THROWING IT OUT THERE | By Desmond Bieler

In NBA, Boring Might Strike Again

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Last week we asked which team would win the Stanley Cup. This week, we wanted to ask a completely different kind of question, and we found one, a query as different from last week's as a basketball is from a hockey puck. Our question this week is -- drumroll, please -- which team is most likely to win the NBA title?

OneSan Antonio Spurs

What's not to like about the Spurs? Oh, right, they're boring. Good lord, they're boring. Stop boring us! But they do have the requisite experience, with four championships in nine years. They have the requisite trio of elite talent, with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginóbili and Tony Parker. And they have the requisite celebrity fan in lovely Eva Longoria Parker, who somehow still can't keep her squad from being boring. Even though San Antonio was just another team, record-wise, in the ridiculously tightly packed Western Conference, you have to like its chances of drawing on all its experience and turning things up a notch in the playoffs. The team already gave signs of being able to do so in the regular season: after a 1-6 slump in mid-March, the Spurs geared up for the postseason by finishing 12-3 and cementing home-court advantage in the first round. In other news, Ginóbili not only maintained his status as the league's best sixth man, he proved that he can grow things other than his bald spot, notching career highs in three-point percentage, assists and points, leading the Spurs in the latter category. So what's not to like? Well, there is that one thing that's just too boring to mention yet again. Then there's the fact that San Antonio has a Michelle Kwan-like record of success in Olympic years. Also discouraging is the flip side of tremendous experience -- tremendous age. Only four Spurs are under 30, and just one of those whippersnappers, Parker, 25, is a major contributor. And with age comes injuries. Ginóbili is coming off a strained groin (ouch), Brent Barry recently played for the first time in 80 days and serial championship-winner Robert Horry has fallen and may not be able to get up. In fact, this whole lousy squad . . . wait a sec, aren't we here to praise the Spurs, rather than bury them? Let's end on this note: Can't spell "boring without "ring." Or "B.O." Because the Spurs can certainly win it all, but no one's saying they won't have a sweat a little.

TwoBoston Celtics

Sure, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen haven't experienced a tremendous amount of playoff success. So? Neither have you. But maybe if you had had two of those NBA megastars as teammates, things would have been different. Okay, maybe not. But things might really be different for the Celtics' Big Three, who joined forces this season and have played as if they don't intend to waste the opportunity, sprinting to 66 wins (45 by 10 points or more) and a 25-5 record against the West. Just like you would have done.

ThreeLos Angeles Lakers

They got MVP-quality play from Kobe Bryant, finished atop the West and, along the way, snared all-star forward Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies for little more than a pair of "Hannah Montana" tickets. And if they get anything from center Andrew Bynum, who has been out since Game 35, we could well see Lamar Odom smooching Larry O'Brien (or his eponymous trophy, at least).

FourDetroit Pistons

Yes, the Eastern Conference was vastly inferior this year, but its top two teams have nothing for which to apologize, as Boston and Detroit finished with the two best records in the league. However, the Pistons may want to make amends for having gone to five straight conference finals with only one NBA title to show for it. Or they could just help any disgruntled fans keep things in perspective by telling the ingrates to repeat after them: "Buffalo Bills."

FivePhoenix Suns

When the Suns and Spurs met in last year's conference semifinals, many said the series was effectively for the NBA championship, and, indeed, San Antonio went on to win it all. This year, the teams are meeting in the first round, but plenty of folks are saying the same thing. Great! Instead of sitting through two-plus months of playoff games, we'll just watch this series and then get back to what's really important: Obsessing over our fantasy football drafts.

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