Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Real Roller Coaster

Following the NBA play-offs from the distant land of Oz this season has been quite a different and at times frustrating experience. This is the time when you catch the best basketball action of the season, the most dramatic moments, that is if you don't count the odd brawl featuring Ron Artest during the regular season (Artest has been surprisingly contrite of late)! The frustration has been multiplied many times over because the hotels that I have stayed in over the last few months do not have ESPN. Sometimes you wonder how much do you really have to pay to get what you want! I did miss one of the best play-off series in recent times, the first round between the Rockets and the Mavericks. It was almost cruel that one of these teams had to go, considering how good they are. But then, that is the kind of competition there is out West. But it has to be said, the Rockets let go of a golden opportunity after taking both games at Dallas; only for the Mavs to return the favour. Even as I write this, the Mavs are still in the hunt despite their game six loss to the Suns. It has been tougher than expected for the Suns against the Mavs - not that Dallas was being taken lightly, but then the Suns had a lot of rest having swept Memphis while their opponents had to come through an emotionally and physically draining series. Steve Nash continues to be the story of the season, with the icing in the form of the MVP award, a richly deserved recognition. And with his performances he also continues to haunt Dallas owner Mark Cuban, who decided he wasn't about to part with $65 million over six years for Nash. It's easy to criticize Cuban in hindsight, but then no one could have seen such a season ahead for Nash (and Cuban has mostly spent money wisely). Who knows if he would have had the same season at Dallas? After all, with the Suns, Nash has an almost perfect chemistry going. Talking about the MVP award, there was no surprise that everyone was talking about Shaquille O'Neal being the other leading contender, but I was surprised to see not many take up the case of Dwayne 'Flash' Wade. Shaq's influence on Miami's season is stating the obvious, but what about Wade? Time and again when Shaq wasn't around, Wade more than just picked up the slack. If Shaq was the spiritual leader of the side, Wade was the engine that kept it going on bumpy roads. It does seem that there is an unspoken code when it comes to young players like Wade getting or even being considered for, the MVP award. If the Suns think they have drawn tough opponents in Dallas - I learnt from Marty Burns' column on Yahoo that (Sir) Charles Barkley and Grant Hill have tipped the Mavs to move on to the conference finals - what must Greg Popovich be going through? After all, weren't the Spurs with their stifling half-court defense expected to roll over Seattle? The surprises keep coming. - NK

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