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Sweet, Sweet Ping Pong Balls
by Joel Caris
Understand, this is a major draft. You've got two players--Greg Oden and Kevin Durant--who both have the potential of being franchise players. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jordan. They could end up being those caliber of players. Of course, nothing is ever set in stone and Greg Oden could end up being the next Sam Bowie, but the most likely outcome is that they'll both make a huge impact.
And Portland has its choice between the two.
If I had a bucket filled with numbered ping pong balls right now, I'd be touching them inappropriately.
This is just weird. After years of bad luck, of multitudes of players with questionable character, of stupid ownership and arena issues, of threats to move the team out of town, of having to listen to that insipid "Jail Blazers" moniker, of ridicule and heartbreak, of the heartbreaking loss of close playoff series after close playoff series, suddenly in one year it all starts to come together, in a major way. We had an awesome draft last year, picking up Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez. We booted the crappy management to the curb and promoted Kevin Pritchard, who will probably be an awesome GM, and solved the arena issue. And now the number one pick, after things were already looking up. Next year, we should be in the playoffs and--it will be so very weird--we'll actually get national exposure. Games on national TV, people from outside the state rooting for the team, increased media attention.
So yeah. Weird.
But let's go ahead and get to the actual playoffs action, for the three people who are still reading this after my Blazers lovefest. The conference championships have started and . . . I can hardly bring myself to care. I'm going to be honest here. As soon as the Suns were bounced, I suddenly cared a whole hell of a lot less. Spurs vs. Jazz and Detroit vs. Cleveland just is not getting me hot and bothered. It doesn't help, either, that I've lost much of my love for the Spurs after the bullshit that went down in the series against the Suns. Now, granted, the Spurs were probably going to win that series even without the questionable suspensions of Stoudemire and Diaw, but I just didn't like how everything went down. It felt cheap. And that sucks.
Furthermore, I like the Suns, a lot, and I wanted to see this be their year. Instead, we've got the Spurs again and a Jazz team that, while they've had a great year, I've been unable to get excited about. Ultimately, this looks like a series the Spurs should be able to win without too much trouble, though the Jazz may end up giving them a good run. I'm guessing the Spurs will have this done in six, though. It's not a bold prediction, especially considering I'm making it after the Spurs have already one the first two games.
Detroit vs. Cleveland might be more interesting, but only if LeBron James starts earning all the damn money he's making. Listen, buddy, start taking over these games. You're supposed to be The One, The Guy, The Chosen Dude Who Is The Second Coming Of Michael Jordan. David Stern is supposed to be kissing your ass and thanking you for making the league millions upon millions of dollars all by your lonesome self. I realize you're still young--damn young--but it's not an excuse. You're in your fourth year in the league and this is your second trip to the playoffs. You have the talent and capabilities to take over these games, but you're not doing it. It's annoying me. If anyone could make the rest of these playoffs at least somewhat memorable, you could. But so far, you're choosing not to. You're passing up game winning shots. What the hell is that about? I don't care if there's an open guy in the corner. You're at the rim, you're the superstar, you're the guy making millions and millions of dollar, you're the Chosen One--The One Who David Stern Would Fluff If Necessary. Jesus. Start acting like it.
Now, if the 27 fans who are still watching the playoffs are lucky, James will remember who he is and who he is supposed to be, kick it into high gear, take over the series and vanquish the Pistons. That would give us a slightly interesting Spurs vs. Cavs Finals that I would be willing to check out. As it is, though, we're staring at a very like Spurs vs. Pistons, which is just about enough to make me shoot myself in the face. Only that number one Blazers pick is stopping me.
Anyway, I'm picking the Cavs in six. I'm doing this despite everything I just wrote in the last two paragraphs. Do I know why I'm going against everything I just wrote? No, I don't. I have no idea why I'm picking Cleveland, except I guess because I think maybe James is going to turn it on and take over the series. That's pretty much what I wrote about the Cavs/Nets series and it ended up working out for me, so I might as well ride that train again in the hopes it's going the same direction.
Joel is picking Cleveland cause, well, Cleveland rocks.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to resume my day dreaming about Oden in a Blazers uniform. Wake me if the playoffs get interesting again.