Talkin’ Hoops: The NBA Playoffs Round One

Gonna need a lot of this for the Cavs to advance.

Gonna need a lot of this for the Cavs to advance.

The Addison Recorder doesn’t talk about the NBA much…until it gets to the really interesting time of the year. In this four-part series, Alex and Travis will talk about what’s getting them excited for the NBA Playoffs.

Travis: I wish I cared more about the NBA during the season. I love keeping tabs on who’s doing what, who’s having a break-out year, and who’s been a disappointment, but I can’t really get behind any one team. As a transplant, pulling for the Bulls feels like cheating. Having grown up in southern Ohio, I have more of a pull towards college basketball teams than I do for the Cavaliers (with or without LeBron). I can’t even claim to have a good story to lead me into fandom for a random team, as I do about being WILD for the WILD over in the NHL.

That’s why I love the NBA playoffs. I can root for up to eight different teams at once! I’m not emotionally invested in watching anyone suffer! I can claim catharsis without going through an extensive grieving process! It’s perfect for me!

This year, I’m very excited for a number of teams. Over in the Eastern Conference, I’m excited to see what the Bucks can do in the first round – the Greek Freak should make for compelling basketball, if for no other reason than he could break out or fall flat on his face at any time. I love watching the Hawks play team basketball, destroying the concept of a ‘star system’ by having five relatively anonymous starters working in absolute harmony. I like watching the Bulls grit through all of their turmoil – and listening to Chi-Town sports fans wondering if Tom Thibodeau needs to go before he runs Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, etc. into the ground. And as a homeboy, I love watching the core rotation of the Cavs. I feel like the midseason deals for Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, and Imam Shumpert have transformed that team into something that at least could theoretically rival LeBron’s epic Heat teams.

So that’s fun. What excites you about the NBA Least-ern conference?

Bean: I’m excited that we have variety again! The accursed LeBron-led Miami Heat have won the Eastern Conference for the past four years and took the NBA title in two of those years. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen again when LeBron lighted out for Cleveland , but then the Heat doubled down and missed the playoffs entirely. So we’re got a (relatively) wide-open field in the East and there are a couple teams rushing in to fill that void.

In terms of rooting interest, I’m pulling for the Bulls. The Pistons’ long period of letting Joe Dumars lead them through the wilderness killed off my affection for them right as I moved to Chicago. So, I’m hoping that Rose and Butler can shake their injury rust off and team up with Noah and Gasol to make a run to the Eastern Finals. If they can do that, at least, I am hoping that it sets them up for even more success next year.

Beyond that, I like the Hawks, despite their hailing from Atlanta and being supported by Chik-Fil-A. Like you said, they play team basketball and can be utterly dominant while doing so. Same goes for the upstart Celtics, who are riding amazing coaching and team unity to make the playoffs years before they should after blowing up the Pierce-Garnett-Rondo-Allen squad.

I am ambivalent about the Cavaliers, who seem to be the prohibitive favorite to get to the Finals. Yes, LeBron is the best basketball player on Earth. Yes, his return has been handled in such a classy way that I sort of forgive “The Decision.” Yes, Kyrie Irving and the rest of the squad are playing some beautifully modern basketball. But they are still a team from Ohio, which is a terrible black mark in my opinion. Mud Hens excepted, I am still a born Michigander and will feel lifelong enmity towards squads hailing from the Buckeye state. If they win…alright, Cleveland deserves something nice, I guess. If not, all the better.

Look out for a fair bit of this. Or a whole lot.

Look out for a fair bit of this. Or a whole lot.

Travis: On behalf of the Great State of Ohio…just remember that the Ohio State Buckeyes are undisputed national champions.

Let’s talk about conferences that don’t involve Ohio, yes? Like the Western Conference! Where their collective record is something like 842-7 when compared to the East, which went about -35-1,015 during the regular season. (Give or take) You’ve got Anthony “The Brow” Davis getting swept out of the playoffs for the first time. You’ve got the Spurs doing Spurs things. You’ve got James Harden getting fouled into dominant submission. (It works out…in my head…I swear…) You’ve got Evil Chris Paul. I hear the Mavs are still a thing.

And then there’s the Golden State Warriors, owners of a 67-15 record, a team that somehow only lost two (two!) games at home all season long, owners of one of the top ten point differentials of all time. And yet the only way we’ll recognize them as a truly great team is if they win it all. Stephen Curry has emerged as an emblem of the modern NBA, the point guard with a killer shooting stroke driving the offense. We talk about the Hawks playing idyllic team basketball – here’s another team that does it better while still hosting several star players. I’m super excited to watch the Warriors (hopefully) rampage their way to a title. (Sorry, Cleveland/Chicago/et al)

Anything out West excite you?

Bean: The Warriors are just plain exciting if you like watching basketball. They are pleasure in motion, as attested to by a season full of Steph Curry gifs. I feel like I woke up to a new one every third day this winter. Steve Kerr took a good team with some interesting parts and has turned them into the apotheosis of the modern shooting offense. I don’t quite understand how, since basketball tactics are elusive for me, but I understand it involves a lot of off-ball motion, Draymond Green screens, and Steph Curry just being a damn wizard. It’s a tie between him and Eden Hazard for the most beautiful dribble and delivery in major sports this year.

The rest of the West pales a bit before the buzz-saw in Oakland, in all honesty. I’ve grown fond of the Spurs these past few years. Any team that can keep winning when their stars are well past their prime earns some affection. That they’ve done it without pulling a 2002 Red Wings and just stocking the team with ringers is a testament to how good a coach Popovich is and how versatile Kawhi Leonard is at defending. The world needs a 7-game match-up between him and Curry.

The Rockets and Clippers are both fun, but still lack that certain something to get them over the hump. The former are over-reliant on James Harden just shooting out of his mind every night. The latter seem to have all the pieces to be dominant, but I still don’t know that I can see them getting past the second round. That’s either a testament to the West or a condemnation of their lack of a third scoring option behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Also, that brow. Holy crap. That brow. It is magic. I hope it can get a more complete team by next spring.

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the original founders of the Addison Recorder. He writes about baseball, movies, and music, among other topics. He resides in a hole in the ground near Wrigley Field.

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