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How about some new blood in NBA conference finals?

Here's an interesting stat for NBA fans to chew on during the conference semifinals: Half of the teams that are still alive in the playoffs haven't reached the next step -- the conference finals -- since Larry Bird and Magic Johnson came into the league in 1979.

That's 36 years or more, if you're counting. So now that my Spurs have been eliminated in seven games by the Clippers, I'm rooting for an NBA Finals between teams that haven't advanced that far in many years -- or in the case of one team very close to Buffalo fans' hearts, never at all.

The Clippers, who were born the Buffalo Braves, then became the San Diego Clippers and the LA Clippers, have never made a conference final. That means that their dramatic, 111-109 win over the defending champion Spurs on Saturday was probably the biggest win in franchise history. It might be different if Darrel Garretson hadn't called that bogus foul on Bob McAdoo in Game Six against the Celtics in 1974, but alas ...

The Hawks have never been to a conference final in the modern era. The last time they got to within one series of the Finals was in 1970, when they lost to the Lakers in the old West Division final. You had to win just one series to reach the division final in those days.

The Warriors last made it to the conference finals in the 1975-76 season, when they lost in seven games to the Phoenix Suns team that went on to lose to the Celtics in a memorable NBA Finals.

Finally, the Washington Wizards haven't made a conference final since 1979, when they were called the Bullets and lost to Seattle in the championship series. It's been a bleak history since then. Washington went 22 seasons without winning a single playoff series (1982-2004). Their 46 wins this season was the most since 1978-79 -- the year before Magic and Bird arrived and changed the world.


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