There is no wrong way to watch the NBA Playoffs, although I’m aware that my personal method of “mostly on mute” is polarizing. These are the really good times for watching basketball and, for the most part, where enough healthy players remain to make it possible, we have been getting some really good basketball to watch. I have been watching it with an almost unseemly hunger, myself, but there is something strange about watching these remaining teams, all of whom I have idly if gratefully sampled all season long in various national TV games, with a new intensity and vigor. It is one thing to know that, say, the Boston Celtics are out there and playing well, but it is another thing to find yourself suddenly forming extremely intense opinions about them, and then subsequently developing equally peppery opinions about how they might upgrade their roster in the offseason or tweak their rotation in their next game.
Is this normal? Probably, although that is not quite the same thing as saying that it’s healthy in any meaningful way. But we are not here to help you be or act or feel healthy with regards to your sports consumption. We are here to help you find the way of being weird about all this that works for you best. It was with that in mind that we had our own Sacramento Bureau Chief, Patrick Redford, join us this week to discuss the current state of the NBA Playoffs, and our respective cases of NBA Playoff Brain.
As sometimes happens, usually more or less by accident, we wound up Talking Sports very strongly in this one. After the requisite portion of Ben Simmons stuff, we talked about the different series and their various pleasures or, in the case of the Heat/Sixers series, the equal and opposite pleasure of deciding that you don’t necessarily need to watch every single playoff game. There’s a lot there to talk about—the new-old Warriors and their attempt at a second run of dominance, the overwhelming overwhelmingness of Ja Morant, the inarguable if vexing excellence of the Celtics and their low-key stars, the bleary thrills of watching Luka Doncic try to win playoff basketball games more or less on his own, the somehow improved Phoenix Suns, and more. Patrick also expanded upon an internal Defector concept that has helped me appreciate Deandre Ayton in particular and the NBA ‘s best defenders in general, which is the humble but essential challenge of Knowing Where To Stand.
And then, after a brief discussion of one of the most enervating evergreen questions in sports—what is wrong with the baseballs, and might we wind up stuck with it forever—we moved on to the dumb stuff. Or, anyway, we remembered Chris “Birdman” Andersen at length, debated the real distance between Division III and Division I athletics, and remembered various D1 guys that we had encountered in our own sporting youths. Patrick’s memory of watching Shaq Thompson blow out the field in the 110-meter hurdles as a high schooler is one that I imagine will stay with me for some time. I’m not saying that I guarantee listeners will really enjoy this part of the podcast, but I will say that it has already inspired people to send me photos of future NBA galoot Todd MacCulloch getting quadruple-teamed in high school basketball, so clearly it touched some kind of nerve.
Yes the episode ends with a decently long soliloquy from me that starts out as being about the 2022 Seattle Mariners and becomes more about the experience of watching a bad team that you have perhaps unwisely cared about for a long time stop being bad. I can’t change that. And, while I think I make some decent points there, it’s also at the end so you can just skip ahead to the credits once you hear me say “you gotta win a ‘chip” in my classic Dumb Guy Voice. If you can mute your television during the NBA Playoffs—I recommend it for Western Conference games if you live with someone on an Eastern Conference sleep cycle—lord knows you can mute me trying to convince a Seattle Mariners fan that, this time, it might be safe to care.
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