When it comes to entertainment, intrigue, and the highest-level of competition among the world's best athletes, it doesn't get much better than the NBA Playoffs. As an avid watcher of the what I consider the best league in pro sports, the two months of playoffs compel me like nothing else.
I also love the NFL, and I recognize it as "king" in this country (based on popularity), but the NBA brings it every night, not just on the weekend. It features a 7-game series each round, so the best team nearly always advances. The biggest stars in the world are showcased nightly and each game includes a "did-you-see-that!" play that leaves you amazed. "Where amazing happens" is a very accurate slogan.
The story lines are plentiful during this year's playoffs, as always. Here are just a few that I've got my eye on and can't wait to see play out:
|*||The Lakers and Phil Jackson's quest for another three-peat. In what Jackson says is his "last season" as coach, he's on the brink of his fourth three-peat in his career, second with the Lakers. This boggles the mind if you think about it. Many hope for one or two rings, Jackson is working on number 12. Red Auerbach can't believe how many this guy's got. Say what you want about the players he's gotten to coach, he's put it together. To add to this story, Kobe Bryant is after his sixth ring, which, of course, would tie him with Michael Jordan. The Lakers have the team to finish it out again this year, and I consider them the favorite.|
|*||LeBron James and the Miami Heat. No one's been under the microscope more than James this season after his "Decision" to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Heat have played the villain all year and many still wish for their downfall. They've had ups-and-downs during the season but are still in position to win the Eastern Conference. I don't believe it will happen this year based on their supporting cast, but I do want James and Wade to succeed.|
|*||Can the Celtics get back to the Finals? Yes, they can. They have their Hall-of-Fame nucleus (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett) healthy and their experience will give them an edge in the East. Doc Rivers is also at the top of the coaching game. After the mid-season trade of starting center and enforcer Kendrick Perkins, many wonder if Boston's front office cost them a chance at a ring this year. Trusting an aging, injured Shaquille O'Neal is a big question mark for the Celtics. Looking to see what Shaq can contribute, if anything, at the end of his career is worth watching in itself. He is also chasing Bryant for ring number five.|
|*||How far can the Bulls go? The team with the best record and soon-to-be-named MVP Derrick Rose are up against the pressure to bring another title back to Chicago. The Bulls are up 3-0 on the Pacers but are just squeaking by against the worst team in the Playoffs. They will face much stiffer competition in future rounds. First-year head coach Tom Thibadeau is also facing playoff pressure for the first time. The Bulls are a year or two away from a shot at the trophy.|
|*||The rise of Oklahoma City. The Thunder may be the next team of significance in the NBA. They have young players who are committed and a potential superstar in Kevin Durant. They will challenge the Lakers again this year, and will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. A Chicago-Oklahoma City Finals could be in store very soon but not this year.|
This year will feature another classic, vintage NBA match-up for the history books: Lakers vs. Celtics...again. At least that's what I see. Whatever plays out, enjoy the ride.