Friday, February 01, 2008

West Coast Hoops

This is a week of confessions. Here's another: I've given up completely on college basketball. I've not watched more than five minutes of a NCAA basketball game this season, and may not even bother with the tournament. In its place, I've discovered the NBA.

If you've not been a NBA fan in the past, I can't blame you. But let me say this -- there's no better time than now to get into it. We're looking at a special era. Two icons in Kobe & LeBron, a renaissance in incredible point guard play (be it Nash, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Baron Davis, or the ageless Jason Kidd), and in teams like the Warriors, Mavericks, Celtics, Suns, Hornets & Trailblazers there is a new-found emphasis on actual teamwork.

A recent West Coast transplant from Ohio, being in a position to reall be a NBA fan is kind of new to me. It was a happy coincidence that K. & I were moving out here right when the Golden State Warriors were making their epic run against the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs last year. Watching the games from our roadside hotel rooms, eager but unsure of what awaited us in the Bay Area, we knew we at least had basketball to look forward to. The Warriors have not disappointed.

They really are in the best position this side of winning a championship. A good team that can beat anybody on any given night (as witnessed by the spanking they gave the Hornets this week), and even take a series if they're hot, but not a team that anybody expects to say so hot as to win it at all. Expectations are reasonable, and the style of play is balls to the wall fun. I defy anybody to watch the Warriors play and not enjoy themselves. Purists will scoff, sure, as Baron Davis jacks up a three-pointer during a three-on-one fastbreak. But I bet even some of these right-thinking basketball fans would come around to at least appreciating the energy with which the team plays. It helps, too, that they're style of play really lends itself to close games that neither team are ever out of.

For those of you not following but know something about basketball. The West is so tightly bunched up right now, in terms of talent and in the standings, that the addition of Chris Webber to the Warriors is actually expected to make a significant difference. Bizarre. Well, that is until the Lakers trumped it completely, to the point of making the addition of Webber laughable, by trading for Pau Gasol. The only thing to get in the way of the Lakers making the Finals now is Kobe's ego.