Let us start with the NBA playoffs, and to be clear, this is who we all should want to win, not necessarily who probably will. Our first series in the west pits the defending champion LA Lakers against the rising stars from the OKC. This is a no-brainer. We want the Thunder to win. Who likes the Lakers besides Los Angeles residents and the parents of the players? Let's move on.
The Mavericks play the Spurs in the 2-7 match-up. Really a lose-lose in terms of finding a villain here. Some people may dislike Tim Duncan because he likes to whine and complain, but he takes care of business year in and year out, and he's a cagey veteran; hard to root against in my opinion. Others may dislike Tony Parker because he is French and dates (is married to?) Eva Longoria. (They may not even be together anymore, I don't keep up with these things. But the fact remains, he, at one time, dated Eva Longoria.) This dislike is totally granted. He is also a point guard who never shoots threes, a killer for fantasy purposes. On the other hand, the Mavs have the feeling of a team who is always good but never wins, a la the San Jose Sharks. This inherently forces people to root for them to finally get over the hump, but not enough to actually want them to win anything. In the end, who really cares who wins this? Just root for Dallas.
Blazers-Suns is a very interesting match-up. These are actually two teams who you want to root for, unfortunately playing each other round one. Also, each may have an injury that prevents them from getting past round two. The Blazers will be lucky to win a game without their best player, Brandon Roy. The Suns have their starting center Robin Lopez out as well, who would have been a huge cog in a western conference finals run for them. The Blazers just seem snake-bitten this season, and don't have much of a chance. The Suns have everyone's second favorite Canadian (behind Mike Myers obviously) in Steve Nash. How can you not root for an old, white guy to stick it to The Man? Let's go Suns.
The last western conference battle pits the Jazz against the Nuggets. Ordinarily, neither team would have me caring who won. I kind of like Deron Williams, but only if I'm able to secure him on my fantasy team each season. The easy fan-favorite this time around has to be the Nuggets. Their coach, George Karl, has cancer and hasn't been able to be with the team much at all this past month. It would just be rude to cheer for the Jazz here, even if you live in Utah. Just plain rude.
As for the eastern conference, we have a much easier go of things. The Cleveland Cavaliers face the Bulls in round one. Advance Lebron, you know you want to. No basketball fan wants to see the Cavs out first round. And this is coming from someone who loves Derrick Rose. Same goes for the Orlando-Charlotte series. The sixteen Bobcats fans around the country might pull for these underdogs, but everyone else should just want Dwight Howard and the Magic to move on.
The 3-6 Hawks-Bucks is kind of a fun series. Both are young teams with some flashy shooters who can get hot. The Hawks are clearly more talented and have the experience, and the Bucks lost Andrew Bogut, their center, at the end of the regular season. Who WILL win is not up for debate, but who should we want to win? I still like Atlanta here. Athletic, long, young teams are fun to root for. Joe Johnson is a fantastic player who wants to leave Atlanta on a high note. Josh Smith and Jamal Crawford are just fun to watch. And if Mike Bibby was still alive, I am sure he would be a nice addition to this team. Let's hope the Hawks move on to the next round.
Our last match-up in the first round of the NBA playoffs will have the Miami Heat playing the beloved Boston Celtics. I'm sorry, did I say beloved? I meant whatever the opposite of that is. Talk about having no likability. Good thing that Lakers-Celtics rivalry does not force us to pick a side, because both teams are just so fun to root against. You have to back Dwyane Wade and the Heat here, no question.
That wraps up the first round games. We should all cheer and root for these teams to advance. I would go into the conference semi-finals and finals but if any of these teams don't win, that changes our whole rooting interest, and also, Cleveland is going to win the championship, so what's the difference? One caveat however, shouldn't Cavaliers fans be rooting for them NOT to win? If LeBron leads them to a title, he's leaving town, right?...well let's not get into that. That is a whole other column.
Part Two: who to root against in the NHL playoffs (other than the Red Wings) will be coming soon.