Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: Where Nostalgia Happens

↵Today's Calls: Lakers vs. Celtics, Spurs vs. Suns, Mavs vs. Hornets, Brandon Webb vs. Barry Zito, Mike Jacobs vs. A-Rod, Chad Johnson vs. Carson Palmer, Kevin Love vs. Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose vs. Tyreke Evans, Travis Ford vs. Sean Sutton, Barack Obama vs. Dan Shanoff and More! ↵

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↵The Opening Pitch: The NBA Playoffs have a clear and obvious optimal outcome: ↵

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↵Lakers vs. Celtics. ↵

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↵Every other scenario will be a dud, a buzz-less ending to an otherwise highly entertaining season. ↵

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↵How can I guarantee that dud? ↵

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↵Because last season, the league's most marketable individual star since Michael Jordan played its reigning dynasty... ↵

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↵...and the result was the least-watched Finals in the post-cable era. ↵

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↵The other Finals options are all flawed: In the West, the No. 2 seed Hornets are a wonderful story, but no one will tune in for them. (Not that anyone actually gives them a chance to win the West.) The Spurs? We saw last year how much Finals interest they draw. AI and the Nuggets aren't consistent enough to make the Finals. Mavs? Rockets? Jazz? Yikes. ↵

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↵The telegenic Suns have a shot at bringing in a Finals audience -- but far less of a shot of winning the West. (Phoenix may not even get out of the first round: It plays the Spurs in a rematch of last season's second-round playoff matchup, in what will be the best first-round series in the West this year.) ↵

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↵In the East, unless LeBron, Gilbert Arenas, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Rasheed Wallace combine forces, there isn't a single team (or star) in the East aside from the Celtics that moves the needle with the type of casual, "national" fan The Finals are supposed to attract. (The best first-round matchup in the East is Cavs-Wiz 3.0, btw.) ↵

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↵Nope: "Back to the Future" is the NBA's only option. And that's kind of pathetic, like the fan approaching 40 who can't get over his high school glory days. ↵

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↵It is a testament to the hollowness of the NBA's so-called revival this season that its best playoff outcome leans on fan nostalgia for the mid-1980s. ↵

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↵(And not even every fan -- if you're under 30, you have little or no recollection of why Lakers-Celtics is the NBA's best rivalry. And if you're over 30, no one under 30 wants to hear your pull-the-ladder-up-behind-you stories about how great the NBA used to be.) ↵

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↵Heading into the playoff season, the NBA's biggest fear has to be: What if it IS Kobe's Lakers vs. KG's Celtics -- the most fan-friendly matchup since Michael Jordan's last Finals trip with the Bulls -- and the casual fans STILL don't bother watching? ↵

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↵"Where 1987 Happens" is not what I think the NBA had in mind as its 2008 playoff marketing slogan. ↵

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↵Will it BE Lakers vs. Celtics? Playoff picks coming tomorrow. ↵

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↵More NBA Awards!
↵MVP (as declared Tuesday): Chris Paul, Hornets
↵Rookie: Al Horford, Hawks
↵Coach: Byron Scott, Hornets
↵Sixth Man: Manu Ginobili, Spurs
↵Defense: Josh Smith, Hawks
↵Most Improved: Andrew Bynum, Lakers ↵

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↵Notes from the final night of the NBA regular season: ↵

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↵Right, makes TOTAL sense that 55-win Houston has home-court advantage against Utah, but the 54-win Jazz earn the "4 seed" for a division title... ↵

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↵Is the Mavs' 13-point win over the Hornets a product of New Orleans' apathy or foreshadowing of their playoff series? ... ↵

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↵Did Kevin Durant use a season-/career-high 42-point game (with career-high 13 rebounds) in the finale to edge my man Al Horford for ROY? ... ↵

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↵It is totally appropriate that Isiah ends the year (and, likely, his Knicks tenure) on a loss. (Hey: at least they didn't break the 60-loss barrier)... ↵

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↵LeBron may never win an NBA title, but at least he has a scoring title (No joke: His 30p-7.9r-7.2a is "where vintage MJ happens") ... ↵

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↵MLB Instant History: Huge game for Miguel Cabrera (4/6, 1 HR, 5 RBI) as the Tigers heat up... Brandon Webb (4-0) looked Cy-like in handcuffing the Giants; Barry Zito (0-4) looked, um, Zito-like... King Felix!... A-Rod's HR 522 moves him ahead of McCovey and Williams into 15th on the all-time list... Speaking of power, that would be Mike Jacobs' 6th HR of the season... Will A.J. Burnett's unsuccessful emergency-relief appearance screw up his start on Friday? ↵

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↵One Thing You Should Know About the NHL Playoffs: After being bounced in 5 by the Sens last season in the first round, the Pens swept them out, Pittsburgh's first playoff advancement since '01. ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, Nashville followed up its 9-second scoring binge in Game 3 with a 32-second scoring binge in Game 4 to even its series with Detroit -- did you see THAT coming?) ↵

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↵NFL: Chad Johnson thinks Carson Palmer is an idiot. At least, that's the implication of 85 calling Palmer out for claiming Johnson was going to be at camp. Someone ELSE's camp, maybe. Johnson wants out and wants out NOW. ↵

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↵Kevin Love turning pro today? That's the report, and it's not crazy: He is a Top 10 lock (though not a Top 5 lock by any measure). As my personal CBB Player of the Year, I think he'll be a fantastic pro. ↵

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↵CBB Coaching Carousel: Travis Ford to Oklahoma State. Bill Self may not have wanted Boone Pickens' cash, but Travis Ford was happy to see the green lining of bolting UMass for Stillwater. Ford returns to the Big 12, where he started his college playing career at Mizzou before transferring to fame at Kentucky. ↵

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↵Prep hoops star Tyreke Evans picks Memphis: I'm sure William Wesley didn't have ANYTHING to do with creating that connection. Nope, not a thing. ↵

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↵CFB Spring Battles: Mark Sanchez edges Mitch Mustain as "QB 1" for USC. Regardless of the recent legacy of USC QBs, you have to wonder if Mustain regrets not picking a program where he could be the instant starter immediately after his transfer year. ↵

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↵CFB Playoff Watch: An NCAA task force on "commercial activities" ironically refuses to put the eight-team playoff on its agenda, even to use the opportunity to dismiss the idea. Guess they thought putting "playoff" on the agenda -- for any reason -- would legitimize it. (h/t: USA Today) ↵

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↵The Last Word: Memo to Barack Obama's campaign team: He has an open invitation to do a sit-down with ME -- podcast, live blog, interview, coffee klatch, whatever -- anytime. We'll talk hoops! I have a large audience in Pennsylvania! ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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