Chicago's series with Miami was short and dominant. They cleaned up the Heat, who looked really helpless against the Bulls. I figured Shaq's half-season-off would translate into a rested and potent big man, but he looked more fat and old than anything. That's a huge cap noose the Heat fans have to endure.
I do not expect this series to be easy for either team. Both Chicago and Detroit are legit Finals contenders, regardless of the outcome of this series. Detroit, however, appears to be the most balanced team on offense and defense from the Eastern Conference.
I watched every second of Pistons playoff action, to date. The Pistons surprised me with their Game 1 performance against the Bulls. Game 1 was probably the best game, overall, that Detroit's played all year. Pistons fans were wondering when this was going to happen, since the Orlando series featured a Detroit team that mostly slept-walk their way to a win.
The Pistons energy, so craved by fans, was there. The off-ball movement was there. The passes were crisp, and the turnovers were low enough. The defense was active and aggressive. Jason Maxiell put together a mini-highlight reel off the bench. If you were a Pistons fan, that was something else . . . something else that was great to watch.
The Suns / Spurs Western Semi-Final will probably be the most entertaining of the four next-round series. If Nash's bloody cut is any indication, the Spurs win in Game 1 dashed the hopes of Worldwide Exciting Basketball, Ltd. in a way that only this image can describe.
If the Suns lose Game 2, then this will be a short series. Spurs going up 2-0 back to San Antonio's what I'm talking about . . . for Suns fans, that can't happen. Phoenix really needs Game 2 to stay alive. Their comeback against the Lakers in the first round of last year's opening series isn't the way to give hope to a team that could easily slip to an elimination game for the 4th match.
What else can I say about the Spurs?
It's all been said. I think. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili stir their drink. Bruce Bowen provides karate kicks. But you've probably read and witnessed all that already. Come on, man, it's the Spurs. I don't see how people can't get excited about this team. They play some of the smartest basketball this side of Detroit, and they're lethal on offense and defense. I'm not in love with their mess of spare parts big men after Tim Duncan, but they were well-chosen for the task. There's always the chance for clutch shooting, too. Robert Horry, Michael Finley, Brent Barry . . . hell, maybe even Matt Bonner can knock one down.
Nobody wants to face the Spurs, and that's because San Antonio is deadly.
Despite the possibility of quick and dirty, the Suns and Spurs are the two most potent teams that remain in their conference. People have described the winner of this series as the likely winner of the 2007 NBA Finals.
I enjoy the stupidity of excited basketball fans, with regard to Golden State.
Suddenly, Golden State invented an exciting / high-energy basketball (oh really, Suns fans?), they play the way basketball was meant to be played - a team game (wow, Detroit, Chicago, and San Antonio didn't play that way, huh?), and they even have grrrreat defense. Got some random description of Golden State? Yeah, they've been attributed such a statement in the last week.
I guess people interpret Golden State's opponent point total average - the most points per game allowed in the regular season - and currently, 12th out of 16 teams in the playoffs - well, any way they want, huh? I guess people who watch horrible teams also experience low basketball IQ. This is what I get for reading ESPN Beta Comments from the game recaps on their website.
Thankfully, Detroit's been fortunate to provide its fans with some decent basketball for multiple seasons. San Antonio fans know this with even greater fortune. There are a bunch of other teams where this case could be made. For the rest - say what you want, and get in line.
Speaking of which, hooray, Utah!
Don't screw up!
Utah looked like the stronger match against Nelson's Heroes. Yao Ming looked really slow when he had to move out of the paint to defend people. Chances were great that Golden State was going to do a lot of that. I refuse to judge anything by the freak Dallas exit, but Golden State really does like to romp around the court, and at times, they're very good at stretching a defense.
Utah possesses three big men who will provide a tougher paint defense task than what the Mavs fronted. Okur can shoot 3s, and he held his own on Yao. Boozer's an inside generator for points. AK-47 provides ridiculous defense, as 5 blocks in Game 6 plus one sweet block on Yao tells me that Utah has a fighting advantage. The only problem is that their guards are probably not going to match all that great with Davis and Richardson.
The deciding factor is the health of Baron Davis, and if that limp remains through this series, there's no way that Baron can hit one-legged 3-pointers with enough consistency for four more wins. Although S-Jack is stone cold and experienced in the post-season, this is still a sloppy team that almost didn't make the playoff cut. Argue with me if you will, but the late fire that Golden State caught to make the playoffs isn't a reliable indicator. Denver's known for doing that, too, and they don't last long in the 2nd season.
I suppose that the Nets / Cavaliers is the forgotten series in this set of four, but it can't be all bad watching the Cleveland LeBrons go at it. Wait, it is.
LeBron's the breathtaking player. He has few weaknesses. One of those weaknesses are his counterparts. The most deadly Cleveland team is the one which sees LeBron get early success. Once the opponent has to adjust their defense, that's the time when LeBron's Brons start becoming more of a problem. If LeBron doesn't do all that well in the opening stretch, then the usual case is a pack of four other Brons standing around, waiting for him to do something. It's kind of like a Groundhog Day situation.
Cleveland's kind of lucky that they drew the Wizards as a first round opponent. DC was missing Gilbert Arenas, who was out with injury. Caron Butler was also missing. Both those guys were needed to give anyone a fight. I was kind of hoping that Toronto netted the Wiz to begin so the Raptors could get a likely taste of playoff success, but it wasn't meant to be.
The Nets had that playoff experience thing / explanation.
New Jersey plugged the higher-seeded Raptors in a longer series, and that tells me that the Nets still have plenty of fight left in them. Toronto Raptors fans have a promising future for their watching pleasure, but the kids were a little jittery this series, and the playoff experience of Rasho Nesterovic meant absolutely not a whole hell of a lot. What the Nets don't have are reliable big men, and I'm guessing that Cleveland won't have too much trouble banging it inside with Zydrunas and Gooden.
Cleveland's guards, however, should have plenty of trouble with Jason Kidd and Vince Carter. They're great. The Nets probably won't get swept. They will put up a fight with Kidd, Carter, and Richard Jefferson. Mikki Moore's hoping to parlay his sudden value into a contract too big for his game, so I doubt the Cavs will have it easy . . . but it's more likely that the Cavs will advance.
I pulled this set of text from a recent Chris Sheridan chat.
Kyle (Apple Valley): Chris, as a Mav's loyalist should I be worried about next season, and the future? Any chance Cuban spends big bucks to bring in a big, powerfull guard like Billups, or another powehouse. Besides that what else is wrong?
SportsNation Chris Sheridan: If a player like Jermaine O'Neal comes on the market, I think they have to take a long hard look at giving up Dirk for him _ especially if they think they've gone as far under Dirk as possible. Let's face it, that team has had mental meltdowns the past two postseasons that would make Britney Spears envious. Maybe it is time, despite what Cuban said last night, to blow it up.
The Mavs look a lot more like the Knicks, Chris Sheridan.
Also, Chris, there's the little problem of Dallas being 92 million dollars in team salary, this year. It's not much better for next year, either, as they'll likely be well over the cap, as-is. Big-name free agents are off-limits for Dallas, so that's exactly why you hear Mark Cuban stating that the team will not change much. It's because the only major changes can be done with trades.
A note on Billups . . . I've heard a lot of Mavs fans cry for him after this loss. Billups would probably feel honored that his name gets mentioned like this . . . it's a sign that he's up there in regard among the top talents at point guard in the league. This also makes Jason Terry feel really really that much less the bargain. Billups made less than Jason Terry this year. That won't be the case next year.
JC (Austin, TX): Is Avery really a good coach? Or did he just inherit a good team like Barry Switzer did the Cowboys?
SportsNation Chris Sheridan: He has by far the best regular-season winning percentage of any coach in NBA history. That enough proof for you?
No, Chris, it isn't. Dallas fans, if they have the stomach, should review Avery's mistakes during the GS series and see what the Mavs could have done to prevent this upset. In fact, coaching your team to 67 wins and then watching them lose in the first round puts as much, if not more blame on the easiest part to change for the Mavs. Coaches have been removed from duty for lesser transgressions. See this article and wonder why there aren't even the hint of rumors that Avery will quit . . . the Rockets Gundy's already got one!
Jason (Ohio): Hey Chris it boils down to this. In any sport you have players and you have winners. NBA: Dirk is a player, Jordan was a winner. NFL: Dan Marino was a player, Tom Brady is a winner. A winner has a certain moxy to them, they stay cool under pressure, they want the ball when the game is on the line, and they don't make excuses. Dirk is the complete opposite of a winner. He may be a hall of famer someday, but not a winner.
SportsNation Chris Sheridan: I'll let that one speak for itself, Jason
I won't. Dan Marino needed 10 other guys to help him neutralize 11 opponents to get that ball into the end zone. Also, Jason, you can completely forget about comparisons to the Bills or Colts, pre-SB-victory. In the NFL, you get a closer level of caliber between the 12 contenders divided between the conferences, and the structure of the NFL's salaries, their cap, and the sport's playoff structure prohibit any kind of major comparison to the NBA. The best case you could state, for team comparisons, would be Spurs as analogous to the Patriots, for modern-day dynasties. That's it. As for Dirk, I refer you to Moses Malone. You better hope, Mavs fans, that Dirk can do a Moses Malone instead of a Karl Malone, since I think it's going to be real tough knowing today that you, as fans, have players on your team like Erick Dampier and Greg Buckner signed into the next decade.
By the way, this is one of the greater upsets of the new century, Golden State. Enjoy it. Honeymoons are short.
Matt,MPLS : If KG were to go to the Lakers, the package would include Odom, Bynum and what?
SportsNation Chris Sheridan: Lots of questions on ths topic. It would have to include more than Odom and Bynum, since their salaries add up to just under 14 mil, and Garnett makes 22 next year. You'd have to throw in someone like Radmanovic to make the money work, and the Wolves would want draft picks, too, since they owe one No. 1 to the Clippers and another No. 1 to the Celtics.
Correct, Chris. McHale should want big prizes in return. Also, if Kevin McHale doesn't negotiate multiple first-rounders for KG, at least 2, then the deal won't be done. Wait. I'm talking about Kevin McHale. He can't be that foolish, can he? The big part of the equation is 22 million dollars, for KG's salary by itself, to roughly equate the swap. This is part of why I despise the NBA's system. When you start talking trades in other sports, the first thing you think about is who could best use the player, not how much they'd have to swap in order to move him. Alas, it is what it is.
Lakers really don't have enough to swap for KG, I felt . . . who wants Radmanovic at that price? Also, there's also the possibility that if some team wants to give Minnesota some bad contracts to equate the swap for KG, then Minnesota's going to want to swap some of their mistakes, too. So the price to equate a trade could jump up from there.
Minnesota's going to have to take a player at least around 15 million a year in salary, if both teams want to avoid a multiple-player swap. When you start dealing mistakes from Minnesota's roster, Minnesota wouldn't mind, but the other team would mind.
Also, the difficult part about KG's deal . . . if KG gets moved, it's likely to a zip code of a contender.
Garnett could wait until he can opt out of his deal (on the horizon now), but there are few teams with cap space to sign him. Usually, teams like Charlotte can sign him outright, but Garnett's team isn't any better or worse than Charlotte.
It's likely at this point that Garnett stays where he is and becomes another ring-less wonder.
At this point, I'm in it for great basketball. I've been fortunate to have great basketball in my local area, but there's still plenty of nice action to view, regardless of which team is the last to keep standing.