Monday, May 26, 2008

No Breaks Allowed, Part Three

It’s time for another N.B.A. edition, better known as No Breaks Allowed. The playoffs are dominating my life at the moment, and with only a few more weeks to go in the season, I’m already a bit nervous for the huge hole that will be left in my life after the Finals are over. Rehab is for pussies, so to keep up with my addiction for the NBA, I’ll keep on blogging throughout the summer, anticipating the new season. Hold on, I’m getting way ahead of myself here, because what is really on my mind? Read on, reader.

-Finally! Ray Allen had a good game, which had to happen at one point. The result? The Celtics lost. Luckily for Boston, the Pistons have some troubles of their own too, with Billups struggling. Is his hammy still bothering him? Pistons and Ham, makes me wonder: what is Darvin Ham doing these days? He couldn’t do much, but if he actually did get some burn, we all could enjoy a ham sandwich every once in a while. That guy could dunk.

-Finally! The Celtics won one on the road, which had to happen at one point. The result? The Celtics are now leading 2-1. Expect a statement game by the Pistons on Monday night, if they fail, their season is virtually over.

-I’ve watched all three games between the Lakers and the Spurs, and it’s an interesting series so far. To sum it up: close game, blowout, blowout. After Game 1 I expected the Spurs to have their revenge and win Game 2 in LA. The Lakers however dominated the whole game, with Odom and Fisher doing a lot of damage, Gasol being everywhere, and Kobe being Kobe. Game 3 was the same thing, but now with Spurs doing all the dominating. Some people call Tim Duncan the robot (SLAM), because he’s not showing his emotion, yet doing everything so well it seems like he’s programmed to do it. Optimus Duncan had 22 points and 21 boards, and yes, even showing some passion out there. And since we’re talking about passion, Manu Ginobili had the hearts of the Spurs crowd pumping in the second quarter. He played perfectly, hitting back-to-back 3’s, driving to the basket at will, getting and-ones and whatnot. He had an amazing game, but this was only one game. The Spurs need this again Tuesday night. I’m anxious to see how the Lakers will respond in Game 4.

-The Bulls need to pick hometown hero Derrick Rose. Yeah I know they need a guy like Beasley more, but John Paxson has some players he can deal to get a big man anyway. Hopefully this Rose will be a better fit with the Bulls than the last one (Jalen).

-Speaking of the Bulls: Joakim Noah was arrested the other night. He had a drink in his hand, and since you’re not allowed to drink ‘out in the open’, the cops took him away. And what did they find in his pocket? A cannabis cigarette. Why do I care? Because Noah really seems to be a likeable player. Reading his rookie diary in SLAM Magazine, watching him play, I think he’s a good kid. And the locker room stuff earlier this season might’ve been blown out of proportion. He’s an emotional young guy who still has to learn a lot of stuff, so give him some leeway. But then this shit happens, which does a lot of damage to a young man’s credibility. He must stay out of trouble, because it would be sad to see a player like him tarnished because of this incident, labelled as a headcase which could give him a lot of problems in the near future.

-Did anybody sign Paul Silas yet?

-I have the utmost respect for Charles Barkley. His talk with Ernie Johnson about his gambling problems on TNT last week was as honest as you can be, and how he responded to it was the only right way to deal with this aspect of his life. That’s why I love Inside the NBA: it’s real, the opinions of the guys, the jokes, the criticism, the love, the “Ginobiliiiiiiii!!!!!” I wish TNT also had the NBA Finals.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Four Top Teams

Now there are only four teams left, two of them will advance to the NBA Finals, but which two? Your pick is as good as mine, because there isn’t a clear-cut winner. San Antonio, LA and Detroit won eight championships in the last nine years, and Boston finally has a chance of winning their first title since ’86. I understand I’m not telling anything new here, so let’s take a close look at these teams, and especially the positional match-ups.

Boston Celtics vs. Detroit Pistons

Point guard: Billups vs. Rondo. Rondo is fast, athletic, got some nice tricks in his bag, but Billups has been the leader of the Pistons for quite a while now. He’s seen it all, and is basically responsible for every game-clinching shot in the last five years for Detroit. Advantage: Pistons.

Shooting guard: Allen vs. Hamilton. Both great shooters, but one huge difference: Rip averages over 21 ppg in the playoffs, while Ray struggles to score even 13 (on 38%). Allen will have a huge problem defending Hamilton too, because we all know that the masked man keeps running and running until he’s open to receive the pass and taking the shot. As a basketball fan you have to love Ray’s J, but he’s not the best defender out there. And if he’s not scoring, you’ve got a problem. Advantage: Pistons.

Small forward: Pierce vs. Prince. Now this will be a very interesting match-up, because they’re both good at their position, yet extremely different from one another. Prince is a great defender, but nowhere near the scorer that Pierce is. And with Pierce it’s the other way around. Coming off the best game of his life, the Celtics need his points desperately, especially if Ray Allen’s shooting woes continue. Pierce also had some rough games against the Cavs, but he can’t have any letdowns against the Pistons. Tough choice, but here we go. Advantage: Celtics.

Power forward / center: Garnett vs. Wallace: I know, Sheed plays center for the Pistons, and KG is the power forward for Boston, but I think these two will face each other throughout the series. Sheed can shoot 3’s, which is something KG won’t do, but otherwise these two big men have a great range, especially for someone at their position. They match up pretty well, but KG’s 20-25 points are needed, where Wallace will focus only on defense, and let his teammates create scoring opportunities. Advantage: Celtics.

Center / power forward: Perkins vs. McDyess. Assuming McDyess will start, he’s a guy who can play on both sides. Perk is a limited player, but still effective on the defensive end, and makes a bucket or two on an offensive rebound. Advantage: Pistons.

Bench: Detroit’s bench is great. They played a lot during the end of the regular season, which shows Flip Saunders and his starting five that they can relax while being on the bench. Rodney Stuckey did a great job against Orlando filling in for an injured Billups, and with Jason Maxiell you can always count on a couple of rebounds, blocks, and some posterizing jams. The Celtics have proven veterans on their bench in Posey, Brown, Cassell and House. And let’s not forget about the surprising youngster Leon Powe, the do-everything forward who could be a starter on some teams in this League. Advantage: Celtics.

Coaching: Doc Rivers vs. Flip Saunders. Some might say I should go with Flip Saunders, simply because he has more playoff coaching experience than Rivers. I like Flip, but the Pistons are also a team which can implode at any given time (see last years against Cavs). Therefore I think experience might be a bit overrated when it comes to these two coaches, therefore I’ll be a wuss and say: Advantage: none.

What I’d say: I think Detroit will win this, although the Celtics are better matched to the Pistons when it comes to playing style than they were against the Hawks of Cavs. This will be another grind-it-out, low-scoring and hardnosed defense kind of series. But the thing is: the Celtics needed 14 games to beat Atlanta and Cleveland, and haven’t won a single game on the road. It makes you wonder how they will fare in The Palace of Auburn Hills. Luckily for the Celtics they start out in Boston, and Ray Allen can’t keep on shooting like he’s Ray Charles. If he ever finds his shot back, the time is now. Result? Pistons in seven. Unless Boston really shows why they won 66 games, I doubt they can beat Detroit. This would be very disappointing, because when you saw Boston during the regular season, they looked damn-near unbeatable. And who doesn’t want to see a Lakers-Celtics finale? But we might have to settle for a 2004 Finals rematch.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs

Point guard: Fisher vs. Parker. Derek Fisher might be more important to the Lakers than you might think. It was important to have him on the court against Deron Williams in the second round, because of his shots, leadership and also playmaking ability. Fisher always stays cool, and it will be interesting to see if the can somehow contain Tony Parker a little bit. The thing with both of these point guards is that they shoot a high percentage from the floor. Fisher won’t score 25 a game like Parker, but you can’t gamble and leave him open. Defensively, Parker won’t do much for you, but he’s so dangerous with the ball in his hands. Advantage: Spurs.

Shooting guard: Bryant vs. Ginobili. It would make more sense to talk about Bryant-Bowen, but for the sake of argument let’s keep it like this. Manu is a star in his own right, but a bit streakier than Kobe. Ginobili might not be a great one-on-one defender, but he is a damn smart one, because he’s one of the greatest actors in the game. Offensively, there isn’t much he can’t do. If his 3’s are falling too, it will be a long night for the Lakers. Then again, LA has the MVP of the League, an all-defensive first team selection, dangerous on both ends of the floor. And that’s an understatement. Kobe Bryant is hands down the best player in the NBA right now, and had a couple of days to relax his aching body after beating the Jazz in six. Will he get the Lakers back to the Finals? Advantage: Lakers.

Small forward: Radmanovic vs. Bowen. Well, they both can shoot 3’s. And one of them will be chasing Kobe Bryant all day and night, so it’s tough to say who will have the “advantage”, so to speak. When the Radman gets hot, he’s a valuable asset for the Lakers, but the dude is also know for some boneheaded plays. We could call him Vladimir Gump, because you never know what you’re gonna get. Phil Jackson did reward him with a starting role, and I must admit that Radmanovic is a bit more consistent than he used to be, so that’s a good thing. But as far as an impact on the game goes, Bowen is more dangerous. Why? Because he has the knack to make you, the Lakers and the city of Los Angeles hate him. And he embraces that role. Advantage: Spurs.

Power forward: Odom vs. Duncan. The thing I’ve noticed with Lamar Odom is that you have to get him going early on. When he gets a couple of easy buckets in the first few minutes of the game, he stays focused. He’s a tremendously talented player, but sometimes you just don’t see him out there. I’m interested who will get the defensive assignment on Tim Duncan. People can and will tell you how boring he is, be he is so fundamentally sound, he won four rings, and his team is competing for the championship every year, so my bet is that a lot of players want to be boring like good ol’ Timmy. He’s still one of the best, if not the best power forward out there. Advantage: Spurs.

Center: Gasol vs. Oberto. This also could’ve been Gasol vs. Thomas, but who cares? Oberto is very active on the court, does a little bit of everything and is a pretty good passer. Kurt Thomas was acquired in a trade late February, the first thing I thought: “One of the smartest trades this season”. If you saw Game 7 against the Hornets you know why. He had 6 rebounds in only 7 minutes. Sure, doesn’t seem much, does it? But 5 of them were offensive. That’s why you have a Kurt Thomas on your team. Pau will have some trouble playing against them, but what I like about Pau since he’s been on the Lakers, is that he always seems to be in the right place to get the easy basket. He’s very skilled offensively, so you definitely need to put a body on him at all times. Advantage: Lakers.

Bench: Let’s say Thomas comes off the bench for the Spurs, putting him in the game with (Next-Gen Bowen?) Ime Udoka and you’ve got the defensive end covered. And let’s not forget that Udoka is a legitimate threat from the 3-point arc. When Parker goes to the bench, Manu is the point guard with either Finley or Udoka playing alongside him, so with that eight-man rotation you can come a long way. The Lakers bench goes to four, with Vujacic, Farmar, Turiaf and Walton. Cool Hand Luke often replaces Radmanovic, which brings them another playmaker. Walton is not a guy who will give you great stats, but (warning: cliché ahead) he brings all the little things to the game that you can’t measure. A great passer and he can shoot a little. Jordan Farmar had some difficulties against Deron Williams in the second round, and it won’t get any easier for him against Parker or Ginobili. Ronny Turiaf is great. Very enthusiastic, whether he’s in the game or not. And if he is on the floor, he’ll dive after every ball, jumps for every board, and dunks as hard as he can if he gets the chance (on a final note: Trevor Ariza might be back too). But in this case, you have to go with experience and defense. Advantage: Spurs.

Coaching: Phil Jackson vs. Gregg Popovich. If Phil Jackson is one of the best coaches ever, Pop is right up there. Sure, Jackson has won more titles, but Popovich has some experience himself too, right? I’ll choose the easy way out. Advantage: none.

What I’d say: The Spurs sometimes looked lost against the Hornets, but showed who the reigning champs in Game 7 were. They play good D, and have the ability to score with Parker and Manu running out there, and Duncan manning the block. The starting five of the Lakers can all score, so that makes it hard to defend them. I can see them beating the Spurs in seven, but I’m wondering if I’m really objective in making such a statement.

If you actually finished reading this blog, it might be June already, thanks!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

No Breaks Allowed, Part Two

As I explained in Part One, the No Breaks Allowed blogs are a way to let out my random basketball thoughts that I need to share with somebody. Anybody. I should get a dog. Then again, that itself would be a problem, because I strongly dislike dogs. I could go on and talk about dogs for a while, but these aren’t the dog days of the season, we’re in the middle of the playoffs, and a lot of stuff is happening on and off the court. So let’s do this.

-Game 4 between the Spurs-Hornets was memorable. Why? Robert Horry tied one of the greatest players of all time (Kareem) in playoff games played. 237 postseason games, going from Houston to LA to San Antonio. And winning seven championships along the way. He never missed the playoffs throughout his career, which is amazing in itself. Now that’s what you call a great career. 237 playoff games. Wow. That’s almost 3 full seasons of playoff basketball, if that makes sense. And on Tuesday night, Horry will have the new record. Interesting note from Game 4 was that the crowd gave a huge ovation when Big Shot Rob came in; they all love him over there. He immediately got the ball, shot, and it went in. Big Shot indeed.

-If there was a possibility to have a 2-on-2 competition with international NBA players, Turkey-The Netherlands would be embarrassing to watch. Turkoglu-Okur vs. Elson-Gadzuric. Go figure (a friend of mine spoke with Elson weeks before he was traded to Seattle, and all that guy wants to do is get some playing time. It’s not about the money or on which team he plays, he just wants to get some minutes). A lot of Turkish people live in The Netherlands, and I wonder if they even know Hedo and Memo.

-Kobe is the MVP and rightfully so. Not because he was due, but simply because he was the best out there this season. After receiving it he played very well in the Game 2. But I just saw Game 4 and I there was a version of Kobe playing I’m not used to seeing anymore. Forcing it too much, forgetting about his teammates, making wrong decisions late in the game, etc. He definitely made an offensive foul on Kirilenko in OT, yet they called it on AK-47. They men in grey made some very odd calls on both ends of the floor.

-Parker vs. Paul is the most entertaining and spectacular match-up of the playoffs. Lightning speed and impossible layup after impossible layup. A joy to watch.

-Is Boston playing really good defense, is LeBron in a slump, or is Mike Brown simply not a good coach? James is shooting 22% during those first three games, and we have to some credit to the Celtics’ D. However, the 1-on-5 approach usually doesn’t really work well in basketball, but it seems that it’s the only play Brown is running. My opinion on the Cavs is that they have two problems: the team just isn’t good enough to win a championship, and although they went to the Finals with Mike Brown, they will never win that trophy with him.

-Speaking of kings, Peja is playing like he did in Sacramento. He must show more against the Spurs, because he wasn’t a factor in Game 4. But there were times I thought he really would be hampered by injuries for the rest of his career. Nice to see he can still compete at a high level.

-Stop spreading the news. He’s leaving today. He wants to be a part of it: New York, New York. How about Mike D’Antoni? Who expected that? I thought Mark Jackson would be the next coach in NY, with D’Antoni either staying in Phoenix, or heading off to join Kanye, Common and the rest of the Chi. A huge mistake by Reinsdorf and Paxson for letting the Knicks get him.

-David West is only a 6’8 power forward and almost every big man has trouble defending him. If you haven’t seen him play, you wouldn’t believe it. Is there any spot on the floor other than the 3-point line he can’t score from? He will be a star for a long time in this League. It’s nice to be on the Hornets right now. It’s a franchise which can be successful for many years to come with Paul, West, Chandler, Peja, while being coached by Byron Scott.

-There are some readers of this blog who will agree with me on the following: get Paul Silas a coaching job! I know I say it every few blogs or so, but I’m going to keep doing it until a GM wakes up and decides we, the people, are right. Since MJ himself decided to choose Larry Brown over Paul Silas (who openly said he wanted the Charlotte job), rumors are he’s now in the running for the Suns coaching vacancy. I also read names of former Suns players (Eddie Johnson, Vinny Del Negro, amongst others), but to me it would make more sense to have an imposing guy like Silas. You have to deal with the enormous ego of Shaq, and star players like Stoudemire and Nash. Silas, a once ferocious rebounding mad man in his playing days, would be the perfect guy for the job. I hope Kerr thinks the same way.

-One final note: The Warriors are lowballing Baron Davis? They must understand that if he walks, this is the end of a very short era. They finally had some success the last two to three years, and now this? The rest of the West is only getting better, and if they don’t sign Baron to a new contract, it means to me the Warriors organization isn’t committed to winning after all. If they are willing to overpay Don Nelson (yeah I said it), they should at least reach out to their franchise player. After letting Richardson walk (which proved to be a very dumb move), they can’t let Davis go too. I’m watching this very, very closely.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Now that the Hawks have been in humiliated by the Celtics in Game 7 which led to the end of two weird weeks for Atlanta, from the sixteen teams which started the playoffs, only eight are remaining. I wrote a first-round preview, but couldn’t do that for the second round. Why? Because the second round already started on Saturday night, while the Celtics still had to get rid off those pesky Hawks. So instead of writing a preview, let’s take quick look to those eight teams who are gone, but not forgotten.


Atlanta Hawks: They are so inconsistent. Gave the Celtics all they could handle, so that must mean this team is capable of way more than they have shown so far. If young guys start to use their heads slightly more than rely on their athleticism, they will be in the playoffs again next year, and might even win a round. I’m really impressed by Al Horford, and one of the keys to a better season than they had now is Mike Bibby. Because although the Joshes, Marvin and whoever need to think a little bit more, Bibby and backcourt partner Joe Johnson have to lead them in the right direction.

Philadelphia 76’ers: Gave the Pistons some trouble, even when Iggy wasn’t playing well. Dr. Dre Miller is the perfect leader for this team, and still a very, very good point guard. Thaddeus might be Young, and so is Louis Williams but in a couple of years these two might be the stars of the Sixers. Dalembert might be overpaid, but had a good season for them (he and Evans on the boards are a nice combo to have), which leaves us to Iguodala. I have a feeling that this is his Gillette moment. The best a man can get. He’s good, but can he get better, or has he reached the ceiling? The Sixers are a team without true starts, until Iguodala becomes one.

Toronto Raptors: It didn’t surprise me that the Magic won. The Raptors haven’t been playing well for months. The trade rumors are already starting, mentioning New Jersey Net Richard Jefferson going there to provide some help. I think talent isn’t the issue with the Raptors, but as I said many times before, it’s mentality. Maybe Sam Mitchell’s coaching ways aren’t working anymore, or maybe it’s just all between the players’ ears. But they have some great players, who provided some magic of their own against Orlando. They just disappeared.

Washington Wizards: When Arenas is saying that the Wizards might be a better team without him, can be considered a trade request? Last season and this one the Wizards weren’t healthy for the playoffs. I would like to see them make one more run. That’s all I can say about that. I heard some stuff a while ago that Antawn Jamison might not be there next season, but I certainly hope that isn’t the case. He and Caron Butler are just as important as a healthy Arenas. One more run to see what these guys can really do. Mason and Blatche can only get better, and the only thing the Wizards might benefit from is a quality rebounder. And for Deshawn Stevenson to shut up.


Denver Nuggets: This is the only team I don’t know what to say about. Rumors say that Marcus Camby will be traded. Why? Because he was the Defensive Player of the Year one season ago? Who are they trading him for? Good shotblockers are hard to find, so good luck with that. I’m happy for George Karl that he will be back next season, he seems like a good guy. But I wonder how far he can take them. If they do make a change, I hope they take a look at Paul Silas. Other than that, I have no idea what should happen in Denver, besides the fact that they should play some defense. Simple as that.

Dallas Mavericks: Mark Cuban’s got more problems than R. Kelly. What they have in common? They created those problems themselves and can’t keep it on the down low. It’s out in the open, because the trade for Jason Kidd has yet to prove to be a good one. I still believe Kidd can lead the Mavericks to another good regular season, but his quest for a championship will end on a sour note. There is no way in hell Dallas will win a championship with their current roster, and the West will even be better next season. Besides Josh Howard and Brandon Bass, who are the other players on the team who have some improvement left? Besides those two, it’s a team without a future, and part of their future is ballin’ in Jersey.

Phoenix Suns: Same problem as the Mavs, somewhat. They want to win now, but now doesn’t seem to happen, and getting older is. Now what? The window of winning titles is faster than Barbosa can sprint down the court. I believe Nash still has enough in the tank to be a top point guard, but he still can’t defend. Shaq is old, wise, but still old. He’s an asset because the star of the team, Amare Stoudemire, is playing his natural position again, and is more dangerous than ever. But let’s be honest here: there are too many teams who can beat the Suns in the playoffs right now, and they are not only named “Spurs”. Can you imagine the Suns beating the Hornets or Lakers right now? The Jazz? I’m not sure, and what’s also not sure if coach Mike D’Antoni will be back next season. I wonder how this team will respond to another coach.

Houston Rockets: Good team, good players, but a very difficult year lies ahead with teams like the Blazers on the come-up. You can always ask “what if?”, because what if Yao Ming was healthy? I think the Jazz would still have beaten them. Luis Scola should start 82 games next season, they have a decent bench and a great starting five. But will they get past the first round next year? Is it, or isn’t it T-Mac’s fault? Is Adelman the one to blame? And the most important question of this summer will be: how old is Dikembe Mutombo really anyway?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Game on the Line: the Free Throw Line

So last night, Friday, the TV channel I which airs NBA games in my country is not good with scheduling. At least not this weekend. Their official programming listed a Lakers-Nuggets game on Friday, which is impossible since the underachieving squad from Denver is already on vacation, and Kobe is getting ready for to receive his first MVP award. As I said many times earlier, due to the time difference the games over here are in the middle of the night. Whatever time is schedules on as Eastern Time, add six hours to it and now you know at what times I watch games. Anyway, I didn’t know which one of the three possible games they would show. Cavs-Wizards would start at 1 a.m., Celtics-Hawks at 2, and Jazz-Rockets at 3:30. Around midnight I was watching two new episodes of The Simpsons, and I think I feel asleep around 1. About an hour later I woke up hearing chants by the Atlanta (not so) faithful. DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE! I checked out at what my finest moment was in ’07 (buying a wonderful LCD screen. I know, I lead a boring life), and there it was: Hawks-Celtics, and I only missed the first two minutes. I’d like to thank the largest crowd ever assembled in the Philips Arena for waking me up, because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this one.

The Celtics however, did miss this one. Now they have to go on play Game 7 on Sunday, with little chance to rest before they meet LeBron and the rest of the Cavs. Where did it go wrong in this series? Everybody expected this to be over with in 4 or 5. Maybe not everybody (‘Nique, I’m looking at you), but a lot of us fans did. Yet the Hawks are looking like a desperate and overachieving team, who, at least in Game 6, wanted it more than the Celtics. Al Horford is playing so well, the two Joshes, capable of doing so much good, but also so much wrong at the same time, are shining like never before. Joe Johnson is doing what he’s supposed to do in Atlanta: be the leader and star of the team. He sets the tone, and the young guys react on him like a lot of noses during the hay fever season: they are running. And that’s not all: they play like they’re not afraid, and why should they? The Hawks haven’t done shit the last couple of years, and haven’t been in the playoffs since ’99.

Much can be said about Atlanta’s performance last night, but you can’t deny that the Celtics couldn’t hit a shot, at least not from the 3-point range: 4 out of 19 from the arc, with Ray Allen hitting only 1 of 8. The big difference in not only this game, but the whole series is the Hawks’ ability in going to the free throw line. Atlanta went to the charity stripe a blistering 47 times (36 makes), with Boston only getting 25 (hitting 20). Boston also had 10 more fouls than Atlanta, because those young guns keep on driving to the rim. Every Hawks starter had at least 6 free throw attempts. With Boston it was only KG and Powe. The Celtics need to find a way to let them hit outside shots. Bibby is still not hitting much, so the only legitimate outside threat is Joe Johnson.

Game 7 could be a total snooze fest if the Celtics come out and play, and there is no doubt in my mind that this won’t happen. The Celtics won Game 1, 2 and 5 (all at home obviously) with an average of 22.3 points, so with the final game of the season for one of these teams being played in Boston, who do you think would win? Who am I rooting for? Come on now, I need an epic 7-game Lakers-Celtics Finals, what did you expect?