Which injury this playoffs made you the most sad?
Omar Bagnied: Derrick Rose. Bear with me on my answer here because I wrote a piece a few months ago on Chicago winning it all. It's Rose not only because it triggered the basketball world's lost faith in Chicago (psyching the team into thinking they were doomed, generating a self-fulfilling prophecy) but because of long-term ramifications. If Chicago was going to win it all, it was going to be this year. Miami and OKC were still kind of figuring out how to play off one another and it was Chicago's year to slip past them. Chicago outworked everyone during the regular season, and it's why they finished with the best record despite a slew on injuries.
But they peaked early. They expended their energy and are now left with broken-down bodies. I can't think of a more injury-prone starting five. Boozer has a dubious injury history, Hamilton has missed 44% of games in the past three seasons, Deng is playing through a terrible left wrist injury because he wants to play for the UK in the Olympics, Noah missed almost a third of his games from 2009-2011 and Rose's perpetual 'pound it through the lane at 100 mph' explosiveness has brought us to where we are today. The next few years will belong to Miami and OKC; Chicago's starting lineup consists of players whose bodies have failed them and their reign at the top is over.
Jacob Greenberg: I mean, for me, it's Baron. I'm probably going to write more about this later, so I'll save some of my material. But simply put, Baron was the closest thing I had to a favorite player in my adult life. The severity of the injury, as well as the gruesomeness plays a huge role. For me, Baron represented life and vitality, even when he took his talents to Los Angeles and became a fat, lazy duff. I was happy to see him playing a role on a playoff team, and looked forward to the twilight of his career as a solid backup. To think this is the end makes me sad.
John Heydinger: The Rose ACL is obviously a blow and anyone would have to say that the Chicago-Boston potential series had the potential to be fantastic. But overall I would say that the general tenor of tiredness and fragility pervading the league is really the most saddening thing. Can we agree with Rip Hamilton who said that the compact schedule this year would absolutely rip through (no pun intended) the league? Previously Rose was the picture of durability, are we really to believe that he just hit a string of bad luck? These athletes were expected to play at the highest level with basically zero time in training camp to get their bodies up to speed. And I have no patience for anyone who says they should have stayed in shape regardless: trying to train and then taper properly before the season is impossible with less than a month to prepare. Is it too much to say that David Stern and Billy Hunter owe D-Rose an ACL?
Jairo Martinez: Do I really need to say more? I mean really? Without question as a huge Bulls fan (being from Chicago and all) it has to be the loss of Derrick Rose. Joakim Noah hurts too and subsequently after last night Taj Gibson could be the straw that broke the camel's back. Omar sums it up nicely, this might have been Chicago's easiest run at a title. They are clearly one of two teams, Boston the other, who can put a beatdown on the Heat.
Looking on the overall landscape, how nice would it have been to have the Knicks really healthy? Chandler came in battling the flu, Shumpert blows out his knee, Jacob's homeboy is limping off into the sunset from all those years of humpty dumpty. The series may have been a tad more competitive though not enough to overcome Miami. Also, what IF Billips never goes out for the year for the Clippers? He alone may have been in position to help the Clippers to "Contender" status instead of after thought in the West. Heck even a Battle for LA first round would have sent shockwaves thru the NBA.
Andrew Snyder: I'm going to buck popular opinion and go with Ray Allen (as a Celtics fan, if the Rose injury had to happen, at least it helps my team) - He hasn't been the same player since returning in game 3 with bone spurs in his left ankle. He's even missing free throws, going 4-8 from the line in the last three games. A healthy Ray Allen, the greatest free throw shooter of all time, doesn't miss, and it's sad to see him struggling. If he manages to round into classic Ray Ray form while the Celtics mop the floor with the Sixers, the people could actually see a competitive Eastern Conference finals.
How good has Chris Webber been doing color commentary these playoffs?
Omar Bagnied: I mean I think he's good. I have to say though that it's awkward to listen to retired championshipless superstars talk about team's competing for a title. There's resentment, jealousy...sometimes I don't want to hear them talk about it for their sake and mine.
Jacob Greenberg: He's fine. I miss him and GP on Gametime. Inside too.
John Heydinger: Haven't been around to hear C-Webb's color. I imagine it is solid throughout, with plenty of support for his colleagues, a generally good attitude, but cannot close in the clutch.
Jairo Martinez: Love C-Webb. Bought dude's kicks back in the day. But he's clearly a hell of a lot better than the disaster known as Shaquille O Neal.
Andrew Snyder: C Webb was a revelation as a studio guy last year (the anti-Shaq), and I've also been impressed with his color commentary thusfar. He's clearly a smart, articulate guy who knows the game of basketball and isn't afraid to speak his mind - exactly what a color guy should be.
Assuming Philadelphia gets through to the next round, do they actually stand a chance?
Omar Bagnied: Philadelphia isn't going past the semifinals. More than Rose, it was Noah's injury that put Chicago in their current predicament. If Boston stays healthy there isn't a sane analyst out there that thinks Philadelphia has a shot.
Jacob Greenberg: Ahem.
John Heydinger: Philadelphia stands no chance beyond Chicago. And, frankly, moving beyond the First Round may be a victory in name only if it glosses over their larger issues and inability to win during the second half of the season. Whether against the Celtics, or, heaven forbid, the Hawks, I cannot see how the Spencer Hawes show - and that is really the most exciting thing about the 76ers these days - makes it to the Conference Finals. I just realized the possibility for a scenario in which either the 76ers or the Hawks would be guaranteed a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. Let's move on before I set myself on fire.
Jairo Martinez: Philadelphia Sucks! No offense. This is the same team that started off red hot and then just completely regressed to the point of nearly missing out entirely in the playoff race in the east. If that is not justification enough for you, Doug Collins literally cried after every game that the Sixers lost.
Andrew Snyder: I've already addressed this above, but I fully expect either the Celtics or the Hawks (yes, after last September's Red Sox collapse, anything is possible in Boston) to run Philadelphia out of the gym. The Sixers are a team that does everything well, but doesn't excel at anything - the Hawks and Celtics both know where the ball is going in the last minute of a close game and have years of playoff experience playing together - Philadelphia doesn't, and it will show in the 2nd round. Plus, who's to say the Bulls don't have two miracle games left in them!?
If you were a teacher and these playoffs were your student, what grade would you give them?
Omar Bagnied: Some series more than others. LAC-Memphis has been superb. B- so far. And that might be generous.
Jacob Greenberg: Solid B. There have been some good games -- lots of close contests and a few OTs. I think the recent spate of catastrophic, career altering injuries has sort of ruined the first round for me. I'm mostly hoping that teams just make it through without messing themselves up too much.
John Heydinger: Yes the Rose injury, along with the Dwight Howard's no-show, casts a pall over the proceedings, but, my answer to question 1 notwithstanding, injuries happen. That being said, what's not to like about the playoffs thus far? The Spurs and the Thunder are rolling and both are looking truly formidable. The Mavs basically tanked their season and were dismissed summarily. The Pacers have moved on and I don't have to be treated to another post-season of people speaking highly of Orlando. The Grizzlies, a sexy pick to make the Western Conference Finals, may not escape the late-game brilliance of the Chris Paul Show (sorry, Blake). The Lakers are looking good, but the Nuggets aren't rolling over. Amar'e has punched through glass, LeBron is once again the subject of criticism, Chris Bosh had a baby, Super Lintendo might even make a cameo (don't count on it). The Big Three are back in Boston (maybe). Another 1-8 upset (with planet-sized asterisk). Likely Conference Semi-Finals of Heat-Pacers; Celtics-76ers; Spurs-(who knows); and Thunder-Lakers. Which of those series wouldn't you watch? And to top it all off the basketball has been regularly great and occasionally sublime. A+
Jairo Martinez: I say C+. The loss of Rose dampens the remaining series out East. Now it can get better if lets say Denver ousts LA and Memphis somehow survives Lob City. That's some compelling ball. Heck I'll settle with Miami not winning it all......especially if they play lesser talent in the finals.
Andrew Snyder: B-. I'm not basing this grade on injuries, but with three out of four teams extending their first round series last night facing elimination, I'm looking forward to some exciting game sixes and sevens in the coming days. Way to be Nuggets, Bulls, and Hawks - thanks for making the first round less mundane!