As we draw a curtain on the 2018-19 NBA regular season and head into the playoffs, we can reflect as there were several milestones reached/notable moments in the past year, such as:
- Perennial All-Star LeBron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers via free agency
- The (possible) end of Carmelo Anthony’s career
- Reigning MVP/Houston Rockets guard James Harden scored 30 or more points in 32 consecutive games
- New Orleans Pelicans All-Star center Anthony Davis hired Rich Paul of Klutch Sports as his agent, followed by a trade demand, preferably to the Los Angeles Lakers
- Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo and Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic suffer horrific leg injuries
- Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball sever ties with his family’s Big Baller Brand
- Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook finished with double-figure averages in points, rebounds, and assists, to complete a third consecutive year averaging a triple-double
- Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade and Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki bring their respective Hall of Fame careers to a close
- The resurgence of the Brooklyn Nets franchise, who are headed to the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season; and
- The New York Knicks finish with the worst record in the NBA.
These are just a few of the many things that can be highlighted from this past NBA regular season. That being said, the upcoming playoffs are being anticipated with intrigue and excitement. As of this writing, the only pairing that we are certain of is the number four seed Boston Celtics vs. the number five seed Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference.
The jockeying for position as well as playoff berths will go down to the wire. Lottery-bound teams are hopeful the ping-pong balls bounce in their favor, netting them the privilege of selecting first and positioning that franchise to be able to select Duke freshman Zion Williamson, the consensus number one pick. Team needs will go out the window when the lottery teams fate is determined, as Williamson will be the choice for any and all potential teams’ who end up with the number one pick.
Among the playoff storylines we will keep a close watch on:
- Can Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul stay healthy
- Will James Harden carry his high scoring ways into the postseason
- Can the Golden State Warriors “flip the switch” and win a fourth championship in five years
- Will Indiana and Portland be able to overcome the absences of Victor Oladipo and Jusuf Nurkic to advance
- Can the Toronto Raptors win enough to convince pending free agent forward Kawhi Leonard to stay
- Will the Brooklyn Nets be satisfied with having made the playoffs, or will they make some noise when things get started
- Can the Boston Celtics get on the same page to build upon last season’s playoff success
- Will Doc Rivers know what buttons to push to see the Los Angeles Clippers continue to defy the odds
- Can the Milwaukee Bucks mirror their regular season success in the postseason; and finally
- Will the Denver Nuggets youth hurt them once the playoffs begin?
One team noticeably absent from the postseason festivities is the Los Angeles Lakers. This marks the sixth consecutive year that the Lakers have missed the playoffs. With the addition of LeBron James, visions of not only playoff basketball but championships danced in the hopes and dreams of Lakers fans. Unfortunately, the Lakers had multiple players suffer injuries, James included. LeBron suffered a groin tear on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors, which caused him to miss the next 17 games. Additionally, injuries to point guards Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball, and forward Brandon Ingram proved to be too much to overcome, leading to a sixth straight season with the Lakers on the outside looking in at the playoffs. While their absence is noticeable, no one team stops the NBA Playoff “Train” from rolling, and alas, the playoffs are upon us.
As we say farewell to March Madness, while congratulating the Virginia Cavaliers as they celebrate the first national championship won by their men’s basketball team, we welcome the drama and theater that is the NBA playoffs. From the first round until the championship frame, we will be treated with high caliber performances, that will leave the viewer both speechless and in awe. Enough talk already. As the great former boxing referee Mills Lane would say prior to a match, “Let’s Get it On” . . . bring on the playoffs!