As I mentioned earlier, the first round playoff games this weekend were fantastic (aside from those split-screen face commercials, which I find off-putting). The NBA should really consider giving some kind of special honor to the team that comes out of the West. They're going to have to do a hell of a lot more than their Eastern Conference counterparts to get into the Finals.
I asked some of the Blazers who they thought would win it all, and here's what they had to say. By the way, they made these picks before the start of the first round.
James Jones: "I’m taking Phoenix. I think (the NBA Finals) will be Phoenix and Boston. That looks like the matchup. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Phoenix and Detroit though. I’ve always loved what Detroit’s been able to do because they’re a good executing team. In the playoffs it comes down to execution and matchups. (Detroit) was unlucky last year to play Cleveland because Cleveland matched up well with them. If they don’t have to face Cleveland this year, being a number two seed, they have a good chance to come out of the East.
"There are some teams and some players that some teams just have problems with. Even though Cleveland’s team is down those guys feel like they can beat Detroit. They might not feel like they can beat Boston but they believe they can beat Detroit. Anything is possible in the playoffs."
Channing Frye: "Detroit or I’d have to say San Antonio after watching them beat Utah. A Detroit/San Antonio Finals, again. I like how San Antonio just takes teams apart. It’s amazing. You’ve got to appreciate that."
Steve Blake: "I’d probably go with San Antonio playing Boston, with San Antonio probably winning it again."
Travis Outlaw: "It’s basically between Phoenix and the Spurs for the West. I think the Celtics versus Detroit is going to be a good game. But I can’t count them Spurs out like I want to. You can’t count them out. It depends on who wins the Spurs and the Suns series. That’s who it comes down to. But then it depends on who wins over there (in the East).
"For the first time I think the playoffs are going to feel like they used to feel. It don’t feel watered down. I don’t think it’s going to be a sweep in the Finals."
LaMarcus Aldridge: "I think San Antonio will probably win it all. I don’t know who’s going to come out the East but I think San Antonio is going to win it all. They know how to turn it on when they need to. They have the experience. They got the Tim Duncan. He’s one of the best, so I think they’ll win it all."
Nate McMillan: "I think there are great matchups, especially in the West, and I’m looking forward to seeing all of them. You look at the Lakers and you see Denver who’s eighth. It would be hard to pick that.
"New Orleans and Dallas. New Orleans has had a great season but Dallas is sitting there with no pressure -- well, not a lot of pressure – on them, or as much as they had last year. That’s a great series.
"San Antonio and Phoenix; think about that one. The fact that one of the two big teams starting the season will get knocked out in the first round. Who could pick that?
"Utah and Houston. Utah is a great home team and Houston wins 22 in a row. So I think there are some great matchups in these playoffs.
"So who could I pick? Maybe Detroit coming out the East. And the West … I’ve always said this; I think it will be the healthiest team. With the way the playoffs are set up now, it’s a seven game series. That’s a lot of games. You’ve got to be healthy, so I’ll take the easy way out and say the healthiest team."