The second round begins

I took my last final on Wednesday and have been in Georgia visiting my parents since Thursday.  I’ve been wanting to write and have even sat down to do it on numerous occasions, but nothing comes.  Those of you who write regularly might be able to relate: when doing it habitually, whatever one is thinking almost flows straight from the mind onto the keyboard.  After breaking that routine, things bog down and nothing seems to come out.  Nevertheless, we’re here and we have the playoffs to discuss.

As I had predicted, Clippers-Grizzlies was an absolute treat and to my delight, we will live to see four more games at the least of Chris Paul.  The rest of the playoffs, Lakers-Nuggets included, in my opinion, have been a complete bore.  If the first round was any indication, the semis should also be a snoozefest.  The Heat should dispose of the Pacers in 4 or 5 as should the Thunder of the Lakers.  As much as it pains me to accept the reality, the Clippers don’t stand a prayer against the Spurs and will likely get swept.  Celtics-Sixers has a chance to last 6, but to be honest, I really don’t care.  Despite the parity, I don’t plan on watching a single game of that series – maybe I’m just getting old.

A word on Clippers-Grizzlies: Especially today, that was just beautiful, beautiful basketball.  I live to watch physical play where only the strong survive.  Blake Griffin, despite his offensive struggles, for his physicality in matching Zach Randolph, became a man today.  For once, he didn’t flop; he hit back, hard, and he took blows.  And Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans – if the Rockets ever get good again, these are the type of guys that I want playing for them.  Brute enforcers that bring the pain and set the tone for the officiating.

A word on Blake Griffin: as a Chris Paul fan, and a fan of the NBA, I really hope Blake gets to work this offseason.  He has to become a true offensive force and stop relying on his athleticism.  He has to learn how to shoot the midrange jumper or Chris Paul’s greatness is completely wasted.  He has the early vestiges of a post-game–solid initial positioning, balance, and coordination–but the moves just aren’t there.  Too often, he finds himself spinning in awkward positions going away from the basket, or simply trying to jump over his man en route to the hoop.  Blake needs to slow down and learn the simple basics.  Drop-step.  Soft, feathery jump hook.  Turnaround.  Just simple, single-step moves and counters.

A word on Chris Paul: Those mid-range pullups are as smooth as butter.  And of course, other than Steve Nash, I haven’t seen anyone, I think ever, with as tight of a handle on the ball.  After watching this series, I’m beginning to wonder, as are others undoubtedly, will Paul stay after next year?  This Clippers team is basically Hornets 2.0.  In fact, if I had a game or series tomorrow, I’d take Chandler/West ‘08 9 times out of 10 over Jordan/Blake.  Jordan gives you nothing, really, and Blake at this point isn’t as potent as West was in his prime.  The smart basketball move would be to offer the two big men up for Dwight Howard but of course, the smart basketball move is never made.

A scary thought: Down to the last team, Sixers and Jazz included, I don’t think these Rockets are better than a single participant I’ve seen in this year’s playoffs.  Of the West semifinalists, there isn’t a single one against whom the Rockets would stand a prayer in a series.  A chilling realization about how far this team still has to go.

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