Archive for the “NBA” Category

When watching the NBA Playoffs almost every fan will have some kind of gripe against the refs at one point or another.  There’s always a game or two where you feel your team got the short end of the stick when it came to the whistles.  Some will say that’s part of home court advantage, some say the more aggressive team is given the benefit of the doubt, and some will claim the league is flat out rigged.

However the game ends up being called, the primary thing both players and fans will ask for is consistency and it’s the particular lack of consistency that has made the refereeing of this years playoffs so controversial.  While there have been scattered inconsistencies throughout this year’s playoffs, game 5 of the Miami-Indiana series serves as a focal point for inconsistent calls and feeds the conspiracy theorists who believe in superstar calls and league-favored teams.  The controversy in the game is over the definition of a personal foul, a flagrant 1, and a flagrant 2.

Lets look at a flagrant 1 that is given to Tyler Hansbrough for his foul on Dwayne Wade.  In the play Hansbrough definitely swings down on the ball with a lot of force, making contact with Wade’s head.  Hansbrough was undoubtedly making a play on the ball, but if you want to say he used unnecessary force, thus making it a flagrant 1, that is fine, but that also creates a standard.

Now lets look at the flagrant that was given to Udonis Haslem for his foul on Tyler Hansbrough.  This play was ruled a flagrant 1 despite the fact that Haslem clearly makes NO attempt to make a play on the ball and instead forcefully throws both arms at Hansbrough’s face, undoubtedly in retaliation for Hansbrough’s foul on Wade earlier in the game.  If Hansbrough’s foul was ruled a flagrant 1, there is no doubt this should be ruled a flagrant 2 (as announcer Steve Kerr immediately notes) due to the fact that the foul is an unnecessary and forceful blow to the face, with no attempt to go for the ball, and is likely a retaliation play.  Despite this, the foul is ruled a flagrant 1 and Halsem, a key player for Miami due to Bosh’s injury, is allowed to play the remainder of the game.  Sure, Haslem has been suspended for the upcoming game 6, but the fact remains that he was allowed to play in a critical game 5 for Miami and will also be available for a game 7 if the series goes that far.  Was Hansbrough punished by the refs for the fact that he got up after that foul, rather than lying on the ground as if he was shot like Wade did earlier in the game?  Let’s also consider that in instances like this, referees are instructed to call flagrant 2 fouls, as those are then reviewable, where as flagrant 1 fouls are not.  So by this judgment, the referees are saying that this is clearly not a flagrant 2 foul.  Put me down as suspect.

Lets then look at the foul by Dexter Pittman on Lance Stephenson that was also dubbed a flagrant 1.  Not even the biggest Miami homer can argue that foul should not be an immediate ejection.  Not to mention Pittman’s wink over to the Miami bench, making Pittman’s clear act of revenge that more disgusting.  And once again this was called a flagrant 1.

To go even further in the case of referee inconsistency in the series came when Dwayne was called for a flagrant for his foul on Darren Collison.  While I don’t disagree that this should be a flagrant 1 foul, it is hard to argue that Wade made much of any play on the ball and simply lowered his shoulder into the back of a defenseless Collison.  Let’s just say that wouldn’t fly on the playground.  The inconsistency comes in the fact that earlier in the year Jason Smith committed a near identical foul on Blake Griffin and was suspended 2 games for it.  That sets the precedent.  What was Wade’s consequence?  No suspension.  No fine.  Some may argue that it’s the nature of playoff basketball and that playoff suspensions should be for only really harmful plays.  To that school of thought I offer you James Posey’s foul on Kirk Heinrich that landed him a 1 game suspension…and that was in a playoff game.

Can I sense some major favoritism given to the stars of the game?  If Louis Amundson had committed the same foul against Wade (and inevitably see Wade lay on the floor for an hour, whilst having LeBron negotiating with the refs) would we be looking at a suspension?  No doubt about it.  Wade’s ‘attacker’ would have been immediately removed from the game, would probably face a suspension (like Smith and Posey), and he would probably be talked about like some kind of arch villain on Sportscenter.  Similarly, if Jason Smith committed on Reggie Evans rather than NBA golden boy Blake Griffin, there is no way a 2 game suspension would have been handed out.  Unfortunately that is the NBA David Stern has created and allowed today.  It almost seems as if the league and media are yearning for the superstar driven league we saw in the 80s and 90s.  That desire is putting a serious damper on the game.  People complain about the diva attitude that many NBA stars display?  Blame the entitlement that league has given these players based on their superstar treatment.  If the NBA wants to get rid of the growing conspiracy theories, its inconsistencies like these that need to be amended.  Will Indiana retaliate?  Lets just say game 6 will be a fun one to watch.

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As the first round of this year’s NBA Playoffs begins to wrap up we’ve certainly had some surprises as well as some disappointments. We’ve seen incredible performances as some well…flat out mystifying ones. Here are a few thoughts on what has occurred thus far…

1. The Knicks just aren’t that good. Despite all the hype about Melo, Linsanity, STAT, and Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler and despite being a headline love child for the major media outlets, we can finally see that the Knicks simply aren’t a great team and deserved that 8th seed. I know they had some injuries, I know that the Heat are a great team, and I know fire extinguishers are a very formidable opponent…but its hard to deny that this Knicks team was pretty over hyped.

2. The Pacers are the anti-Knicks. How can a team that finished with the 3rd seed be so under the radar? Despite the lack of a true superstar, this Pacers team is loaded with very good players. Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, Paul George, Darren Collison with names such as Leandro Barbosa and Tyler Hansbrough off the bench. They may not all be household names, but that is a VERY good team with a lot of talent and depth. Don’t be shocked if they give the Heat a serious run for their money.

3. The Spurs and the Thunder are for REAL. Both of these teams are an absolute joy to watch. In terms of the Spurs, Duncan has found the fountain of youth, Parker is playing some of the best basketball in the league, they have an incredibly deep roster, and play possibly the best team basketball of any team out there. You want to know how basketball is supposed to be played? Watch the Spurs. The Thunder, on the other hand, are just so difficult to contain. Durant, Westbrook, and Harden are nearly impossible to stop…if you corral one, another will go off. We saw this against the Mavs. Games 1-3 were all very close, but Durant, Westbrook, and Harden each took over one of those games and got the Thunder a win. It’s hard to do much about that.

4. Andre Miller is incredible. There’s a lot of buzz about Javale McGee following the Nuggetts win in game 5 and deservedly so…he played great, but this overlooks the absolute CLINIC put on by Andre Miller in that game.  Post moves, floater, bank shot, lob pass, spin move, you name it and Miller put it on display AND made it look easy. The fact that Miller has no speed, can barely jump, and is older than every single player on the Lakers roster, yet is still able to dominate a game…that is incredible.  I’m not sure about George Karl’s claim about Miller being a top 10 point guard of all time, but this guy might have a serious claim to top 10 most underrated of all time.

5. Javale McGee has made himself some serious cash. You think McGee doesn’t know he’s a restricted free agent this summer? Something tells me he’s going to be getting a lot more than that $3.5M qualifying offer after his performance in the Lakers series.

6. Was Josh Smith serious with that inbounds pass? I know the Hawks got away with it because Rondo fumbled the ball at the end and it will probably be overlooked and forgotten, but come on. You are going to throw a bounce pass right at one of the league’s great steal artists…and expect to get away with it? Imagine if Rondo didn’t fumble the ball afterwards and ended up scoring…that play ends the Hawks’ season. I guess that’s why they are the Hawks.

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With the NBA Playoffs starting Saturday, we had a couple of our bloggers makes some predictions for how things will pan out.

What’s the most intriguing 1st round matchup?

Kyle Williams – Definitely the Memphis/Clippers series. Both teams have the talent to win the West and the athleticism of both teams should make this series a really fun and exciting one to watch. The Celtics/Hawks and Lakers/Nuggets matchups also have potential to be very interesting.

Dave Vinluan – Clippers vs Grizzlies. Interested in seeing how CP3 plays in the postseason with his new squad.

Jeff Morgan – The one I’m looking forward to the most is probably the Grizzlies vs. Clippers. Tons of young talent on both teams, both with something to prove, should be a really entertaining series to say the least. Close 2nd would be Knicks-Heat, If Melo continues his torrid pace and Amare can be Amare, Knicks just might be able to give the heat a series, at the very least a couple of close games. Should be a fun one.


Biggest Potential 1st round upset?

Kyle Williams – Nuggets over the Lakers. The Lakers are definitely a more talented team, but they have struggled with consistency this season and if that continues, the Nuggets have the athleticism and depth to run the Lakers into the ground. The Knicks also have a shot at upsetting the Heat as they have a lot of talent on that roster, but so does Miami so I find it hard to see the Knicks winning more than 2 games.

Dave Vinluan – Knicks over Heat.

Jeff Morgan – If Atlanta was any team besides Atlanta I would say they have a good shot at upsetting the older Celtics. They’re more athletic, and have more size than the C’s down low and if they put everything together I can see them pulling off the upset. Watch out for Denver too. They have always played the Lakers well, especially at home, if the Lakers lose either game 1 or 2, Nuggets have the talent to capitalize.


Who wins the West?

Kyle Williams – Thunder. While the Spurs and Grizzlies are playing great basketball, it will be hard for anyone to compete with the athleticism and scoring ability that the Thunder bring to the table. They are a great team at home and the Durant/Westbrook/Harden combination will be very hard to stop along with Ibaka and Perkins anchoring the defense down low.

Dave Vinluan – OKC Thunder. Westbrook and the scoring champion, the Durantula will take this team far.

Jeff Morgan – As much as I want to say the Lakers, to me the Thunder are the team to beat. They’re super talented, they have size down low, Durant and Westbrook are one of the best 1-2 punch in the league, with a healthy James Harden I can’t see a team beating them 4 times. If they get past the Lakers (potentially) in the 2nd round, look for them in the Finals.


Who wins the East?

Kyle Williams – Heat. Miami is just too talented and Derrick Rose’s health is a big time question for Chicago. Chicago has a potentially brutal series lined up with Boston that could wear them down a bit. I think the Bulls are the best team in the East, but Rose’s health is too uncertain for my liking.

Dave Vinluan – Chicago Bulls. Managed the #1 seed without Derrick Rose for most of the season, and it helps when you’ve got the White Mamba…

Jeff Morgan – This one is tougher because I can legitimately see 3 teams coming out of the East: Bulls, Heat, and Celtics. However, ECF we most likely be Heat and Bulls again, this series is a toss up, it all depends on who’s healthy and who’s playing the best coming into the series. I think the Heat have an easier path – NY and IND then the Bulls – PHI and BOS, so I’ll give the Heat the slight edge here and say the win it in 6.


Who wins the NBA Title?

Kyle Williams – Thunder. They have the talent and athleticism to compete with Miami and Westbrook will be a very difficult matchup. I will have to see Lebron win a title to believe it.

Dave Vinluan – OKC Thunder

Jeff Morgan – Who wins the NBA Title? I got Thunder-Heat in the FINALS. Which would be a hell of a series, and even though the Heat have more experience, I think the Thunder are too tough on their home court and win the championship in 7. Lebron and Co. will have to wait yet another season.

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Michael Jordan Slam Dunk Competition

Watching Saturday night’s Slam Dunk competition was like watching a train wreck.  But it wasn’t one of those quick ferocious crashes that are over in a matter of seconds.  No, it was one of those slow-motion Michael Bay-esque train wrecks, that takes about 50 times longer than it should until everyone watching looks at their watch wondering when it’s going to be over so they can move on with their lives.

It’s bad.  I mean really bad.  It’s on par with a really bad Adam Sandler movie, or a really good Rob Schneider movie.  So how did we get here?  When did the NBA’s Slam Dunk competition become as entertaining as a mediocre D-list celebrity?  This thing used to be huge. We’re talking Cindy Crawford in her prime huge.  Even non-NBA fans would tune in to watch the dunk competition.   It wasn’t just a footnote of All-Star weekend; it was the whole damn book.  So let’s take a look at what happened to the once great Slam Dunk competition.

The Players

The Slam Dunk competition used to be THE contest to see some of the best and most athletic players in the NBA showoff their ridiculous skills.  Just look at this list of competitors from past competitions:

Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, David Thompson, George Gervin, Spud Webb, Clyde Drexler, Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant, Jason Richardson, Brent Barry

The list goes on and on.  Point being, you wanted to see these guys throw it down as hard as they could.  Dunks were memorable not just because they were spectacular, but because of the players who did them.  Dr. J’s Free Throw Dunk, Jordan’s BETTER Free Throw Dunk, 5’7” Spud Webb’s ridiculous performance, Kobe’s between the legs, Carter’s elbow dunk.   This was pure athleticism at its best, the crowd was raucous, and more importantly it was just plain FUN to watch.   You wanted to see what these guys could do, and how far they could push the limits of a human being dunking a basketball.

Now, the allure is gone; but more importantly the players are gone.  If you didn’t watch this year’s Slam Dunk competition, I’ll give you $1,000 if you can guess all 4 participants.  Lebron James, you say…no.  How bout Dwayne Wade…no.  Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Derek Rose, Carmelo Anthony. Ha, not even close.  Try, Derek Williams, Paul George, Chase Budinger, and Jeremy Evans.  That’s a rookie, two second year players, and Chase Budinger, who probably dunked more times in this competition that he has in his 3-year NBA career.  Yeah, I’ll be hanging on to that $1,000.  How do you even sell tickets around that line-up?  The marketing guy who can promote that should win some kind of award.  Jeremy Evans ended up winning it with some “OK” dunks I guess, but there lies the next problem with the dunk contest.

The Dunks

The dunks just aren’t that impressive anymore.  And it’s not because these guys aren’t athletic or creative, it’s that NOTHING surprises us anymore.  Everything has already been done.  Seriously, think about it.  One of the reasons Wilkins and Jordan and Kobe’s dunks were so memorable was because we hadn’t seen anything like it before.  They had the element of surprise, and being able to do things with a basketball that we had never seen before.  Now, jumping from the free throw line barely draws a response from the crowd.  A Windmill 360 is met with drones; Between the legs…Ho hum, what else you got?  And that’s the problem, there isn’t anything else left.  There are limits to what the human body can do, and unless they bring out the trampolines and let the players do front flips, ala, NBA JAM style, there’s nothing that will draw the kind of awe and amazement from the crowd that the earlier Slam Dunk competitions did.  Unless of course they use some kind of props or rely on over-the-top gimmicks in order to equal the same level of dunkness (I’m christening that word right now) of years past.  Speaking of which…

The Gimmicks

I know what you’re thinking, but the props are so creative.  Aren’t they so entertaining?  Remember last year when Blake Griffin jumped over a car?  Remember when Dwight Howard dunked on two basketball courts? Remember when…just stop, right now.  They’re gimmicks people.  They’re props used to try and create the illusion of something more impressive than it actually is.  Seriously, watch Blake Griffin jump over the car again…watch it.  Now take away the car and what do you have?  A pretty mediocre dunk at best.  Hell, watch Griffin’s top 10 in-game dunks…every single one of those is way more impressive than his jumping over the car dunk.  It’s just a gimmick, and unfortunately that’s what now defines the Slam Dunk competition.  Don’t believe me.  These are some of the things that have been used in the past few years in dunk competitions.  A car, A cupcake, A plastic basketball court, other players to jump over.  This sounds more like a circus act than a dunk contest.  What’s next?  A player gets hit in the face with a pie by a clown before he slams it home.  Is that really better than watching Jordan dunk from the free throw line, or watching Vince Carter do a 360 windmill dunk?  We’re one step away from the Slam Dunk competition turning into NBA’s version of David Letterman’s crazy pet tricks.  Let’s watch as Chase Budinger tries to dunk while throwing his pet Chihuahua throwing a flaming ring of fire.  Participants feel obligated to think of some crazy gimmick in order to entertain the fans and have a chance at winning the dunk contest.  Come out and just attempt a regular old-fashioned amazing dunk…you get booed off the court. Watching Jeremy Evans crotch plowing into the back of Roy Hibbert’s head is the reality of the Slam Dunk competition today.

So David Stern, for the love of all that is holy and great about the NBA, get rid of the Slam Dunk competition before Adam Sandler comes out in drag while Gordon Hayward tries to dunk Rob Schneider into a giant basket of chocolate pudding…actually, check that, cancel the competition after this.

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Is Jeremy Lin the Tim Tebow of the NBA? Right now, he is. How does a virtual nobody (an undrafted free agent from Harvard with no athletic scholarship and no athletic awards) suddenly take the league by storm? Lin was sleeping on his teammate Landry Fields’ couch just a week ago; he is now living in David Lee’s (former Knick) apartment, which is the same plush apartment once occupied by Amar’e Stoudemire before he moved to Manhattan. When Lin finally got the chance to perform due to teammate injuries, superstar egos, and a poor team record, he showed he was a true superstar. More importantly, he has rallied the Knicks to a seven game winning streak!

The excitement surrounding Lin’s clutch game-winning shots and record-breaking points has captured the world’s attention. In Asia, he is the most searched item on various Chinese search engines. Lin’s Twitter followers erupted from just 25,000 to 300,000 in less than two weeks. Quite the popular guy, considering just two weeks ago Lin was about to get cut by his third NBA team.

Tim Tebow also took the nation by storm during the NFL season. Tebow was EVERYWHERE, and his hard work and determination in the face of critics only seemed to make him more successful. It is easy to point out the similarities between Tebow and Lin. For one, they both started on the bench at the beginning of their seasons. Each have been the force leading their losing teams on unexpected winning streaks. Both Tebow and Lin have used their sport as a platform for their belief in God; they are both Christians, and appear to live wholesome lifestyles.

Tebow had high expectations placed on him (recruited out of high school, Heisman trophy winner as a junior, and first round draft pick), while Lin had no expectations placed on him. Both are underdogs, but I see Lin as more of an underdog and Tebow as unorthodox in the way he plays football. Together, they have both given people a reason to believe. They both speak about their teams first, and appear to be very humble. Aside from also saving two coaches whose jobs were in jeopardy, these two athletes have captivated the world and will continue to do so.

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The NBA lockout officially ended on December 8th of 2011. It has barely been a week since the end of the lockout and teams seem to be falling all over each other fighting for the top available talent like twin babies over a bottle.  The Los Angeles Lakers, at one point this offseason, to be the big dealmakers as it was rumored that they were going after both All-Star players Chris Paul, point guard of the New Orleans Hornets, and Dwight Howard, center of the Orlando Magic.

The Lakers made a trade offer to the NBA-owned Hornets for Chris Paul that had fans and journalists buzzing over what this trade could do for the Lakers. All that had to happen to bring Paul to Los Angeles was approval by the other owners of the NBA for the NBA currently owns the Hornets. However, Commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade because it would give the Lakers too much power as an NBA elite. Next, the Lakers were rumored to be going after Dwight Howard and a surprising move of forward Lamar Odom perhaps hinted that the Lakers were freeing up cap space to bring Howard to Los Angeles. The move shocked Odom and the Lakers as players were upset that he was moved to Dallas for almost nothing in return. Also, yesterday the Orlando Magic made it public that they were no longer looking to move Howard out of town. While it seems all hopes for Los Angeles bringing in another superstar to town, there is still hope.

The Clippers also play in Los Angeles and look to be improving their roster and taking the next step toward making a playoff appearance. The Clippers signed former Washington Wizard, Caron Butler to a three-year deal. Young center DeAndre Jordan looked as if he was headed upstate to the Golden State Warriors when they attempted to lure him away with a four year/$43 million contract, but his status as a Restricted Free Agent gave the Clippers three days to match that amount in order to keep him. The Clippers brought Jordan back and meant they had two talented players at center in Jordan and Chris Kaman. Resigning Jordan hinted that Kaman was expendable as a player to use as trade bait. After claiming veteran guard Chauncey Billups off waivers, the Clippers sent Kaman, point guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, and a first-round draft pick to the Hornets to get… Chris Paul!

With forward Blake Griffin, veteran guard Mo Williams, Chauncey Billups, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler, and Chris Paul the Clippers look to give the Lakers and the rest of the West a run for their money. Look out Los Angeles, for the Clippers might just catch fire. Happy Holidays to Los Angeles.

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