Philadelphia, PA – The NBA Playoffs can be some amazing sports theater.
We've even seen it in this postseason.
Game 4 between the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets was an instant classic. It had everything one looks for in a great game - a huge comeback, spurred by the tiniest player (Nate Robinson, who scored 23 in the fourth quarter) in a league full of Leviathans, guys battling through injury and high-quality basketball.
Game 4 was great because it was all on the court.
The Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs have been wonderful baseline-to- baseline. There's no nonsense, just a better team winning with class.
However, there are some oddly troubling aspects on display this time of year as well.
First, we had Dwight Howard taking the coward's way out in Game 4 against the Spurs. With one technical foul already, and his Los Angeles Lakers down about 100 in an elimination game, Howard picked up another and got ran.
The Lakers have a very busy offseason in their future. At the center of it all is Howard's impending free agency. The Lakers will probably have to move some salary to do that and that probably means Pau Gasol is on the way out.
Howard is younger ... blah ... blah. I'd just ask Lakers brass to remember one thing.
With Kobe Bryant, a top-10 player all-time, hobbled and unable to walk, and Steve Nash taking more needles than a voodoo doll getting acupuncture, Gasol was out there battling the entire Spurs roster by himself.
Howard wanted to be out there so little, he did something about it. Gasol looked like he found out his first dog was put down when he came out of Game 4, again, a game they were out of in the second quarter. We never got to see what Howard looked like because he had to run through the tunnel when his night was done.
It was a sad obituary written about the Lakers' season.
Speaking of the afterlife, how about the "funeral" the New York Knicks held for the Boston Celtics at Game 5?
Dressed like Johnny Cash, the Knicks weren't able to get it done and eliminate the Celtics.
First of all, the funeral stuff is silly and probably in a little bad taste. But, teams probably do stupid stuff like this all the time.
"We did that every single time we had a close-out game in Dallas," said Tyson Chandler.
My question is, what is the benefit to this? There is none.
"Well, we was going to a funeral, but it looks like we got buried," Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith said. "Basketball is a very humbling game."
And there's a Celtic who deserves wrath.
Jordan Crawford, who was such a malcontent earlier this season with the Washington Wizards that he would fire his jersey in the crowd every time he was a DNP-CD, played the same number of minutes as Katie Couric sitting courtside Wednesday night.
The difference was, Couric realized she had nothing to do with the outcome of the game, so she didn't go yapping to anyone like Crawford did.
Now, there is talk the Celtics could become the first team in NBA history, down 3-0, to come back and win the series. Granted, the Knicks look the part of a team which hasn't won a playoff series since 2000 and one led by a superstar who has gotten out of Round 1 once in nine playoff appearances, but relax.
Here are two important facts: one, the Knicks rely on shooting jump shots well and didn't (39.5 percent) in Game 5 and, two, the Celtics couldn't throw it in the hoop sitting on top of the backboard the first three games, and made shots (45.7 percent) in Game 5.
The Celtics still have to win two games, but you can bet your IRA that the Knicks will certainly be more humble Friday night when we hear the loud rage of a city.
Speaking of loud rage, anyone tired of the chatter from Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson?
He claimed the Denver Nuggets were "dirty" and targeted Kenneth Faried's attempted "trip" and "kicking of the ankles" of guard Steph Curry.
Watch any replay of that game and you won't find a single play that was mildly construed as dirty. "Kicking ankles?" That's pathetic, but transparent.
Jackson is just trying to get some calls for his star in Game 6 Thursday night.
"I didn't say anything about the referees," Jackson said. "I've got a guy that some would say is a superstar, with the ball in his hands for 42 minutes and he doesn't get to the line, with a team that's trying to be very physical with him. That needs to be looked at."
Good thing Jackson didn't say anything about the referees.
Prostrating and grandstanding are part of the mind games that coaches engage in. Phil Jackson wasn't a Zen Master, he was a master of this move. You plant the seed, then the refs subconsciously blow an extra whistle for the Warriors.
But Jackson spent almost 12 minutes on Wednesday still defending his ludicrous position that because Faried bumped his player, and margin physical contact between leg and ankle was made, it was a cheap shot.
The Warriors, it's worth noting, picked up two flagrant fouls in Game 5.
"That doesn't mean you're dirty," Jackson said.
Whatever you say, Mark.
You have to give the Warriors credit for their performance in this postseason, considering their All-Star, David Lee, has been sidelined with injury.
Speaking of being sidelined with injuries, it's finally time to discuss Derrick Rose.
According to ESPN Chicago, the Bulls' former MVP was medically cleared to play after his torn ACL in last season's first round of the playoffs on March 8. That is almost TWO MONTHS ago.
It's still unfair to question an injured player, but it's important to remember Rose has been medically cleared to play. Does he still qualify as an injured player?
The Bulls didn't rush him, but now, they need him.
Kirk Hinrich may miss the rest of this first-round series with the Nets with an injured calf.
"I'm still walking very gingerly, and I haven't tried to run or cut or jump or anything yet, so I'm hoping that it improves a lot between today and (Thursday)," Hinrich said Wednesday.
To sum up, Hinrich can't run, jump or cut, but wants to get out there.
Joakim Noah has plantar fascitis. It feels like walking on glass every single time one of his dogs, which support his 250-pound frame, hits the floor. He's playing 30 minutes a night to try and advance.
It's now fair to question Rose. Why won't he go out there? It's clearly mental because it's no longer physical. Doctors have said so. Sounds silly, but will he feel comfortable enough to go out there on Opening Night next season?
The Bulls aren't questioning him. They're busy shaving months of their careers just to try and get out on the court, only to have the honor of getting clobbered by the Miami Heat in the next round.
"I haven't heard one ill word said about it," Hinrich said of Rose. "You give a guy that has that type of character the benefit of the doubt. We know that he's such a big part of this organization and this team that we trust he's making the right decision for that and for himself."
This is a time when the league should shine. The NFL Draft is over, the Major League Baseball season is too early to matter too much and the NHL playoffs, well, I don't know about them.
Jason Collins put the Association in a positive light with his announcement, now these guys are sabotaging it with ill-advised, childish or inexplicable behavior.
Get it together, boys.
Oh, and the Indiana Pacers/Atlanta Hawks series is terrible, too.
- There are three tiers to available coaches - the top tier is for the dreamers with checking accounts. Phil Jackson, pick a Van Gundy, any Van Gundy, or Jerry Sloan fit that tier. The next level is the former head coach. Byron Scott, Lawrence Frank, Avery Johnson, Alvin Gentry and Nate McMillan are the main occupants. And the final rung of the ladder is the assistant waiting for a chance. Mike Malone from the Warriors, Jeff Hornacek of the Utah Jazz and Brian Shaw of the Pacers are the leaders in this field. So, pick your coach wisely. Personally, if I was a non-contending team, that second field would be like the third rail of a subway line.
- Damian Lillard deserved to win NBA Rookie of the Year unanimously.
- The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers could, and should, play in the first round every postseason. They are just so evenly matched.
- Andrew Bynum as a Flamenco dancer? How much more disappointing could he be to the Philadelphia 76ers and their fan base? If he threw up a cheese steak on the Liberty Bell while wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey, he wouldn't be as disappointing as he is living his day-to-day life.
- I was shocked the NBA relocation committee elected to keep the Sacramento Kings in California. Seems like relocating is frowned upon by the NBA brass. Kudos to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the former All-Star Suns guard. He basically willed this through.
- Movie moment - I checked the top 10 movies at the box office last week. Honestly, I never heard of three of them. "Jurassic Park 3D" is apparently a thing. Someone made another "Scary Movie." Thanks, we needed that. "The Big Wedding" I'm assuming is about nuptials that are larger than average?
- TV moment - "Veep" is having an excellent second season. Julia-Louis Dreyfus is becoming a true comedienne for all time.