Pelton: Houston-Utah. Rockets-Thunder would offer more compelling storylines, including the reigning MVP against presumptive 2017-18 MVP James Harden, Westbrook’s former teammate. But Houston and Utah would be more compelling from a basketball standpoint. It would pit a defense designed to take away high-value shots against the offense that generates them far more often than any other in the league. I’d love to find out who wins that battle.
Marks: Philadelphia versus Boston. We’d get to see the future of the NBA on display for two weeks and the rekindling of a rivalry. The series would feature five players who ranked on our list of the 25 best players under 25 — and a 76ers team that many feel could reach an NBA Finals versus a Celtics roster that has outperformed expectations without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Windhorst: Pelicans-Warriors holds a lot of promise. Questions surround Stephen Curry’s health, plus we have the blooming of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. For the past couple of years we’ve been waiting for Davis to grow into the type of monster who could challenge the power structure in the West. Here is his first real chance.
“Alex Smith, when we got to Utah he wasn’t a very good runner. [Former Florida quarterback] Chris Leak was not a runner, and he was the MVP of that game,” Mullen said, pointing to the 2006 BCS Championship trophy behind his desk. Sure, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald could run, but they weren’t the only quarterbacks he taught. “So we’ve had every variation. My idea with the quarterbacks — and I shared this with [Franks] and I made this clear to them day one — is that all they have to be is a willing runner. You don’t have to be a great runner, you have to be willing. If the defense is going to give it to you, take it. That’s all you have to be.”
Martin played the final 11 games of the regular season and all four of games during San Jose’s first-round sweep of the Anaheim Ducks. “Where I’m at now, you tend to forget about how long the year was, how difficult it was,” Martin says.
He enters the Sharks’ second-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights, which begins Thursday in Los Vegas at 10 p.m. ET, with a new lease on hockey and his career. After all, he has come too far for it all to end unceremoniously.
Martin has reached the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of his 14 NHL seasons, which is a remarkable feat. But he is acutely aware that his career has been defined by a series of near-misses.
Martin, who turned 37 in March, won back-to-back NCAA championships with the Gophers in 2002 and 2003. After that, his fate veered wildly. He joined the New Jersey Devils in 2003 just after they won their third Stanley Cup in eight years.
“Same pictures,” he said. “Same wallpaper.”