It’s a weird time to be an NBA fan. The Playoffs are underway and we’ve already seen the best player in the world in King James making his best King Joffrey impersonation after a hard foul, while LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard (who?) have many people betting that the 5th-seeded Portland Trailblazers will take the Western Conference title. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers are reminding me of the day when Kanye West became more significant than Jay Z – my personified Lakers. Admittedly, this pool of young, emerging talent is exciting, but exciting might just be the cancer that’s slowly killing the league.
Speaking of the Clippers, their current bout with the Golden State Warriors has the face of a classic. The narrative is there: two young teams battling over the baton that that Spurs and Lakers have been running with for years. And, of course, they don’t like each other. Isn’t hatred the cornerstone of worthwhile match-ups? That being said, it seems like the perfect backdrop for a promising first round series, yet after three games, all that’s really
worth talking about is the talent. Since when is sports all about talent? I’m trying to remember if it was before or after Harrison Barnes looked like a forward for Arsenal F.C. Thanks Commissioner Silver!
I expected more passion, but that’s an endangered paradigm as far as the NBA is concerned. It’s interesting how all the promotional material for this series leaned against the bad blood between the two teams, yet we have Game 1 beginning with two feather-tap fouls and Blake Griffin being unavailable in pivotal situations because of a few questionable calls that kept him coolin’ on the bench. In retrospect, what we saw were the officials – safeguards of the league – having to suffocate game flow because of the league’s own packaged wholesale.
To be clear, it’s not about being a forerunner for malicious fouls; Lord knows there’re too many star players with a torn this and an injured that, as is. It’s more about the fear of 5th graders doing flop drills instead of learning how to box out and NBA referees huddling over screens to decide if a play like this is
a flagrant 2 foul and subsequent ejection.
We’re living in the Bite Your Tongue era where league execs dig for rivalries but put silencers on all the pistols. After Blake Griffin’s waterboy act in Game 2, you had to expect that Warriors fans wanted blood with Game 3 on their home floor. But as I watched the game last night, even as the Warriors rallied from behind, I kept thinking: Oakland can do better. Remember the Dallas massacre? Baron Davis and that classic 8th-seeded Warriors team out-muscled the 1st-seeded Mavericks and helped position Oracle Arena as one of the loudest, turnt up home courts in all of sports. On paper, the Mavs were the more talented team; but again, when has sports ever been all about talent? 2007 is not that long ago in NBA years, but my how the intensity of the league has changed since that upset.
Maybe I’m a bit jaded or maybe I just sound like my dad when he reflects on basketball in the ‘80s, but I can only hope that this Warriors/Clippers series – and rest of the Playoffs in general – decides not only who’s the best team, but also who’s the hungriest. Who wants it more? When answered, there’s no better sport in
the world. But that’s my opinion.