OK, time to revise my NBA playoff predictions. While my Eastern bracket played according to planned, the Western Conference has turned into a sequel to “No Country for Old Men” as the Lakers and Spurs bowed out prematurely. So rather than try to analyze the NBA’s Final Four and prognosticate an eventual champion, I’ve decided to pick based on rooting interest… only that’s not so easy either. I really don’t like any of the four teams left.
So I’m left with the game I play whenever I’m faced with a Notre Dame/Michigan or Duke/Carolina contest: who do I dislike the least? Let’s go to the tape:
The Bulls go off the board first. Yes, Miami has Lebron James, who when he took his talents to South Beach instantly became a target for NBA fan ire, but that’s really about it. And Lebron really isn’t that bad of a guy on or off the court. He’s a great talent who’s liable to produce a “wow” moment at any time. The same is true of Dwayne Wade. Chris Bosh looks goofy and sometimes plays that way, but there’s nothing there that really gets under my skin. The Bulls have the opposite dynamic. Derrick Rose is the reigning MVP whose athleticism and grace make him a wonder to watch play. But the Bulls also have Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, two of the most irritating players ever to lace up a pair of sneakers. The thought of watching Noah’s antics for another series or Boozer’s whining makes me sick at my stomach. So my pick is Heat in seven.
The Western Conference final pits the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder led by Kevin Durant against the veteran Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki. It would be easy to go with the “new kid on the block” and the low-key elegance of Durant here, and yes, Mark Cuban is the most annoying owner in pro sports, but I’m going with the Mavs for two reasons. First is Dirk. Nowitzki has toiled 13 seasons as the face of the Mavericks, almost single-handedly making them the most consistent franchise over that time period. He’s a perennial all-star and a complete player. He has revolutionized how we think of big men in basketball with his ability to run the floor and spot up beyond the arc. Players like Durant are merely mimicking a style of play practically invented by Nowitzki. Dirk deserves a ring, so it’s Mavs in six over the Thunder.
In the Finals, I can go back to hating Lebron. There would be some cosmic justice if Lebron was denied a ring in Miami, getting so close as he did with the Cavs. His first trip to the Finals was ended by Tim Duncan and the Spurs. It would be equally as sweet if another NBA “good guy” could get a ring at the expense of King James.
So there you have it. My pick (my wish, really) for the 2011 NBA champion: The Dallas Mavericks over the Miami Heat in seven classic games.