The argument could be made that the Los Angeles Lakers losing in the first round helped the entire NBA. The defending champions have been neutralized and everyone’s path got a little bit easier.
That opinion would discredit what the Phoenix Suns have accomplished all year. They did post the second-best record during the regular season and clinched the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Still, the image of LeBron James golfing instead of dunking in June is a strange one. The Lakers — one of the most storied franchises in professional sports — are out of the playoffs.
“I think a lot the world is surprised that the defending champions and even that Miami went out early,” Sixers veteran Danny Green said. “It happens, injuries happen, it’s a long season. The healthiest team usually is the team that’s playing the best, and that starts not just in the playoffs but in the regular season. That’s why Phoenix is in the position they are, they were one of the healthier teams throughout the year.”
Green won a championship ring with the Lakers last year before getting traded (via Oklahoma City Thunder) to the Sixers. The 33-year-old has three titles overall and enjoys cheering for the underdog. However, Green sees upsets as teaching points for his younger teammates.
“Those teams losing are good wake-up calls for our younger guys,” Green said. “Don’t take it for granted because you never know when you’re going to have these opportunities again, or if it’s ever going to come back. People think ‘next, year, next year’ but nah, let’s take advantage of the opportunity we have here.”
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Doc Rivers Comments on Lakers Losing
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers beat the Lakers to win the championship in 2008. He knows the staying power behind those purple and gold uniforms. But dynasties are few and far between these days as evidenced by the quick demise of the Golden State Warriors. Rivers thinks people care more about good, competitive basketball than anything else.
“Other than the Lakers, there is no team over the last 20 years that’s always been in it,” Rivers said. “It’s always been different teams, you know the Lakers, the Celtics — then everybody else when you look at just championships. I don’t think it matters one way or the other.”
Rivers threw a little shade at the New York Knicks, too. The Eastern Conference doormats haven’t advanced to the NBA Finals since 1998-99. This year, the Knicks made their first playoff appearance since 2012-13. They lost to the Atlanta Hawks in five games.
“Growing up we were told it was bad if the New York team wasn’t good. We know that’s not true,” Rivers said. “The league has survived as long as it’s good basketball.”
Hawks-Sixers Playoff Schedule Announced
The NBA released the full schedule for the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Sixers and Hawks. The second-round series begins Sunday (June 6) at 1 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center. Game 2 is slated for Tuesday (June 8) before the teams travel to Atlanta.
Green talked about the importance of having the Philly faithful loud and engaged early in Game 1. The three-time champion also wanted them to be a little smarter when it comes to mocking the opposition.
“I love the energy they bring for us,” Green said. “But I do disagree with a couple of things that our fans have been doing recently, like when they boo people when they’re injured and you don’t want to pour popcorn on anybody. Let’s behave.”