MEMPHIS – The splat, of course, was the Lakers’ dynasty hitting the pavement like a watermelon that had been tossed off a roof.
But what followed – whoosh! – was the fresh sound of opportunity blowing through the window that’s been thrown wide open now in the Western Conference playoff bracket.
Let’s face it. As long as Kobe Bryant and his dysfunctional Lakers family were still breathing — even on life-support — that possibility of a “three-peat” carried a lot of weight.
But now that the Mavericks have put the two-time champs out of their misery, anything is possible.
“The future is now” has always been a nice slogan for a bumper sticker, but it’s never been truer than right now in the NBA.
Are you ready for the 2011 NBA champion Thunder? Or Grizzlies?
Maybe not in Dallas. But it could happen. Or haven’t you been paying attention?
“Yes, that’s our goal,” said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. “It’s like the other teams in this playoff — that’s to win a championship. We have to play very well and we have to execute and we have to get lucky. You have to have good fortune. You don’t just win. You need a lot of things going for yourself.
“The great thing about this team, the window just opened. Last year was the first year in the playoffs. This team should be in the playoffs for a decade, if everything goes as planned and we continue to get better and work.
“But we feel we can win a championship this year. I don’t know if we will, but we’re gonna put ourselves in every opportunity to do our best and to win every game.”
Four weeks ago, it may have been impossible to imagine. But then the Grizzlies entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the West and and push the veteran (and No. 1-seeded) Spurs right out the door.
All Memphis coach Lionel Hollins has preached to his team is the short-term goal of thinking only about the next game.
“If you do that, things will take care themselves,” he said.
Hollins has first-hand experience. He was a member of a Portland team in 1977 that was making its first playoff appearance in franchise history and wound up running all the way to a championship.
“You don’t look ahead,” Hollins said. “You can’t look ahead. You just play.”
It is his mantra: Just play.
The meaning: Anything can happen.
“We don’t talk about the Finals or the next round or the next game,” said Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph. “All we can control is tonight, every night, and what we believe is if we play our game, we can play with anybody.”
The Grizzlies and Thunder are both supposed to be teams of the future. But why can’t the future be now?
“We are not just happy with being here in the second round,” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. “We are not happy just getting our first series win against Denver. We’re not happy with that. We want to go as far as we can.
“Our goal is to reach the championship. That’s every team’s goal. But we’ve got to take it a possession at a time, a minute at a time. If we do it that way, we’ll be fine. We got to win the little games within the game. That’s key for us. If we do that, sky’s the limit.”
Now that the purple Lakers cloud is gone, opportunity knocks, and those are Grizzlies and Thunder standing at the door.