No punditry today, but I'll link you to some good stuff:
I blame my aggressively-caching browser for not seeing KnickerBlogger's update on the first round question (which I touched on last night).
Sunday's two games underscores the point between the first and second round games. The early game, a first rounder between the Heat and Hornets, meant little to me. It wasn't because it wasn't exciting, because tempers were flaring all over the court. One reason was that I couldn't imagine either of these teams beating Indy in 7 games, and then the winner of Detroit/NJ on the road. The other was that it game 6 of the series. The Hornets were fighting for their lives, but Miami wasn't. The other tournaments I mentioned above are all single elimination. Each game is important for both teams, not just the one with their backs against the wall. Tthe longer series makes each individual game less important as well.
The second round matchup between the Lakers & Spurs was another story. Since both of these teams have won the last 5 titles, I felt that the winner could possibly go all the way. The Lakers were the early season favorites, with their new additions of Payton & Malone. It was a GREAT game to watch. Even though it was only one game, it was the first of the series, and an upset on the Spurs floor would have tilted the series in the Lakers favor. That the winner of this series still has to face the winner of Minnesota/Sacramento to just reach the Finals is an awesome thought.
To conclude, really low seeds (7th & 8th) have virtually no chance of getting far in the playoffs. You can't eliminate the first round altogether, because as pointed out by Kevin, 5th & 6th seeds do have a (very slim) chance of making a magical run. I can't think of a playoff format that would make the first round more exciting without going to single elimination, or even a quick best of 3. The NBA will never allow such a hit on their wallets, even if it would make the game more exciting for their fans.
Yes, it would nice to have the first round more 'exciting'....but you can't
have it both ways. If you want a second round matchup like the Lakers/Spurs and
Minnesota/Sacremento, you cannot also have a best of 3 or single-elimination 1st
round. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to set the VCR for Hornets/Heat game 12.
Not everyone roots for the underdog
I know that everyone is peeved that the first round is taking so long. I think the Hornets/Heat series has been going on longer than the entire series run of 'Century City'. While the first round could be shortened by not having every game having exclusive TV coverage, Knickerblogger says cut the series back to best of 5:
I mean seriously, the only underdog that might win their series is the Hornets who are tied 2-2 in their series so far. 4 teams have already moved on to the next round, and 3 others are up 3-1. Is it me, or does this smack of the greatest scam of all time? How many millions is the NBA making from having about 40 extra games played with packed arenas and almost prime time television? All for what? The 5% chance that a 6th, 7th, or 8th seed might upset a better team, just to most be crushed in the next round anyway? Off the top of my head I can't think of a team past seed #5 that went two rounds other than the strike season Knicks. So can anyone tell me what's the point of the first round?
I don't know the actual percentage of lower seeds that make it past the 1st round, but I for one like the idea of making that chance minimal. I'm being serious, I can last through a non-competitive first round to get these juicy second-round matchups. Lakers-Spurs. Wolves-Kings. Nets-Pistons. Indy-Some crappy team. Well 3 out of 4 aint bad.
What if Memphis somehow upset the Spurs? The Knicks beat the Nets? Not only would the second rounds for those teams be laughers, we would be hearing all the cryin over low TV ratings and supposed decline of the NBA. I am glad I get more basketball, and there are no sacrificial lambs in the second round. I'm so amped about the Lakers/Spurs series I think my head will explode. Rockets-Grizzlies? They're underdogs for a reason, they're not as good. And I want my playoffs to see the best playing the best.
Sorry about the long layoff between posts. I've had a pretty busy week for once, but that's no excuse I could've done a little up date here or there. Anyway, rest assured if it happens again, assume I'll be back soon enough. There's always plenty around the league to talk about even if the Bulls are currently dormant. So on to the task at hand:
With apologies to Knickerblogger, I hate the Knicks. Like, a lot. I suppose there's no good reason for it, it could be from the Pat Riley teams challenging the dynasty Bulls, or just general Midwest paranoia. But what I really think the problem I have is that the national media thinks its a crime against humanity if the Knicks are bad. Like they don't have to rebuild like all teams do, that free agents will just flock there and bring the Knicks back to prominence. They fail to see that the salary cap doesn't care whether your in a big or small market. You have to be smart to win, and the Knicks salary management hasn't been for a while.
The moves this year by new GM Isiah Thomas were universally lauded because he was bringing excitement to the Knicks again, and they had a star in town..or should I say "star-bury" (hahahahaha). Talking heads around the league said that Isiah proved they didn't have to start over. Dopes like Steven A. Smith had them challenging for the Eastern Conference crown. While starting out well, the new-look Knicks faded down the stretch, and were promptly swept by the Nets.
I concede that Marbury is a top-notch player, but I never liked the trade from the Knicks' standpoint. They were upgrading their team to a little above mediocre, and giving them no flexibility in the future. Surprisingly, it was Bill Simmons (the sports guy) who recently stepped out and said what was on my mind. Apparently there wasn't a Real World marathon that day:
You can guess where I stand. Right after Isiah Thomas was hired last December, I predicted in The Magazine that he would run the team into the ground. This franchise was already headed nowhere -- no cap space, no All-Stars, little hope. It was a situation thatcried for patience. Whomever took over for the Artist Formerly Known As Scott Layden needed to blow everything up, create cap room and start over. In other words, the Danny Ainge Approach -- clean house, make some panic trades, ignore the cap -- couldn't possibly work here.
The Jerry West Approach seemed like a much better plan. Take your time. Stockpile assets. Only deal from strength. Think four years instead of four months. And most importantly, don't panic.
Isiah? He panicked.
Unable to wait even three weeks after moving into his new office, Isiah pulled a Jim Fassel and pushed his chips to the middle of the table, dealing his few tradeable assets (two coveted Europeans, two first-rounders and cash) for Marbury and Penny Hardaway -- two more ghastly contracts -- in the process, blowing his long-term cap flexibility to smithereens and insuring that the 2006 Knicks would look exactly like the 2004 Knicks.
That last line really sends it home. There isn't much the Knicks can do to get any better. The draft will be a hard road, especially since they have 2 future first rounders gone (including this year). Their only chance is getting lucky with the mid level exemption, hoping that a low-post scorer can take a pay-cut to play there. But such a player has become a hot enough commodity that even someone like Eric Dampier commands big bucks.
So while the Knicks are certainly playoff caliber, I just don't see a bright future. Their only tradeable assets left are Sweetney and Frank Williams, and Isiah will probably send them packing soon. While a team like the Bulls are god-awful, at least they have nice trading chips like the 3 Cs, a big man with only 2 years left on his deal like Antonio Davis, and a very high draft pick. Having assets like that is what can make a productive offseason, while Isiah will be busy trying to turn water to wine.