Posts Tagged ‘LeBron James’

I’m going to assume that my post lamenting the NBA lockout was the sole reason that said lockout ended. Anyway, the sudden change of heart by players and owners (the latter of which getting pretty much what they wanted all along) has me scrambling to do an NBA preview. So, with the help of my NBA guru Mike Baker, we’re going to run a little Two Man Game to answer the questions you should be asking for the upcoming NBA season.

(Two Man Game is a term often used during a basketball telecast. It’s usually a guard working with a “big man” (center, forward) to make a play on offense. This phrase is so popular, commentators use it for women’s basketball too! (Really, they do.) Anyway, I figured that I should give you some background for where the title came from. Anyway, let’s talk some basketball!!!)

1. Did the lockout cause you to lose or gain interest in the NBA?
Mike: I love the NBA. Admittedly I was bitter (mostly at the owners) but it helped me to realize just how much life would suck had there not been a season. If anything, I gained more interest as to how the business of the NBA works.

Jordy: I think it’s a little bit of both. I was fascinated at the level of disrespect that each side seemed to have for each other, and I lamented the fact that I would be stuck with watching college basketball all season (That’s not a fair trade). But this lockout confirmed my belief that no sports league is really out to please fans. There’s no way. Case in point: NBA League Pass allows you to see nearly every game that does not come on national television. The league is playing a shortened season, and coming off a bitter lockout. Guess what? You’ll be paying the same amount for League Pass! The NBA spits in the face and LOLs at your positive press. Sure, I’m still riveted. But it’s definitely with a raised eyebrow this time around.

2. The Clippers have been terrible for 30 years. Does adding Chris Paul really make them relevant (As in, “They’re a contender!”) now?
Mike: On paper, the Clippers look GREAT! But, so did D-Wade, LeBron and Posh Spice, er, Chris Bosh. Yes, they have talent but they have yet to play ball together. Contenders? Not quite yet, I say 2nd round playoffs at best.

Yes, now the Clippers are relevant because of this guy. Really?


Jordy: (Wow, Posh Spice was a low blow!) I hate this question. Of course, I asked it…so whatever. As much as I want to dismiss this question altogether, it was fascinating to see the Clippers on the court (albeit in a preseason game). There are many different ways that they can use Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul together. However, this doesn’t change the fact that…Vinny Del Negro is the coach! So, my answer is still an emphatic “no” until there’s a coaching change.

3. Which teams will benefit the most from the shortened, frenetic season?
Mike: I’d have to say the almighty Celtics (I’m trying not to be biased even though it may seem like it because that’s my team). In all honesty, the team is not old, it’s just the main parts of the engine are a little dated. The lockout helped to get Pierce, KG and Ray a significant amount of rest and time to ready their bodies for another season, albeit a 66 game season. The team already has chemistry but the problem last season was the postseason push after a long, grueling season and losing major components to the team chemistry because of injury. The time away from the court should help them have the required energy to make a final postseason run while these 3 future HOF’ers utilize the last in their drawn out tanks.

Jordy: If I use the NFL lockout as a premise, I would think a team with an established (and proven) system in place. Also, I tend to believe that said team would have something to prove. I present to you…the Miami Heat! I’ll remind you that the Heat had the second best record in the East last season, and were two wins away from winning an NBA championship. With all the LeBron slander that took place during the off-season, I’m almost certain that he’s looking to deliver this year. That entire team has something to prove. Watch out, folks.

4. Which team(s) will suffer the most from the shortened, frenetic season?
Mike: I have to say L.A.’s team…the Clippers (go figure!!). Easy explanation: CP3 signed less than a month before season tip-off, the tremendous amount of attention and pressure brought forth by the media and fans, and absolutely zero time to mesh as a cohesive unit. Thus far, they seem pretty good in the pre-season, but how will it all work out when the games matter?

But wait, L.A.’s other team (yes, I said other), the Lakers, are in a jam because of the shortened season as well. Why? Two words: Mike Brown. He has had zero time to implement his coaching style to format the Lakers. And let’s be honest here, Mike Brown is not the guy L.A. needs. However, he’s the coach and how will he substitute The Zen’s triangle offense and disciplined defensive strategies? All I know is the Lakers will be quite frustrated this season without lack of direction from the coaching staff.

Jordy: I think I’m stealing this from someone, but I’d say…the Rockets. Remember that first Chris Paul trade? Part of it involved the Rockets getting Pau Gasol. Daryl Morey (the GM) had been lining up assets to make a move like that for the past two or three seasons. Now what? I would imagine that they’re a fringe playoff team still, but it never helps when there are three guys on your team that you couldn’t trade…and are still on the team. Another team that might suffer is Orlando. This Dwight Howard mess is going to ruin that team. And it’s not like they had a lot of mental toughness to begin with.

5. What will it take for LeBron to “bounce back” this season?
Mike: Rogaine. Oops, thought I thought I read something about his hairline in that question. Truthfully, LeBron is still someone I would not like to face down the 4th quarter stretch. Yes, he’s had his late game woes as of late, especially in games that are critical, but let’s not forget the tremendous amount of talent this young man possesses. Two-time MVP (back-to-back at that…we could also list a Biblical scroll length of other accomplishments) with a major chip on his shoulder. He’s also a two-time Finals loser…sounds like more than enough motivation to me to finally complete his championship mission.

Jordy: I was about to make a joke about his hairline, but then I looked in the mirror at my own thinning hair and thought better of it. I’m tempted to say things like “a post up game” or “a killer instinct”. But I think the main thing that would help is a defined role. Is he a decoy for Wade? Should he try to play inside and late Wade take the perimeter? Should everyone defer to him since his passing skills are top-notch? One thing that I didn’t take into consideration last year is that all of what the Heat did pretty much happened on the fly. If LeBron knows and accepts his role, then the things we’ve seen him do well can happen at the right time (specifically at the end of the game).

6. Should the Knicks be taken seriously this year?
Mike: Yes. The Knicks have two of the best young players in the league in Carmelo and Amare’ and they have put in work as a unit. The addition of Tyson Chandler helps the Knicks to establish a low post presence and help on the boards for when Melo jacks up shot after shot. Look for the Knicks to be a 2 or 3 seed this season coming out of the East. I believe they are a solid point guard away from Finals talk.

These guys are legit. The rest of the team? Uh...


Jordy: I’d say kind of. Chris Webber mentioned the Knicks as a “sleeper” team in the East. Perhaps he was asleep when the Knicks made the playoffs last year. Sure, Tyson Chandler is a nice addition. But have you seen him ever create his own shot? Also, how many times has the “player who played great in a contract year, then got a large contract” scenario worked out? I think Amare’ and Carmelo are obviously elite players, but I’m not sure if this is the most cohesive unit around. We’ll see how they play with the heightened expectations. I think they’ll finish better than they did last year, but that was probably going to happen anyway.

7. What team are people not talking about, but should be?
Mike: OKC. Look, this is arguably the best young team with the most upside in the league. Durant is a bona fide star fresh off a worldwide tour of basketball destruction during the summer (also my pick for MVP). Westbrook is one of the most athletic guards in the league, he has faults with shot selection and decision-making, but he’s young. Perkins is healthy and a defensive low post presence, and Harden is emerging as a legitimate threat. They’ve got size and athleticism in Ibaka and the Thunder bench is capable of sustaining the game when the starters are resting. They had a great playoff run last season. This team is dangerous. Since no one is talking about them now, then later in the season I will have the last laugh when everyone is.

Jordy: The Chicago Bulls! I think they have the reigning MVP, right? Also, Carlos Boozer hasn’t hurt himself shaving (yet). And they didn’t lose anyone from their rotation. I also remember that they lost in the conference finals. Surely they’re better than the Clippers/Knicks/Celtics/any other team you’ve been hearing about this offseason. I’m not saying that they’re going to win the title, but I do think that they should be taken a lot more seriously than they’re being taken at this point.

8. Finish the sentence: Because of his impending divorce, Kobe Bryant will ___________
Mike: Holler at Kim Kardashian so he can double date with Lamar and Khloe. Kobe will be with Kim for more than 72 days. Kris Humphries is no Kobe Bryant.

Jordy: Win MVP. And probably average 35 points per game.

9. Dallas Mavericks: Flash in the pan, or favorites?
Mike: I was thinking that they were favorites, but with Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea gone, the Mavs are missing a few sparks. Not to mention, they are a bit aged in comparison to other teams and Father Time just added another year onto their lives. Also with the lockout, I believe it does hinder some momentum from last year’s championship run. Defending their title won’t be easy, in fact it will be even more difficult for them, but I believe they won’t repeat. But they still will fight tooth & nail in playoff series.

That's unity, y'all.


Jordy: By default, I say that they’re the favorites until they lose in the playoffs (or don’t make it). The Game has a line in his song “Game” (so cleverly titled) where he touts the value of Lamar Odom. And he has a point. When Lamar gives a crap, he provides value with scoring, rebounding and passing. Since Barea didn’t play THAT much anyway, and since Tyson Chandler provided an inside presence only, I really think that the Mavericks having Odom balances those losses. Also, this looks like a group that really enjoyed winning it all. I tend to believe that a desire to do it all again is there. So, yes, I think they’re still a favorite.

10. Predictions!
Mike: (And his self-titled “Especially Suspect Predictions”)
MVP-Kevin Durant
ROY-Kyrie Irving
Western Conference champs-Oklahoma City over Dallas in 7 games
Eastern Conference champs-Miami over Chicago in 6 games
NBA champion-Miami over Oklahoma City in 5 games

Ladies and gentlemen, your Rookie of the Year. I think.


Jordy: (Predictions sure to go wrong)
MVP-Kobe Bryant
ROY-Jimmer Fredette
Western champs-Denver over Dallas in 6 games (Tebow magic is everywhere, guys)
Eastern champs-Miami over Boston in 7 games
NBA champion-Miami over Denver in 4 games
(Really, Jordy? Denver?!!!?)

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Leave it to Sam Adams to get me in the mood to write!

So, you may have read and LOLed at my attempt to document Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Of course, had I done a live blog for the Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, things would have gone the same way. Whatever, I’m not supposed to know what happens, right?

The title of this post is actually from a song by Jack White, Danger Mouse, Dick Bavetta, Miley Cryus and John Boehner (well, not the Miami Heat part, but I hope you got that already). In the song, Jack says “lonely” about 5629 times. And honestly, that’s what it feels like to be a “supporter” of the Heat. Hell, it’s probably what it feels like to play for the Heat. They’re the little bad bullies who decided to play together, and that’s just not right! Even yours truly felt obligated to write a few words on the subject back when the Heatles came together.

But what if we’re all wrong? After all, winning is the only thing, right? Yes, I understand that the Mavericks are the other team playing in the NBA Finals. I also understand that Dirk Nowitzki (pronounce the w like a v or I will punch your lights out) is playing so well, ESPN feels the need to bring out the obligatory comparison to Larry Bird (although, calling that obligatory is a bit racist, no?). But this entire season has been about the Miami Heat? Ask yourself this question: Do the Milwaukee Bucks have an ESPN website dedicated to them? Jesuslord, (courtesy MMM) Brian Windhorst left the Cleveland Plain Dealer to write for that site!! Even though people took delight in every Heat slip up, laughed when they cried, they may turn out to be exactly who THEY thought they were. LeBron foolishly talked about winning 5011 championships (which would, in fact, be a record) during that wacky/overdone/pretty stupid pep rally. But hey, should they win this year, that only gives them 5010 to achieve their lofty goal!!

Now, for those of you that are rooting against the Heat, I’d like to know a few things:
1. Why you mad?
2. No, really. Why you mad?
3. Are you rooting against the Heat because you’re mad about the way the team was put together?
4. If your answer to #3 is yes, um…why you mad?
5. If LeBron > Dirk and Wade > Dirk…uh, well, I don’t have to finish this question, do I?
6. Doesn’t Rick Carlisle just look sick? (Bonus question that is completely irrelevant)
7. So, if someone was rooting against you to succeed in life, how would you feel? Because, that’s what you’re doing. You know that, right?
While I am happy for the Mavericks, (I love their arena, you really are on top of the action, it seems) this series is all about Miami. Should they lose (and, no, they won’t, so don’t worry about it) to Dallas, the story will be Miami’s failure, not Dallas’s triumph. Should they win, the story will somehow be made into how players will just join together for a title. And, well, that’s the easy way out. If you took the time to maybe, I dunno, watch the playoffs this year, you will see the Heat coming back like a wave in Game 5 of the Conference Finals. They’ve lost three games all postseason. Guess what? That’s the best record so far. LeBron James was so badass in the Conference Finals that Joe Posnanski felt the need to compare it to Jordan’s fifth title (Jesuslord, ain’t that picture just scary?). The Mavericks have Dirk, yes. But, beyond that? Well, there is a guy with an Abe Lincoln tattoo on his neck…

So, just get with the program, y’all. This series, and season in general, is all about the Miami Heat. I’d love to say that they’ll sweep Dallas. Whatever, I’ll say that. I’ll say that they’ll definitely win it. So, maybe they can have the celebration on South Beach, so LeBron’s declaration (where he was taking his talents there) won’t look….too stupid. This season has to end this way. If you’re not OK with that, don’t worry! There’s going to be an ugly lockout soon afterward, so you probably won’t see a repeat!

True story: I actually have written about 17 posts this month. However, since I have an incredible ability to not finish things that I started, you’ve only seen about…two of them. Anyway, you may be surprised to know that I’m a fan of basketball. My “sports power rankings” would probably look like this:
1. Baseball
2. Football
3. Basketball
4. Tennis
5. Hockey

When it comes to sports leagues, my power rankings are something like this:
1. NFL
2. NBA
3. MLB
4. NCAA Football
5. NCAA Basketball

Why does any of this matter? Well, it really doesn’t. I suppose that I’m trying to qualify myself for writing about the upcoming NBA season. In case you haven’t heard: the Miami Heat got some new players this off-season, Phil Jackson returned to the Lakers, no major star got arrested this summer, and people suddenly realized that Kevin Durant is a good basketball player. Anyway, while I know that there are plenty of other, more reputable outlets available to get an NBA preview for this season, there should only be about five questions you should be asking this year. That is, if you actually care about the NBA as much as it cares about you. So, let’s get right to it!

1. How good will the Miami Heat be? Seriously!
On paper, Dwyane Wade the People Who Took their Talents to South Beach look to be a juggernaut. They’ll be featured on national television twice this week. ESPN has The Heat Index, which is probably the most blatant ass kissing attempt in the history of the Internet. There are plenty of new Heat fans popping up, and I’m sure

What's that? These guys play for the Heat now?!!?

not a single one of them could tell you the name of the arena “their team” plays in, or who Rony Seikaly is. Hell, there’s even a bar that will buy you drinks if the Heat lose a game this year! But will any of this matter? Quick, name the coach of the Miami Heat. Still thinking? Well, it’s Erik Spolestra. Does that name give you any confidence? Didn’t think so. Look, I’m not saying that he’s a bad coach. But if you were to take a glance at the last 15 NBA championship winners, you would see that all of the teams had a proven coach. Maybe Erik Spolestra joins those ranks this year. But if that doesn’t happen, you really should not be surprised.

 

2. Who will be the worst team in the league this year?
This question is only asked because saying “Cleveland!” would be too easy. Although, I think that they lost one of their key players, as well as the head coach. Not to be outdone for woefulness, you have teams like Memphis, (Rudy Gay is paid now, and are you really looking for consecutive good years from Zach Randolph) New Jersey, (they’re trying to trade the GUY THEY DRAFTED THIRD OVERALL THIS YEAR to get Carmelo Anthony)

Hey Kings fans: Chris Webber is not walking through that door. Le sigh.

Toronto, (it’s Canada, guys) and Sacramento (can you name three guys on their team without cheating?). Also, there is bound to be at least one team that won’t be as good as people think they will be. So maybe, just maybe, the race to the bottom will be as riveting as the race to the top.

 

3. What will I watch or do to pass the time when the NBA has a lockout next year?
Yes, there is a relatively good chance that there will be a lockout in the NBA and the NFL next year. So, I hope you guys like college sports and/or soccer! I wish I were joking. NBA commissioner David Stern wants to cut salaries by $800 million dollars. And honestly, can you blame him? USA Today has a database of the top 25 salaries in the league last season. Are these the top 25 players in the league? You answer should be, “Hell to the nah!” Now, none of those players came up with their own contract(s), so much of the blame can be given to team executives as well. But still, there are plenty of guys making way more money than they should be. And until the NBA is able to figure that out between the owners and the player union, (and they’re nowhere near close to doing that) the possibility of a full NBA season next year is pretty bleak. So, enjoy this “most anticipated NBA season ever” while you can. No, seriously.

4. Is there still a Western Conference in the NBA?
OK, so that’s a bit of a stretch. But let’s think about it: the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, and even the Chicago Bulls are considered legitimate “contenders” this year. All of those teams are in the Eastern Conference. Also, Carlos Boozer and Amare’ Stoudemire moved to the Eastern Conference. Moving West, do you really trust the Thunder? Am I the only one who remembers that they were an eight seed last season?

Your Western Conference champions?

Dallas? Well, I guess that anything is possible…but still. Not very likely. Yes, there’s Utah and Portland as well, but do you see either one of those teams actually beating the Lakers in the playoffs? No, you don’t have to answer that question.

 

5. What are your predictions for this NBA season?
I thought you’d never ask!
-MVP: Kevin Durant
-ROY: Blake Griffin (I mean, that’s not much of a stretch)
-Defensive Player of the Year: LeBron James
-Coach: Flip Saunders
-Eastern playoff teams: Miami, Boston, Chicago, New York, Orlando, Washington, Milwaukee, Detroit
-Western playoff teams: L.A. Lakers, Utah, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Dallas, L.A. Clippers, Denver
-NBA champion: L.A. Lakers. As Ric Flair will tell you, to be the man, you gotta beat the man. I’ll believe that another team will win the title when I see it.

If these predictions are wrong, let’s pretend that this post never existed…OK? Thanks.