Before a torn Achilles’ injury prematurely ended his season last week, Kobe Bryant had been scheduled to be our annual sentimental pick for . . . Old Man We Really Want To Win One More Before He Calcifies.
But with Mamba missing this NBA postseason, it’s time to move on and emotionally pull for a creaky-kneed, stubborn big man who has won it before, will turn 37 years old on April 25 and is certain to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
You can feel that adrenaline rush, right? A nation of NBA fans hoping beyond hope the Spurs can ruin a rematch between the two best young players in the game and prevent an almost certain Heatpeat? The pulsating masses rooting openly for San Antonio and its dour, somewhat emotionally restrained veteran center, is just so palpable, isn’t it?
What? Where’s the love then?
Why isn’t anyone coining the phrase, “Win One for Timmy”? Poor Duncan. While Kobe’s halcyon days are treated like an endangered harp seal, Timmy is the walrus not cute enough to save from being clubbed.
Gregg Popovich tried to help recently. Pop is the only team architect and coach in the world who has perfected the art of looking utterly joyless at the same time his team is winning 50-plus games a year. Popovich recently dug up Tracy McGrady’s old bones and added him to the playoff roster, because Pop doesn’t sign players as much as he goes on Paleolithic digs.
Still, no one outside of south Texas wants the Spurs to win — including ABC, which contractually reserves the right to pick another team if the Spurs win the West. But because you already know who’s going to win and it’s no use rooting for the Spurs, here are NBA Playoff Questions You Never Thought Of:
Can anyone defeat LeBron and the UnHeatables in 2013? Yes: LeBron in 2011. Miami could be physically beat up after a theoretical second-round meeting with the Bulls and maybe a six-game series with the Knicks. But even then, Kevin Durant’s supporting cast would have to be almost perfect for Oklahoma City to win.
What Player Could Lose His Team A Series By Himself? Russell Westbrook. Sometimes, when he blows past all nine players on the court en route to the rim, he plays crazy good. Sometimes, when he throws six no-look turnovers into the seats along the baseline, he plays just crazy.
If Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan switched teams in the first round, do the Lakers win? Yes. Duncan is a smarter player. He’s more skilled. And he’s not going to wilt or shut down when people say he can’t play anymore. He’s going to lower his shoulder and get to the rim. And while he might come across having the off-court countenance of a robot, he won’t play like one.
Does any lower-seeded team have a shot? Memphis. The Grizzlies make every good offensive team an eyesore to watch. They could end up winning the West.
Biggest First-Round Upset?: Steph Curry could vex a injury-hampered Denver team. Golden State is like Davidson, circa 2008, that entertaining up-and-down team playing with house money.
Big Man Who Will Make the Most Difference? Shaquille O’Neal. His levity is huge on the TNT halftime panel.
Star You Would Least Likely Want to Play With? James Harden. He makes World B. Free look generous. At some point, his left arm is just going to fall off from shooting. I’m not saying he’s selfish, but a quality shot for Harden is one he took and his teammates didn’t.
Teams Most Likely To Disappoint Their Fan Bases? Knicks and Clippers. The Knicks might not take a game off Miami in the conference finals, provided they get that far. And Lob City is great when it’s up 20 points. But down two in the final seconds, the Clippers could get bounced by Memphis before the calendar turns to May.
Who gets fired first if his team doesn’t make it out of the first round? Vinny Del Negro. Any team anchored by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can’t lose to the team it beat last year in the first round, even it is Memphis — one of the most formidable lower-seeded playoff teams since the 1999 Knicks.
Who should be fired after his team is knocked out? Mike D’Antoni, a bad fit from the start. It was obvious the Lakers were never going to contend this season beyond the second round. So there was no reason Kobe, at 34 years old, should have played the second-most minutes in the league — and almost 46 minutes of every 48-minute game the Lakers played in April. Phil Jackson would not have let that happen. Shoot, Del Harris wouldn’t have let that happen.
Which Vegas odds should I take? Miami at 50-1 . . . to not lose a single playoff game en route to a second straight title. Seriously, the odds of that happening are infinitely better than the Lakers winning it all, which are about 40-1 and should actually be 4000-1.
If by some miracle Duncan and the Spurs do win the West and play the Heat, should I root for Duncan? No. He won’t be there. Popovich will have sent Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker home on a commercial flight prior to Game 7, leaving DeJuan Blair to get dunked on.
For more by Mike Wise, go to www.washingtonpost.com/wise.