Making the First Round Interesting
As I’ve said many a time before, I think the first round of the NBA Playoffs is atrociously hard to watch at times. The NHL? Well, not so much. We’ve already seen so many surprises and thrilling games in the NHL Playoffs that as much as I have ripped them for their new playoff format (I still can’t figure it out, I still haven’t seen a good flowchart) I remain convinced that hockey has the best postseason of any sport outside of football.
So, what are the storylines that make the NBA first round bearable? What are the storylines that if you’ve always wanted to get into hockey – but didn’t quite know where to start – you should be following?
- James Harden – Defensive Juggernaut
Whoever put the time and effort into creating this gem of a video is my new favorite person ever, AND I want to trade jobs.
This is Bargnani-esque. No. Nay. I declare this worse than Bargnani. That’s right. I said it. Worse.
See people who don’t watch basketball look at one on one defense and say, “Wow, he’s really playing good, persistent defense right there.” They forget that there are FIVE opposing players on the court and that when your guy doesn’t have the ball, you still have to play defense.
Believe it or not, if you take a guy like Bargnani and you try to post up on him, he is actually one of the better iso-defenders in the post against guys as good as Dwight Howard or Brooke Lopez. What he sucks at – what James Harden sucks at – is defending off the ball. Harden is a swell defender when Kobe faces him up one on one in the 4th quarter with everyone watching, but he has no concept of spacing, how to defend a pick and roll off the ball, what slash and kick point guards are trying to do. None.
So… if you’re bored and the Rockets-Blazers game comes on, tune in! And keep an eye on #13.
Side Note: The Blazers and Rockets were 22nd and 23rd in the league defensively this year. I see many a game ending with scores in the 120’s.
- Dirty Hits
Brent Seabrook (Chicago Blackhawks) and Matt Cooke (Minnesota Wild) have both laid down hits in this NHL Postseason that will draw multi-game suspensions. Seabrook’s is already set at three, and Matt Cooke has to have an “in-person” hearing with the NHL which means his suspension could be over five games.
While I am in the minority of people who disagree with the severity of Seabrook’s suspension, I think if you’re a Blues fan you have a legitimate gripe with Seabrook missing fewer games than the dude he knocked out cold into the plexi-glass.
I’m always fascinated by the delicate balance that has to be struck in hockey between player safety – and consequently, the popularity of the sport – and the nature of the sport being violent (arguably a key reason why it is popular among many fans to begin with). In one game, Seabrook’s team paid the price for his hit and it probably cost the Blackhawks the game. Not so in Minnesota, where the Wild rallied to score an overtime winner in sudden death.
For all my misguided opinions that I spew on this blog, I haven’t yet formed a good one on how the NHL should handle this type of thing. Interested to hear any feedback.
- THE SKY IS FALLING IN INDIANA!
Look, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we’re overreacting to the Pacers ineptitude when people jump up and down shouting, “They’re gonna lose to Atlanta!” Let’s all calm down.
They’re immensely more-talented and playoff-tested than the Hawks are and while I’ve never been on the “Frank Vogel is a GREAT coach” bandwagon, I think he and his star players will figure this thing out. I’ve still got the Bulls beating Washington, so I’ve still got the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals because the Bulls offense is turrible. And if any team brings out the absolute best in the Pacers, it’s Miami.
Side Note: If the Pacers do somehow lose this series, I think Vogel is done. And if I’m Steve Kerr, I want THAT job over the Knicks job for obvious reasons. More on that later.
- Excellent Goaltending
– Semyon Varlomov (Avalanche)
– Kari Lehtonen (Ducks)
– Corey Crawford (Blackhawks)
– Tuuka Rask (Bruins)
Just a few guys not-named Henrik Lundqvist who are playing like absolute stars right now. If you’re a fan of defense, these are the NHL Playoffs for you.
Side Note: If your goalie isn’t on here and you think he should be, I’m sorry. I’ve been watching as much hockey as I can lately. Send us the feedback.
- Kevin Durant
This actually happened the other night.
Kevin Durant does crazy stuff that boggles the mind all the time. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to make me keep watching.
- Three of four games in the Blackhawks-Blues series have gone to overtime. There’s no overtime like hockey overtime. You feel like you have to keep your eyes glued to the screen because if you so much as look down at your cupholder to grab your beer and – GOAL! Game over, son and you missed it. And your only lasting memory of the end of that fantastic game is your Blackhawk friend screaming four-letter words at the top of his lungs. And you’re not gonna as THAT guy to rewind it for you in that moment.
Side Note: Patrick Kane got em’ back last night in overtime in Chicago. There are few feelings in sports that are greater for a fan than celebrating a live, overtime sudden death goal, in person during a pivotal game. My Rangers are up 2-1 and I was actually jealous of Chicago fans last night.
Side Note: Did you know that the song that plays at the beginning of The League on FX is the song that the fans sing in Chicago after the Blackhawks score a goal? I’ve been really paying attention to hockey for about three years now and I’ve seen every episode of The League and never made that connection… Mind blown.
- If you’re not paying attention to round 1 of the NBA Playoffs, I can’t blame you. But this guy certainly should be:
Word on the street is that Steve Kerr has basically had the Knicks’ head coaching job locked up from the moment Phil Jackson put pen to paper on his ridiculous contract to be the Knicks’ President/GM/Messiah/Savior/Basketball Wizard. I find this funny for several reasons:
First and foremost, the Knicks’ head coaching job might be the worst head coaching job in the NBA depending on how you look at it. The only thing the Knicks’ have going for them is that “New York” is proudly displayed on the front of their jerseys and they play in Madison Square Garden. Otherwise, here’s the situation:
– No draft picks this year (in what many are calling one of the deepest drafts in recent memory)
– James Dolan, the worst owner in sports not-named Jerry Jones is reportedly ALREADY clashing with Phil Jackson, and it’s been like, two friggin weeks since he hired Phil
– The Knicks will be over the PROJECTED salary cap next year (which is HIGHER than this year’s) WITHOUT re-signing Carmelo Anthony. Certain things bear repeating because their ridiculousness is unbearable, so I say again, The Knicks are over the projected salary cap without re-signing Carmelo Anthony next year.
– Andrea Bargnani, Amare Stoudemire. Say it with me again people: Andrea Bargnani, Amare Stoudemire
– Wasted amnesty on Chauncey Billups’ contract
– With zero incentive to tank, they followed their 2012-2013 season where they finished 2nd in the East with a 37-45 record with basically the same roster this year
– Phil Jackson has already been given the green light from Dolan to just pick up at any time and go, “Yup, I’m coaching the team now. Deal with it.”
– Your best asset (Melo) likely bolting for Chicago in a few months
So again, if you’re Steve Kerr why would you want this job? Why would you want this job when you’re a highly sought-after coach and there’s a good chance one of the teams currently in the playoffs would hire you? Here’s a few possibilities:
– The Pacers job if they don’t make it out of the second round (which I think they will)
– The Thunder job if they don’t make it out of the first round (which I think they will)
– The Rockets job if they complete this epic playoff disappointment (McHale has really coached this series poorly)
– The Warriors job if they do decide, for some RIDICULOUS reason, to axe Mark Jackson (which all reports say they will)
Also, if you’re Phil Jackson and you think you wanna coach one day anyways, why would you axe Mike Woodson now? Let him keep coaching the team into suckiness, you tank next year, dump Bargnani, Felton, Stoudemire, possibly Melo, get a first round pick and recruit big name dudes like KD and Lebron with your new cap space in 2015, and then coach the team yourself. Why would you hire a guy just to watch him fail and take over for him at the end of the day anyways?
Furthermore, I know Phil doesn’t really get along with the guy but wouldn’t you rather have Jeff Van Gundy coach for you than Steve Kerr? He’s got the experience, New Yorkers would love it, and he’s not afraid to get in star’s faces and tell them what’s up.
Side Note: There’s a funny story where Van Gundy had a bunch of reporters around during the early 90’s and they were asking him about Phil Jackson and the Bulls’ awe-inspiring “Triangle Offense” and why they had so much success with it. Van Gundy says, “You wanna know what the secret to the Triangle Offense is?” Then he turned around and wrote “23” on the board.
I don’t know, I’m very confused as to what Phil’s strategy is. But then again, that’s why he’s Phil Jackson and I type for a sports blog on my laptop that I don’t get paid for.
Side Note: Filler, we need to talk. I want a raise. We need to fire some interns and transfer that salary over to me.
- Flyers-Rangers rivalry and good ole-fashioned hate
Don’t worry Filler, I don’t hate you. Just the Flyers and everything about Philly sports.
It’s going to be a very interesting first round after all.