NBA Playoff Preview: The War on Drugs Know What a Champion Smells Like

Basketball-obsessed bassist Dave Hartley breaks down the playoffs, and uses his nose

The War on Drugs
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The War on Drugs
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The War on Drugs have a T-shirt that mimics the NBA logo, so you know they're serious about basketball.

But bassist Dave Hartley is beyond serious. He writes a semi-regular column about the 76ers for the University of Pennsylvania's WXPN, has interviewed San Antonio Spurs' sniper Matt Bonner, and occasionally hangs out in bars with legit seven-footers. So who better to include in Rolling Stone's NBA Playoff Preview?

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Here's his take on this year's postseason action (like Warpaint's Emily Kokal, he sees big things for Kevin Durant), complete with his super-secret "smell" theory that could spell disaster for LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

The band is from Philadelphia, so are you all Sixers fans? And, if so, why?

I know how pretentious this sounds, but I consider myself sort of a scholar of the game; I really don't have a horse in the race, or, in this case, a team, and most of my friends think I'm crazy. I just like the game and I like the league and I like seeing good basketball, so I guess I tend to favor teams like the Spurs.  I think they're a totally anomalous team.

That definitely sounds like something a 'scholar of the game' would say.

But it's true! I saw some stat recently where Tim Duncan's had, like, 15 or 16 years with 50 wins. That's so fucked up, nobody does that. That's more than most other teams have ever had. It's not like the Spurs have been good for a while, every year they're one of the top teams in the league. The precedent for it is the Celtics in the '60s, because they won 11 championships in 13 years. The Spurs don't have that dominance, but they've got consistent excellence.

So, we can assume you're picking the Spurs to win it all, right?

They'll dismantle Dallas in the first round, but the playoffs favor teams with great superstars, so I think Oklahoma City is going to be real dangerous. They're my pick coming out of the West, because they have Kevin Durant. I think its gonna be Spurs/Thunder [in the Western Conference Finals], and I think the Thunder are gonna kill them. They've killed them in the regular season, and the Spurs' Achilles' heel is someone like Durant or LeBron, because systemically, they're better than anybody, by far … but that dominance doesn't really have an answer for a seven-footer who can shoot from anywhere and can drive. I would love to see the Spurs in the Finals again, and I'd love to see them get revenge against the Heat, but I wouldn't pick them. It just seems like Durant is kind of charmed right now.

You grew up near Washington, DC, and your hometown team, the Wizards, are back in the playoffs. Do you think they've got a shot at upsetting the Bulls in round one?

The Bulls will destroy them. I actually really like the Bulls. I think they could go as far as the Conference Finals. It's crazy. They were gutted by an injury, then they were gutted by their general manager, who traded one of their best players, but I like how they're like 'Fuck you, we're going to play.' Whoever Chicago gets in the second round is going to be in for a tough one. I can see Chicago beating Indiana. They seem a little snake-bitten late in the season, and they have offensive problems. I could see that series being a slog, and I could see Chicago pulling it out.

Any other Eastern Conference matchups interest you?

I really want Toronto to win; I wasn't actually paying much attention to them until I was forced to. Then it was like 'Damn, they're a good team!' You kinda have to give respect to Kyle Lowry and what he's done. I want to pick them but I'm a little scared; there's a lot of experience on that Brooklyn team, and in the playoffs, games tend to slow down, and they're a half-court team. Other than that, I don't know. The East is unfortunate.

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Still, someone's got to win it. So, Who do you see facing Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals?

I'm thinking Heat/OKC, and I think OKC will win in seven. When the league is at its best, most of the time, the best player wins. The best team wins, but it tends to favor individual excellence in the team setting. And, with the Heat, you can smell a little satisfaction with them, because they have two titles, and you can smell a little bit of anticipation about what they're going to do in the future, whether they're going to keep the team together or blow it up. There's two smells that can distract you from the task at hand.

You're friends with the Spurs' Matt Bonner. What's one benefit of having a BFF in the NBA?

Yeah, Matt is a great guy. His brother's actually coming to our show tonight. As for benefits? Well, he gets us, like, friends and family tickets sometimes. And I hung out in Philly once with Matt and Tiago Splitter, and a bunch of other Spurs dudes, too. We were having beers, and people were just staring. When Tiago Splitter walks through the door, and he's like seven-feet tall, you notice. It's like the needle scratching across the record.

Has Bonner helped improve your actual game at all?

Oh, no way. My game is pretty weak. When I was younger, I played a lot, and I was a defense guy. You know, tenacious and a rebounder. Now, I talk a lot of shit, I yell a lot; humor is a big part of my game. I'll do impressions of famous basketball players, Arnold Schwarzenegger, that kind of thing. Anything to make my opponent think I'm not taking it seriously, when, in fact, that's a tactic of mine. It's my main weapon.

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