Tag Archives: l.a. lakers

A Shaq For All Seasons

Shaquille O' Neal retired today after 19 seasons in the NBA.

What was Shaquille O’ Neal? Was he one of the greatest centers of all-time? A 4-time champion and 3-time MVP of the NBA Finals? A 15-time all-star, number 5 all-time scorer with 28,596 points?


Was he the most dominant big man that this generation had ever seen?


From the time that he stepped on the floor as the number one pick of the 1992 NBA Draft Shaq was a man amongst boys. He decimated foes in the paint with his size; he got to anywhere he wanted in the paint. No man on this earth could guard him (hence the Superman moniker), nor could they stop him, unless they fouled him. Once both of his size 22’s were in the paint it was senseless to try and stop him, the two points were his, just take it like a man and walk off.


Was he the most unbelievable big man that we ever saw?


As big as he was and as powerful as he was he had amazing finesse skills. He was this generation’s best passer able to suck in double teams and kick it out to any open shooter in his sightline. He had great footwork, which he learned after the greatest fleet-footed big man Hakeem Olajuwon schooled him in the 1995 Finals. He had a great spin move to get to the hole, an excellent jump hook that came from plenty of time put in his early years in L.A. however, his power dominated all especially when he brought rims down without even trying during his first few years in the league.


Ever since he came into the league Shaq has been the center of attention.

Was he the game’s best entertainer?


On and off of the court you couldn’t keep your eyes off of Shaq. When he wasn’t dunking on poor and helpless centers he was selling Pepsi without a hitch. When he wasn’t winning titles he was recording platinum rap albums and making hits with the Notorious B.I.G. a.k.a. Biggie Smalls. He starred in movies and extended his brand in a way that could’ve rivaled Michael Jordan. Shaq was never just a basketball player he was the first entertainer of the sport. When you see other athletes crossover to TV and film and music that’s because Shaq laid that blueprint down before anyone else. Shaq could do anything and he definitely did try.


Was he the biggest kid that the game has ever seen?


His playfulness was his best attribute. Shaq was a player who had no problem making a fool of himself. True, he was a hulking 7’1” and 325 pounds and an intimidating man if there ever was one. However, just look at some footage of Shaq break dancing at the all-star game, acting a fool on the bus at the Olympics, playing a living statue at Harvard or leading the Boston Pops. He had fun and made everyone laugh.


(Side note: the best bit of Shaq acting a fool was his short lived reality TV show “Shaq Vs.” he challenged athletes to contests in their own sport and went through it all with the same ridiculous over the top mannerisms that he has whenever there was a camera on him before or after games. It was athletic competition that he never took seriously and it was pure comedy.)


How great of a winner was he?


4 rings, 6 appearances with three teams. The funny yet sad thing about the Shaq era is that he only has one MVP in his 19 years in the league… ONE!!! Then when you look at some of the names that he lost out to (Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Michael Jordan) you go, “Damn. That’s why.” However, MVP’s don’t truly make up who Shaq was as a player. In Game 7 versus Portland he with help from Kobe Bryant led the Lakers back from 15 down to reach the Finals. He dominated each of the Lakers title series in there three-peat years and continuously punished the Sacramento Kings and prevented from reaching a plateau than where they finished.


Shaq always had a fun side.

Could he have been better though?


To say that a man that scored over 28,000 points could’ve done better sounds silly, but he could’ve easily pushed past 30,000 if he wasn’t such a poor free throw shooter… and had stayed in shape.


The problem with Shaq in the second half of his career was his constant refusal to stay in shape. He missed 12 or more games in 8 of the 10 seasons after his first title and missed 20 or more games in 5 of those seasons. Truth is that Shaq got lazy and only focused on the second half of the season up until the playoffs. If he would’ve stayed healthy he could’ve been even more incredible as far as stats go.


Did he love drama?


Ask Penny Hardaway. Ask Dwyane Wade. Ask Kobe Bryant. Ask the cities of Orlando, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Miami and Cleveland about the departures of Shaquille O’ Neal and they wont have nice things to say. Shaq was a stubborn man, in his mind he knew what he was worth as a person and a player and wouldn’t settle for less. He wouldn’t let Kobe or Penny take his spotlight; he wouldn’t accept his playing time in Miami (or play with Chris Quinn as he once said). It was his greatest fault as a player and it cost him more love than what he already accumulated.


(Back to Kobe Bryant for a second. We’ve circled this wagon more than enough times in my lifetime than I would care to discuss. But imagine if they had put their differences aside and worked together more than they did.  They could’ve been greater than Jordan and Pippen, Gretzky and Messier and any other great tandem in the history of sports. When they were on the same page the Lakers were unstoppable. It was the perfect inside-outside tandem and they screwed it up. If there is any regret that Shaq should have in his career it’s the fact that if he and Kobe stayed together they could’ve won 8 championships together and people wouldn’t put Tim Duncan ahead of him as this generations best big man.)


What was he overall?


To me? The third best center of all-time (1. Bill Russell. 2. Wilt Chamberlain), the most dominant at his position in the last 30 years. The most immoveable object in the game. The most gentle of gentle giants who, if irked enough, could take Brad Miller’s head off with one swing, but would’ve rather helped out the police force in any city he played in and helped protect the law.


What much greater could his legacy have been if he and Kobe put aside their differences?

To me Shaq was more than a basketball player. He was a great role model with his charitable services to the community whether it be handing out toys or making public arrests. He was an educated man that made it a point to go back to LSU and receive his bachelor’s degree years after bolting for the NBA and then following that up with a Master’s Degree from the University of Phoenix.


He was a hell of a quote (favorite: “we’re not afraid of the Sacramento Queens.” OOOOOOOOHHHHHH SNAP!!!), whenever there was a microphone in front of him he always had something to say.


He was as imaginative and as playful as he was devastating in the paint. He always had a new nickname that made you laugh and was always in a playful mood.


He was just as special off of the court as he was on it. However, the court was his domain. There was never a player like Shaq before his arrival and there won’t be one now that he’s gone.


There wont be a center like him to roam the paint ever again. No one will have a combination of his size, strength and agility. No one will take over a game like he did, carry a team to three straight titles like he did and have the game in the palm of his hands like him.


Today is a sad day for me because I loved Shaq. I has his Dunkman Reebok shirt when he first came into the league and followed him every step of the way from Orlando to L.A. and everywhere else. He was one of a kind in everyway possible.


Thanks for the memories and you will be missed Shaq, Diesel, Wilt Chamberneezy, Superman, The Big Shaqtus, The Big Aristotle or whatever the heck else you call yourself.

The Lake Show Is Over

Kobe and the Lakers will need more than a flip of the switch to come back in this series.

I knew the L.A. Lakers were dead after their epic collapse in game 1 of their series against the Dallas Mavericks.

The Lakers for years have made flipping the switch an art form. They lull through the regular season, have games where everyone questions their mindset and then once mid-March hits things get back to normal.

It happened again this year as the Lakers sleepwalked from November to February in a stretch that included terrible losses to the Charlotte Bobcats and Cleveland Cavaliers. Once the second half of the season hit, the Lakers turned it on and began to resemble the title contender that we all knew they were.

They won 17 of 18 and had an outside shot at being the number one seed in the Western Conference as the San Antonio Spurs began to show the chinks in their armor. They positioned themselves perfectly at the 2 slot with a first round matchup against the New Orleans Hornets. Even though at times they looked sluggish you saw the reasons why they were going to win the NBA title.

Andrew Bynum was a beast beneath the rim, Lamar Odom was all over the floor and Kobe Bryant was, well, Kobe Bryant. Their size and experience pummeled the Hornets and with the Spurs falling to the Grizzlies I expected them to roll through the rest of the West without consequence. Especially against a Dallas team the about 80% of the country had losing to Portland.

And then game 1 happened.

Up 16 in the second half the Lakers looked as if they were in control. Then Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs rolled back thanks to a combination of defense on their part and horrendous execution on the Lakers part. Well that and Dirk went HAM.

His 11 in the 4th quarter combined with the overall sense of urgency that he and the rest of the Mavs played with shock the Lakers and they couldn’t recover. Pau Gasol was a statue, Ron Artest chucked up a few bad shots and Kobe couldn’t close. In a complete role reversal it was the Mavs showing that they had the guts to hold on to a late lead while the Lakers fell into oblivion.

After that 96-94 loss, the Lakers chances at another title faded.

Pau and company have been manhandeled by a intensely focused Dirk Nowitzki.

Game 2 came around and the Lakers looked like mush. There was no energy, no sense of urgency and even worse execution on offense and defense. J.J. Barea, yes J.J. Barea looked like a Puerto Rican John Stockton as he carved up the Lakers point guards in the fourth quarter and made the Lakers look a total embarrassment. He toyed with them so much that Artest received a one game suspension for trying to clothesline him at the end of the game.

Afterwards Bynum talked of chemistry issues, the Artest incident brought back concerns of his anger issues, and everyone from analysts to my barber highlighted the poor point guard play. The Lakers were heading to Dallas down 2-0 and having to deal with a more focused than ever Dirk Nowitzki.

(By the way, if the Lakers needed an influence as a means to give them a boost, they should’ve looked at Dirk. Dirk knows that he’s close to the end of his time in the league. He’s still playing at a high level at age 33 but that won’t last much longer. Combine that with Jason Kidd on his last legs, Tyson Chandler’s impending free agency and the Mavs close to the end of their amazing run and Dirk is hungrier than ever.

Three years ago Dirk was still a little timid in late game situations, he was still looking for help, now he’s saying screw it, this might be my last shot and I’ve got to take advantage of this while I can. If the Lakers played with a third of his sense of urgency then this still might be a series.)

Game 3 was the Lakers last stand. They knew that their task at hand was against all odds, but they came out with energy and had a spark. You saw Bynum prove once again how important he was to the Lakers, you saw Lamar Odom provide a spark in the starting five for the suspended Artest, hell you saw Phil Jackson smack Gasol twice in the chest and get in his grill telling him to man up… yet when it all boiled down to it, the Lakers inconsistencies, and Dirk’s will, killed them in the end.

Up 7 with a little over five minutes to go, Dirk and company went on a 18-6 including Dirk knocking one home from close range that gave the Mavs the lead for good and pretty much ended this series.

In short, once again Kobe and the Lakers couldn’t close. Weird to think that a two-time defending champion shouldn’t take care of a team that was thought to be the weakest of the top 3 seeds once the playoffs began.

To Kobe Bryant this series isn’t over. He still thinks the Lakers have a shot. Kobe, you don’t.

This team sleepwalked for way too long and thought that it could turn it on like it always does. That was not the case for this year.

The Lakers will lose this series, watch Phil Jackson retire and watch a new champion become crowned. It was not the way any of us envisioned it playing out, but after game 1 of this series you had a feeling that maybe something like this was at hand.

The Heat’s Latest Surge Still Doesn’t Make Them Contenders

Chris Bosh is finally stepping up, but the Heat are still a long way from being title ready.

THE HEAT ARE BACK!!!! Calm down people.

Yes the Miami Heat have won three and in impressive fashion. It started with a 94-88 win over the red-hot L.A. Lakers, then came a 118-85 blowout of playoff contender Memphis and then tonight might have been the most impressive of them all, a 110-80 whipping of the San Antonio Spurs.

This comes two weeks after the Heat went to Texas and got it handed to them by that same margin.

What’s changed you ask, mainly it had been the resurgence of Chris Bosh. The much maligned, overpaid power forward has been on a tear he’s averaging a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds while shooting over 60% from the field. He has finally begun to the look like the premier power forward that he has been hyped up to be as he has dominated the post against the Lakers big men, Zach Randolph and tonight against Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess.

In addition to Bosh, the Heat defense has clamped down instead of lapsing in key moments like it did the previous two weeks against the Bulls, Knicks and Magic. They’ve allowed an average of only 84 points per game in the last three and have limited the scoring outputs of Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili and Randolph.

In a span of two weeks the Heat went from looking like a team that could fall to a four seed instead of the Eastern Conference contender that they have resembled in the last 5 days.

Now for the bad news straight from the mouth of Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, “”They needed the game more than us.”

You’re probably wondering so what, Manu’s probably just mad that the Spurs got taken to the woodshed, think again.

The Spurs and Lakers are pretty much in the clubhouse at the top of the Western Conference. While neither team looked good in Miami they really don’t need to.

Their standing in the playoffs is a given, for Miami it’s still a dogfight. Miami is still chasing Boston and Chicago for a top 2 seed in the East while the Spurs and Lakers are trying to get some rest before the playoffs. Even the Grizzlies are sitting pretty at the 8 spot with Utah and Phoenix fading fast.

Miami has finally proven that they can hang with the big dogs, but it might be too little too late.

They only play Boston one more time before the playoffs and that’s the 80th game of the year when they are in rest mode. After Oklahoma City on Wednesday they have a cakewalk to the finish line and are still an unfinished product.

These three wins are an aberration. I still think that they are the third best team in the East with Chicago and Boston standing in front of them and both of those teams are more complete products.

So while the Heat enjoy their recent morale boost it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still not in proper shape to contend in the East. Though finally beating the big dogs does raise awareness as to how good they can be.

The Heat Are Not Elite

The Heat are good, but not on the celtics level

Did you know that the Miami Heat are only 1-6 versus the top five teams in the NBA this season?

Funny stat huh? Especially when everyone and there mom is sitting around discussing how much the Lakers need a big time win and how they struggle against stiffer competition.

After Sunday’s loss at Boston isn’t about time that we give them the same treatment?

Their 85-82 loss showed once again that “The Heatles,” as glamorous as they may seem, are not the top tier team that we think they are. Never mind their Christmas day win in L.A.; the Lakers could care less about those types of games. Kobe and company are biding their time until the postseason when it actually matters to have statement wins. The Lakers can go about their business like that because they are defending Champs.

The Heat on the other hand don’t have the same luxury due to their lack of Jewelry and Mt. Everest sized hype.

Ever since LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh stood together in July they were crowned the best team in the league. They would win 70 games, they would be unstoppable… if that’s the case then how do you lose for the third time to the best team in the Eastern Conference and this time when they are as healthy Big Pun?

The Celtics were without two big men yesterday (Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal), Marquise Daniels and Paul Pierce was closer to 10% than 100%. They trotted out little used Von Wafer for 14 minutes and only went 7 deep in their rotation. They put Rajon Rondo on LeBron James in spurts in the third quarter… how the hell did the Heat lose this game? Easy answer, they’re better than the Heat, more in-depth answer… they’re tougher than the Heat.

Wafer scored more points in those 14 minutes that the entire Heat bench did all game; Big Baby Davis was huge in spelling Kendrick Perkins who is coming back from knee surgery. Davis in 30 minutes scored 16 points off of the bench and helped outmuscle Miami’s weak front line.

Yet the biggest advantage came in the mental department. The Celtics got in the Heat’s head yesterday. The Rondo ploy on LeBron was stupid brilliant. It was stupid because if LeBron wanted to he could’ve backed Rondo down all game long, but it was brilliant because somehow Rondo put a ton of pressure on the ball and James couldn’t make the plays he normally does.

Putting Rondo on James was so silly, yet so effective.

The Celtic toughness was on full display yesterday. When the shots weren’t falling the defense turned its game up. They forced 15 turnovers including 6 by Wade who had another horrible outing against Boston this year. They turned up the physicality forcing Wade into a stupid flagrant foul on Kevin Garnett in the third after KG floored Mike Miller with a vicious pick. After the foul was assessed you saw Rondo poking around the Heat huddle like a little kid nosing around the refrigerator and didn’t stop even though four players pushed him away.

The C’s showed that no matter how shorthanded they are the best team in the league resides in Boston and that as hyped as the Heat are they’re not title ready just yet.

The Heat’s flaws were on full display. They’re too dependent on their Big 3; they have no considerable depth, no big men inside and no consistent point guard play. The Big 3 rarely complete games together unless it’s to lesser competition and (eerie music please) none of these guys seem to want to take the big shot.

Why in the world was Bosh away from the ball, Wade setting a pick and James inbounding the ball while Mike Miller took the potential game tying three? Shouldn’t that be a shot designed for your best players? It wasn’t the first time either. Guys like Mario Chalmers and Eddie House have taken game tying or winning shots while the 3 musketeers stood and watched. That can’t happen. You have to take that shot if you’re the supposed main guy. Kobe wouldn’t pass, Melo wouldn’t and these guys shouldn’t.

The Heat to me are all bark and no bite, all flash and no grit. They have no killer instinct; no want to step on the other guys’ throat. The Celtics have that. When the game got tough the C’s flexed their muscles and beat up the Heat. Their experience in these situations and toughness carried them where the Heat looked dazed and confused trying to muster up some sort of retaliation but to no avail.

At some point the Heat have to figure Boston out.

Looking ahead for the Heat, they have 28 games left to figure out how to get that mental toughness and beat a worthy opponent when it matters. They have to go to Chicago and face D-Rose later this month and next month things get really interesting with games against San Antonio, the Lakers coming to Miami, and Oklahoma City and Orlando as well.

They have one more game versus Boston in December too but it’ll be the 80th game of the season and both teams may rest their starters.

Not that it matters though. What we learned yesterday is something we should’ve known since day one; Boston is the better team than Miami. It doesn’t matter if they’re at full strength or not, Boston gets the job done and belongs among the elite in the league.

The Heat however, are still a work in progress.

Melo To L.A. Makes Sense

These two as teammates? hmmmm...

Carmelo Anthony to the Los Angeles Lakers makes no sense at all.

Not enough shots for him, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to share, losing Andrew Bynum kills their inside game, and there’s no point guard to help distribute the ball evenly.

The Lakers shouldn’t do this at all no way… um… why the hell not?

How does this deal not make sense for the Lakers in the short and long term scheme of things?

Think about a few things for a second. One, the value of Andrew Bynum is overrated. Sure he’s a valuable asset in the paint, but he’s not the see all end all talent people have him made out to be.

Bynum can’t stay on the court long enough to be effective. The Lakers record is better with him out of the lineup than with him in it. Trading him right now gives the Lakers a great chip to get a great player in his place due to his high salary and upside.

Enter though number two, trading Bynum straight up for Carmelo makes a ton of sense for both sides.

For the Nuggets they get a replacement for Nene who will most certainly depart Denver this off-season. They get a young talented body to help rebuild around with Ty Lawson once Melo leaves.

For the Lakers it makes even more sense. You get another match problem for teams to deal with, some scoring relief for Kobe and you start Lamar Odom who is better in the lineup than off the bench.

The even better thing for the Lakers is the long term effect of getting a player like Carmelo.

Who knows where Carmelo will end up at this point.

Think about this for a minute. Kobe Bryant is an aging player. He’s not the same explosive scored that he once was and is closing in on retirement. Getting Carmelo Anthony makes the Lakers a player now, but it also gives them a player that can keep them in contention as Kobe fades out.

By obtaining Melo the Lakers can avoid rebuilding and stay atop the Pacific division with or without Phil Jackson at the helm. The still have a face for the franchise and a dominant score for another six or seven years and can build around him by developing Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks.

For Melo he can still be the main guy and have a more reliable supporting cast than he would’ve had in New York, New Jersey or Denver.

It works out for all sides involved (it would also work wonders if the Lakers deal Ron Artest for… I don’t know… a bag of popcorn.). The question is does Denver want to trade within the conference and help out a team ahead of it? Also is this really the best that Denver can do?

A month ago they had Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and a pick for Melo, now they would only get an oft-injured, but talented, center. Maybe Denver is running low on options and thinks it should take what it can get for a departing player. If so than get what you can, but you never want to help out another team in your own conference especially the L.A. Lakers.

If I’m the Lakers and this is a viable trade I would do it in a heartbeat. There are more pros than cons for the Lakers to acquire Carmelo Anthony in the short and long term. Plus LaLa (I mean Melo) gets the big city exposure he wants and L.A. gets the big name they’ll need once Kobe hangs em up.

However, as the Melo saga continues, who knows if this is real or just another twist in this never ending tale. Stay tuned.

The Reason Why We Hate The Pittsburgh Steelers

Don't feel bad about hating the Pittsburgh Steelers. It happens when winning becomes a habit

Back in the 90’s when I was a San Francisco 49ers fan I remembered their rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys. It dated back to “The Catch” in 1981 (even though other than that game you couldn’t name me one big 49ers-Cowboys game from 81-92) and ran from their NFC title in 1992 until the end of the decade.


To be honest with you I couldn’t understand what the big deal was with the rivalry. I never really hated the Cowboys up until they beat the niners in 92 and then again in 93. Its not like they were in the same division like they are now with the Giants, they just beat my favorite team and then they continued winning.


That’s how most of these “most hated” teams in each sport become so hated, they win too much and we as fans become so sickened by them that we don’t care who beats them as long as they lose.


How do you think teams like the Yankees, Red Wings and Lakers became so hated? They always win.


I went to a Capitals game a while ago and I kept overhearing a bunch of fans screaming about how much they hated the Red Wings and I wondered why? The Caps and Wings have no history against each other (except that little sweep in the 98 Stanley Cup Final.). There are no classic games like there has been between the Caps and Pens. They just hate the Wings because the Wings always win.


I hate the Lakers. No reason in particular, I just do.


They’ve never killed the Knicks like Reggie Miller and the Pacers or Jordan and the Bulls, they just win a lot and I they always do it with ease.

This is why you hate the Red Wings... admit it.

When the Detroit Pistons played them in the NBA Finals in 2002 I remembered praying to God that the Pistons would kill the Lakers. Keep in mind, I’m also a Bulls fan… remember the Detroit Bad Boys of the 80’s and how they bullied Jordan and the Bulls? Yeah… I was hoping they beat the Lakers. I didn’t want the Lakers to win because they just won three straight titles. They didn’t need another ring. They cost Reggie Miller a title, and Jason Kidd and Allen Iverson, three of this generation’s best players. Winning another one would just be rubbing it in. its not fair I thought too myself, let someone else win who deserves it.


That’s why I kind of understand everyone’s hatred of the Yankees. The Yankees win and win a lot and they do it by spending lots of money (not that we should care because if you had 2 billion dollars wouldn’t you get the best players for your team?).


Every year we (the Yankees) shell out hundreds of millions to bring in Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia and others to put on the pinstripes and create a bigger gap between them and the competition. That’s why fans of the Royals, Rangers, Braves and Orioles hate us. There are no classic game seven’s like we had against the Pirates, or battles like we have with the Red Sox, it’s just you get tired of going to the ballpark and watching a team of triple A players and maybe one or two really good major leaguers to take on a bunch of guys who got paid a ton of money to wear the same jerseys as Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson.


The flip side of this is how people take their hatred of a team and somehow try to turn it into a rivalry. Living in Maryland I saw this with most of their fans mostly fans of the Orioles and the Terrapins.


People in Maryland hate New York for some odd reason that I’ll never understand. When the Ravens beat the Giants in Super Bowl 35 the entire city almost creamed on themselves they were so happy that they beat New York in something. It’s silly to hate an entire city because you can’t beat them and try to tell people that they are your most hated rival.


True hatred that isn’t intra-divisional occur when another team costs you a shot at a title or beats you too often you develop a clear hatred for them. Rivalries start when you actually beat the other team in a big time situation.


I have a reason to hate the Anaheim Angels. They beat the Yankees in the playoffs twice in the 2000’s and owned us in the regular season. However, it wasn’t a rivalry until two years ago when we finally beat them in the playoffs and went on to win the World Series. We beat our bully and got over the hump.


What makes the Orioles a rival? Nothing. Going to Orioles games is annoying because the fans chant Yankees suck, boo Derek Jeter and start fights in the crowd due to the fact that they feel we are their rivals. Um… it’s kind of hard to be rivals with a team who is terrible every year and allows Yankees fans to take over their stadium 9 times a year and turn it into Yankees Stadium South.

Orioles fans have one reason to hate the Yankees. Unfortunarly that doesn't make them the Yankees rival.

(What really annoys me is that the Red Sox do the exact same thing but the fans are ok with it. Boston owns Camden Yards 9 times a year and people in Baltimore walk around in Red Sox gear cheer for them and call themselves Orioles fans. They walk around the city and pledge allegiance to two teams, ONE IN THEIR OWN DIVISION! They say if they play each other I’m an O’s fan but other than that I cheer for the Red Sox. NO! YOU CAN’T DO THAT! WHO TEACHES YOU THIS ETTIQUETTE!!


You don’t cheer for a team with in your own division. Redskins fans don’t like the Giants, Braves fans don’t like the Mets, Twins and ChiSox fans don’t like each other because that’s just how it is. That’s why Baltimore is the most fair-weather town in America and only supports its teams when they’re good.


Sorry about that rant. Just annoys me that’s all. Ok back to the blog.)


Same thing for the Terps and their beef with Duke. I still don’t consider their battles rivalries because Maryland still hasn’t cost Duke anything yet.

The fighting Testudos have had better luck against the Devils in recent years but its not Duke-UNC nor is it even Duke-UCONN. Its just Maryland, who has no rival, starting a beef with a team that they hate just because of their name and pedigree.


Maryland can through insults, chant obscenities and wear F*** Duke tees all they want, but they still aren’t really a rival. They’re just a team trying to get under Duke’s skin and start a war that they really have no reason starting.


However, that’s how hate works.


That’s you and I take a disliking to certain teams. It’s a matter of the success of the team and the players on the team.


That’s why no one likes the Yankees, Lakers, Duke, the Red Wings and the Cowboys.


Funny thing is that I came up with this thought after looking at media day at the Super Bowl and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Actually it was a thought that lingered before the Super Bowl as far back as last season.


Like I said, I have no reason to hate Pittsburgh. They’ve done nothing to the Giants, they don’t play in the NFC, and they haven’t beaten un in the playoffs or in any big time situation. So why in God’s name do I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers?


In the beginning of the playoffs I remember looking at the AFC playoffs and saying how I hoped Baltimore, the Jets and the Steelers all lost.


I have reason to be mad at Baltimore (Super Bowl 35) and the Jets (intercity rival, plus the Jets act like they own the city when their only great player had more all-time interceptions than touchdowns.). Yet Pittsburgh I really have no reason to hate.


The Steelers just annoy me for some reason. Their fans travel in packs no matter where the Steelers are playing that week, the whole Steeler toughness thing gets overdone with their defense (I don’t think they know tough until Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Joe Greene get a load of LT, Harry Carson and Leonard Marshall) and it doesn’t help that their QB is an accused rapist yet the town acts like nothing happens. Not to mention those stupid freaking “Terrible Towels.”


More than anything they just win. They have 6 Super Bowls, they do physically beat up teams, they have their own theme song (Wiz Khalifa’s “Black & Yellow”)… their more successful than the Giants or your team and it gets on your nerves and mine because we feel like we can beat them.

More than enough reason to hate the Steelers.

They’re actually more annoying than the Cowboys or Red Wings or any other successful, except the Sox of course, because it’s the whole package of annoyance; legacy, winning and loads of fans. You can’t dis the Steelers because you have know reason to. So instead you sit around and hope they fail in the comfort of your own home and amongst friends. Its jealousy, its envy, its natural.


I should hope the Steelers tar & feather the Packers after what they did to the Giants in week 16 at Lambeau Field. The Packers cost the Giants a playoff spot by beating us 45-17, and it wasn’t that close. I should want James Harrison and company to beat Aaron Rodgers to a bloody pulp, yet I don’t.


I want to see Aaron Rodgers fully exercise the Favre demon once and for all, I want Charles Woodson to add a Super Bowl ring to his hall of fame resume especially after “The Tuck Rule” game, above anything else I just don’t want the Steelers to win another Super Bowl.


I cant take “Six-burgh” becoming “Seven-burgh.” I don’t want Roethlisberger to get another ring. Even though I like Mike Tomlin and the way he runs the Steelers I don’t like him enough to see him leading Pittsburgh to another title. It’s not his fault; he’s just wearing the wrong colors.


Call me a hater, call me whatever, but you feel the same way too. You sit at home as fans of the Bengals, Dolphins, Eagles or Jets and you don’t want to see it either. They’re not your rivals, you shouldn’t even care but you do. That’s the way it is. They’re not your team and they keep on winning while you have to settle for second place. Sucks I know but that’s the way it works.


About 80% of America will be cheering for the Green Bay Packers this Sunday in Dallas. 75% of us aren’t from Wisconsin. We have nothing in common except the fact that we hate the Pittsburgh Steelers 100%. Why? Because they win a lot and our teams don’t. That’s just the way hate works in sports. It’s not their fault.


Your Wacky Week In Sports Recap

The Isner-Mahut match was one of the many crazy things to happen this week

And you thought that once the NBA Finals ended that sports would go into a deep sleep with the long slumber of the baseball season, oh what little you knew.

The annual conception of sports is that once David Stern’s rig-a-thon of a finals ends yearly in June that we just sit around and twitter our thumbs until the baseball trade deadline then football season begins.

Tennis isn’t as big as it once was, golf lulls you to sleep (Tiger or not) and NASCAR—well NASCAR isn’t a sport. So there is baseball and when you talk to people they all have complaints about the length of games, season, the lacking continuous wow factor and just the slowness of the sport in general. So honestly the 6 weeks between the end of the NHL and NBA playoffs and the beginning of NFL training camps are usually repetitive, slow and boring… then this week happened.

It looked like just a normal week for sports fans; two drafts (NHL and NBA), interleague baseball, Wimbledon Tennis, the U.S. Open and World Cup soccer. Nothing big, the names all match the faces, you know what happens, who wins, loses, etc. There was a huge curveball thrown this way this week, weird things were happening everywhere to the point that if you turned away from your TV you probably missed seven different things in an hour.


Tiger was in striking distance at the U.S. Open as was Phil Mickelson yet Dustin Johnson was the headliner heading into the final round. At 6 under, Johnson held a 3 shot lead over Grahame McDowell and a 5 shot advantage over a lurking Tiger. Then he threw it all away in three holes on Sunday and finished with a final round 82. Johnson buckled under the pressure with triple and double bogeys on no.2 and 3. He was so bad the NBC golf analyst caught fire this week for saying that Johnson wasn’t using his brain during his meltdown… OOPS!

McDowell wasn’t exactly stellar either; he finished at even for the tournament after a final round 74 to become the first European golfer to win the open since Tony Jacklin 40 years earlier. Yep Colin Montgomery never did it, nor Nick Faldo, or Paddy Harrington.

It was also the tournament that may have ended the notion that Tiger Woods is the most feared player on the planet. That tends to happen when you go from totally focused to whining about the holes to anyone that listens, and blasting your caddie in public. Apparently Tiger lost some since of class when he lost half of his money.


The Federer fiasco.

If Federer wanted people to pipe down about his fading skills, then this was not the way to do it. His near collapse is only topped by his opponents. Alejandro Palla had Federer beat, twice. He had the opportunity to break Federer for the match twice in the third set and he blew it. He eventually went on to lose in five sets including a 6-0 beat down in set five. Palla could’ve pulled off one of tennis’s biggest upsets; instead he is a great dinner date for Dustin Johnson this week.

Then there was the Phil Jackson conundrum in L.A. during their parade. Jackson skipped out on the festivities for a previous doctor’s appointment that he said he couldn’t reschedule. Keep in mind that he’s Phil Jackson; he could do whatever he wanted when he wanted. You couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment rescheduled? I’m broke and I get appointments redone all the time.

There couldn’t have been a more telling sign that Jackson is on way to retirement. This might be his way of riding off into the sunset like a lone cowboy. He could’ve done it in a less discreet way, maybe.

In a side note, the Yankees continued their plan to kill their young starters by skipping Phil Hughes because he’s pitching too many innings. Ask Joba Chamberlain how that worked out for him.

(Also Hughes is 10-1 with a 3.13 ERA! He’s the best pitcher on the staff right now. Yet he gets skipped for a start and A.J. Burnett continued his implosion by allowing 7 earned runs on Monday for his umpteenth unimpressive start lately. I’m starting to wonder if Jeffrey Luria knew what he was doing when he fired Joe Girardi…)


… Until he fired Fredi Gonzalez Tuesday after their win against the Orioles. Luria says that he feels that the Marlins have every necessary tool to compete in the NL East. Yes Jeff except that you have no bullpen, no reliable cleanup hitter and no reliable starters that are not named Josh Johnson. Very true.


Landon Donovan Saved the U.S. yet again

Wednesday was exhausting. I had to start a new job Wednesday and the was the least exciting thing in my life on that day.

First off U.S. soccer almost got jobbed again by a ref in their game versus Algeria. Clint Dempsey got the Maurice Edu treatment when a phantom offside call robbed him of a goal early in their match. Added to that was the pressure that England placed on the Americans. Jermaine Dafoe’s goal in the 23rd minute against Slovenia placed the U.S. squarely on the edge of elimination where it stayed until the extra time of the second half. Then after an amazing outlet pass from keeper Tim Howard Landon Donovan saved our hopes of a World Cup title with a rebound put back that put the U.S. up 1-0 and into the knockout round on Saturday against Ghana. Easily the greatest goal scored in U.S. Soccer history. The feeling was amazing for a nation that isn’t easily influenced by soccer but loves a champion. Even I was speechless as Donovan saved the U.S. in the second straight match when all hope seemed lost.

That reminds me; doesn’t this team reek of destiny? Let’s be real, the U.S. should easily be eliminated with one point as they are the winners of their group. Their slow starts against England and Slovenia could’ve easily been losses if not for Robert Green’s butter fingers or Michael Bradley’s right place right time goal. For all of the talk of the U.S. being screwed out of goals, we have just as easily lucked into two or three of them. Makes you wonder what will happen next on Saturday.

That brings us to after the match and the wonders of the American language. My buddy Will Whatley introduced me to a word called fooleywang a while ago. He uses it to describe certain instances of ridiculousness that you view on a daily basis. It’s a play on foolishness, and adjective, here it is used in a sentence; the match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut on Wednesday was pure fooleywang. How does that happen? When Wimbledon instituted that they would have no tiebreakers in the fifth set of their men’s matches they couldn’t have possibly expected this.

I began paying attention to the match at around 30-29 Isner. Which turned into 34-33, 38-38, 40-39 and then I began to wonder, is this ever going to end?

It was pure will and endurance by both Isner and Mahut. They just couldn’t break each other to take control of the match. When Isner pulled back for an ace, Mahut followed. Winner after winner, ace after ace neither man was budging. Isner had three chances at match point but each time Mahut fought back with a great first serve and winner to keep his hopes alive. The crowd at the 18th court went from 100 people to 1000 with spectators stopping to watch the epic fifth set for hours, not budging for anything. They watched Isner and Mahut battle like prize fighters praying to make it to the next round.

The most telling point of the match came when Mahut dove for a ball well out of reach and watching his racket fly across the court in agony. He just wanted it so badly. He didn’t want to lose. Who would? When you’re on a court for ten hours and still at a draw you can’t lose. Both men took it to the extreme and both finally gave in as darkness set in and it was clear that they would need another day to settle this epic. 59-59 after two days, 150 aces and ten hours of tennis, still no winner. In other words I started a new job, wrote a blog, cleaned my room, Germany won soccer match, the Reds reclaimed first place and one tennis match didn’t end. Wow.

Then after that hockey just had to make no sense at all. The Blackhawks traded 3 of their most important role players due to financial restrictions Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and Dustin Byfuglien… DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN!?!?!?! You mean the guy that made Kane and Toews fly, the guy that scored eleven goals and five winners in the playoffs you traded him! Really?

I understand that the market isn’t great now and you have to save money, but to trade your third best forward and most important force on offense? Really Rocky? Byfuglien is going to command lots of money next offseason based on his clutch performing in these playoffs which meant the Hawks couldn’t afford him anymore. Byfuglien’s big body and presence will be missed but in these economic times you’ve got to do what you got to do to save money. I just don’t get trading one of your most beloved players. Makes no sense, sort of like Henrik Sedin winning MVP over Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby, but I digress.


The sad afterlife of Lawrence Taylor continued.

Lawrence Taylor was officially indicted on felony sexual assault charges for having sex with a 16 year-old prostitute; if this wasn’t rock bottom for LT then I couldn’t tell you what it will be. Funny thing is that two months ago at the NFL Draft Taylor was all smiles speaking about what the Giants needed to get back to on defense, and his legacy. Now Taylor’s latest misstep just punctuates what has been a mess of a post career.

I’ll never understand why Taylor continues with this type of behavior when it has caused so many problems including his Hall of Fame selection. He never learned when it was a good time to slow down. Even when it seemed like he was getting it, he didn’t. You’ve got to wonder if the judge will put an official end to this behavior with a lengthy sentence that will all but end with LT being a shell of the person that we once knew as the most feared man in football.

Then there was a bore of a NBA Draft, well except Wesley Johnson’s pants those were the most exciting things of the evening. Except for Utah reaching for Gordon Haywood at 9 (insert racial joke here) and the Grizzlies reaching even higher for Greivis Vazquez at 28 the draft was highly irrelevant because it was just a set-up for free agency.

Think about it, Miami traded out of the first round to save money as did Chicago. The Knicks did their prep work by packaging deals out of the next two drafts for this year’s free agency period. Really all the draft was, was just an appetizer for July 1st. teams close to contention clearing room for Bron and Wade or Bosh or Amar’e or Dirk. Teams don’t just want one star they want two because they believe that will put them over the top.

David Stern for all of his lauding about how he wants Bron to stay in Cleveland because it would be better for the league is facing a huge problem, and that is the competitive balance of the league. Really the league is just 6 good teams with everyone else there for fun factor. You don’t expect Golden State or Indiana to contend for anything anytime soon, it makes the league less relevant and makes the draft a sham.

Think about this for a second; Dwyane Wade and LeBron James set a precedent by signing shorter deals 3 years ago to get to free agency with no strings attached quicker, pretty much they now dictate who they want to play for. Who’s to say 6 years from now John Wall DeMarcus Cousins and Wesley Johnson won’t do the same and put Minnesota, Sacramento and Washington in similar situations like the one they are in now? Stern has to find a way to make the league more competitive so teams like New Orleans and Memphis won’t feel like they can’t compete with larger scale teams because of their attraction.

(But will Stern do it? Of course not. He’s more concerned with that $400 million dollar debt his league is in. not knowing that spreading the balance will help alleviate some of that debt.)

Oh and Isner-Mahut just ended 70-68 Isner. Eleven hours, 220 aces, 1000 points won, 183 games, an 8 hour 30 minute fifth set and finally a winner.


  • Quickies from weeks end: Clijsters-Henin match setup for Monday
  • Rasheed Wallace retires. Referees rejoice.
  • Carlos Zambrano threw a fit in the dugout after getting hammered in the first inning against the Chisox. He got suspended and rightfully so. I love Zambrano but his temper is ridiculous. The guy has to find a way to slow himself down and regain his form before he finds himself out of baseball.
  • Taylor Hall was the number overall pick for the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL Draft. Tyler Seguin was second for the Bruins.
  • The Toronto Blue Jays host the Philadelphia Phillies… in Philadelphia. So you couldn’t play in another stadium in Canada, really? C’mon Son! You know that’s three extra home games for the Phils Bud. Don’t lie.

    Edwin Jackson threw another no-hitter, but who hasn't this year?

Oh yeah and Edwin Jackson threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays— WITH 8 WALKS! Ok what should be the story here; a. the no-hitter itself, b. the fact that this is the fifth no-no of the season (yeah I’m still counting Armando Galarraga’s) or c. the fact that Tampa has been no hit three times in the last year?

I understand that no-hitters are a big deal, but come on 8 walks? That’s eight base runners plus a hit batter, that takes away from the luster of the no hitter big time. It’s still an accomplishment to not allow a hit over an entire outing but Jackson’s wildness makes it less of a big deal. The same goes for Ubaldo Jimenez’s 6 walk no-no in April. They weren’t great performances like the Halladay, Braden or Galarraga games because those guys were in complete control from start to finish. I think we make a big deal out of no-hitters because we never used to see them a lot, but now that were entering a pitcher’s era in the sport maybe we should hold up a higher standard of how to celebrate no-no’s because Jackson’s to me isn’t that big of a deal.

What is a big deal is the fact that there are all of these no-hitters flying around like hotcakes. With the steroid era being cleared away you have to wonder that the use of PED’s really did amp up the last 15 years of baseball’s run production, who knows how many more of these things we’ll have this year, 2? 4? It is highly possible.

And please Tampa, learn some plate discipline. 3 times in 140 games? You get a big Ed Lover C’mon Son!

Oh and today, Saturday there’s another A.J. Burnett start, U.S. versus Ghana, Rafa trying to avoid another five set meltdown and whatever else could possibly happen as a crazy happenstance in this crazy week of sports. Just stay tuned because you might miss something special.

Call Him King Kobe

Kobe is officially one of the greats

Kobe did it. As unimpressive as it was, as ugly as it looked Kobe Bryant has finally and firmly planted himself as best player of his generation and worthy of all accolades that come his way. His 6-24, 23 point festival of ugly gave him a fifth championship to put him in company that belongs to Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Magic Johnson. It also gave Kobe the undisputed championship of being the best of an era that has featured him taking a back seat to the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Tim Duncan.

He has had the flash of LeBron or D-Wade without the hype of Vince Carter, the limitless usage of his physical attributes like Kevin Durant without the ballyhooed respect of Time Duncan plus he’s getting a little long in the tooth at 32 with 13 years of experience, but make no mistake, this has been Kobe’s era.


It’s been rough to say the least; fights with Phil Jackson that led to scathing remarks in Jackson’s book. A feud with Shaquille O’ Neal that was better suited for a rap record, beef with the Lakers front office that almost resulted in a trade, plus there was that whole Denver innocent that we needn’t mention. Yet here we are staring at one of the greatest to ever play the game at his Zenith.

Kobe’s popularity has soared when it looked like at one point he would never recover from rape allegations. He’s gone from a closed mercurial personality to jumping over luxury cars for viral video fun, having his likeness used in hilarious puppet commercials and attempting to cross over into modeling (scratch that last part, that shoot was horrendous). There is a commercial running right now that features Kobe’s growth from high school phenom to NBA champion while being mixed in with the greats from Wilt to Russell to the man that he draws the most comparison and ire to Michael Jordan.

We’ve all hated Kobe before we loved him. we hated his yearning for the big moment when he was just a misguided pup in the late 90’s against Utah, we scowled at his smugness for interviews and his selfishness for bad shots. We spewed venom his was for purposely disappearing in games versus Phoenix and Sacramento earlier in the decade almost like he wanted to prove a point to point without proving anything at all. The worst offense has been the Jordan comparisons, the jacking of his fade-away jumper and fist pump. We hated the way he carried himself on the court with that swagger, we wanted him to fail.

That’s not Kobe’s M.O. however, Kobe and failure don’t mix well because doesn’t allow it to. This series has been a prime example of Kobe’s growth, criticisms and current status as the best of his era.

In game one he was vintage Kobe, abusing defenders controlling the action, getting to the paint whenever he wanted. He showed glimpses of the new unselfish Kobe by dishing to teammates for open looks an encouraging them to take shots. Game 3 the Kobe we all know, chucker, selfish too many bad shots, greedy with the rock, if not for Derek Fisher the Lakers would’ve been down 2-1. Game 5 was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Kobe. When the offense struggled he kicked it into high gear making everything from fade-away threes to layups to circus shots. He scored 23 straight at one point but his offensive out was all the Lakers had as the rest of the team was in lala-land. After the game the other side of Kobe came out. He screamed at his fellow mates pleading them to step it up in a profanity laced tirade that could’ve been heard all the way in China.

Game 7 Kobe however was a Kobe I had never seen before. He was ineffective, couldn’t buy a basket, his J was off, but Kobe did everything else. He made Ray Allen’s life a nightmare and held the hall of fame shooter to a dismal 3-14 shooting, he deferred to a hot Ron Artest to take big shots and pounded the ball down low to Pau Gasol. Kobe was fighting for his life it seemed like he thought to himself that maybe this is it. This might be the last shot I have to get a title. He doesn’t know if Phil Jackson will be back to run the show, or how the team will look down the road or more importantly how much is left in his tank. Bryant has played the most minutes in the NBA over the last 11 seasons, those knees can only last but so long. So here was Kobe scrapping for everything, deferring to his mates, giving Sasha Vujacic encouragement after making two huge free throws late in the game. I think this was the night that maybe Kobe Bryant finally understood himself and what his worth was to his team as a leader. There was that greed to want to finish it himself but he waved it off by scrapping for a career high 15 rebounds going through heavy traffic to get them most of the time. If he couldn’t score he was making an impact everywhere else, no complaints no questions asked.

As he stood at the podium with the rest of the Lakers and his wife and kids in tow, Kobe finally was his own man. Yeah he won last year without Shaq, but he did it this year without the hype of the 800 pound gorilla on his back. He was happier this time around than last year, he almost seemed relaxed. He had passed Jerry West as the Greatest Laker ever and passed Magic Johnson as its best Champion. You could also say that Kobe rightfully belongs in the conversation of being one of the top five players of all time with Jordan, Russell and others.

One thing that needs no debating is this, love him or hate him Kobe Bryant is the best player in the league right now and is the best player of his generation. If anyone should be referred to as King it should be Kobe Bryant and he’s got the rings to prove it. His puppet would tell you so.

The Great NBA Playoff Unknown

The matchup everyone wants might not be the one that they get.

Don’t believe everything that you have read, heard, or even seen.  Don’t believe the little playoff simulators, the odds makers, trends, blah blah blah.

The NBA second season has officially arrived, and everyone thinks they have it all figured out. Cavs-Lakers, Cavs-Mavs, Magic-Lakers… honestly you don’t know nothing.

The reality is that the last three weeks of NBA basketball was not only boring and uneventful, but it lulled everyone to sleep and has given fans, players and writers a false sense of security. Once the top 8 clinched in the west, teams were “jockeying” for position when in reality it didn’t matter who was playing who in the first round as long as it wasn’t the Lakers. The Jazz, Nuggets, Spurs, Suns, Blazers and Thunder could’ve finished 3-8 in any order and it wouldn’t have mattered (and still doesn’t, it’s either the Lakers or Mavericks in the finals). No team is dominant; they have issues somewhere and won’t stand a chance in the Western Conference finals… see that’s what you are supposed to be thinking right?

Ok I’ll stop messing with your heads and get down to it… ANY TEAM CAN WIN THE TITLE THIS YEAR! THERE IS NO FAVORITE! No team is truly dominant, every team has a big problem, anything can happen, whether your coach and GM get into an MMA fight, or your center and alpha dog two guard are beefing (again) or you’re just counting the days until your star players bolt for greener pastures (ahem Miami, Cleveland) there are concerns on every team that could eventually kill their chances.

There are chemistry issues in Chicago and Los Angeles, concerns about lack of experience in Oklahoma City, questions of age in Boston and San Antonio, injuries in Portland, Denver, and Milwaukee, and teams that may put too much pressure on themselves knowing that things could be different next year in Cleveland and Atlanta.

Here are some logical yet crazy situations that could happen over the next two months:

Oklahoma City can beat the Lakers. Even though Phil Jackson just mind-bleeped Kevin Durant. The concern is youth for the Thunder, but what about the dysfunctional family that is L.A.? Are they focused enough to repeat with Kobe chucking up shots again, Pau Gasol spewing venom at Kobe and Ron Artest fading late in games. Couldn’t you see Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor off of the bench going hog wild into the paint and creating havoc? This isn’t a chip in for the Lakers, the Thunder are Hungry and ready to jump on whoever is in their path. Plus this is the most underrated defense team in the league, Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha will give Kobe fits.

Boston could get to the Eastern Conference finals. Everyone has them left for dead due to age and health. They won’t be together past next year as Ray Allen looks to be gone and Doc Rivers may leave. I just have a feeling that the Celtics have been playing dead for months. They got off to a hot start then hit the cruise control button and had some questionable losses to horrid teams. Yet last week when they played the Cavaliers you saw the fight come out in them, KG cursing up a storm, Allen dropping 33 and just an all-around gutsy performance. They understand that 60 of the 82 games of the season are pointless and the real season is the postseason. Maybe after game 30 they just said you know what, we’ll get a top 4 seed just let everything fall into place. Crazy, but not out of the question.

They're well rested and ready to roll.

San Antonio could win the NBA championship. See Boston. Just in reverse

The Nuggets could pull it together and make a finals run. The first 40 games of the season this was the true life scenario of the NBA: Carmelo was MVP, the Nuggets were neck and neck with the Lakers and no one team in the NBA could matchup with them. After Carmelo’s injury here’s what happened: George Karl gets cancer, Kenyon Martin gets injured (again) and goes batty on a trainer, Ty Lawson gets injured, Chauncey Billups gets injured, and the Nuggets fell apart. The Mavs, Suns and Jazz all past them in the standings and left the Nuggets for dead. Yet they have home court in round one and seem to be in good health, plus we know how iffy Utah is even with a MVP-like season from Deron Williams. It’s possible that they can regain some steam and make a run even past the Lakers.

The Jazz, Suns, Mavs, and Hawks could all get bounced in the first round. The Jazz are terrible on the road, the Blazers can keep up with the Suns even without Brandon Roy. The Hawks and Mavs are interesting and here’s why:

  1. Both teams are versatile at all five positions and off the bench.
  2. They have superstars that put up numbers, but have a reputation of fading in close games.
  3. They both had great runs from the midseason on, Dallas through the Caron Butler trade and Atlanta finally coming together after years of playing together.

Yet I don’t feel secure in trusting these guys in their first round matchups at all. Dallas draws San Antonio in the first round and Atlanta draws a scrappy Milwaukee team without Andrew Bogut, both Scott Skiles and Gregg Popovich are better coaches than Mike Woodson and Rick Carlisle and most importantly… ITS DALLAS AND ATLANTA! They’re underachievers! They may get to the second round and that’s it. I have no faith in either of these teams, especially Atlanta which is highly combustible and Joe Johnson may have a foot out of the door already.

Chicago could beat Cleveland… in 5 games. Don’t laugh. I know Vinny Del Negro and John Paxson almost beat the crap out of each other a week ago. I know you couldn’t get a lick off of that bench. I know there isn’t a being on earth, let alone on Chicago, that can guard Lebron James, but in 3 of 5 positions on the floor, Chicago is better that Cleveland. Consider this if you will, did you watch Cleveland without Lebron down the stretch? Terrible. Awful. Without James they are a 36 win team period. Mo Williams can’t guard Derrick Rose (and will go into hiding around game 3), Big Z, Shaq and Anderson Varejao will get housed by Joakim Noah, it’s almost amazing how quickly we’ve forgotten the motor on this guy. When the games get tougher, Noah steps his game up. He’s been a big game player since his days at Florida and its finally coming out in his third year in the league. The biggest piece though is Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich has almost been dealt 85 times in the last 3 years and has been shuttled in and out of the lineup the last two years. He’s now playing off guard and guarding the opponent’s best shooter and making their lives hell. If Delonte west, Boobie Gibson or Jamarrio Moon can’t shake Hinrich, then Lebron could be making plans for New York sooner than we think.

Orlando will win the title. They’re angry. Dwight Howard led the league in blocks, rebounds, and technical fouls. Stan Van Gundy is chipping away at other stars credibility. Matt Barnes is grilling Kobe Bryant and picking fights with other team’s big name players. J.J. Redick has grown an angry new do… okay so some things are more fearful than others. The Magic still made a bad deal in essentially letting Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee go and thinking that Vince Carter is a go to guy this late in his career (and that its Vince Carter, he normally mails in it around February). Yet this team of any in the league is the most complete and the most focused. There is no chatter between Howard and Stan Van Gundy, no crazy side story involving an injured point guard, no big injuries, no nothing. Their quite normal compared to everyone else in the playoffs. They beat L.A. at home in a rough and tumble game that saw the fight come out of the Magic. They’ve only lost three times since March all to three playoff teams. They’ve been the most consistent team all year long save for losing 7 of 9 early in the year. You go into Magic games knowing what to expect from minute one to forty-eight, Redick giving you points off of the bench, Mikael Pietrus shutting down the opponent’s best player, and no one getting anything inside on Dwight Howard. They’re the model of consistency that most teams crave to be and want, and it should carry them to a title…

Or Los Angeles could win, or Dallas could prove me wrong, or Cleveland will whip Chicago. Who knows, just be glad that the slow crawl to the end of the regular season has past and that the real season is about to begin. Just don’t be surprised by whatever happens until June. You think you know what’s going to happen. Keep in mind, you don’t.