Tag Archives: Kobe Bryant

Happy Holidays

I am sure everyone is busy trying to get loose ends taken care of before the end of the year.  I have all my shopping done – which means my wife completed out shopping – I did buy her gift, all by myself!  And I did a fine job, thank you very much.

I hope you have a good holiday and safe travel as we take time to forget about work and focus on family and friends.  With this “time-off”, there will be plenty of sporting events to watch.  The other day we had  No. 2 Texas beat No. 9 Michigan State and No. 1 Kansas beat a tough California team.

So here are some very Quick Hits before I go into a Christmas Cookie Comma.

Final Four = Two Conferences?

There is a very good chance that in the Final Four, we will have two teams from the Big 12 (Kansas and Texas) and two from the Big Ten (MSU and Purdue).  What is missing?  A team from either coasts, the SEC, Big East or the ACC.

Look at the rankings and tell me other than Kentucky, who looks like a legit team?

  • No. 3 Kentucky – Even though I think they are legit – at this point – the Calapari Crew is a John Wall injury away from getting knocked out in the second round of the NCCAs.

Kentucky Side-Note:  Patrick Patterson needs to buy John Wall a very nice Christmas present for getting him easy buckets, and raising his draft stock.  Patterson is ranked No. 9 on Chard Fords Big Board.

  • No.5 Syracuse and No. 6 West Virginia – I have more faith in the Orangemen than the Mountaineers.  But to be fair, I have not seen much of either team.
  • No. 7 Duke – While Kyle Singler is the pre-season All-American, Jon Scheyer is the most important player in Durham.  And if Scheyer goes down, they only have two guards who can really play in Nolan Smith and freshmen, Andre Dawkins.
  • No. 8 Villanova – Could struggle mightily against teams with height and they also do not have the depth like the other teams.  ‘Nova has only two players over 6’8″ in freshmen Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton.  Both play around 17 minutes a game, but thats against the cupcakes.
  • No. 10 UNC – While this team is loaded with NBA draft picks,  I am not sure which is the “go-to-guy”.  But I am sure that Roy Williams doesn’t know either.  My suggestion – Will Graves needs more touches.

Note To Media – Everything Will Be Fine With The Vikings!

I am so sick of hearing about a schism – or a feud involving Head Coach Brad Childress and Brett Favre.  Did you notice that I did not have to tell you what Favre’s role is, we know it.  Childress…um…not so much.

This happens to every team, but when it is Brett Favre, it becomes front page news.  Granted, when it is Randy Moss or Terrell Owens, it’s pretty much the same.  Isn’t “ego” great.

If there really is an issue, and Childress is talking about Favre and not to Favre, there is an issue and ultimately Childress is biting the hand that has fed him a nice-new contract extension.  But this happens, you hug-it-out and then you move on.  The have won the division and already locked up their playoff spot, and are playing only because the games are on the schedule.

It will be OK, everyone breath.  Have some egg nog and just one more cookie with the Hersey Kiss in the middle.

*If you go to the serach engine on ESPN.com and type in “Brad Childress” – you get 1948 articles/stories/podcast where Childress is mentioned.  Roughly 92.3% is from the last three days.  Seriously ESPN, way to be your own bull @#$! hype machine.

Mini-Hits

Happy Holidays everyone.

2009-10 NBA Preview: Part 2

Here is part of my “preview” for the NBA – only four game into the season.  I decided to highlight about half of the teams after I wanted to do all the teams, but then I remembered I have a life outside of this blog.  I know, crazy right?

What I have put together are my “Points of Interest” – I know, great name – of teams, players, situations, that may be a little under that radar – or not – but are worth giving more attention and will give another layer of intrigue to the NBA.

Shawn MarionDallas Gets All Maverik-y with Marion

The Mavericks have been lacking the old-school Charles Oakley type power forward.  While, Mark Cuban may not have gotten the toughness, they did get Shawn Marion who is a life time 17.8 ppg and 9.9 rpg player.  Marion’s scoring average has gone down since a career high of 21.8 ppg in ’05-’06 in Phoenix, but I would expect Marion to get plenty of east basket from Jason Kidd like Marion did from Steve Nash.

Here is there stating line-up: PG – Kidd, SG – Josh Howard, SF – Shawn Marion, PF – Dirk Nowitzki, and C – Erick Damiper.  And then off the bench you the have Sixth Man of the Year, Jason Terry.  Not too shabby.

The Heat In Miami

Going into the fourth season removed from winning the Championship, the Heat are not as bad as I remember , having won 43 games last season.  But the heat did not add much to the roster, minus the often traded Quentin Richardson, and lost Jamario Moon and traded away Mark Blount.

Dwayne Wade must be tired, seriously!  Not only has he played an average of 37.9 minutes a game and over 38 minutes in four out of the six seasons, he averaged 30.2 last season which was 31% of the points per game.  Wade turns 28 and you have to wonder how much longer his body can perform and continue to endure the beating he gets every game.

Mr. Michael Beasley’s 13.9 ppg and 5.5 rebounds must creep closer to a 15 ppg and 10 rpg average for him to be consider a legit No. 2 option.  And with his recent trip to rehab will only add to already intense lens that will be on his every move.

Daequan Cook is the wild-card for the Heat.  While his scoring average did not increase much – 8.8 to 9.1 ppg –  his shooting improved from behind the three-point line – 33% to 39%.  Along with Cook, the Heat brought Carlos Arroyo over from Orlando and those two will be key in providing scoring and steady guard play off the bench.

Houston, We Have A Problem

The Rockets lost Ron Artest to the Lakers and Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady to injury.  This is a major hit to Houston and it’s attempt to make the playoffs for a fourth straight season.  Those three players totaled 52.4 ppg and 19.5 rpg, and were the three best players in a Rocket uniform.

This season could be a season similar to the Spurs of 1997, when David Robinson was out for the season with back issues.  The Spurs had a 20-62 record and the ended-up with the No. 1 pick, which turned out to be Tim Duncan.

I am not sure there is a Duncan type players in next years draft, but with the Rockets lacking quality veteran leadership, this team will end up with a lottery pick.  This could add some quality next season when Yao will be healthy.

Aaron Brooks, Trevor Ariza and the crew will get plenty of playing time as this team must look past the McGrady era and plan on a rough road this season.

Cleveland RocksLeBron and Shaq

The elephant in the room is  Shaq.  Shaq has won titles as Batman and as Robin, and was committed to his role as Robin to Dwayne Wades Batman.  But is seems that everywhere else (i.e. LA and Phoenix) Shaq still considered himself the headliner.

Well in Cleveland, there all ready is a headliner.  Without question – the Cavs were called “the LeBrons” for crying out loud.  So Shaq buying into his role and his new team should lead to at least one appearance in the Finals.  Cleveland was close without him before running into the Orlando Magic.

Three Other Points of Interest

  1. Delonte West – Apparently wants to play the Antonio Banderas role in Desperado.  Hopefully, that was a onetime deal.
  2. Jemario Moon – Can get easy baskets and guard players that only LeBron could guard before.
  3. Can Mo Williams have another All-Star caliber season?

San Antonio Spurs – Just One More Time

Tim Duncan (19.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg, and 1.7 blocks – 33 years old) + Tony Parker in his prime + Manu Ginoblli (playing time >44 games at 32 years old) + Richard Jefferson (17.7 career scoring average and playoff experience) + better than advertised bench (George Hill, Roger Mason, Matt Booner, Theo Ratliff, Keith Bogans and DeJuan Blair) = at the very least, a trip to the Western Conference Finals.

Chicago Bulls

There are two major questions facing the Chicago Bulls.

  1. Is Derrick Rose able to continue to improve from his performance last season.
  2. Can Luol Deng get back to his ’06-’08 form?

Let’s start with Deng.  After playing 78 and 82 games in the ’05-’07 season, the following two seasons had been cut short to 63 and 49 games.  Deng had a career year in ’06-’07, scoring 18.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg and 2.5 apg and for the Bulls to take the next step, Deng will need to stay healthy (he is the only true SF on the roster).

Now to Mr. Rose.  Rose had a good rookie season and an even better playoff with his epic battle with Bostons Rajon Rondo.  Rose is an amazing athletic, but has room to grow as a basketball player.  In his rookie season, Rose shot 79% from the foul line.  His biggest weakness is his shooting – he shot 22% from deep – that’s sad.  But like I said, he has room to grow.

Minnesota Brand New Roster

Name the three Timberwolves who have been on the Minnesota roster the longest.  I will give you five seconds to think about it.  5…4…3…(quick)…2…1…0.

Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes and Al Jefferson.

Al Jefferson and Kevin Love

Since new GM David Kahn was hired on May 23rd, Kahn has destroyed the roster.  Here is a list of transactions from CBSSports.com.

  • 9/22 Chucky Atkins PG Waived
  • 9/17 Sasha Pavlovic G/F Signed as Free Agent
  • 9/11 Ramon Sessions G Signed as Free Agent, Four-year contract
  • 9/9  Antonio Daniels  PG Traded, Part of three-player deal
  • 8/13 Mark Blount F/C Traded, for Quentin Richardson
  • 8/10 Ryan Hollins F/C Signed as Free Agent
  • 7/27 Chucky Atkins PG Traded, Part of three-player deal
  • 7/27 Damien Wilkins G/F Traded, Part of three-player deal
  • 7/20 Quentin Richardson G/F Traded, Part of four player deal
  • 7/10 Wayne Ellington G Signed as Draft Pick
  • 7/10 Jonny Flynn G Signed as Draft Pick
  • 6/24 Darius Songaila F/C Traded, Part of 6 player deal
  • 6/24 Etan Thomas F/C Traded, Part of 6 player deal
  • 6/24 Oleksiy Pecherov C Traded, Part of 6 player deal

The Timberwolves  have no one on their potential starting line-up that has played in the league longer than 5 years.  If Rammon Sessions starts over Johnny Flynn, you would have Brewer and Session with two years in the league, Kevin Love with one year, Ryan Gomes with four years, and Jefferson with five years.  The player with the most NBA experience – Antonio Daniels with 12 years in the league.

This season may be long and ugly at times, but it is necessary for this team to grow.  They will be a lottery team in next years draft, but if they can keep this core of young talent and add a few more pieces through the draft and free agency, this team should be fighting for the playoffs in 3-4 years.

Take Me To Your Leader

The Warrior’s draft Steph Curry to add even more fire offensive power to a team that is not lacking points, but is lacking leadership.  When the best player on the team demands a trade, that is not a good start to the season.

Golden State seems like a train wreck waiting to happen.  Wait, that is every moment when Stephen Jackson is on your team.

Every single moment.

Don Nelson can reload with players after player who can fill the box score but I am not sure they have any player who can provide more leadership then the rookie star Curry.  That is a sad state of affairs.

Look up and down the roster and try to find a relevant player – other than Speedy Claxton – who has any leadership skills or experience that would make other players look to them for guidance.

Golden State Side Note:  Look for break out years from Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike (who averaged 14.4 ppg last season).

Elton BrandRe-Branding

Do you want to know why the Clippers let Elton Brand go?

After a career high in scoring of 24.7 ppg in 2005-’06, Brands scoring dropped to 20.5 ppg in the following season, to 17.6 ppg in ’07-’08, then to a career low last season with 13.8 ppg and his second lowest in rebounding with 8.8 rpg.

The Clippers were “rewarded” with the Mr. Griffin, but the 76ers are still looking for a return in their investment and get more value in the $14M of Brand contract this season.

The silver lining in this whole ordeal is that the 76ers made the playoffs last season without Brand.   Even with the loss of PG Andre Miller, Philly has talent and a full roster, so managing Brand’s minutes should be easier.

Don’t forget that Thaddeus Young – he is in line for a break out season.  His scoring jumped from 8.8 ppg to 15.4 ppg and his rebounds per game jumped from 4.2 to 5.1.  I am just saying.

Indiana Pacers

Did you that Duke has a campus in Indiana?  With three former Blue Devils on the roster, the Pacers have more than the league quota with Mike Dunleavy, Josh McRoberts and Dahntay Jones.  The also may have the most white players 6’9″ and taller on a single roster in the NBA over with five.

Here we go; Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansbrough, Troy Murphy, Dunleavy and McRoberts.  Travis Diener is only 6’1″.

Oh bye the way, that Danny Granger guy is pretty good.  One must wonder how high the ceiling is for Granger.  Since his rookie year, 2005-’06, he has improved his scoring every year.  From 7.5 ppg his first season, to 25.8ppg last season.  But he has also become a better shooter from distance and the foul line.  Granger shot 23% his rookie to 40% from beyond the arc and 77% from the foul line to 88% in the same time.

The biggest question mark is Mike Dunleavy.  He played in only 18 games last season, missing the time due to a serious knee injury.  And reports have him out because of the same knee  at least the next month.

Side note: Before playing in only 18 games – which was a career low – Dunleavy had averaged 80 games a season.

Laker’s Repeat?

Congrats Laker’s, you won the NBA Championship.  Not only are you going to resign Lamar Odom (aka Mr Khloe Kardashian), but you also get Ron Artest – and all the crazy that comes with this rapper player.

I have no idea why the Lakers brass let Trevor Ariza leave – besides money.  As the player that made crucial plays during the Lakers playoff run, Ariza was the perfect counter part to Kobe.  A defensive hound that makes big plays and can hit the open shot, but did not demand the ball or force bad shots – both are traits that come with Artest.

All that said, you still have Kobe and Pau and one of the deeper benches in the league.  And of course there is the “Zen Master” in Phil Jackson.  But major concern for the 2009-10 Lakers is that is does not turn into the 2003-04 Lakers with Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who lost in the Finals to a better “team” in the Pistons.  But a line-up of Derek Fischer, Kobe, Artest, Odom/Andrew Bynum and Gasol; is the best starting five in the league.

Next Trick, Please

After a playoff run that exceed all expectations, the Orlando Magic thought they had a good thing going.  Well, they did.  But they did not know it was going to Toronto.  After Hedu Turkoglu signed in Canada, the Magic needed to add offense, and since Hedu didn’t really play defense, there was nothing to worry about when trading for Vince Carter.

Even though signing Carter was important, the added value that came with the signings of Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes will give the Magic even more toughness.  Bass will start at PF and will pull down his share of rebounds, while Barnes will come off the bench with Mikael Pietrus to add grit and even more match-up problems.

Having Jameer Nelson back to be the spark plug for the Magic offense.  His skill and scoring ability was missed in the playoffs.  Plus, a pick and roll combo of Nelson and Dwight Howard is more feared than the 2009 playoff model (i.e. Rafer Alston).  Add Carter and Rashard Lewis – my secret favorite player in the NBA – and the Magic is going to be exciting and do have enough talent to make another run deep in the playoffs.

The New Boston Celtics 3.0boston-celtics-big-three

If the Celtics in the championship, everyone will point to the fact the Kevin Garnett is healthy.  But there are more reasons than “The Big Ticket”.  While the Celtics took a hit losing Leon Powe to the Cavs, Boston added much-needed depth.

  • SG: Marguis Daniels
  • PF: Rasheed Wallace
  • C: Sheldon Williams

Also off the bench you have Eddie House at point,  but Daniels can, and will, handle the ball when needed.  Tony Allen and Glen Davis are young players, but have played in big games.  And Bill Walker adds athleticism and a spark that no one else on this team can.

While Wallace is the biggest name that the team picked-up, there were other players who may prove to be more important to the teams overall success.

Is Toronto Turning Into Phoenix Lite?

Well, look at the line-up.

  • PG: Jose Caldoron
  • SG: Marco Belinelli
  • SF: Hedu Trukoglu
  • PF: Chris Bosh
  • C: Andrew Bargnani

Not only is the line-up very offensive minded, it is very European – which would lead to a more offensive game.  But this team will be able to give you multiple looks that will keep opponents are their heels.  You have Turkoglu and Bosh who can score from the post, but every single player can run and shoot a solid jumper.  Bargnani had the best percentage from 3-point range with 40.9% – he attempted 209 last season.

The Raptors also have some talent off the bench in DeMar DeRozan, Jarrett Jack and a few players who can give the team a lift: Sonny Weems, Quincy Douby, and Amir Johnson.

This team is young, but should fun to watch and could give some of the big boys with match-up issues.

Rose City

How quickly we have forgotten the “Jail Blazers” and now this team is the favorite young team that everyone expects to break through and make a run deep in the playoffs and shock a contender.  Baby steps.

This team is stacked with talent, but I am not sure of what kind of playing time is going to be available for some players. Example: Point Guard – Steve Blake is the starter, Andre Miller is the back-up and Jerrod Bayless is the star in waiting at third string.  Just take a look at the project depth chart from ESPN.com.

POS STARTER 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Point Guard Steve Blake Andre Miller Jerryd Bayless    
Shooting Guard Brandon Roy Rudy Fernandez      
Small Forward Nicolas Batum Travis Outlaw Martell Webster    
Power Forward LaMarcus Aldridge Juwan Howard Dante Cunningham Jeff Pendergraph  
Center Greg Oden Joel Przybilla    

I guess that is a great problem to have.  Finding time for so many good players – and Juwan Howard.  I want to see Greg Oden turn into a force, but this team is lead by Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, and has some many players that some of the pieces are interchangeable, especially at center and small forward.

Side-Note: Brandon Roy is the 7th highest paid player on the roster behind: Oden, Przybilla, Aldrige, Blake, Miller, and Martell “I am the third string small forward” Webster.  That will not last past this season!

Atlanta = Joe JohnsonAtlanta Hawks

Let me first state that this team has talent.  But without Joe Johnson, the Hawks would not sniff a playoff berth.

While Johnson does not get the marquee billing that certain superstars get, his production is defiantly worthy of being mentioned in the class of LeBron, Kobe, D-Wade, etc.

His scoring averaged dipped, mostly due to other Hawks stepping-up, but his stat for last seasons: 21.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.1 steals a game.  Johnson also shot 44% from the floor, 33% from distance and 83% from the foul line.  He also played 39.5 minutes a game.  Johnson is skilled, tough, and can perform in the clutch.  He has also proved durable as player – playing an average of 78 games a season.

For the Hawks to improve and go further in the playoffs,  Josh Smith must show that he is reliable option.  Smith’s scoring has decreased over the last three season, but his shooting has gone up – from 44% to 49%.  But Smith’s free-throw percentage gone down faster that the Titanic.  After floating in the 69% to 72% range in his first four-year, last season it sank to 59% – and I am rounding up.  Smith is a crazy athlete who adds another dimension to the Hawks, but he can not yet be trusted at end of games.

   

NBA Finals Preview: Lakers Vs. Magic

More so than the regular season, the playoffs are all about match-ups and how you take advantage of those situations.  The Orlando Magic have taken this idea to a whole new level and ridden it all the way to the NBA Finals.

As the Magic finished off the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, it only seems natural to look at the Finals and the match-ups that will make or break a teams chance at winning a title.

Point Guard: Laker’s Derek Fischer Vs. Magic’s Rafer AlstonRafer Alston

I will ignore the fact the Hedo Turkoglu handles the ball about 70% of the time, especially after opponents made baskets.

The winner of this match-up will be determined by who shots better and turns the ball over less.

Fischer is most effective as a spot-up shooter, but his shooting numbers late in the season and in the playoffs have been pretty poor.  He has averaged 26.3 minutes a game has shot 12-for-51 from distance (23.5%) and 35-for-118 from the field for 35.6% for a total of 7.1 points a game.

Alston has been scoring more, 12.7 ppg in the playoffs, but is also more prone to turnovers, 1.78 a game.  But his role is very similar to Fischer: “hit open shots”.

Alston is winning the ultimate PG stat assist per game: 4.4 to Fischer’s 2.4.

Advantage: Alston – In the playoffs, Fischer has scored in the double figures, five, in as many games as Alston has not. (Excluding game 5 of the Celtics series when he was suspend.)Kobe Bryant

Shooting Guard: Laker’s Kobe Bryant Vs. Magic’s Courtney Lee

Look for a continuation of a Lee – Mickael Pietrus combo, but Bryant still tops their scoring totals 26.8 to 19.2.  Pietrus has taken on the Brice Bowen role for the Magic as the defensive specialist and guy in the corner hitting threes.  Lee has a nice mid-range jumper and is more of a slasher then Pietrus.  And Kobe is Kobe.

Both Lee (6’5″  and 200 lbs) and Pietrus (6’6″ and 215 lbs) physically match-up well with Bryant (6’6″ and 205), but you are talking about Kobe.

Advantage: Kobe – It’s Kobe.

Small Forward: Laker’s Trevor Arzia Vs. Hedo Turkoglu

hedo-turkogluArzia is long enough and athletic enough to match-up and stay with Turkoglu.  Turkoglu has issues with players that are quicker than he is, not bigger.  But Ariza has size (6’8′) and speed to stay with Turkaglu from the perimeter to the post.

Turkoglu has been inconsistent with his shooting in the playoffs, but he always is willing and able in the clutch.  His scoring is down to 15.2 ppg from 16.8, but his assists are slightly higher and in Orlando’s closet games, the Magic look to Turkaglu to make their offense go.

Arzia is definitely not the first, second, or third option on offense for the Laker’s, but he is averaging 11.4 ppg while shooting 50% from behind the arc.

Even though this match-up will be close, I think Turkoglu will find ways to get his numbers and be the go-to guy in the forth quarter.

Advantage: Turkoglu – To many ways to score.

Power Forward: Laker’s Pau Gaso and Lamar Odom Vs. Magic’s Rashard LewisLamar Odom

Much like the shooting guard situation with the Magic, Lamar Odom very well could start at the four spot and then Gasol would move to the five spot.

Lewis is Orlando’s forgotten man, but the Magic would be forgotten without him.  He has caught fire in the playoffs – 19.4 ppg, 40% shooting from deep and 44% total shooting) and has the best offensive low-post game on the team.

The issue with Lewis is that he is a match-up problem for 99% percent of the teams in the league, the Laker’s are in the 1% and Laker’s coach Phil Jackson has no problem flipping starting line-ups if he feels it betters his team, and while I am not convinced Gasol can or will guard Dwight Howard, he cannot guard Lewis.  But Odom can.

Odom is Lewis, just a couple years older and not as consistent of a shooter.  Odom does have a low post game that is hard to stop and he is a lefty, which is always tricky.  Odom is a better rebounder than Lewis (9.5 rpg vs. Lewis’ 6.1 rpg) and Odom, when on and busting his butt, is the deference on this team.

This match-up comes down to Odom deciding how hard he wants to play.  While Lewis has scored 14 or more points in every playoff game, Odom has only done it six times.  But the Laker’s are 5-1 in those six games.  So if Odom plays like this is his last chance at a title, the match-up goes to the Laker’s, but I am not sure he will.

Advantage: Odom – when he plays well, the Lakers win.

Center: Laker’s Pau Gasol Vs. Magic’s Dwight HowardDwight Howard

Can anyone say polar opposites?  Gasol is finesse and Howard is strength.  Gasol is crafty while Howard is a better athlete.  Gasol can hit from 17 feet, Howard will hit you with an elbow – and then get suspended for it.  Gasol is soft on defense, and Howard is the Defensive Player of the Year.

Howard average 5.33 fouls a game against the Cav’s (we’ll call that the LeBron Effect), and fouled out in half of the last six games.  Howard will be able to keep his counterpart in check mostly by holding his ground, but he can get into foul trouble when flying to the rescue when helping on weak defense.

While Gasol is never considered the defensive power that Howard is, it is interesting that in the playoffs, Gasol is averaging 2 blocks a game and Howard 2.2, but Howard out-rebounds Gasol 15.4 to 11.3.

Gasol has been tougher in the Laker’s last two games, but he will get out worked and physically out matched against Howard.

Advantage: Magic – Gasol can’t stop Howard, but Gasol will be productive and make Howard guard him.

Bench

Both teams have a few players that come in to change the game.  For Orlando it is Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, and Anthony Johnson with Pietrus as the only bench player contributing offensively and getting meaningful minutes (25.3 a game).  The Magic have shorten their bench up in the playoffs unless their is foul trouble, then we may see Tony Battie.

Gortat has been a nice surprise and has stepped-up when Howard gets in foul trouble.  In the game Howard was suspended, Gortait played 40 minutes, grabbed 15 boards and had 11 points.  Jameer Nelson could be a nice spark – he has been a Laker killer this season – or he could also mess up the chemistry the team has found in the playoffs.

The Lakers are deeper than the Magic and typically run with Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmer and Sasha Vujacic.  They also have Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga to bang with Howard and give up their twelve fouls.

Odom should start, so Bynum will come of the bench and add height, skill, and muscle and is the best match-up for the Lakers to play Howard straight up.

Brown has jumped over Farmer as the first guard off the bench and provides a spark of the bench.  Brown is a much better than he was in college, but still has the hops to throw it down.  He is also shooting 44% from the floor and 48% from behind the arc.

Jackson has always relied on his bench, we saw it with in Chicago and he continues to rely on them in crucial moments in the game.

Advantage: Laker’s – too much talent.

Coaching – Laker’s Phil Jackson Vs. Magic’s Stan Van GundyPhil Jackson

Not sure how you can argue against Jackson, so I will not – there is not much argument.  Van Gundy is underrated, but not that underrated.  Jackson has nine rings.

Advantage: Laker’s – he needs one more ring to cover all his fingers.

Grand Total: – Laker’s – 4 and Magic – 3

This series will be a battle, and it always comes down to match-ups.  The game changing match-up is Odom Vs. Lewis.  Both are going to be tough guards for the other, but Odom has been the unreliable.

The Laker’s should win, but the Magic have been proving all the critics wrong.  So I am picking the Magic in six games.

Quick Hits 5/21/09

Sometimes those things called “responsibilities” get in the way of blogging and watching games.  Stupid work and parenting…just kidding, so don’t call social services.    But I still have opinions about things that have happened in the sports world.

Draft Lottery

I believe in Karma – the idea that good will come to those who do good and bad to those who do bad.  But the Clippers getting the number one pick in the draft is not very Karma-like and it drives me nuts.  Even the Timberwolves couldn’t the first pick, Blake Griffin, then I was hoping Oklahoma City would.  Like LeBron to Cleavland, this would be another example of the hometown hero playing for the local NBA team – even if it is hasn’t been in Oklahoma as long as Griffin has been a Sooner.

Now that the lottery is over, Matthew and I are going to a break of the picks the teams will makes and the picks they should make.

The T’Wolves have a new GM and I hope he is able to make the right pick, which is the freshmen out of USC – JUST LIKE LAST YEAR.  DeMar DeRozan is everything the T’Wolves don’t have: an athletic, tall, slasher that is atheltic enough to make plays until his basketball skills catch-up.

It will be an interesting draft, becuase don’t the Clippers to keep the pick.  But I do expect them them to mess it up.

NBA Playoffs

EAST

I was impressed the Magic’s last three games.  But I do not expect them to beat the Cavs.  the LeBrons were just a little sleepy from the time off.  I did say before the end of the Celtics/Magic series that I though the Magic would give the Cavs a better series than the Celtics – I also did not want to see anymore shots of KG on the bench.

The Cavs get so scared in late game situations.  They get out of the way of the King and wait for him to create.  That is tough when you have a good defensive team like Magic.  When the ball sits in LeBrons hands too long, it doesn’t work.  The ball has to move and make the defense shift to get shooters open.  But the high pick and roll did not work last night and LeBron held the ball for 18 seconds and the defense knows what he is going straight to the rim and then kick out to the open shooters.

WEST

Chauncey Billups makes the Nuggets less hateable, so I guess I am routing for Denver in the West.  I thought Carmelo Anthony was amazing the first game.  He battled Kobe and it was a great match-up.  The question is if Carmelo can keep that level of intesity.

Each series could get flipped on it’s ear with one game.  But the NBA title will come down to Kobe vs. LeBron and battle of the benches.

Very Quick Hits

  • The MN Twins beat the Chicago White Soxs 20-1,scoring more points than the MN Vikings did in most games.  Joe Mauer has 8 homeruns this season after missing the first 30 games.
  • Kevin McHale is expected to step down as head coach of the T’wolves.  I think he is a better coach then GM, but it took seven losing seasons to get him out o f the front office.  So, who knows what will happen.
  • Greg Paulus is heading to Syracuse and will be competing for the starting QB spot.  Probably will get more playing time than he did at Duke this season.
  • What the hell happened to David Ortiz?  I think we all know, but we just don’t want to talk about the big-ripped, muscular, steroid using elephant in the room.
  • The No. 1 player on some lists, signed with Kentucky.  I think Kansas and Kentucky will be locks for the Final Four.

Good Year to be an NBA Fan

You have to love how the sports seasons align.  It really is brilliant.  Just when the NFL season ends, college basketball gets good.  Just when the Final Four ends, baseball starts and the NBA Playoffs are just around the riverbend.

For those who have not been paying attention, this has been a good year to be ankobe_lebron NBA fan.  A few reasons:

1.  Kobe vs. Lebron

David Stern must be loving life right now with these two guys playing in his league.  The two best players in the world happen to be playing on the two best teams in the league.  They both have charasmatic personalities and, by the time they’re both done, they will have established themselves as 2 of the top-10 players of all-time.  Yes, I just said that.

2.  Lakers vs. Celtics

Everybody likes history.  Having these two teams once again part of the league’s elite has been fun to watch.  The only thing better than seeing these two teams clash again in the Finals would be seeing Kobe vs. Lebron in the Finals.

3.  A Lot of Fun-to-Watch Talentroy

Dwight Howard is a physical freak.  Chris Paul brings the playground to the NBA and does it well.  Dwayne Wade is an absolute stud (in the class of Kobe and Lebron, but his team keeps him out of the #1 discussion above).  Chauncey Billups is reminding people that he is really good at basketball regardless of the team he’s onBrandon Roy is the new guy in town, and is making me more resentful of Kevin McHale with each game he plays (the T-Wolves drafted him and then traded him).

4.  The Spurs Aren’t Favorites 

I’ll be the first to say that I appreciate how the Spurs play.  The Big Fundamental is consistently underappreciated.  But I’ll also be the first to say that they are boring.  Effective?  Extremely.  Entertaining?  No.  They’ll make the playoffs, but now that Manu Ginobli is gone for the season, they won’t get far.  That leaves room for more fan-friendly teams like the Blazers and Jazz and…everybody else.

5.  The East is Back    

The Eastern Conference has basically been the JV version of the West since Michael Jordan retired (from the Bulls).  But now the East is home to 3 of the top 4 teams in the league with the Cavs, Celtics, and Magic leading the way.  Not to mention, the Atlanta Hawks play a pretty fun brand of team basketball, and Dwayne Wade always makes the Heat a dangerous squad.  

Lesson for today:  watch the NBA Playoffs this year.  You will not be disappointed.

Wade’s Pace

Every good player that has any kind of jumping ability gets compared to Michael Jordan.  It happened to Kobe, to LeBron, to Wade.  Aspects for their games can be directly pointed to Jordan, but is more about influence, then imitation.

Just like the way Stevie Wonder as one of the main influences in today’s music.

Aside from the fact that they are three of the best players in the league, you can also see Jordan in Kobe’s killer instinct.  You see Jordan in LeBron’s ability to will his team to a victory.  And you see Jordan in Wade’s pace.  Not quickness, but his ability to get exactly what he needs without ever looking like he is pressing.

Kobe and LeBron – more LeBron – have moments when they are pressing so hard to make a play, that they end up in bad situations and then have to rely on their athletic gift’s to make up for the poor decision making.

But Wade always looks like he is taking a leisurely Sunday afternoon walk.  Not in a hurry to  do anything, but able to get what ever he wants on the floor. I have yet to see a defender predict Wade’s next move.

Random Thoughts in the Middle of Relaxation

As I sit in my “Spa Renewal Suite” with my wife – a gift from a friend – I am watching the Lakers and Hornets on the Sports Leader.

The Lakers start Kobe and Fisher in the back court and Odom, Walton, and Gasol up front.  Then off the bench they have Trevor Ariza, that point guard from UCLA who’s name I can’t remember, and that shooting guard who annoys the crap out of me and who’s name I can’t spell. And I am sure I forgot someone.  This is the deepest team in the NBA.Kobe Bryant

I know that Boston and Cleveland are strong in the east, but the Laker’s roster with the triangle offense add a little spice from the Zen Master – you are looking at a team that just plays so well together.

And when the team struggles, you have Kobe to carry the team on his back.

If you watch the Lakers enough, you will notice that Jackson changes the offensive strategy when the second unit is on the floor.  While the first unit sticks to the triangle and then runs when it is available, the second unit pushes the pace from the word go.

You have to give Jackson credit for allowing the skills of those to dictate the play unlike most coaches who do the opposite.

The Lakers will win the game, but I love to watch Chris Paul play.  You can add Paul to the short list of young players who you would build a franchise around (along with LeBron, Dwight Howard, and Deron Williams).