It's been a remarkable half-first round. And I have been reluctant to post because the returns have only started to come in. There are so many sweet sites to read intelligent commentary from day-to-day, game-to-game, even quarter-to-quarter [look to your right sidebar for just a few of my favorites.] But the historian in me wants to see how the action will unfold before drawing conclusions.
Sports by nature are teological, we write the story starting with the outcome and working backwards. How much will the Atlanta Kaw-Kaws two wins matter? Well, if the Celts win it all...not even a bit. If they faulter in the finals...maybe it will be seen as a sign. If the Celts flop in the CFs or get slammed by Lebron...well, then the Hawks' wins will loom larger and larger as glaring evidence of the Celts age, Doc's panic, and so on and so on...
So, what now? For me, I have just been enjoying the ride. The playoffs really are a new season and faultering is inevitable. Playing well, hitting slumps, these are all going to happen in four rounds of best of sevens. It is, as the truism goes, how the teams respond.
That being said, the Hawks and Sixers have given all of us a big sloppy high-flying early Xmas. Their simultaneous surprises has led many to group them together. Rightly so. And when watching these teams, it is hard to resist a comparison to the Baby Bulls. And when making such a comparison, it leads us to ask: will these teams continue to grow into title contenders or will they peak and disintegrate like their Chicago brethren?
A closer examination should show us that these teams are potentially going in opposite directions. All excuses aside (contracts, injuries, Skiles,) the Baby Bulls could not take the next step. They lacked the superstar, the leader, the charismatic center to ground their team and lead them to the next level. And this is where I see a major difference between Atlanta and Philly. While Joe Amazing proved to the whole world that he has budding superstar potential, AI proved once again, as Agent Zero so aptly pointed out, that he'll be a great #2. Under the leadership of Joe, the Hawks' potential to contend appears limitless. Philly lacks that piece. While I love me some Little Louie, Baddeus, and the Carney Knowledge, the Sixers need to play it verrrry smart in these next few years. It will not be enough to surround this corps with pieces. None of these young'uns will be able to lead them to the promised land. They need a blockbuster. And they need it before the team goes the way of the Bulls.