Sunday, May 30, 2010

NBA Finals, more epic than the Lost Finale

(Photo from bleacherreport)

We've made it my friends. The last four to seven games of the NBA season. The Lakers hope to repeat as Champions, the Celtics try to win their 2nd in 3 years. It's a rematch, a grudge match, whatever you want to call it, it's going to be good.

Here's what we won't be seeing:
  • LeBron vs Kobe to ultimately decide NOT who is the better player (LeBron is), but who can make the shots in crunch time in the NBA's most important stage. What everyone predicted last summer, what almost everyone wanted to see. The two best players in the NBA as close to their primes to make the clash that more epic. Maybe some other time.
  • Finals rematch of 2009 between the Lakers and Magic. Still don't know why they let Hedo go. Still don't know why they used that money to overpay Gortat, but whatever.
  • The Mavericks star power of Kidd, Nowitzki, Terry, Shawn Marion and Caron Butler (woulda been a bit more special 4 years ago maybe) in the finals. Cuban will beat anyone's advertised price this summer to get a championship!
  • The Denver Nuggets in the finals. They were so sure they could beat the Lakers, and who knows if they could have? The Utah Jazz took them out in the first round. I think they really missed George Karl on the sideline. Hopefully he fully recovers from his cancer.
  • Everyone else pretty much wasn't thought to make it to the Finals, so what we have is what we have. Another Boston Los Angeles series. I'm excited.
Just like any series, it all comes down to the matchups.

Lakers defense:
  • Kobe will guard Rondo as he has for the past three years, unlike the past three years however, he won't be able to sag off of him giving him an open jumpshot. Rondo has learned that if they give you space, attack that open space in front of you and get fouled or continue on to the layup. Should have been considered for Most Improved Player.
  • Artest will guard Paul Pierce.
Should be fun. I'd expect what we saw him do on Durant. Be in his face at all times, smother him, swipe at the ball, at times lose sight of team defense.
  • Pau Gasol will guard Kevin Garnett. Is it me or is KG taking a lot more jumpshots this year than the last couple years instead of attacking the basket?
  • Andrew Bynum will guard Kendrick Perkins. Although, since he's only going to play 20 minutes a game, and Lamar plays starter minutes, I'm predicting most of the defense assignment for KG will go to Lamar, and Pau will guard Perkins.
  • This leaves Derek Fisher to guard Ray Allen. Derek did a decent job on Nash, but still got burned plenty of times. He fought through Amare screens to try and disrupt the pick and roll. He'll have to fight through a lot of off ball screens where Ray Allen likes to move without the ball and curl to the basket for open jumpshots. Will Fisher be able to keep up with him?
  • Key (only) bench players besides Lamar: Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, and what I'm predicting, DJ Mbenga. Boston has a bench Sheed and Glen Davis to go along with Kendrick Perkins. None of the Lakers' opponents so far have had this many bigs (Oklahoma with only Ibaka and Collison, Utah with Boozer and Millsap, Phoenix with Amare and Robin Lopez). Maybe Josh Powell will be called upon for more than 1-2 minutes as well.
(Photo from KaibutsuConsumer)

Boston defense:
  • Kendrick Perkins will guard Andrew Bynum. As I said before, Bynum only plays 20 minutes a game with that torn meniscus, giving Lamar Odom the starter minutes. I'm predicting when Bynum goes out and Pau is the center, they put Perkins on Pau and KG on Lamar. Until that happens though,
  • KG will guard Pau.
  • Ray Allen will guard Kobe. Pierce will also have his opportunities against Kobe, but for the most part in recent history Allen takes on the challenge of guarding Kobe.
  • Paul Pierce will guard Artest. What I'm predicting is that the Celtics will do what the Thunder, Jazz and Suns did and leave Artest wide open at the 3 point line to double Kobe or Pau. Unlike those three teams, it is second nature to rotate defensively when either player passes out of that double team. So if Artest gets hot like he did in game 6 of the Phoenix series, Boston will adjust.
  • Rondo will guard Derek Fisher. Derek Fisher's been hitting shots and playing a lot better than he has in the regular season. But so is Rondo. And he's first team all defense. I'm expecting to see Fisher relegate ball handling duties to Lamar and Kobe for most of the possessions.
What's missing from the last time these teams won the championship, what's new?

  • Boston (compared to 2008 against Los Angeles): Take away Eddie House's 3 point shooting and James Posey's 3 point shooting and defense, Leon Powe's spark off the bench. PJ Brown's interior defense. Add Rasheed Wallace's 3 point shooting and interior presence, Nate Robinson's quickness, Rondo's growth into a franchise player. (Photo from
  • Los Angeles (compared to last year against Orlando): Take away Trevor Ariza's defense and 3 point shooting, Bynum's health. Add Ron Artest's defense.
My prediction: I've been so off with my predictions this playoffs. I thought Miami was going to beat Boston, then I said Cleveland would knock em out, then I said the Magic would finally do them in (by a hair, mind you). The only thing I've gotten right is my predictions with the Lakers. So. With a gun to my head, I say the Lakers in 6 by winning games 1 and 2, losing game 3 and 4, winning games 5 and 6.

What Boston needs to do to win is continue to play how they've been playing. They play great defense and get great bench production from Tony Allen and Glen Davis, and most recently Rasheed Wallace. Rondo needs to continue to play hyper basketball, simply outworking opponents coupled with talent and amazing court vision, he'll run away with the Finals MVP should the Celtics win.

What Los Angeles needs to do to win is focus on their defensive rotations and Ron Artest needs to hit his open 3 pointers. Kobe and Pau will be double teamed. I guaransheed it. Ron Artest will be left wide open at the 3 point line, it's up to him to make the shot or at least drive it in. Kobe needs to continue to play his game. He's spreading the ball, constantly looking for Pau, and when it's needed (such as in game 6), taking over offensively. Kobe will win the Finals MVP should the Lakers win, but if Pau plays great, he could take it as well.

(Photo from InsideSocal)

Whoever wins, this is going to be a great series and you all need to watch all the games, tivo them, and watch them again and again all summer until next season comes. LeBron's tagline is "We are all witnesses." Yes we are all witnesses but right now, we are witnessing one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. We are witnessing one of the greatest ever, Kobe Bryant put on amazing performances with incredible shot after incredible shot. We are witnessing Rajon Rondo on the cusp of being one of the top players in the league. The Finals is where legends are made and Rondo is close, if not already there. June 3rd: 9PM eastern, 6PM pacific on ABC. I CAN'T WAIT.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

This is why Phil Jackson is one of the greatest coaches ever

(Photo from Yahoo)
This is why Jackson needs more than one coach of the year award. Phil Jackson knows what he is doing. Let's take it back to the last minute of the game:

Play By Play

Nash scores with 1:21 bring the Suns to within 3. Lakers lead 101-98.

Derek Fisher passes to Ron Artest with 8 seconds left on the shot clock where he misses a top of the key jumper (wide open) with 1:02 left.

Pau Gasol offensive rebound, passes to Artest at the left wing 3 pointer, shoots a 3 with 22 seconds on the shot clock with 57 seconds left, Channing Frye rebounds.

Steve Nash crosses half court, calls time out.

Out of the time out, Frye misses a 3 pointer, Odom rebounds, 40 seconds left.

Kobe Pau Pick and roll but Pau misses the dunk, Jason Richardson rebounds, 21 seconds left.

Steve Nash comes up and takes a pull up 3 pointer (he'd been hitting shots off the dribble all night) Odom challenges but doesn't box Nash out, Nash gets his own rebound, passes to Jason Richardson, misses a 3 pointer from left wing, Channing Frye rebounds, passes to Richardson again at the top of the key for 3, banks it home. Tie Game 101-101, 3.5 seconds left. Time out LA

Inbound to Kobe, airballs a highly contested double teamed 3 pointer but Ron gets the rebound and lays it in as he falls away, game winner. Lakers up 3-2.

What Phil Jackson did (and does) so great:

After that 3 pointer off of Pau's offensive rebound with 22 seconds left on the shot clock, and Frye rebounds and calls a time out, a dejected Ron Artest goes to the bench. Phil Jackson instead of getting up from his high chair to talk with the assistant coaches as he always does every timeout, he waits for Ron to get there. Ron sits next to him, doesn't make eye contact with Jackson, but Jackson talks to him. I didn't hear what was said, but it didn't look like Jackson was chastising him. He didn't get in his face, he didn't yell, he let him not look him in the eye.
He keeps Ron Artest in the game.

On the floor at the time was Fisher, Kobe, Ron, Lamar, and Pau (starters minus Bynun plus Odom). Phil could have easily replaced Artest and no one would question it. You take a bad shot with that much time on the clock that could cost your team the game, that could cost your team the series... you're a detriment while on the floor. Instead, Phil trusted Ron. Kept him on the floor. He Could have inserted Luke Walton who has a high basketball IQ (just no athletic ability to showcase it). Could have inserted Jordan Farmar who makes his 3 pointers and free throws and also has a high basketball IQ. Could have inserted Bynum who could get offensive board and knows automatically to throw it to Kobe or Lamar or anyone except dribbling.

Ron knew it was a bad shot. But his coach believed in him. His teammates got behind him and didn't freeze him out. They huddled as the timeout was ending, slapped him on the ass and got back out there.

Kobe gets the ball with 3.5 seconds left. Airball, Jason Richardson is bodied out of the way by Artest who catches the ball and puts in the game winning layup and runs into Kobe's arms who embraces him back. Lakers win 3-2.
Why'd he keep him in? Jackson's Post game interview: "He just has a knack for being around crucial plays." Jackson also mentioned Artest's steal on Nash that helped spurt their lead runaway during the game that ballooned to 17 (only for the Lakers to give it up later). No X's and O's, just game situation management. He also said that after the congratulating, their was a discussion with Ron Artest. He didn't put him on blast. Didn't even offer any details. He didn't need to. We know what he said: something along the lines of, be aware of the clock, understand the situation etc. End of story, congrats on winning the game for us.

Phil knows these players better than any sports writer, fan, twitterer, etc. That's why he's worth $12 million a year. That's why he has 10 championship rings, could be getting his 11th. That's why he doesn't bench Derek Fisher in place of Farmar or Shannon Brown (Fisher: 11 ppg at 46% in the playoffs compared to 7.5 ppg at 40% during the season).

Coach of the Year Award

Instead the Coach of the year award goes to guys who end up getting fired 2 years later when they don't win a championship. Seriously: Hubie Brown-Memphis, Avery Johnson-Dallas, Sam Mitchell-Toronto, Byron Scott-New Orleans, Mike Brown-Cleveland. We'll see where Scottie Brooks-Oklahoma is in two years. Only in that span of COY's, Larry Brown's Pistons, Gregg Popovich's Spurs, and Phil Jackson's Lakers were winning the championships. But hey, what do I know? A lot less than Phil Jackson for sure.

So if you're a Laker fan and you're upset that the Lakers are on the wrong side of a 12-2 run and Phil Jackson doesn't call a timeout, remember that you're yelling at one of the greatest coaches of all time.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I don't get the hype that Sasha Vujacic gets, I just don't

Do you really need to stretch to play a minute and 23 seconds?
(Photo from Yahoo)
I forked over a pretty penny to get some section 300 seats for Game 1 of the Phoenix Suns-LA Lakers series. Besides the usual hype everyone heard regarding the 2006 and 2007 series where Phoenix took out the Lakers and how this is "payback" even though the Lakers have since won a championship (gotta get hype somehow), there was a little more than "regular news" that Sasha Vujacic would return from an ankle sprain to play in his first playoff game of the year.

Now, I've chastised Sasha before on this blog. I've been chastising him since his rookie year, stopped for a season in 07-08, then went back to it after he signed a big contract and fell off. My question, AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO SEES THIS!?

When Sasha checked in for the first time with 6:30 left in the 2nd quarter, he received a huge ovation. Not as big as the Shannon almost dunk ovation, or the skip pass from Lamar to a Kobe dunk ovation, but it's safe to say the entire crowd was clapping and/or screaming praise. I looked over to my friend and genuinely asked, "Why are people cheering?" The Lakers scored on a Lamar layup from Farmar. At the 5:58 mark, Lamar fouled, stopping play, and Sasha was replaced by Ron Artest (about 30 seconds of playing time).

I guess Phil saw a matchup he didn't like, I believe he was guarding Grant Hill at the time. But he gave him another chance: with 46 seconds left in the 2nd quarter, Sasha replaces DJ Mbenga to finish the half. Amare makes a shot with 24 seconds left, just barely giving them a 2 for 1 opportunity. Kobe breaks Grant Hill's ankle (OK, he slipped), misses the shot, and Josh Powell gets the offensive rebound and dunks it:

Now at the end of that play, you see the Suns are off to a fast break with 4 seconds left. What you DON'T see is Grant Hill raise up for a 3 pointer with .6 seconds left and Sasha fouls him!!!!! He does his routine "grab-my-hair-in-despair-and-close-my-eyes" move as Hill makes 2 of 3 free throws.

I'm guessing Phil Jackson wasn't too happy about that: With 3.6 seconds left in the 14 point lead 3rd quarter, Sasha enters for Fisher (presumably to take a foul, because the Lakers had a foul to give, which Farmar eventually took). And that's the last we've seen of Vujacic! When the Lakers were up 21 points with about 3 minutes left in the game, the garbage time went to DJ Mbenga, Walton, Powell, Farmar, and Shannon. Farmar and Shannon who get quality minutes for Fisher and Kobe! Sasha, I believe you are in the dog house.

Yesterday's game 2 featured absolutely no Sasha even though radio announcers Mychal Thompson and Spero Dedes (Local Laker broadcasters) were mentioning before the game that Sasha was available, which could prove useful! HONESTLY, am I the only one not buying into the Sasha bandwagon!?

I predict less than 5 minutes for Sasha in game 3 at Phoenix on Sunday. Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wizards Win Draft Lotto in Shameful Fashion (Tanking) - Draft Notes

(Photo from AtTheBox)
Bleh. I hate this. Washington had Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and Antawn Jamison and traded them all away to make cap space and tank the rest of the season for a high draft pick. One down, one to go. They get the #1 pick even though the New Jersey Nets, genuinely terrible, were trying to win games til the very end of the season... and they get the third pick. But I won't rant this entire post. Here's the official draft order for the 2010 NBA draft starting with the first pick:

1. Washington Wizards
2. Philadelphia 76ers
3. New Jersey Nets
4. Minnesota
5. Sacramento
6. Golden State
7. Detroit
8. Los Angeles Clippers
9. Utah Jazz (from NY Knicks)
10. Indiana
11. New Orleans
12. Memphis
13. Toronto
14. Houston

Then the playoff teams:

15. Milwaukee (from Chicago)
16. Minnesota (from Charlotte)
17. Chicago (from Milwaukee)
18. Miami
19. Boston
20. San Antonio
21. Oklahoma
22. Portland
23. Minnesota (from Utah)
24. Atlanta
25. Memphis (from Denver)
26. Oklahoma (from Phoenix)
27. New Jersey (from Dallas)
28. Memphis (From LA Lakers)
29. Orlando
30. Washington (from Cleveland)

So if you're keeping count, Minnesota has 3 first rounders (and 2 in the second round), Memphis has 3 first rounders, and Oklahoma, Washington and New Jersey have 2 first rounders. Maybe Minnesota will draft 3 more PGs and one will stay abroad cuz he doesn't want to play in crappy Minnesota.

Obvious question: What does Washington do with the first pick and Gilbert Arenas. Pick John Wall and have him play alongside Arenas, pick Wall and trade Arenas, or pass on Wall and get SG Evan Turner? According to Wizards president: “Gilbert is still with us. He’s been down at our gym, working out and getting ready. The more good players you have, the better.” Also, does this somehow get Washington in the Lebron sweepstakes? They've got the money, and now they could have the next Derrick Rose/Russell Westbrook type PG in John Wall (provided they don't make a Kwame Brown pick).

Other questions/comments:

This looks like a pretty decent draft where the top 8-10 picks can get some quality players, unlike last year. This is based on my little knowledge of the NCAA and watching March Madness, but it looks like struggling teams can improve their rosters.

But if the Warriors draft another G/F I will laugh.

I feel for Toronto, they're about to lose Bosh and with the 14th pick, that can't be enough to lure a quality free agent looking to win. What's so appetizing about Andrea Bargnani, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jose Calderon, and... DeMar DeRozan... yeahhhhh no.

Utah will get a nice pick thanks to New York trading it to them 6 years ago and never improving their record. They are thanking their unlucky stars they didn't get a top 3 pick though.

Oklahoma can add more youth to their youthful roster with the 21st and 26th pick.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Playoffs baby, playoffs (part 2)

(Photo from Yahoo)
The second round of the playoffs is over as THE CAVALIERS (as a team) were beaten by the Boston Celtics in 6 games. LeBron James didn't lose the series, the Cavaliers did. Boston was the better team. You know what's crazy though? Somewhere in Boston, some hardcore Celtic fan who was probably screaming "NEW YORK KNICKS!" as LeBron was shooting free throws has possibly the last headband LeBron will ever wear as a Cavalier when he flinged it into the crowd as he was leaving the Boston Garden. EBAY!?!?! How much would that go for? I say thousands.

By the way, doesn't this series kind of prove that the NBA isn't fixed?
Playoff Performance of the Ages: Rondo in game 4. 29 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists. Game changing plays. Twice he was on a fast break for a layup with LeBron trailing him to do one of his patented volleyball spike blocks against the backboard. Rondo goes up for the layup, LeBron follows, Rondo passes behind his back to a trailing Tony Allen for a dunk.

I'm pretty sure this happened twice but this was the only clip I could find. Either way, it was amazing. He was also hitting his open jump shots for the most part.

But hey, at least LeBron clapped hands with the Celtics. All I know is LeBron is going to enter the world of Kobe. Not the championship world, but the summer of constant questions, media and drama that Kobe faced when he was taken out of the playoffs by the Suns in 2007. Not a happy time for Laker fans, will not be a happy time for Cleveland fans... unless he re-signs.
But here's the thing. LeBron, if he re-signs with the Cavs, will the Cavs be that much better? Look at this: LeBron was $15 million this year. He's going to command 28-30$ million dollars with his new contract he will sign. Shaq's $20 million comes off the books this summer. Everyone else except some third stringers barely making any money at all is on contract for next year. Therefore, if he signs with the Cavs, they'll use Shaq's money to get LeBron that gigantic 30$ million dollar contract.... AND THE TEAM WILL REMAIN THE SAME (except for possibilities of a trade) (no picks in the draft this summer).

So the Cavs will be what we saw this year minus Shaq. They'll have Antawn Jamison for two more years (who should be getting a lot more grief than LeBron right now- DIDN'T SHOW UP), Mo Williams two, maybe 3 more years (player option 3rd year), Anderson Varejao until 2014, Daniel Gibson for 3 more years, Delonte West for another year... you get the picture.

But hey, I'm not going to speculate where he goes. Your guess is as good as mine. But I do know that the places with the most cap space to sign him to that 30ish$ million dollar contract are: New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards, Sacaramento Kings, and the Chicago Bulls. Any other team he wants to go to would have to be done through a sign-and-trade so teams wouldn't kill their profits with luxury taxes. So I'm not going to speculate, your guess is as good as mine, and as good as ESPN's... think about that.

In other series that have been over for awhile -

(Photo from Yahoo)
Lakers vs Utah - Well I expected a little more out of Kirilenko's return in game 3, but he played 17 minutes, and then 12 minutes in game 4.

Carlos Boozer put up some decent numbers but he also had some critical turnovers right underneath the basket in crunch time of both games 3 and 4. Either way, he'll get a nice pay day from a team desperate for a change. My guess is the Golden State Warriors.

Ego alert - I was correct in my prediction for the series:
The Lakers will now take on Utah who will be a much easier opponent than the Thunder for the simple question of, who's going to guard Kobe? Rookie, Wesley Matthews? Ronnie Price? Andrei Kirilenko says he hopes to be back by game 3, and he can play defense on Kobe but we'll see what kind of defensive stopper shows up after that calf injury.
And Kobe did have a much better shooting performance than in the first series. Wesley Matthews had some nice plays on Kobe, but ultimately couldn't stop him. In the 6 games against the Thunder, Kobe shot respectively: 31%, 43%, 34%, 50%, 44%, 48%. In four games against the Suns, he shot respectively: 63%, 45%, 54%, 48% all while topping 30 points every game.

Oh and they had no post offensive or defensive game. Pau Gasol dominated as he should have. What's funny is that he won't face a decent post defender for the third straight series against the Suns-- I'm looking for him to put up great numbers again. The Jazz will get Okur back next season, and hopefully they start Millsap in place of Boozer. Oh, they could also win the NBA draft lottery as they have the Knicks' pick, no matter where that pick falls. That would be interesting. By the way, the lottery is on May 18th. Good luck to your team.

Ron Artest's twitter account got into it with Phil Jackson. Phil Jackson, picking his fights wisely brushed it off and didn't start any drama. Ron Artest shot 4-7 from 3 point range the next night. Moving on...

Game 3 Funny Moment, Derek Fisher steals the ball and is on his way to a fast break layup, only CJ Miles swats it out of bounds to make the crowd go crazy. That's not the funny part, listen to Marv Albert:


Of course he's referring to Tayshaun Prince's block on...

Reggie Miller! Marv Albert's commentating partner! Oh way to remind Reggie Miller of a game saving block in the second round of the 2004 playoffs! Quick history: the Pistons were up by 2 points and with 15 seconds left, Reggie could have tied it, but Tayshaun blocked it away, taking a 2-0 lead to Detroit. Ahhh, Marv.

Regarding Fisher being a traitor to the Utah Jazz - Uhh Jazz fans, do you really think Fisher coming off the bench is going to make you a championship team? At the time, the Jazz were better than the Lakers. This is the summer when the Jazz made the Western Conference Finals, and the Lakers were beat in 5 games to the Suns. Bynum sucked. Kwame Brown was the 3rd option behind Lamar Odom, Fisher was but a light upgrade from Smush Parker. He didn't do it to be on a better team. Fisher cut $8 million dollars to sign with the Lakers. He didn't do it for money. If Fisher was on the Jazz. Jazz fans would complain about Fisher the way LA fans complain about Fisher. The Jazz fans just needed someone to boo.

(Photo from Yahoo)
Phoenix Suns vs San Antonio Spurs - I expected MUCH more from the Spurs. I even expected them to beat the Suns! Instead the complete opposite happened and they were swept. Game 4 featured a one eyed Nash still dismantling the Spurs defense... I'm pretty sure the better team won.

Here's something to take note of, the scores for each of the four games: All Suns wins- 111-102, 110-102, 110-96, 107-101. The Suns were consistent. They say they've worked on their defense, but the Spurs averaged 101 points this entire season.

Some questions the Spurs have, what to do with Tony Parker and George Hill? What to do with Richard Jefferson? Both Parker and Jefferson have one more season on contract at $15 and $13.5 million respectively. Those are expiring contracts they could trade away to a team looking for cap space for... 2011? Oh yeah, it was this summer that was the big off season sweepstakes. George Hill was starting quality in the first round against the Mavs. But so is Tony Parker, if he didn't get injured.

One issue they don't have to worry about anymore is Manu Ginobili- he was extended through the 2013 season. But the Spurs know how to draft so I'm sure they'll get some talent next month with the 20th and 49th pick (Tony Parker 28th pick, George Hill 26th pick, Manu 2nd round 28th pick, DeJuan Blair 2nd round 7th pick).

How will the Suns-Lakers series go? I predict a Lakers victory in 6 games. I see the Suns as a better version of the Thunder but with still no post presence. Amare and Nash do pick and rolls for days but I think Gasol, Kobe, Ron and Lamar can move and rotate well enough to at least slow it down a little bit. And again, who will guard Kobe? Jason Richardson and Grant Hill? They'll be better than Wesley Matthews but not better than Durant. I predict another efficient scoring games by both Kobe and Pau Gasol. Let's see if Ron Artest worked on his 3 point shooting during his week off.

(Photo from Yahoo)
Orlando Magic vs Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta was coming off a 7 game series with the Bucks and the Magic had swept the Bobcats a week earlier. Bibby couldn't hang with Jameer Nelson. The Hawks fans booed their team. Atlanta was swept out of the playoffs.

So what's next for the Hawks? Big FA name alert: Joe Johnson. Straight up Free Agent. Not a player option or anything. He decides where he wants to go and for how much. The Hawks have the money to sign him to a max deal and the core group of guys that can get him to the playoffs again, but is it a championship contending team? I think this is a bunch of freakishly athletic guys like Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Al Horford who can put up good numbers and play good defense. But in the playoffs, Horford was a bit undersized to handle Dwight Howard. Mike Bibby made 7 field goals for the entire series. The team has no bench besides Jamal Crawford and his behind the back cross over. And they fired their coach!

Atlanta has gone a long way from their terrible years in the early part of 2000s. They have some decisions to make this off season. Unfortunately, their core group of guys aren't as talented as championship contending teams' cores.

Which brings me to the Orlando Magic. 8-0 in the playoffs so far getting a lot of rest. Yes they played playoff teams, but they swept who they were supposed to sweep. Their test is here. The Boston Celtics, who they beat last year (Celtics were without KG). We'll see if Jameer Nelson can keep up with Rondo. I know for sure Rondo can keep up with Jameer. This Orlando team is weird though. They shoot a lot of 3 pointers. Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Matt Barnes, Mikael Pietrus, JJ Redick can all hit from deep and they can all get hot. But I predict that the Celtics will be able to defend. I also think Perkins, Rasheed and Glen Davis can body up Dwight Howard a little better than Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia.

I honestly don't know who'll win this series but if I had to, I'd go with Orlando, by a hair. They get hot from 3 point line and just put take teams out. Dwight Howard protects the paint and limits any 2nd chance points with his rebounding. Vince Carter seems to be playing high quality basketball right now. But like I said, Boston could just as easily return to the Finals with Rondo playing out of his mind, Ray and Pierce hitting from outside and KG hitting those crazy fade aways. It will be a good series. That's all my thoughts on the second round and predictions for the third round, thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My beef with the NBA's Most Improved Player Award

(Photo from Yahoo)
Key: MIP=Most Improved Player Award

It's old news, but Aaron Brooks won the MIP this year after boosting his numbers from

11.2 points on 40% shooting, 3 assists, and 1.4 3pt made
19.6 points on 43% shooting, 5 assists, and 2.6 3pt made

Here's his recent career courtesy of his Yahoo Profile Page:
Recent CareerFG3PTFTReboundsMisc
YearTeamG Min MAPct
2008-09HOU8025:00 4.09.840.4

True, these are improved statistics. But my beef with the award (along with a lot of other NBA arguments) is that statistics don't tell the whole story. Although... I will be using statistics to prove my point. But anyways, look at the minutes played. Aaron Brooks went from 25 minutes per in 08-09 to 35:30 minutes per this season. My argument is that Aaron Brooks' numbers are inflated due to an increase in minutes and that he was fully capable of averaging these numbers if given the chance, which he was this year. NBA sportswriters across the nation take a look at the RAW stats (simple player profile page with per game averages) and see who made the biggest jump statistically, and vote him as the MIP.

So the first thing we need to look at is the boost in minutes from 25 to 35:30. More minutes = more stats.

Read a little further and note that this Houston team is absolutely nothing compared to last years. Missing is Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady (played half the season when Brooks was on the bench), and the face of the franchise, Yao Ming. Added is Trevor Ariza who had his ups and downs this season.

Read a little further into this and note that although he played in 80 games last season, he only started 35, coming off the bench for Rafer Alston. When Alston was traded to the Magic for Brian Cook and Kyle Lowry, Brooks went into the starting lineup for only 35 games, meaning that a majority of his per game stats are BENCH stats. Here are the splits:
As a bench player in the 08/09 season, he averaged
  • 20 minutes, 10 pts on 40% FG, 2.4 ast, 1.1 3pt made
As a starter in the 08/09 season, he averaged
  • 31 minutes, 13 pts on 40% FG, 3.7 ast, 1.7 3pt made.
Even when he started, he's still averaging more minutes this year as a starter. So let's look at one of my all time favorite stats, the PER 36 MINUTES STAT.
If you're not familiar with the per 36 minute stat, it's a way to gauge how a player would perform based on the minutes he does play, if he played a 36 minute game (average playing time for an NBA player). Example: Two players both average 20 points per game, player A plays 10 minutes per game , player B averages 48 minutes per game. If you just looked at their per game stats, you'd say, "they're both averaging 20 points, whats the big deal?" The big deal is that it's taking player A 10 minutes to score 20 points, imagine if he played 36 minutes!

Here are Aaron Brooks per 36 minutes stat from last season (08-09) note: percentages stay the same as regular per game stats -

16 points, 4.3 assists, 2 3pt made

and his per 36 minutes stat from this season (09-10)

19.8 pts, 5.4 ast, 2.6 3pt made

(Stats from

Is this worthy of the MOST IMPROVED player award? Slight upticks in a new offense where he's the second best scorer for most of the season with Artest and Yao gone (but 24 games with Kevin Martin at the end of the season made him probably the third best scorer behind Martin and Ariza. See Tracy McGrady 3 team deal)? Well that's the debate. I don't feel that Aaron Brooks was the most improved player. He had the skill all along, he just needed the minutes to showcase it and the right team around him to get those stats. Oh, and by the way, the Rockets missed the playoffs this season, going 42-40. Again, no Yao and trying to integrate Ariza as the go to guy after a season being a role player on a championship team-- you're gonna have struggles.

What I wish is that the sports writers who vote for these awards actually look for improvement in game play and in defense. Not just defensive numbers but keeping your opponent from scoring. I personally think Zach Randolph could have been voted as MIP this year with his more efficient, all star caliber play this season for a Memphis team who looked like it was going to be terrible. In recent memory, I think Trevor Ariza last season should have gotten some consideration due to his improved 3 point shooting, a KNOCK on his game before the season (people saying he wouldn't be able to space the floor), but he IMPROVED it, started for the Lakers, hit his 3 pointers and helped win a championship (and then cashed in with the Rockets).
Aaron Brooks is still the same fast PG who can hit a 3 pointer that the Rockets drafted in 07. Not much improvement, only in statistical terms.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Playoffs baby, playoffs

Tomorrow, the first round of the playoffs will finally be over as the Bucks play in Atlanta in an unprecedented game 7 that nobody could have predicted. And you know what, the Bucks will finally be on national TV for the first time, probably since Ray Allen was on the Bucks with Cassell in the 2001 playoffs.

What else is crazy besides a Bogut-less Bucks taking Atlanta to game 7? How about the Lakers' top two competitors for the Western Conference being ousted in the first round? Dallas and Denver simply didn't get it done. The Spurs woke up from outta nowhere and a Kirilenko and Okur-less Utah Jazz took out the George Karl and later on, Nene-less Nuggets. I think they missed George Karl as the team chemistry was thrown outta wack when Melo didn't point any fingers (but pretty much pointed fingers) but said he needed help out there and couldn't do it alone. Then a couple hours later, JR Smith tweeted: You play selfish you lose selfish that's all I'm saying about the game!

(Hey didn't JR Smith delete his Twitter for being a Crip?)

Couple that with four technical fouls in game 6 and I think the Nuggets didn't have a leader coach who could calm them down and get them all on the same page. See I disagree with Bill Simmons when he says that NBA coaches don't matter except for Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, an NBA coach gets everyone on the same page and tells everyone what to do. You can't have a player coach anymore with egos and contract years. How do you think Bynum would react to Kobe telling Lamar to sub in for him. Or even Shaq reacting to Lebron telling Varejao to sub in for him? It wouldn't work. Players don't even have to like them, but they will follow orders from their head coaches. But anyways...

Game 6 of Lakers vs. Oklahoma - Lakers down by 1 with13 seconds left, Russell Westbrook just missed an open jumper from the baseline and the ball somehow gets to Kobe. He looks at the clock and does not call a time out because Westbrook was guarding him and he can shoot over Westbrook, he cannot shoot over Durant, who if they called a timeout, would guard Kobe, I'm sure. The sound of ugghhh-OOAAWWWWWWWWW!!! was a reaction to Kobe's miss and Pau's tip in with .5 seconds. Remember how in every game the announcers constantly talked about how great Serge Ibaka is going to be because he's pure raw athletic talent right now, he just needs to learn the game of basketball. I already know what his first lesson is, boxing out. Look at the video.

He stands and watches and doesn't box out Pau who goes untouched to the side of the rim to tip in the game winner. They could be playing again tomorrow if he just kept his back on Pau, but whatevs. The Lakers will now take on Utah who will be a much easier opponent than the Thunder for the simple question of, who's going to guard Kobe? Rookie, Wesley Matthews? Ronnie Price? Andrei Kirilenko says he hopes to be back by game 3, and he can play defense on Kobe but we'll see what kind of defensive stopper shows up after that calf injury. Utah has better bigs than Oklahoma in Boozer and Millsap, but they're starting
Kyrylo Fesenko in the place of injured Okur. I still think the Laker bigs of Pau, Bynum (small torn meniscus, will try to play), Lamar and Ron Artest will be more than enough to play defense on these guys and score easily. I'd sayyy... Lakers in 5, losing game 3.

Portland-Phoenix series: Portland simply didn't have enough. I honestly can't believe they got 2 wins without/with injured Brandon Roy. All I know is that of the 1996 draft, Kobe, Nash and Camby are studs. You know how Camby got a 2 year extension with Portland, did you know those two years are for MORE than what he's making this year? From $7.6 mil this year to $8.4 mil next year and $9.2 mil the following year. Go ahead Camby. It's not Kobe's $30 mil in 2014 (DAMN!) but it's also not Antoine Walker's debt or Stephon Marbury playing in China. Go ahead, Camby.

Now Phoenix will take on the Spurs in a little grudge match, only Robert Horry won't have the chance to level Nash this time around. If something like that does happen again, someone tell Amare to stay in his seat, if he's on the bench, which he probably won't be cuz the Suns will need him on the floor as their only big man who scores in the paint. Someone teach Channing Frye some post moves! If I had to predict a series outcome, I'd say Suns in 6, but honestly, it could go either way.

For the record, my 1st round predictions were Lakers in 6 (right), Dallas in 5 (wrong), Suns in 4 (wrong), Utah in 5 (right but wrong amount of games), Cleveland in 4 (right but wrong game count), Magic in 4 (right), Hawks in 4 (waiting), Heat in 5 (way wrong).

Funniest moment for me so far in this playoffs: Local commentator Stu Lantz during game 4 during a Oklahoma run: "I can't understand... why the Lakers aren't making the Thunder use their athleticism... against themselves." ...uhhh WHAT?! Yeah Kobe, make Serge Ibaka jump out of the arena into the parking lot so you get a 5 on 4! Come on Fisher! Make Westbrook run so fast he keeps going and hits the announcer table at 100 mph! I seriously can't think of what he could have possibly meant by that.

And where are the Lebron/Kobe puppet commercials?