2011 NBA Playoffs: Where Change Happens

May 6, 2011

It’s around this time each year, when the NBA playoffs have not just arrived but begun in earnest, that things really get interesting.  The first round has finally provided closure to the season for teams who were never contenders in any meaningful sense at all, like the Pacers and Knicks, as well as screening out the teams who really don’t have as much going on as we all might have thought, as was the case with the Mavs a couple of years ago.  That all being done, let’s tune into the NBA playoffs to see – HOLY CRAP where did the Spurs go?  They won the West’s most games!  THE MOST!  What happened?  Didn’t Tim Duncan do this?

He did?  Then why are the Vancouver Grizzlies in the second round?  It can only mean one thing:  a changing of the guard.*

The problem with the Lakers is at its core the same fundamental problem as the Celtics have this year, and it seems likely to keep both teams from even making the finals this aforementioned year-of-the-spurs-loosing-in-round-one.  The problem is that they are not awesome.  Oh, they used to be.  Not only were Kobe and KG awesome, but so were Pau and Ray Allen.  Now they are ‘oldies but goodies.’  That’s good enough for the radio in the car; not the NBA finals.

Both of these teams can plausibly still claim to be contenders, but so can the Heat, the Bulls, and now also the Thunder and Mavericks.  Perhaps just as importantly, with any changing of the guard there are bound to be surprises, so the Griz may not only have Zach Randolph the basketball star, who apparently hatched from the shell of Zach Randolph the drunken overweight sulker, they may also have a chance to shock the league and make a deep playoff run.  What players currently left in the playoffs can stop ZBo in the post?

Randolph’s development over the last 2 seasons into a winner surprised me at first.  I thought Memphis was dead when Gay went down.  On further reflection and examination, however, it looks more like ZBo is thriving in the first situation where that has been a possibility, having been jettisoned from all three previous teams before they went from soul-gratingly terrible to, well . . . at least not that.  Maybe it wasn’t Zach.  Maybe it was all Sean Kemp’s fault after all.  And Steph.  Ugh.

Zach Randolph‘s development:

Season         Team     Record           Notable teammates

’01-’02         Portland   49-33            Rasheed Wallace, Sean Kemp,

’02-‘04                        91-73            Scottie Pippen, Bonzi Wells,

’04-‘07                      121-207   Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Arvydas Sabonis

’07-’08      New York   23-59             Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry

’08-’09  NY/ Clippers  19-63(LAC)   Baron Davis, Al Thornton

* I believe that’s the Thunder in the clip.  James Harden on cymbals.