Welcome to the 2012 NBA Playoffs. This year's theme: Let's Roll Over For The Miami Heat.
In Year 9 of his NBA career, LeBron James wants to win his first championship, and apparently everyone else wants him to win it, too. He certainly seems to have their full cooperation. The only way the rest of the league could have made this any easier for James is if Kobe Bryant ran into one of Metta Peace's elbows.
It's not enough that James took his talents to Miami, or that he arranged to form The Big Three; now the Heat's rivals seem to be doing all they can to help James fill the glaring hole in his resume. At this rate, he can start sizing his ring.
The Chicago Bulls tied for the best record in the NBA this season and seemed like the one team that could prevent the Heat from reaching the Finals again. Then Derek Rose, the NBA's 2011 Most Valuable Player, went down with a torn ACL injury during a Game 1 playoff victory over Philadelphia. He is out for the rest of the playoffs and then some.
Inquiring minds want to know: Why was Rose still on the floor with the Bulls holding a big lead late in the game?
LeBron sends his thanks.
The L.A. Lakers and Kobe Bryant are always a threat in the playoffs, or they were until Ron "Call me Metta World Peace" Artest threw a vicious elbow into the head of Oklahoma City's James Harden in a late-season game. Artest — has he really earned the name "Peace?" — was suspended for the first seven games of the playoffs.
Even Bryant needs help from his teammates, and Artest was providing it with a recent resurgence. But the Lakers knew what they were getting with Artest and they got it. Artest apologized, noting that his flying elbow seemed like anger but was actually passion. Or stupidity, whatever. He later referred to it as an "accidental elbow" in a Tweet.
Bron Bron sends his thanks and good wishes in the anger management course.
The Boston Celtics, the Atlantic Division champs and another Eastern Conference threat for the Heat, lost Game 1 of the playoffs to Atlanta and now they've lost Rajon Rondo, who was suspended for Game 2 for chest-bumping a ref. At least he's a fast learner. Rondo, the league's leader in assists, was suspended for two games earlier this season for throwing a ball at an official. With Rondo out and Ray Allen sidelined with an injured ankle, the Celtics appear to be in trouble.
And King James thanks them.
The New York Knicks, who finished the season by winning seven of their last 10 games, not only have lost the first two games of their playoff series with the Heat, but two of their players, as well. Iman Shumpert, the team's best defender, tore his ACL in Game 1 and will be sidelined for months. Following Game 2, Amar'e Stoudemire angrily shoved his hand through a glass fire extinguisher case in the arena. He required treatment from a paramedic and left the arena with his hand wrapped and wearing a sling. No one seems certain how long he will be out of action.
He used his other hand to Tweet an apology — "I am so mad at myself right now, I want to apologize to the fans and my team, not proud of my actions, headed home for a new start." That should come some time next season. Oh, well, at least there is yesterday's news, Jeremy Lin. Oh, wait, he's out too — with a knee injury.
And LeBron sends his sympathies, along with his thanks.
And what about the rising young L.A. Clippers? Caron Butler, the team's starting forward and best defender, could miss the rest of the playoffs after breaking his hand in the playoff opener against Memphis, although some believe he could return eventually, if the team is still around.
LeBron says thank you, kindly.
There it is — all of the above, plus Oklahoma suddenly looks vulnerable after two narrow escapes against Dallas, the Spurs and Celtics are aging, the Jazz are young. If you're among those cheering against Bron Bron, brace yourself.