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Norman Chad: In the NBA playoffs, please don’t touch the merchandise

Foul? Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) looks to pass the ball under pressure from Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Houston. (Michael Wyke / Associated Press)
Foul? Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) looks to pass the ball under pressure from Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Houston. (Michael Wyke / Associated Press)

Like the swallows in San Juan Capistrano, the NBA playoffs descend upon us every spring. And though you might think the NBA playoffs are interminable, they actually come and go quicker than the swallows. Plus there is no swallow among the swallows – and I’ve studied them since 1978 – that you could call the “LeBron James of swallows.”

Anyhow, here is everything you need to know about the NBA postseason that Jalen Rose won’t tell you:

Can anyone stop James Harden? The Houston Rockets have the NBA’s best record, largely due to the brilliance of presumptive league MVP Harden.

Harden is a delight to watch, unless you’re rooting for the other team, in which case you are not delighted that he gets fouled EVERY SINGLE TIME HE DRIVES TO THE BASKET.

In the NFL, there is the “Tom Brady Rule”: If a defender appears to touch to Brady after he releases the ball, it is roughing the passer. In the NBA, there is the “James Harden Rule”: If a defender appears to defend Harden as he slithers through the lane, it is a shooting foul.

Trying to guard Harden in the open court is like trying to eat soup with a fork.

True story: I bumped into Harden the other day at the supermarket, and the security guard removed me from the store.

Harden is tops in the NBA this season attempting 10.1 free throws per game. The next best is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 8.7, and he only gets fouled that often because his jersey is wider to accommodate his 13-letter last name, resulting in more incidental contact with helpless defenders.

Brad Stevens appears to be the real deal. In the past generation, the college game’s best and brightest used-carpet salesmen, Rick Pitino and John Calipari, landed in the NBA from the NCAA with a thud. Less celebrated college-coaching stars, such as Lon Kruger, Leonard Hamilton, Tim Floyd and Mike Montgomery, also failed in transitioning to the pro game.

Stevens, meanwhile, went from Butler to Boston as seamlessly as Marco Polo went from the Adriatic Sea to Asia.

Now in his fifth Celtics season, the team’s record has improved every year. Stevens could turn water into wine, whether it’s San Pellegrino or something Danny Ainge hands to him in a paper cup.

The Celtics have the league’s fourth-best record despite turning over most of their roster, with seven rookies on board. They lost their new All-Star acquisition, Gordon Hayward, on opening night, and their best player, Kyrie Irving, has been sidelined for a month and will miss the entire postseason.

Stevens is so good, I’m willing to bet he could take over the current presidential Cabinet and make America a winner.

Trust The Process? No, no, no, no, no, a thousand times no. Let me apologize to the 76ers, who I predicted would finish 39-43, and let me acknowledge the stellar play of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. But though I love watching this team play, I cannot root for Philadelphia, because this team has been fraudulently constructed.

If tanking is the future of Sports Nation, Couch Slouch will be on the next Greyhound to Gatineau. Besides, I love a good poutine.

I cannot Trust The Process. I mistrust The Process. I bemoan The Process. I reject The Process. I condemn The Process. I spit on The Process.

The Process is more insidious than Russian meddling. Because this is a threat from within, not from a hostile foreign power. This is intentional, hidden-in-broad-daylight rigging of the results.

This is so un-American, I’m surprised it hasn’t cracked the Liberty Bell again.

Good luck knocking LeBron James out of the East playoffs. He’s made the NBA Finals seven straight seasons. He’s more dependable than chicken soup. He’s indestructible; if he lay down on train tracks, no train would ever harm him.

In a fabulous 15-year career, could he really be having his finest season? It’s the closest he’s ever come to averaging a triple-double – 27.7 points, 9.2 assists, 8.7 rebounds.

At this point, only an apocalyptically moronic imbecile – or Skip Bayless – could possibly be critical of LeBron’s NBA legacy.

Ask The Slouch

Q. I thought I could snag a quick 10 bits by pointing out that while you are almost always wrong, you’ve always been right about Carmelo Anthony. (Leslie Schumann; Albany, N.Y.)

A. You thought correctly, gentle soul. Sometimes people talk about “addition by subtraction.” Melo is “subtraction by addition.”

Q. My wife says ESPN NHL analyst Barry Melrose is the best-dressed man in professional sports; I say you are. Who is right? (Lance Seberhagen; Vienna, Va.)

A. My Hanes T-shirts from Target appreciate your support.

Q. You are a nationwide sports personality (sic). What company or product would benefit the most from endorsing you? (Jack Leininger; Spokane)

A. I have a pending deal with a drive-thru funeral home.

Q. Will the Cleveland Browns trade the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft for a boatload of 2017 picks? (Roger Strauss; Silver Spring, Md.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


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