Aug 6, 2012, 12:38 PM EDT
Welcome to the Inbounds, touching on one big idea, story, or discussion point of the day.
It’s fine to think the Celtics were the second best team in the East in last year’s playoffs (factoring the Bulls post-Rose injury). I mean, they finished second, right? They pushed the eventual NBA champions to seven games, and were up 3-2 with a chance to close at home. They had to be the second best team in the East.
But they weren’t. Not really.
The most infuriating thing about the current NBA playoff structure, even more so than the fact they continue to hold the conferences as an intelligent means of dividing the field, is the lack of re-seeding every round. Surely in this modern, information superseries of tubes world we have going on, we can get around the travel issues inherent in re-seeding the field after every round. Because what happens can have drastic consequences. Like the Celtics making the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics landed the Hawks in their bracket, and no problem there. They established a mental advantage on the Hawks in Game 2 and the series was over from that point on.
But when Derrick Rose went down and the Sixers managed to Omer-Asik their way to an escape, the field should have been redistributed. The Sixers should have headed to face Miami, while the Pacers and Celtics battled it out. And a little hidden secret? The Pacers were a much better team, even in the playoffs, than Boston.
Celtics fan! Please! Hold your molotov cocktails and pitchforks. The Celtics’ run last season was incredible precisely because it was against such odds. They had so many things going against the, their chances were so unlikely, that it makes it all the more impressive they nearly ran the gamut.
But the Pacers were the better team. Had Boston and Indiana met in the second round as they should have, we could have settled this question. I don’t have any issue with thinking Boston was the better team. That seems pretty obvious. My source of disagreement comes from what we saw from both teams and the unpredictability of the playoffs. The Pacers were in a better position to knock off Miami than Boston was, despite them going down in six, not seven. It’s about the structural makeup of the team. Indiana’s size advantage was first and foremost. They had a legit center in Roy Hibbert, and they have no discernible weak spot in their starting lineup. They had depth and versatility, and the roster makeup to match up with different lineups.
They lost because LeBron James is the best player on the planet. As did Boston.
But regardless of what you think about last year’s playoffs, when we look to the future, the East behind Miami is even more uncertain. There’s Miami, certainly, and a gap, certainly (Jason Terry does not a gap close make, when considering another year on them old bones). But after that it gets nuts. Remember, New York very much looked like the second best team in the East to start last year. They suffered more injury issues than anyone outside of Chicago, and their defense was playoff-good. Who knows how good the Nets can be if everything falls into place for them? Chicago is a question mark, but that defense will hold them together.
But Boston in the prohibitive favorite to be second in the East. They added Jason Terry, get Jeff Green back, throw in Courtney Lee, retain Chris Wilcox. I’ve written about how good they can be next year.
But age can still take its toll. Age is like Jaws, it doesn’t give you warning, it just takes your legs. And though the supporting cast of the Celtics has gotten younger, what drove that team last year was the play of Kevin Garnett, with Paul Pierce in spurts. Rajon Rondo is the chef, without him, there’s no meal. But the younger players are the appetizers, the garnish, the desert. The meal is still KG and the Truth. And there’s no way of telling when those players will start playing their age. Maybe they never will. Maybe they’ll defy all odds. Garnett certainly takes offense to any assessment that he’s old. But you have to watch it, carefully.
Indiana continues to slip beneath the radar. You can throw out the Darren Collison trade as a reason they’ll fall to the side, but George Hill played well for most of the season, and they added more size in Ian Mahinmi. Again, in an East where Dwight Howard is the only other legitimate center in the playoff picture, the Pacers have the second best center and a quality legit center. They have an armada of versatile forwards. And they get another full season to play together.
Indiana could take a step backwards. Like Philadelphia, it’s possible they simply benefited from the shortened season’s hammering of teams like Boston and throwing the season into chaos. Boston can very well take that step forward. But when you look at Danny Granger’s comments, you recognize their awareness of how close they were. Indiana went at Miami with everything they had. They weren’t intimidated or just happy to be there. They truly believed they could win that series. And they almost pulled it off.
Boston hung with Miami because they’re specifically well-tailored to combat James and the Heat. Indiana hung because they’re really that good of a team.
This all seems irrelevant, though, when you look at Miami and what they bring to the table next year. A full actualized LeBron James, a healthier Dwyane Wade, a resurgent Chris Bosh who understands how he fits, a core with more confidence, and Ray Allen. The gap is not narrow between Miami and the rest of the East. But the rest of the teams are just waiting for one of those seasons when something happens to move Miami off the top block. Then it would be a mad scramble. Most would have confidence in Boston. But to ignore what Indiana brings to the table is dangerous.
Had reseeding occurred last season, we might view Indiana as the kind of powerhouse we view Boston as. But as it stands, they seem ready to fill into a familiar slot, as a great team full of likable players who are lost in the shine of the championship team right above them.
No. 2, though? That’s a fight they’re prepared for.
The most interesting question between the two may be who has the most they can figure out to unlock potential. Indiana was in their first year together with David West and George Hill. Boston of course has the remaining Big 3 which know each other but have a number of new elements. You could say there’s a lot to unlock for this new Celtics team, but there’s still a ton of room for Indiana to unearth in its identity.
Under the context of a normal season with normal rest and normal practice, that may be the deciding factor in who winds up closest to the throne.
May 24, 2013, 8:50 AM EDT
It’s a little tough to predict where the Clippers’ coaching search might lead because hiring a coach is a task owner Donald Sterling takes on personally. He has for a long time. He was the guy charmed by Vinny Del Negro and hired him when the basketball operations people wanted to go another direction (and…
May 24, 2013, 8:10 AM EDT
You get this sense with the Warriors — guys like playing there now. You could feel the team chemistry when you watch them play. They liked each other, they were having fun together. And that was fun to watch. Carl Landry wants to stay a part of that. But the NBA is a business. Landry…
May 24, 2013, 7:21 AM EDT
J.R. Smith struggled in the playoffs. Well, he looked great the first couple games but he really struggled after returning from a one-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Boston’s Jason Terry in the first round. Against the Pacers he averaged 14 points a game but on just 29 percent shooting. His play…
May 24, 2013, 7:01 AM EDT
Veteran coach P.J. Carlesimo has landed on his feet. After the Brooklyn Nets let him walk when the season ended he strolled over to ESPN and has landed a job as an analyst (essentially taking the Flip Saunders job). Carlesimo held a conference call on Thursday to talk all things NBA, but much of the…
May 23, 2013, 11:33 PM EDT
For the next few weeks PBT will be profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Today we talk about Indiana’s wingman. ESPN’s well connected Chad Ford put it this simply in a chat Wednesday: “Oladipo is the guy that GMs love in this draft.” Victor Oladipo was one of those guys with…
May 23, 2013, 11:20 PM EDT
The Nets are looking to hire a big name with a strong track record to fill their vacant head coaching position, after parting ways with interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo following a season that ended with a first round playoff loss in seven games at the hands of the Bulls. Brooklyn reached out to Phil…
May 23, 2013, 8:39 PM EDT
Most likely, the Cleveland Cavaliers will take Nerlens Noel with the No. 1 overall pick. When you think about their needs, a big man who can run the floor and defend the rim fits that. Of course, Noel is a project, a couple years away from really contributing much at all to an NBA team.…
May 23, 2013, 7:01 PM EDT
Late in the first quarter of the Heat’s overtime Game 1 win over the Pacers, Shane Battier drove into the lane and challenged Roy Hibbert on a layup attempt. Battier’s form was more than a little unorthodox as he went up for the shot, leading with his right knee that caught Hibbert squarely below the…
May 23, 2013, 6:51 PM EDT
Today Kay Adams and I are talking what everyone else is — Heat vs. Pacers. I feel bad for Paul George because the Pacers wouldn’t have been in the game at the end if not for him, but that’s not what anyone will remember. And of course, we talk sitting Roy Hibbert a little —…
May 23, 2013, 6:11 PM EDT
Mike Krzyzewski will return as Team USA’s head basketball coach, but he must replace both his NBA assistants. Not only is Mike D’Antoni moving on, so will Nate McMillan, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. McMillian, via Spears: “It was a great experience with Coach K,” McMillan said. “Jerry Colangelo did a great…
May 23, 2013, 5:16 PM EDT
It’s all about the rings. For Phil Jackson — out promoting his book “Eleven Rings” — it’s always been about the hardware. It’s about building a real team around the stars he was given, about managing the egos, about having a team that didn’t seem fazed by the biggest stages. So when Time Magazine asked…
May 23, 2013, 4:10 PM EDT
If the Philadelphia 76ers had beaten the odds and won the NBA Draft Lottery Tuesday it would have made new GM Sam Hinkie’s life a little easier. But he would have heard about it on the phone, he wasn’t in New York. And he wasn’t at home in front of his television with a beer,…
May 23, 2013, 3:15 PM EDT
The network suits at TNT have to be happy they have the rights to the Eastern Conference finals — they got the Heat and LeBron James to showcase. Indiana may be a small market to go against them (you know the network was pulling for the Knicks last round) but at least they have crossover…
May 23, 2013, 2:47 PM EDT
As the Dwight Howard free agency news cycle rolls on, the latest report has him expanding the list of teams he’ll consider signing with this summer. It’s been previously reported that Howard is most intrigued by the Houston Rockets, thanks in no small part to a young star already in place there in the form…
May 23, 2013, 1:50 PM EDT
Pablo Prigioni reportedly was considering returning to Spain in part because his wife wanted to go back, but the Knicks guard is making intentions clear now. Marc Berman of the New York Post: “If I can choose, I prefer to play in the United States and stay in the NBA,’’ Prigioni said on Argentine radio.…
May 23, 2013, 1:27 PM EDT
Even before the season tipped off you had a pretty good sense that LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul would be All-NBA First Team — they are dominant players at or entering their peak. But Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan continue to defy father time. The two veterans round out the All NBA Team…
May 23, 2013, 12:47 PM EDT
520px;”> Phil Jackson has been virtually everywhere the last couple weeks selling his new book “Eleven Rings” but one of my favorite interviews so far is the one from last night with John Stewart on The Daily Show. And not because as a Knicks fan Stewart wants to know about those two rings. It’s near…
May 23, 2013, 11:39 AM EDT
We’ve all done this: After a really difficult project, no matter how rewarding it was, right afterward we say “no way, I’m never doing that again.” Then six months later we look back on it and think “you know, it wasn’t that bad” and talk ourselves into doing it again. That’s Mike Krzyzewski and coaching…
May 23, 2013, 11:22 AM EDT
There’s a big risk that comes with draft Nerlens Noel. And not just his torn ACL. Noel played only 24 games last season, and although that’s more than twice as many as Kyrie Irving did his lone season at Duke, it’s still a pretty small sample. I think Noel proved enough to justify becoming the…
May 23, 2013, 11:01 AM EDT
The Wizards rightfully believe they would have made the playoffs if they remained healthy this season. Washington went 24-25 with John Wall – a better winning percentage than the eighth-seeded Bucks (38-44). And when Wall, Nene and Bradley Beal all played, the Wizards were 15-7. Washington should be excited to have a team on the…
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- PBT Extra: Talking Heat/Pacers, and why Indy might be optimistic 6
- If Phil Jackson could have any player to start a team it would be… Bill Russell 39
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- Report: Dwight Howard will consider multiple teams in free agency, is said to be most intrigued by the Rockets (122)
- Kobe Bryant responds to Michael Jordan comparison from Phil Jackson (91)
- Alonzo Mourning says Scottie Pippen says LeBron would “kick Jordan’s ass” (77)
- Bradley Beal said he’d lose respect for a teammate who acted like Derrick Rose (67)
- Pacers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 6 win over Knicks (60)
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- PBT: Hibbert says Battier's knee to groin intentional
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