Tuesday, April 29, 2014, will forever live on as one of the most important days in NBA history. Just less than three months into his tenure as commissioner, Adam Silver sentenced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to a lifetime ban in light of his racist comments and bigoted history.
It was a decision that has been close to universally praised. Sterling’s words and actions have no place in the association, and we as a basketball community are better off without him.
Now that Silver has made the right decision, it’s time to return our attention to a legendary first round of the postseason.
I can only pray that no one misconstrues that statement as a dismissal of the controversy or fallout from this stunning revelation. I feel genuine disgust and want nothing more than a complete resolution to this ugly situation.
The fact of the matter is, Sterling has overshadowed one of the greatest opening rounds in NBA history.
One man’s ignorance should not pull our attention from a time in which the association is not only thriving, but reaching new heights of greatness. Parity is being restored, unpredictability is taking center stage and the general quality of play is at a high point.
The fact that Sterling has received a lifetime ban does nothing but accelerate the opportunity to return focus to what’s happening on the court.
Now, it’s time to shift our focus back to something that should bring joy to the basketball community. The greatest athletes in our beautiful sport are competing, and the coaches and players have rewarded our loyalty to the NBA in this time of trial.
In the process, they’ve set a new standard for competitiveness.
Throughout the course of the regular season, teams jostle for position in hopes of securing home-court advantage in the playoffs. Whether it’s for one round or throughout the postseason, the fight for higher seeding is one of the most invigorating aspects of the madness.
Thus far, there’s been a home court disadvantage.
Through Tuesday’s games, road teams are 21-15 in the 2014 NBA Playoffs. By comparison, home teams went 30-15 in 2013. In fact, home teams won eight straight games before a road team even secured a single victory just one season ago.
Road teams went 3-1 on the opening day of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
More significantly, lower-seeded teams are currently 19-17. Lower-seeded teams went 18-27 in the entire 2013 first round.
One of the lower-seeded teams to strike has been the upstart Washington Wizards. Matched up against the heavily-favored Chicago Bulls, the Wizards won their first postseason series since 2004-05.
The Wizards aren’t alone in their glory. One player and his team both carved their respective and collective names into the record books.
In that very game, the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder became the first series in NBA history to feature four consecutive overtime games.
Developments like this are just a portion of what has made the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs so spectacular. For all of the off-the-court drama, the players have made the court their haven while putting on basketball clinics.
As a result, 19 of the first 36 first-round games have been decided by two possessions or less.
Unfortunately, we’ve been rightfully distracted from this extraordinary time because of a proven racist whose latest offense was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. His ways were far from a secret, but a recording in this technological era not only sank him, but shifted the attention from the prosperous playoffs to ominous ownership.
For the players, the latter isn’t fair. The same can be said for the fans.
The strife of losing focus on the action hardly compares to that experienced by those impacted by Sterling’s comments and history. While Silver’s ruling offered a solution to a problem at hand, it isn’t closure.
What must be acknowledged is that issues will not be swept under the rug. Once the postseason concludes, they will be addressed again. Without attempting to downplay those feelings and hardships, there’s only one thing that I can suggest for the NBA community to do in the meantime.
Shift your attention back to the playoffs. While it may not provide you with complete relief, the action taking place will create lasting memories in a positive light.
This is a legendary time in NBA history for more than one reason. For more than one owner. For more than one ruling.
This is the beginning of a new era, where the hungry up-and-comers are giving the familiar faces a run for their money. As a basketball community, we deserve to be a part of it.
Every one of us.
Tags: 2014 NBA Playoffs