Day one of the 2009 NBA Playoffs began with the Chicago Bulls upsetting the Boston Celtics and ended with the Houston Rockets ambushing the Portland Trail Blazers for a couple of unexpected road wins.
The play of the Bulls and Blazers interests me quite a bit because I've been a proponent of any and all playoff experience benefitting a young team and more importantly helping young players develop at a quicker rate. The intensity in the playoffs can't be replicated in a regular season game. Even if a regular season game feels like a playoff game, it isn't.
The Bulls had incredible playoff debuts from their inexperienced talent, with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas making the difference. However, there is plenty of playoff experience to support those young players on the Bulls' roster. If Chicago is able to muster four W's against the Celtics, there's no doubt the vets will help the young stars along the way.
On the other coast, the Trail Blazers stepped into the playoff fury with only Steve Blake and Joel Przybilla having minimal playoff experience. That lack of experience showed up from the opening tip as the Rockets dished out a lesson in playoff intensity. Dave at Blazers Edge captures the essence of the difference in experience perfectly.
The truth is, a blowout was always a possibility. That's part of never having been there before. The Rockets have been to the dance six years straight and never so much as got off the wall, let alone getting to put their moves on. They know the deal. They weren't going to hold back. This was like the Blazers showing up for a boxing match, walking in the gym, setting down their bag, and saying, "Hey, where do I change into my BAM!!!"
"What the heck? I just walked in the...BAM!!!"
"But I'm not even...BAM!!!"
"Hey ref, are you gonna...BAM!!!"
"Oh, so it's that kind of fight."
Yeah, it's that kind of fight. Unfortunately by the time the Blazers figured that out they were down 15 with shaken confidence.
There's no doubt both Chicago's youngsters and the Portland team learned a ton from their respective game ones. How the players apply those lessons will determine how each series goes. But regardless of the final outcome of their playoff runs, both teams will be better in the long term thanks to every little playoff success and scar they gather this year.
This is graduate level NBA experience that must be earned. Much like you can't just sign up for Harvard Law School, the playoffs require previous success for admittance and once in, the curriculum is difficult and the lessons hard-earned. For players like Danny Granger and Brandon Rush, this is the type of experience they need to expand their games to a level even they don't realize exists.
Thus the playoff experience is all part of an incremental development process, strengthening the foundation for the long term success of the team.