NBA Playoffs 2013: 10 Important Questions

Who is on your 1st Team All-Playoffs squad?
Stephen Curry- By my calculations, this playoff run for Curry has solidified four things:
1: Whether you want to say it’s by default because of so many injuries or not, Stephen Curry has solidified himself as at least a Top 5 point guard in the league at this moment.
2: Curry has solidified himself as one of the most dangerous shooters/scorers/”Look out, he’s on fire!” guys in league history. These “Curry Flurries” in the 3rd quarters are all the evidence you need to back up that statement.
3: Unfortunately, because of Curry’s chronic ankle issues, this playoff run has put Curry in a position where if his career ends up being derailed by one or both of his ankles, he’ll end up a member of the Grant Hill Club, where there will always be a question about how great he could’ve been.
4: Carrying the Warriors to a current 2-2 tie against San Antonio has solidified Curry as one of the all-time great “With this guy there is always a punchers chance” guys. It might defy conventional wisdom, but Curry gives the Warriors a chance to beat anybody, especially in Oracle Arena, which couldn’t be a more perfect place for Stephen Curry to be playing.

Mike Conley- When Memphis traded away Rudy Gay it was a statement that the Grizzlies were going to be moving forward with a foundation that would go against the grain of the direction that the NBA was seemingly going in. Instead of building a small ball team around an athletic perimeter player who was a fringe star, the Grizzlies have gone forward with two bruisers inside (Gasol and Randolph), a hodgepodge of role players, and Mike Conley, who received a highly criticized contract extension back in 2010. Ultimately, a large portion of the Grizzlies success was going to be on the shoulders of Mike Conley, who wasn’t backed down from the challenge and definitely hasn’t backed down from anyone in the playoffs. Conley went head to head with Chris Paul in the 1st round and delivered a near triple double(26 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists) against Kevin Durant and the Thunder in Game 2.

May 13, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) brings the ball up court in game four of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum. Memphis Grizzlies defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-97, and lead in the series 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant- I give Durant’s 2008 LeBron James impression a B+ so far, and I swear that’s intended to be a huge compliment. Durant’s putting up Cavaliers LeBron-esque numbers (31.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists), but has been stymied by the Grizzlies defense late in Games 2, 3 and 4. Before anyone thinks of bringing up Boston in 2010 or Dallas in 2011, I’m going to move on to the current version of LeBron James.

LeBron James- No justification necessary. You don’t leave the best athlete alive off of any 1st Team, whether it’s an actual 1st Team or a made up one like this is.

Marc Gasol- Over the past three days I have changed my mind about 25 times concerning who should get the center spot for this hypothetical team. Tim Duncan held down the top spot for a bit. Joakim Noah had a cup of coffee there based solely on his Game 7 performance in Brooklyn. I ended up deciding on Marc Gasol, giving the Grizzlies a 2nd player on my made up squad which leads me to believe I might be getting a tad bit caught up in this Grizzlies team. Let’s roll with it though. In Game 4 against Oklahoma City Gasol made a ton of huge plays down the stretch on both ends of the floor and ultimately that won me over. He’s in firm control of the conch when it comes to which Gasol brother is the better player and he is right at the top of the list when the discussion of smartest basketball players alive comes up.

Better postseason for a player with a flat top hair cut: Norris Cole or Iman Shumpert?
It’s a tough call, and as much as I’d love to make this a homer pick, I’ll take the flat top whose talents are being displayed in New York City over the one in South Beach. Cole was fantastic in Game 2 against Chicago, even better in the Heat’s Game 3 win on the road, and managed to take full advantage of his crunch time minutes. For a guy who played four years in the tiny Horizon League and came into the NBA with an inconsistent jump shot, Cole isn’t one bit intimidated of the big stage, and is proving it by going toe to toe with Nate Robinson and by shooting a head-scratching 73% from downtown. Not to be outdone, Shumpert has been just a good, which is impressive on a completely different level than Norris Cole considering Shumpert is just a little over a year removed from tearing his ACL (Shumpert tore his ACL the same day as Derrick Rose did, and has been playing since January). Shumpert’s two way impact this postseason has been the most impressive facet of the Knicks postseason, even more impressive than Carmelo and JR Smith to be able to completely shoot the Knicks out of games (we’re getting there). Shumpert gets the slight edge over Cole, perhaps for degree of difficulty alone.

Is “Birdman, Birdman!” still funny?
Yupp, still funny.

How good was Game 1 of the Warriors/Spurs series?
Let me put it this way, I’ve watched a ton of playoff basketball over the last decade or so, and there are only an elite group of games that stand out as truly memorable. Not only were these all unbelievable games, but with these games I can remember where it was that I watched it, who I watched it with, and even particular events that occurred during that day and during the game itself… And I’m confident that these games will stick with me for a long while. That list looks something like this:

NOTE: I drastically cut down the number of LeBron James playoff games and just kept the ones that REALLY stick out. Realistically, I could’ve had about 25 LeBron games on here.

May 8, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) drives against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half in game two of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the AT

2002 West Finals Games 4 & 7 (Lakers vs. Kings), 2002 East Finals Game 3 (Nets at Celtics), 2003 West Semi’s Game 3 (Mavericks at Kings), 2004 West Semi’s Game 5 (Lakers at Spurs), 2005 NBA Finals Game 5 (Spurs at Pistons), 2006 West 1st Round Game 4 (Suns at Lakers), 2006 NBA Finals Game 5 (Mavericks at Heat), 2007 East Finals Games 5 & 6 (Cavaliers vs. Pistons), 2008 East Semi’s Game 7 (Cavaliers at Celtics), 2009 East 1st Round Games 1, 4, 5, & 6 (Bulls vs. Celtics), 2010 NBA Finals Game 7 (Celtics at Lakers), 2011 West Semi’s Game 4 (Thunder at Grizzlies), 2012 West 1st Round Game 1 (Clippers at Grizzlies), 2012 East Semi’s Game 4 (Heat at Pacers), 2012 East Finals Game 6 (Heat at Celtics), 2012 NBA Finals Games 4 & 5 (Thunder at Heat).

The newest addition to this list is the double overtime thriller that we were treated to in Game 1 of the ongoing Warriors/Spurs series. It had all of the elements you could possibly ask for out of a basketball game—an incredible individual performance (Curry’s 44 point, 11 assist gem), a furious 4th quarter comeback (San Antonio trailed by 16 with 4:20 left in the game), multiple overtimes, and a game winning shot with little time remaining (Manu buried a wide open 3 with 1.2 seconds left). Is there any better cinema than a close NBA game? I really don’t think so.

Is there a frequent playoff commercial better than the Pillsbury Dough Boy Geico commercial?
Absolutely not. No offense to all of the individuals who “Ate the bones”, the little kids who are about to play tackle football in the Hyundai commercial, or the guy who would humplepuff himself, but that plump little guy giggling when he is getting frisked by airport security cracks me up every single time. I would pay thousands of dollars to have him as a pet/mascot/friend if he was real.

Has the Bulls/Heat series been too physical or just typical playoff basketball?
Typical playoff basketball and anyone who says otherwise is a humplepuffing softy. Sure, there have been some plays and scuffles that have been a little bit questionable and definitely dirty, but it’s the playoffs! I don’t understand how the general public isn’t accustomed to seeing this every spring. When I’m playing a series of pick-up basketball with my friends the guys who are on the other team start to get on my nerves and things get testy between us. Why is there such an outburst when two over competitive teams who are playing for an NBA title do the same thing?

The pushing, shoving and trash talking is going to happen. There is nothing anyone can do to stop it unless the refs start calling technical fouls every time guys bump into each other or look at each other the wrong way, which would in turn ruin the flow of the game, as we’ve seen so many times in this series, and throughout the playoffs in general. Just let the competitive juices flow until it gets out of hand, which from my vantage point it only has once. Nazr Mohammed fouled LeBron James pretty hard in the open court (considering the Bulls had the numbers on the break, you could argue it was a dirty play, but I feel like it was just a hard playoff foul). LeBron reacted how any other person would. As Mohammed had him wrapped up, LeBron aggressively brushed Mohammed off of him. Again, from my vantage point, still nothing out of the ordinary in playoff basketball, and still nothing that would warrant a technical or flagrant foul. Mohammed got up, shoved LeBron who flopped to the floor, and got an ejection/standing ovation for his actions. That was the only part of that sequence of events that warranted a technical foul. Everything else should just be accepted as a staple of playoff basketball by now.

What are the odds David Lee is on deer antler spray?
If Lee was back and tossing up 20-10 games again I’d say there was a good chance, but considering his minutes have been extremely limited and he’s far from being an x-factor, I’ll say the odds are very low. Still, it seems a little fishy that Lee could come back from an injury in 12 days that was supposed to sideline him for 8 weeks. Shoot, he wasn’t even supposed to be able to walk for 4 weeks after he tore his hip flexor. Maybe he’s just the toughest man alive, or maybe his super-hot model girlfriend is giving him some super sweet loving at home that’s got him ready to get back in action, but Lee’s return poses a much more important question in the grand scheme of the playoffs: If Lee is in fact using deer antler spray, can Dwyane Wade borrow some?

I’ve been very critical of Dwyane Wade in the past (if you don’t know, that’s kind of my shtick), but I swear it’s warranted this time. I don’t want to say that Wade has been utterly terrible in the playoffs since 12.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists can’t be considered “utterly terrible.” However, I can’t sit here and say that Wade hasn’t been a complete non-factor in just about every Heat game so far. There have been a lot of times in the past where I’ve jokingly said, “Is Dwyane even playing tonight?” when he’s in the middle of an off game. But that’s become a serious question at times during these first seven games of the playoffs. He’s either been more injured than we knew (my guess, the popular choice amongst people with basketball knowledge, and a legitimate reason for Wade to experiment with deer antler spray) or he’s a little pissed off and disinterested because he lost his alpha dog role for Miami (if that’s the case then he better learn to live with it and morph into the most overqualified 2nd option in the league like he has for a good portion of the last calendar year). Either way, this needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
I haven’t given this topic of whole lot of philosophical consideration in the past, but I have to believe the answer would be yes. Then again, I’m no philosopher; I’m just an NBA fan, and the NBA version of this question is, “When Carmelo Anthony is missing 61% of his shots in the playoffs and nobody on television makes nearly as big of a deal about it as they should, does anybody else notice?” Once again, I would argue that the answer is yes. I’ve noticed. I’ve noticed that the Knicks are 2-4 in their last 6 playoff games, and Carmelo is shooting a chilly 36% from the field in those games. I’ve noticed every single contested shot that Carmelo has jacked up, and I gleefully rejoice every time he missed because it continues to make Gary Washburn look more and more like an idiot for giving his MVP vote to Carmelo Anthony, someone who at times epitomizes the term “black hole” more than anyone else in the league (Jarrett Jack may have something to say about that, but that’s a different discussion for another time).

May 11, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) takes a shot against Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) in game three of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats New York 82-71. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, Carmelo is perfectly capable of heating up in a hurry and making me look like a fool for making this overcomplicated comparison between him and a falling tree. That’s his thing. The label he gets as ”best pure scorer in the league” comes from all the times in the past when he is shooting so well that the ball might as well be on fire like in NBA Jam. Maybe Carmelo gets off the schnide and turns things around in these next few games. Or maybe he stays on the schnide and shoots the Knicks out of the playoffs.

In no more than 140 characters (Twitter style) what do the teams who have already been eliminated from the playoffs need to do to improve in the offseason?
Brooklyn Nets- Improve their heart, intensity, passion and every other buzzword that you could come up with that has to do with giving a crap.
Atlanta Hawks- Buy a lot of Dial For Men soap and try to wash off the stink of Joe Johnson’s irrelevancy. Try to get a big name in free agency too.
Boston Celtics- As a basketball fan it hurts me to say the words “The Celtics should rebuild.” As a LeBron James fan, I rejoice when hearing those words.
Milwaukee Bucks- Hijack Blake Griffin’s Kia Optima, go back to 1971, and replace the current team with that 66-16 championship team.
Denver Nuggets- Do everything they did this season, just try their hardest to avoid someone as hot as Stephen Curry in the 1st round.
Los Angeles Clippers- Fire Vinny Del Negro, then worry about re-signing Chris Paul and mending his relationship with Blake. But seriously, fire Vinny pronto.
Los Angeles Lakers- Work on signing Chris Paul, hand him the reigns until Kobe is back, and then go to war with two competitive maniacs and some added depth.
Houston Rockets- Sign Dwight Howard, build the 2009 Orlando Magic on steroids, part ways with Jeremy Lin, and make sure Harden never shaves his beard.

What do you foresee happening throughout the rest of the postseason?
Just check out the Easter Eggs. I was one year early.

My 2012 NBA Finals Predictions, featuring Easter Eggs!