Thursday, June 4, 2009

NBA Truths: Why the Lakers are in trouble

One thing I've learned throughout the NBA playoffs is that pro basketball is in need of the Truth.
With that in mind, I present to you a Finals version of NBA Truths that will, among other things, explain to you why I believe the Orlando Magic will be cro10. Dwight Howard is a modern-day Bill Russell.
You will really see the similarities between Howard and Russell in this series because the referees will actually allow Howard to play defense now that LeBron James has been eliminated.
Because of the way James is pampered, Howard was reduced to standing in the lane with his arms raised during the Eastern Conference finals. He couldn't contest shots and dominate the lane because the refs had a secret handshake deal to send King James to the line 20 times a game during the first five games.
Free to roam and attack, look for Howard to annihilate Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. I expect one triple double from Howard -- 20 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks.
Howard's rebounding prowess powers Orlando's defense. Initially I was frustrated by Stan Van Gundy's offensive strategy that turns Howard into Rambo (one-man army) on the offensive glass. But then I realized the scheme stopped the Cavaliers from getting easy transition baskets. It forced Mo Williams and Delonte West to get all of their offense in half-court sets.
9. Phil Jackson is awesome at managing egos and so-so at in-game strategy. Van Gundy will out-coach the Zen Master.
Larry Brown puts a clown suit on Jackson nearly every time the two square off. Jackson's triangle works well. But is there an offense that wouldn't work with Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan on the floor?
Van Gundy's European, spread-the-floor, drive-and-kick style of play is superior. Yes, for a moment, the Magic offense ignored Howard. But that's over. Howard knocked down free throws and did a marvelous job pitching the ball to open shooters in the Cleveland series.
8. If Rashard Lewis drives the lane, the Magic could sweep.
When Cleveland won Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, I went to bed praying that Van Gundy would convince Lewis that it was necessary for him to take the ball to the hole. The Magic fell in love with the three, and by doing so made it easy for the refs to send James to the line at any hint of contact.
When Lewis matched James drive for drive in Game 6, the refs were forced to either send Lewis to the line or ignore incidental contact at both ends. wned NBA champions ... in six games.

I'm sure Bryant, Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom are all going to attack the rim. Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Mickael Pietrus have to get to the rim as well.
7. I'm glad the games are on ESPN/ABC rather than TNT.
I love Ernie, Kenny and Charles. Their pregame, halftime and postgame analysis is livelier and more entertaining than ESPN's studio show.
But Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy blow away Doug Collins and Reggie Miller as in-game commentators. It's not even close. Most of the time, I suspect Collins is watching a different game than I am. He misses everything and refuses to point out obvious officiating errors.
Meanwhile, Jackson comes across as New York honest and outspoken. He and Van Gundy have a good rapport.
6. Despite drawing Kobe Bryant on the defensive end, Mickael Pietrus will outscore and out-play Lamar Odom.
Defending Kobe is going to be a bit more exhausting than defending LeBron James. Kobe moves without the ball and uses screens more effectively and more often than James, who catches the ball and goes one on one. Kobe does it all on offense.
Pietrus is up to the challenge. He can establish himself in this series as one of the league's most valuable role players. Pietrus might be the new Robert Horry.
5. For the record, I've changed Chauncey Billups' nickname to Mr. Bad Shot.

He was terrible in the Western Conference finals. The Nuggets are still the dumbest team in basketball, and that includes the Washington Generals. You could scare the Nuggets off the court with a bucket of confetti.
4. Am I the only person who noticed that the tattoo teams lost in the conference finals?
You realize had the Nuggets and Cavaliers won in the previous round it would have been a television nightmare for ABC/ESPN? American families were not going to plop down on their couches and watch an NBA tattoo convention.
The NBA needs to adopt long-sleeve jerseys.
3. I like LeBron James. He's a good kid. I wasn't surprised he walked off the court without congratulating the Magic.
The kid is spoiled. It wasn't that long ago he walked off the court with time left on the clock. When things don't go LeBron's way, he's prone to act like a baby.

If the Cavaliers don't find LeBron a wingman this offseason, he'll take his ball and go to New York after the season.
2. Skip To My Lou is the one Magic player who scares me.
If the Magic lose this series, it will be because Rafer Alston stunk up the joint with playground/And-1 decisions in the clutch. I'm praying Jameer Nelson can return and help the Magic. Alston and Anthony Johnson are both capable of trying to do way too much.
Skip To My Lou and this stage are a recipe for disaster.
*1. If the Magic win tonight, change my original prediction to an Orlando sweep!

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