There are basically two legitimate rivalries in sports today – the Red Sox and Yankees in MLB, and the Patriots and Indianapolis in the NFL.  Both have the power to command attention from casual fans and manic zeal from hardened ones.  These days, I don’t know that I watch more than five regular season NFL games a year, but I make an appointment to watch the annual Manning-Brady Bowl.   And though I’m an Extra Innings subscriber, nothing gets me amped [confession: not even a Dodgers-Giants series] more than a weekend of Red Sox-Yankees baseball.  These games, no matter what the outcome, matter.  They’re chapters of a longer, compelling narrative.  

Right now, the NBA doesn’t have one of these.  Historically, you’ve got the storied Celtics-Lakers rivalry, but that hasn’t been relevant for many, many years.  Every few seasons, a couple of teams develop something organically:  The Pistons-Celtics, then the Bulls-Pistons in the late 80s/early 90s.  Reggie Miller managed to single-handedly cultivate a Knicks-Pacers rivalry in the 90s.  New Yorkers will nominate the Heat-Knicks, but the truth is that nobody outside of New York cared because the Knicks were more unwatchable than present-day Sportscenter.  Sacramento-Lakers was the most interesting inter-squad storyline of recent memory, but that dissolved with the departure of O’Neal and Webber.   Dallas-PHX had the makings of a new rivalry, particularly with that classic in March, but any potential to canonize the rivalry ended last night.  See, that's the thing with parity: Egalitarianism is good for league-wide optimism...but dynasties are better for titanic rivalries. 

That’s why the Chicago-Detroit series is good for the NBA.  It pits the most controlled offense in the NBA [Detroit at 86.1 possessions per game] against one of the league’s fastest teams [Chicago at 92.2], and a veteran team that’s drank from the trophy against a potential-laden Baby Bulls squad.  We get the Ben Wallace spiel and a great, great defense-offense through line with Tayshaun Prince taking on Luol Deng.  And between Scott Skiles and ‘Sheed, there’s an official homicide watch.   It may not be as good a series as San Antonio-PHX, but for dramatic tension, it’s got everything you could hope for in a Conference Semifinal.