Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NBA Finals: Legacies On The Line

The Larry O'Brien Trophy
Help me out here and pretend that it is a month and a half ago. Don’t answer the following question until after you read the two paragraphs that follow it.

What two players in the playoffs need to win the NBA title this year the most?

Basketball is unique in that it is the ultimate team game, yet at the professional level the individual is glorified more than in any other sport. The NBA is currently sky rocketing in popularity mainly because of the incredible number of identifiable players to its fan base. That’s why we hear the word “Legacy” brought up so often in NBA discussions. Legacy focuses on more than just individual skill. It focuses on how a player will be remembered. How talented was the player, how good of a teammate was he, what awards did he win, how was he regarded by his peers, etc…. and how many titles did he win? That’s the most important question. It’s the crown jewel of a player’s legacy and the question that is routinely relied on when debating the classic question “All-time, who’s better?”

Let me use Karl Malone and Charles Barkley as examples to further express the point I am trying to make. Malone and Barkley were year after year two of the best players in the NBA during the 1990’s. It is extremely difficult to make a case for one or the other as to who the better player was. You could say that Malone’s longevity and superior conditioning gives him the edge over Barkley. Or you could say that because Barkley’s MVP season (1993 with Phoenix) was during one the NBA’s most talent rich stretches in league history, and Malone’s two (1997 and 1999) came in a much less competitive period, that gives Barkley the edge. Neither player has a title, so there is no crutch to rely on for anyone making a serious argument for either player. What if Barkley and the Suns defeated Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1993 when they had home court, and might have had a better overall team? Suddenly it becomes very easy to say Barkley’s legacy was greater. On the flip side, what if Utah wouldn’t have lost game 5 in 1997 at home, and then went on to win either game six or seven in Chicago. Don’t we look at Malone as the set-in-stone better player than Barkley? The biggest determinant of a player’s individual legacy all hinges on team success. Malone, Barkley, Baylor, Stockton, Ewing, Wilkins, Gervin and many others are missing the crown jewel. As great as they are, they aren’t in the same discussion as Jordan, Russell, Kobe, Jabbar, Bird, Magic, and Duncan. I’m not saying that to be considered an all-time great a player needs to win a title. One player doesn’t win a title. It takes a ton of lucky breaks and team success to win a championship. For some reason though, the individuals who play the game end up being immortalized by their team’s success.

The answer to the question was pretty simple.

Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James. Whoever gets four wins first will take their name off the list of current players without the crown jewel.

Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant are early in their careers. They have a decade full of title opportunities ahead of them. Kobe, Shaq and Duncan have all won multiple titles, and their reputations as the three best players from late 1990’s to the mid-2000’s is pretty much set. The Celtics Big Three already won a title together. So by process of elimination, you have Dirk and LeBron left.

Dirk has another chance to beat
 Miami in the Finals.
Five years ago, Dirk Nowitzki was two games away from a championship, and two games away from making a serious argument for himself as a member of the pantheon of all-time NBA greats. His run this year has been phenomenal, I’ve gone as far as saying he has cemented himself as the best offensive player in the game. But this isn’t the first time Dirk has been sensational in the post season. Check out the numbers from 2006 and 2011, in the first 3 rounds of each playoff run.

2006: 28.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, 49.3% Field Goals, 90% FT
2011: 28.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 51.6% Field Goals, 95% FT

As you can see, this year isn’t the first time Dirk has gone bonkers in a terrific playoff run. And keep this in mind: seven of the games in 2006 (where he averaged 11.9 rebounds) were against the defending champion, and number one seed San Antonio. Dirk not only averaged 13.3 rebounds against Tim Duncan, who averaged 11.7 rebounds in the series, but also slapped together a 37 point and 15 rebound masterpiece in game seven in San Antonio… an overtime win for Dallas. At this point, doesn’t Dirk look like he might end up carrying the hypothetical NBA torch?

You know the rest of the story; Dallas blew a 2-0 series lead to Miami in the finals, Dirk was underwhelming and missed a game tying free throw in game three with just seconds left to play, and Dallas/Dirks time had seemingly come and gone. The next year Dirk won the MVP but Dallas was eliminated by eighth seed Golden State in the 1st Round. After a few more playoff disappointments, I claimed that going into this year’s postseason that the Mavericks championship window “was taken out and replaced by a brick wall.” Little did I know, Dirk was allowed to bring with him to the playoffs a huge-ass jackhammer (metaphorical of course) and has been smashing down the brick wall for the last 15 games, and getting a ton of Larry Bird comparisons in the process. I won’t get into whether they are warranted or not, but you need to be special to get that kind of hype.

Dirk and the Mavericks are just four games away from a championship. In a crazy way, the last five years of regular season success followed by post season failure have been good for Dirk. It’s hardened him and gave him a bit of an Eff-You edge. While he was an offensive dynamo five years ago, he is virtually unstoppable now. He’s not bothered by smaller players like he was with Stephen Jackson in the Golden State debacle, he’s able to pass out of double teams as well as an 7 footer in the league, and he’s completely shed the “soft” label that was once placed on him. The fact that he is carrying around a metaphorical jack-hammer helped him with that. You could even say he’s been better than anyone in the 2011 playoffs, unless you want to make the case LeBron James.

LeBron craves an NBA Title
If you are thinking to yourself “Of course he is going to say LeBron has been the best player in the playoffs, that is all he ever talks about,” then I am thinking to myself “Whoever is saying that about me is either ignorant or stupid, because LeBron has been the one of the two best players in the playoffs.” If you want to disagree with how LeBron handled the off-season, I have no problems with that. If you want to say he took the easy way out, go for it. If you try to tell me LeBron James isn’t the best overall player in the NBA, you are crazy. Or you haven’t been watching the games I’ve been watching.

Don’t think of this as another “LeBron is the next Jordan” comparison. LeBron, Kobe, Wade, Durant, Rose… none of them are the next Michael Jordan. There will never be another Michael Jordan. Ever. No one should be allowed to make that argument. LeBron James is however:

A) The best and most versatile defensive player in the league. Evidence of this is LeBron guarding Derrick Rose, the MVP, and Rose shooting just 6.3% when LeBron was guarding him in the Eastern Conference Finals. Follow that up with the fact that it is very likely that LeBron will be guarding Dirk Nowitzki at key points in the NBA Finals. That’s a 9 inch difference in defensive assignments.

B) Making anyone who has said “LeBron James isn’t clutch” eat their words. LeBron and the entire Heat roster had their regular season crunch time struggles. The Playoffs have been a completely different story. The Evidence: Game four in Boston where LeBron had 35 points, 14 rebounds and a game tying 3 in regulation; Game five at home against Boston, scoring 33 points, and the last 10 of the game which put away Boston; Game two at Chicago, putting up 29 points, 10 rebounds and taking all of the big shots down the stretch; Most recently, game five in Chicago, 28 points, 11 rebounds, game tying three and a go ahead jumper with under 30 seconds to play. As far as clutch play in a two series span goes, LeBron’s Celtics/Bulls run ranks right up there.

C) Four wins and a Finals MVP away from hopefully shutting up any LeBron James hater. Maybe he did need Wade and Bosh to win a championship. But they needed him more this year than he needed them. Miami is Dwyane Wade’s city. But make no mistake, LeBron James is the best player on the Heat.

Before Jordan won six titles he was viewed as a selfish player who didn’t embrace or care about his teammates. Kobe’s legacy was momentarily tarnished when he clashed with Shaq, was accused of rape and then tried forcing his way out of Los Angeles before winning two titles as the best player on the Lakers. Legacies change over time. They can be broken down or built up. Winning a championship as the Alpha Dog on your team is what can give a player’s legacy stability. It’s the antidote to any type of possible damage that has already been done. That’s why if Dirk wins a championship people will forget about the 2006 NBA Finals and the playoff struggles that followed for the next four years. For LeBron, if Miami wins the title the only thing people will be saying about “The Decision” is “Damn, that was a good decision!”

Paul Clark and I break down the NBA Finals.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NBA Playoffs/Draft Lottery Podcast

Paul Clark joins me to talk about the NBA playoffs so far. We also discuss how the NBA Draft may turn out.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Greatness of Boston Rob

The 22nd Season of Survivor
I’ve been an avid sports fan for as long as I remember. My first sports memory is watching Michael Jordan rap up an iconic NBA career with the Chicago Bulls by nailing the game winning shot against the Utah Jazz in game six of the NBA Finals. I picked a good time to start remembering. Since I watched the final game of Michael Jordan’s dominant career with the Bulls, I can recall many memorable dominant performances, on individual and team levels. The Los Angeles Lakers winning three titles on the backs of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. The New England Patriots running through the league in 2007-08, finishing 16-0 in the regular season before falling short in the Super Bowl. Darko Milicic going from 2nd overall pick to franchise NBA center (wait, that’s bizzaro world NBA, my bad). LeBron’s 48 special, Kobe’s 81 point game, the Redeem Team, the quiet Spurs/Steelers Dynasties of the 00’s, Florida Gators football/basketball. We always remember iconic performances where one player carried the team on his back or when a team is virtually unstoppable. That is why for fans of Survivor, Rob Mariano just entered the pantheon of Survivor greatness, if he wasn’t already there.

The journey began ten years ago when Rob Mariano was a contestant on Survivor Marquesas. Rob lasted only 21 days, didn’t even make the jury that would decide the winner but was without question the star of the season. He left enough of an impression that a few years later he would be asked to come back for Survivors first All-Star season. From day one in All-Stars Rob Mariano was the unquestioned leader of his Chapera tribe, and the consensus best player in the game. His cut-throat tactics, Machiavellian-esque approach of “By any means necessary” and his dominance in individual and tribe challenges got him to the end of the game with his eventual wife, Amber Brkich. You couldn’t dispute that Rob played nearly perfect. The jury however came off like a bunch of pissed off former lovers who didn’t appreciate Rob using them like pawns in a game of chess, and being rather insensitive in the process. They took the game personal and gave the million dollar prize to Amber. Such an “Aw shucks” moment for Rob. He didn’t win the million, but his girl did.

Rob and Amber celebrate
after her win in
Survivor All-Stars
What eluded Rob however was the win. If you are a reality television buff like me, you know that Rob and Amber are pretty set financially. Not only did Amber win the Million Dollar prize, but Rob came in 2nd place which earned him $100,000. And let’s not forget, they each won a car during the season as well. From there they competed on The Amazing Race twice, where they won $25,000 for finishing 2nd overall in season seven. Additionally, they won trips to the Bahamas, London, Monaco, British Columbia, a home entertainment system, two off road motorcycles, and two home gyms for finishing first place in certain legs of their two Amazing Race seasons. Did Rob really need money after all of this? I would say no. What he needed was to win Survivor.

Just like every sports icon, if they don’t win a title, it is hard to consider them the greatest ever. Peyton Manning’s legacy shifted after he won a Super Bowl. LeBron James still needs a ring to put his name in the conversation of “Greatest of All-Time.” The story was the same with Boston Rob. He returned to Survivor in 2010 during the “Heroes vs. Villains” themed season but he was the eighth player voted off. In a way, Rob’s dominance in seasons past had hurt him. Some of the best players in Survivor history realized that he was better than they were, and if they gave him time he would methodically take out all of them like he did six years earlier in his first All-Star season.

At this point it appeared as if Boston Rob’s time on reality television had come to an end. It seemed unthinkable that with the reputation he had, that Rob would be able to be a power player on Survivor as he had before. At the Heroes vs. Villains season finale Rob jokingly challenged notorious Survivor villain Russell Hantz to another Survivor duel. One year later, it was on.

Rob and Russell returned to the game in Survivor Redemption Island to act as leaders to their respective tribes. Russell’s tribe quickly schemed to eliminate him in fear of what he could do given the time. Rob on the other hand was setting up for the greatest individual season in Survivor history. His tribe quickly embraced him for his hard work around camp, ability to perform in challenges and general know-how of the game. He formed an alliance with five members of his nine person tribe, and stuck with them until they were the final six remaining in the game. The fact that Rob was the centerpiece of an alliance that made it so far in the game was already impressive enought, but the style in which Rob ran this alliance is what should be noted. Players of the opposing tribe mentioned the cult-like mind control that Boston Rob had over his alliance. Rob’s “Ometepe Six” rarely conversed with the Zapatera tribe members after the two tribes merged. If they did, they immediately reported back to Rob to discuss what had been talked about. The defining story of Rob’s mind-control came when members from Zapatera caught a fair amount of fish one day and offered it to members of the Ometepe tribe, all of whom declined the offer simply because Rob told them not to eat it. How does one man convince a group of people not to eat when they have been starving on an island for nearly a month? Remarkable! Members of Zapatera were methodically picked off one by one in true Godfather fashion. It wasn’t personal, it was just business for Boston Rob and the Mariano Crime Syndicate.
Rob's fourth
Immunity victory

When it came to the point in the game when Ometepe needed to start eliminating from within, Rob’s name was never mentioned. And even if it was, he had no reason to be concerned because of his physical dominance (winning four individual immunity challenges, including the most physically demanding challenge I recall in Survivor history, where Rob collapsed afterwards from exhaustion) and a hidden immunity idol that he found in the initial stages of the game that would keep him protected if he was ever in danger. Rob was in the place he needed to be to get to the end stages of the game. To get to the one million dollar prize. To put himself in the pantheon of Survivor greatness.

As Rob won the last immunity challenge in the final four that secured him a spot in the end, he nearly started crying tears of joy. He knew he had won the game. He knew that the 117 days away from home were worth it. He carried with him to the final 3 two of the strategically and physically weaker players in the game to ensure that he would have the votes to win. The jury saw the control he had over his competitors and they were well aware of his physical dominance throughout the game. I didn’t think it was possible for Boston Rob to play as complete of a game as he did seven years ago. He not only matched it, he easily surpassed it. Even host Jeff Probst said that Rob played “as close to a perfect game as anyone’s played.”

Rob received eight of the nine votes from the jury. He won the $1,000,000 prize, and the Sprint Player of the season, as voted on by the fans which banked him an additional $100,000. His season was equivalent to an NBA player averaging a triple double, a quarterback throwing for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, or a baseball player hitting 75 home runs. And winning the championship in the same year.
Boston Rob reacts after winning
Survivor Redemption Island

Boston Rob has been my favorite reality television competitor for seven years. To me, this will be an equivalent feeling to if LeBron James and the Miami Heat win the NBA Championship this year. However, not even LeBron James could dominate an NBA season like Boston Rob did in this season of Survivor. This was the season of Rob Mariano, where he became the greatest Survivor ever.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

NBA Playoffs... With A Hangover

The Hangover: Part II comes out
May 26th.

Not counting the NBA playoffs, there is something big is receiving a lot of build-up. You’ve probably seen the previews for it during the playoffs. No, it isn’t Franklin and Bash, starring Breckin Meyer
and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, which premieres at 9 p.m. on Wednesday June 1st only on TNT. The one thing that tops Franklin and Bash is The Hangover: Part II, the sequel to the 2009 smash hit comedy that I saw a whopping five times in theatres. I don’t need to go into how epic Hangover II is going to be. I’m sure you already know this if you saw the first one, which quickly leapt into the pantheon of great comedies, and movies that contain a ton of quotes that are fun to use. What I want to do is take a look at some memorable Hangover quotes, and tie them into this year’s NBA playoffs.
“That's classic!”
-The best moment of a very memorable 2011 NBA playoffs is without question Brandon Roy’s game four take over in the first round versus Dallas. It involved the right player (Brandon Roy, who just days before had commented on how hurt he was that his role had been diminished) and the right teams (Dallas, who has a history of choking away games, and Portland, whose crowd was spectacular throughout the events that were transpiring). The only problem is Portland didn’t go on to win the series. In the long run, this remarkable performance could end up being forgotten because Portland was bounced rather easily just two games later. Should it be? Absolutely not. This NBA season has been important for so many reasons: The Lakers quest for a 3 peat, a nationwide backlash against the Miami Heat, Derrick Rose taking the next step and winning the MVP, Blake Griffin becoming the most exciting player in the league in just one season, Melo-Drama, Memphis upsetting San Antonio and most likely ending the Spurs dynasty, and John Wall doing the best Dougie ever. Despite all of that, I am giving my favorite Hangover quote to Brandon Roy’s game four performance.
“Gambling? Who said anything about gambling? It's not gambling when you know you're gonna win. Counting cards is a foolproof system.”
-Memphis blatantly tanked the last two games of the regular season by resting Z-Bo, and giving big minutes to Ishmael Smith, Greivis Vasquez and the Rony Seikely look alike Hamed Haddadi. Why would they do this? To ensure that they were the 8 seed so they could play the team with the best record in the west… who they happened to be much, much better than. Make no mistake, the Grizzlies first round victory was no fluke. And if they beat the Thunder, it again will not be a fluke. If they win the Western Conference, to paraphrase the Soup Nazi, “No fluke for you!” The Grizzlies have the best 4/5 tandem in the playoffs with Randolph and Gasol. They have two of the best perimeter defenders in the playoffs in Tony Allen and Shane Battier. Mike Conley has held his own when you take into consideration the point guards he has been matched up against. Sam Young, Darrell Arthur, and OJ Mayo have played with a ton of confidence in minor roles, and brilliantly fill out the Grizzlies eight man rotation. It was not a gamble for the Grizzlies to tank their last two games. They were just putting themselves in the best position to make a not so improbable run to the NBA Finals.

“It's not easy.”

“Okay, well, maybe we should tell that to Rain Man, because he practically bankrupt a casino, and he was a retard.”
-I literally searched for an hour trying to find the interview, but I couldn’t find it. I just want to remind everyone that Zach Randolph, the man who is taking the NBA Playoffs by storm, earlier in the season made a remark about how his team “played the whole 42 minutes.” I just thought that this should be mentioned. Also, if anyone reading this knows where to find this video, please let me know.

“Really? Well, then why did I do it? Huh? 'Cause I did it! Riddle me that! Why'd I do it? You know, sometimes I think all you want me to do is what you want me to do. Well, I'm sick of doing what you want me to do all the time. I think, in a healthy relationship, sometimes a guy should be able to do what he wants to do.”
“That is not how this works!”
“Oh, good! Because whatever this is ain't workin' for me!”
-I predicted in my column previewing the playoffs that Chris Paul would immediately demand a trade after his Hornets were swept by the Lakers. I also predicted that Orlando would sweep Atlanta, mainly because they did last year and Atlanta looked completely heartless (not to anyone’s surprise) towards the end of the regular season. Orlando goes down to Atlanta in six games, and the window for the Magic shuts abruptly, right on the fingers of Dwight Howard… and he’s pissed! And can we blame him. He’s on a team with a coach he doesn’t like, but chances are Van Gundy will be on his way out soon. He has teammates that don’t make him better at all, and don’t play defense because they either don’t care or because they realize they have the best interior defender in the game. He has a general manager (Otis Smith) who made two horrible trades that effectively killed the Magic’s chances of being a contender. Those trades: Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus to Phoenix for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark. Carter and Richardson is a wash mainly because they do the same thing, neither of which helps Dwight at all. Pietrus scared the hell out of me coming off the bench and I didn’t see Earl Clark come off the bench at all this year unless it was to give some encouraging high fives during the timeouts. Hedo Turkoglu isn’t even close to being the player he was on their Finals team two years ago, while losing Gortat made Orlando the smallest team in the league, which doubles the amount of pressure on Howard because now he can never afford to get in foul trouble. The other trade that crippled Orlando was Rashard Lewis for Gilbert Arenas. Granted, Lewis wasn’t exactly blowing things up this season before the trade, but remember what took Orlando over the edge in 09? It was the Lewis, Turkoglu, Howard front line, which caused Cleveland so many mismatch problems that I broke two TV remotes in that six game series. Otis Smith made the trade for Turkoglu before the Arenas trade. Why in the hell did he not try out that Lewis, Turkoglu, Howard line-up again? I don’t have the slightest idea, but it most likely put an end to a contending Magic team. Damn it to hell!

“See kids, this is where we bring suspects in order to be detained. Trust me, you do not want to be sitting on these benches. We call this place Loserville.”
-Time to take a look at the other seven teams that got beat in the first round.
-Indiana Pacers: Played extremely hard even though they were overmatched by the Bulls. The big problem for the Pacers was that they Danny Granger either isn’t The Guy, or isn’t ready to be The Guy, and Derrick Rose was. Granger played great, but didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.
-New York Knicks: Everybody knows about Carmelo, Amare, and Billups. There is a reason for this besides the fact that they are all-stars. The other eleven players that fill out the Knicks roster all stink, and that is putting it lightly. They are either past their prime, haven’t hit their prime, or are in their prime but still stink. Let me put it this way, when Mike D’Antoni had to ask himself in game four “Who do I want logging major minutes at point guard because Billups is out: Anthony Carter, Roger Mason or Toney Douglas” and he went with Anthony Carter, you knew the Knicks were in trouble.
-Philadelphia 76ers: LeBron finished his breakfast. It is that simple.
-San Antonio Spurs: I don’t want to dwell on the fact that Tim Duncan was probably the 4th best big guy playing on either team in their first round series. I don’t have any idea if this is the Spurs last hurrah, or Tim Duncan’s last year, but he shouldn’t be remembered for this series, or the past couple years for that matter. He should be remembered as the best power forward ever (sorry Mom), the best player on four championship teams and possibly the best player of the last decade. I’ve never liked him, but seeing him decline so drastically this year was kind of sad. Luckily I can say I frustratingly remember the best of Tim Duncan.
-Denver Nuggets: Denver got jobbed the first game of the series with the no call on Perkins goal tending, and things got out of whack from there. I was, and still am a believer in the fact that Denver got the best of the Carmelo trade, but I have to say it would have benefit them to have someone who could’ve matched Durant shot for shot.
-Portland Trailblazers: I’m just going to assume that the basketball God’s still have something against Portland, and Brandon Roy’s game four performance was just a giant tease.
-New Orleans Hornets: Watching Chris Paul in game one was like watching an instructional video on how to run the point. I don’t care about his knee anymore. If I am a GM I’m giving him as much money for as long as possible when he becomes a free agent. He’s the best pure point guard in the game, and the proof was him carrying a crappy Hornets team to two victories against LA.

Even a lemon twist can't keep Serge from BHC
atop the Serge Rankings.
 “Think you gonna get away with it? Not up in here!”
“Not up in here!”
-This postseason, Serge Ibaka has been blocking shots like it’s his job…. Come to think of it, it is his job, but he’s been doing it pretty damn well. He’s averaging over four blocks per game so far, including a nine block performance in the Thunder’s closeout game versus Denver that not only established him as maybe the most menacing shot blocker in the game, but also as the third best player on a championship contender. Ibaka has made quite a jump from last year where he played like a crazed super-athletic maniac who had no idea what to do on the court, to now establishing himself as a great defensive player with a quickly developing offensive game. The most important tidbit of information that has come out of Serge’s strong post season play is his new-found spot at the top of the rankings for the Greatest Serge’s of All-Time. Serge from Beverly Hills Cop has now been bumped to number two. Somewhere, Eddie Murphy is shaking his head in disgust.

“You hear that? The baby's name is Tyler.”
“Yeah, I thought he looked more like a Carlos too, bud.”
-Carlos Boozer definitely doesn’t look like Carlos this postseason. Luckily for him and his turf toe, Derrick Rose has been playing out of his mind, and we’ve already reached the over in how many times I would yell “You can’t leave the white guy open for three!!!!”

“You're such a bad person! Like, all the way through to your core!”
-To those who are involved with CBS who did not do everything humanly possible to retain Gus Johnson. The NCAA Tournament has lost a bit of its magic. It will never be the same.

“I keep forgetting about the goddamn tiger!”
-This quote I reserved for the Hawks after they upset Chicago in game one of the 2nd round because they are the team that just hangs around, and I’m not really sure how they are here. They play horrible team basketball. Their games are difficult to watch, and they have a tendency to get blown out while playing heartless. They are the metaphorical tiger in the bathroom, we aren’t sure how they got there, and after every one of their games you feel like you just got clocked by Mike Tyson.

“To a night the four of us will never forget!”
-And it may be the last “night” that the Celtics Big Four has. I’m not going to say that Boston can’t come back from a 2-0 deficit to win this series, and then go onto the finals. I have too much respect for their core players to say that they can’t. After all, they did just lose two road games, games that Miami was supposed to win. So why am I saying that this could be the last “night” they never forget? Because Garnett looks like he is on his last leg… literally. Pierce and Allen can’t carry the scoring burden like they have been able to in the past. The Perkins trade seemingly sent Rondo into a tailspin, and it’s not like they got the best of the trade either. Jeff Green didn’t really do too much to stop LeBron James in game two. Wasn’t that the purpose of the trade? To find someone to take some defensive pressure off of Paul Pierce, specifically in a series like this.
Game three is by far the biggest game of the series. Can Boston get back in the series with a win? I say yes. If they lose, does Miami get the sweep? I don’t think so. I can’t see this Boston team losing four straight games. Is LeBron James ready for the most ruthless crowd he has ever faced on a big stage? Honestly, I’m not sure. I sure as hell hope so. What kind of hit does LeBron’s legacy take if the Heat end up losing this series? A permanent and devastating one. One that myself, and LeBron will hear about for a while. I still think this series goes seven games, just because NBA fans deserve a classic seven game series that pits everything traditional about basketball (Boston) against everything that is modern about basketball (Miami).

"I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack."
-Is there a more obvious candidate for this quote than Kobe Bryant? The Lakers number two scoring option has been missing in action. My question of the day is do we know for sure that Andrew Bynum’s mention of trust issues isn’t legitimate? Here is my personal opinion on the Lakers: Kobe is pissed because nobody cares like he does, so he is forced to take a ton of shots. Pau, who is naturally passive, is terrified of Kobe who might strangle him if he doesn’t play more aggressive. Bynum is pissed because he is having his best offensive post season ever but not getting playing time down the stretch. Plus he’s playing on borrowed time since it’s probably only a matter of games until one of his knees shatter. Artest got a ring last year, so he is significantly less interested this year. Lamar Odom is getting less playing time in the playoffs this year than he ever has, so he isn’t happy either. Plus he has to live with the fact that he ended up with the least pretty of the Kardashian sisters. And Phil is already thinking about the first thing he is going to do once he retires. Still, I’m not willing to write the Lakers off even though they are down 3-0.

“Would you shut up and drive before these nerds ask me another question. Who's this?”
-Kobe Bryant, this is Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk, this is Kobe. You two have never met each other? That’s so weird. Have fun battling in the playoffs for the first time guys. Inexplicably, Dirk and Kobe, two of the 25 greatest players in league history (Yeah, Dirk is definitely in that category) have somehow managed to dodge each other in the playoffs over the last decade. Combined, they have won 1197 games in the last ten years, and haven’t played in the playoffs since 1988, when players were wearing nut-huggers.
The series has been swung by not just the play of Dirk Nowitzki, who has been spectacular, but also the outside shooting of everyone who isn’t German. The Mavericks are up 3-0. That is a seemingly insurmountable lead. But don’t forget who the two teams are. The Mavericks are notorious at choking away series’ and losing games they were supposed to win. The Lakers are the two time defending champs, and as I mentioned above, I am not counting them out. All I know is this, the legacies of Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki will both be altered based on what happens in this series. Kobe not being able to get a sixth ring cripples any “He’s as good as Jordan” argument. For Dirk, he can continue to move up the ladder with every big win he gets. If he gets a ring this year he automatically passes Barkley and Malone on the list of All-Time Power Forwards.

Calvin Borel will be looking for a
fourth Kentucky Derby victory.
 “I'll tell you another thing, 6 to 1 odds our car is beat to shit.”
-I’m going to take the current 9-1 odds on Twice the Appeal to win the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Riding Twice the Appeal is one of my favorite athletes, Calvin Borel, who gives as animated of a post-game interview as anyone in the sporting world. He was won 3 of the last 4 Kentucky Derby’s, so why not this year? Place: Mucho Macho Man, Show: Stay Thirsty.

“And we're the three best friends that anyone could have!”
-Here is Miami’s Three Best Friends by the numbers this postseason.
Wade: 25.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists
James: 25.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists
Bosh: 17.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists
Across the board, their numbers are pretty much the same as their regular season numbers with the exception of rebounds, where all three have upped their numbers. The statistical impact of the Big Three isn’t what has made Miami look like the best team in the playoffs thus far. It’s the fact that this is a team that for months has been criticized for their inability to play together, and right now through two games in the 2nd round, they are clicking just as well as any team in the playoffs. Their two games versus Boston have been extremely encouraging for me, someone who has been perhaps more critical of this team than anyone else. I have watched as much Heat basketball this year as anyone. I watched the Decision, the Welcoming Party, their Pre-Season games and just about all 82 of their regular season games. I am qualified from a knowledge standpoint to be writing for the Heat Index. For me to be able to say that right now, I feel more confident about Miami than I have all year is a tremendously exciting, and terrifying step. Wade and LeBron are becoming more cohesive on offense which is a visual orgasm at times, but it still disappoints me sometimes because LeBron James isn’t meant to be standing in the corner on offense as a decoy ever. Would I rather have LeBron doing the one-man show in Cleveland? Let’s see how the next month goes before I make that call.