NBA fandom usually begins with the love of a team. My love of the NBA, for instance, springs directly from a childhood spent listening to Blazer games on my Walkman.
But ... don't you have a backup team? A team you kind of keep an eye on? It's the greatest thing in the world, in a way. Their losses don't sting, but their successes are thrilling.
For a few years there, Mike D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns were surely the global leader in this category. The "Seven Seconds or Less" Suns were joyful, kinetic, talented and nationally televised.
But since D'Antoni moved on and the formula in Phoenix has been Shaq-ed (and unShaq-ed), no consensus favorite backup team has surfaced.
We asked the TrueHoop Network bloggers, each faithfully devoted to a primary team, to identify their second-favorite teams -- the squad they cheer for when their A team has the night off. Here are short versions of what they had to say (click the links to their blogs for more):
John Krolik, Cavs the Blog (Cleveland Cavaliers blog)
Last year, the Warriors felt like a random collection of shoot-first guards, developing big men, and a coach drinking a bit too much of his own kool-aid. But this season's Monta Ellis/Stephen Curry backcourt is wholly intriguing, Captain Jack is still there, and of course, there's the majesty of Anthony Randolph. The rumored Randolph/Amare Stoudemire frontcourt would've been about the most amazing thing ever, but alas. The Warriors still have unique talent and that insane, go-for-broke mentality, so there's a soft spot in my heart for them. Even if "We Believe" has become "We're Cautiously Optimistic."
D.J. Foster, Clipperblog (Los Angeles Clippers blog)
On nights when the old ball and chain is unavailable, I'll often find myself committing fan infidelity with the Golden State Warriors. The love for this group of misfits starts with the completely awesome and unquestionably terrifying Stephen Jackson, who was once quoted, which is phenomenal, saying that he "makes love to pressure.” The Captain Jack brought me in the door, but it's the Anthony Randolph chaser that keeps me hanging around.
Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company (Denver Nuggets blog)
Many people have a vice that they may not be particularly proud of. Some take drugs, others commit arson and of course there are the Kobe Bryant fans. Me? I like the Golden State Warriors, in no small part because they are not the kind of team you bring home to momma. But there's no denying it: The freewheeling style, where the big shot makers roam unfettered by responsibility of normal basketball, is a perfect late night vice for those times when no one else needs to know what is going on in the privacy of my home.
Sebastian Pruiti, Nets Are Scorching (New Jersey Nets blog)
The Golden State Warriors are the perfect "second-favorite” team. With a roster full of young athletic freaks -- Monta Ellis, Anthony Morrow, Anthony Randolph -- this team was built to fit in Don Nelson's run and gun system. Throw rookie Stephen Curry into the mix, and you got a team that will run up the score without even thinking twice about playing defense, and their coach isn't even bothered by it, as long as they take the ball out of the hoop quickly. If the Golden State Warriors were my favorite team, that would make me pull my hair out, but they are not, they are my second-favorite team.
Jeremy Schmidt, Bucksketball (Milwaukee Bucks blog)
Sure, the franchise is a mess and the organization is more dysfunctional than an '80s family sitcom, but look at that team. Anthony Randolph is capable of anything on a basketball court. Stephen Jackson has mastered awkward ugly dribbling and shoots with no conscience and even less accuracy. Monta Ellis glides up and down the court with such grace that I assume he has wings on his feet. And even better? They added everyone's favorite college gunner in Stephen Curry.
Zach Harper, Cowbell Kingdom (Sacramento Kings blog)
Chris Paul. He's the reason that I find myself rooting for the New Orleans Hornets when there is no rooting interest established. He's the reason that my NBA League Pass ends up on a Hornets game 82 times per year. And he's the reason that I would adopt the New Orleans Hornets if I were spurned in a Sonicsian way.
His intensity doesn't just move his teammates; it also galvanizes his spectators. He treats the basketball like David Copperfield treats oversized objects. He creates bewilderment and confusion with the dribble by showing the ball, making it disappear, and showing it one more time as he causes the crowd to applaud hysterically. In the lane, he's the Tasmanian Devil trying showing how a whirling dervish moves. And best of all, he shares the glory and the basketball with his teammates in a way that not only transcends team play but also makes someone like Tyson Chandler seem worthy of an exorbitant contract.
Zach Lowe, Celtics Hub (Boston Celtics blog)
I suspect my second-favorite team will be the Hornets for as long as Chris Paul plays there. Chris Paul is John Stockton if John Stockton had to lead his team in scoring along with controlling every second of every offensive possession. He is simultaneously super quick and amazingly patient. I love that moment when he turns the corner on a pick-and-roll and just stops right above the foul line, keeps his dribble, feels the defender on his back and surveys the court. The contrast between that pause and the explosion toward the rim that sometimes follows -- I'm not sure I've ever seen a bigger contrast in the same player within a second or two.
Jared Wade, Eight Points, Nine Seconds (Indiana Pacers blog)
The devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused throughout New Orleans in 2005 represented the most unforgivable breach of trust I have ever witnessed. So it was through the lens of recent tragedy that I was delighted to watch, just a few short months later, the all-world ascension of Chris Paul, a player to whom I would donate both my kidneys if necessary. Basketball, of course, is no cure-all, but if there was one place that deserved the unique joys that only a point guard like Paul can provide, it was NOLA.
Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop/Clipperblog
Most of us bristle at Jerry Krause's contention that players don't win championships -- organizations do. Krause's claim might have been overstated, particularly in the case of the Jordan-era Bulls. That said, there's a grain of truth embedded deep inside his axiom. An NBA franchise isn't just a collection of players and contracts -- it's also a collection of ideas.
Innovation doesn't happen by accident. It's the result of creative individuals who take risks. The Houston Rockets' boldness is changing the way we understand the NBA game. There's a reason the plucky Rockets managed to overcome devastating injuries to their marquee players and still push the NBA champions to the brink of elimination. The entire organization, from ownership to management to the coaching staff, down to the players bought into a common philosophy, one built not on assumptions about the game, but on a devotion to empirical truths. This practice maximizes the talents of those (limited, but resilient) players.
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop
This is the team that challenges the way things have always been done, and over the last couple of years it has been almost comical how they continue to get massive contributions from a rotating cast of role players, second-rounders and discards -- from Carl Landry and Aaron Brooks to Von Wafer and Chuck Hayes.
Is there any doubt that Trevor Ariza and David Andersen will be on that list soon?
Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game (Dallas Mavericks blog)
I love the Bobcats because no one loves the Bobcats. And for what? A talented forward with so much energy, it keeps him off the court. A departed face of the franchise, shipped out after he failed to measure up to Dwight Howard's considerable shadow. A point guard who has forgotten how to pass and shoot, but still finds ways to be effective. Roster moves that 'make sense' but rarely do, and head-scratching trades that come up roses. O brawling love! O loving hate! O anything of nothing first create! O heavy lightness, serious vanity! Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
This love I feel, that feel no love in this.
Bret LaGree, Hoopinion (Atlanta Hawks blog)
By leaving Kansas City in 1985, the Kings created the opportunity for me to become partial to a different team in a different town two decades later. For a basketball-intensive and willingly partisan kid in Eastern Kansas, their move to Sacramento created a void I filled fully with the University of Kansas men's basketball teams coached by Larry Brown. My complete immersion in those teams gave Brown significant influence over my formative thinking about, initially, how to play and, more permanently, how to watch and evaluate basketball. With perhaps more feeling than I should have for a man I've never met, I want Brown to succeed again as a head coach to ensure that he's remembered as much for his talent as a coach as for the compulsive and idiosyncratic ways in which he fosters and expresses dissatisfaction. I'm not naive enough to believe his current job is his last job, but for now, for 78 out of 82 games, I'm a minor Charlotte Bobcats fan.
Kurt Helin, Forum Blue & Gold (Los Angeles Lakers blog)
The Clippers have one my favorite players in Baron Davis who, when his body isn't betraying him or when he hasn't mentally checked out, is just flat out fun to watch. Davis went to India this offseason, had some sort of epiphany (we can all hope that said enlightenment involves ignoring Mike Dunleavy when he tells Davis to slow it down), and he promises to try this season. Then there's Blake Griffin, who was fun to watch at Summer League and made me a believer, and he seemed to have instant chemistry with Eric Gordon. And the list goes on -- they've got emerging young guys like Al Thornton, plus a front-line combo of Marcus Camby and DeAndre Jordan that promises to give you one coming-from-the-weakside shot block into the third row every game. As it's the Clippers, there's the strong possibility things will go wrong in a spectacular fashion. That's fun to watch too, in a Macbeth sort of way. Either way, I'm good with the Clippers this season. I want them to get the eighth seed in the West, so the first round is a Hallway Series at Staples Center. I really, really want that.
Matt McHale, By the Horns (Chicago Bulls blog)
As a fan, the worst possible experience is watching my team fail when I expected them to succeed. Well, the Clippers are never expected to succeed. And that's actually a good thing, because there's no pressure whatsoever. The Clippers would never crush my optimism because I wouldn't have any. Then the rare victory would be that much sweeter. It would be like walking down a dark alley and, instead of getting brutally mugged, finding a crisp new one hundred dollar bill. Watching the Bulls start out slowly (thanks to that darn circus road trip) and then fight to make the playoffs every season really stresses me out. Following the Clippers would be great for my blood pressure, plus I'd get to make Clippers jokes all the time. That would provide an endless source of material. Just ask Kevin Arnovitz and Bill Simmons.
Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell (San Antonio Spurs blog)
When I moved to Chicago a year and a half ago, the Bulls were in a bit of a crisis: Going into the 2007-08 season, many expected the Bulls to contend for the Eastern Conference Championship. Instead they found themselves at the bottom of the conference, and a frequent target of my derision. But as I tuned into WGN night after night, I grew to really care for the Bulls. Tyrus Thomas' freakish athleticism and poor decision-making. Kirk Hinrich's dogged defense. Coach Del Negro's complete absence of coaching ability. Now all bring a slight smile to my face.
But my fanhood, which had been sprouting just beneath the surface, bloomed brightly during the opening round of this past season's playoffs. That Bulls-Celtics series will forever be seared into my memory. As they pulled off one irreverent, improbable victory after another, my loyalty, however secondary it may be, was solidified.
Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns (Phoenix Suns blog)
I never thought the Suns would go from everyone's second-favorite team to afterthoughts in about two years, I never thought Phoenix would ever trade for Shaquille O'Neal and I certainly never thought Mike D'Antoni would ever jet to N
ew York to turn a franchise once known for bone-crushing defense into an offensive powerhouse. I also never thought the Knicks would be my second-favorite team.
But he did, and they are.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder (Oklahoma City Thunder blog)
The idea of a second-favorite team for Oklahoma City fans is a really weird one. Because in reality, the Thunder could really be considered a lot of OKC fans' second-favorite team even now.
Some cling to the city's first love, the Hornets. Some went with the closest regional team, the Mavericks. I didn't have a previous favorite team so if anything, I was a Jordan leftover and still kind of rooted for the Bulls. But if there's a team I secretly love besides my hometown Thunder, it's the Trail Blazers. I love everything about them. The logo, the name, the uniforms, the players, the rabid supporters. It's really what I envision happening to my team in my city, since we're both one team professional towns. I'm jealous of what they've got and I hope the same kind of uprising hits Oklahoma City in full force soon.
Patrick Hodgdon, Howlin' T-Wolf (Minnesota Timberwolves blog)
The Miami Heat are my second-favorite team. The reason? Dwyane Wade. Only Wade could make Joel Anthony look like a serviceable center, Mario Chalmers a starting point guard as a rookie, and completely carry a team with only one other player (Michael Beasley) playing above average basketball according to John Hollinger's PER ratings. Whether it's weaving through three players to get to the rack, coming down and hitting a step-back 3, or waiting to be triple-teamed to find the open man on the weak side, Wade is my favorite player to watch in the NBA and the reason the Heat are my second-favorite team.
Chip Crain, 3 Shades of Blue (Memphis Grizzlies blog)
The San Antonio Spurs are the only team in the league I believe has a chance at stopping the L.A. Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. I have never been a big fan of the Lakers. Anyone capable of beating them is cool in my book. Besides at my age you start appreciating experience more than just talent. The Spurs are experienced. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Antonio McDyess, even Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson are getting on in years. The fact that this team with all their rings still comes out to practice hard, play hard and damn sure win the game every night no matter what makes them all right in my books. And they do it with class. Sure Duncan whines too much but if you were getting hacked as much as him you would whine too. Manu Ginobili is a classy guy who always seems to come through under pressure and Tony Parker has a famous and hot wife! What more can you ask for?
Brett Hainline, Queen City Hoops (Charlotte Bobcats blog)
Three reasons: Dirk Nowitzki, Mark Cuban and James Garner. Dirk -- Unique talent. Cuban -- Unique owner. James Garner -- what?
The Mavs and I have something in common -- we were both named for his television character: I got the Bret part (parents added a 't') and they got the surname.