PHILADELPHIA - No one could argue against Miami as a destination location for a first round playoff series.
There’s South Beach, an endless supply of Cafe con Leche and the chance to see Dwyane Wade face off against your Hawks in what would be a fantastic matchup.
But if the 76ers somehow nip the Heat at the tape for the fifth spot and a date with the Hawks, I could deal with a few days and nights in this gritty city, where you’re nothing without one of these Freeway beards, some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and a cheesesteak or cheese steak (since no one here can agree on whether it’s one or two words or the best place to get one) close by.
I can’t imagine there being a more exciting first round series in terms of the individual matchups or the preferred style of play (up-tempo if the 76ers had their way). I also can’t think of a better place to see two of the league’s most athletic, high-flying teams in the first round.
That’s what makes tonight’s matchup between the Hawks and Sixers at Wachovia center even more interesting. Both teams will be in the mood to send a message, just in case they see each other down the road. Late season games like these always serve as playoff mood setters.
And now that the NCAA Tournament is winding down, the focus for hoops heads like us can shift officially to the NBA playoffs.undefined
That being said, my eyes have been opened to a few things in the past couple of weeks of watching the college kids go at it.
Five things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Blake Griffin is the No. 1 pick in the draft and no one else need apply. Griffin is the closest thing to a man among boys in the college game right now (sort of like Mike Beasley, Kevin Durant, Al Horford and Greg Oden before him). There’s no one else to even consider for that top spot. NO ONE!
2. Hasheem Thabeet should be the poster child (albeit a 7-foot-3 version) for players teetering on the brink of entering the draft before it’s time. Thabeet has been discussed as a high lottery pick from the minute he set foot on campus at UConn. Somehow he resisted the urge. Now he has the grand stage at the Final Four to make his case for top three status.
3. Ty Lawson has made his case for a lottery slot as well, proving that he and not that other Ty(lyer Hansbrough) for North Carolina is the Tar Heels’ true most valuable player. I actually had someone argue me down about his earlier this season. But there’s no debate these days. A game-changing point guard trumps a big man in the college game.
4. There isn’t a single player on Villanova’s roster that appears to be a sure-fire NBA player, but they are the one team in the Final Four I can see myself rooting for. Michigan State is out for obvious reasons. And big dogs like Carolina and UConn don’t need any more help. Nova, however, is just the kind of underdog (and bracket buster) that keeps folks tuned in when their teams have already disappeared.
5. I know his team was bounced by those hated Spartans, but Louisville’s Terrence Williams is my draft sleeper this year. I’ve only seen him mentioned as a late first round pick, so apparently not everyone thinks as highly of him as I do. I just don’t know what more a team would want from a small forward. The guy plays hard, passes well, can score in a variety of ways, is physical and appears to be arguably the most unselfish player in the country. I’m thinking he’s going to be like Danny Granger was in the 2005 draft, in terms of being a value pick outside of the draft lottery.
ONE LAST THING OF NOTE …
I know all the studies show that people don’t have the time or desire to read long stories anymore, but if you don’t make time for anything else in the next few days you have to read this riveting story from Pablo S. Torre of Sports Illustrated.
It’s a detailed look at how professional athletes go broke in this age of jaw-dropping salaries, something that nickle and dime hustlers like us figure should be an impossibility with all the zeros on cats’ salaries. I wouldn’t have believed half the stuff in the story if I didn’t know a few former players mentioned in the story and hadn’t already heard, first hand, some their horror stories.
This story took over the conversation at my barbershop last weekend, and I know if it got everybody talking in there it needed to be shared here. Enjoy and (aspiring pro athletes) take notes!
Don’t forget Hawks-Sixers tonight. We’ll chop it up here all day and throughout the game.