunder and the Clippers squaring off against the two best Western Conference teams of the last decade. With five rings and German-engineered knees, Kobe Bryant knows he needs one more ring so that Lakers fans can at least make a case to put him in the same breath as MJ, and on paper the Lakers should be formidable. They have the best front line of the playoffs with Bynum and Gasol and a vicious, psychotic competitor (Bryant, not the artist formerly known as Ron Artest). Yet it took them seven games to get past the Nuggets and their first game against Oklahoma City was a total bloodbath.
A Thunder-Spurs conference final would be a great old-guard/ new-guard match-up with the only problem being that no one outside of San Antonio wants to see that team in the finals again, especially the NBA. At the beginning of the year, I predicted an OKC-Miami final with Miami taking the whole thing, and I guess I’ll stand by that boring prediction now.
I just really, really want to be wrong.