Wednesday, June 28, 2006

2006 NBA Draft

The reason why anyone cares about the NBA Draft is because it has great timing. The NBA season is long gone, baseball's ridiculously lengthy season is in its lull period, and our beloved NFL is resting before training camp begins in August. So that leaves us with nothing better to focus in on then some promising NBA prospects in a supposedly weak draft, but that remains to be seen for a few years. This is why I believe throwing out draft grades for each team does not really make sense, so instead I will gladly share some of my random thoughts...

  • I love what the Orlando Magic are doing. I love the pick of Dwight Howard. I love bringing back Brian Hill. I love the trade of Steve Francis to New York. I love the trade for Darko Milicic. I love trading away Steve Francis. I love the pick of J.J. Redick. Ten years after Shaq bolts to Los Angeles, the Orlando Magic seem to have finally recovered.
  • The Toronto Raptors have a bright future. We have been saying that for the franchise's entire existence.
  • 15 trades. And counting. Sheesh.
  • The Portland Blazers were extremely active. They may be a very different team, but it will take a long time for them to become much better. Have fun Nate.
  • Tyrus Thomas went from LSU to Portland to Chicago. Talk about climbing a ladder. Whew.
  • Remember when I said Miami, Cleveland, and Orlando are going to own the East for the next generation? Throw in the Chicago Bulls in that mix.
  • Michael Jordan and Adam Morrison. They may not win a lot right away, but suddenly the Charlotte Bobcats are very marketable. Steven A. Smith pointed out that Bobcats owner Robert Johnson wants to make money. He will be doing that.
  • Jerry West is brilliant.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers actually made a very good pick by drafting a much needed point guard in UCLA's Jordan Farmar. I love it when professional teams go for the the local star.
  • The Los Angeles Clippers' most significant move was neither of their draft picks, but rather picking up Shaun Livingston's option for 07-08.
  • Forget about the Detroit Lions drafting wide receivers, the Seattle SuperSonics drafting a seven foot center from the opposite hemisphere is a given every year. ESPN did not show much favor in Saer Sene and MSNBC's Ray Glier gave the Sonics a whopping "F" draft grade. Maybe the more centers future head coach Jack Sikma has to develop, the more chances one will turn out to be good. I always am disappointed in or angry at Seattle's moves, but they usually tend to work out for the better. So we shall see.

Friday, June 23, 2006

2006 NBA Finals

DAL 90, MIA 80
DAL 99, MIA 85
MIA 98, DAL 96
MIA 98, DAL 74
MIA 101, DAL 100
MIA 95, DAL 92

Miami wins 4-2

Before we look back on the Miami Heat's Championship run, let us address the Dallas Mavericks
  • There were bad calls. There were bad no-calls. I always say that controversial calls should never impact the game so much as to let anyone ever even come close to the point where we can even discuss the officiating, especially in a championship series. That being said, the referees should not be blamed for Dallas blowing a 2-0 lead.
  • Avery Johnson: Entering the series, the statistic bounced around that Pat Riley has coached more playoff games than Avery Johnson has coached regular season games. This showed. The NBA playoffs are more about adjustments than anything else. Riley realized that Avery's zone defense and aggressive double-teaming had Shaq contained, and devised methods to let Dwyane Wade go off. Avery Johnson failed to rally his team at all after blowing Game 3 and never came up with anything to slow down D-Wade in the fourth quarter.
  • Dirk Nowitzki: Disappearing in the fourth quarter. Refusing to attack the rim. Settling for perimeter shot after perimeter shot. Foul and free throws statistics have been thrown around a lot, but Dirk does not drive to the basket and draw fouls the way Wade does. Hey Dirk, instead of attacking officials, treadmills, or locker room equipment, try the basket.
  • Mark Cuban: If most fans were owners, myself included, we would be exactly like Cuban. He is always trying to do what is best for his team. For the most part, he has done that, establishing the Dallas Mavericks as a perennial contender. But Cuban's attitude trickled down onto the team, who seem to believe they were cheated instead of realizing they simply blew it.
  • Game 3: Dallas has a 13 point lead with 5 minutes to go. All Dallas needs is a couple of stops for a 3-0 series lead. All Dallas needs is a couple of stops, and Miami is done. Instead, Dwyane Wade drops 42, Dirk Nowitzki misses a huge free-throw, and Gary Payton hits a game-winner.
  • Game 4: Imagine that you are Jerry Stackhouse and Shaq is driving to the basket. What do you try to do to stop him? In order to prevent a three-point play, Stackhouse did exactly what every good basketball player would do in committing a very hard foul. The flagrant foul was all that was necessary. However, the NBA's one-game suspension is consistent with everything we have seen throughout the season and playoffs. The NBA is understandably discouraging hard fouls and promoting entertaining offense. Remember that Miami's Posey and Haslem each suffered similar rulings in the early rounds.
  • Game 5: The Fathers Day Classic - D-Wade fuels another comeback by scoring 43, including 21 free-throws. Gary Payton hits another potential game winner. Dirk responds with a tough shot over Shaq. Wade jumps from the front court to the backcourt to legally receive a pass before breaking a triple team in a strong drive to the basket, and is fouled by Devin Harris although it was called on Dirk Nowitzki. Josh Howard's timeout in between Wade's clutch free throws cements another close loss.
  • Game 6: If you cannot win at home in an elimination game, you will not be champion.

The Miami Heat: 2006 NBA Champions

This team was built for the playoffs. Pat Riley completely revamped his roster after losing to Detroit in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Considering the Heat were just a couple of injured Dwyane Wade ribs away from the NBA Finals, the moves raised quite a few eyebrows.

Gary Payton. James Posey. Jason Williams. Antoine Walker. Alonzo Mourning. All of these veterans were once stars on other teams and had to adjust into new roles. Shaq and Wade were cemented at the 1-2 options and only then does everyone else follow. For most of the season, it seemed that chemistry was an issue and many were ready to criticize Riley, especially after he supposedly ran out Stan Van Gundy. Remember when the Heat were 0-13 verses division leaders? The team only came together late in the season, maybe even late in each series. Tied 2-2 with Chicago, some predicted an upset. Down 0-1 against New Jersey, many thought Miami was burned out. Most thought Detroit would beat the Heat. Down 0-2, everyone thought the Heat were done.

Suddenly, Jason Williams is running Riley's offense, Antoine Walker is getting double-doubles, James Posey is taking charges and hitting threes, Alonzo Mourning is hitting the boards and blocking shots, and Gary Payton is hitting game winners.

Suddenly, Pat Riley looks like a genius again.

random thoughts...

  • I would hate to be Stan Van Gundy. At least he gets a ring.
  • Udonis Haslem was the most underrated player in the entire series.
  • Shaq: Bringing three different teams to the finals. Winning championships with two different teams having to go through two different conferences. Sticking it to Kobe by declaring Dwyane Wade the best player in the world. Sticking it to Phil Jackson by naming Pat Riley his greatest coach ever. Living up to his guarantee of bringing a title to Miami in just two years. Good stuff.
  • Shaq: After decades of being bashed for his free throw shooting, you would think that he would improve. Even if he does not make an effort to establish a decent form, you would think that Shaq would improve naturally after decades of shooting. Bad stuff.
  • In the three games at Miami, was there at least one time where ABC did not show Shaq's wife, father, or mother in the stands when he was at the free-throw line? And why are they all sitting separately?
  • Game 5 was amazing. Entering the finals, I did not think we would see anything as great as the series' in the Phoenix-Lakers, Cleveland-Washington, Dallas-San Antonio, and Detroit-Cleveland series'. I thought wrong.
  • Whomever made the decision to publish the Dallas Mavericks' championship parade route after Game 2 should realize they motivated the enormous egos that are the Miami Heat.
  • "I brought one suit, one shirt and one tie" - Pat Riley. That is awesome.
  • This is the first of Dwyane Wade's multiple Finals MVPs. I cannot wait for him and Lebron James to begin their potentially legendary playoff battles in the East. Throw in Dwight Howard in Orlando and we are going to have this generation's Celtics-Pistons-Bulls.

Super Bowl XL

I see no finer way to kick off this blog than to revisit the past NFL season, specifically the controversial championship game.
February 5, 2006

Pittsburgh Steelers 21
Seattle Seahawks 10

I enjoy sports. A large part of that is because I truly believe that the team that plays the best wins the game. But in Super Bowl XL, that was sadly not the case. Now I admit our faults: Four huge penalties, two long missed field goals, a blown play to start the second half, inexcusable lack of awareness on the reverse pass from Randle-El to Hines Ward (everyone knew it was coming), THREE drive killing dropped passes by cocky Jerramy Stevens. Feel free to dismiss me as a sore loser, but Darrell Jackson caught the game’s first touchdown. Throughout the NFL playoffs, we have consistently seen defensive backs and wide receivers push off one another far worse than what we saw between D-Jack and Chris Hope. Jackson was on pace to have an MVP caliber performance, barring that phantom call and his inability to stay in bounds on bombs from the best quarterback on the field, Matthew Hasselbeck (26 completions for 273 yards to Ben’s 9 for 123). Heck, Seattle was so superior early on that they finished with a six minute advantage in time of possession, a thought to be unthinkable against the time-sucking Steelers. But okay, we take the 3-0 even though it should have been 7-0. Fast forward to the second quarter, 3rd and goal, Ben Roethlisberger play-action fakes to Jerome Bettis, who had amazingly been stopped by the Seahawks defense on multiple occasions, and Ben bootlegs to the left but is clearly stopped short despite being ruled a touchdown. Referee Bill Leavy upholds the call with no explanation whatsoever. Even genius Michael Holmgren could not have made it any simpler when he was seen shouting, "It wasn't even close." Big Ben himself later admitted he did not get in. The Steelers’ 7-3 lead going into that sad halftime show should have actually been Seattle’s. Those two blown calls would have completely changed each team’s approach to the second half and therefore affected the outcome of the game more so than anything else. Someone suggested to me that a billion dollars or so may have been enough for Vegas to actually fix the game through the clearly biased referees. While I admit that idea is completely ridiculous, this makes me wonder what could have been: Seattle had 396 yards to Pittsburgh’s 339, despite seven penalties called against Seattle which accounted for 161 yards (!), and throwing in Big Ben’s supposed touchdown dive, two touchdowns! Referees should not have control over a buck and two touchdowns in any game, let alone the largest of them all. That all being said, congratulations to both Pittsburgh and Seattle. It is a pity that we will never know who the better team was.