Posted Date: April 17, 2014

NBA playoffs: Ranking the first-round series by entertainment value

2014 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Rob Mahoney, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards
There's no love lost between Stephen Curry's Warriors and Chris Paul's Clippers. (Danny Bollinger and Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

There’s no love lost between Stephen Curry’s Warriors and Chris Paul’s Clippers. (Danny Bollinger and Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

With playoff matchups finally set, how does the first round look based purely on entertainment value? Here’s our countdown from the least interesting series to the most fascinating:

8. Miami Heat (2) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (7)

Charlotte’s reward for making the playoffs for the second time in the franchise’s 10-year history is an unfortunate matchup with the two-time defending champions. That’s a tough break for the pleasantly competent Bobcats. Aside from the gap in talent and playoff experience, the Heat dominated the Bobcats in their season series. Miami went 4-0 despite missing Dwyane Wade for two games. A few were competitive, but overall the Heat thrashed the Bobcats by an efficiency differential of 15 points per 100 possessions. Charlotte’s typically stout defense was stretched and exploited, with Chris Bosh pouring in three-pointers and LeBron James attacking freely off the dribble. In their last meeting, on March 3, James dropped a career- and Miam-high 61 points in a 124-107 victory. That’s an exaggerated outcome, to be sure, but it’s one that doesn’t bode terribly well for Charlotte’s chances.

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Posted Date: April 17, 2014

2014 NBA playoffs schedule, TV times

2014 NBA playoffs
Patrick Beverley, Damian Lillard

Patrick Beverley and Damian Lillard will meet in the first round. (Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images)

After nearly six months and 1,230 regular-season games, the 2014 NBA playoffs have finally arrived. With postseason action set to tip-off on Saturday, SI.com has the dates, times and TV schedules for all eight first-round matchups below.

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Posted Date: April 17, 2014

Video: Thunder’s Kevin Durant throws down game-winning dunk to beat Pistons

Ben Golliver, Detroit Pistons, Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder forward Kevin Durant threw down a game-winning dunk to lift Oklahoma City to a 112-111 home victory over Detroit on Wednesday.

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Posted Date: April 17, 2014

2014 NBA playoffs series matchups, draft lottery order set

2014 NBA Draft, 2014 NBA playoffs, Ben Golliver
Kevin Durant (left) and LeBron James (right) can turn their attention to chasing a title during the 2014 NBA Playoffs. (Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)

Kevin Durant and LeBron James can now turn their attention to chasing a title during the 2014 NBA Playoffs. (Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)

It took until the final night of the season, but all eight series matchups for the 2014 NBA playoffs are finally set.

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Posted Date: April 16, 2014

Knicks sign forward Lamar Odom to multiyear deal

Lamar Odom, New York Knicks, Phil Jackson, Rob Mahoney
Lamar Odom may soon be a Knick. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Sport)

Lamar Odom is officially a Knick. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Sport)

The Knicks announced on Wednesday that the team had agreed to sign veteran forward Lamar Odom for the remainder of the season. Odom’s contract, as clarified by Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, also includes a second season of non-guaranteed salary.

The move — New York’s first formal order of business under new management — came just before the bell tolled on a disappointing season. If the timing seems curious that’s because it is; a recent back injury forced Odom to duck out of a deal with Baskonia, a team in the Spanish ACB League, and that same ailment (among other factors) will keep him sidelined in the Knicks’ final, meaningless game. There would be no reason at all to add Odom for that game anyway, making his acquisition at this late date all the more intriguing.

The Knicks’ real motivation: The non-guaranteed second season through which New York will have the option to retain Odom for the 2014-15 campaign. By signing him now the Knicks have effectively sidestepped all of the league’s rules regarding offseason contact between teams and free agents as they relate to Odom. He is a Knick for all intents and purposes even without logging a single minute, which in this case gives Jackson and team officials the very important means to gauge Odom’s injury status and frame of mind in the months to come.

The latter is an unfortunate but necessary concern given Odom’s recent history with NBA teams. It’s now been three years since Odom was in anything resembling fine basketball form. Since then, Odom disengaged completely during his season with the Mavs (despite the team’s best efforts to accommodate him), showed up to camp with the Clippers well over playing weight, was checked in and out of rehab for a drug problem and pled no contest to DUI charges.

A back injury is the least of his worries; Odom is long removed from the best years of his NBA career at this point, as he hasn’t been in a place where he could successfully live up his end of a contract. The Knicks clearly have some hope that Odom might stabilize in that regard, likely in part due to his long-lasting relationship with Jackson — Odom’s former coach during his most effective seasons.

Should Odom fail to meet New York’s standards, his potential signing will have been a mere formality. Non-guaranteed deals can be functionally wiped away with just a bit of paperwork, leaving the Knicks with very little risk in such an arrangement. If Odom is able to contribute, though, he could help ease New York into the triangle offense after his years of experience initiating it as a Laker. When committed, Odom is a versatile two-way player that any team would be lucky to have at a bargain salary.

That best-case scenario is one worth investing some time and effort in, no matter how unlikely it may be. New York’s hands are otherwise tied. Deep pockets can only get a capped-out team so far in the modern NBA; there are punitive and preventative measures built into the collective bargaining agreement to keep the richest teams from spending freely, forcing high-spending teams to get creative in both the kinds of players they sign and the contracted terms they sign them to. Trying out Odom over an extended term before he ever suits up for the Knicks is a means to do just that. This isn’t a home run swing with real assets at stake. It’s a value play at the bottom of the market — a vital arena from which the Knicks have been long absent.