The NBA playoffs tipped off this past weekend, and boy do we have a lot to talk about. So let’s do it. This week’s edition of This & That focuses on the NBA playoffs.
We’ll start in Chicago, where the Bulls beat Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon but suffered a tremendous blow to their title chances when Derrick Rose blew out his left knee late in the game. First of all, I’d like all the people (Bulls fans) to stop bemoaning the fact that Rose was in the game that late with the outcome seemingly in hand. It’s the NBA playoffs. If you aren’t going to play your best guys, then don’t even bother. There was 1:22 left, and Chicago’s lead had been cut to twelve points. If you aren’t going to have Rose in the game then, I don’t know when you would have him in the game. And I don’t think Rose would complain that he was on the court at that time, either. Players are competitive. They want to play. Rose is no different.
Then there was Coach Tom Thibodeau’s assertion that the injury was not a “death sentence.” Maybe it isn’t against a team like Philadelphia (the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference). But I think the Bulls would be hard pressed to beat Miami or some of the other teams in the East without their best player. Sure, they went 18-9 without Rose, but they also lost to teams like New Jersey, Portland and Washington without him. By the way, they also lost to playoff teams like Oklahoma City, Denver, New York, Miami and Boston without Rose on the floor. In short, this Chicago team will be hard pressed to make a title run without Rose leading the way.
The Boston Celtics are probably going to lose their point guard as well, but for a very different reason. Rajon Rondo is going to get suspended for bumping the ref during Sunday’s Game One loss to the Atlanta Hawks. I don’t care if it was just a little bump. You do not touch the referee if you are a player. It’s just something you do not do. The league and David Stern are going to slap Rondo with some sort of suspension. I doubt it will be a major suspension, but the Celtics better be prepared to be without him for at least a couple of games.
This is another example of the maturity issues that Rondo must overcome. Those issues were one of the reasons there was trade talk surrounding him at one point in time. The Celtics cannot afford to lose Rondo, and they surely cannot afford to lose him during the playoffs. It’s one thing if they lose him because of injury. It’s another thing if they lose him because he does something stupid. And on Sunday, he did something stupid.
We’ll stay in the Eastern Conference, where the Knicks managed to make LeBron James very angry and that’s not something you want to do. In the second quarter of Game One on Saturday, James was the victim of a hard screen by New York’s Tyson Chandler. It wasn’t deserving of the flagrant foul that wound up being called, but it was a hard foul and it ticked James off. All he did was go off for 32 points as the Heat blew out New York by 33, 100-67.
So the Knicks are already behind the proverbial eight ball, and now they lose Iman Shumpert to a torn ACL. I don’t see how the Knicks can even win a game against the Heat at this point. They are a banged up team. Miami is simply the more talented team. And judging by the excellent feature that I read about James in Sports Illustrated, they seem more motivated than ever.
I wouldn’t be surprised if New York got swept, which will lead to all kinds of speculation about Mike Woodson’s future as head coach. Woodson has done a pretty good job since taking over for Mike D’Antoni, but you would think New York will – at least – kick the tires on Phil Jackson. Who knows? Maybe James Dolan will call Isiah Thomas (I am serious). He is available, after all.
You might have been asleep by the time the Clippers stormed back from a 27-point deficit to beat the Memphis Grizzlies in the first game of their opening round series, but I hope you caught the highlights. It was nothing short of amazing. It gave you a glimpse of what the Clippers can be with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
I don’t think the Clippers are going to win the NBA Championship. I think they need more time together. And I don’t have a lot of confidence in coach Vinny Del Negro. But, they are still one of the league’s most exciting teams, and their future is bright.
Memphis, on the other hand, has a lot to think about. They blew a gigantic lead. They blew that lead on their own home court. Coach Lionel Hollins has a lot of work to do to get his team in the right frame of mind after losing that game. It’s the kind of loss that can have a lingering effect on a team. It’s the kind of loss that can snowball. Memphis got rocked by a heavy sot to the jaw Sunday night (to borrow a boxing term). I’m not sure whether they can recover or not. To use another boxing term, their legs (right now) are ‘rubbery.’