Dream matchups for the playoffs
The Phoenix Suns' point guard and two-time NBA MVP was supposed to be chasing a championship again, rather than shutting down and giving his 35-year-old bones a premature rest. Would he have any interest in the postseason now, staring up from Phoenix's spot as the league's best lottery team?
"Yeah, I'll watch some,'' Nash said. "Casual observer. I'm not that big a watcher -- I haven't had the NBA [League Pass] package for five or six years now.''
Not a problem. Most of the playoff matchups we would love to see won't be available on the tube, even if you sat through 400 games in 400 nights. Until the brackets calcify and things commence this weekend, we still get to dream. Actual series are dictated by the bracket, which is determined by six months of sweat, toil, air travel and trainers' rooms. But the versions suggested here are cherry-picked for their intrigue, back stories and sheer entertainment value.
A year ago,
Maybe we can improve on that 3-of-13 rate this spring. Here, for Nash's theoretical viewing pleasure, is another batch of 13:
Why? Because it would decide so much. We would find out whether
Yet another Finals clash of the storied franchises? With all the attendant history and hype and honor and, for some fans, hate? And with
Where is it written that LeBron and Kobe get to duke it out for the unofficial title of "best player in the game'' without a proper bracket or qualifying rounds? Ignoring
No offense to Orlando, but this is the Eastern Conference finals that most folks want to see. Defending champs vs. the new-and-improved Cavaliers. The franchise with the most championships in league history versus a franchise whose solid tradition would desperately benefit from its first. Two teams whose fortunes could change dramatically in the near future, thanks to advancing years or looming free agency. A best-of-seven series of battles dictated, perhaps, entirely by home-court advantage.
Oh, and never mind the 107-76 spanking administered by the Cavaliers in their hometown on Sunday. Just remember that in the East semifinals last May, the Celtics won in seven games, but the Cavaliers outscored them overall 596-588. Also, this series would give us a chance to say,
We got the home-court thing played out over seven games last year when the precocious Hawks nearly showed
These clubs pack intriguing young talent. Portland has a deeper bench, but in
What would the playoffs be without some bad blood? That brought the intrigue to last year's first-round set between Phoenix and San Antonio well beyond what a Spurs-in-five outcome would have warranted, thanks to
All together now: Oooooh. Jackson's umbrage might be from his psychological bag of tricks, too, given the Lakers' inability to win in their past eight trips to Portland. Most of us expect the Western Conference torch to be passed at some point from La La Land to Rip City, and there's no reason that it has to be done amicably.
This is our sentimental selection, which probably will make Spurs coach
Both of these teams still have much to prove. Orlando, despite pushing 60 victories, still is way too reliant on three-point shooting to strike a lot of playoff fear into opponents' hearts. Denver, despite its lofty perch behind only the Lakers, needs to get out of the first round for once to be taken seriously. These two might as well duke it out for first claim of legitimacy.
Looking for a surefire seven-game series, the home team winning each one? It's this revisiting of the '97 and '98 Finals. Between them, the Bulls and Jazz won't win 30 road games this season, the worst showings by any playoff teams. At least Chicago is finishing well, with an 8-2 mark through Sunday in its last 10 games, regardless of locale. Utah's recent 3-7 slide is making Phoenix -- so focused on Dallas for the past month or so -- really regret a few stumbles along the way. Added bonus to this series:
For the Mavs, a rematch with Miami -- without Shaq involved, and figuring they'd do at least no worse with the refs than they did the first time around -- would have some appeal. Maybe Dallas would maintain its composure this time, rather than going into lockdown mode, switching hotels midway through its stay in Miami and otherwise tightening up when Wade happened to them. Lots of folks still think the better team did not win that 2006 Finals and that the trophy, in fact, was lost rather than won.
This probably wouldn't be fair to Bulls point guard
Which team would miss its (ahem) superstar least: the Sixers (
Out of sight, out of mind? More like out of the way. Philadelphia without Brand is playing at a quicker, more efficient pace, and the Rockets aren't compelled to run everything through T-Mac now and are far tougher defensively. The Board of Governors would love this series, to demonstrate that superstars and their salaries aren't always the answer.