With most of the players strolling through games, Lonzo Ball looking particularly uninterested and Zion Williamson, questionably identified as the future of the franchise, hobbling arthritically about the court, the bubble has been a bust for the New Orleans Pelicans.
They’ll go back to the Bayou in a few days, by which time we’ll have a bigger prize.
Let’s hope it’s Portland. Give us the Trail Blazers. Please.
Despite the pre-restart chatter around LeBron, the Pelicans, Ben Simmons, the 76ers, Victor Oladipo, the Rockets, Bol Bol and Giannis, the most compelling story to emerge has been that of the Blazers, who in a matter of days set fire to the promotional hype of Zion in the playoffs.
Portland in the postseason is good for the NBA and, closer to home, it gives Dub Nation and the Bay Area a rooting interest. With the Warriors watching from outside the bubble, it’s reasonable to believe their fans will stand with Oakland’s own Damian Lillard and his crew.
We want Sleek Melo, who used the hiatus to redistribute his weight -- a euphemism for trading fat for muscle -- and trim 10 of his 36 years.
Bring us Jusuf Nurkic, who lost 16 months to a gruesome leg injury and now looks fantastic.
Bring us CJ McCollum, whose one-on-one offense is a work of art.
The probability of Blazers-Lakers in the first round is downright juicy, and infinitely more absorbing than Pelicans-Lakers ever could have been.
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And thanks to the events of the weekend, the possibility of Blazers-Clippers in the Western Conference Finals -- yes, we realize a lot has to happen -- is spicy enough to trigger copious perspiration up and down the Pacific coast.
After the Clips came back to beat Portland on Saturday, Dame’s response to postgame trash talk by LA’s Paul George and Patrick Beverley -- after Lillard missed two late free throws -- was straight from the flatlands of Oakland, where no insult, no matter how thin, goes without reply.
"The reason why they’re reacting like that is what they expect from me, which is a sign of respect and it shows what I’ve done at a high clip," Lillard told reporters in Florida. "I’m not offended by it. If anything, it should tell you how much it hurt them, what I put them through in those situations previously."
Lillard ousted George and the Thunder last postseason with one of the boldest game-winning bombs in playoff history, draining a 37-footer over PG. Dame made the moment all the more memorable by turning toward Russell Westbrook and George and waving goodbye.
Dame’s buzzer-beating triple in Game 6 to close out the first-round Blazers-Rockets series sent Beverley and his Houston teammates scattering into the offseason.
Beverley, of course, has a permanent place on the 10 Most Hated list of Warriors fans. His attempts to bully Steph Curry are ineffective -- generally ignored by Steph -- but merely attempting to do so is one of the quickest routes to Bay beef.
No doubt invigorated by the darts thrown his way by PG and Beverley, Dame went out Sunday and lit up the 76ers for 51 points, pulling Portland within a half-game of the No. 8-seed Memphis Grizzlies, who have been staggering through the restart like puppies in platform heels.
Of those teams yet to be eliminated -- the Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Blazers -- Portland is the most dynamic and has the most star power. And only San Antonio, which is focusing on development, is more experienced at this postseason thing.
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The NBA restart has been fascinating for many reasons, the most significant being the ability -- fingers crossed -- to avoid COVID-19. Indiana’s TJ Warren, a quiet bucket-sniffer his entire career, showing out. The Suns, irrelevant for a decade, are showing up. Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. is introducing his game to rousing and much deserved applause.
The new storylines are refreshing and very welcome.
But nothing has been more revealing than the transformation of the Blazers, who are a different team than they were in early March. Which is why, when the playoffs begin next week it’s hard to imagine a more watchable first-round series than Blazers-Lakers.