Fourth and Long

Published 1:18 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2011

For the first time in a long time I am excited about the upcoming NBA playoffs.

Maybe it was all the hoopla surrounding the Miami Heat or maybe it was the unfamiliar feeling of optimism surrounding the Charlotte Bobcats, but something early in the season got me paying a bit more attention to the NBA than I normally do. I must confess that it didn’t take long before I found myself devoting more than a bit of my attention to it.

The story of the year in the NBA should be the underappreciated development of the Chicago Bulls. Instead of being heralded as one of the NBA’s most talented, balanced and young teams, the league’s most surprising success story this season has received merely a fraction of the media attention that the up again/down again Lakers have gotten.

Chicago has the second best record in the league (at least they do as I write this), one win behind San Antonio and play better defense than any other team in the NBA.

They also have this year’s most dynamic player in Derrick Rose and most undervalued collection of role players in the league.

Their biggest competition also comes out of the eastern conference as the Miami Heat seems to have figured some new things out as of late and are undoubtedly playing their best basketball of the season at the most important time.

Any questions doubters had regarding the Heats ability to step up against good competition were answered last Sunday when the Heat held the Boston Celtics to a mere 77 points.

The above mentioned Spurs are old and look the part at times, however they continue to be one of the most disciplined and well-coached teams in the league. The team may be old and the system may be older ,but both still work and when they are on, then they are dangerous.

The most interesting matchup of the playoffs will belong to Oklahoma City and the Denver Nuggets. A matchup in the first round should create some compelling television.

Both teams are very young, but very talented and appear to be on the cusp of greater things. The Thunder’s Kevin Durant can explode for 30 to 40 points on any given night and the success by the Nuggets since the departure of Carmelo Anthony has been well documented.

Both teams like to get up and down the court and I would not be surprised to see multiple 200 plus combined point efforts.

There are several other quality teams with young, exciting players and I suggest if you haven’t been paying attention to the NBA as of late then you start right now. I have a feeling the playoffs this year are going to be a little more exciting than they have in quite some time.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publications. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via email at