The NBA Conference Finals are usually a good time. Two expected heavyweights and two upsets in the NBA’s final four should continue that trend. Even better, without the Cleveland LeBronaliers, we’ll be dealt with four complete teams not running a “stand by and watch that guy” offense. Ok, maybe 3½ depending on how Kobe feels. We’ll see …
Eastern Conference (4) Boston Celtics vs. (2) Orlando Magic
Favorite player: Jameer Nelson. He’s a kid from Philadelphia and I still haven’t gotten over how amazing he was for St. Josephs in 2004. More importantly, it’s been good to see him redeem himself for his disastrous performance in the NBA Finals last year. Nelson was hurt and shouldn’t have played anyway, but when he did it was hard to see. He won’t be the best point guard in the series, but unlike his counterpart, Nelson can hit a jump shot.
Rooting for: Honestly, I haven’t decided yet. Heading into the Eastern Conference playoffs, I was rooting for Dwayne Wade while he was around (5 games only) and then hoping to change my allegiance to the Magic. However, the second game of the Boston / Cleveland series changed my plan. In the second half of that game, I tweeted: “About to jump on the Celtics bandwagon for this series. The Cavs are whiners, Ray Allen and Rondo are disgusting, and KG’s faces are priceless.” I’m 50/50 at this point and could easily support either team. It will probably come down to a team or player doing something I don’t like and pushing my support to the other side. Until then, I’m rooting for Tiger Woods to show up to a game in Orlando and Glen “Big Baby” Davis stomp on him like he did that kid in the conference semifinal last year.
What / who will be the difference: Orlando is much deeper than Boston, and Boston really can’t match Dwight Howard (who can?). Although, if they can get Howard into foul trouble (an easy thing to do), that will certainly limit the advantage he provides. Plus, the Celtics will need another monster series from Rajon Rondo and they will need much, much more from Paul Pierce than they got in the semifinals against Cleveland. Another important note is that the Magic have yet to lose in the 2010 playoffs. I think this has more to do with their opponents, but either way, it will be interesting to see how they respond when they are actually tested for the first time in the playoffs. Regardless, it’s the Orlando series to lose. I’m just thankful that Anderson Varejo no longer has to miss runners and Mo Williams no longer has to go to MIA in the second half.
Be unable: The ESPN team of Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen is fantastic. You can argue that they are annoying, but I love them. As a group, they are highly entertaining, exciting, and brutally honest. * The shipowner showdown will also be fun. As I mentioned, I love Jameer Nelson, but seeing Rajon Rondo is a real treat. His speed is practically impossible to defend and his gaming IQ translates into success. However, I still laugh when the defense gives Rondo 15 feet wide knowing he won’t take them because he’s an unsatisfactory shooter. If Rondo ever gets a consistent jump shot, watch out. * The battle in the center will also be close … although not in the sense of basketball. Both Dwight Howard of the Magic and Kendrick Perkins of the Celtics are two of the biggest whiners you’ll find in the NBA. Fortunately, there will be a box of tissues on the court in case any of the players lose control. * And finally, the faces of Kevin Garnett. Many people hate them and think they are obnoxious. Garnett is obnoxious, but I love his “I’m clinically crazy” faces and the intensity he brings to the game. Talk trash, enthusiasm, leadership; Garnett brings it all. What’s not to like?
Prediction: Magic in 6. Why? I do not know.
Western Conference (3) Phoenix Suns vs. (1) Los Angeles Lakers
Favorite player: Adam Morrison. Morrison is the most underrated player in the league. He is the purest shooter, the bravest defender and has the heart of a champion. If I had to pick a place … just kidding. That was fun, wasn’t it? I don’t really have a favorite player in this series. If I had to choose, I would go with Nash for his toughness. He’s also a phenomenal (and underrated) shooter, a great leader, and an incredible point guard. I’d probably like it better if I didn’t send the Spurs home. By the way, if Nash offered to shake my hand when leaving the court after a game, I would respectfully decline. How many times do you have your hands on the ball, on another player, on the ground or in your hair before elegantly licking your fingers before a free kick? There is no way I’m touching her hands. No way.
Rooting for: You are more likely to look for a sequel to Doubt than any of these teams. I despise the Lakers for three reasons. 1. Phil Jackson, I can’t stand it. 2. Pau Gasol, I can’t stand it. 3. Phil Jackson: I REALLY can’t take it. I guess with that being said, I’ll be backing the Phoenix Suns. While supporting Phoenix won’t be pleasant, it would be nice if Grant Hill and Nash make it to the final. Although seeing Amare Stoudemire and Jared Dudley (whom I have not liked since their days at Boston College) will be difficult to accept. I will also spend a little energy supporting Kobe. He’s top-notch, but so was Jordan, and it’s hard not to admire his will to win. If LeBron had half of Kobe’s will, the Cavs would still be around.
What / who will be the difference: Andrew Bynum and Gasol will make life very difficult for the Suns. His size and low power should control the pace of the game and limit the Suns’ counterattack opportunities. If Bynum and Gasol are effective, Phoenix will need to shoot a high percentage and limit his turnovers just to stay. While the Spurs lacked a superior defender, the Lakers have Ron Artest and, if necessary, Kobe. Also, Phoenix won’t get as many second chances as he did in his previous series because of LA’s size, so again, it’s important that they’re shooting above 50%. As in the East final, this series is the one the Lakers will lose. To move forward, Phoenix must find a way to trick Kobe into making too many shots and ignoring the obvious Los Angeles advantage.
Be unable: TNT’s pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage is infinitely better than ESPN’s because Charles, Kenny, and CWebb make you feel like you’re hanging out with your friends. Listening to Doug Collins during the game is fun too. It’s like when your dad talks at the dinner table, everyone stops to listen. I love Doug Collins. I secretly wish he was my second grandfather. * To protect my television and yours as well, I already wrote to the NBA requesting that they limit the airtime given Adam Morrison’s mustache. I’m not sure what look she’s going for, but “creepy pedophile boy” is the one that comes to mind. Or the Sydney Crosby look, whichever you prefer. * Channing Frye will certainly shoot less than 30% from beyond the arc in this series for two reasons. 1. He shot 54% to knock out the Spurs. AND 2. I chose him for our playoff competition. * Last but not least, good old Jack Nicholson. I don’t understand why the referees take away the pain. There must be an agreement with the league or something. If he was any other fan, he would have already been kicked out a trillion times. I am a devoted Sixers fan and in love with Spurs, but I will blindly follow any coach who draws an entry play right in front of Jack where the ball is on the court and then immediately throw it back inside the court. court, only the ducks that are inside the court. and the ball sails into Jack’s face. Not too much to ask, is it?
Prediction: Lakers at 7. While the Suns have an aura about them, I don’t think that’s enough, so picking LA at 7 makes me seem like I know what I’m talking about.
As we all know, LeBron once again made an early postseason exit to Alexander Ovechkin. Most of the writers I’ve read have covered all the important points of LeBron’s latest failure. I agree with almost all of them, too, especially the ones who detailed LeBron’s nonchalant behavior when his season and tenure at Cleveland caught fire. Since I have no original thoughts on the subject, I thought I would rejoice and share this little article that I wrote in March for a gentleman who wanted my opinion on LeBron James’ chances of winning the title in 2010. I missed the Celtics part, but I think he was right about the Cavaliers …
Although we continue to ignore the truth, the seventh year of the LeBron James experience will end similarly to its predecessors. It is also difficult to argue otherwise. Yes, LeBron James is the most talented player in the NBA. Unfortunately, he is also the only player featured on their list. We’ve seen this script before: incredibly talented superstar surrounded by average contributors. While it can be an enjoyable regular season, the ending is anticlimactic, predictable, and downright boring.
Although a repeat finale is imminent, the mainstream media will undoubtedly spend the next several weeks convincing you and me that James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have enough to claim the title. Do not listen. As good as he is, James doesn’t have the firepower to beat the depth of his competitors. Shaquille O’Neal hasn’t been relevant in four years. Antawn Jamison came to town a year too late. Even Mo Williams and Delonte West are fighting. Just to get out of the East, the Cavs will need to beat the Orlando Magic and maybe even the Boston Celtics.
James can handle the decrepit Celtics, but Orlando’s depth can derail Cleveland’s championship train. Plus, even advancing past the conference finals would even James against one of the great hitters in the Western Conference. Mate. There are too many obstacles to overcome. LeBron’s teammates won’t be up to the challenge.
Great players lead teams to championships, but rarely do they fully. Kobe Bryant had Pau Gasol. Paul Pierce had Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Even the great Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. LeBron is alone. That’s not going to change, at least not in time for the 2010 playoffs. “