With Lakers Out, Who Is There To Root For?
May 16, 2011

For all intents and purposes, the NBA season ended on May 8 when the Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs. Oh I'll pay attention to the games remaining, but I don't know how many of them I'll watch. I also no longer have much of a rooting interest. With the league down to its final four teams, lets take a look at them...

Miami: Could I possibly root for the Heat? In a word, uh, no. Ever since LeBron James made "The Decision" to take his talents to South Beach, the Heat have become hated anywhere north of South Florida. The Heat also destroyed the Lakers in both of their regular season meetings, including the Christmas Day debacle at Staples Center. I did have Dwyane Wade on my fantasy team this year, but my team finished third and that season is long over. No thanks on the Miami Heat.

Chicago: It's hard for me to really ever root for an Eastern Conference team. During the regular season, I don't even believe that that the league exists past the Mississippi River. I'd rather watch a Minnesota-Portland game than watch Boston vs. Atlanta, or something like that. However, the Bulls are actually a pretty fun team. They had the best record in the east, and have the young MVP in Derrick Rose. These certainly aren't the Michael Jordan Bulls, but that's a good thing. Magic Johnson was a much better player than Jordan anyway. I don't know if I like them to win it all, but better Chicago than Miami.

Dallas: In what now seems like another lifetime, I had a couple of opportunities to interview Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. I know he's controversial, says a lot of stuff he shouldn't, and gets into some trouble for it, but I like him. Does that mean I want him to win a championship? I don't know if I could handle that. It could be like watching a trainwreck--you know you're not going to like what you see, but you gotta watch anyway. Besides, the Mavs just dispatched the Lakers in four straight, swatting them aside like a horse's tail to a fly. I can't root for a championship in the Metroplex. Pass.

Oklahoma City: They have the league's leading scorer in Kevin Durant, an exciting point guard and former UCLA Bruin in Russell Westbrook. They run an exciting up-tempo style, and really put on a show in the first round last year, extending the Lakers to six games. What's not to like about the Thunder? The problem is, can they win? They got by Denver in the first round, but were taken to seven games by eighth-seeded Memphis. If OKC beats Dallas, I'm definitely on the Thunder bandwagon.

So I guess that means I'm rooting for an Oklahoma City-Chicago final with the Thunder winning it all. I wonder what kind of odds I can get on that. Go Thunder, but I'm not quite ready to paint my face light blue and chant O-K-C just yet.

Speaking of odds: I picked 17:1 shot Stay Thirsty to win the Kentucky Derby last week. The most interesting horse in the field finished twelfth.

Oprah is indeed Queen: You've probably heard about this by now, but Oprah Winfrey is the reason the Eastern Conference Finals are already underway. The series was supposed to begin Tuesday in Chicago, but Winfrey rented out the United Center to tape one of her final shows. Game one was moved up to Sunday, game two won't be until Wednesday.

Bigger than the playoffs: In northern California, Tuesday is a much bigger NBA day than any playoff game. It's the annual Draft Lottery. The Kings and Warriors are perennial participants. Sacramento (24-58) is tied for the fourth-worst record in the league. Among non-playoff teams, only Phoenix and Houston had a better record than Golden State (36-46). Interest should be high, especially in Sacramento, since the Kings are staying at least one more year. The lottery will be shown on ESPN at 5:30 P.M. Pacific Time, prior to Thunder-Mavericks game one.

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