Another season is in the books, and the playoffs are a tip off away. Like any season, 2013-14 was defined by good and bad play and terrible refereeing. Though the high points were high, the low points were myriad, which means its probably as good a time as any to try and answer that famous question brought up by Laker legend and NBA logo model Jerry West during an appearance on ESPN's Scott Van Pelt show: Does the NBA suck?
With the exceptions of Miami, Indiana, and Chicago, the Eastern Conference is a boneyard of talent, populated by once-great geriatrics like Paul Pierce and (at just 31) Amar'e Stoudemire, solid role players in starring roles (think: Al Horford), and low-ceiling lottery picks (John Wall). And have you seen the Knicks? As part-time Detroit Piston and full-time zombie Kyle Singler would say: "Grp."
But what about the Western Conference? It has pummeled the East at a historic pace and, over the past ten years, its in-conference competitiveness has remained relatively stable, with a difference of about seven games between a five-seed and the bubble team that doesn't get in. The problem isn't a lack of competition, the problem is that the competition isn't as good as it used to be.
So maybe West is right. Maybe the NBA has a serious deficit in overall ability. And maybe the problem is that these 20-year-olds just aren't ready and the defense is shoddy and the league doesn't let anyone play physical anymore. Here's the thing: Who cares? This year's NBA has more dynamic teams than any season in recent history. The brick-and-mortar dullness of the Malone-Stockton-era Jazz is nowhere to be found and young guns like Steph Curry, Paul George, Kevin Durant, and Blake Griffin have all somehow – almost impossibly – gotten a lot better. With a few knotty exceptions, their teams have improved with them and adopted a bit of show-time boldness. There's always a chance that fans will see something that inspires awe and that is the best reason to watch sports in the first place.
Here are six more reasons to watch the playoffs. It's about to get wild.
Frank Vogel Is Nervous
In our desperately sensitive age, the angry old white guy tactics only go so far. The hard-case coach, embodied by crusty stalwarts like Bill Belichick, Gregg Popovich, Tom Thibodeau, and Tom Coughlin, is – if not dead – perilously close to extinction. The New Coach, exemplified by the Seahawks' Pete Carroll and the Celtics' Brad Stevens, loves you and supports you as a person and as a player. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, one distinction needs to be made: Unlike Miami's lemur-faced Erik Spoelstra, these coaches actually run their teams. But rather than ram their philosophies down the players’ throats, they "talk it out" (or so I'm told). Who knows what that means, but based on reports throughout the year, the Pacers' Frank Vogel would embrace the dialogue.
In 2010, Vogel, who played on Kentucky's now-defunct JV squad in 1996, took over a hapless team that hadn't made the playoffs in four years. They've won at a .631 clip ever since, twice topping the Central division. But a sharp downturn the last month of the season has Pacers' president Larry Bird breathing down his neck. He might have to resort to some more extreme motivational practices or embrace the Indiana (when Bobby Knight lived there anyway) tradition of throwing chairs.
Credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images