This time next week, as we tuck our dogs in to our beds and our cats jump on our chests as we begin to drift in to sleep, we’ll be dreaming of playoff basketball and the joys that postseason hoops brings along with it. It will be the greatest time of the year and we will all high-five each other as we walk down the street, knowing deep in our hearts that we are all at our happiest.
For this last week, however, it’s a bunch of almost meaningless games that we have to struggle through. Bad teams tanking, good teams choosing to rest their best players and average teams being the Bobcats. But there’s one last thing that’s of interest during this week — playoff positioning and the scheming that goes along with it. Because of that, we finally get teams being honest about who they want to play in the first round. First, George Karl of the Denver Nuggets, from ESPN:
“If we had to pick and choose on it, we would probably say 55 percent Dallas, 45 percent Oklahoma City, only because Oklahoma City is athletic like we are and they have two great players,” Denver coach George Karl told Ian Fitzsimmons of ESPN 103.3 FM’s Galloway and Company, referring to Thunder forward Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook. “They have two All-Stars who are really in their prime and have never won on the playoff stage. I just think right now our speed might have more effect against Dallas than it will against Oklahoma City.”
Very fair, very honest, very well considered. Of all the teams in the Western Conference, the only team scarier than the Thunder are the Nuggets. Since the Nuggets are the Nuggets, they don’t have to worry about themselves, but the Thunder are going to be a tough out so avoiding them isn’t such a bad idea. Not to mention, the Mavericks have been struggling mightily as of late, losing for straight games heading in to the season’s last week. Cannot blame you, George Karl. Thanks for being forthright with this information.
As for the Lakers, not so much. They’ll cop to who they don’t want to play, but they’re not going to put their name to it. From the Los Angeles Times:
Based on the four players who were willing to trade their honesty in exchange for anonymity, three of them equally expressed concern about Portland and Memphis, while one other believed the Grizzlies would be the toughest opponent.
Ha ha! The Lakers are totally scared of the Trail Blazers and Grizzlies. And they should be. Kinda. As much as any two-time defending champion should be scared of a seventh seed, I guess.
But not really. The Lakers are 3-0 against Trail Blazers heading in to tonight’s matchup, and they’re 2-2 against the Grizzlies. Sure, they’re 4-0 against the Hornets — the other team the Lakers might see in the first round — but I don’t really think the Lakers are too worried about dodging any first round opponents.
Not to mention, as Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe points out, the Lakers don’t have a whole lot of say in who they face next week. They might prefer one team over another, but a) they can’t do anything about it and b) it doesn’t really matter. They’re the Lakers. They’ll take it easy, drop some games to get people worked up, then win the series in six like they always do.
Nonetheless, even though the Lakers are all Sammy Secrets about it, it’s interesting to hear players and/or coaches admitting that a certain team scares them. Players get blasted for even admitting that another team affects them in any way, so this sort of candor is a bit unusual. I mean, if the Lakers do draw the Grizzlies, you don’t think Tony Allen’s going to mention how Los Angeles is scared of them? Or if the Mavs face the Nuggets, don’t you think this article’s going on the Dallas bulletin board? This is like a little timebomb of conflict. Love it.
So please, let’s hear who every single player and coach does and doesn’t want to face in the first round. All it can lead to is more animosity between the teams, and that always makes things more exciting. Get on it.