The NBA playoffs come with lots of intrigue on their own. For two and a half months we are treated to the league’s best playing on the biggest stage. What if a championship weren’t the only thing that motivated players to be at their best during this time? What if the stakes could be higher? Well, my friend, I’m here to tell you that not only could they be, but they are. Here are the best hidden storylines of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
Indiana Pacers (1) versus Atlanta Hawks (8): If it feels like we’ve seen this before, it’s because we have…last year. The Pacers took the opening round series from the Hawks 4-2, meaning that Atlanta will look to up the ante with Pacers. After all, they’re clearly the underdogs here and having some extra incentive here won’t hurt.
If Atlanta wins, Indiana has to…watch game three of last year’s first round series where the Hawks won 90-69. The Pacers had 22 turnovers in this game and shot 27.2 percent from the floor and 16 percent from three in the contest. To put this in perspective: Indiana turned the ball over one-in-five times they touched the ball and had an offensive rating of 73 on the night. This may actually constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
If Indiana wins, Atlanta has to...sign Jamaal Tinsley to be their starting point guard for next season. In 2001, the Hawks traded Tinsley to the Pacers for a first round pick that eventually became Boris Diaw. Therefore, the Hawks would have to make Tinsley their starting point guard for the 2014-’15 season. This is serious because Tinsley is 36 years old and played disappointingly in the eight games he played for the Jazz this season.
Miami Heat (2) versus Charlotte Bobcats (7): The Bobcats have made the playoffs for the second time in franchise history and will look to leave behind the Bobcats name with as big of a bang as possible. For the Heat, they look to make the Bobcats another stepping stone to their third consecutive championship.
If Charlotte wins, Miami has to…make Byron Mullens and Gana Diop their starting frontcourt. Seriously, this series should be in-hand for the Heat. And if they think a first round upset is pain, try watching those two for an entire season. Though, with LeBron James and playing in the Eastern Conference, Miami would probably still make the playoffs next season. Top-four even! Life just isn’t fair sometimes.
If Miami wins, Charlotte has to…have their Mayor acknowledge that Alonzo Mourning will always be a Miami Heat first before a Hornet. You may (or may not) remember, but back in 1995 the Heat and Hornets made a trade involving ‘Zo and Glen Rice as the centerpieces. Yeah, I may be reaching since technically the old Charlotte Hornets history belongs to New Orleans, but it’s the principle of the matter. Winner gets ‘Zo, it’s that simple.
Toronto Raptors (3) versus Brooklyn Nets (6): This is one series that is incredibly tough to figure out since this series just feels so even. Yet, that should be all the more reason to light a fire under both of these teams and make this series even more intriguing. These two teams last met in the first round back in 2007 and the Nets took the series 4-2.
If Toronto wins, Brooklyn has to…have to petition the NBA to have the NBA history books scrubbed of the trade in 2004 that sent Vince Carter from Toronto to New Jersey for a package that included Alonzo Mourning. Why is this such a big deal? Well, it was a little embarrassing for the Raptors. Mourning was in the latter stages of his career had little interest in going to Toronto and flat-out refused to report, resulting a two-month staring contest that resulted in Toronto waiving the center. Mourning would sign three weeks later with the Miami Heat.
If Brooklyn wins, Toronto has to…swap Jonas Valanciunas for the Nets’ first round pick in 2015. I know what you’re thinking, “That’s not fair,” and that may be true since Brooklyn owes Boston their first rounder this year, but life isn’t fair, and Mikhail Prokhorov cares not for your fair; he cares about winning, and want better way to insure themselves against Brook Lopez’s injury concerns than insurance in the form of a good young center? You may be asking, does this work financially, and I doubt it, but they’ll have to make it happen.
Chicago Bulls (4) versus Washington Wizards (5): This is strange: three of the four Eastern conference matchups have met in the first round of the playoffs in the last decade. Not that it matters; it’s just a funny coincidence. Yet, like every series, this would could use an even juicier storyline.
If Chicago wins, Washington has to…trade John Wall’s knees for Derrick Rose’s. I’m not making light of knee injuries– speaking from personal experience, they’re the worst –but this way the Bulls could see the return of Rose even sooner. That means we get Rose sooner. I have no idea if this is even ethical, but I’m sure Kobe Bryant’s German platelet doctor knows a guy who can Frankenstein swap a pair of knees in no time.
(Please, Wizards, I like John Wall. Don’t do this to him.)
If Washington wins, Chicago has to…trade Tom Thibideau for Randy Wittman should Thibs actually leave Chicago. Of course this is based off of the rumors of a rift between Thibideau and the Bulls front office, so this should be taken with a grain of salt, but the Bulls will be extra motivated with this hanging over them.
San Antonio Spurs (1) versus Dallas Mavericks (8): Each of these teams have been good for the better part of two decades now, and have had some thrilling battles in the postseason. The last time these two teams met, the Mavericks bounced the Spurs in the first round en route to their first NBA title. Knowing the Spurs, they’d probably rather sit out this silly game and focus on basketball. Well, I’m not having it, and they too will play my reindeer games.
If the San Antonio wins, Dallas has to…have Mark Cuban publicly admit that Michael Finley once told him that being a Spur was waaaaaaaay better than being a Maverick*. If you remember, Finley spent nine years of his career with Dallas before joining San Antonio for five.
If Dallas wins, San Antonio has to…pose for the team picture wearing Jae Crowder wigs. Imagine Greg Poppovich, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili with Crowder’s long flowing dreads. What more incentive could you need?
Oklahoma City Thunder (2) versus Memphis Grizzlies (7): Kids, when I was growing up these teams were called the “Seattle Sonics” and the “Vancouver Grizzlies.” Now, all you kids go around with your skateboards, punk rock music and Kevin Durant jerseys. You never saw Shawn Kemp! You never saw Gary Payton! You never saw…Shareef Abdur-Rahim? Yeah! Let me tell you what would make this series even more interesting.
If Oklahoma City wins, Memphis has to…re-sign one of Darko Milicic and Marko Jaric. I don’t care which one, and since these two teams have split their previous postseason meetings 1-1, they should be able to choose. Pro-tip: one comes with a sad seven-footer and the other comes with Adriana Lima.
If Memphis wins, Oklahoma City has to…get a better third jersey. Okay, this isn’t my best work, but they really need a better alternate to match the quality of the players wearing them.
Los Angeles Clippers (3) versus Golden State Warriors (6): Finally, a matchup we have no historical precedent for. This is a chance for these teams to really make this a memorable matchup despite being loaded with many terrific players already. Let’s make this really interesting, shall we?
If Los Angeles wins, Golden State has to…allow Steph Curry to be studied by science for the jump shooting gene. Identifying the gene and figuring out how to manufacture it would greatly improve the play of Wednesday night rec league teams around the country, and of course the NBA.
If Golden State wins, Los Angeles has to…admit that they’ve never actually seen Cliff and Chris Paul in the same room together. This would be such a large-scale scandal that it would rock the Association to its very core.
Houston Rockets (4) versus Portland Trail Blazers (5): Unlike our last matchup, these two have quite a bit of history. The Rockets are 10-4 against the Blazers all-time in the post season, last meeting in 2009. What’s more is that these two provide each other with a steady trading partner, having swapped the likes of Clyde Drexler and Scottie Pippen over the years. Because of this I can’t see a better reason for them to raise the stakes further.
If Houston wins, Portland has to…reverse the 2008 draft day trade that sent Nic Batum from Houston to Portland. This one is a doozy since the list of other players involved was: Donte Green, Sam Young, Darrell Arthur, and Joey Dorsey. Now, I’m not asking for the trade to be replicated in reverse; it would be perfectly fine if they did it with each team’s current rosters. Heck, this might motivate Houston more than anybody.
If Portland wins, Houston has to…declare that from here on, the Dream Shake will now be known as the “Hasheem Shake.” Look, I don’t want to take any more legends from team’s histories, so I think this is a good compromise. The Dream Shake is legendary because of Hakeem Olajuwon, and Houston would hate to have that taken away from them. Especially since Hasheem Thabeet played just seven games for the Rockets in his tenure.
There you have it: the NBA playoffs aren’t as simple as they may seem. Each team has a reason to be successful other than a championship and avoiding an early summer. Some are playing for pride, their reputation, and in some cases, their history. Never forget, this is serious.