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The Wild, Wild, WILD, West (West Playoff Primer)

"What are you screaming for? I haven't even cut you yet."

Since we're about two weeks out from the single most anticipated remake in the history of ever (IMO), I figured I'd kickstart my look out West with a quote from A Nightmare On Elm Street. Now yes, I get that Denver/Utah got started last night and as I type, Da Champs and those young Thundercats are going at it in Los Angeles. Still doesn't mean I can't give you my take on how this, arguably the toughest conference in all of sports (49 win teams need not apply here) could conceivably give us our first champion of the new decade.

So let's get started with...

- Lakers in 6. I said in yesterday's column that there were only two teams that had that "switch" which could be turned on at a moment's notice. I'm not inclined to believe that OKC is too young, because actually, that's something that plays in their favor. Kobe's older and is starting to show it, Artest doesn't have what he used to have anymore (which saddens me to a point, as one of the few Tru Warrior fans out there) and I dunno. There's something about this team that I saw over the last few weeks which has me...troubled to a point. Not enough to say they won't repeat or can't, but that it's not as much of a slam dunk as I thought it was a few months ago. They will have to fight for it and this matchup, might just be the one they did not want in the grand scheme of things. If the "switch" hasn't been flipped, this CAN go 7. Remember, last year a Yao & McGrady-less Rockets team pushed the Lakers to 7. Of course, Artest was in a Houston uniform last year.

Oklahoma City is here and guess what? You're going to get your first look at what I'm calling the Real F'N Deal, Kevin Durant. He's legit. I saw him on Wednesday night against Memphis and I'm gonna tell ya something, he's going to have to clear some shelf space because I see a couple of MVP trophies in his future. Sam Presti has sat under the Spurs' learning tree and has this team built for the future. This is going to be a fun series.

- Blazers get Sun-burned. Sometimes, will can carry you so far before reality sets in and you're pummeled beyond recognition. Portland found a way to survive losing two of its big men (Pryzbilla & Oden), they talked Camby off the Clip-tanic midseason and now...Brandon Roy is out for conceivably the first round. Talk about your bad timing, they now have to face Phoenix and "3 Time MVP" (yes, I'm giving him the MVP that was originally handed to Dirk a few years back on erroneous bullshit) Steve Nash aka Big Stevie Cool who seems to be like fine wine in his advanced balling age. Even though D'Antoni's rotting away in New York, 7 Seconds or Less seems to be alive and well in the Valley of The Sun. This might be the final chance Phoenix has at a legitimate title before Amare potentially walks this Summer. (Hell, who knew that coaching this bunch would make Alvin Gentry, an also ran in the coaching game, seem competent?)

As for Portland, they're probably the one team in the West this year that you honestly can't make a case for in terms of making a run into June. Sorry. Dem's be the breaks, pardon the pun.

- Here's where I make it interesting, but first, a story. Last year, yours truly kinda got gamble happy. I made bets with any and everyone I could find and only lost...TWICE. I gambled that Miami would make it to the second round and I was wrong, I gambled that San Antonio could beat Dallas and I was wrong again. This year, against conventional wisdom and everything else imaginable, I'm going to do something shocking.

I'm picking the Spurs to win this series. Remember back when the Knicks beat the Heat in 1999 as a #8 seed, when they were anything but that? Almost the same thing applies here. The Spurs are healthy and are quietly, on par with the Mavs from a sheer talent perspective. I think that the Spurs have enough spinal fortitude to test Dallas and push them to their limit. Never mind "home court", that's irrelevant in this series. On top of that, I predicted that this Spurs team was the single most badass squad Duncan has seen in his career.

I stand behind that. There's something about this year where it's talented as the Mavs are, the Spurs are the grizzled, former champion that simply put...want their crown back. I don't think they're on their last legs, but go fig.

- Denver in 6. Yeah, I know. Denver's playing without Karl, who may or may not be back by the 2nd round. I know, Utah's been fairly hot all year, sans the end when Phoenix scorched them for the #3 seed just a few days ago. They're thinning rapidly in the frontcourt, just as Denver's getting K-Mart back into play. They don't have anyone to contain or even run with My Boy Melo, this isn't going to be as close as most think.

Oh, it dawns on me that there's some actual activity in the NFL worth writing about, so I shall. Mometarily. :-)
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