If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with
Henry Abbott over at the ol' ESPN True Hoop recently polled his fellow True Hoop scribes about the NBA squad they enjoy watching the most when their favorite team wasn't playing (in Abbott's case, the Portland Trail Blazers). For most of the T.H. family, the Golden State Warriors took the prize, which isn't terribly surprising.
As BK once described Nellie's bunch- with their "jacking up any and all shots/don't bother defending anybody because that drains energy better focused on jacking up any and all shots" style- they're the ultimate NBA Live team. And if you're able to treat the Warriors with the same emotional attachment as one typically affords a video game squad, they fit a very specific bill.
For Abbott, the poor man's "Seven Seconds or Less" Phoenix Suns didn't quite cut it, so he chose the original. I think I gotta agree with him.
Yes, I realize they were the "enemy," and whenever they played the Lakers, I regarded them as such. My loyalties never waned. But if you're willing to put aside misgivings towards specific Phoenicians (I never really had any, but for the sake of argument) objectively speaking, the Suns were one exceptionally fantastic team for an objective of being purely entertained with some high quality basketball. Hella points racked at a breakneck pace. Perpetual motion crafted by Steve Nash's creativity. Defense treated as a decided second priority, but better than typically credited. Matrix. Amare. Diaw. Barbosa. Q and Joe Johnson (for a whle). Even Raja Bell. Phoenix's success reducing the Lakers to second class Pacific Division citizens was admittedly annoying, but not so awful that I couldn't still appreciate them for who they were and how they played.
Other recent favorites include...
- This decade's San Antonio Spurs: A far cry from of D'Antoni ball, but despite popular and uninformed opinion, never a "boring" team. Between Tony Parker's speed, Manu Ginobli's herky-jerky unpredictability, Bruce Bowen's defensive prowess, David Robinson's class, a touch of Robert Horry, and Tim Duncan's steady ability to do everything that didn't involve a free throw, sooooo much to enjoy. In particular, it never ceased to amaze and impress me how eerily methodical the Spurs remained under any circumstances. Up 20. Down 20. All squared. San Antonio played their game with ice water flowing through their veins and waited for the opposition to make a mistake first. Typically, that patience paid off.
- The current incarnation of the Portland Trail Blazers: Again, I'm perfectly aware this crew will likely become the Lakers' chief rival over the next decade, but it doesn't change the fact that I dig these guys. A lot. In particular, I've got a big-time man crush on Brandon Roy. Extremely versatile, great in the clutch, good dude. In fact, the whole team is pretty likable, in addition to collectively impressive talent. As much fun as it was watching the Jail Blazers perpetually melt down- often at the expense of the Lakers- I hated seeing a historically great franchise in the gutter. The city, their fans and the league deserved better. Now they have it.
- The Detroit Pistons, 2004-2006: By now, you've probably figured out that I have the capacity to forgive teams engaged in bitter battles against the Lakers. I seethed while these guys took out the Kobe-Shaq-Malone-GP Lakers in the 2004 Finals and took boatloads of grief from a Day-Twah buddy, but that sting can't change the fact that Chauncey-Rip-Tay-Sheed-Big Ben were an absolute joy to watch. One of the best starting fives in recent memory, these guys executed so well on both sides of the ball. In his prime, Ben Wallace was one of my favorite players in the Association and I loved how dangerous Hamilton became playing off the ball.
- The early decade Sixers: A one-man team, but that one man (Allen Iverson) was a thrill to watch and the team (Aaron McKie, Dikembe Mutombo, Eric Snow, Theo Ratliff, etc.) was smartly assembled to compliment A.I. doing his thing.