Wake me up when it’s over

It is the beginning of May and the NBA playoffs are well underway. Wheee. I am not excited, not impressed by Kobe Bryant’s buzzer-beating game winner against Phoenix. I’m not stoked about Sacramento’s 2-2 tie with San Antonio. I’m bored by the whole thing.

Why? Here’s the thing: by the time the class of 2006 graduates and throws those annoying boxy hats into the air the NBA playoffs will just be winding down and probably won’t be decided. That’s almost a month and a half away. Wake me up in June.

If I had to choose some compelling storylines to follow, I suppose I’d start in Los Angeles – there are two teams with comfy and unpredicted 3-1 series leads in that grungy overpopulated cesspit of humanity that are doing their best to entertain the soulless LA masses.

The Lakers have done it the only way they get anything done, via Kobe Bryant. Kobe’s a one-name star on a one-man team, and for now it seems things are working. He’s got newly minted repeat MVP Steve Nash, the redemption of the hopless white man, on the ropes. Kobe Bryant is a selfish little punk, there’s no questioning that in my mind. But the punk is getting it done. Kudos.

That other LA team is doing big things too, sitting on the verge of a dominant win over the Denver Nuggets. The Clippers haven’t won a playoff series since Bill Clinton was president. Think about that.

Now the 2006 Clips are getting the job done with a couple things the team hasn’t had in years – balance and some veteran leadership. Elton Brand is leading the way with 17 points a contest through May 1 but he’s had plenty of help. Sam Cassell, Corey Maggette and Cutino Mobley are all averaging over 14 points a game.

Are these Clippers for real? Possibly. They are heading for an epic clash with their hated intracity rivals, if both teams make the second round. A playoff series win over the Lakers would go a long way in solidifying the Clips as a legitimate power in the West, but getting by a determined Bryant will be the ultimate test.

There are some more compelling match-ups in the East, if anyone still watches Eastern Conference ball anymore. The Bulls are playing Miami tough and LeBron James is trying to make his first trip to the playoffs a happy one. As of May 1 the only team with a series lead is Detroit, 2-1 over Milwaukee.

The Cavaliers-Wizards series is interesting simply to see if James (whose team has the home court) can lead his team to a series win. James got his points on Sunday as he scored 38, but Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards beat the Cavs 106-96 to pull even in the series.

So I lied. I have been paying attention. There are a lot of good stories and good games to watch. Why, then, do I still feel an odd malaise when thinking about the NBA playoffs? I suppose I miss the teams that used to be perennial contenders.

Where are the Celtics, Knicks and 76ers? Where are the Timberwolves, Rockets and Jazz? Where the heck are the Blazers?

We know where the Blazers are (at least until the team moves to Oklahoma after Paul Allen realizes Portland hates him). But right now there are a lot of notable teams that are in rebuilding mode and it has made for a more diverse and possibly more boring playoffs field.

Things might never feel quite right until some of the marquee names return to the sport’s brightest stage. Until then, it seems there are plenty of teams and plenty of players getting the job done until those old favorites return. Until then, I think I have a Clippers game to watch.