Archive for the ‘NBA’ Category

LET THE ROCKET RIDE

Posted: September 1, 2011 in NBA

An interesting story came across my desk the other day and my editor told me I should do a piece on it. Actually it happened nothing like that, I am my editor and a shaky one at that but I do what I can. This story involves a proud past resident of our great country who wishes to give back.

The story involves former Raptors forward, fan favourite and now current San Antonio Spurs player Matthew Bonner.

Matt Bonner was once upon a time a beloved athlete in this city by the raptor’s fan base and Toronto community. He was nicknamed the “Red Rocket” for his fiery red hair, and constantly being caught riding the TTC to be economical and blend into his surroundings.

I for one was a huge fan of him as he was the every man that all fans wish their stars could be. He would be found reading at book stores around the city, eating at restaurants not reserved for the rich and famous, and would chat with people when recognized on transit and at these other locations.

He took his pride and love for the city/country to such lengths that he actually married a Canadian woman whom he met while playing in Toronto and has a Canadian daughter. Further more, he has a grandfather who came from Newfoundland. He also currently has a home in Toronto which he plans to move back into full time once his playing career is done

The story behind all this is that Bonner is awaiting approval of his Canadian citizenship to play for Team Canada in Olympic qualifying games with the eventual hope of playing in the Olympics while wearing the Maple Leaf.

Now I for one being a radical self-proclaiming Canuck and Canadian fanatic could not be happier at this news. An American born not only wants to return here to live out his post career life, married one of our own and fathered another proud member of our country, but he wants to represent us? Amazing, best decision he could ever make.

Athletes’ faces glow when talking about competing for this country, with a gleam in their smile and a twinkle in their eye. Clearly Bonner has watched the same sporting coverage I have with a Canadian bias instilled in him by his wife and wants to feel that same joy.

But for some reason the process of making him a Canadian citizen is back logged and taking longer than I feel it should. This man was employed here, owns assets in the country, has a wife and a relative who were citizens and wants to contribute, yet we’re not granting him his citizenship?

Now I will honestly admit, I have zero knowledge of the citizenship application process as I was thankfully born and raised here and birthed the beautiful right to call myself Canadian. But I for one want to welcome this newcomer with open arms as fast as possible.

He has stated emphatically that he loves this country and cannot wait to become Canadian officially/legally and to start playing for our country. That’s exactly the type of people we need coming into this country and the kind of player’s we need in our athletics programs.

Canadian basketball is nothing to brag about, well not seriously at least. Thanks to Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns we have gained some recognition as a country able to produce players with some talent on the hard court.

The past few years we have been sending more and more talented youth down to the states on athletic scholarships, most recently notable Tristan Thompson, who was selected 4th this year in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There have also been notable improvements in our youth programs and NBA alum running camps to help our middle and high school level ballers get the coaching and exposure they need to get scholarships of their own.

So in sum, the first notable thought here was about how proud I was to hear that Bonner truly and honestly wants to play for Canada. He wants to represent us as one of our own and help us win some games. My hat goes off to you Mr. Bonner.

My second thought was how I usually hate when athletes do this, leaving one country to play for another, but I feel like he is a special case. He is different to me because a) his family history, b) he actually lived and worked here, and has a wife and child who are both outright Canadian, so he’s already half-Canadian in my books.

When I heard about Canadian, well formerly Canadian, Dale Begg-Smith who quit the Canadian ski team to ski for Australia I was appalled. Who quits their country because it “clashes with business interests” to then ski for another country who is more flexible? This is not a team you are asking to be traded from, this is your country, your fellow canucks!

The Olympics and international competition for your country is about just that, your country. I read that he moved to Australia with his brother when he was 16 (Wikipedia), but you are still Canadian blood and Canadian at heart and you never turn your back on your country like that.

Another example of weak heritage ties to play for another county is Chris Kaman. He has dual USA-German citizenship because his great grand parents were German. Great grand parents? Come on, you are American play for America, if you can’t then be a fan.

I am aware there may be a slight double standard poking its head out here, but I will argue that Bonner is different because he has closer (grand parent vs. great grand parent) ties to relatives, as well as he owns property and married a Canadian. Two things that Kaman did not do yet still he claims he can play for Germany, as an American.

This is the beauty I think of sports and mostly national athletics, there is not basis for your emotional connection or reasoning to the rules you make. Now I feel that these rules I have put forth are pretty standard and my feelings are justified. I would NEVER EVER want to play in an Olympics if it wasn’t for Canada. I am Canadian and if I cannot compete for them, I will cheer for them with all my heart and soul, period.

You can call shenanigans on this if you want, but you would be wrong. Your country is your blood, your soul, your people. It is everything who you are, a lot of the person you have become is related to your country because of your communities, peers and leaders help shape your ideals. Obviously parents do a lot of this too if not most, but I’m sure you see my point.

Anyways in conclusion, Canada please let the Rocket ride again. He wants to play for a country that could benefit from improving its international basketball prowess and an NBA name that we recognize wouldn’t hurt. Hopefully the next time we see them play we’ll be seeing red, and it won’t just be on our jerseys.

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BON VOYAGE

Posted: July 18, 2011 in NBA

NBA fans rejoice, there will be NBA action this year, however it may be taking place half way around the world.

This past weekend it was reported that All-Star center Dwight Howard is the latest NBA star considering taking his talents overseas to play in a foreign league while the NBA lockout is in place. This got me thinking, wow Prestononsport’s, what a great opportunity to write another blog, so I did.

The recent craze of going overseas all started when New Jersey Nets star point guard Deron Williams announced he had signed with the Turkish team Besiktas for a reported $5 million. Not a bad cheque while most other stars will be making $0 from basketball.

I also read that fellow Nets player Sasha Vujacic signed with another Turkish team Anadolu Efes, although terms of that contract have not been provided as of yet.

Now these contracts they are signing contain clauses that will allow them to leave once the NBA lockout is over, which obviously makes sense for them. However how would you feel as a player on these non-American teams if you’re being replaced by a star? Would you not feel completely slighted by your team because your spot is being taken by someone who didn’t earn it in that country?

No one has brought up this point from what I have read yet. The main point being looked at is that it will be great to help grow the NBA brand outside of North America. Stars will be able to reach out more and brand themselves globally, but what about the player whose spot in the line-up has now been taken by the NBA star? Is the NBA star going to share some of his NBA millions while playing just to stay in shape?

If anything these guys should be going overseas and playing for free, considering what they have made thus far in their careers from the NBA. Is this idea insane, probably but it’s still an idea. These players are used to making millions upon millions of dollars from a faulty CBA they agreed to years ago that finally has bit them in the butt, well more so the owners’ butts. However, why should a foreign not-so-recognized athlete who works hard for every minute he plays bear the burden of the NBA players’ greed?

This is another example of the player’s having their cake and eating it too. Not only are they allowed to demand to keep their already inflated salaries and player dominated league set up, they get to go make money in another league while waiting for their better paying job to figure itself out. Albeit at the expense of some end of the bench player who probably thanks his lucky stars every morning that he gets to wake up and go to a gym to play the game he loves.

I feel like I’m constantly raining on the parade of our professional athletes, but isn’t it time that someone did? Where’s the standard of higher expecatations?

Besides the fact that I think it’s unfair for them to be able to earn income while waiting for their demands for more, or at least maintained excessive income to be settled, it’s also odd that these teams are willing to bring in ringers for an undetermined period of time.

Besides the obvious money grab move of bringing them in to sell tickets, do the owner’s and coaches honestly feel that this will improve their team’s chances of bringing home a title?

I for one might be concerned about chemistry within the locker room and on the court. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these guys will be ecstatic for the chance to play with stars such as Deron Williams, who wouldn’t be? But Euro basketball is much different from the NBA and I can’t help but think that a) NBA style of play may not fit with their accustomed methods of play, and b) there is always the ego to deal with and hogging of the spot light.

Allen Iverson tried to resurrect his NBA career by going to play in Turkey, which did not last very long. Now for what reasons I am not sure, but I can only imagine they are what every problem has been with The Answer, attitude and ability to perform with any teammate.

Deron is no Iverson however, neither in skill nor attitude, but I imagine that the same difficulties will appear at least at the beginning.

What does this now say about the NBA, are the owners in trouble? I personally say no, and simply for the reason that they are all rich and they are upset with the CBA and the status of the league. If I was an owner and the player’s would rather go play for an inferior league with inferior talent I would say go for it, be ready for the repercussions when you get home.

This is like saying “hey, this is your problem you deal with it and call me when it’s happy time again.”

Correction NBA player’s, this is one of those “our problem” situations and running away to Europe or Asia while it’s going on will not help. The idea of the lockout is for the player’s to see what it’s like without an NBA. Hopefully they realize that the life they had here was much more lavish and cushioned than it could be elsewhere.

If I was an owner I would want my star players contacting me, expressing displeasure with their boredom, or their frustrations with the negotiations. I would not want to be reading that because one league is closed, for now, they’ll run off to another. If they got hurt I would be tempted to sue, although I did lock them out so I’m not sure that would be legal.

The point here is I’m bothered for some reason why they can keep making money, while trying to get as much blood from the NBA stone as possible. Why is it that in these negotiations income equality is never talked about? Or the lack of income distribution, the gap between the highest and lowest earners keeps growing yet no player is ever concerned for their fellow employee.

The term business keeps being brought up in these lockouts, yet not a single player wishes to be treated as if they are an employee of a typical business. Again, having their cake and wanting to eat it too. If these selfish and inwardly thinking attitudes don’t desist, the bakery will soon be closed and they’ll have no cake at all.

CUBAN CRISIS

Posted: May 9, 2011 in NBA

The Mavs are in the Western Conference Finals and the NBA is preparing for war! Although the Mavs are preparing for basketball games and the NBA is preparing for the negotiating room wars (pending lockout/player strike after current CBA expires) but it’s exciting none the less!

Yesterday, on Mother’s Day of all days, the Los Angeles Lakers’ second attempt at a three-peat in almost a decade was terminated courtesy of the Dallas Mavericks. After a week of typically cool interviews courtesy of Kobe Bryant, and the now infamous “dot, dot, dot” quote in a post game interview with ESPN’s J.A. Adande, some thought the impossible. There was widespread talk of “no one’s done it before but they can do it” around the sports media world. “Gasol needs to get tough” they said, “The bench just needs to help out” they said, well neither happened yesterday in an inspired effort by the Mavericks.

The most telling stat that took me by surprise in this game was points off the bench. Dallas’s aging and veteran bench scored an eye popping 86 points, led by the runner up 6th Man of the Year Jason Terry who was 9/10 for 3PM and had 32 points, to L.A.’s 37. In a series where everyone knew the bench would be crucial, L.A. might as well have not even dressed theirs.

Not only was Jason Terry having a field day beyond the arc, the seemingly forgotten Peja Stojakovic pitched in with 21 points, going 6/6 from the land beyond like he used to do back in his Sacramento days. This all raises questions as these two players ALONE went 15/16 after Phil Jackson was shown in the ABC pre-game interviews as saying the key for the Lakers was to keep the Maverick’s off the three point line. Didn’t really get the message across did you Phil?

Or maybe these Laker’s weren’t destined for the three-peat. There was controversy on the last three-peat team with budding stars Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant battling for supremacy and super stardom, they almost fuelled each other to mutual success. Kobe wanted people to know it was his team, he was their star, their leader. But no matter how hard he tried, Shaq always had more points, more rebounds, and more hardware as he won 3 straight finals MVP trophies to match each ring they won together.

Ever since Shaq’s departure it was Kobe’s team, his rules, his players, all about the Black Mamba. When Pau Gasol was acquired it was a sign that Kobe would have his chance to be the #1 star to a #2 big man. Kobe could flourish and run the show the way he wanted to do without anyone talking back or trying to hog his spot light. This resulted in a well deserved (about time!) MVP award in 2007-2008 and then followed by two successive NBA championships.

But maybe that’s what great stars need, they need someone there attempting to take the torch from them so that they are always on their toes. Kobe is a mature leader, he knows the team goes as far as he takes them, and now after 14 MVP calibre seasons, he couldn’t take them past the second round. Maybe the mamba has lost his venom and it’s time to consider a change in roles, from the floor bench to floor seats.

Now onto the winning side, no one could be happier here of course than eccentric owner Mark Cuban. I don’t want to be biased but I could no be happier for him. After the tumultuous showing in the 2006 NBA Finals where the Mavericks dropped a 2-0 lead to Miami and lost four straight to lose the NBA title, no one will hesitate to remind them of their past, and hopefully it will change their future.

Cuban has been vital in this team’s revival and continued success since then. Now granted, most of that success has been in the regular season as they are a perennial top 4 team in the West every year. Has his team done that much since then? No not really, as they lost to the Warriors as a #1 seed in 2007 and were ousted early three out of the last four seasons, including that one. But that has no prevented Cuban from making changes. He added Caron Butler (sadly out with injury or this team would’ve been the #1 seed), Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood. As much as he knows about business and the internet he knows just as much about keeping his team fresh.

After years of adding and subtracting players from his roster, Cuban may have finally found the right formula to not only get to the finals, but reward this team of misfits for their careers of hard work. Dirk Nowitzki has given his whole career to the Mavericks and Cuban has been trying feverishly to pay him back. Now with the additions and strong resumes of Marion, Kidd, Stojakovic, Terry, they may finally have their time.

No one knows if this team will make it through the uber-competitive West or out of the Finals if they get there, but man will it be fun to watch. The pending NBA lockout after the current CBA expires will keep things in check as we can only get too excited until the eventual down fall. But for now all signs point to a great run but another great Mavericks team, and you know the angel of Stern is keeping his eye on this as the last thing he needs is Cuban walking around with a new piece of jewellery.

RAGING BULL(S)

Posted: May 4, 2011 in NBA

trophy
Congratulations to Tom Thibodeau! Oh ya, and Derrick Rose! This week it was confirmed that Tom Thibodeau won the NBA’s coach of the year after leading the Chicago Bulls to the Eastern Conference’s best mark this season (62 wins) in his first season at the helm. Last year Thibodeau was the most coveted coach on the market after years of respectable work on Boston’s coaching bench beside Doc Rivers. For the previous three seasons Thibodeau was the associate coach of the Boston Celtics (NBA.com). Thibodeau was widely  credited with the defensive efforts displayed over the past few years with the Big 3 that led to their lone championship in 2008. A work-aholic as described by former and current teammates, no one in the league deserved this win more than him. There was speculation that Greg Papovich of the San Antonio Spurs was a strong candidate as well, as he should have been. Paps led the Spurs to the second best record in the NBA this year with 61 wins, one shy of tying for league best. But in the end the rookie head coach won out and I could not agree more. His tenacity, passion and intensity during games and in practice make him the easy vote to take home the trophy this year.

The hardware kept coming this year in Chicago as Derrick Rose yesterday was confirmed as the NBA’s MVP and also the youngest NBA MVP in league history at 22. By receiving the award so young he supplants Wes Unseld as the youngest NBA MVP of all time, who won the award as well as the Rookie of the Year award back in the 1968-69 season. There have been a hand full of other great young MVP’s including but not limited to Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem “The Dream” Abdul Jabbar. Now of course these players were centers and power forwards who averaged historic numbers during their careers so to say Derrick is putting his name in the same hat as them would be absurd, but he is certainly making his mark in the NBA.

Dwight Howard received the second most votes this year after a superman like season, followed by Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. Now I want to take nothing away from Derrick Rose winning the MVP this year as he absolutely deserved it, given his stat line of 25.0PPG, 7.7APG, 4.1RPG but Howards line of 23PPG 14 RPG and 2.4BPG are just as gaudy. The big argument for Derrick Rose is that a PG has so much control over the game, they are the QB to their team on the court directing the flow, calling the plays and usually playing ball facilitator. Also many people use the injruies to Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer as strong evidence that he put the team on his back. However they only missed about 5 games combined during the long DL stretches early in the season, so he always had at least one formidable big man in the lineup.

The center position is just as crucial as they rule the paint and ultimately can affect how many buckets the opposition will get from close range. I tried to compare the teams to see who had the weaker cast, and although in play I would argue Howard had more lackluster defenders on his team with aging-past-their-prime stars, the Magic scored just under 100PPG as a team. Chicago only had four players scoring in double digits the whole season, granted combined they averaged 71PPG, but being the tallest person amongst the masses on average when I find myself playing any sport I always like to give respect to the big man whenever I can. Dwight, you had an amazing year and deserved the MVP just as much for all your efforts. With these HOF stat lines you keep producing, you’ll make centers everywhere proud soon enough.

All in all a spectacular season by the Chicago Bulls, MVP, COY, and an overall #1 seed in the NBA playoffs hopefully this magical season keeps rolling and the awards keep mounting. The only way is to find out by watching the NBA playoffs and remember, you mess with Bull you get…well you know.

ROUND TWO IN NBA

Posted: May 2, 2011 in NBA

Once again I find it hard to stand up for the first round of NBA playoffs as a whole. I am an avid basketball fan and player through the many years of my life, but sadly I cannot defend the first round of the playoffs as must see TV in recent years and this is one of them. Sure I was excited to see if the Heat might fall on their face this being their first time to the dance, or if Chicago really was in for a test as Michael Wilbon warned they would be his ESPN show Pardon the Interruption (PTI). However in the end, we are set up with huge match ups for the second round but not before a quick recap of the first.

 The Eastern Conference held face more or less minus the slip up of the Orlando Magic to the Atlanta Hawks in a stunning six game upset of the 2009 NBA Finals attendees. Dwight Howard played absolutely spectacular basketball averaging 27.0 points and 15.5 rebounds per contest. Sadly, their perimeter shooting or lack there of, led to their eventual defeat.Atlanta figured out that with a roster of big bulky journeymen padding the bench, they could swarm Howard, foul him countless times in 1-on-1 matchups and let Orlando’s reliance on the 3-point shot be the deciding factor. As we all suspected heading into the playoffs years ago with this team, when you leave your chances up to fate, I mean the three ball, more times than not you’re watching the finals at home. Boston, Miami and Chicago moved on with ease. Boston was the only team in the NBA to sweep their series, beating New York 4-0 while Miami handled Philadelphia rather easily in a 4-1 cruise. I would say that Chicago won easily as well, however if you watched those games against the Pacers the Bulls were given a run for their money. They have come out on top but I hope other teams watched these games and saw whatI ndiana was doing to make life difficult for the Rose (co-MVP in my books) led Bulls. All in all what we expected to happen happened, and once we saw Atlanta win their first game with the hack-a-Shaq game plan there was a feeling that Orlando was going down.

 On to the West now, where everyone from coast to coast seems to feel the reigning champion Lakers are destined to emerge champion and once again three –peat under Phil Jackson before sending him off into retirement land. I for one predicted in a previous entry that I saw the Thunder coming out on top after last years progression and the addition of big man Kendrick Perkins during the regular season. But enough about the hypotheticals it’s recap time! LA took care of business as did two others of the top seeds. Oklahoma City (OKC) beat the recent post-Carmelo surging Nuggets in five quick games. I for one was somewhat disappointed to see that as I want nothing but the best for George Karl. When you go through throat cancer radiation therapy while still coaching, while being a father, and still being simply one of the best guys around you want good things for that person. He also was reportedly very distraught during the Carmelo days as he was constantly trying to bond with his star but never quite got through to him. Hopefully they can pick up next season where they left off this year and make a deeper run. The Thunder looked strong as Durant was his usual scoring machine self and Russell Westbrook reminded us again why he’s considered one of the best PG’s in the game, although some character issues started to surface near the end of that series. Questionable shot attempts and selfish play may lead to some reduced time if he can’t learn to understand that he’s the 1A talent to Durant, even though Durant would never look at it that way. Dallas looked strong, at times, during their victorious series against the Trail Blazers. I heard a lot of writers looking at this series as a potential upset as well, however Big D came through and continued their quest to make it to the finals before Dirk’s time is done. San Antonio was the shocker in the West. Many people speculated that the Grizzlies actually threw several of their final games of the season to match up with the old and slightly slumping Spurs, this proved to be a spectacular strategy. Now let’s not forget that Memphis still has a strong team, even without recently paid star Rudy Gay in their playoff roster. OJ mayo, regardless of the stupid steroids suspension (stupid because in the NBA he would’ve still been great without the bulk) is a great player and contributes for this team. Zach Randolph, for all his reported short comings on D or as a competitor, still averages 20 and 10 for five of the last six seasons and has been bringing it in the playoffs. Combine that size and productivity with monstrous 7’1 Marc Gasol. He may have only averaged almost 12 points and 7 rebounds in the regular season, but his size and intensity make him invaluable on the floor in these playoffs. Bringing almost KG like intensity on the defensive end and playing hard every possession has made every player on this starting five a contributor. Lest we forget the defensive prowess of Shane Battier who is always a handy player to have on your roster, and Mike Conley, whether you agree with his contract extension or not he is the floor general of this team and right now he seems to be pointing them straight to the promised land.

 So now we’re set up with the second round of the playoffs and they look something like this:

EAST

#1ChicagoBulls vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks (Bulls won regular season series 2-1)

#2MiamiHeat vs. #3 Boston Celtics (Celtics won 2008 Title, Celtics won regular season series 3-1)

WEST

#2 LA Lakers vs. #3 Dallas Mavericks (LA two-time defending champs, won regular season series 2-1)

#4Oklahoma Cityvs. #8Memphis(Memphiswon regular season series 3-1)

 All of these matchups are interesting because of the obvious, that they all won the previous series so they’re coming into them playing well, but also because we see old favourites and the young teams that will be instrumental in the changing of the guard in the NBA. We get to see what the talented trio in South Beach can finally do on the biggest of stages and if they can figure out a way to work together when playing the vets over a seven game series. I will definitely be watching all I can of this as I want to see if Boston, the original “Big 3” are at their end and have to ride off into the sunset and how the new Big 3 will adapt to each other and find ways to win. LeBron and D-Wade have been waiting all season to finally come together and display their immense talents together when it matters most. The Chicago/Atlanta series I’m not particularly interested in because I feel that Chicago will handle it easily, as they should. They’re the #1 seed in the East, Atlanta historically does not perform that great in the playoffs and frankly there’s just too much else on to make this a priority when I don’t root for either team exclusively.

As for the Western matchups LA and Dallas will be interesting as we finally get to see Kobe and Dirk face off in the playoffs. Now granted this isn’t like seeing LeBron andKobe matchup as they would probably guard each other. Dirk will certainly not be given responsibility of taking Kobe on the defensive end because frankly, he can’t. But they each provide their own history with each team and although Kobe is undeniably one of the most decorated NBA stars Dirk has more quietly had a very successful career. A product of Germany, he has carved out a very nice career for himself in Dallas, but sadly the elusive championship is still avoiding him and I just don’t see him getting one in this environment. He might have to take a minimum contract somewhere in order to achieve that one last goal on his to-do list in the NBA before his time is done. OKC and Memphis will be great because we get to see two of the youngest and more exciting teams in the West go head to head. It’s unfortunate that these two will not be battling for the chance to play in the NBA Finals, but a place in the conference finals will have to do. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will hog the highlights of this series but don’t count Memphis out. After strong overall play against the Spurs this team can easily make a run to the conference finals and maybe take some teams by surprise.

To sum up, the first round was predictable as usual for the NBA first round series but many games were worth watching. The NHL won the playoff battle this time around with HALF their series going to a game 7, but make no mistake round two in playoff town is a whole new ball game and the NBA can still redeem itself with playoff excitement. The only way to know is to find out, and I plan on doing just that.

The NBA is Back!…For now

Posted: March 18, 2011 in NBA

Now I know not everyone is the biggest basketball fan in the frozen tundra known as Canada, but as a professional sports fan how can you not be excited about this year’s season?! Never before have we seen so much player movement (good and bad) and talent near the top of the standings setting us up for one of the best playoffs in recent memory.

To set the record straight, do I support all this crazy player demanded movement with zero allegiance to the teams that gave them their chance for stardom and the fans that supported them? No I do not from a personal standpoint, however putting that aside for fan and viewing purposes I love the teams that are established especially the ones that did it the right way, or mostly. We have seem teams that collaborated to stack the top of their roster and draft/sign to build around them (Boston, Miami, now the New York Knickerbockers); teams that have been patient while adding on (Oklahoma, Chicago, Orlando, Memphis, Atlanta) and the teams who like to spend (thank you Dallas and Los Angeles). Then of course there is Portland, San Antonio (2000-2009 dynasty) Philadelphia, Indiana/Charlotte (tight race) Denver and New Orleans. These categories of course are randomly made up just to categorize roughly the story lines going into the playoffs.

The teams at the top are just loaded with talent but of course some better set for playoff runs than others. There’s old dependable in Boston where the original Big 3 tag line was used and they went on to win a championship their first year together and rightly so. They had Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins there to support KG in minutes and Rondo established himself as an elite-point-guard-to-be in leading the celebrated veterans to the elusive championship they all coveted. Miami is looking to make a splash in their first year of very controversial signings outside the Miami fan base and the pioneers for this player movement shift we’re seeing happen around the league. Do they have what it takes to win it all this year? No of course not, too young, no one wants to be that guy in the moment and execute and frankly not enough size compared to the real contenders. Chicago and Orlando are two incredibly strong teams in the East who could make some serious noise come playoff time. Orlando is the forgotten power behind another leading (but not #1) MVP candidate in Dwight Howard. Averaging 22 points, 14 boards and 2+ blocks a game is incredible and I cannot believe more people aren’t taking notice. So what LeBron is getting 26-7-7 AGAIN, Dwight is playing crazy defence, close to the lead in rebounds and top 5 in blocks that speaks volumes if your offense struggles one night. Chicago is the sexy pick in this year’s playoffs in the East as far as I’m concerned. You have the leading MVP vote getter if I got to vote in Derrick Rose who averages almost 25 points, almost 8 assists and 4 boards a game. That’s just the on paper qualifications, he kept the team near the top of the East for all those weeks when he had neither Carlos Boozer nor Joakim Noah who when returned have already shown why they’re such valued commodities. Chicago is so well rounded and plays such great team defense they have a legitimate shot in my mind to take the whole thing. They can run the floor, everyone, and play defense like a college team and the chemistry is unbeatable.

The Western Conference is more of a toss up as several teams are on hot streaks in recent weeks; they have the defending champs in LA and viable contenders in Oklahoma City, Dallas and the perennially dangerous San Antonio Spurs. I don’t really know who is coming out of the West because so much can happen based on the match ups. The Thunder proved to us last year they can hang with the big boys and picking up Kendrick Perkins along with Ibaka gives them serious size and intimidation down low. Is it as good as Pau and Bynum? Probably not but if Bynum or Pau is not 100% and Perkins stays healthy the Thunder have a strong case. So does Dallas with a re-energized defense with Tyson Chandler being their version of KG and firing up the team with his intensity while Dirk is having another great year, average in Dirk standards. In addition there is the ageless Kidd who is still running the show with 6th man of the year, probably, Jason Terry averaging over 16 points off the bench. San Antonio has the leagues best record but I don’t see them holding up in the playoffs. They might turn things around but I think they will meet too much stiff competition over a 7 game series to keep up the pace they’ve set for themselves and fall to a younger team. Denver is the sweet story as they lost Carmelo to trade demands yet have been 9-2 since his departure and are staying strong in the standings. I have not watched enough of their games to really know how difficult they might be to another team but they’re playing strong as a team of supposed castoffs and want to show everyone they deserve our respect.

I don’t make many predictions as no one really knows what is going to happen and that is why we play the games. The finals that I would love to see would be the Bulls versus the Thunder and show an official changing of the guard and I’ll go out on limb and make that my prediction just for fun with the Bulls winning in 6. But I think we will see LA in there instead against Boston in a final rematch of last year before those teams ride off into the sunset and let the young studs come in and take over the league officially. Welcome back NBA, for at least this season you could not have asked for a better finale to your 2011 show.