Friday, April 17, 2009

The NBA Playoffs For Dummies

The National Basketball Association playoffs start this Saturday and chances are you don't care. We know this; you're a comedy nerd and are probably allergic to any organized professional sport.

But you really should be watching. Unlike other professional sports, NBA players have personalities, styles and eccentricities that you can latch onto. It's about time you became familiar with the game.

So, we've broken down all sixteen teams that made it to the post-season and have given you a few tidbits to help you navigate this seemingly endless process. Gregg Gethard handles the Western Conference and Dave Walk handles the Eastern.


1. Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers are the NBA’s glory team, beloved by celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Ashton Kutcher and Penny Marshall. Seemingly, the only Hollywood celebrity who does not like the Lakers is Frankie Muniz, the former star of Malcolm in the Middle, and a lifelong Los Angeles Clippers fan.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Kobe Bryant. Kobe remains, to this day, one of the most lethal players in professional basketball. Off the court, he’s known for allegedly raping Colorado-area hotel clerks as well as uncomfortably awkward live rap performances.

2. Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets, for years, have been known for their wildly inconsistent play, particularly during stretch time, making them sort of a super coked up version of Mitch Hedburg but as a basketball team instead of a popular stand-up comedian.
PLAYER(S) TO WATCH: Leading the team is superstar Carmelo Anthony, who makes an appearance in a Stop Snitchin’ video which is geared to help build trust between police and inner-city residents. Chris “The Birdman”Anderson made a stunning return to the NBA, after having to sit out due to drug problems and the shame of missing 15 dunks in a row during the 2005 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

3. San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs have been title contenders for what seems like half of my lifetime. They’re a consistently great team built around solid character guys who never get into trouble or find themselves in controversy. Yet, they’re wildly despised by NBA fans, despite being the team least likely to be involved in a pit bull fighting ring.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Michael Finley. NBA veteran Michael Finley is headed towards the end of his remarkable career. The two-time all-star has been playing in the league since 1995. Finley has been known as a consistent player and as the NBA player most likely to be confused with a homeless panhandler.

4. Portland TrailBlazers: The TrailBlazers have the best collection of young talent the NBA has seen in years. Portland-area basketball fans are excited, but can only feign interest so much as not to lose their indie cred.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Greg Oden. Oden was the first pick in the NBA Draft two seasons ago. He sat out last year after having knee surgery and showed flashes of potential this season. Oden has also taken improv lessons, but has made no decision about trying out for a PHIT Team.

5. Houston Rockets: The Rockets’ lost Tracy McGrady, the team’s leading scorer and most well-known player, for the season. After his injury, they were about 35 times better. This is the exact opposite of what happened to NBC’s The Today Show after Katie Couric left, because my morning’s have never been better.
PLAYER TO WATCH: The Immortal Ron Artest. Artest is a legend for starting riots during basketball games, for abruptly ending his basketball career to make rap albums and, most hilariously, for taking a part-time job at BestBuy while playing in the NBA to get an employee discount. What hs been completely forgotten is that Ron Artest is actually a really awesome basketball player.

6. Dallas Mavericks: It was only a few seasons ago when the Mavs were on top of the world. They were within two games of being NBA champions and were led by Dirk Nowitzki, named the league’s MVP. Then, they became what they are now – an uninteresting playoff team that no one really cares about anymore. They’re kind of like The White Stripes in a way.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Kidd. Kidd is one of the NBA’s all-time great point guards, blessed with impeccable court vision and timing. He also was the husband in an all-time stormy athlete marriage. In divorce filings, his ex-wife Joumana claimed he hit her with a cookie, amongst other objects.

7. New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets appeared to be an up-and-coming team last year, but struggled at times this season. But they’re still dangerous, as they’re led by Chris Paul, a guy who should get a lot more acclaim and attention than he does. They’re a one-man show. Speaking of one-man shows, you should check out Dave Walk’s great interview with The State’s Kevin Allison, who was in town last week to perform his own one-man show. See what I did there? I’m awesome.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Rasual Butler, who went to La Salle when I did, and was one of the all-time biggest ball hogs. Seriously – anytime he touched the ball, he jacked up a shot. It was hilarious. Plus, everyone knows that Donnie Carr was the best player on those teams. And La Salle would have been a Final Four team if Donnie didn’t try and play though pneumonia.

8. Utah Jazz: There have been many consistencies in my life since I turned 12-years-old. I’ve never been good at science. I’ve always had low self-esteem. And the Utah Jazz have always been in the playoffs. The man who holds the team together is head coach Jerry Sloan, who once threatened to beat up Ricky Davis. Davis, who then played on the Cleveland Cavs, tried to get triple double by intentionally shooting (and missing) at his own rim to get a rebound with only a few seconds left. Watch it here, and pay close attention to the :22 mark, where Sloan makes one of the funniest faces in coaching history.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Andrei Kirilenko, who was at one point one of the best players in the league and had one of the most versatile skill-sets of his era. Kirilenko has since become frustratingly average. On the bright side, Kirilenko’s wife allows him to bang a groupie once a year. Kirilenko’s wife, by the way, is off-the-charts hot, particularly for those of us who have odd fetishes for Eastern European women. I may have said too much. - Gregg Gethard


1. Cleveland Cavaliers: The clear cut favorite to win the title this year, the Cavs possess a shutdown defense, an incredible backcourt and the biggest star in the game in Lebron James. It is this team's destiny to win the championship and bring hope and resolve to the post-industrial depression that is the city of Cleveland. If there is to be any faith in humanity and logic in this world, this team will be celebrating with a trophy raised at the end of this year. If not, God help us all as Cleveland may just explode due to the lack of a championship since 1964.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Lebron James, small forward and the overall best player in the league with his mystical pre-game ritual that has caught the imagination of fans across the entire league. I find it weird that fans of the opposing team will cheer this while they are secure in the knowledge that he's going to demolish their team mere minutes later.
[FULL DISCLOSURE: The author is a huge Cavs fan.]

2. Boston Celtics: The Celtics have taught us a lot over the last few years: anything's possible (and that you look good tonight, girl), you can be taken off the court in a wheelchair and come back later in the game and that a guy named Big Baby will cry on the bench sometimes. They're the defending world champs but have had a somewhat rocky season this year, due in part to power forward Kevin Garnett's prolonged knee injury.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce, small forward. With emotional, spiritual and physical leader of the team Kevin Garnett probably out for the entire playoffs, PP will have to carry the team on both sides of the ball more than usual. Yes, PP will definitely have to step up even more and let everyone know that he, PP, means business. PP will have to do all that PP possibly can.

3. Orlando Magic: The Magic are a sharp shooting 3-point team that are always ready to go on a run that will leave you in the dust (the "you" only makes sense if you are a NBA player reading this). When he's not getting tea bagged by a 5' 9" New York Knickerbocker, Dwight Howard is one of the most dominant players in the game. Plus, President Obama gave small forward Hedo Turkoglu a shoutout during a recent speech to the Turkish Parliament, so they've got that going for them. The Magic are dangerous and if Howard can ever get mad like The Hulk, everyone's going to be running away scared. Luckily, he's just too much of a "nice guy" (see teabagging comment above).
PLAYER TO WATCH: Point guard Jameer Nelson, from the bench because he's out with a shoulder injury. People from Philly love to tell you that he went to St. Joe's as they recount the fun years of their life. So when I'm watching this game and they show a shot of Nelson in street clothes on the bench, I'm sure I'll hear it again.

4. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks are the quietest team in the whole playoffs that no one really seems to know about. Ok, let's move on.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Shooting guard Joe Johnson averages 21.4 points per game (non-basketball fans: this is really good) but is still underrated across the league even though he was in this year's illustratious H.O.R.S.E. competition. What other barely televised All Star weekend competition does a guy have to do to get some respect in this league?

5. Miami Heat: I really can't find much to write about this team besides that Dwayne Wade is insanely good. So there, Dwayne Wade.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Dwayne Wade, shooting guard. One of the most dynamic and dominant players in the game, Wade is one of the few players that can potentially will his team to win all by himself. If you don't know anything about basketball, he's the guy in those T-Mobile Fave Five commercials that isn't Charles Barkley. He's a great straight man.

6. Philadelphia Sixers: The local chaps are a band of young upstarts that scrap out their wins. The official PR cred for the team is "run with us". Unfortunately, they'll probably be run out of the playoffs in the first round.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Reggie Evans, power forward. Reggie comes off the bench sometime around the end of the first quarter and is averaging 3.3 points per game this year. In Game 3 of last year's opening round, local stand-up comedian Aaron Hertzog started shouting "M-V-P!" every time Reggie did something. Reggie is a good player but definitely not a MVP, which made the chant very funny. Seriously, it was hilarious, you had to be there. Help us grow his chant this post-season. Chant with us!

7. Chicago Bulls: Chicago has grown used to winners over the years (uh, ever heard of that Michael Jordan guy?), but they haven't had much to be proud of lately. Still not sure if they have much to be proud about, but this team has made the playoffs and has a legitimate shot at beating the Celtics in the first round.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sensational rookie point guard Derrick Rose. The guy rarely breaks a sweat and always looks to be in calm control of his team. Learn this dude's name now even if the closest you're getting to a basketball is watching Will Ferrell in Semi-Pro.

8. Detroit Pistons: Once the zenith of the entire league winning it all in 2004, the Pistons core has been decimated by age and some bad roster moves. Philadelphia ex-pat Allen Iverson is out for the rest of the season due to back issues (must...resist...making...practice...jokes). Elsewhere, power forward/center Rasheed Wallace is the biggest blowhard in the game who seemingly believes that he has never committed a foul and thus acts incrediously whenever one is called on him. He's done it so much that he was actually suspended a game for how many times that a technical foul has been called on him (a technical foul is naughtier than a regular foul).
PLAYER TO WATCH: Tayshaun Prince, small forward. The voice of reason on the team, he's kind of like the sober guy when everyone else is incredibly drunk. "No Danny, don't try to jump that parking meter, you'll hurt yourself. Hey hey, Aaron, don't piss on the couch, come on!"- Dave Walk


Aaron Hertzog said...

i appreciate the shout-out and help in my reggie evans for mvp (tell your middle school) movement, but he was beasting that game, and the chant was not at all sarcastic

also, i would like to comment on how everybody seems to forget that lebron james stole his pregame chalk ritual from kevin garnett

d said...

As far as I've seen, Garnett doesn't really toss it up in the air though.

I mean, Jordan used to put the powder on his hands before the game if I remember correctly, a lot of guys probably do but Lebron was the one that started to magically toss it in the air.

I'll change the sarcastic line.

Anonymous said...

LeBron went to the Raven Lounge one night and saw me do it first.

- G

Ben said...

I wish the Warriors had made the playoffs, I'd love to hear Gregg's take on them. Come to think of it, I've spent over 2/3 of my life wishing the Warriors made the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I would quantify myself as a Warriors fan. I loved how singular they were being named Golden State. I love their old THE CITY jerseys and am kicking myself for not grabbing one when I was out in the Bay.

Also, those Run TMC teams were perfect for a 12-year-old basketball nerd. Everyone forgets how devastating Tim Hardaway's UTEP 2-Step was, both in real life and in early versions of NBA Live. Just don't pair him up with a gay teammate.

The WE BELIEVE Warriors from two seasons ago were great. I am an unabashed fan of Don Nelson's style of basketball. Bill Simmons is right -- there probably has never been a better home court advantage in the history of American team sports then the Warriors/Mavs. They didn't even use sound effects! Also, any team that names Steven Jackson (complete with tattoo of praying hands holding a gun) captain is a-OK with me.

It stinks they didn't have a big run in them, and that Monta Ellis doesn't know how to ride a dirtbike, and that Don Nelson, while being a great coach, is also a dick.

- G

Anonymous said...

Awesome write-up dudes.
- Rob

Anonymous said...

Sixers are making a come back!
I miss Iverson though.
-Margaret Thatcher

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