Saturday, April 24, 2004

Women and Basketball...II.

OK...seeing the unbelievers in the midst of the people reading my blog (Read: women*) this post goes out to them.
The REALLY beautiful game.
The aim of the game is to get the ball into the basket. Simple enough.
Presently, it's the playoff season, the postseason where the 16 best teams get to play "finals basketball" for the Larry O'Brien championship trophy, and the title of world champions. Following so far? OK.

The 16 teams are split into 2 divisions, the eastern and western conferences. The west has been the dominant conference for most of present day basketball, especially since Michael Jordan retired for the second time. There have been few teams in the eastern conference that have managed to play hard basketball the way the teams in the western conference manage to do consistently. Think of it as finesse versus power. And unfortunately, basketball tends to reward power over finesse. (Think Shaquille O'Neal, who's a 7'2, 350lb monster) See, power usually wins rebounds (or the collection of a ball after a missed shot) and the team that gets the most rebounds tends to win. Add to that the fact that playoff basketball tends to be WAY more brutal than regular season basketball and that playoff basketball means that all players in the league elevate their games (playing abilities) to new heights means that playoff games are the epitome of what NBA basketball's all about.

This year's playoffs sees a whole bunch of teams that are not playoff regulars. The Memphis Grizzlies for example are in the playoffs for the first time since their conception in Vancouver and subsequent move to Memphis. Surprising because they've managed to suck for the past couple of years but now are out there battling the San Antonio Spurs, last year's world champions. The Spurs were expected to dominate the playoff-virgin Grizzlies but the Grizzlies have been doing well enough against the champions to make the third game a very close call.

The Housten Rockets, former NBA champions themselves, went through major rebuilding when their star players either retired or were traded. They dropped to deplorable standards as part of that process and with their new star center Yao Ming, they're now back in the finals as major underdogs. The Los Angeles Lakers spent the last summer recruiting some really awesome talent to boost their already-impressive powerhouse team after being beaten by the aforementioned Spurs last year, so there should be no contest in that series of games.
Now, here's my contention with the Lakers. There is a salary cap in the NBA, meaning that you can only pay all the players on your roster a set amount of money. This was put in place so that richer teams could not hire 5 superstars (whose talents would command superstar salaries) to totally destroy all the other teams. The Lakers, being devious enough, wooed these two other superstars (to add to their other 2 superstars) with the promise of a trophy at a substantial paycut. In other words, two players on the Lakers' team aren't paid the amount of money they would be paid in other teams. All that said, the Lakers just lost a game to the Rockets, so there.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been doing very well this season despite being a finesse driven team in the western conference, or as much finesse as a western team could possibly be. They're playing the Denver Nuggets, a really mediocre team that has managed to get to the finals because of a rookie player, Carmelo Anthony. This is interesting because usually, players take a couple of years to get good to the point where they can carry a team and Anthony has managed to bring a team to the playoffs. That's impressive. Now, here's where it gets more interesting. The T-wolves have never won a playoff series. In 7 years, they have always been eliminated from the first round of the playoffs. So this is an exciting year for them as they've been performing very well.

The New Jersey Nets and the New York Knicks series would be a match made in hell, well, at least for the Knicks anyway. The Nets came out of obscurity a few years ago with the addition of superstar point guard (Sorta like a quarterback) Jason Kidd. Kidd managed to take the Nets, who were a complete nothing team, and lead them into the playoffs...not bad considering that the Nets used to be the "other Hudson river team". The Knicks (short for Knickerbockers, I kid you not) used to be a powerhouse in the NBA but have since fallen into a rather pathetic state after some retirements and ill advised trades. The Knicks were one of the rare eastern conference teams that managed to play rough and tumble basketball, a tradition that's remained with the club and considering the reversal of fortunes, the Nets / Knicks series ought to be an interesting, albeit brutal, look at knock-em-round basketball.

Well that's all for now. I think that that's basically given all you non-believers some insight into NBA basketball. Now that I've wasted two hours of my life writing this, I will end my post.

*Not meant in any way to be patronising or condescending. :)


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