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“Can LA Lakers upset the San Antonio Spurs?”

By Daniel Strickland on April 18, 2013.

I can’t recall ever reading The Guardian, a UK newspaper, for its sports coverage, but that changed today. While reading breaking news in the tragic Boston Marathon bombing story, a headline caught my eye:

Can LA Lakers upset the San Antonio Spurs?

Seriously?! I don’t know anything about the Guardian’s columnist (provocateur?), or whether the NBA is much of a concern to Guardian readers (doubt it), but I can tell you this, it’s a pretty ridiculous piece of sports journalism. Here it is, for your amusement:

This San Antonio Spurs team have (sic) one of the best players of all time in Tim Duncan and one of the best coaches of all time in Gregg Popovich. Had Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili missed less time with injuries, the Spurs most likely would have clinched the top seed in the Western Conference. There is really no reason why the Spurs couldn’t make it to the Western Conference Finals once again and no reason to think that any team, even the Los Angeles Lakers, would have a shot of upsetting them in the first round of the playoffs.

(Bob Levey / Associated Press)

At least there was no reason until the Spurs signed Tracy McGrady right before the start of the playoffs. Despite a borderline Hall of Fame career that began in 1997, no team featuring Tracy McGrady has ever made it past the first round of the NBA playoffs. Although McGrady, who was most recently playing for a league in China, is not expected to be anything more than a spare part during the Spurs playoff run, don’t expect that to negate the very real effects of the McGrady First Round Curse.

Because of Popovich’s foolish tempting of the Basketball Gods, the Los Angeles Lakers now have a great shot at advancing to the next round. If you told Lakers fans that the seventh seed would be this best case scenario at the start of the season, after they had just traded for two Hall of Famers in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, they would have laughed. If you went on to tell them the rest of the story: that Mike Brown would be fired within five games, Phil Jackson would be skipped over in favor of Mike D’Antoni, Dwight Howard wouldn’t fit in with the lineup, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol would be out for significant time with injuries and then the team would lose Kobe Bryant to an Achilles injury a week before the end of the regular season. Well, if you told them all this they would probably think you were just being mean to them because they were Lakers fans, but if they thought you were telling the truth they would understand why the Lakers are fortunate to have made the postseason.

Honestly, it’s a good thing to have the Lakers in the postseason, especially considering the fact that nobody, maybe not even Utah Jazz fans, really wanted to see the Jazz team that stumbled during this last month of the season in the playoffs. With Kobe Bryant unavailable, this series will be a chance to see what Dwight Howard can do as the unquestioned leader of the franchise. This may not be an experiment that ends up resulting in good basketball, but it definitely will result in fun-to-talk-about basketball. Pretty much just like this entire Lakers regular season, come to think about it.

Without Kobe, it would look like the Spurs would be able to handle the Lakers, especially since it seems Manu Ginobili will be available. It’s just that in this increasingly unpredictable world we all have to cling to those beliefs that hold up the strongest in these uncertain times. Some believe in divine providence, others believe in the promises of science and rationality. I believe, believe with all of me, that a team with Tracy McGrady on the roster will never get past the first round of the NBA Playoffs. So I’m sorry San Antonio fans, but I just don’t even know if I could fathom a world where that wasn’t true without going stark raving mad like a Lovecraft protagonist.

Prediction: Lakers in seven. Unless Popovich and the Spurs are aware of some sort of reverse jinx spell, but that would just be ridiculous superstition.

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