Monday, June 6, 2011

Eulogy: 2011 Celtics

Dear friends, family and opponents,

we are gathered here to mourn the dead end of a few NBA careers.

Shaquille O'Neal called it quits as the oldest player in the NBA and (not) playing like it with a serious ache that would not go away.

Jermaine O'Neal and Kevin Garnett are shells of their former All-Star selves, like cars with 140k on them that one day perform like a new Rolls Royce and the next day have to be taken into the shop because the check engine light is on. These guys are either going to get traded by the deadline or hurt the Celtics for years because of the opportunity cost that their contracts could get from a true contender.

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are in that special part of their careers where they are good enough for management to stick with for awhile, and bad enough that this loyalty will prolong any rebuilding and championship mode. We are more likely to see Paul Pierce wheeled around a nursing home in a wheelchair than ever see him have a dramatic comeback in a finals game.

And, though the Celtics have only Pierce and Rondo signed for 2012, and have an eminently friendly contract for Rondo, we may see them mess this up by signing Dwight Howard and therefore getting two players who cannot handle the ball in the last 2 minutes of a close game because of poor free throw shooting.

Anyways, great idea to trade Perk! Bye-bye title hopes for next season and hello over-paying Jeff Green to be a future because if they don't the trade will look like a total waste.

Eulogy: 2011 Grizzlies

Dear friends, family and opponents

we are gathered here to witness that having great 1 through 9 depth and an athletic team will only get you so far if you do not have a true superstar.

The Grizzlies have an Atlanta Hawks-style roster right now, one which looks promising, athletic, young and with a couple quasi-superstars (Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay) that will get you to the playoffs year-in and year-out, but will never get you to the Conference Finals.

This is the type of team that slowly drains the life out of a mid-market city's fans. Yes, they will get to see some good basketball for years, Yes, they will see a couple great players develop into second-tier All-Stars, And yes, they will see an exciting upset or two.

But every year they get their hopes up for the playoffs, every year that it seems they can make one or two upsets to make it to the Finals and every year that they realize they are a great player short of accomplishing anything special, will suck the life out of these fans.

Welcome to the over-achieving mid-market world!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Eulogy: 2011 Nuggets

Dear friends, family and opponents,

when you trade two superstars away and your defense automatically gets 10 points better, usually that is a point to celebrate. If you cannot get past the first round because you have no one who can score on offense, it stops becoming a point to celebrate.

Yes, Denver made out better in the Melo trade than any could have expected. No, it won't matter to their future success.

Every year, one team is a winner and the rest are losers. The only successful team in the NBA each year is the championship team.

And with the guns Denver has now (and an increasingly disappointing Danilo Gallinari), they are going to have to make some great trades and signings to be anywhere near competing. Yes, they are going to be way under the cap the next two season, but one of those seasons may have a lockout and the cap is likely to decrease, meaning just about all the superstars are already signed to long-term deals.

And when your teams two big moves the last few years was to trade for Allen Iverson and Chauncey Billups way past their primes, you cannot have much faith that they are going to do the right thing with all the room they have to maneuver.

Eulogy: 2011 Hornets

Dear friends, family and opponents,

we are here to celebrate the Hornets before the NBA decides it has no choice and ships out Chris Paul and relocates the team to another city.

Hornets' fans most likely will be able to celebrate Chris Paul forming a trio of superstars in New York to compete with the Heat. Yes, that first half season after the trade deadline will give the Knicks some kinks, but don't worry, you will get to see your former superstar go deep in the playoffs with another team!

Meanwhile, you'll get to see David West as he increasingly stops passing out of double and triple teams, and Emeka Okafor stop giving a defensive effort because the team sucks.

Then you will get to see your team getting a couple lottery picks before moving to another city, then killing it because they have some blue chips a la the Seattle, errr, I mean Oklahoma City Thunder.

Welcome to the beginning of the end for the New Orleans Hornets!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NBA Finals Predictions

Am I hoping picking against the Mavs will give them some reverse mojo like it has for the first 3 rounds of the playoffs? Yes.

Do I think the Mavs will actually win the NBA Finals? No.

Unfortunately, the Miami Heat, who this year officially took the title of sports villains in so resounding a way only the Hitler's 1938 Olympic Team, Soviet Union Hockey team, the late 80s and early 90s Pistons and the 2007 Patriots were bigger villains.

Though I, too, have a venomous hate for the Miami Heat, I hope the last round put to rest who deserved the NBA MVP this year. Lebron James is by far and away the best player in the league, and if he adds a title to his resume this year, he will be a long ways down the road to being a Top 10 NBA Player of All-Time.

James does not only do everything on the court well (except shoot 3s, as him, Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose, all MVP candidates this season, seem to have a disease that because they can shoot inside well that they can shoot the 3 well, too.... and they can't,) everything he does on the court well, he does better than anyone else.

If he wanted to be a better passer than Rondo, he could.

If he wanted to score about 30 a game like Durant, he could.

If he wanted to rebound the ball the whole game and have offenses plan around him like Howard, he could.

And if he wanted to shut down your best player offensively, 1 through 5, he could.

He is the Magic Johnson if this generation, a player who was once inserted as a rookie into a Finals game to play center instead of his natural position at point guard. Lebron is the same type of player.

Add to the mix that Wade has been his incredibly efficient self, and that Bosh has done enough to win 2 or 3 games for the Heat this postseason by himself and Miami looks close to unbeatable.

Miami also made the upgrade of starting Joel Anthony over Zydrunas Ilguaskas, and, if they are smart, they will start Chalmers over a struggling Bibby (though it seems unlikely they will actually do this.) Having Udonis Haslim back will be a small bolster to their bench as well.

The Mavericks, meanwhile, are old. So old. And I swear, even though I have been saying this the whole postseason, it will catch up with them.

Nowitzki will be his regular self this series, but Bosh should be able to prevent him from going completely off, and the ability of both Wade and Lebron dig down against Nowitzki and recover against their own man quickly should play a big role in frustrating the big German.

Wade and Lebron's defense also should be frustrating to one of the other main reasons the Mavericks are winning: the incredible shooting of Peja Stojokovic and Jason Terry off the bench.

The one place I see an advantage for Dallas is the point guard position in the matchup between Jason Kidd and Mike Bibby. Bibby cannot shoot the ball. He cannot play defense. And he cannot rebound. Kidd is going to kill him this series, and hopefully that will finally put to bed for Spoelstra who his starting point guard should be next season.

I do not see this series as being close. If the Bulls and Celtics could not win 2 games against the Heat, I cannot imagine the Mavs winning two.

Prediction: Heat in 5

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Eulogy: 2011 Magic

Dears friends, family and opponents,

we are here to gather for what is probably the Magic's last playoff run with Dwight Howard.

Yes, next season we are probably going to see a Melodrama focusing on whether Howard is going to stay or leave, and with the deals the Magic made this season it will likely end in a sign and trade to the Lakers or the Celtics.

Howard single-handedly made the Magic a top-tier NBA team, winning his third Defensive Player of the Year in a row and torching the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.

The Hawks let Howard get his down-low in a single coverage and left everyone else open to take ill-advised 3s that would never work.

And on the offensive end, they penetrating at will and with guards killed the team with the largest defensive presence inside, outside and from mid-range.

You have a couple more years of Gilbert Arenas looking like he is trying to come back from injuries, but not really giving that much effort. And, once Howard is shipped away, bye-bye playoffs for years to come.

Eulogy: 2011 Trail Blazers

Dear friends, family and opponents,

we are gathered here to mourn the loss of the 2011 Trail Blazers.

Yes, they still had some players who were alive during the playoffs, even one that came back alive in Brandon Roy.

Yes, we can probably expect more injuries to happen during the next season. When are they going to change their training staff? Probably never, their ownership might as well be that woman from the "Major League" movie franchise, except for some reason they like spending more money than any other team on players they know are going to get injured.

The training staff admitted halfway through the season that, because of all the injuries the last few years, they have considered changing up their tactics. Really, it took you that long to figure out 2 or 3 major injuries a year was out-of-the-ordinary?

Anyways, we can expect the Trail Blazers to re-build through the draft on a team that is becoming increasingly injury-prone (because Sam Bowie and Greg Oden worked out so well for them.)

Another couple years of great coaching and terribly injury-prone players? Yeah, that is the formula for getting a team who's surprisingly good means surprisingly mediocre.

Western Conference Finals Prediction

I have predicted the Mavs were going to lost every single round up until now, and I see no reason to change that because it has been working out so well for me.

The Thunder are more athletic, faster, stronger and, now with Perkins, are much tougher than the Mavs.

They have the best scorer in the game in Kevin Durant, who is also quickly becoming the best shooter. They have the athleticism in Sege Ibaka to challenge Nowitzki from deep, and they have the toughness inside with Kendrick Perkins that has always been Nowitzki's weakness.

The Mavericks' success in the playoffs has been predicated on three things: Jason Kidd's phenomonal play in the first round, Peja Sojokavic and Jason Terry being on fire from the bench in the second round and Dirk being Dirk.

Even with Ibaka and Perkins, the Thunder are likely only to dampen the Dirk effect rather than stop it. They, however, should be able to single cover Dirk and limit the Mavericks other options with their athleticism, something that the Trail Blazers and Lakers were not able to do.

On the offensive side, Russell Westbrook should be able to kill Jason Kidd. Kidd had a tough enough time guarding Andre Miller in the first round, especially when he posted up. Russell Westbrook will present new challenged because of his youth, speed and athleticism, but you are more likely to see him kick the ball out when he gets down low, rather than score like Miller was (Westbrook is one of the worst players in the league scoring in the basket area.)

And the person he will be kicking out to? Kevin Durant.

Prediction: Thunder in 6 (with some Thunder blow-outs)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eastern Conference Finals Prediction

The Miami Heat proved they could do in the playoffs what they could not do in during the season: close out games.

Lebron James has been one, if not the, best players in the league un the last couple minutes during a close game these last few seasons. He got that magic back in the first two rounds in the playoffs.

Dwayne Wade is still looking to get to the same level at the end of games, but Lebron looks like he can carry the load for the last few minutes while Wade has been on fire for the rest of games.

Bosh still has not had a great playoff run, but he has certainly done enough to keep this team afloat during difficult minutes with key rebounding, averaging almost 10 a game throughout the Heat's playoff run. He is not shooting the ball particularly well at 45%, but he only needs to shoot the ball well enough to draw out the opponent's defense on a team that does not have any other good shooters from 15 to 20 other than Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has not played well at all.

As for the supporting cast, Erik Spoelstra finally made the move to put Joel Anthony as a starter instead of the struggling Ilgauskas. He will have to start playing Mario Chalmers more minutes and cutting back Bibby's minutes, especially playing D Rose, if they want a shot at this series.

As for the Bulls, they are strong defensively (at the 2, 3 and 4) where Miami is strong offensively and strong offensively (at the 1 and 5) where the Miami is weak.

D Rose shoudl have a field day against Mike Bibby and Chalmers should have difficulty scoring against Rose on the offensive end. The point guard match-up in this series is a huge advantage for Chicago, and should contribute to Chicago winning this series.

The bigger thing, however, that will contribute to a series win is a home court advantage in a series that should be really close, as you can expect each team to take one on the other opponent's floor, but no more.
Home court will leave the Bulls in the driver's seat.

Prediction: Bulls in 7

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Eulogy: 2011 Spurs

Dear friends, family and opponents,

we are here to mark the end of the 2011 Spurs, but also the end of their title hopes.

Duncan is hopping around like is going to be the next Kurt Thomas, yes, impressive because of his "experience" and able to make "veteran" plays, completely unable to be anything but a role player who is not going to take too much off the table but is not going to put anything on it, either.

This year was the last chance for a title, don't worry Spurs fans, it looks like Celtics' and Lakers' fan are going to be in the same place soon, and I imagine Mavericks' fan will be there soon.

Yes, this season has proved that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili cannot carry the load themselves, and another year for Ginobili and Richard Jefferson is not going to do them any good.

The last couple years have proven this dynasty was all Duncan's. Tim Duncan will have the honor as going down as the most "fundamental" (aka boring) player in the modern game. And people will talk of him as a top 20 player with the enthusiasm that they talk about George Mikan.

For now, it seems the Spurs spent their last title hopes.

Don't worry, you can watch some white guys and George Hill launch contested 3s for the next 2 years.