The excitement of the NBA Playoffs can finally get under way with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors ready to do battle in the Western Conference Finals. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

The excitement of the NBA Playoffs can finally get under way with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors ready to do battle in the Western Conference Finals. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

’Bout time: NBA needs Thunder-Warriors clash

OK, now that the jayvee games are over finally, can we start the NBA playoffs?

Thank you, Mr. Commissioner.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Warriors tip off the Western Conference Finals here on Monday night, and the series promises to be more fun than the Viagra girls. It’s a series that most die-hards have hoped for since the start of the season, basically. After weeks of mostly bad playoff basketball, it’s one the NBA desperately needs.

Want plots and subplots? Well, you got ’em.

Who will be the best player in the series: Most Valuable Player Past (Kevin Durant) or Most Valuable Present (Stephen Curry)? Who’s the best Robin: Russell Westbrook or Klay Thompson?

Then there’s the whole Durant free agent drama.

If the Warriors embarrass his team, will Durant be more inclined to join them this summer? If they lose in seven games, will K.D. want to return to OKC for one more season, at which point he and Westbrook will be able to leave in tandem? If they somehow pull off the upset, will they want to stay put and build off success?

Oh, and how long before Steven Adams cheap-shots somebody?

Privately, the Warriors probably would have preferred to play the older, less athletic San Antonio Spurs in this round. The Warriors swept the Thunder in the regular season, but each game was competitive from nearly start to finish.

The gap closed since then. In Adams, Durant, Westbrook, Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters, Thunder coach Billy Donovan seems to have stumbled upon a lineup that can close out games. The Warriors aren’t as dominate with Curry and his bum ankle and knee at less than full strength. And Andrew Bogut’s strained right side could become problematical against a bigger lineup.

Figure the outcome to come down to this: Will Westbrook know when to pass the ball and when to shoot it? Will his ego allow Durant to be the big shooter? Or will he hoist brick after brick in crucial stretches?

Don’t forget the conspiracy theories. While Durant and the Thunder versus LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize in the championship series, league and television honchos have to like a Steph-LeBron rematch even more.

The pick here: Warriors in seven.

SHARK IN THE WATER: Don’t sleep on the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the St. Louis Blues will meet the Country Club Formerly Known As The San Jose Sharks in the Flunkies Conference Finals.

From a cake schedule to favorable whistles, everything that can go right for the Sharks has gone right thus far. The Blues are a step up from the eighth-seeded Nashville Predators, who extended Team Teal to seven games. Still, this is a different group than the ones who lollygagged their way to early vacations in years past.

It’s as if 36-year-old Joe Thornton woke up one day, looked at that gray playoff beard of his and said, “Damn, it’s time to win one of those Stanley Cup things before it’s too late.” Why, even Patrick Marleau almost blocked a shot in Game 7 the other night.

By now, you know about the Sharks’ long and dreary history — OK, maybe you’ve never heard of the Sharks — but fans have been singin’ the blues in St. Louis even longer. The Blues haven’t reached the Stanley Cup Finals since the 1969-70 season, something the Sharks have never done, but something has gotta give here.

Blues in seven.

JUST ASKIN’: Sharks owner Hasso Plattner does know that his team is still playing, right?

SAY CHEESE: As if the fire won’t be hot enough for Jared Goff in his rookie season, the Los Angeles Rams quarterback will be front and center in the annual Hard Knocks docu-drama, which debuts on Aug. 9.

“It’s not going to be the Jared Goff show,” director Matt Dissinger said. “It’s up to what happens in terms of what storylines are going to be there.”

What happens in the NFL revolves around its quarterbacks. Hard Knocks without one is a Kardashian without the bling. Even moreso when said QB is the most recent No. 1 pick in the draft.

Smile, kid. You could be stuck in sleepy Santa Clara, you know.

SHOHEI OTANI, ANYONE?: The Giants entered the weekend with the sixth-worst earned run average among National League starters, but unless they’re big Shohei Otani fans, there looks to be no quick fix in the open market this winter.

Now that the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg is off the board, Otani may turn out to be the best of a crummy free agent lot next winter. And that’s only if the Nippon Ham Fighters agree to release the 21-year-old from his Japanese League contract. The right-hander has a 1-3 record and 3.02 earned run average this season, a hint of how little will be out there.

Otherwise, teams will be left to choose between Andrew Cashner, R.A. Dickey, Mat Latos and Edinson Volquez, to name a few. Not impressed? Balls, neither. If you thought the shortage of free agent starters was a reason why the Giants overpaid for Jeff Samardzija last offseason, you probably thought right.

Better to save money for after the 2017 season, when the list will include big guns Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel and David Price among others.

THIS JUST IN: It doesn’t appear that Tim Lincecum will be the answer, either. The Giants have expressed interest in him as a reliever, but because he prefers to start, the Chicago White Sox or Los Angeles Angels is a more likely destination.

Wherever Lincecum goes, he wants a joint news conference.

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.Cleveland CavaliersGolden State Warriorshasso plattnerJared GoffKevin DurantKlay ThompsonLeBron Jameslos angeles ramsNBA PlayoffsNHLOklahoma City ThunderPatrick MarleauPaul LadewskiRussell WestbrookSan Francisco GiantsSan Jose SharksSt. Louis BluesStephen Currysteven adamsTim Lincecum

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