Lakers Earn Playoff Cameo vs. Spurs
April 22, 2013

When the Utah Jazz lost their last regular season game of the year Wednesday night, Laker fans could celebrate the clinching of a playoff berth. Yay for them. The Kobe-less, and maybe the Nash-less basketball squad from Los Angeles made the NBA playoffs. Big deal. When the Lakers beat Houston just hours after the Jazz loss, it meant the Lakers will lose to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, instead of the top-seed Oklahoma City Thunder. Whoopee.

Everyone who follows sports loves playoffs, but seriously, there are far too many teams that qualify. And that's in just about every sport. Ask Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig why he added a wild card in each league last year. He'll say, “we still have fewer teams than basketball.” The NBA post-season opened in grand style Saturday. All four home teams won. The other four first-round series began on Sunday. All four home teams won.

The Lakers lost by a dozen points Sunday, and that was the closest game of the day. Denver squeaked by Golden State by only two the day before, but the average margin of victory in the eight game-ones was 16. There are hardly ever any first-round upsets in the NBA, and even if there is one, that team will usually lose in the second round anyway.

TNT analyst Charles Barkley will tell you there are only three or four teams that can win a championship in a given year. That is usually true, so why not just cut the playoff field in half? It can be like baseball. There are three divisions in each conference. Have the three division winners and a wild card team. That still works out to the top four teams in each conference.

In this scenario, the seeds would be a little different with San Antonio hosting the Clippers (good matchup), and top seed Oklahoma City with home court against the wild card Denver Nuggets. In the East, number one Miami would play wild card Brooklyn, while the New York Knicks would face Indiana (bring back Spike Lee and Reggie Miller). The winners of each series would play for the conference title, and the winners of those series would play for the championship. The Lakers would be home recuperating, Kobe would be tweeting about the Clippers, and it was save us two weeks of knowing what's going to happen anyway.

This doesn't happen, of course, because of money. Networks want programming and get sponsors to pay for it. The shoe and uniform companies get more air time, and lets face it, people watch. At least in basketball, there's not much of a chance that the Milwaukee Bucks are going to win a title. In hockey, and even baseball, anything can happen. A hot goalie or some good pitching, and teams that don't deserve to be in the playoffs in the first place can be hanging banners.

Baseball has made it possible for a third place team in its division to make the playoffs (and the commissioner thinks thats a good thing), but basketball and hockey have always had too many teams in. I'll let the NFL off the hook, though. More football teams (12) make the playoffs than in baseball (10), but fewer than the NBA and NHL (16 each). In football, though, teams only play 16 regular season games. 10-6 really isn't that much better than 6-10. A couple of breaks here or there can earn you a few extra wins. A wild-card round can decide how deserving a team actually is.

Basketball and hockey have always been playoff gluttons. The NBA went from 12 playoff teams to 16 in 1984. Back then, that meant seven teams did not make the playoffs. At that time, the NHL already had 16 post-season berths, which meant only five teams didn't qualify in that league. Five! You had to be a bad team not to get in.

Needless to say, I won't be a marketing executive or a commissioner of a major sports league any time soon. I am a Laker fan, but face it, they are not playoff caliber. I know it's considered a disgrace not to make the playoffs. That shouldn't be true. In any sport, it should be considered an honor to get in.

What's this world coming to?: We saw last week how horrible things can be with the terrible bombings in Boston, and this is miniscule in comparison, but who wudda thunk it? Sportscaster Al Michaels and actress/sweetheart Reese Witherspoon were both arrested over the weekend. Michaels for DUI and Witherspoon for allegedly verbally abusing a cop and playing the "don't you know who I am?" card when her husband was arrested for DUI.

Around the baseball dial: I have Major League Baseball's audio package, so I can listen to any game I want ($20 for any game, any team, all year). I listened to Baltimore's announcers Saturday against the Dodgers, so Joe Angel and Fred Manfra instead of Charley Steiner and Rick Monday. Giants fans may remember Angel. He sounds like Jon Miller with a cold. They have the same speech patterns, the same sense of humor, and pretty much the same styles, only Angel's voice is a little deeper. Miller and Angel worked together in San Francisco, and used to be paired in Baltimore years ago.

At least the Los Angeles Dodgers didn't extend their long losing streak in front of a national television audience. They beat the Orioles on Sunday in Baltimore, snapping a six-game skid. The game was televised nationally by TBS. Wednesday's Dodgers-Mets game will be on ESPN, with Met sensation Matt Harvey (4-0, 0.93) against Ted Lilly (first start of the year). Not looking promising.

I listened to a Yu Darvish-pitched Texas Rangers game the other day, and I think the Rangers number two radio guy is better than their first-stringer. Reading his bio, I was shocked to find that Matt Hicks joined the team just last year, after being a Double-A announcer before that. Lead guy Eric Nadel has been with the club 35 years. If you listened, you might think it was the other way around.

Gold Sox baseball gets underway one month from tomorrow, and I've done almost no preparation. It would probably be a good idea to know who the players are. Maybe a call to the manager? Yeah, that might help.

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