And What Are The Odds Fife Will Run For President?
By Tom Danehy
THE NBA PLAYOFFS bring together 16 teams which have survived the six-month-long battle of attrition. They're the good, the bad and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Here's a quick look at the playoffs, the breakdown of the teams into homogeneous groups, and the predictable societal ripple effects should one of the various teams emerge victorious in mid-June:
SOOOO PREDICTABLE: Chicago Bulls. It wouldn't be horrible if they win it all, just sorta there. Hey, the Bulls have Michael Jordan. Ask any real basketball fan and they'll tell you Jordan is No. 1 on their list of the greatest ballplayers of all time and probably somewhere in the top 1,000 on their list of favorite athletes. The Bulls also have three former UA Wildcats: Steve Kerr (we love Steve Kerr!), Jud Buechler (we love Jud Buechler!), and Brian Williams (we know who Brian Williams is)....
Prognosis: If the Bulls win, the sun'll come up tomorrow, Alanis Morissette will keep selling CDs, and Fife will run in 1998. Yawn.
NOT GREAT, BUT OKAY: Phoenix Suns. They should've won it four years ago. And three years ago. And two years ago. If they win it this year, after starting the season 0-13, it'd be a great sports story, but not all that satisfying.
Los Angeles Lakers. Boy, I'm trying hard to reconcile my lifelong love for the Lakers with the presence of Shaquille O'Neal. I know, let's make it easy. If he leads them to the NBA championship a few times, I'll come right out in public and say he's not horrible.
Miami Heat. A so-so team remade in the tough-as-nails defensive image of coach Pat Riley. Probably has the best chance of beating Chicago in the east, which is not much of a chance at all.
Charlotte Hornets. A surprisingly good squad, considering they have almost all new starters and a new coach. After a fire sale of players, the Hornets were supposed to stink, but they had their best season ever. Go figure.
NOT MUCH CHANCE, IF ANY: Orlando Magic. Had a palace coup, got coach fired, then started winning. Most unprofessional, sets a bad precedent.
Detroit Pistons. Drained every last drop out of Grant Hill in the regular season. Nothing left for the playoffs.
Washington Bullets. Just when you think Chris Webber has finally matured, he opens his mouth.
Minnesota Timberwolves. First-time playoff team led by two guys who should be college sophomores. If only they'd been able to spell "sophomore."
Los Angeles Clippers. Finished 10 games below .500 in the regular season. Will be three games under .500 in the playoffs, as in 0-3.
Portland Trail Blazers. These guys actually pay J.R. Rider to do the stuff he does.
Prognosis: Several of these teams will have gone quietly in three games and will be into the first week of their summer vacations by the time you read this. The only reason they're in the playoffs at all is so instead of having three best-of-seven series, we get three best-of-sevens and a best-of-five. However, if any of these teams wins the NBA title, Alanis Morissette will give up show biz and open a tie-dye shop on Fourth Avenue, Fife will insist on serving as his own attorney, and we'll find out there really was a spaceship behind Hale-Bopp.
JUSTICE SERVED DEPT.: Utah Jazz. Reminds me of a joke my old Irish-Catholic parish priest told me. "I've got good news and bad news. The good news is the Lord is coming soon. The bad news is that he wants us all to meet him in Salt Lake City."
For some perverse reason, the gods of basketball have preserved the game the way it was supposed to be played. And then they put it in the most backwater spot in the NBA so no impressionable young people will be exposed to it. Karl Malone for MVP, John Stockton for a charter membership in the Short, Slow White Guy Sports Hall of Fame, and the Utah Jazz as Sentimental Favorites to win it all this year.
Houston Rockets. Son of Sentimental Favorites. Or, more accurately, Grandfather. The oldest team in the league. Hakeem and Clyde have won titles, and no one deserves one more than Charles Barkley. If they stay healthy, this third seed should be favored to emerge from the West.
Atlanta Hawks. Such a rarity these days--a good basketball team. A pleasure to watch, even with Christian Laettner.
Prognosis: It's been nine years since a team I wanted to win the NBA title did so. I'm thinkin' it'll go to at least 10. But just in case, Alanis Morissette will buy back all her albums and apologize, Fife will have a roommate named Turk, and Nike will have a new system whereby after your shoes wear out, you'll be able to go back into the store and buy another pair just like it.
PLEASE GOD, NO!!: New York Knicks. You have to understand, I don't want teams from New York to win anything. Ever. New Yorkers are insufferable enough as it is. You want them to win something? Plus, Patrick Ewing plays for the Knicks. Occasionally.
Seattle SuperSonics. Pity George Karl. Just when Gary Payton screws his head on straight and becomes the toughest point guard in the league, Shawn Kemp's falls off altogether. An ugly, ugly team.
Prognosis: If one of these two teams wins the title, Alanis Morissette will release a disco remix of "Jagged Little Pill," followed by "Alanis and Madonna: The Duets"; entire radio stations will have all-Alanis formats, Fife will be acquitted and use the '98 campaign as a springboard for the White House in 2000, using the slogan, "I've already been tried and acquitted for my crimes," and Nike will offer only Air Jordans. In black.
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