WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
It’s a battle of old school versus new school in the Western Conference Finals as the good ol’ San Antonio Spurs look for a fifth championship while the young Seattle Super Sonics….errr, Oklahoma City Thunder strive to make their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals.
Both teams have only ONE loss between them through the first two rounds of the playoffs, a stat which really boggles the mind. The Thunder swept the Dallas Mavericks before losing just one game to the L.A. Lakers in the second round while the Spurs swept both the Utah Jazz and the L.A. Clippers. The Spurs won the regular season series between the two 2-1.
The Spurs have won 18 straight games dating back to early April, making this a run for the ages if they make it past the Thunder in any number of games.
What makes San Antonio so good? The Spurs run a quick offense with superb ball movement led by point guard Tony Parker who is having the season of his life. with Russell Westbrook running the point, the Thunder are even faster, especially in transition (especially on the fastbreak) and have been successful shooting jumpers from all over the floor. Just as important, OKC is averaging a league-low 10.7 turnovers in the playoffs while often capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes instead.
During the regular season Westbrook, NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant and James Harden were the top scoring trio in the league combining for 68.4 points per game. That is FIERCE. Sure, we’ve watched each guy go through shooting slumps are various points throughout the playoffs, but they were short in duration and clearly, didn’t cost the team wins at the end of the day.
The Spurs aren’t exactly slouches on the other end. He might be on the older side, but Tim Duncan is having an outstanding year. The big man up’d his 28.8 ppg in the regular season to a fierce 32 points even in these playoffs. Duncan also boosts a small hike in rebounding, now averaging 17.6 per game. The guy is 36 years old. Seriously. It’s beyond impressive.
Might OKC’s Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins limit him down low? Yes. The Thunder defense stifled L.A.’s bigs Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol at times, forcing the Lakers to settle for bricks, errrr, jump shots and three-pointers. Luckily for the Spurs, who, along with its own trio of stars (Manu Ginobili being the third), also have legitimate depth as NINE guys on the roster averaged 8.9 points per game during the regular season. Rookie Kawhi Leonard has come up big for the Spurs in these playoffs. San Antonio will need all of the help it can get in dealing with a tough Thunder team.
The Thunder definitely took the tougher road in getting to the Conference Finals while getting nearly the same amount of rest as the Spurs. My heart says the Spurs will win this series because of their experience level and coaching, but my eyes have seen the Thunder and the fury they play with. I see this series going seven games and boy, would it be tough to send San Antonio packing on their own home court. You guys will have to decide your own winner on this one since I can’t!
I hate to say it, but I don’t think the Boston Celtics matter all that much in this series. What I mean by that is the winner of the series depends on which Miami Heat team shows up at the arena. Is it the confused, Bosh-less Heat? The secure, pink-pants-wearing DWade, Bosh-less Heat? The Heat, with Bosh?
Surprisingly, the Celtics won the season series 3-1 against the Heat and even with players out due to injury, looked their best against Miami. The old Big Three definitely get inspired taking on the new Big Three and it shows. The great thing about Boston is the palpable emotion that drips from the pores of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, lifting not only their teammates but firing up the crowd as well, at home or on the road. Aside from the Lakers, no other team enthuses the Celtics the way Miami does.
I would give the playoff edge to the team with a true center, but neither the Celtics or Heat has one, which is pretty interesting considering the value of the position historically. I was looking forward to a Bosh vs. Garnett match up down low, but that is unlikely given Bosh’s abdominal injury.
The season-ending injury to Boston’s Avery Bradley could really hurt the Celtics as he has been integral to Boston’s defense, which has carried the team through the playoffs. Boston is holding teams to a mere 83.9 ppg in the playoffs, good for the best team defense in the postseason. It should be fascinating to watch that defense go up against the ever-potent Heat offense which is averaging 95.5 ppg. The highest score against the Celtics this postseason has been 92 points while the Heat have scored over 100 points in six of 11 games.
What makes the Heat machine run so well? LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. When they are on and feelin it, back up or else! Despite having issues at times, check out the overall playoff performances of these two. James: 29.0ppg, 8.7 rpg, 5.9apg. Wade: 23.8ppg, 4.5rpg, 3.6apg. Of course, various Heat role players step up to the plate each night which is great, although not fabulous for the sake of consistency.
Interestingly, the Celtics Big Three has been offensively inconsistent throughout the playoffs while Rajon Rondo has done most of the heavy lifting averaging 15.0ppg, 12.5apg, 6.4rpg and 2.6 steals. If Miami’s defense heats up and the Big 3 are off the mark offensively, it will make life tough on Rondo. Sure he can sore and be a one man show, but his job is to distribute the ball. Rondo alone can’t beat the Heat.
If Miami plays the way they did closing out the series against Indiana, they’ll beat the Celtics with the youth, speed and strength of LeBron and DWade along with the shot of Mario Chalmers (ok, shots…many shots… should they make it in the net). I say Miami in 7.
If the NBA Playoffs started today, hoops fans would be happy campers! Why? A first-round Heat vs. Knicks match-up alone would be enough to send ratings through the roof and keep the many TV talking heads yapping from here to eternity.
Can you imagine? The Heatles versus Linsanity? Then again, it would be somewhat of a letdown if the most exciting series of the playoffs came in the first round. Either way, it’s a win-win situation, right?
If the NBA playoffs started today, we’d have a familiar cast of characters out East:
8. New York
…and an eclectic and somewhat surprising group in the West:
1. Oklahoma City
2. San Antonio
3. LA Clippers
5. LA Lakers
The teams in playoff contention (at the moment) in the Western Conference aren’t that shocking in and of themselves, it’s their seeding that brings the element of surprise.
Before the Chris Paul trade (umm, the second trade… to LA’s “other” team), who would’ve guessed the “Clippers” and “playoffs” would be words spoken in the same sentence? Sure, the Clippers had potential with a young nucleus of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Gordon and a veteran in Chris Kaman, but still… Donald Sterling’s team would be the type of squad to evoke a statement like “I’ll believe it when I see it” in conversation.
Instead, Chris Paul and the Clippers are only 3.5 games behind the first place Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that has risen to power the old fashioned way; through hard work and experience. This could be the year we finally see ThunderUp in the NBA Finals. Perhaps the youth of the Thunder’s roster gives them an advantage in this shortened season as OKC trails only the Heat and Bulls with a 23-7 record. Could an older, more experienced team catch up to them in the playoffs when everyone has a few days rest between each game? Sure, but Kevin Durant and Co. look pretty good halfway through the season and have been fascinating to watch in the playoffs in the last two years.
Sandwiched between the Thunder and Clippers are the aging San Antonio Spurs who could earn Greg Popovich a second Coach of the Year award (he also won the award in 2003). The Spurs have managed to stay atop the Western Conference without their star guard, Manu Ginobili who has missed 22 of the Spurs’ 31 games with an injury. What the Spurs have done is quite impressive, and as usual, until the playoffs, San Antonio will be largely ignored by many in the mainstream media. The Spurs have never been a flashy team full of typical stars or large personalities, but come playoff time, you’d better hope your favorite team doesn’t have to play them.
The Dallas Mavericks are basically back on track after an ugly start to the season and if they can stay healthy, I think they have a great shot at returning to the NBA finals. The Lakers, Grizzlies, Rockets and Nuggets are all in the hunt, each within two games of the 4-seed Mavs. All of these teams have a legitimate shot at making the post season, but it wouldn’t shock me if Portland, Utah or even Minnesota finds a way to sneak in, knocking a current contender out of the race. With young players like Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams sharing the court, the Timberwolves are easily the most entertaining team to watch on any given night. They remind me of the Thunder a few years ago: they are one or two pieces short of putting the puzzle together. If they can make a personnel move or two, these guys will be ready to shine after another year or so of learning how to play together.
If I had to predict today, who we’ll see in the NBA Finals, I’m going with a rematch (or three-match) of Heat vs. Mavericks, with the possibility of Heat vs. Thunder at a close second.
The Miami Heat are ON FIRE right now. So what if they lose a few games here and there, that doesn’t matter too much. We’ve watched them win with only two of their Big 3 healthy and playing, so barring a catastrophic injury, the Heat can easily survive the wear-and-tear of a typical NBA regular season. Miami leads the league in scoring, field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage. The Heat are third in free throw attempts and somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to defense and rebounding. I think the Heat will roll right through the regular season and will once again have a chance to prove their worth in the NBA Finals. Of course, all the focus will be on LeBron James and whether or not he has the mental fortitude to win it all. From taking the last shot to making bizarre comments in the press, it will once again be the LeBrown Show should the Heat make it back to the Finals. In the words of Bart Scott, CANTWAIT!
The only team I can picture challenging the Heat in the East is Chicago. If Derrick Rose can overcome his back problems in the near future, there is no reason the Bulls shouldn’t make it to the Conference Finals. Chicago is second in the NBA in defense allowing 88.1 points per game (the 76ers and Celtics are tied for first, allowing 87.2 ppg), second in rebounding and ninth in scoring. The Bulls are tied for 15th in free throw attempts (22 per game) which surprises me, and are 25th in terms of free throw makes, capitalizing on only 72 percent of their attempts. The Bulls are a good team, even without the superstar Rose on the court. But can Chicago make it to the Conference Finals without Rose? I don’t think so.
The 76ers, Magic, and Hawks are all within five games of the Heat and Bulls, but none of them excite me all that much. I think Philly is the best of the bunch and would welcome a first round playoff series between them and the Indiana Pacers, which is what we’d get if the playoffs began today.
The Pacers are an interesting team that is flying under most peoples’ radars, including mine. I had forgot that Indiana made the playoffs last season and was reminded of it only when they pulled off an impressive come-from-behind victory over the Lakers at Staples Center back in January. I see the Pacers as a younger, Eastern Conference version of the the Spurs. They won’t razzle-dazzle you, but they’ll find a way to beat your team down for the win. Like last year, I think this group will put up another tough fight in the playoffs with the difference being that I think they’ll pull off a first-round victory this time.
Now we come to the Celtics and the Knicks. The Celtics and Lakers, oddly enough, are in the same boat. Each squad’s Big 3 is no longer good enough on it’s own to propel their teams to victory. It’s sad watching both LA and Boston unable to do what came quite easily over the last few years knowing each team is probably just one player away from being a championship contender this year. For the Lakers, it’s a point guard, for the Celtics, it’s a dominant center. The Celtics are still fun to watch because you never know which team is going to show up each night so there is always an element of mystery when they take the court. As we’ve seen recently, the Celtics seem to take a nose dive after the half-way point in the season when age and health start to take a toll, but come playoff time, the older guys have adequate time to rest between games and get re-energized. As long as Boston makes it into the playoffs, they are in good shape. I’d be shocked if Danny Ainge doesn’t make a move of some sort by the trade deadline so who knows what the Celtics will look like in April.
Because of the NBA lockout, many teams have needed more time than usual to adjust, working out the kinks long into the start of the regular season. This might be the year where the NBA looks more like the NHL, where playoff seeding means virtually nothing as the lower seeds frequently beat the higher seeds in post season play.
The Knicks are a wildcard right now. Jeremy Lin has seemingly taken over the basketball world and we are all in a tizzy over how he has turned the Knicks around overnight. The story is sensational, in both meanings of the word, and hopefully New York can keep the train rolling. When the Knicks are good, it’s good for basketball. Period.
The Knicks are playing well at the moment, but who knows how the chemistry will change once Carmelo Anthony returns. As instrunmental as Lin has been to New York’s success, the addition of JR Smith might prove to be just as important as Smith is already in post season form after playing for several months in China. Plus, it would be helpful for Amare Stoudemire to turn into his old self by upping his shooting percentage.
But back to the “important” stuff… If Mike D’Antoni can figure out a way for Lin and Anthony to coexist, we won’t get a first-round Heat/Knicks match-up because there’s no chance New York will head into the playoffs as the eighth and final seed in the east. If Lin and Anthony can work together, the Knicks will not only make the playoffs for only the second time since 2004, but they could find themselves hosting a first-round series at Madison Square Garden. Wouldn’t that be something?
Friday’s game at Madison Square Garden was not the first time Jeremy Lin and the Lakers had crossed paths.
As an undrafted rookie out of Harvard, Jeremy Lin’s NBA options were limited, to say the least. After playing for the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League team (and playing pretty well) in 2010, Lin’s hometown Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers each made him an offer. Playing for his home team and knowing he would have more of an opportunity to get playing time with the Warriors, Lin signed a two-year deal with Golden State, forgoing a chance to join the reigning NBA champion Lakers.
For a team without a reliable point guard, watching Lin dominate several phases of the game had to be a painful reality check for the Lakers. Lin’s 38-point performance pushed the New York Knicks to a fourth consecutive win, trouncing the Lakers late for a 92-85 victory leaving LA’s coaches, management and fan base asking, “what if?”
Who knows how long the Linsanity will last in New York, but for now, it’s alive and well, boosting the importance of basketball for die-hard and casual fans alike while making a struggling Knicks team relevant once again. In his last four games (the latter three games being his only career starts in the NBA) Lin’s stats are straight silly as he has logged at least 20 points and seven assists per contest. In other words, Lin is EXACTLY the kind of player the Lakers need.
Of course, it’s way too early to proclaim Lin the next Chris Paul or Deron Williams, two of the league’s top point guards who are capable of running the offense while scoring at will, a rare breed indeed. Maybe it’s just a phase or a lucky streak, but after watching Lin play at Harvard while I was a reporter for Comcast SportsNet New England, I believe he is the real deal. He was good then, and he’s damn good now. Lin should help Amare Stoudemire get back on track when he returns to the team (death in the family) but I worry about what Lin’s fate will be once Carmelo Anthony heals from a groin injury and gets back on the court. Lin is not a selfish player who must score, but since he is capable of it, we’ve seen him put the Knicks on his back and carry them across the finish line; something none of the Knicks’ big names have succeeded in doing consistently this season.
The Lakers on the other hand, are offensively challenged, to say the least. LA has two seven-footers in the starting lineup, yet can’t find a way to consistently get the ball in the hands of Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol.
Trading Lamar Odom to the Mavericks and losing Chris Paul when NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed LA’s trade with the Hornets served as a crushing combination, leaving a talented Lakers team depleted on the wing and at the point.
Steve Blake’s play early in the season was a pleasant surprise as the nine-year vet was the only Laker aside from Kobe who seemed to understand the new offense implemented by head coach Mike Brown, a hodgepodge of pick & roll and elements of the triangle offense. Blake was a suitable facilitator and even managed to score some nice baskets, helping the Lakers to a 8-4 record to start the season. After a rib injury sidelined Blake, the Lakers went 6-7 without their starting point guard before going 1-1 (versus the Celtics and Knicks respectively) after his recent return.
With an aging Derek Fisher and a half-healthy Steve Blake, the lakers are left with the green Darius Morris and rookie Andrew Goudelock to fill in at point guard. Shockingly, that isn’t working, thus forcing Kobe to officially do everything at once; score, facilitate, play floor-general, defend the opponent’s best player, cure cancer, end wars, etc. Kobe might be one of the best to ever play the game, but even he can’t win playing 5-on-1 night in and night out in the NBA.
Rumors have swirled about a possible Gasol-for-Rondo trade which would be perfect for the Lakers, but I don’t see what the Celtics would gain by losing their best player for an older power forward. Sure, Jermaine O’Neal isn’t cutting it as a starting center and Gasol can play the five quite well, but I don’t see that getting Boston any closer to a championship this season.
The Lakers could use Rondo or any solid point guard right now to help ease Kobe’s burden. In theory, the Lakers should never need to take a 3-point shot with Kobe, Gasol and Bynum on the floor. A good point guard should be able to get the ball to Kobe and allow him to cut to the basket, at worse, missing the shot but drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. This theoretical point guard knows where his teammates will be and can dump the ball down low, or find a guy with a passing lane in order to get Bynum and Gasol the touches they deserve. Sure, LA would most likely lose Gasol in a trade, but a point guard like Williams, Rondo, or even Lin is a dual threat in terms of scoring and assists, so it’s not as if the loss of a big man would kill the Lakers’ scoring ability (which is already lacking).
Instead of putting the ball in the paint, the Lakers have been forced to play a perimeter game that just isn’t working out. The Lakers are alone in dead last place, shooting a league-low 28 percent from 3-point land, averaging almost 17 long-range attempts per game and making good on only 4.7 of them. That’s ugly. Really ugly. Why would a team with Gasol and Bynum down low, Kobe and a physical Metta World Peace (in theory) need to jack up nearly 17 three-pointers a game? The Lakers offense has not figured out how to get the ball inside, even against poor defensive teams. The Lakers are tied for 20th in the league in scoring, averaging 92.7 points per game and have only hit the 100-point mark twice in their last 10 games.
The Lakers lost out on the Chris Paul sweepstakes. That’s okay. They may not be able to get Deron Williams or Rajon Rondo either, so how about good ol’ Jeremy Lin? He’s progressing at a fast pace, figuring out where his teammates will be and getting them the ball, plus, he is scoring at will. Lin doesn’t have much of an ego and I get the feeling he would be honored to play alongside of Kobe Bryant, thus having no problem giving up the ball. In his explosive performance Friday night, Lin exposed the Lakers biggest weakness; LA’s lack of Jeremy Lin, or a point guard like him.
One third of the way through a truncated NBA season, several teams have already gone into panic mode with fans and some players alike clamoring for trades.
Former power houses like the Lakers and Celtics are struggling to stay afloat while up and coming teams like the Knicks have failed to meet lofty expectations.
Magic center Dwight Howard could be a solution to each of those three team’s problems should he opt for a trade out of Orlando. After getting whooped by the Hornets Friday night (93-67… ya. You read it right), the Magic have lost three of their last four games and their star player is furious. Howard, whose agent has received permission to talk trades with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks, said after the loss to New Orleans, “”I look at guys and they don’t look like they want to play. I told them at halftime, ‘If you don’t want to play, just stay in the locker room, because it don’t make sense for a team who we should beat to just demolish us.’”
OUCH. There was a stretch of a few games where the Magic (12-7) looked on point and many guessed the team would keep Howard in hopes of making one last title run. But now that the seesaw seems to be stuck in the down position, one would guess Howard will find a way out of town.
One team that might want Howard’s services is the New York Knicks (7-13). Amare Stoudemire is only shooting 42 percent from the field, a significant drop from his 53 percent career average. Sure, Amare is scoring over 17 points per game, but his rebounding is dismal, grabbing 8.2 balls per game and blocking less than one shot per game on average. I’m sorry, but when you are 6’11, you should have no less than 10 rebounds per game. When Kris Humphries Kardashian is killing Amare on the boards, there’s a problem. I’m well aware of the fact that perhaps Carmelo Anthony isn’t dropping the ball down low enough, but when he does decide to share, Stoudemire has to make the most of it and shooting under 50 percent won’t get it done. Plus, with $83 million remaining on his contract, Stoudemire is going to be very tough to move.
But would Howard even want to play for the Knicks under Mike D’Antoni? Probably not. The fact that a big guy has yet to really succeed in the D’Antoni run-and-gun system is likely a turn off for Howard, whose agent has not received permission to negotiate with the Knicks (as far as we know). In that case, shouldn’t Howard just go to the Lakers (11-9) like many had originally assumed as early as two years ago?
Before we get ahead of ourselves, lets take a few steps back. I know the season is short, putting pressure on teams to win fast and often, but what if we’re all jumping the gun? Without an organized off-season and a poor excuse of a training camp, it’s only logical that many teams (especially those with new coaches and/or key players) might take longer than normal to get in the swing of things.
I keep seeing Kendrick Perkins in my head with flashing red lights surrounding him, reminding me of what a terrible trade that was for the Celtics (9-9) last year. Yes, that situation is different in the fact that Boston opted to get something in return for Perkins, who the team was not willing to pay top dollar to re-sign after his contract was set to expire. The gamble was that the Celtics, in theory, coming off a game 7 loss in the NBA Finals, were still equipped to make a playoff run with that same roster primarily in tact. Instead, they saved money but lost the heart and defensive presence of their team and fizzled out in the playoffs. I would hate to see any team make the wrong move in haste because of the unique situation caused by the lockout.
Now that we have that spiel out of the way, lets go back to various trade scenarios of this season. I don’t think Dwight Howard is the answer for the Lakers. Yes, he’s a fantastic player, but the majority of the Lakers issues are not down low, but at the guard position. Steve Blake got off to a fantastic start before injuring his ribs, which has the point guard out and missing significant time. The Lakers are more in need of a facilitator than a big man, given that they already have two.
If I am Orlando, I would LOVE a trade with the Lakers. With the choices being to keep Howard this season then let him go, or trade him in return for Andrew Bynum (and another player, draft pick, cash, whatever…) who could become our franchise center, I’m going with the “give something to get something” approach.
Bynum is third in the league in rebounding, he is blocking 1.9 shots per game and averaging 16 points in 21 minutes per game. I have watched every Lakers game this season and Bynum, while playing well, isn’t playing up to his potential. He’s shooting 53 percent from the field, but he has the shot and footwork to be even better. The sixth-year Big has missed several easy, uncontested shots in nearly every game, which in my opinion, is completely mental. He has been through a lot in his career and aside from injuries, I think the only thing stopping him from being an all-out monster is his psyche. Moving out of LA may very well be the key to unlock Bynum’s inner-beast.
Yes, Pau Gasol has been inconsistent since last season but I wouldn’t give up on him just yet either. Had the Lakers original trade with the Hornets been accepted by the league, yes, it would have been worth it to let go of Lamar Odom and Gasol for Chris Paul. That would have worked beautifully in the non-triangle offense under head coach Mike Brown.
As we know, the trade didn’t go through so unless the Magic are willing to throw in Jameer Nelson along with Howard (which will not happen), I say the Lakers stay put and hold out for a guard via trade or find a different way to weather the storm, perhaps utilizing a developing Andrew Goudelock until Blake is healthy and available to help Kobe Bryant run the offense.
Sure, trading Gasol to the Nets (7-13) for Deron Williams sounds like a pretty sweet deal, but with the way Pau is playing at the moment, I don’t see New Jersey making that move. Williams leads the Nets in points and assists so bringing in Gasol isn’t going to replace that level of production. The Nets have some good pieces, but it seems like they each fit different puzzles instead of all coming from the same box.
Then we have the Boston Celtics. Oy Vey.
It’s quite sad watching the once-almighty Big Three get older and suffer loss after loss as the team around them just doesn’t seem to mesh. If Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen each played for different teams, each would probably be the difference-maker that could take his team to new heights. When Jermaine ONeal is your starting center, well, that can’t bode well for your team. O’Neal has already missed a few games and he’s scoring less than six points per game. Garnett is the team’s leading rebounder with a whopping 7.7 per game. 7.7 rebounds a game to lead the team? No bueno.
Word on the street is that Danny Ainge isn’t opposed to trading away any of the Big Three who brought the Celtics a championship in 2008 after a 22-year drought. If he gets a good offer, Ainge must let anyone on that roster go, well, anyone aside from Rajon Rondo who has turned into one of the league’s premiere players in the last few seasons.
As much as fans would hate it, I could see Pau Gasol playing well in Boston and imagining Paul Pierce in is hometown purple and gold isn’t a stretch of the imagination by any means. I think Doc Rivers is the type of coach who can motivate anyone and positively reinforce Gasol in order to squeeze the best game out of him. Although, Garnett might eat Gasol for lunch one day, but theoretically, Rivers could get those two on the same page. Because of injuries to Bynum, Gasol is used to playing center despite being a natural power forward and the Lakers could use Pierce’s versatility. I’m not sure that Bryant and Pierce could play together, but that’s another story.
Will trades go down this season? Yes. Which teams will be involved? I have no idea. Will we see a blockbuster? Probably. I love the trade deadline as the NBA typically has at least one exciting move providing us fans with tons of drama, but I sure hope each team really does its homework before signing the paperwork.
Bearded Beer Drinkers Sitting Between Players On Mavs Bench During NBA Game
These two guys scored the best seats ever, that is if you enjoy the musty stank of a sweaty NBA player.
Check out this video from Tuesday’s game at the Palace between the hosting Detroit Pistons and visiting Dallas Mavericks. Does something seem a bit off to you? The Pistons announcers were perplexed as well when they noticed Zach Galifianakis and Ben Roethlisberger doppelgangers sitting between Vince Carter and Delonte West on the Mavs bench. Not only were these two sitting between players, but they were drinking beer! Awesome.
According to various media outlets, the two dudes in question are Aaron Cohen, a fashion designer from Michigan (Galifianakis) and his buddy Chris Stokes (Big Ben). I’ve read a few blogs claiming that the men were sitting in VIP seats that are technically next to the bench. If that is the case, then why the heck is Carter not sitting next to his teammates?
Either way it’s a pretty funny sight and it must have been a cool experience for the fans. I love how West is completely ignoring the existence of the guys while Carter seems to be somewhat amused by the whole thing.
Not to rain on the parade, but while this makes for a fun story, you would think the Pistons (or whichever team allowed the men to sit between players) would be weary of allowing fans to get that close to players for an extended period of time during a game. Remember Malice in the Palace? True, several fans sit courtside during every NBA game, but sitting between players, especially if you are a fan of the opposing team seems a bit risky.
The world would be a far less entertaining place without Dennis Rodman. The former NBA rebound gobbler is known for pulling stunts and pushing the envelope. From staging a personal sit-in on the court during a game to wearing a wedding dress to promote his book, Rodman has seemingly seen and done it all.
But leave it to the creative mind of the five-time NBA champion to find yet another way to expand his career portfolio.
Rodman is launching a topless women’s basketball team to represent Headquarters Gentlemen’s Club, a New York strip club. The two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year will coach the team, obviously.
“I don’t know too many men that don’t like a good-looking woman running up and down around the court,” Rodman told the New York Post.
HA! Amazing. I guess it’s all good, as long as Rodman doesn’t name his team “Gold Club.”
We can’t give Rodman all of the creative credit for this business venture as he got the idea from former Atlanta Hawk Spud Webb who had helped rival strip club Rick’s Cabaret start a topless team. According to the New York Post:
"[Rodman] launched his team effort after Rick’s Cabaret announced in November that it had formed Rick’s Basketball Association to cheer up forlorn NBA fans during the lockout. Teams popped up in several cities, but the league was disbanded when the lockout ended. Webb is now back at his regular job [running the NBA D-League team, Texas Legends]."
Rodman is such a piece of work, telling the Post, “You don’t have to have too much experience, just know how to throw the ball into the hole.” Rodman says players must be at least 5-foot-10, but no word on whether or not there is a cup size requirement.
Should this team get off the ground, have no fear when the ladies come on to the court clothed. You’ll get your money’s worth. “They’ll come out in a T-shirt or a tank top, but when the game starts, they’ll go topless,” said Rodman.
Thanks to the groups of lawyers representing the NBA and its players, we were given the gift of the professional basketball this Christmas. Opening day of the shortened 2011-2012 NBA season was no throw-away as each of the five games had something to positive offer as well as something to hate on. In the spirit of Christmas, we present the naughty and nice of NBA’s opening day!
The Justin Beiber/NBA Holiday Promos: Was the idea that the Beibs has the power to draw in the under 18 female viewers? Surely, the NBA’s target audience was cringing while being force-fed spoonfuls of the talented teeny-bopper throughout the day.
Rajon Rondo, But In A Good way: The Celtics guard stole the show for me (despite Carmelo Anthony’s performance) as many wondered if preseason trade rumors would distract Rondo and make his already questionable attitude worse. If anything, Rondo did what the best competitors do as he excelled among controversy (real or perceived), picking apart the Knicks defense and dropping 31 points and 13 assists while logging five steals in Madison Square Garden. While the Knicks escaped with a 106-104 win, Rondo’s performance was encouraging for a team playing without the injured Paul Pierce and boasting Jermaine O’Neal as the starting center.
Lamar Odom: Adding insult to the injury of his new team being humiliated by the Heat, Lamar Odom got himself tossed out of his first game playing for the Dallas Mavericks. Coincidently, the ejection was the second in as many games for Khloe’s husband dating back to last season when Odom was ejected in what would be the Lakers final playoff game after being swept by the Mavs in Dallas. This time around, Lamar got tossed because he barked at the referee about a foul call in the third quarter, or as my Mom explained to my Dad, “he sassed the ref.” Looks like L.O.’s track record in American Airlines Center could use a turn-around real soon.
Dallas Mavericks: The reigning NBA Champion Mavericks were god awful in their season debut leaving a sellout crowd disappointed in Dallas as last season’s finals foe, the Miami Heat trounced the home team 105-94. The game was nowhere near as close as the final score with the Heat leading by 35 points midway through the third quarter. We’ll address the Heat in the “nice” section, but the Mavs, while still reigning champs, lost several vital pieces of the title-winning team, such as J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler. The addition of Sixth Man Of The Year Lamar Odom is fantastic, but with Vince Carter and Delonte West also new to the roster, Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki and the gang have a lot of bonding to do in order to find the right team chemistry.
Dwight Howard: The Orlando Magic big man had a less than Super performance on Sunday as the Oklahoma City Thunder held Dwight Howard to only 11 points. Thunder bigs Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed did most of the damage on Howard helping OKC to a 97-89 win. Sure, it was an ugly team effort for the Magic as only three players scored in double figures, but as the leader of your team, trade talks or not, Howard needs to shoot better than 4-12 from the field (he’s 7 feet tall, c’mon now) in 38 minutes. Howard grabbed 15 rebounds, so I’ll give him credit for that, but if nobody on the team can convert rebounds into points, why bother? Meanwhile Kevin Durant balled out, dropping 30 on Orlando in a solid overall team win by the Thunder at home. By the way, if you folks haven’t checked out Kendrick Perkins on Twitter (he recently joined), you are missing out big time. He is one of my favorite athletes I’ve covered as he is sweet, sincere and brutally honest. Follow him on twitter for some good laughs and Perky knowledge bombs at @KendrickPerkins
Drunk Santa Harassing LeBron James: A lovely man dressed as Santa Claus heckled LeBron James with an alcoholic beverage in hand as the Heatles star shot free throws during Miami’s shellacking of the Mavs. Santa, clearly a Dallas homer, shouted to James, “What do you want from Santa? A ring?” I would give this guy props if he had anything original to say to James, but not only was he boring, but his team was getting hammered which makes heckling a bit pointless.
Carmelo Anthony: On a day where the New York Knicks led by 17 points and trailed by 10 in the same game, Carmelo Anthony provided the only real consistency for the home team in MSG. Anthony scored 20 of his 37 points in the second half and sunk two free throws which proved to be the game-winning points for the Knicks. After trying to pull a Sprewell on former teammate Billy Walker after the game, Celtics big man Kevin Garnett told reporters, “They seem to have a little swag and confidence behind them. It’s good for the city. It’s good for the Knicks. I’m going to see how consistent they are with that, but for the most part Carmelo played really well.” When KG shows you love after you beat him, that is saying something.
Los Angeles Clippers Swagger: There was no shortage of confidence among the Clippers starting lineup; Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul took the court at ORACLE Arena in Oakland beaming with pride and a sense of belonging as they faced the Golden State Warriors. While the Clippers performance was far from perfect and the 105-86 win over the Warriors was closer than the score indicates, the Clipps season opener was encouraging as the guys demonstrated noticeable differences from Clippers past. As an L.A. native and long time Clippers fan, I have never seen a Clippers team with this kind of swagger. There was a time when a young run & gun collection of guys like Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson and Lamar Odom got cocky after doubling their win total one year after a 15-win season. Once Blake Griffin took off last season, the Clippers showed more and more confidence with each game they played, but this season, that positive attitude is on a different level. Now watching the Clipp Joint play with legitimate energy and boldness from the opening tip (backed up by their play in the preseason and down the stretch vs. Golden State) until the final buzzer sounds is really refreshing.
Miami Heat: Yes, it was only the first game of the season but it was important for the Heat to get off to a good start this year, especially given the time and place of their 2011-2012 debut. Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra kept his team sequestered as the Mavericks unveiled their championship banner and celebrated last season’s finals win over Miami on the court before the game. It was a small gesture that sent a strong message that their finals failure was in the past and it was time for the uber-talented Heat to start anew. That they did as Miami scored at least 30 points in each of the first three quarters, and at one point, held a 35-point lead en route to smoking the Mavs 105-94. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade scored 37 and 26 points respectively as the Heat finally got the better of the Mavs; at least for one game.
NAUGHTY & NICE
The final minutes of the Bulls/Lakers game played out like a poetic Wagner opera, full of surprise, joy and heartache. My eyes began to water and butterflies took over my stomach after Chicago’s defense forced a turnover resulting in a gorgeous Derrick Rose floater good for a one point Bulls lead with 4.8 seconds to play. The beauty of DRose’s shot coupled with the anticipation of watching perhaps another Kobe Bryant game winning shot was a bit overwhelming for me on Day 1 of the NBA season.
While the home team Lakers started strong despite a torn ligament in Kobe’s shooting wrist as well as being without center Andrew Bynum (who is serving a four game suspension), L.A. let it all slip away in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The Bulls fell flat for a good chunk of the game, seemingly unable to hit air with the basketball or play anything resembling defense. But that all changed when Chicago woke up as Rose went down with 3:34 left to play after the league MVP took a shot to the head, care of teammate Luol Deng’s elbow, as he landed a pretty up & under for two points. Rose hit the deck shortly after, and clutching his head, the Bulls took a timeout to make sure he was okay and had not received a concussion. Rose stayed in the game and from that moment on, Chicago’s offense and defense were synchronized enough to dig them out of an 11-point hole and lead them to a one-point, 88-87 win over LA.
For the Lakers, they have to be pleased with the play of Kobe as well as Pau Gasol, despite the drama surrounding a failed trade that would’ve sent the Spaniard to Houston for Chris Paul. Role players (aka guys you probably didn’t know existed) like Josh McRoberts, Devin Ebanks and Steve Blake were impressive in running Mike Brown’s new offense as well as variations of Phil Jackson’s old triangle. The Lakers defense was also spectacular until the final minutes. It is not encouraging for LA that they had the Bulls down in the dumps and couldn’t keep them there, at home, on opening day, with the Staples Center going crazy.
As for the Bulls, they struggled to shoot and rebound for much of the game, despite having scoring ability and being one of the league’s top rebounding teams last season. The defense was non-existent which was shocking as the Bulls had the top defense in the league last season. Despite a long rough patch in this one, the team managed to turn water into wine, pulling the win out of nowhere. As usual, DRose did his part but Deng was also sensational, playing stellar defense down the stretch and scoring 21 points, second only to Rose’s 22 for the Bulls. I think this young Bulls team started slow and just needed a while to realize the lockout truly is over, for real, and no, they weren’t playing in a charity game or Vegas league contest. The Bulls are incredibly talented and fun to watch, thus I wouldn’t anticipate too many more slow starts like the one we witnessed against the Lakers on Christmas.
The impeccable New York Post is on its “A” Game today. First, the Post tells us about the parting gift Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter allegedly gives to his one night stands ( http://nyp.st/tmeHbE ). Then, the Post followed up by dropping this classic Kardashian-related knowledge bomb.
After hearing of the proposed three-team trade that would’ve sent Lamar Odom from the L.A. Lakers to the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for Chris Paul, the swingman tearfully told Stephen A. Smith that maybe his other job as a reality television star rubbed people the wrong way, perhaps prompting the Lakers to use him as trade bait.
Have no fear Lamar, because your reality TV gig is no problem in Dallas where your new boss is interested in getting a taste of Hollywood!
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle welcomed Odom and his wifey with open arms telling the Dallas Morning News, “Khloe’s my favorite Kardashian. She’s the coolest.”
Carlisle, who has a stiff upper lip on the court, said he would certainly appear on “Khloe & Lamar,” although E! isn’t exactly breaking down his door quite yet.
"I’ve never been one to rule anything out," said Carlisle. "I guess it would be a long shot to be asked."
One would expect this from Mavs owner Mark Cuban, but Carlisle? Really? Who would’ve guessed? A head coach since 2001 with the Pistons, Pacers and now Mavericks, the 52-year-old always seemed like one of the more serious NBA coaches, rarely cracking a smile on the sidelines. Although after winning an NBA Championship and landing Odom after fearing him for the last 7 years in the Purple and Gold, this would be a good time to let loose.
I listened to Jim Rome interview Carlisle on his radio show during the playoffs last season and was surprised at how interesting and entertaining he was. Good thing Carlisle has a sense of humor because surely he’ll need it if he intends to keep up with Khloe and Lamar.
The truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it? In excerpts from Shaquille O’Neal’s autobiography, “Shaq Uncut: My Story,” the Big Diesel plays a game of kiss and tell with his friends and foes from the hoops world through the years.
Deadspin released juicy excerpts about Shaq’s rocky relationship with Kobe Bryant and Pat Riley a few days ago ( http://deadspin.com/5854904/in-new-book-shaq-explains-how-kobes-sexual-assault-charges-destroyed-the-lakers ), and now hoopsworld.com has released the next batch of gossipy goodness from the book which hits stores November 15.
Shaq and writer Jackie MacMullan take you inside the Cleveland Cavaliers film room where things got a bit testy between central characters LeBron James, Delonte West and head coach Mike Brown. Shaq takes aim at James’ inability to bring his ‘A game’ when it matters, the fact that Coach Brown’s rules did not apply to James and that Brown, the new Lakers head coach, might have similar problems with Kobe Bryant.
Read and enjoy, care of hoopsworld.com and the Chicago Tribune:
"Our coach, Mike Brown, was a nice guy, but he had to live on edge because nobody was supposed to be confrontational with LeBron. Nobody wanted him to leave Cleveland, so he was allowed to do whatever he wanted to do.
“I remember one day in a film session LeBron didn’t get back on defense after a missed shot. Mike Brown didn’t say anything about it. He went to the next clip and it was Mo Williams not getting back and Mike was saying, ‘Yo, Mo, we can’t have that. You’ve got to hustle a little more.’ So Delonte West is sitting there and he’s seen enough and he stands up and says, ‘Hold up, now. You can’t be pussyfooting around like that. Everyone has to be accountable for what they do, not just some us.’ Mike Brown said, ‘I know, Delonte. I know.’ Mike knew Delonte was right.
“I’m not sure if Kobe (Bryant) is going to listen to (new Lakers coach) Mike Brown. LeBron never really did.”
O’Neal also addresses James’ failure in the 2011 NBA Finals, comparing it to his infamous disappearing act in the 2010 playoffs against the Boston Celtics:
“There’s no question in Game 5 LeBron was kind of out of it… . I always believed he could turn it on at any moment, but for some reason he didn’t. Not against the Celtics in 2010 and not against the Mavericks in 2011. It was weird. It’s one thing to be a passer, but you are supposed to be the One.
“I’m watching him play against Dallas, and they’re swinging the ball and they get him a perfect open look — and he’s kicking it to Mario Chalmers. Makes no sense. I told people, ‘It’s like Michael Jordan told me. Before you succeed, you must first fail.’ ”
For many years, I felt that LeBron James was crowned The Golden Child, receiving a free pass from the media enabling him to say and do things that other players couldn’t get away with. When James stormed off the court, refusing to shake hands with the Orlando Magic after the Cavs were defeated in the 2009 playoffs, that was the first time I saw any media members publicly criticize James.
Obviously, the flood gates opened with “The Decision” and people finally got to see that not-so-golden side of James. One would think that at his age, after all that Shaq had dealt with through the years, LeBron would be the least of his concerns at that point in his career. Clearly Shaq was still competitive, wanted to win and didn’t appreciate James getting special treatment.
Especially with Jackie MacMullan behind it, this book is a must-read. I’ll put it on the shelf next to my autographed copy of “Shaq Talks Back,” which I waited in line for a few hours to get signed by the big man when I was a teenager. Those were the good old days!