Aug 6, 2012, 12:38 PM EST
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.
Dec 10, 2013, 12:02 AM EST
Not sure I have ever seen this before. Early in the Clippers eventual easy win over the Sixers Chris Paul puts up a shot and because DeAndre Jordan‘s man had rotated over to help on the drive it left Tony Wroten — all 6’5″, 205 five of him — trying to keep Jordan off the…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:05 PM EST
Al Harrington, who at 33 has been battling knee issues since last season when he has an infection in there, issues that have kept him out since Nov. 12, is now going to be out a while longer. Harrington had knee surgery again on Monday and will be out at least a month, the Wizards…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:24 PM EST
Tyreke Evans drove to attack Kevin Durant off the dribble Friday night — Evans had been very aggressive all game, largely carrying the reserves in the first half — he went up for the shot and when he can down he sprained his ankle. That sprain is going to keep him out a week, maybe…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:20 PM EST
Kobe Bryant is back with the Lakers and frankly that’s just good for the NBA — it’s a star driven league and it needs its elite players on the court. That said Kobe looked rusty and his teammates clearly were not used to playing with him in the Lakers loss to the Raptors Sunday. Kay…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:39 PM EST
The Milwaukee Bucks were already without Larry Sanders, who needed surgery to repair torn ligaments in his hand after a bar fight, and now this. Zaza Pachulia will be out at least four weeks with a broken bone in his foot, coach Larry Drew announced Monday. It is the calcaneus bone, what most of us…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:01 PM EST
As we told you earlier was likely to happen, Stephen Jackson has agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Clippers. For one, Doc Rivers confirmed it to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Second, Jackson himself posted this on Instagram. The Clippers need some depth on the wing because J.J. Redick is out with…
Dec 9, 2013, 5:03 PM EST
“I think the last time I had eight months off I was still in the womb.” —Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, talking about the eight months he was forced out of action due to his ruptured Achilese. Bryant, as his his nature, had to work hard to get back on the court 240 days after…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:53 PM EST
The general rule of thumb is 20 games into the season you can start to really trust the stats and the trends — in which case it’s good to be a Portland Trail Blazers fan. They move into the top slot with their recent wins over Indiana and OKC. 1. Trail Blazers (17-4, Last Week…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:08 PM EST
Knicks fans could use a little good news, so we’re here to help out. Tyson Chandler’s return from a broken leg should be here in the next few weeks. Chandler returned to practice on Monday, in a limited role, then told reporters he thought he would be back before New Year’s Day, as tweeted by…
Dec 9, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
Minnesota’s Corey Brewer, you’re the next contestant on “pay some money to NBA Charities for flopping!” The league announced Monday that Brewer has been fined $5,000 for his second flopping offense of the season. His first came against the Knicks earlier in the year, this new one was against the Heat on Saturday, when he…
Dec 9, 2013, 2:39 PM EST
Memphis extended the contract of Quincy Pondexter this summer thinking they had secured a solid outside shooter they desperately needed at a fair price. Now they may have lost him for the season. An MRI Monday revealed a tarsal navicular stress fracture in his right foot, the team announced. That’s a small bone near the…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:59 PM EST
Dwight Howard turned 28 on Sunday. (Maybe that’s why Kobe decided to not play Friday and wait until Sunday… nah.) Howard celebrated by dropping 20 points and grabbing 22 rebounds on his old Orlando Magic team (you knew he’d be up for that game) then the team went out bowling with his Rockets’ teammates —…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:07 PM EST
In case you can’t get enough Kobe Bryant comeback we are here to help. Nike released a Kobe Bryant comeback commercial on the day of his return to the Lakers lineup, which you can see above. In case you didn’t know and it wasn’t already obvious, Nike is a Kobe sponsor and he has his…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:55 PM EST
Tuesday night the Nets could get Paul Pierce and Deron Williams back on the court. Which would be a nice first step toward turning Brooklyn’s tire fire of a season around. Both Pierce and Williams went through practice on Monday, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. We knew Williams was close to returning, however Pierce…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:01 PM EST
This was easily my favorite highlight of Sunday night. In the fourth quarter of the Lakers loss to the Raptors Sunday, Nick Young got the ball in a transition attempt before the defense set, Young got the ball in the right corner, attacked along the baseline and as he got close to the basket Jonas…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:19 AM EST
Getting Rudy Gay in a trade from Toronto was not a sign the Kings want to make a run at the playoffs right now in the West — they are one of just two teams in a deep conference with no real shot at the postseason (Utah is the other). No, this was about future…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:59 AM EST
There were rough patches — the 2-for-9 shooting, the eight turnovers — but there were also moments in Kobe Bryant‘s return to action Sunday night against Toronto where you said “that’s the Kobe I remember.” There was his first play, a bullet pass to Robert Sacre for an assist. Later there was the jab step…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:31 AM EST
The Knicks suffered their worst loss of the season on Sunday, losing by 41 points to a Celtics team that shouldn’t beat anybody by that much. And they did so wearing their alternate orange uniforms. Whether the 12 noon tip time or the orange color scheme is messing with the Knicks on these weekend games…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:44 AM EST
J.J. Redick is out with a broken hand. Matt Barnes is out following surgery to repair a retinal tear in his left eye. Reggie Bullock is out with a sprained ankle. All this has left the Los Angeles Clippers short bodies on the wing, so they may bring in veteran Stephen Jackson to fill the…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
LOS ANGELES — Make no mistake, this was first and foremost about money. And future flexibility. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri made a smart trade sending Rudy Gay out of town in a deal that sets his team up for the future by removing up to $12.4 million from the books next season. This summer Andrea…
- PBT Extra: Kobe Bryant is back, doesn’t have much time to get it right 2
- It’s official, Clippers agree to terms with Stephen Jackson 1
- PBT NBA Power Rankings: At the quarter pole Portland takes the lead 16
- Paul Pierce practiced Monday, could return vs. Celtics Tuesday 2
- Report: Kings not done trading, Jason Thompson next on block 4
- LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he? (65)
- Dwight Howard frustrated with Rockets’ effort in recent losses (52)
- Kobe Bryant dunks, looks good in Lakers practice; Friday return possible (47)
- The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps (43)
- Durant tells “60 Minutes Sports” he’s still tired of being No. 2 (35)