Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I really thought I'd have been writing this
column a week ago.
The reason? Simple. I never thought the Miami Heat would need to struggle to
take care of the Indiana Pacers in six games.
And who thought the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers would need to play a
Game 7? Who thought the Sixers would even make the playoffs after their swoon
during the season that took them from first place to no man's land in about two
But, in order to write a preview column about the Eastern and Western
Conference finals, we needed to know which teams would be playing in them. That
explains the wait.
The intrigue, though, is all out West with the Oklahoma City Thunder and San
(Regardless of who won Game 7 in Boston, the East is a fait accompli. The Heat
On the other side, that's where things are interesting.
Two darn good teams with something to prove.
The Thunder, still a bit of an unknown to the occasional NBA fan in the East,
needs to take care of the Spurs and then go on and win a title.
And their star, Kevin Durant, needs it, too. Durant is a wondrous talent, a
revolutionary player, but to take the next step, he needs the spotlight of the
NBA Finals and he needs to shine under that light.
If he couples an NBA championship with a gold medal at the upcoming Summer
Olympics, he becomes the man.
To do that, he would have slain Tim Duncan and then LeBron James in order, and
then would have the national anthem playing while he stood with his teammates
on the gold medal stand in London.
It could, and we stress the word could here, be quite a summer for Mr. Durant.
If he wins.
And what about the Spurs and Duncan?
Didn't you think, I know I did, that San Antonio, after a great run (four
titles) earlier in the decade, had had it.
The Spurs became a non-factor in the eyes of the public over the last couple of
years and now have been reborn with an old, familiar face leading the way.
The anti for just about any NBA superstar, Duncan, he of the silence is golden
credo, is back for a return engagement.
And it could be the final curtain for him.
Another title would give him five rings, and what better way to walk away from
the game than as a champion?
Hollywood does movies about those kinds of endings, but the thing about Duncan
is he isn't the movie type.
He may go to the theater to watch someone else, but he won't want to have a
movie done about him, where folks go and watch. That's not his style and that's
what makes him different and admirable.
He's a superstar in every sense of the word, but never pumps his chest to let
us know it.
In his case, sadly, actions haven't always spoken louder than words. The guys
who yap, rap and do videos get the coverage. Duncan just wins games.
That's a big reason why, outside of going to a Spurs game, that you don't see
many San Antonio fans in other cities. Unfortunately, it's no longer cool just
to win, you have to self-promote. Unless you're Duncan, and that's cooler.
OK, enough of the storylines, let's get to the predictions.
The Heat will make the Celtics look even older than the Sixers made them look
and sweep Boston in four games. Good morning, good afternoon, good night.
On the other side, the Spurs are up 1-0 in the series, so expect Duncan and
Tony Parker have just a little too much for Durant and Russell Westbrook.
This one will need seven games to be decided and it goes to the Spurs, at home,
in a classic finale.
Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia-area
newspapers for over 25 years.
The Sports Network