Would You Believe Thunder vs. LeBron?
This has been an NBA postseason of blood, balls and bile, exquisite in its unpredictability and laughable in its whining. Who cannot admire the audacity of Kevin Durant, who at 21 has stared into the eyeballs of a coach with 10 championship rings and turned Phil Jackson into a griping, melting mess, all while making Kobe Bryant look old, feeble and broken down? And who can't appreciate the San Antonio Spurs, called out by their coach as "dogs" and looking ready to throw an expiration date on their glory era, only to take a 3-1 lead over the favored Dallas Mavericks even as Manu Ginobili dripped blood from his nose and George Hill, best known for his nude pictures on the Internet, had to rescue the Big Three on Sunday night?
Playoff life is proceeding according to form in the grinding Eastern Conference, where LeBron James continues to exhibit why he might be an MVP in perpetuity -- please, a triple-double AND a halfcourt shot at the third-quarter buzzer -- while Orlando and Boston carry on as eventual Cavaliers victims. "I've done some great things in the past, I'll do some great things in the future," said James, who went for 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists against overmatched Chicago after scoring 40 and 39 points in his previous two games. "But we're in the present now, and I'm feeling pretty good."
He should be. Because if he scans out West, he's seeing chaos that only can fuel the idea of Cleveland, woeful Cleveland, finally winning its first championship in a team sport since 1964 and keeping James in town as the savior of northeast Ohio's self-esteem. The compelling story, of course, is how the Oklahoma City Thunder, who began their move from Seattle with a 3-29 start and represent the very antithesis of all things L.A. and Lakers, are teaching the suddenly staggering defending champs about heart, hustle, energy and, yes, maturity. It was Jackson, remember, who tried to sink his faux Zen into Durant's head by criticizing league officials for allowing him to march to the free-throw line more often than he deserves. Durant said he felt disrespected, which was perceived by some media observers as a victory for Jackson but, so far, has been a statement of purpose for Durant and this unlikely success story.