The NBA playoffs have presented an excellent basket as the players who have been growing while the league stars have struggled to take the spotlight.
For many audiences, it’s the first time he’s given a nice look at Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell and Trae Young, and even though the Nuggets were in conference finals last year, new MVP Nikola Jokić. And without LeBron James and Steph Curry in the picture, there’s a lot more room for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and even a former Finals MVP like Kawhi Leonard to attract the eyeballs. With Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and, when they know it, James Harden, the Nets are the only team with faces that have been part of the postseason in a year and a year out, and even Brooklyn has an air of novelty to it. because of how little the Big 3 have played together.
It’s fantastic, things to watch every night, yet you feel like you’re missing something.
For all you tune in to the playoffs you want to see, the problem if you’re not a fan of a specific team is that there’s really no one at that root. There is no well-defined heel.
It’s not just about the players in this case, but about the teams themselves. Every club that stays in the playoffs is trying to end a generation gap.
- Jazz: Never won an NBA title, last went to conference finals in 2007, last went to NBA Finals in 1998.
- Alone: Never won an NBA title, in the playoffs for the first time since 2010, last time in the NBA Finals in 1993.
- Nuggets: He never won a championship, only the appearance of the Final was in the ABA in 1976.
- Clippers: He never made it past the second round of the playoffs. Not in Los Angeles. Not in San Diego. Not in Buffalo. May.
- 76ers: The last time in a conference final in 2001, the last victory of a title in 1983.
- Stay: He never won an NBA title, the last one went to the conference finals in 2003, only the championships were in the ABA in 1974 and 1976.
- Bucks: Last time in the NBA Finals in 1974, only the title was in 1971.
- Falcons: Only three appearances in the conference finals since moving to Atlanta in 1968, they have never been to the NBA Finals at that time, only the title in franchise history was in 1958 in St. Louis.
How are you supposed to take root against one of those teams? Maybe the Sixers annoy you because of all the years of “confidence in the process,” or maybe the Nets do it because of how they piled up a superteam, or maybe the Hawks because you’re a bitter Knicks fan for the first round and you want to see someone shut up John.
Perennial cats are not here
But there’s nothing like wanting to see the Celtics or Lakers lose because they’re the Celtics or Lakers, or to root for long-suffering Golden State against the LeBron ring collection, or to root for long-suffering Cleveland or upstart Toronto against collecting Golden State rings in the years following that first Dubs title.
The underrated thing about seeing the same teams fighting regularly for the title is that they get bandwagon fans, but they also pile up a bunch of haters on the road. In these playoffs, it’s just – “just” – a great basketball, and laying the groundwork for the rivalries that will define this decade.
However, at some level, as a basketball fan, you may know that Jazz-Clippers is a charm, because they are Mitchell and Leonard, Rudy Gobert and Paul George … but there is a big part of your mind that it always goes, “Meh, it’s Jazz-Clippers,” because you’re so used to it that teams are relevant to the limit.
That will change over time, of course, as rivalries and plots develop. For now, though, he doesn’t have the feeling of a normal post-season. There are a lot of basketball superheroes doing incredible things on TV every night, but without anyone in the role of the villain, there’s a villain who makes it a struggle to capture the imagination.