5 Things the NBA Playoffs are Revealing: by Jon Gaus

  1. No LeBron, No Lakers, No Problem!

Even though King James and all the Laker’s drama filled the podcasts and blogs for most of the NBA regular season, it seems like the quality of play and close series have helped most fans and media get their focus off of all things LeBron and LA.  In fact, with the exciting rise of this next generation of NBA superstars (i.e. Giannis, Kyrie, Lillard) LeBron and the Lakers may drift into an after-thought by next season if things don’t get quickly re-energized in Lala-Land…..meaning victories, not just hype!

2. Kyrie may be a strange duck…but he’s a KILLER and a CLOSER!

OK, OK, now we get it!  Kyrie was mentored in LeBron’s shadow in Cleveland and it was obviously taught and caught by Kyrie that the regular season is simply for playing yourself into shape, coasting during road games, using the media as a sounding board for all of your personal introspection, conspiracy theories and observations and for working out all of the kinks in the relationships with you teammates. BUT, once the playoffs start, all of that frivolity is cast aside and the game-face and killer focus comes out!  It’s simply astounding to watch playoff Kyrie once again re-establish why he is one of the top-five players in the league and the game’s best closer. If you want to see the full arsenal and array of his offensive repertoire (some of the moves which have never been attempted by mere humans before) you must watch “playoff Kyrie” and not “regular season Kyrie.”

3. KD’s the most DANGEROUS scorer in the NBA!

When God made the perfect sprinter…He created Usain Bolt.  When God made the perfect NBA offensive weapon…He created KD! Just let KD’s 2019 post-season averages sink in for a moment: 34.3 ppg   52.7% FG   40.7% 3pt   90.5% ft.  Think about it…he’s 7-feet tall with handle, court vision, economy of shot selection, can slash to the hole like Drexler and he still shares the ball with two of the five greatest shooters who ever lived!  And, he would probably even make a Knicks jersey look good!

4. James Harden has hacked the NBA…now it’s hacking back!

James Harden reminds me of Michael Larson. Never heard of Michael Larson? He was the guy that went on the old game show “Press Your Luck”, the one which was made famous by the phrase “No Whammys!”.  Larson, was one of the first people to take advantage of the new technology of the home VCR unit.  Back in 1984, he recorded several episodes of “Press Your Luck”, watched them in super-slow motion, and was able to figure out the patterns of the computerized game board. He made it on the show and blew everyone away by winning a record one-day total of cash and prizes. The producers paid the man, gave him props for hacking their system, then they immediately made major adjustments to the board so that no one could ever “break” their game again!  What we are watching in this Rockets-Warriors series is that the NBA, which Harden has hacked and nearly broke, has made major adjustments in its officiating of Harden’s funky, herky-jerky, shimmying, double step-back, was that or was that not traveling, get me to the free throw line again game, and they are no longer putting up with Harden’s hack and they are no longer calling the fouls they were calling in his favor in the regular season.  The result is, the Rockets will surely lose again to the Warriors, Harden will spend the off-season whining and complaining and the NBA will take back the game Naismith invented, the Doctor decorated, Jordan elevated and the officials have once again confiscated!!

5. The Joker makes it look way too easy!

The danger with the Nugget’s Nikola Jokic’s game is many fans will not fully appreciate the young Serbian’s basketball genius because he makes everything look so easy and effortless!  It all starts with the Joker’s preternatural gifts as a passer.  Jokic see angles that most other players don’t even know exist. As a passer, he’s like the “Beautiful Mind” of the NBA. And, it’s not only that he sees these angles, he delivers the ball so quickly and effortlessly that most defenses and fans hardly realize what genius just unfolded in front of them!  Next, everything in the Joker’s game is opened up and possible because of his three-point shooting. Because defenses can never cheat off the big Euro, this opens up wide spaces for his teammates to cut to the basket while receiving his perfectly timed and targeted passes. Then, there’s his understanding and use of the backboard. Very few big men today use the backboard as expertly as the Joker does with his array of short jumpers and effortless ambidextrous put-backs that simply kill the opponent an easy deuce at a time.

A New Era for the Nuggets? by Jon Gaus

By knocking-off one of the most well-run, respected franchises in the NBA, this next generation Denver Nuggets may have just propelled themselves into a new era. Their hard-fought seven-game win over the San Antonio Spurs proved that they are tougher than many thought and they may well knock off the Portland Trail Blazers as they enjoy their well-earned home-court advantage.

These Nuggets run almost everything on the offensive end through MVP finalist, Nikola Jokic. Because this young Euro phenom is so multi-skilled offensively, his pace and style of play from the other-side of the Atlantic has rubbed off on the entire team…because in today’s NBA it works! Now, the Nuggets could have easily lost that seventh game to the Spurs and we would have all applauded them as “an up-and-coming” NBA team to be noticed. But, because they clung to their four point lead and knocked off one of the league’s perennial top-dogs a major pendulum is threatening to swing in the Nuggets favor. Even though Vegas has the visitors from the northwest favored, don’t count out the Nuggets. Very few teams love home-cooking the way the Nuggets do and Portland may be too emotionally drained from the long, trash-talked filled, seven game series with OKC.

Not many expect Denver to get past Portland, but with the kind of Euro-swag and intestinal fortitude they exhibited in knocking off the Spurs and their cranky genius Greg Popovich, the young Nuggets may again surpass conventional expectations and make their way all way to the Western Finals…and then…the Warriors.