Thursday, May 10, 2007

NBA Playoffs taken to a ho.......nuva.......level

The play of the underdog Golden State Warriors and a heartbreaking revelation by an on-court hero has rejuvenated the NBA Playoffs

In true California fashion, the rise of the Warriors has brought out the celeb bandwagon jumpers, a sure sign of a fad waiting to happen- Warriors Fever, catch it before they get the boot!

Even though the Warriors collapsed down the stretch last night and wound up losing Game 2 of the Western Conference Semis, 127-117 in OT to the Utah Jazz, the scrappy team from the (other) Bay Area continued to do what they have done best this playoff season:

re-convert former NBA fans who had lost interest in the sport over the past few years due to any of numerous reasons, a group of which I am a founding member.

After commissioner David Stern globalized the sport, elevating it to one of the best professional leagues in the world, and maximized its earning potential to the zillionth degree, something happened to the game itself: it turned into a predictable, me-first snoozefest featuring a few bankable starts, a ton of talented-but-petulant wannabes and coaches who had no more control over their players than Eliot Mintz had over Paris Hilton.

And then along came the 2006-07 GS Warriors. A joke of a team at mid season (19-22), GM Chris Mullin orchestrated a ballsy trade that would either make or break the team- he dealt popular but underachieving players Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavey plus a couple of scrubs for Stephen "Action" Jackson, a guy who never met a strip club he couldn't riddle with gunfire, Al Harrington and a couple of scrubs back.

Although they didn't set the world on fire, Golden State finished the season on a 23-20 run after the deal and eked into the playoffs as the 8-seed with a 42-40 record.

One historic and hyperkinectic dismantling of the NBA's best team, the 67-win Dallas Mavericks, in the opening round later and the Warriors and their brand of fast & furious funball has electrified the league and brought some much-needed-juice back to the NBA Playoffs. Playing in an packed arena in front of collegiate-like crowds, these Warriors have given fans a reason to care again, even if it is only for a short time.

But like I said, it didn't matter that the best show on hardcourt lost the game last night and is facing a 2-0 deficit as it heads back home for Game 3 on Friday night; no, there was an even better thing that happened during & after the game, and it had nothing to do with points & rebounds, wins & losses.
When Jazz guard Derek Fisher stepped onto the court with just over 3:00 to play in the 3rd quarter to a thunderous ovation, you'd have thought the 11-year veteran might have been having the game of his life, yet it was the first time he had seen the court in the series; he had to leave the team suddenly late last week under the vague umbrella of "personal reasons", and no one was sure when he would return.

Rusty, tired and emotionally spent, Fisher keyed a Jazz comeback by forcing a turnover on Warrior's guard Baron Davis late in regulation and then nailing a clutch three-pointer late in overtime to ensure the win. He finished with just five points, three assists, and one rebound in 10 minutes of play, and yet he was the unquestioned hero of the day.


Immediately following the game in an emotional post-game interview with TNT's Pam Oliver, Fisher confessed to the world that he had been in New York with his 1-year-old daughter as she received an operation for a rare form of eye cancer. Having undergone successful emergency surgery & chemotherapy earlier in the day, he and his family flew back to Utah later that evening, and a man who needed a way to channel his raw emotions did it the only way he knows how, by taking the the court and thus entering into playoff history.

As he pleaded with the public to have their children visit an opthamoligist to scan for this deadly disease known as retinoblastoma, tears streamed down the face of everyone watching, and immediately the importance of the game and sports itself took a back seat to real life and the courage of this man and his family.

Best wishes to the Fisher family, and welcome back, National Basketball Association.

No comments: