Monday, May 12, 2008

NBA Action: It's The Same As Always!

The NBA should consider a new motto: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same.

The league saw quite a shake-up among the Who's-Who this season. The Lakers floated to the top on the backs of nobodys like Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic, and near stars like Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher (let's face it, Kobe was the same amazing Kobe as always). Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler became superstars in New Orleans. The Suns and Mavs sputtered for most of the season before both bowing out early. The Spurs and Pistons aged before our very eyes. The Celtics looked like the best (and most fun) team in a long, long time. Denver and Golden State and Cleveland were cute, but were never a threat to anybody. And Utah just kept its head above water with Deron Williams looking more and more like the real deal.

The further these NBA playoffs go along, the more things seem the same as they have always been. Despite all the regular season shake-ups, with only eight teams left it now appears that it will be the same final four and same Champion as last year.

The Cavaliers have a chance to tie their series up with the Celtics tonight and although the Celtics have been the team to beat since before day one of the season when Kevin Garnett arrived, he quickly turned into Kevin Garnett when the postseason arrived. The dominating Celtics are 0-4 on the road in the playoffs and escaped one of the NBA's all-time worst playoff teams by the skin of their teeth. The LeBrons are not a championship team, but they are still better than the the Celtics have turned out to be. I think the Cavs will win tonight, and win in Boston, and then come home and close it out in Cleveland with LeBron getting at least two triple-doubles.

Orlando had a chance to even the series at home with the Pistons' best player not suited up. They lost - series over. I am tired of hearing how amazing Dwight Howard is going to be. Yes, his points and rebounds totals have improved in each of his four years. But it has been four years and his claims to fame are: he wore a Superman cape and won the dunk contest despite not actually dunking the ball, he lead the league in dunks in 07-08 and he didn't get swept out of the playoffs by the Pistons in 07-08. He's not Superman, he's the Invisible Man. 8 points in the biggest game of the season? The Pistons will win it Tuesday night and rest up before stomping on the Cavs in 5 games.

The Lakers have finally shown their true colors as well. Before the season, they were the best soap opera in town: everyone hated one another, no one trusted one another, and they all talked behind each other's backs. They came out and won a few games early and suddenly they fell in love with one another. Late in the season, Lamar Odom was asked before a game why the team chemistry had improved so drastically. The answer wasn't, "Kobe grew up," or "we just gelled as a team," or "Phil finally got through to us." It was, "well, we're winning." In Game 4 vs. the Jazz, it was the post-Shaq Lakers again. Kobe shot 33 shots and only made about a third of them. He was hurt, but on plays when he missed shots, made turnovers, got burned or wanted a foul, he was hurt much, much worse than on plays when he succeeded. Phil Jackson listlessly cried "run the offense" over and over from the sideline as Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar and Vlad Radmanovich (combined 7 points, 3-14 shooting) stood around watching the MVP sink the ship, and Ronny Turiaf was not even on the bench (though it was due to stupidity, not injury this time). Yes, the teams are even and the Lakers still have home court. But if Kobe really has a lower back injury, as tough as he is, he can't win two more games by himself. The problem is, we have now seen that when the chips are down - the New MVP Kobe becomes the old Kobe...the one that didn't win a single playoff series since Shaq left.

The Hornets - Spurs series is supposed to be the ultimate Showdown of the New NBA vs. the NBA of the last decade. The Hornets came out in the first two games and shut down the Spurs. San Antonio looked old, bored and just done. Apparently the Fountain of Youth was not in Florida, as the Spanish explorers believed; it is in San Antonio. After returning home, the Spurs dominated Games 3 and 4, so it's all tied up. So what is more likely in the final three games: The Best Team of the last decade will show their age and get run out of the building at least two out of three times, or the upstart Hornets will show their inexperience and get lulled into a close game and get outfoxed two out of three times?

After all the upheaval in the league this season, the Finals will be awfully familiar: the Spurs over the Pistons.

Lastly, has anyone else noticed the NBA Cares commercials where players talk about how they work with kids to teach them the importance of reading and education? The great irony being that the player reading the script has a reading level only slightly higher than that of the 10-year-olds he is seen talking to, and the NBA is among the lowest education levels of any profession. What percentage of players have college degrees? How many have even a second semester of completed college coursework? But I suppose who teaches a good lesson is not as important as the lesson itself.

1 comment:

John said...

In the first two games, it was the Hornets who thought everyone how to play championship winning ball.

Then in Game 3 & 4, SA Spurs were back to their usual self.

I wonder how would Game 5 end?

First thing is that Spurs are coming with a much better form. However they have never played in NO.

I'm pretty sure you might have your own thoughts about the game. Would love to hear them from you...