Here we go. NBA playoff time. And immediately, the questions.
“Will these be any better than last year?”
No. Probabaly not.
“Does anybody other than Boston and Los Angeles have a chance to make it to the finals?”
No. Probably not.
“Why, then, should I vegetate in front of the TV set for 50 hours in the next four weeks, when I could be doing something constructive?”
You shouldn’t. Why not do something constructive? But what? How about baking something? That’s constructive. Something big and chocolate that can be cut into slices. It sounds like fun. Go ahead. Bake. Then send it down to the sports department, and we will eat it.
Really. Don’t stay here.
You’ll just be bored.
You know the NBA playoffs. What a drag . . .
Well, see ya.
Bye . . .
Good. They’re gone. Now we can talk.
So what do you think? Can the Pistons do it? Does Philly have a chance? Is Milwaukee ready this time? How long before Houston collapses?
Let’s talk some basketball.
The flippers and the addicts
Everybody knows there are only two kinds of basketball fans: the channel-flipper and the addict. Channel-flippers can flip between a game, an Elvis movie and a PBS special on Sherpa priests. Addicts must tune in a half-hour early to catch that NBA commercial about dunking (“It’s FANNN-tastic!”). And then they tape it.
For the addicts, who are now the only ones left in the room, since we sent the others to the kitchen, this year’s NBA playoffs — which begin tonight — are as good as any. Right here in Detroit we’ll have a good series. Hawks versus Pistons. Youth versus experience. TBS versus Motown.
And the others? Well. You have the Philadelphia 76ers, this year’s Purple Hearts Gang, taking on Washington, with new coach Kevin Loughery, who’s been there all of 13 games.
And there’s Milwaukee, with caffeine-freak coach Don Nelson, versus New Jersey, which is Lovetron-less these days. And Denver versus Portland, which is interesting because, it, um, well, let’s skip that one, and Houston versus Sacramento which is, like, uh, how about Dallas versus Utah? Well. OK. So they’re not all thrilling. It’s still good basketball. And if the Pistons advance to the second round and get stomped by Boston, it’ll still be good basketball. And if the Lakers don’t lose a game in getting to the finals, it’ll still be good basketball. Once they get there.
The point is, a true fan can always find things to go nuts over. Like the emergence of Charles Barkley as a bona fide superstar. Or a shooting match
between Adrian Dantley and Mark Aguirre. Or the return of long-injured Michael Jordan to the Chicago Bulls. For basketball addicts, the thing doesn’t have to go seven games to be good.
But can Nique speak French?
That’s the danger in all this Laker/Celtic-itis. True, those two teams will certainly meet again in the NBA finals, unless a train runs them over. But each game that unfolds in the playoffs, even the massacres, can still feature some beautiful drive, some delicious dish-off pass, some fast break that leaves you blinking.
You get to see some good basketball.
And then there are the little angles, such as: How mad is Isiah Thomas at the Hawks? Does Ralph Sampson care anymore? How gutsy will Moses Malone be in the next few weeks? How about all those former Denver and Portland players now facing each other from opposite sides? What about Bill Walton on Kareem- Abdul Jabbar?
That’s the silver lining of the playoffs. Little angles. A chance to answer the little questions.
Personally, I’ve been wondering something for a long time, and these playoffs will give me a chance to find it out. This is what I’m wondering: Does Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins, who was born in France, know all the words to “Frere Jacques” ? Or does he just mumble like the rest of us?
Others may be content to let these questions slide, but not me.
So my advice to you, at least those of you who have read this far, is to lock the dog in the basement for the next month, send the kids to a bowling alley — in Tampa — and search for a spot on the couch that could use some wearing in. Then flick on the TV and kick back with your favorite beverages. And something to munch on.
We’ll be eating something chocolate here.