It's kind of a stupid thing, really.
In general, when making predictions, you want to pick favorites. Favorites usually win.
But anyone who has ever filled out an NCAA Tournament bracket (and by that I mean every living American and then some) knows that you can't just pick the higher seed every darned time. If it's fairly certain that favorites usually win, it's even more certain that all favorites never win.
(Yes, the logic here is crappy, but the result is the same.)
So I'll confess to a certain urge to make playoff picks like I was once instructed, by a great high-school teacher, to make art: "Make it perfect," said Audrey Bensley, "then f--- it up."
Late last night ESPN.com editor Royce Webb asked us ESPN.com writers to pick a winner for each first round series.
I picked mostly favorites. But I had to pick at least one dog to have its day.
So ... step right this way, New Orleans Hornets.
There are three reasons:
With a fairly healthy Tyson Chandler, they are a much better team than with no Tyson Chandler. Thanks to the majesty of Chris Paul, they have been OK without him, and now he's coming back.
No matchups are great for New Orleans, but they did get a team in the Nuggets that they have played well. The teams split their four games, even though Chandler didn't play in any of them.
The magic of almost knocking off the Spurs last year made a big impression on me.
So, last night Chandler returned and played 20 minutes. No one had any idea what to expect, even Chandler. Yesterday he wrote on his blog:
The injury affects my ability to jump and my lateral movement. I'm used to being able to run, jump and block shots, but I noticed in the Atlanta game that when I felt like I was jumping, I wasn't really getting off the ground. Even jump balls, normally I win jump balls, but on the ankle I don't have the same explosion cause basically I'm jumping on one leg. I did that through that entire stretch I played through.
I haven't practiced with the team; I've just been doing running, rehab and conditioning. I haven't even had an opportunity to practice or play one-on-one or anything like that. Tonight will be my first time playing with contact since I went out.
Things generally went well. He made four of five shots and most importantly showed some hops. He didn't do anything noteworthy along the lines of rebounding or blocking shots.
All of which proves nothing much more than that he can move somewhat, and his ankle is not in disastrous condition.
Which just might be enough to make the Hornets the surprise of the first round. And if not? Well, I'll thank Mrs. Bensley for putting me in a can't lose situation: It's hard to fail when the assignment is to f--- up.