Yes, Mr. Mora, we talking playoffs! At the halfway point of this shortened season, both local squads – the Pups and Bucks – are talking playoffs. Of course, talking playoffs doesn’t mean both or either of the teams will actually make the playoffs. In fact, if either team makes the playoffs, it’d be a bigger surprise than Darko resembling an actual NBA player.
Simply talking playoffs is an accomplishment for the Timberwolves. A franchise mired in terribleness since gifting an NBA Championship to the Celtics in the infamous KG trade, the Pups have risen from the abyss on the shoulders of both K. Love and Rubio. With the emergence of Pekovic and the promise of D. Will., the Pups have the building blocks in place to be annual playoffs contenders in years to come – assuming Kahn doesn’t screw it up. Here’s hoping the Utah Jazz are not lottery bound and, thus, sending their first-round pick to the Pups. A shooting guard that can actually shoot would go a long ways for this squad.
But, as far as this year is concerned, talking playoffs is the only accomplishment members of the Team of 1707 can expect. At 17-17 at the midpoint of the season, the Pups stand in 10th place in the conference, one game back from the 8th spot – Portland Trailblazers. The reason for pessimism is the Wolves schedule coming out of the break does not set up well with a back-to-back-to-back gauntlet against both LA teams and Phoenix, before getting one day off to travel to a critical game at Portland. Following this road stretch, the Wolves experience deja vu (and not the fun kind off Washington Ave.) when they play host to Lob City, Portland, and the Lake Show in a five day stretch. This stretch will test the mettle of the young squad and ultimately decide whether we will still be talking playoffs two weeks from now.
As for the Bucks, a 13-20 record at midway point doesn’t show much hope for a playoffs spot. But, in the Eastern Conference, they are still only 2.5 games back of the aging Boston Celtics, who currently man the 8th spot. With rumors rampant that the Celtics may be breaking up the Big (read: Old) Three, the eighth spot is up for grabs in the East. Two years removed from a playoffs battle with the Hawks, the Bucks season outlook was promising on the premise Jennings would continue his growth and Bogut was healthy. Unfortunately, when Bogut went down, so too did the Bucks season. The Bucks were 7-7 at the time of the injury, and have since gone 6-13.
To have any shot at claiming that 8th spot, the Bucks need to start quick in the second half. Unfortunately, like the Pups, the schedule does not set up well. An easy home game against the Wizards/Bullets/Mental Midgets only serves as a pre-season warmup game to a gauntlet of playoff teams: Celtics, Hawks, Magic, 76ers, Bulls, and Knicks. Jim Mora might be correct that playoffs is absurd to mention with this squad, but crazier things of happened. I mean, a twice cut, Harvard grad, Asian-American is leading the New York Knickerbockers towards the playoffs. Who knows, maybe Ersan Ilyasova’s 29/25 evening last week is the start to his massive run. Ok, never mind, but when you have Brandon Jennings, every game is winnable if he gets that lefty stroke going like Mick at Pebble (yup, I just compared a kid Straight Outta Compton to a 40 y.o. chubby, perma-smile golfer).
We talking playoffs, just not making the playoffs. The Fear the Deer and Rubionation campaigns will have to wait until 2013.