"24"-second clock: Which NBA teams deserve silent treatment?

By J.A. Adande

**SPOILER ALERT** Contains references to the most recent episode of “24” in addition to key plot points from seasons past.

When Dana Walsh, this season’s CTU mole-du-jour on “24”, finally got what was coming to her at the end of the latest episode, the fitting sendoff to her traitorous life was that she did not receive the silent clock treatment.

The silently ticking clock, without the trademark beeps, is the highest form of tribute on “24.” It is bestowed upon particularly poignant or noble deaths, an honor granted for only seven passings so far: Teri Bauer, George Mason, Ryan Chappelle, Edgar Stiles, Bill Buchanan, President Omar Hassan and Renee Walker.

That got me thinking about which of the NBA teams still alive in the postseason would merit a silent clock upon their elimination. Who are the special, memorable characters, as opposed to nameless tac team guys who get iced while setting up a perimeter. The ground rules: we’re taking the past into consideration, but this is essentially a verdict on where these teams stand in 2010.

ATLANTA HAWKS: Ticking clock. It seems like they’re regressing instead of moving forward. Even if they reached a Game 7 in the second round it could be viewed as progress, but the way they’re looking right now, on the verge of getting swept in historically futile fashion, pretty much invalidates any positive steps they made this season. They already cheated death against the Bucks in the first round. If anything their demise would be overdue, not untimely.

BOSTON CELTICS: Silent clock. Maybe they were yappier than we would have liked, but you have to admire their heart. Their 2007-08 season was the most single-focus, purpose-driven, start-to-finish campaign since the 1999-2000 Lakers. Last season they locked up with the Bulls in that classic first round and lasted seven games against the younger Magic --- and did it without Kevin Garnett. Now they’ll either make it back to the conference finals or give the Cavaliers everything they can handle. Fighting till the end.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Silent clock. Imagine the emotional devastation a pre-Finals loss would drop on the Cleveland area. It would be like that mushroom cloud over L.A. in “24.” With the added drama that a defeat could spell the end of LeBron James’ time with the Cavaliers, no single loss would pack the wallop of this one. Silent clock followed by a montage of slow-motion memories followed by a fade to black.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Ticking clock. Kobe got his ring last year, so this squad would not have died without fulfilling its mission. It would be hard to weep for this team after it “underachieved” (to quote Phil Jackson) this season. They don’t exploit their advantages every game, they don’t play with enough determination every game. There’d be weeping at ABC headquarters if the Lakers went out before the NBA Finals, but a demise for this team in any round wouldn’t be a sad day for basketball.

ORLANDO MAGIC: Ticking clock. They haven’t been around long enough to be a long-suffering. They aren’t too old to think this is their last chance. They aren’t candidates for a silent clock.

UTAH JAZZ: Ticking clock. It would be great to see Jerry Sloan rewarded with a championships, since he’s never going to get the coach of the year award he deserves on a perpetual basis. But if Sloan’s not going to be sentimental, why should we? If the Jazz were killed off, Sloan would make sure his heart kept beating just long enough – and loud enough – to be heard for the clock shot.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Trick question. They’re never going to go away. Weren’t they supposed to be done last year? Still here. Will still be around next year. They’re as biodegradable as Styrofoam.

PHOENIX SUNS: Silent clock. They’re like agent Renee Walker, the only person to get two silent clocks – the first when Jack staged her death to keep the heat off of her in Day 7, the second when a Russian sniper gunned her down this season. We mourned the Suns when they traded away Shawn Marion to get Shaquille O’Neal, which signified the end of their Seven Seconds or Less era and showed they were reforming and trying to win conventionally. Alvin Gentry opened up the offense when he took over for Terry Porter last season, but the Suns still were changed, more committed to defense, not quite as radical….UNTIL owner Robert Sarver inserted the team into the Arizona immigration debate with his proclamation that they would wear the “Los Suns” jerseys because of what he called a “flawed” state law. Going against government instructions because you think it’s in the best interests of the people? What could be more “24” than that?