For those of you who follow the NBA, you know that this year's first round of the playoffs was arguably the best opening round in league history. Five of the eight series went seven games, the Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard ended their series against the Rockets with a Game Six buzzer beating three-pointer and -- despite the excellent play and the exciting games -- the whole thing was almost overshadowed by the Donald Sterling Is A Racist fiasco.
If you're looking to start following the playoffs at this point and need to find some players to root for, there are still a number of UCLA Bruins with an opportunity to pick up a championship ring.
In the Eastern Conference, the much-traveled Trevor Ariza starts for the Washington Wizards who knocked off the Chicago Bulls in the first round. The Wizards take on the top seed in the East, the Indiana Pacers. That series opens tonight in Indianapolis at 4 pm on the West Coast.
The other series opening tonight features four Bruins as the Los Angeles Clippers face the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers have three UCLA graduates (yes -- graduates -- they were all four year players here in Westwood). Matt Barnes starts at small forward for L.A. and he'll likely draw the league's Most Valuable Player, Kevin Durant, as his defensive assignment. Darren Collison backs up (and plays alongside) the league's best point guard, Chris Paul and is a key member of the Clippers second unit. Collison hit the clinching free throws the other night in the closing series of Game Seven against the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers also have Ryan Hollins. Hollins played quite a bit during the regular season as the back up center behind DeAndre Jordan, but has not gotten as many minutes since L.A. picked up Glen "Big Baby" Davis late in the season. He does wave a mean towel.
Of course, the other Bruin in this series is Russell Westbrook, who starts for the Thunder. Westbrook is arguably the most enigmatic player in the league. He's an All Star and a great player. He's also capable of being completely out of control. He had what some people are calling "the worst great game in league history" the other day as he had a triple-double, but also managed to miss 21 shots -- 10 for 31 -- while taking more shots than Kevin Durant, the best scorer in the league. Westbrook is capable of making the most incredible plays and totally taking over a game, he's also capable of making some of the most baffling decisions I've ever seen a point guard make. This should really be a great series and its winner has a real shot at the league championship.
It's interesting to look at which Bruins are still around. Who would have ever thought that Earl Watson would have the longest career in the NBA of all the Lavin-era players? Matt Barnes is proving that Lavin was a fool, because Barnes is a damn good player who Lavin coached as if he was frightened of him. Who would have thought that Kevin Love would have zero playoff appearances at this point in his career? Who would have thought that Bob Meyers would end up as the general manager of the Golden State Warriors, who took the Clippers the distance in the first round?