Defending NBA Champs Bounced from Playoffs

Sports commentator John Feinstein talks about the NBA playoffs with Steve Inskeep. In two game sevens, the Dallas Mavericks beat the defending champion San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns beat the surprising Los Angeles Clippers.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Two NBA playoff series went into game seven last night. So this morning we've contacted John Feinstein, our regular companion at times like this.

John, good morning.

Mr. JOHN FEINSTEIN (Author, Sports Columnist, The Washington Post): Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: While the defending champions, San Antonio, are the kind of the team you would expect to shine in a game seven against Dallas.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, in a since they did, and if they were down 20 and came back to actually lead by three and had two great chances to win at the end of regulation. But you have give the Dallas Mavericks a lot of credit, because they had a 3 to 1 lead in this series, blew it, had to play game six without their point guard Jason Terry because he got into a fight and got suspended in game five; blew the lead, as I said, last night; and then found a way to win in overtime and eliminate those defending champions with the great Tim Duncan, to move into the conference finals where they will play the Phoenix Suns, who beat the Los Angeles Clippers - worth noting, Steve, not the Lakers, the Clippers. Arguably, the worst franchise in history was one win away from making it to the conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

So two really good storylines last night lead to Dallas versus Phoenix in the western final. Worth noting, neither team has ever won an NBA championship.

INSKEEP: What got into the Suns? They shot 60 percent last night.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: They're a great game seven team; remember what they did to the Lakers in the first round after being down 3 to 1? They killed them in game seven. They had given up 60 percent shooting interestingly in game six in Los Angeles. Home court means a lot to this team. But all credit to Steve Nash and to his teammates, because remember, they lost Amare Stoudemire for the entire season, arguably an NB - I can say MVP candidate in the NBA - Sorry, Steve -and yet here they are back in the conference finals.

INSKEEP: Well, now fans of the New York Knicks don't have to worry too much about following the playoff news, do they? But they certainly have a drama about their famous coach.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Oh, they've got a lot more interesting storyline than just trying to win an NBA title, Steve.

Larry Brown comes in last July as the savior of the franchise to coach the team. Isaiah Thomas, the General Manager, hires him; they hug, they kiss, they declare loyalty to one another, they love one another; and now less than a year later, Isaiah Thomas wants the owners of the Knicks, the Dolan Family, to pay Larry Brown $25 million to walk away from the last four years of his contract, so that Isaiah Thomas can now coach the pathetic team that he has put together. If they put this on at halftime of the playoff games and called it As the Knicks Turn, the rating would double.

INSKEEP: In a couple of words, do you think the Knicks are unhappy enough with Larry Brown to pay $25 million to make him go away?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: I think Isaiah Thomas, for some reason, has the Dolans convinced that he is their savior, not Larry Brown, and he might talk them into actually firing him, remarkably enough.

INSKEEP: John, thanks very much.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: The comments of John Feinstein. His latest book is called, Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery and it was recently awarded the Edgar Allan Poe Award for mystery writing in the young adult category. Way to go, John.

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