Single page view By Eric Neel
Page 2

I'm all about the underdog. Speed of lightning, roar of thunder; that's how I roll. I've got Richmond Spiders spinning webs in my office window as we speak. I recite my Matthew 5:5 and I love my Errol Flynn in a feathered cap. The '75 Warriors are my Leon Spinks. Leon Spinks is my '88 Dodgers. And I like my miracle the way I like my Reunite – on ice.

But I tell ya, I look at the upcoming NBA playoff picture and I can't help but think: Crush the little guys, kill 'em dead.

I don't want to hear about how "dangerous" and "fun" the Nuggets are. I've got no love for the Chicago story. And I'm through talking about the Wizards and Sonics, too.

This year, I'm rooting for the favorites all the way. I want to see Miami and Detroit come roaring out of the east like the Hounds of Hell. And out west, I want San Antonio to play like San Antonio and the Suns to play as well as they have all season.

Why?

I've got my reasons.

For one, this ain't about flying into the heart of the Deathstar any more. The Lakers are dead. When they had the league's most dangerous codependency cycle running full tilt, you couldn't root for them; and unless you were a native of Southern California, you were, in fact, compelled to root against them. The whole of the outside world rallied around anyone who took 'em on. Every game, every series, was a struggle between good and evil. If you loved kittens, you hated the Lakers. If you believed in the rights of workers and in the fundamental soullessness of The Man who holds them down, you also believed the Lakers must fall.

But it's different now. There is no one team, no lightning rod. Maybe the Pistons will become that club, but they aren't there yet. And in the absence of that kind of dominance, we've got a genuine, thoroughbred, pick-your-pony horse race for the crown this year. A Cinderella story is something you trot out when the race looks already won. In a year like this, it's just a worn-out nag.

Michael Jordan
'Couldn't be my fault, right? Must've been yours, ref. And yours. And yours, too.'

Two, how about some respect? The Spurs, should it be the Spurs (and I still think it will be the Spurs), deserve some deep love, the kind we've been slathering all over the Patriots these last few years, the kind reserved for understated grace and greatness. Lookahere, if San Antonio wins, that's two titles in the last three years and three in the last six. We're talking about a team that's gone 419-175 since 1997, about a club with a higher winning percentage than any other team in the four major sports over that eight-year span.

But they're like the silent dynasty. They've done it the right way, without public clashes or extracurricular headline grabs. They've got a truly egoless superstar center. They play team defense. They're consistent. They move the ball. And in addition to their stars, they consistently and effectively incorporate key role players (from Avery Johnson to Beno Udrih) into their attack. Why waste time and energy rooting for the underdog when we've got such an appealing overdog in the mix? Why not root for the Spurs to get what they deserve?

Three, the future of the free world is at stake. The Suns aren't just a 53-17 juggernaut, they're also standard-bearers for the new-again NBA running game. They lose to Denver or Memphis in the first round and it's going to be a hot topic for about a week; but if the whole idea of running, and the fun that comes with it, beats a retreat right along with them, that upset's going to be cold comfort.

Continued...


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