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Vince Thomas

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Not seeing Chris Paul in the postseason robs the playoffs of some sweetness.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Missing these special people, places as playoffs roll on


Posted Apr 27 2010 10:02AM

Brandon Roy took us all by surprise, didn't he?

Just eight days after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, my man was on the Rose Garden court, helping his Blazers win Game 4 to even up the series with the Suns. The Portland crowd was delirious as Roy's return was easily the most shocking and emotionally palpable moment of these young playoffs.

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Before the playoffs began, I was miffed that I wasn't going to see Roy in action. And, truthfully, although he's technically back, he's not really "back." As an individual, Roy's one of the NBA's clutch, marquee performers. You want as many of those leading men in the playoffs as possible. But based on Games 4 and 5, it doesn't seem like that's the Roy we'll see anytime soon.

It got me to thinking about a few other people and places that we're missing this spring ...

Chris Paul: It was CP -- not Roy -- that I really wished was balling in these playoffs. He's right there with Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, Dwight Howard and Melo as a dude that I want participating in every postseason. His virtuosity is doing us no good in street clothes. It seems that we all have a short memory. As recently as this time last year -- after he hit us with a memorable "22.8 ppg-11.0 apg-5.5 rpg-2.8 spg" season -- CP was a consensus pick as the game's best point guard. The year before that, he finished second to Kobe in MVP voting.

But after an injury-derailed season, he's suddenly an afterthought as everyone anoints Deron Williams the new king. Shoutout to Deron and his incredible performances against Denver (and a stellar season), but in my opinion, ain't nuttin' changed: CP is still the league's best point guard. Last week, some friends and I had a "CP vs. Deron" argument on GMail.

My boy Tony summed it up best: "CP plays on a worse squad, averages more points, assists, steals, rebounds, and typically more wins. He is a better leader, has a stronger personality -- he is the coach of the Hornets. Deron plays in a system in Utah. In Nola, Chrissy is the system."

Amen.

Get healthy, CP, and get the Hornets back to the playoffs.

Andrew Bogut: This series is already a "series" -- but only because the Hawks turn into some different, terrible version of themselves on the road. If Bogut -- the second-best center in the league this season -- was dropping in his customary 15 points, 10 boards and three blocks ... well, then this really would be a series.

A young Shaquille O'Neal: Man I miss the young, destructive, fear-inspiring, "Most Dominant Ever" Shaq of 2000-02. Dwight Howard was nailed to Orlando's bench because of foul trouble against Charlotte. Shaq is averaging 19.3 minutes a game, mostly because the Cavs obviously feel like they don't have much use for him against Chicago. The reduced role is nothing new for the Big Witness Protection.

Shaq's last four postseason's have gone like this: first-round ousters in '07 and '08; chilling on a couch in '09 and now this reduced-role Shaq in 2010. Going even further back, Shaq didn't average 20 ppg for the 2006 Heat championship run. In fact, he scored 30 or more only once during the '05 and '06 postseasons with Miami. Even the 2004 Shaq -- party to L.A.'s upset loss to Detroit in The Finals -- was only periodically dominant.

I miss that vintage Shaq we witnessed during the Lakers threepeat. Remember watching Dikembe Mutombo in slow-mo, grimacing as he ricocheted off the greatest physical force in the game's history? Remember the Shaq teams that simply could not be stopped? Double-team, triple-team -- it didn't matter, Shaq was scoring. He'd ram dunks down the hoops' throat like he was mad at it ... with two 270-pound, 7-footers draped on his back. I miss that Shaq.

The Oracle Arena in Oakland: The 2007 playoffs was a tease I could do without. Yeah, the Oklahoma City fans have been getting down and putting even the best playoff crowds to shame the past week. But let us not forget the preposterous atmosphere that the Bay Area folks gave the overachieving 2007 Warriors. It combined the volume and delirium of OKC with an astuteness and hoops sophistication that comes from several generations of fans that had been rooting for the Warriors since they came to the Bay Area back in 1962. Plus, as is easily seen with Raider Nation -- folks in Oakland are psycho. We need a good, competitive team in Oakland so we can get at least two games at the Oracle each postseason.

Steve Javie: A "Get well soon" to Javie, because -- be honest -- when Javie makes a call you don't like, you react with a little more anger ... and you like it that way.

George Karl: And, finally, a super "Get well soon" to coach Karl, who's been away from the team undergoing treatment for throat cancer. The Nuggets obviously need him, but this is also his fifth decade as part of the NBA family. He's coached 22 seasons and missed the playoffs just three times. So, yeah, the playoffs are a little weird without Karl, especially under these circumstances. We'll all be glad when he's back on the sidelines in a mock turtleneck, flashing his trademark smirk.

Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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