The first round of the NBA playoffs was remotely more interesting, if not watchable, than the first round of the NFL draft, marking the only time the NBA beat the bigger, badder league at anything.
Games went into overtime, were won on buzzer-beaters, had epic individual performances and pushed entire series to the limit. The first round was slowed only by the racial rants of a rogue owner.
We're halfway through the postseason, one month away from crowning a champion and one month removed from a dreadful regular season.
The league is mostly caught in a comfortable middle ground right now. Here are the 10 highest trenders since the regular season ended and why they're blowing up social media, water coolers and, in some cases, their teams.
10. Scott Brooks. On one hand, you can't envy him. Brooks is caught in a chess match right now against Doc Rivers and, if he wins, he must outcoach Gregg Popovich should the Spurs advance as expected. On the other hand, Brooks has Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at his disposal; nobody else has that one-two punch. Brooks is in a no-win situation if OKC doesn't reach the NBA Finals or at least put up a fight for the West title. If he doesn't get beyond the Clippers, he could get fired because he has been exposed as a mediocre coach.
Moments after OKC choked in Game 4, Mark Cuban tweeted about TV commentators not having the guts to call out coaches, a knock aimed at what Brooks didn't do down the stretch. Durant and Westbrook played iso-ball while the rest of the Thunder watched. There was no creativity in the offense or counter move by Brooks when Rivers put Chris Paul on Durant. If this keeps up, Kevin Ollie is on the next flight to OKC.
9. Inside the NBA. No matter what you think about pregame and postgame shows -- and I rarely watch them -- Turner's NBA show constantly blows away the competition, in any sport. It's a balanced blend of humor, insight, bombast, silliness, gutsy commentary and highlights, all orbiting around the Round Mound of Profound, Charles Barkley. Sure, Shaquille O'Neal doesn't always stay in his lane, but the cast of Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson is too strong to allow the show to collapse. The show performs without a script and is at its best when it goes impromptu. The crew was on-point with the Donald Sterling saga and pulled no punches with the Pacers. It is more interesting than some of the actual games, and that's the highest compliment anyone can give.
8. LeBron James. His postseason was relatively quiet until he nuked the Nets for 49 points and we suddenly remembered he's still the best player on the planet. Miami swept the Bobcats in the first round and Paul Pierce is too old to put up a one-on-one fight right now, so there's every reason to believe we haven't seen LeBron go full blast. He really hasn't been tested. He might not get pushed to the edge until the Finals, assuming Miami makes it that far. That might be worth the wait.
7. Gregg Popovich. After a tougher-than-expected first round against the Mavericks, Pop and the Spurs won three straight against Portland and all but punched their ticket to the West finals. Once again we see the SOS -- Same Old Spurs, emphasis on "old" -- being steered by the game's best coach. The beauty of the Spurs is they can rely on six or seven players in the heat of battle, and only three of them bring Hall of Fame credentials. Pop instills confidence in fringe guys like Patty Mills, who isn't scared to take a big shot. There's no guarantee the Spurs will return to the NBA Finals, but Pop has them in position to go deep into May.
6. Kevin Durant. The highlight of his postseason was his MVP acceptance speech, which says plenty about the speech, because Durant has been mostly solid on the floor. By singling out his teammates, one by one, and telling stories about them that made you laugh and also choke up, Durant showed what a class act and teammate he is. He seems driven to keep his team alive by averaging 31 points in the playoffs, slightly below his season average, but that's because the competition has been thick. If he beats the Grizzlies, Clippers, Spurs and then LeBron, please. That will be quite a feat. And the tears he shed in his speech wouldn't compare to the faucet we'd see in a championship locker room.
5. Doc Rivers. In the past month, Rivers coached against the Warriors, Thunder and Donald Sterling, not necessarily in that order. His leadership is exactly why the Clippers brought him to L.A. He managed to keep his players focused when the Sterling story broke and has willingly become the franchise's dominant voice on the subject ever since. No coach has dealt with this before, and Rivers certainly wasn't groomed to be able to beat his team's owner, but he seems strangely qualified. Bank on this: If the Clippers win the NBA title, Rivers will have enough leverage to demand a cut of the action from the new owner and will probably get it.
4. Steve Kerr. He comes across as smart and analytical on TV and, because of that, is in demand as a coach. Come again? Yes, someone who never held a clipboard before could choose from the Cavaliers and Knicks if he wanted. That's not to dismiss Kerr totally; he played in the league, won championships, was teammates with great players and knows about life as a role player. Those will serve him well in his next job. He has the temperament to be a solid manager. Still, he's unproven. How about strategy? Suppose one of his players gets angry and into his grill? Can he motivate? The Knicks and Phil Jackson, clearly the leaders for Kerr, will learn soon enough.
3. Roy Hibbert. Locked in a stiff-like slumber for more than two months, Hibbert finally came to life in the last week and rescued his reputation and the Pacers from the depths of total embarrassment. What makes Hibbert's fall so incredible, and his rise so understandable, is the fact he hasn't faced a top-flight big man in the playoffs yet. The résumés of Pero Antic and Marcin Gortat aren't teeming with All-Star appearances. When he's invisible, the Pacers struggle. When he's actively reaching for rebounds and a threat to score in the paint, the Pacers have options. They'll need him in a Miami-Indiana showdown. The reassuring news for the Pacers is Hibbert plays well against the Heat.
2. Adam Silver. He's probably sore from all the back-slaps he received after giving Donald Sterling the death penalty, which is weird: Silver never really had a choice but to bring the hammer down. True courage would've been ousting Sterling years before, when he settled a housing discrimination suit. Sure, that was on David Stern's watch, but Silver and Stern were joined at the hip. The NBA didn't throw up its arms then. Only when Sterling became a national nightmare did the league feel moved enough to chop off his head. Silver is taking the necessary steps to remove Sterling ASAP, but he needs to refrain from issuing any more press releases about Sterling, as he did after the Anderson Cooper interview. Why divert from the playoffs? Why dignify Sterling with a response? Why not just let Sterling bury himself?
1. Donald Sterling. The rogue owner managed to do something he never did in 33 years of owning the Clippers: conquer and dominate the postseason. He's a rambling, out of touch, possibly racist 80-year-old who nearly torpedoed his team with leaked comments about race and Magic Johnson. For years, the Clippers built a wall around Sterling by denying all interview requests and essentially stashing him in the attic. But now, free from those benefits, because he's no longer part of the team, Sterling is flying without a parachute and ready to crash land. That said, it must be comforting for him to know a billion dollars will provide quite a cushion.