During the last FIBA World Cup in 2019 held in China, Team USA placed a humiliating 7th! This pre-Olympics, they have – for the first time ever – suffered 2 consecutive losses. There is now the sinking realization that if they still do not understand the sense of urgency, if they do not have the right mental attitude, if they do not imbibe and totally buy-in to the team philosophy provided by Coach Pop, then they could be beat.
The Finals. Bucks have the height and heft, Suns have the speed and skills. Who will the gods favor? Methinks the path has been cleared by the gods in favor of the Suns since the start of the playoffs.
Injuries have become the main catalyst in this year’s playoffs. The team that is less affected by the health bug will win it all. Action has been exciting nonetheless, with coaches showing audacity and great creativity in reacting to the stars’ absence. New faces and new moves were in full display in the playoffs.
In the west, it is maturity against positivity, both virtues that are beyond the basic skills we find on the court. Who wins? The team whose collective will is stronger will win it all. For the east, it will be power vs speed; height and might vs guile. Who wins? It is for the Bucks to win. If the Bucks become too complacent, then the Hawks have a proverbial puncher’s chance to win this series.
This year’s NBA playoffs will go down in history as the year the NBA goes to the hospital. With a big number of stars decommissioned or barely able to play due to injuries as well as COVID restrictions, the playoffs now resemble a medical ward where the wounded are tended; and sent back to the frontlines immediately. The battle is raging and at its most critical stages. And the skills, the stamina, and the spirit of every warrior/player is needed. And the lack of fresh troops, and the failure to bring in reinforcements could spell the difference between life or death.
The arrival of new stars and new alignments usher in a new dawn for the NBA. Traditional contenders such as the Boston Celtics, the San Antonio Spurs, the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors are now back in the rebuilding mode. Upstarts such as the Brooklyn Nets, the Phoenix Suns, the Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks – non-playoff contenders or borderline contenders last year – are now back in contention. Gentlemen, welcome to the ‘New Norm’ of Basketball.