Off-Season Daggers with Steve Buckhantz
WW.com: Which team has looked the best to you so far in the playoffs? Who do you think will win it all?
SB: From what I've seen so far, it looks like OKC or San Antonio have made the best showing so far in the playoffs. Especially the way the Thunder dispatched the defending champs in just four games. Miami has yet to show us their full capabilities, given the competition.
I said at the beginning of the year and I still believe the Heat are destined to win the title, although they did NOT win as many games as I expected during the course of the regular season. Clearly injuries to Wade disrupted the flow of the team. If their squad stays relatively healthy throughout the playoffs, I feel they can ratchet things up to another level and defeat any team in the west, very likely OKC.
WW.com: Which player has impressed you the most so far in the playoffs?
SB: It's difficult to choose one player, but Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul have made significant impacts on their respective squads. As have Ty Lawson, LeBron James and Andre Igudala. The injury to Derrick Rose was obviously devastating for Chicago, who saw their dreams of a title evaporate the night he went down.
WW.com: Do you root for a team based on their broadcasters?
SB: Good question regarding the broadcasters! I don't root for a team based on their announcers but I DO listen intently when I can pick up their broadcasts. The problem now is that in the playoffs most games are either on TNT, ABC or NBA TV. And those networks all have their own set of announcers, which means the only way to hear the local broadcast is to be in that city.
By the way, I DO have my favorites and it's a very small fraternity of guys, given that there are only 30 "local" TV Play-by-play announcers (and 30 color analysts) in the league. Many of us have become good friends and obviously share a rather unique perspective of the NBA. I have an occasion to chat with each and every one throughout the course of the season and truly enjoy our professional relationships.
WW.com How do you think the Wizards will do in the NBA Lottery later this month?
SB: I think the Wiz will do just fine in the lottery. This is an extremely strong draft, and no matter where they wind up, I believe they'll have the opportunity to choose someone who can contribute in a big way.
The team ended the season on a very positive note. Not just because they won six games, but because of the WAY they finished out the year. They knew post season was an impossibility, but still played with a passion, focus and competitive energy that was missing earlier in the year. And I believe we are witnessing a new mental frame of mind that will become part of this squad's make up for a long time.
WW.com: Any big plans this summer?
SB: Summertime is a chance to decompress a bit and purge the brain of thousands of statistics. I'm involved in numerous charities and enjoy helping out whenever I can. One of the highlights is as spokesman for the annual St. Jude Golf Tournament coming up June 4th at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, VA. This is our 17th year and needless to say I'm proud and honored to join with the hard working folks at St. Jude in an effort to raise funds for such a worthy cause.