TSL’s 5-On-5: Giving You The Drop On The Opening Weekend Of The NBA Playoffs

(Editor's note: We got some of the TSL hoops-head crew together to make sense of the first weekend of the playoffs.)

QUESTION 1: Is Boston done? They are old, small, and thin (no bench). It’s curtains, right?

SANDY DOVER: The Boston Celtics are sort of what Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz were when they went home to glory. They’ve had their heyday and now they’re shuffling off. They’ve fought the good fight and they’ve won big, and the end has come. No shame in that, either.

VINNIE GOODWILL : Do we mean done as in this series, or them terrorizing the East? If it’s the latter, LeBron’s Game 6 demolition (45-15-5) did that last year in the Garden. If it’s this series, the Knicks have only protected homecourt for one game. They’ve got a chance.

MAURICE BOBB : Done? Eff a fork, stick a pitchfork in, ’em ’cause they’re done and done. They’ll always “fight” the good fight because they have an HOF coach, but with Rondo out and The Jet playing like a Cessna with a broken wing, the Celts are rapidly descending like the Hindenburg.

NUBYJAS WILBORN: Last year should have been their last stand as currently constituted. They could’ve gone out courageous, but it’ll now resemble Larry Holmes versus Mike Tyson. Ray Allen saw the writing on the wall and left for Miami. Too bad the rest of the Celtics didn’t see it sooner.

RICHARD BOADU: The fat lady was done singing after Rondo went down with his ACL injury. All good things come to an end and the Boston dynasty is over. Especially when Lebron James is playing like this.

QUESTION 2: Should we euthanize the Atlanta Hawks franchise?

SANDY: What the Atlanta Hawks really need to do is get ‘YOUTH-enized.’ Those guys will never win big, because they’re too good to win a draft lottery, but not bad enough to miss the Playoffs. If they start from scratch, get young, and just keep Jeff Teague and Al Horford, they’ll have the opportunity to make bigger strides sooner.

MAURICE : I really don’t know what’s wrong with the Hawks. They lack direction; they lack gumption; and they lack that extra gear needed to get Ws in the playoffs. I like Al Horford, but the rest of them need to be sent to the glue factory.

VINNIE : What’s wrong with the Hawks? No defined strategy or plan or proper way to build around Al Horford and Josh Smith; especially Smith, who’s wildly talented but horribly inconsistent. Inconsistency in personnel and on the bench; it’s hard to get attached to the product — or their direction.

WILBORN: Danny Ferry cleared major cap space by getting rid of Joe Johnson. They picked up a bunch of expired contracts and were set to rebuild. They’re also without Lou Williams and Zaza Pachulia. Hawks are lucky to be here. If Ferry has a good offseason, they can really compete next year.

BOADU: If it’s not the Hawks, it would be another overtly average team. It’s the law of sports physics, the team is good enough to make the playoffs, not great enough to dominate, but not bad enough to get a high draft pick to change their franchise.


QUESTION 3: Can the Heat win the title in less than 15 games? Do they have that all-time great potential?

SANDY: When healthy, the Heat can make history; but that depends almost totally on the health of Dwyane Wade. Even if WoW can hold up strong as LeBron’s wingman, their longest series in the East and in the Finals would likely be six games each. Even without reaching that sub-15 mark, they have the ability to be an all-time team.

WILBORN: If any team could do a Moses Malone, it’s the Miami Heat this year. They’re capable of sweeping every series if they come to play each night. Knicks or Thunder would give them the most resistance, but Heat can definitely match 2001 Lakers and the aforementioned 1983 Sixers.

MAURICE : Nope. As good as Miami is, they’ll fall asleep at the wheel sooner or later. They’ll need a fully healthy D. Wade to defend the title. He’s going to come up lame somewhere down the line. For their sake, let’s hope it won’t be when it matters most.

VINNIE : I’ve always said, since the start of the Heat streak, they could be on some “Lakers in 2001” deal where running through the playoffs unbeaten is likely. Especially, if Wade is all the way right. The only team in the East I foresee getting a game from them is the Knicks, but even that’s a stretch.

BOADU: No. The Knicks aren’t playing around this year. They’ve punched the Heat in the mouth a few times already. The Thunder could defeat the Heat in finals as could the Spurs. The Heat will definitely take an L this postseason.


QUESTION 4: Fam…the Lakers started Steve Nash and Steve Blake in the backcourt for Game 1. Would they even be an elite backcourt in a mid-major NCAA conference?

SANDY: They would be elite if we got Santa-Clara Nashy and Juan Dixon’s homie playing! But these old guys are not their former selves. They would still make mincemeat of the vast majority of the NCAA, but don’t count on any miracles in the Western Conference Playoffs.

MAURICE : I can’t disrespect Nash because, if it weren’t for the injuries, he’d still be Nashty as ever. As for Blake, sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s even in the league. He looks like a demented YMCA janitor. With these two manning the backcourt, the Lake Show is about to get cancelled.

WILBORN: They would run circles around any backcourt currently in NCAA. Guys, we did watch the Final Four this year. There aren’t any truly elite guards coming out in the draft. However, it is sad to see Lakers go out like this.

VINNIE : At this stage of their careers, maybe they’d be better than Shaka Smart’s VCU boys, but Nash in his prime was foolin’, lack of defense or not. If he’s healthy, they’d beat up on Siva and Russ Smith for the national champs in Louisville. Big difference from college to the big boys. Nash shooting from 26 feet looking like Spike Albrecht.

BOADU: Old NBA vets vs. young mid-major college kids? The vets win all day. They’re more experienced and much smarter. There are cats that were Mickey D’s All-Americans playing at top flight schools that can’t even make the NBA. Nash and Blake would cook any mid-major backcourt today.


QUESTION 5: Folks say that Russell Westbrook doesn’t stand down often enough and defer to to Kevin Durant. Other folks wonder if James Harden – a sublime player, no doubt – is transcendent enough to carry a squad, as a franchise player, to contender status. Let’s get hypothetical for a moment…Wouldn’t a Russ/Harden swap work for both squads?

MAURICE : I don’t think that swap works. Regardless of whether or not Russ works for OKC, they’d still need a true point guard to run the show. Harden is illy with the rock and can distribute, but let’s be real, he’s not a PG. The Thunder needs a real Point Gawd.

WILBORN: It would work for OKC because as long as you have Durant they’ll be fine. It wouldn’t work for Houston because Westbrook wouldn’t pass the ball to any of those guys. If he won’t pass to the best scorer in the league why would he pass to Jeremy Lin?

VINNIE : Nah, it wouldn’t. The Thunder needs Westbrook’s aggressiveness because Perk, Ibaka and Thabo feed off it, even his out-of-control plays. You can trade Harden for Russ to give Durant more iso opportunities, but the Thunder’s problem is not enough movement. So unless you replace Scott Brooks, it’s more of the same.

SANDY: YES. The Thunder flourished because Harden acted as a conductor for the electricity of Durant and Westbrook. He was the point guard in disguise, the balm for their irritation, and The Beard is the superior player. Westbrook is an alpha dog that needs a big man, not another wing, that can temper his ferocity.

BOADU: Work in what way? Winning a championship? Lebron or Michael Jordan couldn’t win a chip on their own, so the Rockets would be in the same position with Westbrook or Harden. Harden is good, but Westbrook is more of a playmaker than the Beard. So, no, this swap wouldn’t work.

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