The NBA playoffs have been pretty fun to follow so far, despite being the third session in a row without the Jazz. Hopefully next year will end the streak, and I think it will, not just because I'm a faithful fan, but because now I'm a faithful fan who's part owner of a pair of season tickets...
Some observations on the 06 playoffs:
The dust has all but settled on the first round, but I still hear Kobe's name pop up from time to time. I have to admit I'm still pretty mystified by his Game 7 disappearing act. Commentators have speculated on a variety of causes, most of which center on his three-shot half being some sort of a selfish statement to the world about how the Lakers are his team, or why he's really the MVP, or something along those lines.
I'm no Kobe fan, but I have a tough time thinking he's really that selfish. For one, his teammates really weren't hitting anything that night; he didn't get an ounce of help. But what really doesn't jive is that the Kobe I saw in Game 7 was light-years from the Kobe I've seen in the past. I may not like the guy much, but even I'll admit that he's probably the most dangerous player in the league. That idea is reaffirmed to me everytime he chucks up a line-drive 3-pointer right over a defender that rips the net so hard it nearly shreds. No one shows the chip on his shoulder like no. 8, er, no. 24.
But that guy didn't show up in Phoenix. And I still don't know why.
I think the only reason I was even interested enough in that series was because it was setting up the possibility of a Clippers-Lakers second round series. Seeing the Clippers take out the Lakers would almost be as nice as watching the Jazz do it. Maybe even better in some ways. It's one thing to have to listen to Laker bandwagoners in Salt Lake, it must be another to be a Clipper fan in the midst of the Laker bandwagoners in LA.
Of course, now the Clippers are building a bandwagon of their own. I may even begrudgingly admit my own membership. It's hard to cheer against a team that has guys like Chris "Hulk Rambis" Kaman and Sam "ET" Cassell. If that makes me a bandwagon jumper, so be it.
Truth is, there are actually a number of likeable players/teams in the playoffs right now. For all of his hype, LeBron James actually seems like a pretty good guy. Same with Dwyane Wade, who gets bonus points for coming from South Chicago. San Antonio has played the role of model citizen squad for years now, and I've even warmed up to Mark Cuban (I think my softening began after he worked at that Dairy Queen). Steve Nash reminds me of a grungy Stockton, and on top of it all you've got the feel-good Clippers. The only bad guy left might be Vince Carter, but it looks like the bad karma from Toronto might finally be kicking in as Jersey seems ready to go in the can in spite of his scoring frenzy.
Not bad. And a heck of a lot more interesting than Barry Bonds.