NBA General

Around the Rim: The finals are finally underway

1. King sized stage fright
Everyone seems to be pulling for the Cavaliers in the finals but we’re not hearing too many people bet against the Spurs in the series and in Game 1, San Antonio showed why. The Spurs cruised to an easy 85-76 victory in which the Cavs were close at times but never challenged the former champs. Of course, it’s going to be tough for Cleveland to win a game against anyone when their being led in scoring by Daniel Gibson (16 points). With all the LeBron James talk that has been shoved down our throats since Game 5 of the East Finals, the young King didn’t look anything like MJ or Magic or Bird or any other legend for that matter. LBJ finished with just 14 points on 4-of-16 shooting that included a dismal 0-for-7 first half and Bruce Bowen gets to accept a majority of the credit for that. Cleveland can not win when James plays like he did but the Cavs are really going to be up a certain, smelly creek without a paddle if Tim Duncan and Tony Parker continue getting everything they want offensively. Parker had a game-high 27 points as his interior penetration (Huh-huh; we said penetration) carved up the Cleveland defense like a Thanksgiving turkey. And Tim Duncan was, well, Tim Duncan; do we really need to say any more than that?

2. Orlando tells Donovan to go to hell

It was getting pretty sticky in Orlando after Billy Donovan did one of the fastest 180 degree turns in the history of professional sports. But the Magic are ready to forget all about ol’ what’s his name and quickly solidify their young club with a committed head coach. And even though it cost `em a second-round pick, Orlando got their man in Stan Van Gundy; hopefully SVG sticks around a little longer. Donovan might be kicking himself in a year or two when Dwight Howard develops an offensive game and begins ripping off division and, possibly, conference titles. Van Gundy has got to be pinching himself when he looks at his new roster; his boys might be young and raw but their potential is almost unlimited. And you know that those players are going to hold a grudge against Billy the Kid for this slap in the face. Opposing centers should beware if Howard starts playing with a chip on his shoulder.

3. It’s time to put the Super back in front of Sonics
Seattle finally landed a GM but he’s no grizzled veteran at the helm of an NBA ship, in fact he’s just a 30-year-old kid. Sam Presti is now the man in Seattle and he’s gonna have his hands full right off the bat considering that the Sonics are minus a head coach at the moment. In addition to that, they have the enviable task of making the second selection in the NBA Draft at the end of the month. But what has our wheels turning is that this kid might just be ballsy enough to make some noise with his current high pick. The most interesting scenario we’ve heard is Seattle trading the second pick (a.k.a. Kevin Durant) and Ray Allen to the Lakers for Mr. On Again/Off Again, Kobe Bryant. Then again, he could decide to cut ties with Rashard Lewis and bring in a complimentary player to play alongside Allen and Durant (we’re not jumping the gun are we?). Or they could always just stay pat with what they got if Lewis decides not to get swept away in the free agent waters. About the only thing we do know is that Seattle is on their way up, no matter what moves they decide to make.

Game 1’s MVP: Tim Duncan vs. Cleveland 39 min, 24 pts (FG: 10-17, FT: 4-5), 13 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 5 blk

Buzzer Beater: Listen, LeBron James is a freakin’ amazing player and he has the possibility to become on of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of sneaks, but these constant references to Michael Jordan are driving us up the wall. And finally, we repeat, finally, someone stepped up and said what everybody already knows. “I’m not going to compare him to Michael Jordan,” said Gary Payton on the Best Damn Sports Show. “There will never be a Michael Jordan in basketball again.” Hey, we like trying to compare guys from different eras as much as anyone but this whole Jordan thing has just gone overboard. And it’s not just with LBJ; Kobe Bryant gets the same stupid comparisons. Just leave it alone already and don’t try to categorize these guys anymore. Actually, if James or Bryant ever reaches the six ring plateau then we give you permission to label them lil’ Michael to your heart’s content.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Magic Kingdom is getting kinda depressing

1. Doesn’t anyone wanna coach Dwight Howard?
The poor Orlando Magic just can’t seem to find anyone to roam the sidelines for the club. Of course, Billy Donovan left them standing at the alter and made a total fool of himself in the process and now it looks like they might get another shaft from their second selection. Stan Van Gundy has reportedly been offered the head coaching gig but due to contractual obligations with the Heat as a consultant, he might not be able to accept the offer. The Magic might be forced to give up draft picks to Miami as compensation should the Heat release SVG. But even if Van Gundy gets released there is no guarantee he wants to go to the Magic Kingdom; he’s already been on two interviews with the Kings. It’s all gonna come down to the dolla’ dolla’ bills ya’ll but if the ball was in our court, there would be no way we could pass up that boatload of talent down in sunny Florida like Billy the Kid did.

2. Hottest tickets in town

Fans in Cleveland are going absolutely bonkers over their Cavaliers right now, and with good reason; after all, LeBron James has been playing like a man possessed by legends of NBA past as he delivered his squad to the promised land for the first time in franchise history. So, you can understand why fans are willing to do and pay anything for tickets to Game 3 against the Spurs. Some tickets to the game/big ass party are going for a whopping $14,999! Now that’s some serious team spirit. We can’t wait to see how the local radio stations decide to completely humiliate the faithful followers with whacky promotional contests for a pair of seasts but it should be pretty hilarious. We’ll keep you posted. But don’t think for a second that the emotion of making their fourth finals appearance doesn’t have San Antonio in a tizzy. The Spurs front office has spirit and to show it they’ll be giving away 18,797 white “Go Spurs Go” T-shirts to fans at Game 1. Not bad, huh?

3. Rasheed Wallace would eat New York alive
With the Pistons eliminated from the postseason, the rumor mill is working overtime in Detroit and most of the speculation is focused on a specific hot headed power forward sporting a stylish gray spot. And most of that speculation has Rasheed Wallace landing in New York by the time the season tips-off anew in November. Could be a good fit for New York, they have certainly seen their share of bad boys coming rolling through the Garden, but does Isiah Thomas really want that kind of a headache? This is a guy who can self destruct at the drop of a hat and proved it by flying off the handle in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals and not only getting himself ejected from the game but suspended for any possible Game 7 when he threw a typical Sheed tantrum. And he’s probably had more significant structure surrounding him there than he ever has in his career. What Knick is gonna be able to keep Wallace in check? This could take us all the way back to 50-techs-a-season Sheed from his Jailblazer days.

Buzzer Beater: If you’re not quite in finals mode yet then maybe a little trash talking can get you revved up. Bruce Bowen was recently asked about the next big thing, a.k.a. LBJ, and he really didn’t seem too impressed with the challenge. “The No. 1 assignment in the league?” Bowen repeated back when asked about guarding James. “That’s your opinion, that’s your opinion. … There’s a lot of other scorers in this league, too.” And when he was asked about the sensation Game 5 performance against the Pistons, Bowen again hinted that James might not be all he’s cracked up to be. “I think Michael Jordan‘s 60-something points in Boston was incredible. Now do I think it got this much media coverage? No. Did it deserve it? You could say it did,” Bowen said. “Magic Johnson, his rookie year in the NBA, the show he put on in Philly. That is huge. But it goes to show you that if you’re not playing anymore, it’s, ‘OK, well, we’re looking for the next best thing.'” We know that Bruce is probably just playing head games with the kid but we’re guessing that he’ll be singing a completely different tune after this series is over; win or lose.

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.