Something funny happened on the way to what was supposed to be the best NBA post season in recent memory. Suddenly, the titans got old, and the next generation emerged. We all went into this assuming the Lakers would face San Antonio, and ultimately fight their way into the Finals, where they would go up against Boston or Miami. Then San Antonio got old, the Lakers got old and both Goliaths made whimpering exits. We expected Miami/Boston to be a heavyweight match. Then Boston got old and Miami came together as most of us hoped they never would. Suddenly the NBA playoffs are about something completely different than most of us expected.
So far, the playoffs seem a bit anticlimactic. But something really interesting is happening beneath the surface. While the old school make early exits, some surprising new contenders are emerging via triple over times, road victories and upsets. Atlanta, Memphis and Oklahoma City are all young teams loaded with talent and chemistry. And they aren’t going away anytime soon. Expect them all to be around for the foreseeable future.
It seems to me that two trends have emerged: superstar-loaded teams from big cities (MIA, CHI, BOS) and young, chemistry-loaded teams from small/mid markets (OKC, MEM, ATL, DAL). As someone who isn’t a big fan of the superstar/big market trend, I’m thrilled to see some of these mid-tier market teams come together. Basketball, more than any other team sport, is a team game. I’m an old school guy who loved it when Byron Scott knew his job was to drain jumpers. AC Green and Rambis knew they had to rebound. Coop knew he had to defend and shoot 3’s. Magic knew he had to create. Kareem knew he had to do damage in the middle. They worked as a unit, setting their egos aside for the greater good. Some of the young teams are showing the same kind of chemistry and team effort. It’s sad to see the Lakers and Boston go down like this, but seeing the young kids come together has been a blast. Three cheers for the new guard.