Posted on: October 13, 2010 3:07 pm
2010-2011 NBA Atlantic Division Preview
As the phrase has long been applied to life is recited: for every action there is a reaction. Three teams in this division were greatly affected by free agency this summer, even though they all ended up empty handed when it came to their pursuit of any of the prized free agents this July. Two of the teams, though, plotted for two years with hopes of landing LeBron James, only to be spurned as he left for the Miami Heat. Another one of the teams had one of the prized free agents, and his leaving for the Miami Heat left them in freelance as well. Meanwhile, the three-time defending Atlantic Champions lost in the NBA Finals and had to react promptly. The loss of Kendrick Perkins did not help either in the NBA Finals or at the start of this season, and the Celtics looked to add to their list of established veterans for what feels like one last run at a championship. And then there’s the Philadelphia 76ers. After years of being an afterthought in the league, one of the league’s most prominent cities is taking huge steps towards relevance again. They reached back and hired Doug Collins to return to Philadelphia to help advance this process and it will be interesting to see how those new players mesh.
All in all, the Atlantic Division had a lot of turnover on most of the rosters and could see significantly new change among the production of three of the worst teams from last season in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. With all three of those teams now positioning themselves for victory and with Boston continuing to add players primed for one last run, the change could be even more evident in the coming seasons. But even though there’s a reaction for every action, the Celtics reacted accordingly to last year’s NBA Finals loss to the Lakers, and are still the team to beat in the Atlantic Division.
1) Boston Celtics
Incoming Players: Avery Bradley, Luke Harangody, Semih Urden, Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Von Wafer, Delonte West
Outgoing Players: Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, Michael Finley, Shelden Williams
Team Report: The Celtics walk into this season as the clear favorites in the division and are among the favorites for an NBA Championship this season as well. The Celtics were up by 13 points in the 3rd quarter of last season’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals before conceding to the Lakers in a heartbreaking defeat. A lot has been made of their age in recent years, but they showed last postseason that they’re one of the few teams capable of flipping a switch on and off. Whether they would want to walk that tightrope again this season remains to be seen, but the players on the team don’t necessarily give any encouragement of a change of the times coming in Beantown.
Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal are the most high profile additions to the team. The two big men fit right into what the Celtics are looking for: smart, seasoned veterans willing to use what’s left of their ability to contribute to the ultimate goal of the team. Both come at an opportune time as well with the injury to Kendrick Perkins. Perkins injured his knee in Game 6 of last year’s NBA Finals and should be out until January. His loss will be greatly felt across the board in Boston, but the Celtics will hope it’s offset by the continued improvement from point guard Rajon Rondo. While it’s hard to argue that at least Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett aren’t more important to a championship for the Celtics, it’s also hard to argue that Rondo isn’t currently the team’s most talented player. Overall, the Celtics still enter this season with a chip on their shoulder and with a lot to prove. They also are the most stable of the rest of the teams in the division, and that’s why they’ll be winning the division title come next April.
2) New York Knicks
Incoming Players: Larry Fields, Andy Rautins, Jerome Jordan, Timofey Mozgov, Kelenna Azubuike, Patrick Ewing, Jr., Raymond Felton, Roger Mason, Jr., Anthony Randolph, Amar’e Stoudemire, Ronny Turiaf, Shawne Williams
Outgoing Players: Earl Barron, David Lee, Chris Duhon, Sergio Rodriguez, J.R. Giddens, Al Harrington, Jonathan Bender, Tracy McGrady, Eddie House
Team Analysis: The Knicks have been bad for years now, it seems. Since 2004, the Knicks have regularly been among the worst teams in the league. A fantastic city and fan base has really been negated by the lack of overall production on the court and the turmoil that occurred off of it. However, after Isaiah Thomas left New York, Donnie Walsh was hired to clean the mess. He hired Mike D’Antoni, rid himself of some of the ridiculous contracts on the team, and built towards the famed 2010 NBA Free Agent class. The Knicks have been telling their fans to accept defeat the last two seasons, a hard sell to New Yorkers, because a great star was on the horizon. After whiffing on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the team signed Amar’e Stoudemire to a big max contract this offseason instead. It still may be a hard sell to New Yorkers that he was worthy of being the light at the end of the tunnel.
But the Knicks made other moves this offseason to reshape the roster. They brought in the extremely promising Anthony Randolph over in a trade with Golden State and hope that he can partner up with Stoudemire to create the ideal frontcourt for head coach Mike D’Antoni. But, for the first time since D’Antoni was hired in 2008, the pressure is now on for him to win in New York. After being patient with a struggling team the last two seasons, the Knicks were told they would be much better in 2010. It’s fair to say they will be much better, but it’s debatable if they’re a lock to make the postseason. D’Antoni has h is work cut out for him, as do the rest of the Knicks franchise.
3) Philadelphia 76ers
Incoming Players: Evan Turner, Tony Battie, Craig Brackins, Spencer Hawes, Andres Nocioni, Darius Songaila
Outgoing Players: Samuel Dalembert, Rodney Carney, Willie Green, Jason Smith, Francisco Elson, Allen Iverson
Team Analysis: The Philadelphia 76ers traded Allen Iverson in 2006 and have been largely irrelevant since. Sure they’ve made the playoffs a couple times since that trade, but they’ve been no real threats among the NBA’s elite and the team really wasn’t in Iverson’s last years with the team either. So it seems a tad ironic now that the 76ers are building towards and selling hope; again at a time when Iverson is leaving. The 76ers brought Iverson back last season in an attempt to sell tickets and regain relevance, but it went for nothing as Iverson couldn’t stay on the court due to injuries and other factors and was a large non factor in the team’s horrendous 27-55 season. After only one season, Eddie Jordan was fired and the 76ers again went back to the drawing board.
The Sixers interviewed a lot of candidates and wound up with Doug Collins as the team’s new head coach coming into this season. Collins isn’t “new” by any means. He’s been a coach for three different franchises before and had mild success with all of them. His name is largely important because of his broadcasting gig with TNT moreso than what anyone remembers him doing as a coach. But Collins is a 76er at heart. He was drafted by Philadelphia and made an NBA Finals with the team in 1977. He wants, just as much as the rest of the city, for the 76ers to be relevant. How quickly that happens will largely land on the shoulders of second overall pick Evan Turner. Turner is a “do-it-all” type talent who led the Big 10 in scoring and rebounding last season. The Sixers will look to him to possibly spearhead a new era in Philadelphia. Andre Iguodala remains the man in Philadelphia, but for how long is anyone’s guess. How he and Turner mesh this season will go a long way towards determining how quickly Philadelphia can turn around in a shallow Eastern Conference. The 76ers are still a team with a lot of uncertainty, but they’ll take that as long as it can generate a lot of excitement.
4) New Jersey Nets
Incoming Players: Derrick Favors, Damion James, Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Troy Murphy, Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro, Joe Smith
Outgoing Players: Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Chris Quinn, Josh Boone, Trenton Hassell, Bobby Simmons, Keyon Dooling, Tony Battie, Jarvis Hayes
Team Analysis: The Nets were close to becoming, historically, the worst team in NBA history last season. A late season “surge” by the Nets helped them avoid the NBA’s futility mark and allowed the team to finish 12-70 last season. There wasn’t a lot to be happy about in Jersey last season, but at least there’s hope on the horizon for this upcoming season. The Nets have a new owner now in the hugely interesting and insanely rich Mikhail Prokhorov as their brand new owner, the impending move to Brooklyn (which seems like it’s been in the works forever) is finally going to happen by 2012, and they’ve introduced a new coach to the team in Avery Johnson. Johnson, who won an NBA Championship as a player with the Spurs and went to the NBA Finals as a coach for Dallas, will at least command the attention and respect of the young talent in New Jersey.
Speaking of that new talent, nobody is more promising on the team than the third overall pick in the draft: Georgia Tech PF Derrick Favors. Favors has drawn early comparisons to Dwight Howard in terms of body structure and athletic ability, but is still very raw and will be brought along slowly by the Nets. The team lacked a lot of fortitude last season, and it’s no guarantee that they’ll develop that toughness just from the presence of their new coach. But they will be better. Troy Murphy, Jordan Farmar, Travis Outlaw and Anthony Morrow all make great additions to the team. Will it be enough to make them a playoff team? Probably not. But after last season’s 12 win season, everything is looking up for New Jersey.
5) Toronto Raptors
Incoming Players: Ed Davis, Solomon Alabi, Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza, Julian Wright
Outgoing Players: Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu, Marco Belinelli, Rasho Nesterovic, Patrick O’Bryant, Antoine Wright
Play Analysis: Although the Knicks and Nets cut salary and lost games on purpose to be players this offseason, the Raptors signed and traded for talent to please one player who was going to be on the market: Chris Bosh. Bosh, however, never was going to stay in Toronto and he now resides in South Beach. The Raptors didn’t respond as harshly as Cleveland did with LeBron, but they’re going to move along with life after Bosh anyways. The talent that the team acquired last season did not gel at all, and with more turnover this season as well, chemistry will still be a huge problem with this Toronto team.
With the selection of Ed Davis in the first round, the Raptors hope to have found Bosh’s replacement immediately. Davis is a North Carolina product who is a very solid offensive talent. However, they can’t expect him to replace Bosh’s production right away. Andrea Bargnani should be primed for a huge break out year for Toronto, but I feel like that’s been said for about three straight seasons. But the talent gap between him and the next best player on the team is huge. The Raptors deserve credit for not going into complete firesale mode without Bosh and trying to still compete even though they lost their best player. But the moves they made this offseason won’t do much to help the team make the postseason. Coaching, chemistry and defense were the biggest problems last year; they’re still problems this season.
Tags: 76ers, Al Harrington, Andre Iguodala, Andrea Bargnani, Andres Nocioni, Andy Rautins, Anthony Morrow, Anthony Randolph, Antoine Wright, Avery Bradley, Bobby Simmons, Brian Scalabrine, Celtics, Chris Bosh, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Chris Duhon, Chris Quinn, Courtney Lee, Craig Brackins, Damion James, Darius Songaila, David Lee, Delonte West, Derrick Favors, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Ed Davis, Eddie House, Evan Turner, Francisco Elson, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, J.R. Gidden, Jason Smith, Jerome Jordan, Joe Smith, Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar, Julian Wright, Kelenna Azubuike, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Keyon Dooling, Knicks, Leandro Barbosa, LeBron James, Linas Kleiza, Luke Harangody, Marco Belinelli, Nets, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Raptors, Raymond Feleton, Rodney Carney, Ronny Turiaf, Samuel Dalembert, Shawne Williams, Shelden Williams, Solomon Alabi, Spencer Hawes, Spurs, Timofey Mozgov, Tony Allen, Tony Battie, Tracy McGrady, Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy, Von Wafer, Willie Green, Yi Jianlian
Posted on: May 30, 2010 10:23 pm
Now that we've sat through, what seems like, a 13 month sabattical to finally get to the NBA Finals, it's here. After series sweeps and poor basketball, the conference finals finally brought some life that had been missing to the NBA Postseason. And, honestly, I don't think any basketball fan can be upset with this matchup. Even though the Lakers and Celtics are matching up for what seems, to us small market teams fans, like the 6,000th time in the NBA Finals, they are genuinely the two best teams at this point and two of the best franchises in the NBA (as evident by their 6,000 matchups). Both teams have faced adversity, have won with defense, have won with offense, have coaches who have been there and have players who have been there. This matchup was physical and contested back in 2008 and we can expect the same here. But how did both teams arrive to this point?
The Boston Celtics entered the 2010 postseason on a really sour note. As has been documented, the Celtics were 23-5 after Christmas but then went 27-27 over the next 54 games to stumble into the postseason as the 4th seed. Everything ranging from Doc River's interest in coaching the team to injuries to age had been used as reasons for the Celtics ailments. But a confrontation between Kevin Garnett and Quentin Richardson in Game 1 of the Heat vs. Celtics series highlighted what was a terrific comeback in Game 1 for Boston and they rode that momentum to a very convincing five game series victory over the Heat. Next up, the Celtics were matched up against the team that finished with the best record in the NBA and the team that had the two time defending MVP in LeBron James. Using the same tenacious defense and physical style of play that swarmed fellow NBA great Dwyane Wade, the Celtics contained LeBron as best as any team could possibly do and saw Rajon Rondo step up as the team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for a rematch with the team that knocked them out of the postseason last year: the Orlando Magic. Like Wade and LeBron, Orlando had its own superstar in Dwight Howard that posted a huge threat to Boston's quest for a championship. But showing the stuff that champions are made of, Boston won both Games 1 and 2 in Orlando and held on to eventually eleminate the Magic on the Parquet in Game 6. The Celtics now enter this postseason looking for their second championship in three years with the starting lineup that Doc Rivers will tell you has never lost a postseason series.
Coming off two Western Conference Championships and after winning their 15th NBA Championship in Franchise History (second only to Boston's 17), the Lakers entered this season as the resounding favorites to repeat; at the very least in the Western Conference. They seemed to coast through the season on talent alone but still managed to establish home court advantage in the Western Conference. Being one of the most decorated teams in NBA history, the Lakers faced a polar opposite in the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder, who were the youngest team, collectively, in the NBA. The Thunder gave the Lakers fits with their athleticism, youthful energy and fantastic home court. The Lakers faced a challenge many didn't think would come so early, but fought it off and eleminated the Thunder in six games. Up next was a familiar postseason foe: the Utah Jazz. The Jazz and Lakers always seem to face eachother in the postseason, and this season the big bodies and matchup advantages that the Lakers possesed helped history repeat itself, as the Lakers managed to sweep Utah in four games and rest comfortably before a matchup with the rival Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals. Even in a tough matchup with a motivated, game Phoenix Suns team, the Lakers looked like champions throughout the series; winning convincingly in Games 1 and 2 and playing a great game of basketball to close out Game 6 in Phoenix. The Lakers look to close the gap between them and Boston in terms of the NBA's greatest franchise (17 championships for Boston to 15 for Los Angeles), and Kobe Bryant looks to add a 5th Championship to his storied career and allow for Phil Jackson to collect his 11th.
How do these teams match up and who has the advantage in what area? That will now be addressed.
Western Conference Champion: (1) Los Angeles Lakers (57-25; 12-4) vs. Eastern Conference Champion: (4) Boston Celtics (50-32; 12-5)
Why The Lakers Will Win: First and foremost, the Lakers enter this series with the Home Court after finishing the season with a better record than Boston. Both teams won on the other's court this season and it's well known how the Celtics were able to take that historic Game 4 at Staples back in 2008, but at the end of the day you'd still rather be the team playing its pivotal games at home as opposed to being on the road. They will still have the best player on the court for the entire series as well in Kobe Bryant. Bryant has shown as the postseason has continued that he's still, arguably, the best player in the Game. In a late game situation, there's no better player to give the ball to. Also, the Lakers have brought in Ron Artest for matchups like this, where they can throw him at Paul Pierce or Ray Allen defensively. Also, this Lakers team is better equipped to match up with a physical Boston team than the 2008 version of the Lakers. Now having won a championship as a team and having been battle tested as a team, there won't be any deer in the headlights looks that the Lakers had in 2008. Also, this is the first series Boston will have where they have to stay in the paint and guard every one of the Lakers big men. Teams like Cleveland and Miami didn't have the front court depth to give Boston's defense fits whereas the Lakers have the size to cause Boston problems.
Why The Celtics Will Win: Every bit of experience that the Lakers bring to the table, the Celtics bring as well. It could be argued that the only reason these teams aren't matching up for a third consecutive Finals is because of the injury to Kevin Garnett last season. The Celtics have shown the last two rounds that home court can be taken with just one victory on the road and they've shown the ability to do that. Even though Kobe Bryant is the best closer in the game, the Celtics have a player in Paul Pierce who is very adept in those late game situations as well: as highlighted in his Game 6 performance against Orlando. Furthermore, this Celtics team is still relatively healthy. They have problems with Rasheed Wallace's back, but everyone else has managed to stay hungry, motivated and on the court for the entire postseason whereas the Lakers have issues with Andrew Bynum that could hinder one of their on court advantages. Also, this Celtics team looks motivated and after knocking out three legitimate superstars in Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard, there's nothing that Kobe Bryant can do that would intimidate the Boston Celtics team.
Key Player for the Lakers: Derek Fisher has managed to step it up offensively when the Lakers have needed him to this postseason, and opposing point guards haven't trashed the Lakers as they did last postseason and all of this season. However, Rajon Rondo is the most difficult matchup in the series. Fisher will either have to guard Rondo or Ray Allen (if Phil decides to put Kobe on Rondo), which are both disadvantages for the Lakers. However, Fisher brings championship intangibles that most teams just can't find and, even just last postseason, Fisher showed that when needed he can still nail the crucial three pointer that can change a series. If his defense is going to be a problem this series, which looks likely, his offense will be needed to offset whatever disadvantage his guarding Rondo or Ray Allen may create.
Key Player for the Celtics: Rasheed Wallace's back should be better by June 3rd and hopefully that shows in his play. He looked really bad in Game 6 against Orlando, but if he's able to go for Boston then he makes all the difference in this Finals matchup. Lamar Odom is one of the toughest matchups in the NBA, but Rasheed Wallace is a player that can keep up with him and guard Odom. Criticized for his play all year long, Wallace has emerged into an absolutely terrific bench contributor this postseason for Boston and has been extremely important to Boston's ultimate success. If Bynum, Pau Gasol or Odom have to guard Wallace out on the perimeter, it opens up the door for players like Pierce and Rondo to get to the basket. If Wallace consistently hits that jump shot, it makes even more of a difference. All in all, Wallace brings the offensive and defensive intangibles off the bench that can offset whatever bench production the Lakers may or may not get on a nightly basis.
Prediction: Celtics in six
Key As To Why They Will Win: Honestly, I'm just a believer. I've picked against Boston all postseason long and, for that reason, Crotch and other Celtics fans probably don't want me to pick them here. But they've really emerged as the best team in the postseason so far. They've faced off against the best players in the league and knocked out two terrific, game Cleveland and Orlando teams. And they did so without home court advantage. Even though I think the subraction of James Posey this postseason from the 2008 NBA Finals matchup is something that some fans may forget, I truly believe Wallace is going to be a huge difference maker off the bench to combat Lamar Odom and, when it comes down to it, the Celtics have shown that they can win pivotal games in hostile territory. And they only need to win one in this series.
Conclusion: This series is a toss up and could really go either way. The two most storied franchises in the league meeting up once again creates for financial interest and also interest from a basketball perspective. There aren't two teams playing better ball at the moment and that's why they're here. After seeing Boston guard Dwyane Wade and LeBron James the way they did, you have to imagine there's going to be plans in place as to how to guard Kobe Bryant. Also, they were able to do it in 2008 and that put a lot of onus on his teammates who just weren't ready for that moment. They may be ready now, but I'm not sure that they're capable of overcomign what Boston does. Paul Pierce, in that 2008 matchup, was the first player I've seen in a long time take it at Kobe and dominate him as easily as Kobe can do to other players. That speaks volumes to his importance in this matchup. It should be a fun series and I wouldn't be surprised if I'm wrong, but I'm a believer. Your 2010 NBA Champions will be the Boston Celtics.
Posted on: May 19, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2010 3:17 pm
I figured since I didn't do a playoff preview this season for each team as I did last year, I'll do a fun little countdown to this year's draft, since that's where my team is going to be instead of the postseason. Well now that we got our debates about whether or not 2007 was worth the #9 selection, I'm going to give in to my loyal readers and say I was probably wrong by putting the 2007 draft so low. I was so deadset on proving that it was a bad draft, that I let some really bad drafts off the hook. Be that as it may, I stand by my journalistic pride and proclaim that this draft was better than 2007, regardless of what I'm about to say. But here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the number 8 draft on our list is the 2006 NBA Draft which features some really bad trades (sorry Chicago and Minnesota fans), really questionable selections (I'm looking at you Atlanta) and overall, just not a deep talent pool.
Top Ten Drafts of the Last Ten Years
2006-2007 NBA Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy
2006-2007 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Tags: 76ers, Adam Morrison, Andrea Bargnani, Bobcats, Brandon Roy, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chris Quinn, Clippers, Craig Smith, Daniel Gibson, Derek Fisher, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, J.J. Redick, Jason Kidd, Jazz, Jordan Farmar, Jose Juan Barea, Josh Boone, Kenyon Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kyle Lowry, Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge, Leon Powe, Magic, Marcus Williams, Mardy Collins, Mavericks, Nets, Nuggets, Oleksiy Pecherov, Pacers, Patrick O'Bryant, Paul Millsap, Pistons, Rajon Rondo, Randy Foye, Raptors, Renaldo Balkman, Rockets, Rodney Carney, Ronnie Brewer, Rudy Gay, Ryan Hollins, Sergio Rodriguez, Shane Battier, Shannon Brown, Shelden Williams, Steve Novak, Thabo Sefolosha, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Tyrus Thomas, Warriors, Wizards
Posted on: January 5, 2010 5:00 pm
It all started with us running to wal mart to buy tuna fish and bottled water. It ended with us cursing the Lakers and Cavaliers and those darn puppets. The years 2000 to 2010 were full of exciting basketball, break through players and broken hearts. Scandal erupted when it was discovered that an NBA official was found gambling on games that he was officiating. Fans were dazzled for Michael Jordan's return to the NBA when he donned the Washington Wizards jersey. A city was revived in 2008 when the Boston Celtics landed Kevin Garnett and returned to the NBA's elite. With so much happening, it was pretty difficult to narrow down what awards I was going to give and who or what I would give them to. But all in all, I'm pleased with it so here goes: GoHornets21's NBA End of the Decade Awards.
Team of the Decade - Los Angeles Lakers - Let's face facts, the first champions of this decade were the 2000 Los Angeles Lakers. The last champions of the decade? The 2009 Los Angeles Lakers. A lot happened in Lakerland this decade, from the initial three peat, to Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant's continued spats, to O'Neal being traded to Miami, to Phil Jackson retiring, to the tough losing season, to Phil returning, to the two consecutive first round exits, to Kobe pubicly demanding to be traded, to Pau Gasol winding up in their laps and culminating in last year's title. It was a fantastic voyage for Los Angeles, who won four championships this decade in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2009, and the made the finals two other seasons in 2004 and 2008. They routinely defeated the closest challenger for team of the decade, the San Antonio Spurs, when the team's would square off in the postseason, with Duncan and company only beating the Lakers in the 2003 semifinals. Through it all, Kobe Bryant was celebrated, jeered, villifed and eventually dignified when he won a championship in 2009. Through it all, the Lakers were always either the team you loved to hate, or the team that everybody was hitchin' their bandwagon to. And that's why they win the team of the decade.
Team of the Decade (in a season) - the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics - Entering the 2007 offseason, the Celtics were a team with a very storied past but with a rocky recent few seasons. Coming off a ridiculously bad 2006-2007 season, Paul Pierce openly accepted the possibility of being traded from the only team he's ever played for, and Doc Rivers was viewed across the board as someone who just couldn't coach. Looking at it now, those would stand as blasphemous statements now. But that's was widely accepted percepetion then. Then the team tried to pry Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were looking to trade their superstar to begin their rebuilding process. Garnett initiall refused to go to Boston and the deal looked dead. But when the Celtics pulled off a draft day trade to land Ray Allen in a Boston uniform, Garnett changed his mind, and Boston still had enough pieces to convince Minnesota to trade Garnett and the Big Three became the hysteria of the league. Coming into the season with all kinds of expectations, the Celtics would fill their roster with unwanted veterans like James Posey, P.J. Brown, Sam Cassell and Eddie House and would start young, unproven players such as Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins at point guard and center to stand alongside the Big Three. What happened was some of the best basketball of the decade. The Celtics accepted all expectations and soon exceeded them. They would start off the season hot and never look back. With Garnett winning the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award, the Celtics would be transformed into a defensive juggernaut, almost impossible to score against and extremely efficient on the offensive end. They would survive a scare from the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the postseason and then survive an equally scary Cleveland Cavaliers team in the semifinals, before convincingly defeating their arch rivals all season long, the Detroit Pistons in the Conference finals and then the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Rivalry of the Decade - Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings - If you were alive during and thriving in basketball during the early portion of this decade, you were enthralled by the Lakers and Kings rivalry. They had an Southern California vs. Northern California hatred for one another. They were both finesse teams that could really play some exciting basketball. They both had terrific coaches in Phil Jackson and Rick Adelman, and one team always beat the other. The early Sacramento Kings, espcially the 2002 Sacramento Kings, are easily the best teams I've ever seen that didn't win a championship. Led by Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby, there would be on court fights, off court ridicule and constant playoff matchups with the Lakers for the Kings that would eventually force Sacramento's hand in dismantling the team. Whether it be the classic seven game 2002 Western Conference Semifinals, the classic slugfest between Doug Christie and Rick Fox or Shaq's classic boast that "Los Angeles is the new capital of California", this rivalry had everything you could ever want. Not only was it two teams that detested eachother, it was two wonderfully talented teams that hated eachother and would routinely put on some of the best basketball of the decade.
Fans of the Deace - the Portland Trail Blazers - The Rose Garden has always been an exciting place to watch an NBA Basketball game. The fans in Portland truly embrace and love their franchise and have for a very long time. When the Trail Blazers suffered early success in the beginning part of this decade, they truly were a fantastic group of fans who supported their team. When things got rough with off court problems, the fans let their frustrations be known, and the Trail Blazers were eventually forced to follow public desire and shed the "Jail Blazers" monicker. Through it all, the Rose Garden was routinely sold out and finally became the place to watch basketball again in 2007, when the new Brandon Roy led Blazers burst onto the scene.
Upset of the Decade - the Detroit Pistons over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals - Coming into the 2003-2004 season, the Lakers were a team that already had won three championships and had Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal manning down the roster. In the offseason, the team added veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton, both eager to win a championship and both future hall of famers as well. A lot was made of the Lakers four eventual Hall of Famers on one roster, and the team overcame injuries and Kobe's sexual assault allegations to peak in the postseason and take their rightful spot in the NBA Finals. Over in the Eastern Conference, a solid team with a coach who never could win the big one played solid basketball all season long, acquired Rasheed Wallace at midseason and looked poised to make a nice run in the postseason as well. When they eventually made the NBA Finals, not a snowball's chance in the Devil's residence was given to Detroit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers. What followed was one of the most convincing five game victories in NBA postseason history. After taking game 1 in convincing fashion, the Lakers would need late game heroics by Kobe Bryant to steal game 2 away from the Pistons. But when the series shifted to Detroit for the next three games, the fantastic Detroit fans and the cohesive Pistons unit routinely thumped the Lakers and would win all three games in Detroit to take the NBA Finals in five games.
Playoff Series of the Decade - Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals - As documented earlier, the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings hated eachother. Largely, the Kings were viewed as a soft team incapable of beating Los Angeles. But they acquired Mike Bibby in the 2001 offseason and won home court advantage throughout the postseason and looked as poised as ever to finally defeat their arch nemisis. After the Lakers shocked the Kings in game 1 at Arco Arena, all of the ghosts and skeltons came out of Sacramento's closets and things looked bad for the Kings. But then the Kings would take back game 2 and then win game 3 at Staples Center in convincing fashion. With a 2-1 lead, the Kings entered the pivotal game 4 focused and ready to take full advantage of the series. With the lead late, the Lakers through up a myriad of attempts to take the lead but were unable to, when the ball was tipped out to Robert Horry who hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history at the buzzer to give the Lakers the win and to tie the series at 2-2. Even with their spirits hurting, the Kings were resilient in winning game 5. Game 6 will be forever covered in mystery over whether or not the referees intentionally gave the Lakers the victory as was hinted by Tim Donaghy, but the Lakers used those free throws to their advantage and took game 6 at home. This set up the fantastic game 7 in Arco Arena, where the Kings had every opportunity to win the game but uncharacteristically missed free throw after free throw, allowing the game to go into overtime where the Lakers eventually won. The Kings never reached the conference finals again that decade and eventually jettisoned Chris Webber, then Peja Stojakovic, then Mike Bibby before entering the rebuilding stage that they're in now.
Tags: Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Andrew Bynum, Ben Wallace, Brandon Roy, Bulls, Cavaliers, Celtics, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Eddie House, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, James Posey, Jason Kidd, Javaris Crittenton, Jazz, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Kwame Brown, Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge, LeBron James, Marc Gasol, Mavericks, Mike Bibby, Pacers, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce, Peja Stojakovic, Pistons, Rajon Rondo, Randy Foye, Rasheed Wallace, Ray Allen, Ron Artest, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Shaqille O'Neal, Spurs, Steve Nash, Suns, Theo Ratliff, Tim Duncan, Timberwolves, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Tyrus Thomas, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming
Posted on: May 3, 2009 3:34 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2009 7:44 pm
My Postseason Preview - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons - The Cavs came into the postseason determined and really took it to Detroit in all areas of the game. Defensively the Pistons had no answer for LeBron James and the anemic play of their three stars (Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace) resulted in just absolute destruction from beginning to end.
My Prediction: Cavaliers in five
Result: Cavaliers in four
Where I Was Right: I mentioned that the opposite ends at which these teams were entering the postseason was going to affect how they could perform. The Pistons frontcourt was small enough to where the Cavs' lack of size wouldn't be such a flaw.
Where I Was Wrong: I mentioned that the Pistons would be competitive in their games in Detroit and that Mo Williams would probably struggle in this series. Williams' shot was inconsistent but for the most part he was solid as the team's second option. The Pistons never really posed much of a threat to Cleveland aside from the first half of game one in Cleveland. It was sad to watch that proud franchise go out the way it did.
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat - This series has been really bad to watch because it hasn't given us great basketball from either team. For three games the Hawks have played terrific defense, for three games the Heat have taken it to the basket and gotten to the line and have made their three point shots. Neither team has shown any kind of consistency and the fact that it's gone to seven isn't fitting, seeing as how there hasn't been much competition or consistency from either squad.
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Chicago Bulls - If not for this series, the first round would have been full of uninteresting, unmotivated players and performances. However, both teams here played fantastic basketball from start to finish and really brought out the best in eachother. It had theatrics on the bench, the young upstart squad versus the defending champions, fantastic buzzer beaters and tremendous basketball. It's a shame one of these squads had to lose, but the Celtics earned this on the court.
(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Houston Rockets - Coming into the series, the Trail Blazers were the popular pick to make a run at the Lakers and give them trouble in the semifinals, and they proceeded to get destroyed in game 1 on their home court. After that loss, they never gained any momentum in this series and it never felt like they'd have a chance to win.
(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks - This series pitting two division rivals against one another seemed to be one that was sure to bring fireworks from start to finish, but the Mavericks really dominated the Spurs on both sides of the court and gave them fits from all angles. The Spurs only had Tony Parker and Tim Duncan show up while the Mavericks had five players every night that gave tremendous production and really just overpowered the Spurs.
Oh no, now onto this next series.
(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - In a matchup of two teams entering the playoffs on two opposite runs (Denver was hot going into the postseason whereas the Hornets stumbled entering the playoffs), the Nuggets thoroughly exposed the Hornets as the least talented team in the entire postseason. A dominating performance by Denver was highlighted by a 58 point game 4 victory in New Orleans
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Al Horford, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Andrew Bynum, Brad Miller, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, David West, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Greg Oden, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Joel Przybilla, Jose Juan Barea, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LeBron James, Luis Scola, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Mavericks, Mo Williams, Nuggets, Pistons, Rajon Rondo, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Rockets, Roger Mason, Ron Artest, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Battier, Spurs, Tayshaun Prince, Theo Ratliff, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Tyrus Thomas, Tyson Chandler, Yao Ming
Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:54 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2009 7:45 pm
Team By Team Previews
1st Round Matchups
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons - The Pistons bring their experience to Cleveland to stand opposite the Cavaliers. The Cavs are really riding a huge wave of momentum into the postseason, the complete opposite way which Detroit is entering the playoffs. The Cavs have beaten the Pistons the last time they played in the postseason as well, and there's no reason for Detroit's intimidation factor to affect Cleveland. This is a solid matchup for the Cavs, because their lack of size won't affect them as the Pistons, likewise, lack significant size in their frontcourt.
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade and the Heat are a tough out for anybody in the postseason, including an unproven playoff team like the Hawks. The Hawks are still a tough team to take seriously, although we all should, and they can look at that as a rallying cry. This is the most even matchup in the entire Eastern Conference, and the Hawks fantastic play at home should help this squad get out of the first round for the first time since 1999. Dwyane Wade and company will put up a fantastic effort, but I look for every home team to win in this series.
(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers - This is a matchup of slumping teams running head to head and will probably provide the least interesting of all of the playoff matchups in the NBA. The 76ers, even though they'll throw Samuel Dalembert and Theo Ratliff at him, really have no answer for Dwight Howard. Andre Iguodala will have to do it by himself and I don't believe he's the kind of player capable of doing that. Also, his dissapointing performance in last season's playoffs has to weigh on his mind. However, Hedo Turkoglu's injury is something to look for in Orlando.
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Chicago Bulls - Without Kevin Garnett, the Bulls lack of inside scoring can really be masked in this first round matchup. These two units play spectacular basketball at home and can really put points on the board. The key will be which team can make the defensive stops when it's necessary to get them. The defending champions, even without their defensive leader Garnett, have experience doing so and can really put the inexperienced Bulls on the ropes. I look for the Bulls to put up a great fight, and push the C's to seven but I look for the Celtics to somehow prevail.
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Utah Jazz - The Lakers get the unfortunate task of facing the inconsistent Utah Jazz in the first round. The Lakers should be confident, seeing as how Utah simply cannot win on the road, but the Jazz always give the Lakers fits. Kobe Bryant and company, though, should replicate last season's conference semifinals and really look to push Utah to the limit. Nobody outside of Deron Williams is really playing consistently for Utah, and he simply cannot do it alone. The Jazz will put up a fight in every single game, but they don't have the weapons or the confidence to pull games out.
(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Houston Rockets - The Rockets were coming into the postseason on a huge positive note, but stumbling to the 5th seed and having to face Portland is not what the Dr. ordered for a team looking to make it out of the first round for the first time since 1998. It's all mental with the Rockets, and Yao Ming should really be a force, but Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden are big enough to stay in front of Yao and really alter his shots. With that being negated, the Rockets must rely on Ron Artest, Aaron Brooks and Von Wafer and none of the three shoot consistently enough to match the late game heroics of Brandon Roy.
(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks - The Spurs pulled off an amazing run to win the Southwest Division, but if there's one team that always troubles the Spurs it's the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks have peaked at the right time and are entirely capable of winning games in San Antonio. Tim Duncan always plays fantastic ball against Dallas, but the same can be said for Dirk Nowitzki matching up against San Antonio. The role players will be huge in this matchup, as will Tony Parker, but the Mavs role players (Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Brandon Bass) should give the Mavericks the edge they need to pull the upset.
(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - This is a fantastic matchup here as the Hornets and Nuggets engage in a tightly contested head to head battle. Chris Paul may be too quick for Chauncey Billups to guard one on one, and if the Nuggets go to Anthony Carter that will give the Hornets the advantage defensively seeing as how Carter struggles with his shot. The Nuggets frontcourt could provide a lot of problems for the Hornets, especially Chris Andersen, who can really provide problems for Tyson Chandler and Sean Marks. When called upon, though, the acquisition of James Posey will pay off with his defense on Carmelo Anthony in this tough matchup.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (4) Atlanta Hawks - The Cavaliers will still be riding that wave of emotion heading into the semifinals after their dispatching of the Pistons. However, they're going to run into a tough, battle tested Hawks squad that could steal a game in Cleveland. Joe Johnson and LeBron James give the fans quite the one on one matchup and fans will be tuned in to watch those two go at it. However, Cleveland's role players outshine Atlanta's in critical spots and the Cavs will escape in seven.
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (3) Orlando Magic - Without Garnett, Dwight Howard looks to dominate against Boston and may very well do so. These two squads meet head to head and give a fantastic first four games in this series and the series should head back to Boston tied at 2 apiece. However, the Celtics will miss Garnett as they look fatiqued from a tough series with the Bulls. That gives the Magic an opportunity to steal a game and close out the series in Orlando. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will really shine in this series, but Boston's lack of options will do them in.
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (4) Portland Trail Blazers - Coming off of facing the Jazz, the Lakers match up with another hated rival in Portland and have to be worried about this contest. The Lakers struggle against Portland, especially at Portland, and the Trail Blazers are one of the dangerous teams playing with no expectation to win. The Trail Blazers should give the Lakers lots of fits, but the Lakers have the best player on the court in Kobe Bryant, and have players outside of Kobe who can hit the big shot to win crucial games. The Blazers really will give the Lakers all they can handle and should take them to seven games.
(6) Dallas Mavericks vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - In this matchup of underdogs to advance, the Hornets and Mavericks both should count their blessings to be so close to the conference finals. These two teams will meet up for the second straight postseason, providing a lot of intense moments of basketball. However, the Mavericks have always struggled with the combination of Chris Paul and David West. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Brandon Bass always give the Hornets trouble, but Nowitzki will be guarded closely by James Posey and the Hornets can allow Peja Stojakovic to run relatively free, giving the Hornets the series victory.
Eastern Conference Finals
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Orlando Magic - LeBron James should really dominate in this matchup, as the Magic simply have no answer for him. Courtney Lee will provide the best line of defense, but having to rely so many minutes to a rookie could hurt the Magic on the offensive side of the basketball. Dwight Howard may go off in this matchup as well, but his role players will be hard pressed to knock down the jump shot consistently against the fantastic defense of Cleveland's.
Western Conference Finals
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - The Lakers, after two extremely draining matches will now be faced off with the postseason's cinderella team. However, the Hornets will be vexed from their two tough series as well, and their lack of size will finally come back to hurt them. Players like Odom and Bynum always perform well against the Hornets lack of height and the Lakers have more options to turn to than the Hornets do. They'll both be tired, but the Lakers have much more talent than New Orleans does and that will be enough for the Lakers to advance.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (1) Los Angeles Lakers - And now for the matchup that the nation, David Stern and ESPN want and that haters across the world will despise. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James will match up head to head in a battle between the two best teams in the NBA all season long. Coming into the finals, both teams will have been tested although the Lakers will have had the tougher time getting there. The Cavaliers can use Los Angels' fatique to their advantage for at least the first game of the series, but after a co uple days rest, the Lakers should shock Cleveland in game 2 on their home court. Once the series returns to Los Angeles, the Lakers should really use their size to their advantage and pound it into the paint against Cleveland's smaller lineup. LeBron's heroics will be tested against the defense of Trevor Ariza and the Lakers bench will do just enough to send the series back to Cleveland with the Lakers ahead 3-2. With a fantastic sixth game being held in Cleveland, the game of the year will come down to the wire but the Lakers prove to be too much for Cleveland and take the series.
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Al Horford, Andre Iguodala, Andrei Kirilenko, Andrew Bynum, Anthony Carter, Brandon Bass, Brandon Roy, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Chris Paul, Courtney Lee, Daniel Gibson, David West, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Glen Davis, Greg Oden, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, J.R. Smith, James Posey, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Jazz, Joe Johnson, Joel Przybilla, Jose Juan Barea, Josh Howard, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Kwame Brown, Kyle Lowry, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LaMarcus Aldridge, LeBron James, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Mo Williams, Nuggets, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce, Peja Stojakovic, Pistons, Rajon Rondo, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Rockets, Roger Mason, Ron Artest, Ronald Murray, Samuel Dalembert, Sean Marks, Spurs, Theo Ratliff, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Trail Blazers, Trevor Ariza, Tyson Chandler, Von Wafer, Yao Ming, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:42 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2009 11:56 pm
1) Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavaliers were the best team throughout the entire season, expressing dominance at home, boasting the greatest player in the game and a fantastic group of shooters that could really spread the floor. Their commitment to defense, though, is what's been the true reason for their elevation of play.
Tags: 76ers, Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bynum, Andris Biedrins, Antawn Jamison, Bobcats, Brandon Roy, Brandon Rush, Brook Lopez, Bucks, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Chris Bosh, Clippers, Corey Maggette, Danny Granger, David Lee, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, Glen Davis, Grant Hill, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, Jameer Nelson, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Jazz, Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal, Jose Calderon, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Marc Gasol, Mario Chalmers, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Mike Conley, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Miller, Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson, Nets, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Pau Gasol, Paul Millsap, Paul Pierce, Pistons, Rafer Alston, Rajon Rondo, Ramon Sessions, Randy Foye, Raptors, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Roy Hibbert, Rudy Gay, Shaquille O'Neal, Spencer Hawes, Spurs, Stephen Jackson, Suns, Thunder, Timberwolves, Tony Allen, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Vince Carter, Warriors, Wilson Chandler, Wizards
Posted on: March 25, 2009 11:33 pm
Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the team with the defending NBA champions: the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics defense, of course, is where you should really maintain focus. Paul Pierce has developed into a fantastic man defender and Kevin Garnett isn't a slouch himself, seeing as how he won last year's defensive player of the year award. Teams have to fight for every basket when they face up against Boston and that takes its toll over a 48 minute game. The Celtics are a hard working squad, and they don't take possessions off on any side of the ball.
The loss of James Posey will really be felt in the potseason, as he gave Paul Pierce moments of rest and guarded the opposing team's best player and allowed Pierce to flourish on offense before taking over again for the end of the game. Also, his knack for hitting big shots really helped mask what was an underwhelming postseason for Ray Allen. The fact that all of the big three are unselfish also could be a problem, because if Pierce isn't knocking down the big shots, Garnett and Allen don't necessarily demand the ball in clutch situations. Remember, in last season's game seven against Cleveland, P.J. Brown and Eddie House were helping Paul Pierce in that fourth quarter.
Why They Will Win It
Why They Won't Win It
Coming up next: the Orlando Magic