NBA Finals – Who Wins? Vote Now!

29 02 2008

Vote Now!There’s been a lot of talk over the past week on who’s going to win the NBA Finals, a helluva lot of speculation (still hoping to see Matt vomit from his eyes). Now it’s time for you to post your opinion on who’s going to win: vote!



Who Wins The NBA Finals?


 
Boston Celtics
LA Lakers
Utah Jazz
Dallas Mavericks
Detroit Pistons
San Antonio Spurs
Phoenix Suns

View Results

Make your own poll





Who Wins The NBA Finals? From The Horse’s Mouth (Mr Ed)

28 02 2008

Well… Mr Ed Ziti!
This was recently up on Ed Ziti’s
MVN Lakers Library, but when asked the question as to ‘Who wins it all?’, Ed told me to put this up, as it’s the best answer to the query he had. Take it away Ed!…

After taking out Shaq and the Phoenix Suns the other night (130-124), behind Kobe’s 41 points, are the Lakers the team to beat in the Western Conference? They have been playing so well, I thought they might have to testify in front of congress to justify their success. I hope Arlen Specter isn’t watching the Lakers as he might want to investigate them and I heard recently that George Mitchell is looking for a new gig after cashing his 22 million dollar check from MLB.

Kobe vs CelticsThe contestants to win the West would be the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, upstart New Orleans Hornets, Dallas Mavericks, and the Utah Jazz. All in all, it appears a “Battle Royale” is developing in the Western Conference, with the winner sure to face either Boston or Detroit in the finals.

Looking at the Lakers chances in the playoffs, I felt I could make a good argument that they were superior to their opponents in all areas but one. Their area of weakness is defense, both individually and collectively. I’m not slamming the Lakers defense, just saying they are not the tops in the West in that category. If you watch the San Antonio Spurs rotate their defense to prevent three point shots and clog the middle, you’ll know what I mean.

The areas the Lakers dominate are as follows:
One, they have the best starting team in the West when healthy. A starting five of Bynum, Gasol, Odom, Bryant, and Fisher is a line up with championship potential. The only argument could be is what have they ever won? The truth is, this group has never even played together yet, so a lot of what I’m saying is theoretical, but the components are certainly great on paper.

Anytime you can add a 7 foot center that can score, rebound and defend (Andrew Bynum), the chemistry issue doesn’t exist. That’s the situation the Lakers are in as they await the return of Andrew.

The Lakers also have the best bench in the league, and as players come back from injury, it will only get stronger. The bench guys are also pushing the starters to play better or risk losing playing time. OHeart of a lion - Rony Turiafverall, Phil Jackson has done a great job juggling the line up because of injuries, and everyone has had chance to prove themselves.

One of the guys on the bench who has really picked up his game is Rony Turiaf; one of my complaints earlier in the season was that he didn’t rebound enough for a big man. Now I see him ripping the ball out of peoples hands like it was gold, and I love it. His numbers are also rising, 3.6 rebounds for the year, but 4.2 per game the last month, and 4.5 in the last week. Keep in mind he only plays 17 minutes a game. I also want to give Rony credit for developing a strong jumper, something we have been seeing a lot of recently.

Phabulous Phil…To win a championship; you need championship coaching. Phil Jackson and his nine rings have done a great job of keeping this team focused and prepared. I’m not going to get into a debate as to whether or not Phil Jackson is the best coach in the NBA, when he proves it every day. Where would the Lakers be without Phil Jackson? I’ll leave it at that.

The Lakers also have the best owner in the league. Jerry Buss is the epitome of the Hollywood dream. The dude is 74 years old and cruises around in his Mercedes with supermodel girlfriends partying and living life to the fullest. Jerry used to own the Playboy Mansion and has lived a charmed life. He also pays his players quite well and lets his managers manage and his coaches coach. What else do you want from an owner?

Now let’s talk about Mitch Kupchak. Maybe he’s not the best GM in the Western Conference, but he’s the best this year. Every player he’s added to this team has been of the highest character and work ethic a fan could ask for. The ones that weren’t are already gone. He has built a talented, young cohesive team that could be playing for a championship as soon as this year. He certainly has a great case for Executive of the Year.

We also have the West’s, the NBA’s and the world’s best player in Kobe Bryant. Championship teams need that finisher and who better to have then Kobe. It’s nice that he doesn’t have to do it all anymore, but he’s still averaging 27 points a game. His play since the pinky injury has been nothing short of sensational. I was one that thought he should have the surgery. Based on the doctor reports I read I thought it made sense, but after watching Kobe in the Atlanta and Phoenix games, I’ve changed my mind. Maybe I should run for congress. Only Kobe knows how much his pinky hurts, and from what I’ve seen so far, he made the right choice.

That’s levitation, Homes…Another thing the Lakers have is that great Laker Championship tradition, and don’t think that doesn’t play a big part. The Lakers are clearly a driven team, and it starts from Buss, flows through Phil Jackson and Mitch Kupchak, and right on through Kobe to the team. There is no next year with this team, guys like Fisher and Bryant know that this could be the year, and are pushing the younger players every day. They have done a great job of focusing the team on a game to game basis and the results are clearly there.

The Lakers will face extreme competition in the playoffs as all eight teams that make it in the West will be good. Due to the recent blockbuster trades, the NBA Playoffs should be huge this year, so there are no guarantees for anyone. However, I do think the Lakers are the team to beat, as they have everything you need to win a ring.

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LeBron James Injured?

28 02 2008

This just in: LeBron James has left the game against Boston with what appears to be a leg injury.  With a little over 4 minutes left in the second half, James hurt his right leg either going to the hoop, or in landing.  He struggled to get off the court, and soon left courtside headed for the locker-room, limping badly.

Without a doubt, should James be injured it will bode poorly for Cleveland.  He simply is their team.

Edit: James returned from the ankle injury to score 26 points.  The city of Cleveland breathed a collective sigh of relief…

King James





Picking An NBA Finals winner – Yelling It From The Mountain

27 02 2008

Next on the list of NBA Finals opinions is DMtShooter of Five Tool Tool

Secretariat - a horse for any course…Here’s the thing about picking an NBA Finals winner right now — it’s kind of like picking a horse to win a race without knowing where they are at the gate. (For the sake of argument, imagine that none of the horses is Secretariat.) So even if you love a horse, do you really love him on the farthest in or out position?

We can pretty much assume that the favorite will come from the West, so that’s where your winner is coming from, right? Not necessarily… what happens if a Boston or Detroit (or even a Cleveland with LeBron going into Uber Mode?) has a 4-game sweep, while the Western champion goes seven? Well then, the Eastern champion can then easily steal a game or two early, and voila… there goes that prediction.

But let’s assume that nothing happens along those lines, and the champ is whoever survives the West. Right now, there are 9 teams for 8 spots, and the 9 seed as I write this (Denver) is 2.5 games out from a 4 seed. I’m not even sure you can predict who is going to make the playoffs, let alone advance… but let’s toss out a few teams as being Unworthy.

Denver — Not enough defense, and since that comes from the stars (Anthony and Iverson), it translates on down. Golden State — See Denver, and both teams have coaches that have never shone on the highest stage. Houston — Still trying to figure out how to play both Ming and McGrady, and unlike any of the other top teams, deficient at the point guard position. Dallas — I’m not a fan of the Kidd trade, because he’s not the guy that he used to be, and unless he starts shooting like he isn’t, well, him… they’re just going to lose with him in half-court.

Chris Paul’s the best player in the Western Conference?Five to go, and here’s where it gets back to that pole position problem. New Orleans probably doesn’t have the stones to get it done in their first year in the league, but they’ve got the Conference’s best player this year (shh) in Chris Paul, and just enough other good players to be dangerous. In the end, their lack of a home-court edge kills whatever chance they might have. They are the last of the Final Five that seems like an easy choice to be out.

San Antonio, Los Angeles, Utah and Phoenix. Well, if Utah gets San Antonio, they lose, because Parker gets back as much as Williams gets, and Duncan makes their bigs disappear, and Bowen has enough left to make Korver go poof. But if they miss the Spurs and someone else takes them out, maybe they go all the way… because they have the bigs to match up with the Lakers, and Williams will torch the Lakers nearly as much as Kobe touches Utah, and Utah’s bench isn’t bad either, and Korver can get loose against the Laker Show…

The Spurs are the defending champs, but that usually isn’t a winning equation for them, since they tend to lose when they defend. Kurt Thomas was a nice little pick up, and when they’ve got Duncan, Ginobili and Parker they are damned near indefensible. But in a 7-game series with the Lakers, Kobe will overcome Bowen enough, and Gasol will give them enough of a fighter’s chance…

Phoenix? Wild card. A motivated Shaq is always a powerful thing, and the sudden release of Marion could be the morale boost they need to do damage. Also, maybe this finally wakes up Boris Diaw, and they’ve had playoff success against the Lakers in the past, mostly because Nash carves them up and Amare’s defensive struggles haven’t been an issue against the Laker bigs. Finally, Raja Bell gives Kobe some trouble, and you’d have to think that Shaq could turn it on a bit against that team, if he can still do it against anyone. But we know they can’ t beat the Spurs.

Finally, the Lake Show. Probably the most talented team in the league now, thanks to the Gasol fleecing, with the coach that’s won it more than any other. But they haven’t been together for very long, they could easily mess up bringing Bynum back, and it’s not like Kobe hasn’t turned up small for them in the very recent past, or froze his teammates when things aren’t going his way. Defensively, they aren’t good at all at point guard, which is a huge problem when faced with the likes of Paul, Williams, Nash and Parker, and of all of the top contenders, they seem to me to be the most likely to stumble early, because they’re still going to getting their rotation sorted out.

Err… Coach Philip?If I had to bet on any team, it’d be the Lake Show; there’s a reason why Coach Philip has all of those rings, after all, and in crunch time, they put Kobe on the other team’s point guard and enjoy a quantum leap in defensive effectiveness. Also, I like their bench a lot; Jordan Farmer has been aces, and when Bynum returns, either he or Lamar Odom joins that unit, which is just kind of crazy, really. Luke Walton is also a perfect bench guy, and even Radmanovic can do some damage in small doses. They go deeper than most, especially Phoenix.

But in the tightest and best playoff race in recent NBA history, there’s really no way to call this before the horses come to the gate. Check back in April, when we know more — and, probably, know nothing at all.

Still more opinions to come… stay tuned – same bat-time, same bat-channel…

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Top Stories In Japan…

27 02 2008

Delightful YukariMan… only Tuesday and already I’m looking forward to the weekend.  Gonna be a looooong week I guess.

NBA’s hotting up, and baseball’s just around the corner.

Today’s top sports stories in Japan were:

  • Kawakami ready to ‘fork’ (NPB)… [Daily Yomiuri]  Kenshin Kawakami adds a forkball to his arsenal.  Dragons fans should be ecstatic…
  • Asashoryu’s popularity not so hot (sumo)… [Daily Yomiuri]  Guy’s getting a hard time because he wore an aloha shirt on the way home from a wedding?  Nuts…
  • Can rookie slugger Nakata live up to the hype? (NPB)… [Japan Times]  Much bigger deal made here over high-profile rookie baseballers than in the States…
  • Klitschko bout a yawn-fest… [Japan Times]  Exactly why heavy-weight boxing is not what it once was…




NBA Finals – Not A Lock

26 02 2008

Latest in the NBA Finals series – by Matt from Hardwood Paroxysm. Worth noting that at the time of writing this, the blockbuster trade with Ben Wallace going to the Cavs had not happened…

Eastern Conference
The East is essentially a two-team race, as per usual. There are two contenders, four pretenders, and two pieces of fodder (whoever gets the 7th and 8th seed. There will be no Warriors-Mavericks here).

Pretenders
Washington: Even with Zero and a healthy Caron, they just don’t have the consistent shooters or inside presence to get past the top two. They could make a game out of it if they hit the playoffs on all cylinders, but odds are high that they’ll end up in the dreaded 4-5 matchup.

Will LeBron need comforting this year?Cleveland: We know he went to the Finals last year. We know how amazing he’s been this year. But he won’t have a cakewalk Washington team without Caron and Zero in the first round, nor an inferior Nets team in the second. And while Hughes has been shooting better, it’s unlikely to hold. Throw in the injury to Varejao, putting more stressload on Z, and it’s unlikely they’ll have the umph to get to the ECF again this season. (Note: We reserve the right to pull the “You can’t predict LeBron” card.)

Toronto: IF Bosh can stay healthy, and IF TJ can provide valuable minutes, and IF Calderon can keep up his pace, and IF Kapono can find his shot, and IF their perimeter defense can improve to human levels, and IF Bargnani can have a few takeover games… they might push Pistons/Celtics to six games. Maybe.

Orlando: Such potential. But unless Rashard Lewis goes ballistic and their point guard situation gets resolved, they just don’t have the bench they need. Hedo and Dwight are good for 2 to 3 wins, but getting the fourth will be hard. This is a good team, and we think they’ll work out the shakes by playoff time and win their first round easy. However, it takes a special combination to beat either of the East’s Big Two. You have to have tremendous depth and a superstar that can take over a game. While Dwight is a special player, he hasn’t hit “takevoer” level yet, and it’s hard to when you’re a center. We think they can push either of the Big 2 if they get a series of things to go their way, but they’re not there. Yet.

The Big Two
Boston: Size. (Suprising) Depth. Speed. Superstar talent. An almost unhealthy Will Boston be able to bring something new to the Garden other than just dancers?commitment to winning. Swagger. And for all of that? Zero championship experience (unless you count James Posey, which we don’t). There’s no denying the Celtics have been one of, if not the, best teams in the NBA this season. They’re undefeated against the West. They have the best record. So why is it we all have reservations about just crowning their asses? Because we’re not entirely convinced they can pull it off in a seven game series. There’s no question they’ll be in the ECF. And as long as they’re healthy, there’s little doubt that series will go at least 6 six games. It’ll be interesting to see if the young guns can maintain their focus and form under the pressure of playoff-quality defense. And we’ll be the first ones to say it. Everyone does remember that KG has never been to the Finals, right?

Detroit: Old Reliable. Tried and trusted. Like a rock. There’s no reason to doubt that the Pistons will get back to the Finals except… not going back to the finals in the past three years. We like the new Pistons. There have been subtle changes in this year’s crew, a more wide open offense, a little more fun, some new young studs. In the end, it’ll come down to Rasheed, Billups, and Hamilton, as it always does. The inevitable series with Boston should be one for the ages.

Western Conference
The exact opposite is the case in the Western Conference. There are six teams that are legitimate contenders to the Western Crown. We’ll go ahead and toss out whoever gets the seventh and eighth seed from the clusterf#*k. We like Houston and Denver, if you’re keeping track. But neither have what it takes to knock off the top seeds. Here’s the rest, in order of least likely to most likely to win the West.

Hornets: We love David West, and of course, CP3 is out of this world. We even think a healthy Peja can win you a few games and Chandler is a pivotal kog. But their bench is just too shallow. We wish you could win with just this level in the West, but you can’t. One -8 stretch in a playoff game can be the end.

Looking very, very goodJazz: We want to put them higher. We really do. But do we think they would have gotten past the Mavericks in last year’s playoffs? No. Great combination of talent. Terrific coaching. Decent size and excellent guard play. But the rest of the West just have more.

Spurs: Consider this the beggining of the “it wouldn’t surprise us at all to see them win” portion of the list. The Spurs look bad. Old. Out of shape. Tired. Running out of reliable options. But we’ve said that about them every year, haven’t we?

Lakers: The injuries are a real scare point. The Gasol trade looks genius, but it don’t mean a thing if Bynum can’t get back 100% before the Ides of March or if Kobe misses any significant time. Derek Fisher has been great for them, but he’s been strangely absent in big games. They can take the Suns or the Spurs, but the Mavs would give them fits, and the Jazz could sneak up on them. It’s not like their window is closing.

Suns: Will the big fella work out? We have no way of knowing and won’t know until the playoffs start. But we do know that they still have arguably the best pure point in the league, a tremendous scoring machine at power forward, a wily veteran in Grant Hill who is rejuvenated, and one of the fastest players on the planet in Barbosa. They have a great defender in Bell, and a promising young rookie point in Strawberry. If Shaq can go even 80%, they’re going to be scary dangerous.

Mavericks: Yes, we know they just traded the kitchen sink along with Avery Johnson’s What Cuban REALLY wants…teddy bear for Kidd. But the shift in responsibilities could work out really well for the Mavericks in the short-run. They’ve sacrificed their future, but they have Dirk, Josh Howard, Terry, Dampier, Bass, and now Kidd. They were a favorite of ours to win the title, and the Kidd traded didn’t effect anything negatively… this season.

Finals: Uh… Mavs over Pistons? We.. guess? The best part is that nothing is a lock. That’s refreshing. And interesting. And terrifying. Because if it’s LA versus Boston, we’re going to vomit out our eyes.

More up tomorrow – and Matt? Personally, I hope you get to vomit out your eyes…

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Today’s Top Stories In Japan…

26 02 2008

Waka InoueOver the weekend, bought my baby boy his first pair of shoes. Doing well: walking at 10 months (started just prior)… my experiences with a certain Christian blogger have lead me to put up these ‘Today’s News’ pieces more often, which will mean more bikini’d girls (sorry Jeff).

Anyway… in today’s top stories-in-sports within Japan:

  • Rookie Sato hits 155kph (96+ mph) on the radar in Eagles rookie-duel (NPB)… [Daily Yomiuri]   Damn… for an 18 year-old kid, that’s fast!
  • Takekaze rises to Komosubi (sumo)… [Daily YomiuriOne for the lil’ guys – Takekaze only stands at 171 cm (5’6″)…
  • Dice-K happy with a quiet start to spring training… [Mainichi ShimbunSecond season, and the pressure’s off a lil’… no wonder he’s enjoying it more…
  • Hakuho still ranked above Asa in latest sumo rankings… [Japan TimesWell… Asashoryu was out for 6 months – suspended…