NBA General

Around the Rim: King James just got crowned by the Bad Boys

It’s even annoying when unspoken.

1. Detroit rocks Cleveland
Everyone knew that the Pistons were going to be focused on LeBron James every time that he had the ball in his hands. Everyone just didn’t know that they would be so successful doing it. King James finished the game with a career playoff-low 10 points after going stone cold from the field (5-15 FGs), but that didn’t keep him from putting his fingerprints all over the game with nine assists and 10 rebounds. The Cavs were a 3-pointer away from possibly winning the game as time was running out but Donyell Marshall choked on an open shot from behind the arc and Chauncey Billups sealed up the 79-76 Game 1 victory for the Pistons with a rebound off the miss. Rasheed Wallace was huge in the win as Tayshaun Prince finally decided to take a night off and finished with less than 10 points (8 points on 1-of-11 shooting) for the first time this post season. Game 2 rolls around on Thursday and you can expect that the Prince and the King will both avoid repeats of their poor performances

2. Forrest Gump’s favorite time of year
So, tonight is the big night; it’s the night that will change the future of two very lucky franchises forever. Hopes and dreams have run wild for months and months about just who would end up with the pair of freshmen phenoms Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Barring any major league wheeling and dealing, tonight we will at least find out the two future homes of these kids, even if we don’t know who’s gonna go where. Here’s a look at all the teams participating in the lottery and their odds of getting the first or second pick:

Team 1st Pick 2nd Pick
Memphis 25.0% 21.5%
Boston 19.9% 18.8%
Milwaukee 15.6% 15.7%
Phoenix (from ATL) 11.9% 12.6%
Seattle 8.8% 9.7%
Portland 5.3% 6.0%
Minnesota 5.3% 6.0%
Charlotte 1.9% 2.2%
Chicago (from NY) 1.9% 2.2%
Sacramento 1.8% 2.1%
Atlanta (from IND) 0.8% 0.9%
Philadelphia 0.7% 0.8%
New Orleans 0.6% 0.7%
LA Clippers 0.5% 0.6%

And just too clarify; no, Phoenix doesn’t get to keep either of the top picks should they end up with them. Instead, they will have to return the pick to Atlanta if they land one of the top three picks. The Pacers will get the Hawks pick if Atlanta ends up with one of the top 10 picks.

And to further clarity; only the top three picks will be determined via the ping-pong ball bouncing lottery, while the fourth through fourteenth selections will be arranged according to the inverse order of their regular season record.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Rasheed Wallace @ Detroit 40 min, 15 pts (FG: 7-13, 3FG: 1-2), 12 reb, 2 ast, 7 blk

Buzzer Beater: The Jazz might have looked outclassed at times during Game 1 of the West finals on Sunday but nobody can point fingers toward the second year point guard who racked up 18 points in the fourth. Deron Williams carried Utah to a near comeback as he finished with game-highs in field goals and attempts (13-23), assists (9) and points (34); about all he didn’t do was hand out Gatorade to his teammates during timeouts. But the playoffs are all about adjustments and we guarantee you that both of these veteran coaches have been working the X’s and O’s with their teams since the final buzzer buzzed Sunday afternoon. Utah really needs to escape Texas with a split in the series but they definitely won’t have history on their side, 0-17 in their last 17 trips to San Antonio, as they head into the game. Then again, the Spurs have never beaten the Jazz in the postseason so, either way you cut it, somebody is going to make history by the end of this series.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Quick turnaround doesn’t hurt the Spurs in Game 1

The Spurs were slam Duncan the Jazz
in Game 1.

1. Spurs continue to dominate Jazz in SA
The Utah Jazz took a beating in the second quarter of Game 1 against the Spurs in the Western Conference finals on Sunday and Jerry Sloan’s boys were never able to recover as San Antonio went on to take the opening game 108-100. Game 1 marked the first time that Utah had made it to the conference finals since 1998, and it showed as the club had the bewildered look of a team in unfamiliar surroundings (all except Derek Fisher, of course). San Antonio, on the other hand, appeared to have the routine down as they calmly executed their offense through Tim Duncan who finished with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds (27 pts, 10reb) for the tenth straight playoff game; that’s just two shy of Shaq’s all-time record. This is the fifth time in nine seasons that the Spurs have made it to the finals out west (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007) and they are hoping that their fifth appearance will help to eventually yield their fourth ring. The Jazz have now lost 17 straight games in San Antonio in a streak of futility that lasts back to 1999.

2. T-Mac needs a new coach to hold him down

We all basically knew that the droopy-eyed Jeff Van Gundy had probably coached his final game on the Houston Rockets bench and on Friday the club fired him. Now, with four seasons under his belt, Eddie Jordan from the Washington Wizards is the longest tenured coach in the NBA except for the two guys in suits on the sidelines of the West finals. It’s funny that Van Gundy would get fired considering that Tracy McGrady said that if the Rockets lost their first round series to the Jazz it would all be on him. Guess the fellas in the front office weren’t quite ready to fire T-Mac. Wonder why? Anyways, don’t feel bad for JVG; like a cat, he landed on his feet after the Rockets tossed him out. In fact, Van Gundy spent his first day off from coaching by calling the Spurs/Jazz Game 1 on Saturday for ABC.

3. Brotherly love
The NBA is all about symmetry. So, if one Van Gundy brother gets fired then the other one is probably about to get hired. It’s like cowbell; the NBA needs more Van Gundy. Stan Van Gundy appears to be the leading contender for the head coaching vacancy in Indiana where Rick Carlisle was given the boot after the Pacers failed to reach the playoffs. But Stan has options; after spending Friday in Indy with the Pacers, he will be out in Sacramento today for an interview with the Kings. Looks like Ron Jeremy Stan Van Gundy will be back on the sidelines by next season, and he should be after the job he did in Miami. Hell, if it wasn’t for Pat Riley’s enormous ego, SVG just might have been the first Van Gundy brother to grab a ring.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Deron Williams @ San Antonio 42 min, 34 pts (FG: 13-23, 3FG: 2-5, FT: 6-7), 7 reb, 9 ast, 1 stl

Buzzer Beater: Tonight starts the fifth straight conference finals for the Detroit Pistons as they graciously welcome LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavalier companions over to the Palace for Game 1. And don’t think for a second that either of these teams has forgotten exactly what happened during their series in last year’s playoffs. The Cavs had Detroit on the brink of elimination after winning three straight games to go up 3-2 but, unfortunately for Cleveland they were playing an experienced, veteran club who wasn’t willing to just go away. The Pistons would go on to win the final two games and shockingly eliminate LeBron from the postseason. Both teams have improved significantly last year, so while the series might be tweaked from a year ago, you can still expect to see a pair of clubs not giving an inch in this conference championship. Don’t sleep on the East; this should be another down to the wire series with these two growing rivals.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Warriors sure could use a beer about now

1. The Jazz step up at home
Derek Fisher took one shot during Game 2 of the Utah/Golden State series but it was a biggie as his 3-pointer during overtime gave the Jazz a 123-117 lead that would eventually grow to the final score of 127-117. Fisher was welcomed to the arena with a thunderous ovation late in the game after he had left his daughter’s side who was in the hospital with a rare form of cancer in order to play. While Fisher steals the glory for this victory, it was a total team effort from the Jazz that deserves the credit. Carlos Boozer (30 points, 13 rebounds), Mehmet Okur (23 points, 18 rebounds), and Deron Williams (17 points, 14 assists) all finished the game with double-doubles while Andrei Kirilenko (20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, six blocks) finally is starting to play like we all knew he could. See what happens when you dry those tears, baby boy. The Warriors had some pretty big games from their stars as well, but when you live by the 3 then a lot of times you’ll end up dying by the 3. And going 15-of-40 from behind the arc is one good way to waste key possessions that are so valuable in the postseason. But just wait until Friday night when the court is surrounded by a golden clad crowd; the Mavericks didn’t seem to adjust very well to that rowdy atmosphere.

2. Pierce says buh-bye to Beijing

Apparently the Boston Celtics don’t have a solid grasp of exactly how the NBA lottery system works because it looks like Paul Pierce will not be participating in the upcoming Olympics due to his injuries. We know that Danny Ainge is desperate to get that hopper loaded full of green and white ping pong balls but someone should tell him that international competition doesn’t count. You know how naïve good ol’ Danny boy can be when it comes to things like this. Remember that time that he just “accidentally” ended up sitting next to Kevin Durant‘s mom during the Big 12 Tournament? Talk about a desperate franchise; after the season they just had, there’s no way that Ainge is going to let his lone All-Star anywhere near harm’s way, even if it is in the name of the U.S.A. And if those ping pong balls bounce Boston’s way then the Celtics could be sporting a pair of superstars when the season starts anew in the fall.

3. T-Mac’s got your back
Jeff Van Gundy might not be sure if he’s going to return for another season as head coach of the Houston Rockets but it sounds like his players definitely want him back. Well, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady both want him back and in Houston those are just about the only opinions that really matter. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s still our coach. Absolutely,” McGrady said. “I’ve said in the past (that) he’s the best coach I’ve played for.” No knock on Van Gundy, but it’s pretty easy to be the best coach in T-Mac’s career; after all, have you seen some of the teams that he’s played on? There’s a reason that McGrady has never made it past the first round of the postseason and it’s not his 28.8 career playoff point per game average.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Mehmet Okur vs. Utah 43 min, 23 pts (FG: 9-15, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 3-7), 18 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: Reports on Wednesday said that Jermaine O’Neal isn’t demanding a trade from the Pacers and that Miami is not looking to deal away Shaquille O’Neal. So, if the O’Neal boys are already off the market, then who is gonna be involved in the summer blockbuster trade? We’d like to say Kevin Garnett but there have been so many conflicting stories coming out of Minnesota, we don’t know what the hell Kevin McHale is thinking anymore. But we’re not going to be surprised by anything that happens involving the Timberwolves, because if McHale can be named the best GM in sports then nothing is impossible in Minny. Except getting KG a supporting cast of course.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Big Ticket punches out early

1. Could KG be moving on?
Kevin Garnett’s season is probably over after injuring his right quadriceps. The former MVP could be done with his Timberwolves club for good if Minnesota can parlay this move into few extra loses and a possible shot at a high draft pick. With only five games left on the schedule for Minnesota, the move probably won’t make a big difference in final standings but when Kevin Durant, and possibly Greg Oden, is available, it’s worth a shot. And even if the T-Wolves don’t pull out a No. 1 or No. 2 pick, they could always package Garnett with a top five draft pick and get a whole bunch of talent in return. The one thing that is clear is that KG’s body simply can’t carry the weight of an entire franchise anymore.

2. Celtics’ hide the Truth

But KG wasn’t the only superstar to have a late season injury bring about an early vacation. However, unlike Garnett, Paul Pierce will definitely not return to the Celtics lineup this year. After a sore left elbow had bounced Pierce back and forth between the active roster and the DNP designation in the box score, Boston management has decided to put an end to the on-again, off-again relationship and throw Pierce onto the shelf. Sure, Pierce could probably use the extra rest but don’t think Danny Ainge isn’t thinking about the extra ping-pong balls that could be coming his way. After all, Ainge was the one caught buddying up with Durant’s mom a while back.

3. Best draft ever?
David Stern came out and said that this upcoming class of college newcomers could make up the greatest draft class in history. Actually he said that “this may be the No. 1 or 2 draft of all time.” That’s a pretty lofty statement by the commish; which got us thinking if he could be right. Only time will tell if this year’s kids pan out, but it’s going to be awfully hard to top the classes of 1984 or 1996. Here are some of the ballers from those talent rich crops and their overall selections.

1984 – Hakeem Olajuwon (1), Michael Jordan (3), Sam Perkins (4), Charles Barkley (5), Alvin Robertson (7), Otis Thorpe (9), Kevin Willis (11), Michael Cage (14), John Stockton (16)

1996 – Allen Iverson (1), Marcus Camby (2), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (3), Stephon Marbury (4), Ray Allen (5), Antoine Walker (6), Kobe Bryant (13), Steve Nash (15), Jermaine O’Neal (17), and it should also be noted that Ben Wallace was available but went undrafted

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Tim Duncan vs. Sacramento 35 min, 26 pts (FG: 11-14, FT: 4-9), 13 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl, 4 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Los Angeles Clippers (37-40) @ Los Angeles Lakers (40-38) The Lakers and the Clippers both have a lot to prove in their gym. Of course, there’s the whole battle of Los Angeles thing and the bragging rights that come along with the victory, but more importantly there’s a possible playoff spot on the line. Currently the Lakers have it, but not by much as they have spent the last few weeks slip-sliding down the rankings and now sit just 2 ½ games ahead of the Clippers who are sitting just outside (½ game) of the playoff picture. Unfortunately the Clippers have been struggling just as much as their LA counterparts. But somebody has to win this game and when they do they will be standing on much firmer post season ground.

Buzzer Beater: This is the time of the season when the good teams get rolling and the crappy teams start folding. While we wouldn’t exactly call the Utah Jazz a crappy team, they are certainly folding like a house of cards down the stretch. The Jazz have now lost five games in a row and six of their last ten and they have basically handed the Rockets home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. But you can’t blame the point guard/power forward combo for the team’s latest loss. Carlos Boozer (19 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists) and Deron Williams (18 points, 6 rebounds, 14 assists) both flirted with triple-doubles last night but couldn’t overcome a 54 point outburst by Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson as the Nuggets showed the Jazz the proper way to get into playoff form. Denver has now won seven straight games to make up for dropping three in a row.