If you need a mini-fix of Dukies there is always the NBA Playoffs. Admittedly, I am not a huge NBA fan but for those Duke fans that are there are Dukies in the playoffs for us to watch and support. It’s anyone’s guess who will end up in the finals. Conventional wisdom and available NBA championship odds say the Heat will repeat but nothing is a given in the League as we all know.
In the East:
Defending world champions Miami Heat have former Duke great Shane Battier. An integral part of their rotation Battier brings a lot of the same qualities he did at Duke to the Heat. Including his stellar defense and adept 3 point shooting. His in-game intelligence is also off the charts. Matching up against the Miami Heat are the Milwaukee Bucks who have a couple of Dukies on their roster. Small forward Mike Dunleavy and shooting guard J.J. Redick can both light it up from the outside and Dunleavy, as Dukies know, can get to the rim and back down his defender by posting up. There is plenty of information for the casual and hardcore fan alike.
The Chicago Bulls look to make some noise in the playoffs and if they can get to the Eastern Conference finals, may be the best chance for a team to unseat the Heat. The Bulls have a strong Duke contingent in Luol Deng, the do-everything small forward and power forward Carlos Boozer. Deng was a one year wonder at Duke but was probably the most versatile player since Grant Hill to wear Duke blue, Deng was a precursor to players like Ryan Kelly who create match-up problems for typical small and power forwards. Boozer was an important piece in Dukes title run in 2001 and is averaging nearly a double-double for the Bulls this season.
The Boston Celtics have 6-10 forward Shavlick Randolph on roster and he has seen some playing time this year at the power forward spot. Shav never really got his Duke career to match up with expectations but he is quietly building a journeyman resume in the NBA and overseas leagues. The Indiana Pacers drafted Miles Plumlee in last years draft and have shuffled him in and out of the NBA Development League. This thinking is a good way for Plumlee to gain experience and not languish on the bench. Plumlee has put on muscle in his time in the NBA and has legit power forward size. He is still in the early stages of his career but I like what the Pacers are doing in terms of his development time-table. The Atlanta Hawks boast 9 year veteran Dahntay Jones on their roster, the undersized small forward is one of the most athletically gifted players to ever come out of Duke and had become a lockdown defender in the league.
In the West:
Out west conventional wisdom says the Lakers have very little chance of making it past the first round without Kobe Bryant, but one never knows and that’s why they play the games. The Lakers did end the regular season on a winning streak and Pau Gasol seems to have regained whatever we all assumed he lost and is assuming a leadership role on the team in Kobe’s absence. Chris Duhon has been a key reserve for LA and with Steve Blake and Steve Nash battling nagging injuries at times this season Duhon has been an important cog at the point guard spot. His experience and shooting touch is a piece of the puzzle that could propel the Lakers forward should Blake and Nash continue to have issues.
The other team residing in LA employs Duke royalty. Grant Hill at 40 years old is still going strong and prepping to help his Clippers in their 2013 playoff push. Grant is a steadying influence, and is still a viable go to guy on offense and a defender who can shut you down. Grant does not play like a 40-year-old and is as spry now as he ever has been, still quick to the ball and with bounce he has rewritten his injury plagued story to one of physical redemption and success.