In just over a month’s time the NBA regular season will draw to a close and I for one will be glad to see the back of it.
It’s been a strange old campaign and my reason for not enjoying it relates to the fact we’ve seen a lot of poor basketball along the way.
During the regular season you’ll expect to see a fair number of low quality games, but with the intensified schedule during this shortened season, the percentage has increased dramatically.
I’ve lost track of the number of games I’ve switched off this season (not the Boston Celtics I hasten to add, I suffer them to the very end). As much as I love the NBA League Pass, I’m almost tempted to write to the NBA and ask for some sort of refund.
For a brief moment the Linsanity epidemic gave us hope, but it was a false dawn and once all the hype began to die down, the true mediocrity of this regular season was clear for everyone to see.
Just like the last time we had a lockout, I’m hoping the play-offs will save the day. The 1998-99 season was a pretty poor one as well and not just because Michael Jordan had retired for the first time. Like now, the basketball was awful that year, which just goes to show how important it is to have a proper training camp and pre-season.
It’s perhaps just a strange coincidence but the team who saved that season are perhaps the team who could save this season as well.
I’m talking about the New York Knicks.
What the Knicks did during that shortened ‘98-99 season was mount the most improbable play-off run possible. They finished eighth and after upsetting Miami in the first round (for the second season running), they then upset both Atlanta and Indiana as well, before succumbing to a far superior San Antonio Spurs in the finals.
The road to the finals was probably the most fun I’d had watching the play-offs for a few years as while it went to script out West, the Eastern Conference was carnage thanks to the Knicks.
This year the Knicks are fighting again for a place in the play-offs and depending on how the likes of Boston and Milwaukee do over this final month, the Knicks could not only end up in the play-offs, but they could well be facing Miami in the first round.
History has a funny way of repeating itself but even if a Heat-Knicks series didn’t happen, I like to think a Bulls-Knicks series would be just as entertaining.
But the Knicks aside, it gives an indication of why the play-offs could save the season. Those of us who follow teams in the East know that generally the team in seventh or eighth spot is going to be cannon fodder in the first round.
While it’s happened three times in recent years out West, the last team lower than a sixth seed to make it out of the first round in the East was those ’99 Knicks.
While many would not predict Boston, Milwaukee or New York to win a title, there now exists a very real chance that we could see an upset in the first round if any two of those three occupy the last two seeds. All three have enough to potentially pull off an upset.
The Chicago Bulls have coped brilliantly during the regular season with mounting injuries and have the best record overall, but the intensity of the play-offs could well change that. If Derrick Rose isn’t healthy when it matters, there could be trouble ahead.
Then we have the Miami Heat. Unlike last year, the Heat have not been under the microscope during the regular season, but once the play-offs get under way they will probably be the most scrutinised team, simply because they have to win the championship.
There will be no excuses allowed. That team was put together to win multiple championships and with that comes pressure. Having come up short in year one, the pressure will be intensified this time around.
So New York Knicks, I’m putting the onus on you to not only get in the play-offs but cause some havoc when you get there. If not, I’ll be urging Boston or Milwaukee to do the same.
Anything to help me forget this regular season ever happened!
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