Yesterday you voted for who you’re rooting for to win the Eastern Conference, but that poll was probably easier for Spurs fans than this one. Unlike the teams from the East, the Spurs have had rivalries with virtually all of the Western Conference teams, some of them what we call “heated”. So when asked which team from the West a Spurs fan will be rooting for in the Bubble Playoffs, the answer is more likely to be “none of the above”. But that’s not an option.
However, unlike with the Eastern Conference, in which I pre-eliminated the Nets and Magic, I will write up all eight Western Conference teams. Unlike yesterday’s piece, which went from 1 - 6 in seeds, we will start at the bottom of the West and work our way to the top.
As a refresher, here is add my preseason regular season prediction for each team. I made those predictions in 140 character Tweet format. (Not sure why I did that — and if you are wondering, I predicted that the Spurs would save the Streak by coming in 8th.)
And away we go!
Portland Trail Blazers (8th)
Preseason prediction: 7th
Gritty over-achiever: Carmelo Anthony. Just kidding. Actually, Gary Trent, Jr., second round pick.
Reasons to root for the Blazers: Carmelo Anthony. Just kidding. Actually, I can root for the Blazers because I was born in Portland, though before the team arrived. And a friend who worked for the team got me this jersey, with my high school and college number on it:
More importantly, we can root for the Blazers because their run in the Bubble has been so much fun. Also, their two star guards were both old-style four-year college players, like the guys Gregg Popovich and I coached in college. And neither went to basketball factories — Damian Lillard went to Weber State, C.J. McCollum went to Lehigh. Unfortunately for Blazer fans, the team doesn’t play enough defense to be a real threat. Fun while it lasts!
Dallas Mavericks (7th)
Preseason prediction: 10th (Though I did say “Can Carlisle create a Sneaky Good Team? Yup.)
Ex-Spurs: Boban Marjanovich!!
Gritty over-achiever: Seth Curry, second round
Reasons to root for Mavericks: Boban!! And because Luka Doncic is mesmerizing. I sent a note to a friend during a Mavs Bubble game asking this question: ”Luka > Magic?” The answer may be “Yes”.
Utah Jazz (6th)
Pre-season prediction: 5th
Ex-San Antonio player: Jordan Clarkson. (See what I did there? Jordan went to high school in San Antonio.) Also, Quinn Snyder coached the Austin Spurs for two years.
Gritty over-achievers: Joe Ingles, undrafted. Also, Rudy Gobert, 27th pick in the first round, which means 26 other teams could have picked him.
Reasons to root for the Jazz: Wiinning the NBA title in the year long-time coach Jerry Sloan passes away would be a remarkable tribute. It would be the first title for the Jazz, and a great achievement for a team that has always been good but never gotten over the hump — in part because of a well-timed push of Bryon Russell by Michael Jordan.
Oklahoma City Thunder (5th)
Preseason prediction: 12th (Wow, what a whiff.)
Gritty over-achiever: Andre Roberson — San Antonian, drafted 26th out of Colorado, returned in the Bubble to play his first games since the 2017-18 season after multiple knee surgeries and setbacks.
Reasons to root for the Thunder: See above. No one predicted the Thunder would be this good this soon. The team lost Harden, then Durant, then Westbrook, but stunningly came in 5th place in the stacked West, led by the ageless Chris Paul. CP3 is still a pain in the neck and hard to root for, but he remains a truly great player. OKC also has Steven Adams, who keeps New Zealand interested in the NBA. New Zealand is spectacular, with very nice people.
Houston Rockets (4th)
Preseason Prediction: 3rd
Ex-Spurs: DeMarre Carroll, though Pop didn’t seem to know it.
Gritty over-achievers: Robert Covington, undrafted out of Tennessee State. P.J. Tucker, second round pick, and playing center in the NBA at 6’5’’ while not able to jump any higher than I can.
Reasons to root for the Rockets: If the Rockets make the Finals, maybe they will show this replay at some point:
Otherwise, no reason at all to root for the Rockets.
Denver Nuggets (3rd)
Preseason prediction: 1st (for the regular season)
Gritty over-achievers: Paul Milsap, second round (!), Jerami Grant, second round, Monte Morris, second round.
Reasons to root for the Nuggets: Watching Nikola Jokic play is a joy. Imagine the Joker and Luca Doncic on the same team. Defenders would get whiplash. This was the one team in the Bubble which the Spurs simply could not compete with. A former ABA powerhouse which hasn’t won an NBA Championship. Yet.
Los Angeles Clippers (2nd)
Preseason prediction: 2nd
Ex-Spurs: Kawhi Leonard. I got more heat from Spurs Nation for this piece than anything else I have written.
Gritty over-achievers: Lots of them. Patrick Beverly, Lou Wiliams, Montrez Harrell, Ivica Zubac — all second round picks who play big minutes for the Clippers
Reasons to root for the Clippers: Well, they have gritty over-achievers. I, for one, still root for Kawhi, who helped the Spurs to a championship and gave Spurs fans many great memories. But even though I have lived in Los Angeles for decades, I don’t think I have ever rooted for the Clippers in a basketball game. I don’t think I will start any time soon.
Los Angeles Lakers (1st)
Preseason prediction: 4th
Ex-Spurs: Danny Green!!
Gritty over-achievers: Danny Green!! Also, Alex Caruso, undrafted, Texan.
Reasons to root for the Lakers: Danny Green!! If the Lakers win the crown, DG will have won crowns with the Spurs, Raptors and Lakers. He will officially become this generation’s Robert Horry, who won with the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs. Like DG, making big shots. playing great defense and bringing wins wherever he played. A title will also be the Lakers 17th crown, tying them with the Celtics (see yesterday’s piece for my opinion of the stupid Celtics). And though I have generally rooted against Lebron’s teams, I admire him for the social stances he has always taken, even before it became broadly acceptable to do so. Finally, I was a big Laker fan first before graduating to Spurs Nation, so I will always have a bit of that. Alas, I think the Lakers may suffer from not having a defensive point guard.
What Western Conference Team are you rooting for?
This poll is closed
Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers