The Darning Stick
Well, I guess you can't quite ever have perfection, can you. The NBA season was on the brink of becoming the wildest in history, with the league suddenly transformed into the NCAA football system. Every single Western Conference game mattered and every game that the Pistons and Celtics played seemed of grand import for determining who would garner that 1-seed in the East and not have to face LeBron in the playoffs. The race out West has been so tight that post-Pau Gasol, teams have been involved in a chess match on the largest scale, flipping and trading pieces left and right to stay afloat. Firegeorgekarl.com sprang up gloriously from the earth's core, which proves just how competitive things have gotten. Denver fans had realized that the current climate out West had given their team as it is currently operating a surprisingly bleak chance for the playoffs.
But when the news of Yao's injury hit yesterday, amidst the ridiculousness of Ric Bucher and the Rockets GM being legitimately asked if this was somehow a ploy to ready Yao for the Beijing Olympics, I couldn't help but feel that this season no longer counts. Ever since the Rockets got McGrady, they have been my pre-season pick to come out of the West, and this year, with Adelman finally equipped with a team that could play defense, Houston actually proving that they could win withOUT T-Mac scoring 30 a night, the recent 12(13)-game winning streak, and most importantly Yao's newfound swag, I thought it could finally happen.
There are seasons in the NBA when a championship means a lot, and seasons when it means relatively less. Larry Brown's Pistons beating the Lakers in 2004 was the greatest upset in sports over the past five years, better than George Mason, Eli Manning, or Warriors vs Mavs. THAT was a championship. There are other seasons, however, where the glory has been diminished by mitigating factors. Sometimes one conference is so strong that all the scrapping their finals representative did to get to reach the championship round has exhausted them. Other times, key players are absent from the entire scene. Charles Barkley jokingly talks about how Michael Jordan "loaned" Olajuwon and the Rockets their two titles during the mid-90s when Jordan opted to try baseball for a couple years. Wade's abdominal injury a couple years back, Shaq's toe and Kobe's knee back in 2003, even these things matter.
And now it is Yao whose absence shakes skyscrapers. Jason Kidd, the 2008-Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol, sure these are nice pieces for a playoff run. But I wanted to see if we have really entred the age of post-Center supremacy. I wanted to see if the Suns, Lakers, Mavs, or Spurs could really defeat Yao--in his prime--in a seven game series. The whole situation just leaves me feeling a bit hollow.
...In other news, this new Nike Kobe campaign, which can be seen here, gives us endless joy. This commercial is like the anti-KG-Adidas-joint. This commercial is totally They Might Be Giants.