Miami Heat players have been steadfastly neutral in claiming no preference as they waited for Indiana and New York to figure out which would play the underdog in the NBA’s upcoming Eastern Conference finals. Confident champions do not deign to worry about who’s next; they leave the worrying to opponents. The lion who runs the jungle does not much care if he is feasting on zebra or antelope, after all.
However, Miami fans and (if given truth serum) players should have had a preference. Lord knows Your Friend the Media did! And all signs pointed to the New York Knicks as the next opponent everybody outside of Indiana should have wanted. Three reasons for that:
1. The Knicks would be seen as an easier opponent and better matchup for Miami than the Pacers. Indiana is stronger defensively and has a player, in Paul George, who has proved capable of effectively defending LeBron James. New York is Carmelo Anthony or bust.
2. The Knicks are the Heat’s greatest rivals and have a genuine superstar in Carmelo. Plus, Amare Stoudemire might put his fist through fire-extinguisher glass again, it’s always fun to throw things at Spike Lee, and there might not be a greater delight in all of sports than watching boorish Knicks fans trudging forlornly muted from an arena. The Pacers, by contrast, are starless, faceless, dull.
3. The difference in New York City and Indianapolis is the difference between Paris, France, and Paris, Texas. NYC is nonstop excitement. Indy, once you get past the Hoosiers, an annual auto race and the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s, is more like never-start excitement.
The Knicks offer Miami not only a sexier opponent but an easier one to beat, and the Knicks offer me a better city to visit. An easy choice, then:
New York is The City That Never Sleeps.
Indianapolis is The City That Makes Me Sleepy.
• An ESPN poll after the Heat-Bulls series found 66 percent saying Chicago would have won if fully healthy. In an unrelated poll, two-thirds of all Americans admitted to occasionally saying something dumb.
• Phil Jackson writes in a new book that Michael Jordan was better than Kobe Bryant. “No duh!” replied the entire country outside of Los Angeles.
• San Antonio and Memphis are playing in the NBA’s Western finals. The Grizzlies ousted the top-seeded Thunder, whose clear choice for series MVP was Russell Westbrook, by not playing.
• Memphis’ Marc Gasol was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year and, one week later, made the league’s all-defensive second team. Can someone smarter than me please explain?
• Heat star Dwyane Wade wore Capri pants to a recent home playoff game. “Yeah but I wore them first!” said Rafael Nadal.
• As the NHL playoffs reached the final eight, it seemed likely this would be the 19th consecutive season the Stanley Cup was won by a U.S. team. Our northern neighbor’s national anthem needs a slight tweak, from O Canada to “No Canada.”
• Tiger Woods won last week’s Players Championship and also made Sergio Garcia really mad. So it was like winning twice!
• Tim Tebow remains unsigned. “Hey, you know he’s in trouble if even I can’t help him,” said God.