Well the weekend was slated to be one of the most anticipated in sports with the NBA All-Star weekend upon us. I was one of the NBA fans that was excited for this NBA All-Star weekend because last year Blake Griffin jumped over a car and every part of the NBA weekend bought excitement. This weekend should have been one that every NBA fan enjoyed.
Instead fans were served up a mediocre sequel to a NBA weekend that last year boosted NBA ratings to new heights. The skills competition was mainly players jogging at half speed looking like they did not even care if they won or lost. The final round was a bit more exciting but I am sure no one broke a sweat trying to make it through the preliminary rounds. Tony Parker won this very lackluster, unexciting event.
The three point shootout was a bit livelier than the Skills competition. However, I am sure they did not get the most prolific three-point shooters in the NBA. Anytime Kevin Love is a participant in a three-point competition we know they were struggling to find people to enter. Kevin Love is purely a power forward and while is a good three-point shooter should not be a first pick. Where is Ray Allen or Paul Pierce? Where is Kyle Korver? I would have even taken Ben Gordon over some of the final players that participated. The three-point shootout lacked star power and also the real “streak” three-point shooters that are known to “light it up” from deep. When it was all said and done, Kevin Love, the most unlikely candidate won the title of three-point champion. Congratulations to Kevin Love but I am convinced the NBA could have gotten a better roster to compete in the NBA three-point contest.
Gone are the days of good Dunk Contests…
Next on the agenda was the Slam Dunk contest. Gone are the years when we saw Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins compete in the Slam Dunk contest. We used to see NBA players fight to get in the Slam Dunk competition. Now as soon as a player gets a bit of fame they snub the Slam Dunk contest. We will never get to see Lebron James against Kobe Bryant to see who the best dunker is. Even better would be to have Lebron James, Blake Griffin, and Dwight Howard all showcase their best dunks against each other.
Instead all NBA fans received were a bunch of players no one knew putting on the lamest slam dunk contest ever. This year the NBA Slam Dunk contest did not even have formal judges. No I am not kidding; no judges at all were part of the contest. The voting was done all by votes tallied by fans on the internet. Half of the fun of previous contests as a fan was arguing over why one dunk got a 50 and why one dunk was a 49. It still boggles me to why they decided to not have judges this year. The majority of the dunks were jump over this or that and it each dunk took too many tries for the competitors to complete the desired dunk. I believe the NBA should have put in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that star players have to be participants in some part of All-Star weekend besides the All-Star game. Some guy named Jeremy Evans won the slam dunk contest. Who is Jeremy Evans you ask? I had to ask myself the same question and then refresh my memory. If Evans did not have a Utah Jazz uniform most people would have not known what team Jeremy Evans plays for.
The best part of the whole weekend was the NBA All-Star game. I should probably say the 4th quarter of the NBA All-Star game was the best part because for about 3 quarters, neither the Eastern Conference nor Western Conference All-Star team plays at full speed. Both teams hardly play defense for the first three quarters of the All-Star game. However, in the 4th quarter is when we see things start to heat up. Every all-star player in the game stepped up their game but none greater than Lebron James. The Eastern Conference was down by 15 points in the 4th quarter and when Lebron James came in, the run started. James hit multiple three-pointers, some that looked impossible to help eventually dwindle the Western conference lead down to one point.
Lebron James came up short in the NBA All-Star game too, is this a sign of things to come?
The Eastern conference was almost able to take the lead but we saw why the Miami Heat lost the playoffs last year come to fruition in the NBA All-Star game. Dwayne Wade could not hang on to a pass from Lebron for a wide open layup. In addition, Lebron threw a critical last second turnover that sealed the fate of the Eastern Conference. The question still looms in many NBA fans mind; will we see a similar meltdown when Lebron James and the Miami Heat enter the NBA playoffs?
NBA All-Star weekend may have been the second most watched All-Star weekend in NBA history, but does this more have to do with that not much more was on television. Maybe it was because more people now have a way to watch television in general. The reason could even be people were hoping like a bad movie the weekend would eventually get better. Whichever the reason, we can only hope that next year will return to yesteryear where NBA All-Star weekend was just as fantastic as the rest of the NBA season. One can only hope….
The Miami Heat this year are once again poised to win it all. The Heat have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are playing up to the level everyone expected. The Miami Heat look like a team that can make a deep playoff run and win the whole NBA Championship. Lebron James could very well achieve his first NBA Championship this year.
Hold on though, the road will not be easy. I am not even sure that the Heat will make it out of the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Bulls playing well and the emergence of the “new look” New York Knicks. I might even say that the Miami Heat may have had their best chance to obtain a Championship ring last season. While the Heat are not a pushover by any means, many teams are adjusting to their style of play. In addition, other teams are constructing their own Championship caliber rosters to challenge the Miami Heat.
Who wins the Eastern Conference this year?
The Dallas Mavericks can of course cause some trouble for the Miami Heat if they see them again in the NBA Finals. The San Antonio Spurs could pose some interesting matchups for the Miami Heat and may be able to pull off a miracle similar to the Dallas Mavericks improbable playoff run last year. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder could very well not only be a challenge for the Heat but be one of the only teams that can prevent the Heat from reaching their goal for a second consecutive year.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the most dominant scorers in the game. Serge Ibaka is a defensive force in the middle and James Harden may very well be the new Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson. The Miami Heat will have their work cut out for them if they see the Thunder in the NBA Finals. I am confident that the Thunder will have no problem finishing games this year.
We know which one has proven to be more clutch….
Kevin Durant is as clutch as they come when the game is on the line. Give Durant any sort of room and he will shoot “the dagger” that will put the game out of reach any time. On the other side we have Lebron James who has still yet to prove that he can finish important games. If James has a meltdown in the 4th quarter during playoff games like last year, the Miami Heat will have a hard time even making the NBA Finals. In addition, once the Miami Heat make the Finals, if Lebron James is still having the same issue, the curtain could fall on the Miami Heat show again.
It is a distinct possibility that the Miami Heat will lose in the playoffs again this year, and everyone will say the experiment has failed. The Miami Heat will have tried to bringing players with phenomenal talent together without the teamwork needed to be successful. If Lebron James does not win this year can he truly keep the name “King” James? All the kings I have ever read about have crowns and Lebron James will be lacking one. Maybe Lebron James will need to take on a new moniker. I am voting for “Knight” James until Lebron James can prove that he can deliver at least one of the many promised rings to South Beach.
In a season where “World Peace” is actually a name of a player, we are seeing some fast starts from some expected and unexpected teams. We are also seeing some very slow starts from teams we expected to be much better. The new NBA season and the New Year will definitely be full of twists and turns. It is already easy to tell that the playoffs will feature some teams that traditionally are not playoff power houses. Since the season is shortened and passing us by rather quickly I am going to give out some predictions for the current NBA season.
Some love to state what their New Year resolutions are going to be but I am stating some New Year predictions. Below are some predictions about the NBA. When the season does end in 2012, we can look back and see how I did.
Prediction # 1 The Miami Heat will win the East. I know this is the easy pick and that most experts are picking the Heat to repeat. I think some teams will challenge Miami, like Chicago, and even Boston when they turn things around. However, I cannot see any team that can go win a seven game playoff series against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. Each team that can challenges the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference is missing a key player here or there to overcome Miami’s Big Three. A great deal of people will root against the Miami Heat all year long, including Dan Gilbert, the Cleveland Cavaliers owner, but this story is almost written in stone.
Prediction # 2: The Los Angeles Lakers will be a low seed playoff team. The Lakers have been a team to be reckoned with for many years but this year is not their year. The Los Angeles Lakers have a new coach with a new system, lost one of their best players in Lamar Odom; just do not look like they have it together this season. In addition, if the Los Angeles Lakers manage to pull off a trade for Dwight Howard, they will give up many of pieces of their current team. Moreover, it will take Dwight Howard time to become acclimated to the team. If the Lakers decide to stay with their current roster, without out the “Real Deal” Phil in town I do not see them winning the majority of their games. The Los Angeles Lakers will make the playoffs but their chances of going all the way to the finals are very slim.
Prediction # 3 The San Antonio Spurs will win the Western Conference. Most people are already crowning the Oklahoma City Thunder the favorites but I believe the Spurs have one more good run left in them. In addition, Gregg Popovich is a master at getting his players to perform at their highest level each game. Tim Duncan is looking like his old self and not in the decrepit, needing a cane, sort-of-way. Manu Ginobli is still knocking down shots and Tony Parker is proving he retains the skills of a top league point guard. With all the other San Antonio Spurs role players contributing, the team is looking like a team that could give any team trouble in the playoffs.The Oklahoma City Thunder may have one of the best players in Kevin Durant. The Thunder also have good supporting players is Russell Westbrook and James Harden but I still do not believe their chemistry is there yet to make it to the NBA finals.
Prediction #4 The Miami Heat will win their first NBA championship this year with the Big Three. Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade by themselves will be too much for most teams. Add in the other players on the Miami Heat roster and the Heat should win the majority of their games this season. In the playoffs, we will see if the Miami Heat can finish games. I believe the Miami Heat are learning that Dwayne Wade is the finisher on the team and at the end of game Wade will knock down the game winner. As long as the Miami Heat allows Lebron James, Chris Bosh to contribute, and Dwayne Wade to finish, they should be fine throughout the playoffs. However, if the Miami Heat depends on King James to finish games we may see a repeat of last year. Lebron James just does not finish games well when it truly counts. Despite Lebron James having issues handling the clutch situations, the Miami Heat will overcome this and many other obstacles to hoist the trophy at the end of the season.
The above predictions may or may not come true, but that makes them very similar to normal New Year’s resolutions. Most people make New Year’s resolutions and about two or three months after they are made, the majority of them are not completed. On the other hand, some resolutions are actually seen through to completion. Whether I am right or wrong, a great season of NBA basketball is ahead. Only time will tell who will become the true champion in the end.
Sometimes it takes quite a while for professional sports teams to find a winning formula. The players on a team can have all the talent in the World but they have to be able to cooperate with one another. We have seen championship teams that have less talent than other teams, but somehow they still win. Then we have seen teams with a great deal of talent and they fail to win. When a team has both great talent and the players know how to play together, the sky is the limit.
Jordan, Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls fit this mold. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and the Los Angeles Lakers also fit into this category. Now we have the Miami Heat finally living up to the hype and doing the same. During the regular season, the Heat looked lost as times. The Miami Heat could not finish games or beat opponents with records above .500 on any consistent basis. Now in the playoffs, things seem to have come together for the Miami Heat. The Heat are finally playing at the level many predicted before the season started. The roles on the team are now very clear. Dwayne Wade is the go to or first option. Lebron James is the second option and Bosh is a great complimentary role player. The roles had to be defined for the Miami Heat to be successful. Watching the Miami Heat is pure poetry in motion. The team is almost next impossible to stop.
Moreover, without the pressure of carrying the team on his shoulders, Lebron James plays a better game. Lebron plays with more freedom and is accomplishing feats He never did when playing in the regular season. At the end of the fourth quarter in last night’s play off game versus the Boston Celtics, Lebron James hit a three pointer with 2:10 left in the game. James then hit another three pointer with 40.4 seconds to put the game out of reach and clench the playoff series. Earlier in the year and even last year, Lebron James would not come through in these game-deciding situations. In this new role, Lebron James is beginning to excel and find his place.
Dwayne Wade has taken his proper place in running the offense and being the catalyst that gets the Miami Heat engine going each game. Wade is not only great at creating his own shot but also making other players better. Furthermore, if teams do not respect Dwayne Wade’s abilities to take over a game. Wade can do just that and make his opponents pay for their mistake. If teams try to double team Wade then that leaves either James or Bosh open to knock down some shots. When it all comes together watching the Heat is exciting and anyone can see how truly dominating they can be.
The Miami Heat’s biggest enemy in the playoffs is themselves. If they stick to a good game plan and everybody stays in their defined roles than the Heat may win a NBA championship this year. On the other hand, if the Miami Heat revert to their old ways they could be sent home.The Big Three of the Heat are beginning to play like champions and defeating teams that beat them in the regular season such as the Celtics. We are seeing the Heat finally rise up and take their rightful place among the elite teams of the NBA. No teams have any more pure talent than the Heat. The NBA playoffs are the Miami Heat’s to lose. The NBA Playoffs can be painful or rewarding for each team. The Miami Heat have a good chance to claim the ultimate reward this year. Even though history tells us, the Heat have a chance to experience sadness instead of joy. We can only hope the days of sadness are far behind them.
Now that the college NCAA Basketball Tournament is over. It is time to focus on the NBA as we gear up for the playoffs. Before the playoffs start however, there is another contest yet to be decided. The contest I speak of is the NBA MVP award. Which player has the edge in the MVP battle? Any star player on any team can make a case for their nomination but four players stand above the rest. The four players I believe have the best chance are Derrick Rose, Lebron James, Dwight Howard, and Kobe Bryant. I will now give you the case for each one starting with Lebron James.
Lebron James is a great player on a team that could feasibly win multiple NBA championships before he retires. He is a game changer and can be unstoppable at times. Lebron James is averaging 26.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.0 assists a game. While these are impressive numbers Lebron James is limited by the team he plays on.
What I mean is he plays on a team with two bona-fide all stars who can both also take over any game. His situation has become similar to that of Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics. Paul Pierce may have the best stats of any player on the team, but with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen there too, he will never win a MVP award. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen contribute too much to the success of the Boston Celtics to call Paul pierce a true MVP. For the same reason Lebron will not win the MVP award this year.
Next, we can look at Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard is a true force of nature. His presence in the middle is intimidating to say the least. He dominates on defense by often times sending the ball back at the shooter. Sometimes the ball ends up in the stands of the arena where he is playing. A friend aptly dubbed Howard “the Department of Defense” because nothing hardly ever gets by him. That name definitely fits his style of play. Dwight Howard fits the mold of NBA MVP. He should get every consideration for the award.
Dwight plays on a team with no superstars to speak of. Moreover, Gilbert Arenas aka Agent Zero, does not count as a superstar. Arenas has been relegated to a pure shooting role in the offense. Arenas is not game changer that he was in the past. Howard averages 23.2 points, 14.2 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks a game. If Howard does manage to obtain the MVP award. No one could argue him as a bad choice. The problem with Howard as a choice is that he does not play on the best team in his conference. Orlando is currently ranked 4th in the Eastern Conference. Howard’s case would be stronger if the team was ranked 1 or even ranked 2. Due to the team’s ranking, Dwight Howard will not win the MVP award.
Then we can look at Kobe Bryant. Bryant is easily the best player in the league and has been for some time. The debate has been between Kobe and Lebron as to who is the better player. I think the true difference is that Kobe is a true closer. With the game on the line, a team can always depend on Kobe to close it out. Lebron James has not developed into a complete closer yet. He is still learning to close out games. I am not sure if Lebron will be helped or hindered by being in Miami, because he will be sharing closing duties with Dwayne Wade.
Ok back to Kobe and what makes him a good MVP candidate. Kobe plays for a Championship level team, has the best coach in the league, and has some of the best role-players in the league. Kobe averages 25.1 points per game, 4.8 assists, and 5.1 rebounds a game. The Lakers could win some games without Kobe Bryant but I am confident the team would not win any titles . Pao Gasol , Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum could be a quite an effective team without Kobe, but by themselves they could not make a team a true contender..
Kobe Bryant is the player that takes the Lakers to the next level. Teams have to formulate a game plan just to stop Kobe from scoring or setting his teammates up to score. The Lakers are ranked number two in the Western conference, which is good but the team will not take over the number one ranking. The Lakers being the number two team in the western conference may be the only thing that prevents Kobe Bryant from obtaining the MVP
Lastly, we can look at Derrick Rose. This is my pick for a player to achieve the MVP award this year. Derrick Rose has always been good, but this year he has taken it to another level.
Rose is averaging 25.1 pts , 4.1 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. From 2009 to 2011 Rose had made a significant statistical improvement each year. The Chicago Bulls have no other players who come to close to the skill level of Rose. Rose literally has been carrying the Bulls on his back the whole season. In addition, for half the season he was missing two very important role players in Carloz Boozer and Joakhim Noah.
Even without these two players, Rose continued to excel and will his team to wins. The Bulls would hardly win any games without Rose running the point. With Rose the Chicago Bulls have become the number one team in the Eastern Conference. Rose has developed into a closer the Bulls can depend on. There is nothing in the way of declaring Rose the best candidate for the MVP award. Rose should win the award and be one of the few point guards in the recent years to be selected for the award.
Everybody has made a claim to accomplish some kind of hard feat at one time or another. Most of the time such claims are made in sports such as “We (input team name) will win tomorrow or next week”. Well some people make a habit at making claims. T.O. or Terrell Owens or even a coach namely Rex Ryan of the New York Jets is notorious for these types of claims.
However, people expect trash talking in Football but today we will speak on Basketball. I know my readers are probably wondering who has made some claim in basketball that they are going to have problems living up to. Well let me set the stage A huge basketball franchise player decide after winning 60+ games every season that he would be better off on another team. He proceeds to take us through some over glamorized television special just to hear what team he will play with. He even has the idea of bringing 3 all stars together to form “the Super Team.”
By now I am sure everyone has figured out I am speaking of Lebron James and the Miami Heat. Last year when Lebron James decided to team up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh the whole basketball world stopped. People had crowned them champions and they had never even stepped on the court as a team. People said “ Who cares who the other players are on the team, the Miami Heat may not lose a game” There was talk they would win 70+ games and may even break the record for wins in a season. Lebron James was so confident they would win He claimed the Miami Heat would win six, seven, or eight championships. Mr. James clearly thought a dynasty was about to begin in Miami. Players even came to sign minimum pay contract agreements just to play with the “Super Three,” because they also drank the ever so good kool-aid Lebron and the Heat was serving.
I will remind my readers this was last year and now let’s look at the present. Have the Miami Heat lived up to the hype? Have they dominated every team they have played? Are they close to reaching the infamous 70+ record breaking mark? Well none of the above is true. The Miami Heat are far from any of those goals. The Miami Heat are currently 43-20 and while that is not a bad record and they will make the playoffs. The Miami Heat cannot muster any consistency winning against the NBA top teams. Miami blows out the mediocre and bad teams in the NBA, but any time they have an actual challenge in an opponent they falter.
The Miami Heat have lost their last 4 games and the opponents were the Knicks, The Magic, The Spurs, and the most recently loss to the Bulls. In the Bulls and Magic, games the Heat were up by 20+ points going into the second half and squandered both leads. The Spurs put a good old fashioned beat down on the Miami Heat to the tune of 125-95. During the Spurs game it was evident that the “Super Trio” of James, Wade, and Bosh were all doing their best Clark Kent impression.
If we watched Miami Heat games all season, especially the last four anyone can see that the team is in disarray. Moreover, the players of this team do not even know who is going to take the last shot. One night its Lebron James, the next night its Dwayne Wade and occasionally its Chris Bosh. Any team will have a hard time closing out games when the team has no designated closer. I am just a fan and I can see this is a clear problem, but the coaching staff has not made any changes. When the end of the game comes, whoever has an open shot takes it. Lately, we can even see that even the last second shots lack confidence and accuracy each all star is so well known for.
In addition, all of the last 4 games are teams that will be in the playoffs. However, this problem is not one that has arisen recently. This problem has been going on all season long. In the beginning, the excuse was the Heat needed time to learn to play together. Then the excuse was that the Miami Heat was going through growing pains. Now they do not have an answer or an excuse. All we know is that something is wrong and it does not look like there is a quick fix in sight. It seems like the Miami Heat and many people spoke too soon. Just throwing talented players together almost never works. A team requires teamwork and right now the Miami Heat look like they have none.
Must I bore you with this NBA Superstar’s accolades? Absolutely, not!
On that note, I love that GQ has snatched Ryan Reynolds right from the cover of September 2010 issue and has placed the most relevant sack of muscles on the cover–Miami Heat’s Lebron James. He’s just America’s NBA sweetheart.
Don’t mess up that good guy image, Lebron. Until then, it’s your world!
GQ knows what sells. I’m getting this mag, just for the cover.