Friday, May 19, 2006

Playoffs, we're talking about the playoffs?

Yes, Jim we’re talking about the playoffs. Just not the ones that you were so famously referring to. In fact, I’m going to discuss a couple of different playoffs today, not the least of which are the NBA Playoffs that could possibly cause my head to explode if things continue to follow current form this evening. Here’s all you need to know about the two games that await basketball fans this evening: I’m not going out. I’m not even considering going out. Do I really want to be in a bar, making lame conversation or fending off hapless drunks when each of the NBA’s last two champions are on the brink of elimination from the second round? I think not. I’m genuinely excited about tonight’s games. So excited, that I’m probably going to have to make a concerted effort to pace my drinking just to ensure that I’m not a slurring Brent Musberger-esque mess by the third quarter of Mavs-Spurs.

All of this works out quite well for the rest of my weekend plans. You see, I am probably going to drop a little more scratch than normal on Saturday night. Tonight’s round of games ends up being just the excuse that I need to convince my alcohol addicted brain that not going out on a Friday night isn’t a sin on par with baby snoodling. What could be better than tonight’s slate of games and further influence my decision to stay on the couch tonight? I’ll tell you what, tomorrow’s concert at the House of Blues featuring The Roots and Common. I’m taking my girlfriend who has never been to a Roots show before. To say that I’m guessing her mind will be blown is a vast understatement. Besides being some of the more consistent, and innovative musicians in hip-hop today, The Roots also happen to put on one the more amazing live shows (regardless of genre) in all the world. The fact that Common is going to be involved as well should be the proverbial “icing on the cake”. Saturday night’s concert will be the seventh time I’ve seen The Roots live and not a single show has been anything less than spectacular. I’m not expecting #7 to be any different.

The Roots, however, are tomorrow’s big news. Today’s news is the NBA Playoffs. Because virtually every sportswriter and/or sports blogger around has already weighed in with their opinion I’m going to keep my comments on each series short (relatively speaking, of course).

Heat- Nets: Umm, so the Heat are pretty good, huh? We all knew that, I just don’t think any of us knew that they would be playing this well at this point in the playoffs. I’m still not a believer in them long term (not enough defensive stoppers, Shaq is on the decline, too dependent on Wade) but they finally seem to have all accepted their roles for the time being which can only be a positive on a team with so many alpha males (or former alphas).

One last thing: Everybody needs to settle down on Antoine Walker. The guy was an All-Star, after all. It’s not like this was Brian Scalabrine coming alive against the Nets. If you give him a favorable matchup (thanks Cliff) and open looks, he’s extremely capable of burning you. With that said, I get the feeling that his new found “acceptance” of his role will look a whole lot less impressive when he’s matching up against a bigger more athletic player like Rasheed Wallace, or Dirk Nowitzki. The fact is that Walker played well b/c the matchups worked for him. Once he’s up against a bigger, more athletic player who can challenge his drives he’ll revert to launching ill-advised threes and bogging down the Miami offense. This is Antoine and he’s not going to change.

Clippers-Suns: This is, by far, my favorite series to watch. On paper, the Clippers should be dominating this series. I’m not talking about their players (though you could make that case as well) but rather the raw numbers that each team has recorded so far in this series. However, every time that it looks as if the Suns are ready to fold they end up making some 9-0 run to cut the lead and make a game of it. In fact, the Suns do this enough that they’ve ended up tied in this series. Even in last night’s win there were plenty of positives to take away for Phoenix. Sure, the Clippers beat them handily but they needed a career playoff high from Quinton Ross (in the first half no less) in order to do that. I don’t know what I’d do if I was a Suns fan. Just knowing that you could probably win the whole damn thing this year if it wasn’t for both of your stud big men being stapled to the bench for the entirety of the last few months would be enough to drive me insane. Though, to be truthful, it’s really not that far of a trip for me at this point.

I’m tempted to go with the Suns in Game 7 but my head is telling me that Cassell and Brand will be too much for D’antoni and crew too overcome. By the way, is their a more ridiculous coaching name than Dan D’antoni? How may glasses of vino had his parents knocked back when they decided on that?

Spurs-Mavs: Normally, watching the Spurs makes me want to shoot myself in the face. It’s a confluence of things really. Their grind-it-out pace, dirty ass Bruce Bowen, Ginobilli’s non-stop flops (and the fact that he seems to have some sort of mind control on NBA refs. Seriously, how do they still by his act?), close-ups of Poppovich’s face, etc. Yet, this series has been downright exciting. Avery Johnson is already a better coach than about 75% of the guys roaming NBA sidelines these days as evidenced by his brilliant move with Devin Harris earlier in the series. It doesn’t seem that complicated to make a team adjust to your style of play and personnel. However, the fact remains that it takes guts to pull the trigger on such a move, especially in the playoffs. To me, all of this is just further confirmation of the amazing job that Splinter did raising Avery and the other orphans in that NYC sewer. One thing that I haven’t heard mentioned in regards to this move is the lack of athleticism that currently resides on this Spurs roster. Think about it, other than Ginobilli and Bowen, can you name one single perimeter player on that roster who you would trust to guard any moderately skilled offensive player one-on-one? Poppovich and RC Buford have done a good job adding veteran experience (Barry, Finley, Van Exel) to the roster in the last two summers but they’ve also robbed the Spurs of some much needed explosiveness off the bench, and it’s finally shown in this series. And, yes I have seen each of Mike Finley’s filthy fucking dunks in each of the last two games and I’ve loved them both. However, those two dunks notwithstanding, Finley is far from the player he once was.





















Not a ninja, but still a damn fine coach.
Before Jason Skinn’s suspension (by the way, the jump ball call that led to the nut punch was Gawd awful. Ginobilli jumped on top of Terry after JT had signaled timeout.) I was absolutely sure that the Mavs would close it out in front of their home crowd. Now, things are looking far more bleak for Cube’s troops. I don’t think anybody believes that the Mavs can win a Game 7 in San Antonio and with Terry suspended there are probably even fewer people who think that the Mavs will pull one out tonight. I am not one of those people though. Put me down for a Mavs win tonight on the ever expanding shoulders of Dirk. Tonight’s game will be the moment that elevates him too truly elite status amongst NBA stars. Think USA vs. Germany, summer of 2002. Mavs in 6.

Cavs- Pistons: I don’t really know if there is much more to say about King James at this point. Yes, he has earned that nickname. LeBron is sooo much better than even his biggest supporters could have imagined as little as a month ago. He’s elevated his game, his teammates’ games and even seems to have intimidated the Pistons a little. For a team that prides themselves on being the toughest bunch of guys around, this is no small feat. You’d have to be crazy to pick against Lebron tonight in Cleveland, right? Well, color me bananas because this is where I think the dream begins to die. You see, the Pistons are a team that thrives on being doubted and looked over. They laid the foundation for this run of success by defying the odds and coming back down from 3-1 against Orlando in 2003. They excelled when nobody thought they could beat the Nets in 2004. They played even better when the entire world wrote them off against the Lakers that same year. They continued to play at a high level last year as people kept waiting for them to come back to earth. Finally, when people did begin to buy into the Pistons’ success they took motivation from the praise being lauded upon Larry Brown’s coaching, as opposed to their individual abilities (both during last year's playoffs and early during the regular season).

This year, specifically the playoffs, is the first time that this collection of players has ever had to deal with universal praise for them as individuals and as a unit. What did they do? They came out fat and happy and promptly fell on their faces. Now, you have the whole damn world writing them off. If not in this series, then in the next against Miami. The Pistons are finally back where they are most comfortable, with their backs against the wall. Is this the way that most “great” teams operate? No. Then again, Detroit isn’t very similar to many of the great teams of the past.

Detroit wins tonight and closes Lebron out in 7. There you go. You don’t even need to watch tonight.

One last thing: The Basketball team that I play on won it’s third consecutive city league title on Monday night, finishing the season undefeated at 16-0 for the league’s first ever undefeated season. Yeah, we’re pretty awesome. Now I get to put on thirty pounds during the offseason. Sweet.

36 comments:

Jerry said...

Mark D'Antoni's nephew, possibly Dan D'Antoni's son, played for William and Mary a few years ago. He was the typical short, jacked, smart, white point guard that couldn't shoot. He looked like the undersized star HS football player who came off the bench for the hoops team. Unfortunately, he was the starting point guard and one of the better players on a D-1 basketball team.

I've never seen anything like Detroit's D on LeBron. Nobody has ever faced as much attention from good defensive players.

Mark said...

I guess that's why the Tribe are bottom feeders in the CAA, huh? I'd be interested to know if that kid is working in the Suns' organization these days as, based on your description of him, I'd find it hard to beleive he's playing overseas.

Detroit's defensive adjustments were good, really good. It's one thing to decide to constantly double somebody (regardless of whether the offense is running the pick and roll or not)but it's an awful lot more challenging to consistenly do so to a player like LeBron. Cleveland just doesn't have enough offense from their role players to make Detroit pay for this strategy. Cleveland really needs a #2 guy who can consistently stroke perimeter Js while also being able to create his own shot from time to time. Larry Hughes is NOT this kind of player. Makes you wonder how much better the Cavs could be if they'd lured Redd away from Milwaukee.

CFunk28 said...

Giving up 4 offensive rebounds in the last minute of an elimination game at home, and then having to go on the road for Game 7 is bad. I was afraid that the Cavs would lose by 20, and it was close.

If anything I think this run will show LeBron and everyone who says he's going to bolt b/c Cleveland will never win that they're at least close. They need a strong #2. If cousin Larry could pull his head out of his ass and stay healthy he may fit the bill.

Greg said...

Tony Skinn (of George Mason) gets suspended for knocking a dude's coin purse.

Jason Skinn (they've got to be cousins) gets suspended for knocking a dude's coin purse too.

The bottom line is that if you're playing against a guy with the last name "Skinn", then you'll flat-out get hit in the nuts.

Mark said...

Actually, his last name is Terry. I was trying to be funny. Which, as we all know, isn't my strong suit. Speaking of coin purses, though I have the Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story on DVD (and have watched it at least 5 times), I laughed out loud last night when Stewie asked Biran if he'd shave his coin purse. Good times.

Greg said...

I just watched it last night.

Mark said...

Those rebounds were a killer, especially since Rip coralled two of them. Varejao's sixth foul really hurt Cleveland there. The way he was playing on Friday, you have to believe he gets to one of those loose balls.

The foul call on LeBron's drive on the final possesion may have been worse though. He had found Murray in the corner WIDE open for three. Flip (how goddamn old does HE look by the way) may have missed that shot but we never got the chance to see.

Though I wasn't ready to make out with him during the first half like Hubie, I actually thought that cousin Larry acquitted himself quite well during the early part of yesterday's game.

It's just too much to ask of a guy who was already rusty (due to the finger injury. What are Hughes' fingers made of anyway? Paper mache'?) to come back and compete at a high level after so much time off/inactivity. He's not a natural shooter and yiou could tell his offensive timing was off.

My problem with Larry on that team is that he duplicates alot of what LeBron already does (though not as cromulently). He's not a consistent enough three point shooter to keep defenses honest instead of sagging in the lane waiting on LeBron. When you put him and Eric Snow out there together it really limits what the Cavs can do offensively. Here's what Cleveland needs to do (easier said than done): Acquire a PG whose strength is his outside shot (Mike James would've been great in this spot but there's no way that Cleveland can afford him after the year he had in Toronto.) You pair him and Larry in the backcourt with the two of them sharing ballhandling duties similar to waht Larry and Arenas did in DC. I'm sure this is what Ferry imagined when he singed Damon Jones, but we all know that Jones' deal with the devil expired during last year's Eastern Conference Finals.

One last thought: Maybe a rookie combo guard like Randy Foye, Quincy Douby (very, very underraed) or Daniel Gibson (2nd Round, of course) would be worth looking at for the Cavs. I hope that Danny Ferry knows I'm available.

Mark said...

Pretty cool of FOX to show that as the Season Finale. though I'd probably be bitter if I had paid for the DVD.

Mark said...

Another combo guard worth considering is Guillermo Diaz of Miami. He shoots the ball extremely well and is freakishly athletic. I just read an Insider article where a Suns scout labeled him a "Puerto Rican Steve Francis". Just to clarify, he meant that as a compliment. The cout went on to say that Diaz touched 12 feet int he jump tests and he'd only seen Stoudemire and Diaw do that before.

TJ said...

"Puerto Rican Steve Francis" might be the funniest scout's take I've ever seen...what the hell does that even mean?

He's moody, hasn't worked on his shot in 5 years and is a ball hog to boot, but wait, don't worry, he happens to be Puerto Rican, so all is forgiven?

Mark said...

That's what I thought when I first read the comment. Really? You're trying to praise this guy by saying that? I'm thinking it was in reference to his athleticism and his combo guard status, though it sure seems there's a nicer , more complimentary way to put this.

Then again, maybe Diaz is gay and has a totally over-infalted opinion of his abilites. In that case, the Francis comparison is spot on.

Jerry said...

He's like Steve Francis in every way, except instead of showering, he just sprays a bunch of cologne all over his body.

Mark said...

Da-dum-cha.

CFunk28 said...

I'd love to see the Cavs solve that problem through the draft w/ a guy like Ray, Foye, or Diaz. But considering the only two impact players the Cavs have drafted in the last 10 years are LeBron and Andre Miller (Miller was a beast in Cleveland) I'm not holding my breath.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cavs let Gooden walk this summer. Someone will sign him to a big deal we won't be able to match b/c we'll be saving for LeBron. But I'm fine w/ that. While I don't think Varejeo is ready to be a starter, they do have Marshal who actually started playing inside the arc during the playoffs.

Mark said...

You're probably right abotu Gooden. Somebody will overpay him this summer. If that happens, you should let him walk. He's too inconsistent and it's tough to see that changing at this point in his career.

Foye would be great but it seems as if he'll already be gone by the time Cleveland selects (at least based on the feedback from early workouts). Don't sleep on Douby, he can really, really shoot it. If he can show some development at the point (just needs to be adequate with the ballhandlers around him)then he could be a great fit. Anyway, you have a new GM these days so maybe you'll fare better than when Paxson was running the show.

Jerry said...

Douby would be a nice fit. He's already proven that he has NBA range with some of the bombs he shot last year. And with LeBron and Hughes in the lineup, the 3 of them have enough handle that they don't need a true PG. If they got Douby, I might end up liking the Cavs a little too much. I was already rooting for them pretty hard in the playoffs this year.

Personally, I think Douby was a better college player than any of the guards that have been mentioned here, even Foye. Of course Redick was a better college player than all of them and he's going to get drafted behind most of them.

joe said...

Whatever happened to Luke Jackson? Was he hurt again this year?

Mark said...

Douby would be my pick for all the reasons you mentioned. With LeBron and Hughes on the court, he's not going to be running the offense all that much anyway. His shot would also serve to space the floor better for drives to the hoop. If Douby had played at a better program, he'd be getting a TON more buzz right about now.

I read today that Luke Jackson just had his second back surgery in as many years last week.. It might be a wrap for him as anything more than a bench sparkplug.

It's odd because I don't remember anything about his back being mentioned leading up to the draft. Makes you wonder if it was missed or he messe it up in camp during his rookie year. He's definitely been plagued by it since pretty much day one in the league.

joe said...

I thought he was a reach when they took him (10?) but he definitely would have helped these past two years with some shooting.

CFunk28 said...

I actually made the comment that Jackson's going to leave after next season, get healthy, and be someone's bomber off the bench. Yeah, big reach at 10.

Douby would be awesome. He could be a liability defensively especially against someone like the Pistons, but the offense would flow a lot better w/ him floating outside.

Mark said...

Yeah. The Douby Hughes backcourt would have some serious defensive deficiencies. Douby definitely not a lock down defender and we all know of Hughes' penchant for gambling in the passing lanes.

#10 was a bit of a reach for Jackson. Everyone seemed to get extra excited over him when he tested out as a better athlete than anticipated and it shot him up the draft board. Funny how scouts and GMs forget what they saw athletically when they get different results based on a battery of physical tests.

joe said...

I was watching Around the Horn yesterday and the often entertaining but rarely factual Woody Paige brought up the possibility of the Cavs getting KG. Now I know it won't happen (unless Stern pulls some mob shit to get LeBron help) but that would be one of the most fun teams, and best, to watch.

How would you feel about Redick Calvin?

Mark said...

I have no idea who Redick Calvin is? Is he someone JUCO player coming out in this draft. I'm kidding, of course.

I'd like to hear who Woody Paige thinks the Wolves would take from Cleveland for KG. Kevin McHale is a pretty bad GM but even he has too much sense for that.

Greg said...

Who would the Wolfs take? I mean, if they are THAT stupid. I'd say: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden and Anderson Varajao and at least 2 future draft picks.

joe said...

I wish I could money on KG going to the Bulls. Home town, young team loaded with talent, no true superstar no the roster. It all makes sense. A Deng, Gordon/Hinrich, cap filler and a 1st should be close.

Mark said...

Here's the question: In that scenario, do you trade Gordon or Hinrich? I'd go with trading Gordon over Hinrich, but I'm a huge racist.

joe said...

I think you trade Gordon too but down the stretch this season it seemed like Gordon was a bigger part of the scheme.. so maybe they have other plans. Before that I thought Gordon was a lock but now I'm not sure.

P.S. I'm also a huge racist.

CFunk28 said...

I remember the last time the Cavs took a Duke sharpshooter. Yes, the Alaskan Assassin, and that worked out real well. I'd put a gun in my mouth if they took Redick.

Could the Bulls get away w/ giving up one young star and their #2 now that they have the #2? Even though there's not a true beast out there, if the Wolves could get Thomas or Aldridge that may work out for them.

Or if the Bulls hang on to that pick and take Thomas and get KG that would give them some pretty good shot blockers w/ Chandler.

Jerry said...

From what I've been reading about the Nets annual pursuit of KG, the Twolves asking price is Jefferson or Carter AND Kristic AND 2 #1s. The Cavs don't have a fraction of that firepower. KG is going to cost a lot.

Greg said...

Do you think KG is worth that much to the Nets?

Maybe. Carter and Jefferson are the same type of player, though, from what I've seen, they complement each other more than they cannibalize. Nenad's a good player but KG can take up his role. And the two No. 1's? If they make them for the next two years, they'll be late picks and not terribly valuable.

Can Kidd, Carter/Jefferson and KG win it all? I don't see why the F not.

Mark said...

The problem with that is that the Nets are woefully thin. If they lose Carter or Jefferson then who do they put out there at the other spot? If the Nets are going to win it's gotta be in the next couple of years so the KG trade makes sense from that perspective. If the Nets do want to go that way then I'd give up Carter (more developed offensively) as the guy who stays in NJ. I'm not a Wince fan but he would spread the floor more effectively for KG.

joe said...

Yea I think a RJ/Krstic/draft picks deal would be a good idea for the Nets. They'd severly handicap their future but like Mark said they're going to have to win with Kidd. I think they'd immediately jump up there with Det and Mia but one small injury and they'd be done for.

Btw, I'm sure everyone who reads this blog has heard this but everytime I think of VC I can't not think of Barkely calling him Half a Man, Half a Season. Cracks me up.

Greg said...

The more I think about it and the more I see Zo playing pretty well, the more I realize how pissed off Nets fans must be at him. Had he stayed in NJ, they'd be in the EC finals and would have a pretty good shot at the NBA finals.

Mark said...

I've always hated Zo, even before he boned over NJ. He's such a preening ass. I respect his toughness and ability to effectively man the pivot at a high level in the NBA despite being alot closer to 6'9" than he is to 7' but that never influenced my extreme dislike for everything he does/is. His gutless exit from NJ after they continued to pay for his broken down ass only served to further confirm all the things I ever thought about him.

If he wins a championship this year after the stunt he pulled, I may just have to accept that there is no God.

CFunk28 said...

I can't believe there hasn't been a review of the Roots show on here yet. I'm a little disappointed.

Mark said...

Well, I'm busy...jerk.