From Jo Jo White: insights into the NBA playoffs
Most fans are as unfamiliar with the pressures that go with being in the National Basketball Association playoffs as the rookie kitchen boy is with crepe suzettes.
The authority for that statement is Jo Jo White, the veteran guard of the Golden State Warriors. Prior to being traded to the Warriors part-way through last season, White was in six NBA playoffs with the Boston Celtics.
"When coaches talk about the playoffs being the NBA's second season, they aren't kidding," Jo Jo explained. "Everything is different -- the way you get ready for your opponent, the way you play defense, the way you adjust to the referees, even the traveling.
"You can't told anything back because often there isn't any tomorrow," he continued. "I mean teams work so much harder in the playoffs, especially on defense, that if a club isn't 100 percent physically, it isn't going to get beyond the first round anyway."
How is the preparation so different?
"Well, during the regular season you seldom play back-to-back games against any team," White said. "For example, our home opener on Oct. 13 was against the Chicago Bulls, but we didn't play them again until Nov. 24. You really never get to know their style. Oh, you might see a scouting report somewhere along the way, only it may not say anything at all about man you generally play.
"But in the playoffs you know exactly what teams you're going to meet and the length of the series," Jo Jo continued. "The point is you can set things up offensively and defensively that they haven't seen before. Of course, they can do the same against you. But if you keep your turnovers down a team, you're probably going to win."
What teams does White like in this year's playoffs?
"If I was limited to just one, I'd have to pick Seattle," Jo Jo replied. "They've been there before; their players know their jobs; they play good defense and there isn't much of a dropoff when they go to their bench.
"There are also a couple of other things I like about the Sonics -- their center, Jack Sikma, plus the fact that they play so well on the road," he continued. "Nobody has ever won the playoffs without a center who can get up and down the floor quickly and I don't think anyone else in the league does this any better than Sikma."
And what if the Sonics don't win?
"Then I think you have to look hard at what has been going on all season in Los Angeles," White explained. "Right now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not only interested but he's also the best center in the league. When Kareem turns in with the ball and goes to the hoop, there isn't anybody who can stop him.
"In fact, the Lakers have so many good shooters that you really can't cheat on defense against them without opening things up for an easy shot somewhere else," he continued. "Even though Magic Johnson is a rookie and hasn't been to the playoffs before, he's obviously a quick learner. and if Johnson can't do it , Norman Nixon can."
Asked how he felt about his old Boston team, which has the league's best won-lost record as the regular season draws toward a close, White said:
"I think it all goes back to what we talked about before -- the regular season isn't the playoffs. If this were next season, and the Celtics had that extra year of experience. I could see them winning.
"But the playoffs are an education that Larry Bird doesn't have; Rick Robey doesn't have; and Cedric Maxwell doesn't have. I just think too many things would have to go right for the Celtics to win.
"Actually I like Philadelphia a little better than the Celtics because of their center situation -- Darryl dawkins and Caldwell Jones, who also plays forward. Dawkins is another of those super strong kids who gets up and down the floor well. Jones doesn't get the credit he deserves because he doesn't score that much, but the last time I looked he had about 850 rebounds. It would be a mistake not to give the 76ers a chance."