NBA Playoffs Stock Report: Round 1

I was late to the party and watched Wolf of Wall Street about a month ago. I didn’t know a thing about Wall Street prior to watching the movie so I was happy to see that being up to date on stockbroker jargon wasn’t necessary to enjoy the film. It turns out you just needed to have an appreciation for graphic nudity, explicit drug use and an exorbitant number of dropped f-bombs… it was right up my alley! To no surprise of my own, I loved the movie and loved Leo’s performance. Additionally, it spawned a greater interest in the stock market than I have had since I previously watched Mad Money with Jim Cramer just for giggles. Still, the only thing I really know about the stock market is that some stocks go up (good news) and some stocks go down (bad news). Now that Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs are finished, it’s time to check up on the NBA Stock Market. No worries, there won’t be any graphic nudity, explicit drug use or f-bombs.

UP: Adam Silver… The new Commissioner couldn’t have handled the Donald Sterling situation much better. I had been critical of Adam Silver in the past because similar to his predecessor David Stern, he didn’t really look the part. But it is absolutely crystal clear that the NBA is in terrific hands going forward if they’re the hands of Mr. Silver, the same hands that brought the metaphorical hammer down on one of the most despicable individuals who has ever been associated with the NBA. “I am banning Mr. Sterling for life” is now one of the landmark moments in NBA history, and Silver—only three months into the job—has found himself in the good graces of the owners, players, fans and media.

DOWN: Donald Sterling… A little over a year ago I was hanging out at a bar with my friend Collin over Spring Break. While we were having a dozen few beers and eating some chicken wings we encountered an older gentleman named Donny. Donny was clearly intoxicated, missing some teeth, smelled a like he hadn’t showered in a minute, doing the Gangnam Style dance, and he mooned a table of young ladies sitting next to us. In other words, he was a big hit. Against all odds, I’ve found another “Donny”, one that seems less sensical, with the times and redeemable than Donny from the bar.

UP: Damian Lillard… Ladies and gentlemen, the star of Round 1! We’re seeing a young player make a leap before our very eyes and with all due respect to LaMarcus Aldridge—emerging as a lethal Kevin Garnett/Dirk Nowitzki hybrid if that makes any sense—the 1st Round belonged to Lillard. Dame was steady all the way throughout, took over the reins after Aldridge fouled out during Game 1, and buried what will end up being one of the all-time great Playoff daggers. He knew it was going down too. Did you see his reaction? He knew it was down. Bill Simmons stated that it was a Larry Bird-esque play. In the past Kobe Bryant said he thought Lillard had some Mamba in him. I see a little bit of Chris Paul’s competitiveness/command mixed in too. Whatever the cocktail is, it’s a tasty one.

UP: House of Guards… I’m all about tandem nicknames and this one is a winner for the moment given the popularity of the Netflix original series, House of Cards. I haven’t watched the show so I turned to my friend Weston who has and asked him about the nickname.

“Pretty clever, I don’t know if they’re nasty enough though.”

Apparently Frank Underwood is a bad dude, and while Wall and Beal might not be “nasty,” they sure were effective against the Bulls. Washington has a really bright future as long as Wall and Beal are in town. Did you know that Bradley Beal is two years younger than me? God I feel old.

DOWN: Lint… Not in Drake’s house, no sirry. And not on his pants either!

May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Musical artist Drake reacts from the sideline against the Brooklyn Nets in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

UP: Drake… Probably the most high profile NBA fan right now. He came off as intelligent and extremely passionate and gave basketball in Toronto a huge push even in a losing effort to the Nets. Was there a better playoff atmosphere in the 1st Round than Toronto, where 20,000 fans were going bonkers inside the arena with at least another 10,000 fans outside going Loonie like they were a bunch of one dollar coins.

UP: Paul Pierce… So this is why they brought Paul Pierce there; to deliver daggers in Game 1, to come up with a game-winning block in Game 7, and to go toe-to-toe with Miami in Round 2. Let’s see what Brooklyn is made of. And let’s see if Pierce and Garnett have enough in the tank to dethrone the defending champions.

UP: Team Nickname Uniforms… Maybe Portland’s Rip City uniforms didn’t bring too much good karma for Portland in Game 3, but they do raise an interesting question: why don’t more teams wear nickname uniforms? The only two that I can think of off the top of my head are the aforementioned Rip City uni’s and Detroit’s Motor City threads that weren’t at all relevant because the Pistons weren’t at all relevant. Why haven’t the Rockets (Clutch City), Clippers (Lob City), Heat (South Beach… Come on, LeBron served that one up on a silver platter), Pelicans (Big Easy), Bulls (Windy City) and others taken advantage of this? It’s found money.

DOWN: Roy Hibbert… There are just so many questions to be asked. Was it the Bynum signing that shattered his confidence? Why is he playing like a 35 year old center that can’t run and lost all of his hand-eye coordination? Is it just me, or does he look 20 lbs. heavier? Was his mini-resurgence in Game 7 (13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 blocks) a sign of good things to come? Would any team trade for him at this point?

UP: Jimmer Fredette… Chicago’s offense was so frustratingly bad there were times when Weston (a Bulls fan) and myself agreed that Jimmer could’ve served actually served a purpose out there. He would’ve been carved up defensively, but still.

DOWN: Jimmer Fredette… Alas, he couldn’t get himself a minute of playing time in Chicago’s series against Washington, even though the Bulls were in dire need of some sort of offensive spark. Not a one. Actually, a spark wouldn’t have even done the job. The Bulls needed a full blown fire to survive against Washington.

DOWN: Joakim Noah… It wasn’t his fault that Chicago’s backcourt was overmatched by House of Guards, but it wasn’t a terribly strong showing for Joakim Noah, who struggled just as badly at times with the one-named enigma, Nene. I love Noah, but he definitely didn’t live up to the normal expectations of a Defensive Player of the Year winner and the winner of the Heisenberg Award, a totally fictional honor that I made up and gave to Noah before the season ended.

May 3, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and forward Blake Griffin (32) during game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Warriors 126-121 to win the series 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

UP: Golden State/Los Angeles Game 7… In a postseason with so many fantastic games already, it would be difficult to say definitively that this was the best game. But in a game with such high stakes, so many guys showed up and played well and made this one of the most captivating Game 7’s I can remember. By my count, stock went up for Chris Paul (played incredible two way basketball in the 2nd half), DeAndre Jordan (on his way to establishing himself as a legitimate two-way big man), Blake Griffin (unleashed a terrific backwards summersault late in the 4th quarter), Stephen Curry (willed himself to the free throw line 16 times, finished with 33-5-9), Draymond Green (he’s shot up the Role Player Power Rankings), Doc Rivers (the Clippers couldn’t have had a better leader throughout the series and the Sterling controversy), and Mark Jackson (he may be on the hot seat, but his players fought like hell for him in Game 7). That’s what happens in NBA Game 7’s.

UP: Miami Heat… If there is anyone enjoying all of these extended 1st Round series more than NBA fans are it’s the Miami Heat. Miami coasted through their Round 1 series against the Bobcats without having to keep that metaphorical switch flipped on for a prolonged period of time; crucial for a team that has played 383 regular season and playoff games since November 2010. How many more times can they flip that switch on before it stays permanently off? I don’t think anyone has that answer, but I have to believe the lights will go out sooner rather than later. But as long as that switch is still working and they can get to a different level of effort, execution and skill than other teams can get to, it’s hard to imagine any Eastern Conference team seriously challenging them in a best of seven series especially if the two-time defending champions are well-rested and reasonably healthy.

DOWN: James Harden’s Defense… About a week ago my Roman Empire professor asked me if I saw the James Harden Defensive Juggernaut YouTube video. We then spent the next few minutes laughing about how badly his technique is and how little he seems to care about playing defense. It’s shamefully atrocious and Portland smartly picked on him early and often.

UP: Joey Crawford’s Defense… Even Joey Crawford’s defense is better than James Harden’s. He successfully slowed down Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Not an easy task.

UP: NBA Playoff Music… Remember the age old rule: buy low and sell high. If you have stock in “Come Get It Bae” or “Timber”, you might wanna bail out now because in about two weeks everyone is going to want to drive a lint roller through their temple whenever games go to a commercial break.

UP: Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook… The Thunder duo came up large in Games 6 & 7 against Memphis, and thus hushed a lot of the media criticism. The questions were already being whispered and suggested, and would’ve only gotten louder had the Thunder fallen in Round 1… is Durant actually unreliable? Should the Thunder trade Westbrook? Why does Scott Brooks refuse to make any adjustments? Those are all mute points for now thanks to Durant’s back to back 30 point games and Westbrook’s Game 7 triple-double, but there remains pressure on the franchise and its two superstars to continue winning. How long can the dueling banjos offense continue to work? Can it get them to a championship? I guess if it’s been somewhat effective for four years, why change it now, right?

DOWN: Houston Rockets… This can’t be what Daryl Morey and the rest of the Rockets organization had in mind. Bumped in the 1st Round despite employing one of the three best centers and three best shooting guards in the league… disappointing year. My guess is this is where Carmelo Anthony ends up playing next year. I was right when I said Dwight would go to Houston and I’ll be right again. When Melo signs in Houston there will be so many question marks that even The Riddler would think it was excessive, but teams—big market teams with high expectations in particular—tend to make splashy moves when expectations aren’t met. Melo in Houston makes a big splash.

UP: The NBA… The NBA was hit with its biggest media crisis since the Tim Donaghy scandal, and they didn’t just survive it, they somehow came out of this week looking better than ever. The league and fans rallied around Adam Silver’s decision and moved on, which is exactly what needed to be done. In turn, the basketball Gods rewarded everyone with the greatest 1st Round in NBA Playoff history. Five Game 7’s, eight overtime games, two buzzer beaters and at least twelve legitimately memorable games… what did we do to get so lucky?