Los Angeles Clippers

The regular season has come and gone and now we find ourselves in the midst of the NBA playoffs.

Several former Big 12 players are in the heat of battle, many of whom will have a chance to make an impact for their teams.

Starting in the West, a few notable former Big 12 athletes just lead their team to victory in three tight fought, seven games series.

LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trailblazers has been locked in as of late, dominating the Houston Rockets in the first two games of the series and forcing Houston to focus on him down the stretch.

While Damien Lillard sealed the deal, Aldridge, a former Longhorn, played an important role in pushing his team into the second round of this year’s playoffs.

Next is likely MVP Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder, the number two seed in the West, were supposed to run away from the Memphis Grizzlies in this best of seven series, but nothing in the Western Conference is ever that easy.

Durant struggled to live up to the expectations he set for himself throughout the series, facing heavy criticism from media and fans alike. Nonetheless, the former Longhorn was able lead his team to victory in game seven and advance to the second round.

The last major player in the West is Blake Griffin with the Los Angeles Clippers. The former Oklahoma star has had to deal with major off-court issues in the past week due to the recent remarks from Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Despite all the turmoil surrounding the team, the Clippers were able to squeak past the Warriors in game seven and move on to face the Thunder in the second round.

In the East, we have the Brooklyn Nets’ Paul Pierce. He too was able to lead his team to victory in seven games.

Pierce, a former Jayhawk, brings veteran playoff experience to the Nets along with longtime teammate Kevin Garnett, both have been on the championship stage together several times before.

Last is Mario Chalmers of the Miami Heat. The former Kansas point guard has helped the Heat to two championships in the last two years.

Miami has looked good so far this post season, winning four straight against the Bobcats in order to advance to the second round.

Chalmers and Miami will take on Brooklyn in the second round. 

With the first NBA exhibition game only a week away, there are several reasons to be thrilled about the 2013-2014 NBA season. The landscape of the NBA is undergoing major transformations this season, ranging from the retirement of commissioner David Stern to the birth of a dynasty in Miami. This season will play a big role in determining the legacy of LeBron James, the fall of past powerhouses — Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks 

— and the rise of others in the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors. With that said, let’s see how the Western Conference will play out this season. 

1. San Antonio Spurs- Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Calling the Spurs too old to compete, saying Tim Duncan is too old to be an elite power forward, and counting the Spurs out season after season is nothing but insanity. The Spurs will once again show why they are the class of the NBA Western Conference.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder- The Oklahoma City Thunder was an outstanding team last year. But they never seemed quite the same after the departure of now-superstar James Harden. Will general manager Sam Presti’s financially conservative decision to let go of Harden backfire on the surefire championship contender? We can only wait and see. 

3. Los Angeles Clippers- There are only four coaches in the NBA today who have won a championship- Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstera, Rick Carlisle and Doc Rivers. The Los Angeles Clippers now have one of them. With a championship-worthy coach in Rivers, Chris Paul and the still-improving Blake Griffin, the Clippers are primed to take the next step in the playoffs. 

4. Golden State Warriors- The acquisition of Andre Iguodala was arguably the best steal of the NBA offseason. With the entire free agency revolving around Dwight Howard’s arrival in Houston, a bigger story was missed. The Warriors, NBA Western Conference semi-finalists of last year, have acquired an elite wing stopper and much needed veteran leadership. The maturation of superstar Stephen Curry and the health of Andrew Bogut should determine how far this team can go. 

5. Houston Rockets- Dwight Howard has landed in the perfect spot. He is being coached by arguably the best post player of all time — Kevin McHale. He is mentored by one of the greatest centers of all time — Hakeem Olajuwon. He is alongside the best shooting guard in the NBA — James Harden. If Howard continues to whine or not take the Rockets deep into the playoffs, expect it to be a disappointing season in Houston. 

6. Memphis Grizzlies- This team can play defense. Marc Gasol anchoring the defense and Tony Allen on the wing is certainly a recipe for defensive success. However, the Grizzlies can go for long stretches without an elite scoring punch. 

7. Dallas Mavericks- It’s hard to believe the Mavericks won a championship just two years ago. The Mavericks of last year resemble nothing of the 2011 Mavericks that had mastered the art of flow offense and zone defense. However, with a healthy Dirk Nowitzki ready to prove himself and the additions of Monta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert, the Mavericks should sneak into the playoffs. 

8. Minnesota Timberwolves- Health is the biggest problem here. If Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are healthy for whole season, there is no doubt the Timberwolves will finally make the playoffs. 

After a 66-game sprint in a four-month span, the NBA has reached its postseason and many teams are already marred by injuries. The heavy schedule and lack of off-season preparations seem to be taking their toll on key players. No team was hit harder by this wave of injuries than the No. 1 overall seed Chicago Bulls.

Having played one-third of their season without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls will have to continue their postseason run without their best player. Rose landed awkwardly while driving to the basket late in the fourth quarter of game one against the Philadelphia 76ers. His teammates and fans feared the worst as he was carried off the courts. Hours later, it was confirmed that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.

The Orlando Magic were hit by the injury bug weeks before the postseason got underway. They were well on their way to earning a top four seed in the Eastern Conference but then lost All-Star center Dwight Howard for the season with a
herniated disk.  

Staying in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics’ hopes of making another championship run took a major hit when they lost Ray Allen with an ankle injury. While Allen will not require surgery, he’s expected to miss their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The most bizarre injury of the playoffs so far goes to the Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire. After falling 0-2 to the Miami Heat, Stoudemire took out his frustrations by punching a glass enclosure around a fire extinguisher in the visitor’s locker room. Stoudemire sustained a lacerated left hand and will likely leave the Knicks without his services in their attempt to stay in the series.

“He’s probably going to be out. I don’t know how bad it is ... Your emotions run high. In a split second, a decision can alter things. You can’t fault anybody. We’ve got to deal with the repercussions,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. The Knicks are also without Iman Shumpert, who tore his ACL on Saturday.

The Western Conference side of the bracket has, for the most part, been able to escape the current spree of injuries. The Los Angeles Clippers lost Caron Butler for the rest of the playoffs during their historic 27-point comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies. After scoring 12 points in 23 minutes, Butler broke his left hand during the second half.

The San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are amongst the teams who have yet to be affected by injuries. With the Chicago Bulls and Celtics out of the picture in the East, the Heat have a relatively easy path to make a return trip to the Finals.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins agrees that the compact schedule may factor into the current rise in injuries.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” Collins said. “The wear and tear, I don’t think there’s any question, the fatigue. What happens during the playoffs, it gets ratcheted up even more.”

Commissioner David Stern disagrees with the assessment saying during a radio interview he stated that the injuries and the tight regular season were unrelated.

“I don’t think it’s related at all,” Stern said. “When anything happens, that’s what’s going
to happen.”After a 66-game sprint in a four-month span, the NBA has reached its postseason and many teams are already marred by injuries. The heavy schedule and lack of off-season preparations seem to be taking their toll on key players. No team was hit harder by this wave of injuries than the No. 1 overall seed
Chicago Bulls.

Having played one-third of their season without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls will have to continue their postseason run without their best player. Rose landed awkwardly while driving to the basket late in the fourth quarter of game one against the Philadelphia 76ers. His teammates and fans feared the worst as he was carried off the courts.

Hours later, it was confirmed that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.
The Orlando Magic were hit by the injury bug weeks before the postseason got underway. They were well on their way to earning a top four seed in the Eastern Conference but then lost All-Star center Dwight Howard for the season with a
herniated disk.

Staying in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics’ hopes of making another championship run took a major hit when they lost Ray Allen with an ankle injury. While Allen will not require surgery, he’s expected to miss their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The most bizarre injury of the playoffs so far goes to the Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire. After falling 0-2 to the Miami Heat, Stoudemire took out his frustrations by punching a glass enclosure around a fire extinguisher in the visitor’s locker room. Stoudemire sustained a lacerated left hand and will likely leave the Knicks without his services in their attempt to stay in the series.

“He’s probably going to be out. I don’t know how bad it is ... Your emotions run high. In a split second, a decision can alter things. You can’t fault anybody. We’ve got to deal with the repercussions,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. The Knicks are also without Iman Shumpert, who tore his ACL on Saturday.

The Western Conference side of the bracket has, for the most part, been able to escape the current spree of injuries. The Los Angeles Clippers lost Caron Butler for the rest of the playoffs during their historic 27-point comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies. After scoring 12 points in 23 minutes, Butler broke his left hand during the second half.

The San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are amongst the teams who have yet to be affected by injuries. With the Chicago Bulls and Celtics out of the picture in the East, the Heat have a relatively easy path to make a return trip to the Finals.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins agrees that the compact schedule may factor into the current rise in injuries.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” Collins said. “The wear and tear, I don’t think there’s any question, the fatigue. What happens during the playoffs, it gets ratcheted up even more.”

Commissioner David Stern disagrees with the assessment saying during a radio interview he stated that the injuries and the tight regular season were unrelated.

“I don’t think it’s related at all,” Stern said. “When anything happens, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Printed on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 as: Compact schedule could be to blame for playoff injuries