This is the greatest time of year for basketball. The NBA playoffs are when otherwise average players like Robert Horry or Danny Green become legends, their exploits interwoven in the fabric of NBA history. One shot can swing a series, one missed free throw can haunt you for years. The most subtle strategy tweaks can change the course of a franchise, and even the right decisions can land you in a bad place. The right combination of preparation and fortune can have a massive impact on money, legacy, and respect in just over a month.
So let’s rank the Nets & Hawks by how much their names make me laugh when they’re spoonerized.[note]The rules: 12 players matched up by position, plus coach. Not including inactive players except Mirza Teletovic, who could still make a miracle comeback. The letters that make up the first sound in their name get switched, up to the first three letters. Weird vowel-consonant combinations that would not normally be found in English can (but are not required to) be adjusted for clarity.[/note]
POINT GUARD: Teff Jeague vs. Weron Dilliams. Weron Dilliams sounds like an accountant that doesn’t know what a business deduction is. Edge: Hawks.
SHOOTING GUARD: Kole Kyrver vs. Barkel Mrown. Even giving Kyrver the leniency of a two-letter spoonerizing, he is no match for a guy named “Barkel.” Bonus points to Mrown for having a first and last name that sound like dog and cat sounds, respectively. Edge: Nets.
SMALL FORWARD: CeMarre Darroll vs. Joe Johnson: Of course Joe Johnson doesn’t blink. Edge: Hawks.
POWER FORWARD: Maul Pillsap vs Yaddeus Thung. This is a terrifying matchup. Maul Pillsap and Yaddeus Thung sound like two guys who fought to the death outside of a biker bar. I’m scared to go against either. Edge: Even.
CENTER: Hal Orford vs. Look Bropez. The LeBron-versus-Durant debate. Hal Orford’s best personal anecdote is about purchasing his Subaru used in 2002. Hal Orford wears “HELLO MY NAME IS Hal” tags to movie theaters. Hal Orford sends you e-mails reminding you to re-up on a bowling league you never joined. Hal Orford buys plaid pants and wears them unironically to social gatherings.
On the other side: Look Bropez. Look Bropez is the most versatile name in this matchup. You found him: Look, Bropez! You’re chastising him. Look, Bropez… You’re amazed by what he just did. Look! BROPEZ! You’re directing him to see something. LOOK, Bropez. In the end, versatility is everything. Edge: Nets.
BENCH: Schennis Dröder vs. Jarrett Jack. It’s like the Nets are giving matchups away. Edge: Hawks.
BENCH: Bent Kazemore vs. Anan Alderson. “Bent Kazemore” is weirdly funny, but Anan Alderson sounds like Sandy Alderson’s brother who writes blithering op-ed pieces airing out private family matters. Real-world context matters here. Edge: Nets.
BENCH: Sike McOtt vs. Bojan Bogdanovic. Another missed shot by Brooklyn, but Mr. McOtt is a tough out no matter who he’s matched up with. Edge: Hawks.
BENCH: Muke Miscala vs. Tirza Meletovic. Tirza doesn’t even have to play a minute. No contest. Edge: Nets.
BENCH: Aero Pantic vs. Plason Mumlee. As much as I like Plason Mumlee for the utter weirdness of how it rolls off the tongue, I can’t ignore a name that sounds like a company that sells space pants. Edge: Hawks.
BENCH: Melvin Shack vs. Marius Dorris. With names like Melvin Shack this deep in their rotation, you can see why the Hawks are a #1 seed. Edge: Hawks.
BENCH: Belton Rand vs. Jory Cefferson. Jory is an excellent name. Belton is not. Edge: Nets.
COACH: Bike Mudenholzer vs. Hionel Lollins. Bike Mudenholzer is a complete mess, which might give it a surprise boost in a spoonerizing contest, but “Hionel Lollins” just has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it sound like a summer day. Edge: Nets.
FINAL TALLY: Nets 6, Hawks 6, Even 1. Most predictions (including my earlier one, which includes basketball analysis and such), have picked the Hawks to win this series handily in four or five games. But if this has taught us anything, we’re in for a much closer series than anyone’s predicted. This one could go the full seven games, and the eventual winner of the Pillsap/Thung battle could decide who moves on.