PlayBook: Basketball Jones

By Fraser Lockerbie

Win or lose, the NBA Playoffs are all about the Lakers and Heat.

A jones is an old-timey expression used by terminal junkies to describe a strong lust for anything conventional wisdom deems to be unacceptable or out of the ordinary. Heroin and offshore orgies and swimming at midnight with beautiful albino tigers tend to fit the bill for “outside the box.” Very few people want to be caught in the middle of a pansexual boat orgy or stark naked, ten miles off the coast of California with two fully grown and profoundly confused tigers, but they will be if they have a strong and unstoppable urge to do so.

“Man mauled off coast of California; tigers, not sharks, to blame.”

Waking up to a headline like that would confuse many people and cause many others to descend into blind, hysterical madness, but it wouldn’t for a second shake the mind of a basketball person with a full-blown and insatiable jones. They wouldn’t even blink. Swimming offshore with crazy and wild cats at midnight would seem perfectly normal to a person who just witnessed the Lakers let a seven-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter or saw Dwyane Wade’s stat line in a pivotal Game Three.

Those are the kinds of things that make basketball people stand and take notice, not some silly pervert at sea with two Siberian tigers. When a bona fide star like Wade goes 2-13 and amasses only five points in a game the Heat desperately needed to win, foundations are rocked, feathers are ruffled and fans are thrown for a serious loop. They expect certain things from a player like Wade; with Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers all living in their worst statistical seasons to date and Mike Miller a walking, crippled corpse, Wade is expected to perform at an extremely high level. He’s expected to carry the team that put all its eggs in his basket. With Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose and Ray Allen all sidelined with injuries, the East was supposed to be a cakewalk for the super-talented Super Three from South Beach, but as it stands they look no better than a Cavaliers team that was dumped in the ’07 Finals in four short games, a similarity that must ring some bells for old LeBron James.

And David Stern for that matter, our beloved, all-seeing, all-knowing puppet commissioner whose happiness is tied to the giant burlap sacks of advertising dollars that are slipping away every time the Heat and the Lakers lose a game. The last time the Spurs were in the finals against anybody, attendance and ratings fell to historic lows and so did the cash that came with it. People in the basketball business for strictly basketball business reasons don’t like it when their pockets are light; they don’t take kindly to big-market flops.

Which a Laker-less, Heat-less conference final would certainly be. It would spell certain doom for TV ratings and ticket sales, especially in the East where selling the Sixers and Pacers as legitimate playoff teams has been an uphill battle from the beginning. A Spurs/OKC final in the West would be worth watching, but anything short of seven games from the Celtics and Heat in the East will be unacceptable. It wouldn’t satisfy the greed-head owners who pull all the strings or the commissioner who runs on smoke and a little less than half of his brain.

And it wouldn’t satisfy our basketball jones. We’d rather watch what’s left of the last days of hockey; we’d rather swim naked, at night, with the tigers. 


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