Where Conference Championships Happen

Well, it’s about time that these NBA Playoffs yielded a genuine twist. 

In what appears to be a completely anticlimatic event, the Cleveland Cavaliers have locked up one spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.  The defending champion Boston Celtics need to win one of the next two to clinch the other spot and the team that they faced in last year’s NBA Finals, the LA Lakers, also have a magic number of one to gain entry into the Western Conference Finals. 

The fact that most prognosticators had these exact three teams slotted into these positions when the first ball was tipped back in November brings into serious question the relative importance of the last 6 months of basketball. 

So what’s the twist?  Well, how about the Denver Nuggets – making their first Conference Finals in 24 years after an offseason in which they seemingly lowered expectations by dumping the salary of premiere defender Marcus Camby

Remember that “trade”?  The LA Clippers couldn’t have been more excited to pick up Camby in exchange for nothing more than the option for Denver to swap second-round picks in the 2010 NBA Draft.

But then came Chauncey.  With tonight’s 124-110 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, the Nuggets have clinched their second straight series in five games to follow their franchise record-tying 54 victories during the regular season. 

And the real answer to why this has come together is the early-season trade for the hometown hero, Chauncey Billups, who arrived courtesy of the Detroit Pistons in exchange for “The Answer” himself.

The experts weren’t quite sure what to make of this trade.  But it didn’t take long for his teammates (and Nuggets fans) to realize what his addition meant to the team’s fortunes.

 

Chauncey Billups

Chauncey Billups

Certain players always seem to find themselves in the middle of the biggest moments – and Billups transcends most.  Did you know that other than the Laker quartet of Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kurt Rambis, Billups is the first player since 1970 to make it to seven straight conference finals?  Now that is amazing.

And you will definitely want to root for him after you read this great (and lengthy) ESPN.com feature, “The Disposable Superstar”

Most people had written this guy off within the first few years of his career (if not his rookie season, when the #3 overall pick was unceremoniously traded after just 51 games in a Celtics uniform).  But when you read about the way that Denver native Billups has carried himself before, during, and after that experience, you can easily see why winning follows him everywhere.

The Nuggets will definitely have their work cut out for them in taking on the Lakers.  It certainly seems like the right time for a KobeLeBron NBA Finals matchup and Denver will be decided underdogs when their likely series against  Los Angeles tips off in a few days. 

But do not count the Nuggets out.  Billups, the one who Coach George Karl calls “a gift from the basketball gods”, will make sure that they will not go quietly.

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~ by acm213 on May 13, 2009.

One Response to “Where Conference Championships Happen”

  1. Great post. Keep it up. Im a dedicated athlete myself and i love your blog.

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