Five Thoughts: Who to root for?

If you're like me, you can't watch a sporting event or competition without inevitably picking a side. Growing up, I couldn't even watch American Gladiators without wanting one guy to win over the other (I always sided with the guy/girl in blue). Even for those games where you know nothing about either team, there's always something that leads you to pick one team over the other; be it a mascot, team colors, a single player, better uniforms, underdogs, or just the way they've played in the few minutes of watching.

And if you're reading this, you probably aren't one to just ignore the rest of the NBA playoffs because the Lakers lost. So here's a few thoughts on the remaining teams and where Laker fans rooting interest may lie.

- Miami Heat

The unacceptable option. There's no possibility that anyone outside of Miami is rooting for the Heat to win the championship. Individually, each of the Heat's "big three" are only mildly detestable. Chris Bosh is the biggest fake-tough guy around, screaming and scowling only after certain big plays. Dwayne Wade started out as America's golden boy after his performance in the 2003 NCAA men's basketball tournament. His relationship with his

[caption id="attachment_130" align="alignright" width="240" caption="It's hard to root for these guys."][/caption]

wife and young child where the center of media attention, and he had all of American rooting for Marquette. Laker fans will remember him teaming up with a recently departed Shaq to win the 2006 NBA championship, a series that left a sour taste in all NBA fans because of the abundance of controversial calls going the way of Dwayne Wade. Wade divorced his wife soon after, amidst numerous reports that he had been "living the NBA lifestyle to the fullest" since he joined the league. Then of course there's LeBron James. Despite his undeniable talent, many NBA fans find serious fault is his "chosen 1" or "King James" mentality. Never has a player seemed so entitled and arrogant before having accomplished that much. It's hard to be endearing as a player when you making everything all about you in the middle of a team sport.

Things were exacerbated when they decided play on the same team together. It was never so much the fact that they had taken it upon themselves to put this together, but it was more HOW it happened, as well as their actions directly after. I find no fault with players actively seeking a better playing situation, and working together to make something work out for the better. Tim Duncan has consistently taken less money in order to help sign existing or new players to make them a better team. Ever since the beginning of free agency, players have tried to persuade other players to play on their team. There's nothing wrong with that.

But that's not what happened during the summer of 2010. "The Decision" was only the tip of the iceberg. What really showed who these players were was the "welcoming party" that the Heat put on to introduce the players to the fans. The cockiness was off the charts, with the mantra being "Yes. We. Did." and LeBron claiming the Heat would win 8 championships. All before a single game had been played.

Maybe its a microcosm for the new era of NBA players, or maybe (hopefully) it's just 3 players who have been effected by too much adulation too soon. Whatever the case may be, the worst outcome of the 2010-2011 NBA season would be for these guys to be proven right.

- Chicago Bulls

The "baby" Bulls have finally gotten over the hump, with Derrick Rose finding a new level to win the regular season MVP. It's easy to root for them to beat the Heat. But is Rose alone enough to root for them to win it all? For me, it's tough to get past Joakim Noah, the single most annoying player in the NBA. His facial expressions and in-game antics have gotten under my skin since he was at Florida. He's definitely the type of player you absolutely hate when he's on your rival, but don't really mind when he's on your team.

[caption id="attachment_131" align="alignleft" width="152" caption="2010-2011 NBA MVP"][/caption]

As for Derrick Rose, his quickness, strength, and finishing ability have proven to be MVP worthy, and his ability to get close to the rim for either a shot or a foul on nearly every late game possession has made him invaluable in close games. His quiet demeanor makes him seem like a humble, yet tough, competitor. Despite all of that, it's hard not to remember his college experience, and remember that he is somewhat of the child for the "one and done" athlete that is ruining college basketball. It's also hard to root for someone who couldn't get a high enough SAT score to get into Memphis, that he was willing to have someone else take it for him.

- Dallas Mavericks

There's definitely a school of thought that if your team gets knocked out of the playoffs, you should naturally want the team that beat you to win it all so your team doesn't look as bad. To me, you still lost, and it doesn't really matter when you lost, or to whom. All that matters is that you're out of the playoffs.

The Dallas Mavericks are all about Mark Cuban to me. He has become the face of the franchise, surpassing Dirk Nowitzki and any other play they have. On one hand, Cuban has to be commended for injecting passion and energy into a team that was languishing around the bottom of the standings for a number of years. He's definitely spared no expense trying to get the biggest names together to play in Dallas. And I can even give him credit for what people usually attribute as his major fault, acting like a fan of the team instead of its owner. But the thing is, he acts like that annoying fan that everyone, even fans of the same team, hates. He complains on nearly every call, takes petty cheap shots at coaches/players in the media, and has a general air of smugness to him when the Mavs win.

Although I generally root for the Western Conference over the Eastern Conference, it would be hard for me to want Dallas to beat anyone other than the Heat.

- Oklahoma City Thunder

[caption id="attachment_133" align="alignleft" width="210" caption="These two are bringing in fans to OKC."][/caption]

This might jinx them, but the Oklahoma City should be moving on to play the Dallas Mavericks in the very near future. With that being said, they are heads and shoulders more exciting to watch, and thus easier to root for than any of the other remaining teams. They have likable superstars in Durant and Westbrook, and great young coach, and even an entertaining number of bench/role players (Ibaka, Harden, Maynor).

They do have a couple of drawbacks though. The addition of Kendrick Perkins has made them decidedly less of a fun-loving team, and it's hard to watch someone play who has a constant scowl on his face. The biggest knock against the of course is the way in which the franchise left the city of Seattle. It would be hard to root for them to win the championship in such a short time frame after leaving Seattle. I'm all for teams moving on to bigger and better things when they have exhausted every effort to stay in their current city. But that's definitely not what happened there, and moving to OKC isn't necessarily "bigger and better things".

- Your wallet

The best solution may in fact be to give yourself some real rooting incentive by placing bets on the games. Being monetarily forced to root for a team is somewhat of an "opt out clause". You're not really rooting for the Bulls, you're rooting for your wallet to be $20 heavier. On the flip side, you might be mad that you lost some money by betting on them, but by losing the bet it means that the Heat didn't win. Be careful with this one though, as you have to have the right combination of bet/possible outcome for this to work out in your favor.

- Mark Slattery Senior Writer

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