Everyone’s talking about Donald Sterling, but the real action is on the hardwood. Each team has a few players with an interesting story to get you hooked.
I know this headline gender-stereotypes, but let’s face it — it’s more likely there’s a male that wants to watch the game with his unwilling female counterpart.
Western Conference – Oklahoma City Thunder vs. LA Clippers
1. LA Clippers (the team with the racist owner)
This guy in all the KIA commercials with 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer is Blake Griffin. He had a reputation for just being an athletic dunker, but has really improved this season and is arguably considered to be a top five player in the league. He’s still a really good dunker.
He’s the object of a lot of envy in the league since he’s very popular, has a lot of endorsements, (being in LA helps), but hasn’t really won anything, (he’s been as far as the second round). He frequently gets roughed up, but usually keeps his composure.
Griffin has performed improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade, so he’s alright in my book.
Chris Paul is the guy in all those State Farm commercials with his twin brother Cliff. He doesn’t really have a twin brother.
What he does have is though — is mad point guard skills. He’s considered the best in the league.
J.J. Redick’s brilliant Duke career didn’t immediately translate at the next level, and he struggled in his six and a half seasons with Orlando and half a season with Milwaukee, but he is a key piece for the Clippers. He has not only maintained his 3 point shooting, but he’s a better passer and defender. Most women consider him quite hot.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Supersonics)
Kevin Durant is the giant in these really mediocre Sprint commercials. He’s really not that tall, but he is pretty tall (6’9”).
He’s also really good. He just won the MVP. LeBron James is still considered the better all around player, but Durant had a better season. What makes him unique is that he has a forward’s body, but moves and shoots like a guard. It’s debatable whether him or Golden State’s Stephen Curry has the sweeter shooting stroke.
If Durant has one Achilles heel, it’s his teammate — point guard Russell Westbrook. Westbrook played shooting guard at UCLA, but his body is better suited (6’3”, 200 lbs.) for point guard in the NBA.
The result is that he’s a shooting guard in a point guard’s body, and although he is really good — considered a top 10 player in the league — he’s not exactly the best fit for Durant considering Durant is — you know — the MVP.
Speaking of, Durant gave a really moving speech accepting his MVP award and told a story about how him, his brother and mom were sitting in their furniture-less apartment and holding each other because they thought they “made it.” Hard not to love this guy. The NBA loved it so much, they made it into a commercial.
Serge Ibaka is the Thunder’s third best player. He’s a shot blocking beast, and had a dunk contest scenario where a little kid had his teddy bear stuck on the rim, so he returned it by dunking — so he’s probably pretty good with kids.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Portland Trailblazers
3. San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker is the guy that was married to Eva Langoria. He’s also a very good point guard. He’s not the quickest or most athletic guy out there, but he’s one of the wiliest.
Oh, and you know his divorce from Langoria? It was supposedly because he was having a thing with a teammate’s wife. So, stay away from Tony Parker.
Tim Duncan may appear to be a boring dude, but he is the best big man the league has seen in quite some time.
Manu Ginobili is the Argentinian guy with the bald spot on his head. He’s been around forever.
4. Portland Trailblazers
Portland has one of the country’s best fan bases. One reason is because it’s the only professional sport in the city, and the other is that they won the 1977 NBA Finals as an underdog.
The current team’s hero is Damian Lillard. He has an amusing Adidas commercial poking fun at great players who have never won a championship. He surprises kids with toy store shopping sprees. But best of all, he hit a storybook-like three pointer to beat the Houston Rockets in the first round.
It’s only his second year in the league, and he’s already one of the most exciting point guards in the game, so there’s a lot to look forward to.
LaMarcus Aldridge brings an old-school, back-to-the-basket style to the game. The Moneyball analytics craze has been in basketball for a while now, and many teams, (like the Rockets) build their rosters around players that can get them the most analytics-friendly shots — the corner three, and anything around the basket — whether it be a layup or a dunk.
Aldridge’s bread-and-butter is a mid-range jumper — a shot some deem as inefficient. It’s considered old-school and old-man, but I consider it a thing of beauty.
Eastern Conference – Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets
5. Miami Heat
If you still hate LeBron James for shafting the Cavaliers in 2010, just stop it and appreciate the once-in-a-generation man-beast that is LBJ. He’s that good.
LeBron is also really smart. So smart, that he knows the little nuances of how his defenders are defending him and uses it to his advantage. He’s sort of like a chess master, but for basketball.
“I’m able to calibrate what is going on throughout the game no matter what situation that I am in,” LeBron said in the ESPN article on mentioned above.
Dwyane Wade is near the end of his prime and Chris Bosh would be a number one option on a lesser team. Oh, he was the number one option with the Toronto Raptors.
6. Brooklyn Nets (formerly the NJ Nets)
They might as well be called “Celtics South” as the Nets acquired past-their-prime former Celtic All-Stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. They’re the most popular, but not the most talented (if this were 2008, it would be a different story) players on the team.
Joe Johnson, their most talented player, has zero personality and their “franchise” point guard Deron Williams is either hurt or mopey. Once upon a time, there was an argument whether Williams or Chris Paul was the best point guard in the league. Now, he’s lucky if he sniffs the top fifteen.
Hence, despite spending years as the Knicks forgotten bastard cousin across the Hudson in NJ, they continue to play second fiddle behind them as they continue to search for an identity.
Washington Wizards vs. Indiana Pacers
7. Washington Wizards
Brad Beal is a one-and-done Florida shooting guard. He shoots well, he’s strong, and he’s only 20.
John Wall is a one-and-done Kentucky Calipari point guard. He is fast. I mean lightning quick fast. He has a horrible jumpshot.
My friend Iggy (@Igersheim) is a Wizards fan and is not as excited by Wall as I am. I love his athleticism and speed, but Iggy despises his low field goal percentage. My argument is that he can improve his shot, but you can’t teach hops.
Iggy also lives in the neighborhood where Kevin Durant grew up and he’ll show up at the local court during the summer. Iggy has no desire to see the world’s greatest scorer hoop in person quite literally in his backyard — this frustrates me to no end.
(Wall just shot 11/20 tonight. Take that, Iggy!)
8. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have been the world’s most interesting team. They started off the season like gangbusters, and everyone was wishing we’d just fast-forward to the inevitable Pacers/Heat Eastern Conference Finals rematch.
Then, something mysterious happened and they looked a lottery team in the second half of the season. The question is which Pacer team will show up each night: Regular Pacers or Bizarro Pacers?
Paul George is part of their precipitous decline and rise, as there was talk of him being the MVP in the beginning of the season. He fell off, but has picked up his game lately.
Roy Hibbert has virtually disappeared with some games with zero points and/or rebounds. He also picked it up lately but his story is more interesting.
Hibbert is said to be a very sensitive, nice guy. He’s had a few cameos on Park and Recreation as Tommy’s (Aziz Ansari) hired hand at Entertainment 720.
The Pacers acquired center Andrew Bynum to add insurance in the front line. Bynum used to be really good, but injuries and apathy (he got injured bowling) have derailed a once promising career.
Coincidence or not, Hibbert’s numbers started plummeting after Bynum’s arrival. During the playoffs, the Pacers released Bynum and Hibbert improved.
The lesson: seven-foot centers have feelings too, you know.
So there you have it — turn off the Real Housewives, and turn on the playoffs!