NBA Playoffs Begin This Weekend
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
It is playoff time in the NBA. And the smart money - at least maybe the lazy money - is on a third-straight finals matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James versus Steph Curry again. But I noticed that the Cavaliers are not even the No. 1 seed in the East. However, sportswriter Marcus Thompson thinks my obsession with seeding is misguided, at least when it comes to the Cavs and LeBron.
MARCUS THOMPSON: Tell me you're really not buying the whole LeBron at two-seed means anything, right?
GREENE: (Laughter) Wait. Are you saying that a two-seed, five-seed doesn't matter - the Cavs are headed for the championship?
THOMPSON: I'm just saying it's LeBron. And I wouldn't buy. I wouldn't buy it.
GREENE: So Thompson has covered the Golden State Warriors for the Bay Area News Group for years. He was there for their heartbreaking finals loss to Cleveland last year. But he says this year's Warriors are loaded.
THOMPSON: Think about this. If they would have made two more shots down the stretch, they would have been champions.
GREENE: Last year, yeah.
THOMPSON: Steph Curry was hurt. Andre Iguodala's back turned into, like, a 72-year-old back. And they still almost won. And then they added Kevin Durant, one of the five best players in the league.
THOMPSON: If they don't win, man, I mean, that would be even worse of a choke job.
GREENE: OK. We can't just talk about Golden State and Cleveland.
THOMPSON: Are there are other teams? Are there other teams in the league?
GREENE: I think there are. I mean, people in Boston certainly say there are. Why are you dismissing the Celtics? I mean, they're the top seed in the East.
THOMPSON: I'm not dismissing the Celtics as much as I am not forgetting that LeBron played for Cleveland.
GREENE: OK (laughter).
THOMPSON: When they met in that game in Boston...
GREENE: This is one of the regular season games between those two you're talking about.
THOMPSON: Yeah. And it wasn't even close. It was just like LeBron said, all right, let me show you one time what you will have to deal with if we meet in the playoffs. And he obliterated them.
GREENE: OK. As much as you're talking about LeBron, I mean, we've got two MVP candidates, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and Houston's James Harden they're going to be facing off against one another and in the first round. I mean, there are other players in this league, we should say.
THOMPSON: You know, I haven't been that impressed with Russell Westbrook, like especially for the first half of the season. But, I mean, he just kept beating me against the head with greatness, and I ended up having to succumb. To be able to average a triple-double and average 30 points is insane. This guy never gets tired.
GREENE: Well, if there is a team out there that is going to knock you upside the head with their greatness and stun you and win a championship, who might it be?
THOMPSON: San Antonio could do it. I think they have the best coach in the game and probably the best system in the game. Let me tell you a team that I really like. I don't know if they can pull it off, but I think the Washington Wizards might do something. I think that team can make some noise in the East and probably make it to the final. I like that team more than I like Boston.
GREENE: And just step back - I mean, if you're trying to convince the non-basketball fans - doesn't really follow the NBA - why they should actually tune into the 2017 playoffs, anything you can tell them?
THOMPSON: The great thing about the NBA playoffs is that the storylines are really what kind of drive it because basketball is an individual, like, superstar sport. There's only five players. They aren't wearing helmets - right? You know who they are. You get to know their background, and the NBA really plays up the individual players. Plus, you know, you might as well be in the conversation at work the next day.
GREENE: Sounds smart at that watercooler. Marcus Thompson covers basketball for the Bay Area News Group, and he's also got a new book out. It's "Golden: The Miraculous Rise Of Steph Curry." Marcus, thanks a lot.
THOMPSON: Thank you. By the way, I did not hear your pick.
GREENE: Oh, I'm going to go with the Warriors. But I'm going to say this - it's not going to be against the Cavs.
THOMPSON: Hold on - are you going with Boston? Is that what's happening right now?
GREENE: No, I think it's going to be a surprise team... Hey, yeah,
fade that out. We don't need to hear anymore of my expertise at all.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
(Laughter) He keeps you on your toes, David.
GREENE: He really does. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.