Archive for May, 2009

Pre-Game Notes and Errata

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

In case you guys are getting worried and need comforting, today’s NBA Today Podcast features my sonorous and calming voice talking Hawks-Cavs business. Actually, I’m paranoid and have a swallowed voice. But listen anyways. 

From the Rockets-Lakers series, quickly becoming the most exciting second-round series:

Derek, 14-year veterans should not being forearm shivering hapless europeans. Huge lack of control there, and that should definitely be a suspension. I’m not sure what is.

Was Kobe’s cheap shot on Artest intentional? Yes, I’m 70% sure it was. But he hid it well, and there’s a reasonable doubt. Ron, who I love, has to keep his cool on that one. It should’ve only been one technical, but that game was getting out of hand. It’s the second guy who gets punished most, and Ron’s gotta know that at this point.

Wow, it’s pretty when Kobe has it going. And going off-the-backboard in a playoff game? Are you freaking kidding me? 

My main point on that podcast, and the thing to remember tonight: The Hawks have played 15 playoff games in the last two years. They’ve looked terrible in 8 of them and fantastic in 7. This is not the time for complacency. And yes, I believe not being complacent as a fan will somehow affect the team. I am slowly losing my mind.

Yao Ming to Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry: “I am 7-6 and Chinese. Do I not stick out on the court? Am I tough to see? Do I need to wear reflective clothing?”

If you’re having trouble getting pumped, here’s something to fire you up:

 

At least the second Matrix had  a few cool things. The third Matrix was all that is soulless and wrong. Open thread for the game, if so desired. Have fun.

Recap: (11) if that number were smaller, I’d feel really, really, really good.

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

 

Overview: After a first half that saw the Hawks keeping the game close, the Cavs pulled away in the second half behind a strong effort from MVP LeBron James, a sharp backcourt of Mo Williams and Delonte West, and a defense that held the Hawks to 72 points, with Joe Johnson only going for 11 points. 

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Before the game, the TNT crew was going over the pitfalls of winning an MVP award, and in the first half their comments were certainly oddly precient. LeBron, with 22 points and 0 assists, was out to get points right from the get-go, and the Cavaliers weren’t able to get into the kind of flow they normally get into in the first half until the second half. Even still, LeBron was amazing. He cut off the ball for his first basket, came out keeping his man on a string and nailing jumpers, getting to the hole, drawing contact, the whole shebang. His defense was a bit lackluster, but for the first half he was definitely feeling the need to justify that nice, shiny trophy a little bit.

This game was a blend of power on defense and finesse on offense, like the mid-size Kia Sorrento’s blend of power and gas mileage. Of course, it also featured performance at the caliber of one of Kia’s many sportier offerings, which provide top-quality power at a price you can afford in this economy. 

I’m of the theory that the first game of the series is more about signs than it is about the actual result, so let’s go through good signs and bad signs from this game:

-Joe Johnson only getting 11 points: very, very good sign. My only defensive question coming into this series was whether Delonte was going to be able to contain Joe Johnson; he answered the bell tonight. 

-LeBron finishing with only three assists: I’m going with neutral. He certainly came out with more tunnel-vision than we’re accustomed to, but the Hawks seem to be under the impression that they don’t need to set up a wall on LeBron or have Josh Smith set up as a paint-roving “free safety” to stop his drive, so we get Flip Murray responsible to seal off the paint when LeBron beats his man. That’s going to go real well.

-I thought Mo rushed some shots and was a bit over-eager to get his, as his one assist attests, but ultimately he was looking to provide the offensive punch this team needed outside of LeBron. He was absolutely phenominal providing punch when LeBron was on the bench, and actually seemed more comfortable in that role-we’ve seen guys fall into the trap of “LeBron passed it to me, I’ve got to take the shot!” before, and that happened tonight. Still, 21 points on 14 attemps is major good. Although he missed another free throw tonight-what is going on from the stripe in the playoffs?

Best stat of the night: The Cavs won by 27, but were only +13 with LeBron on the court. This supporting cast is ready to play.

2nd-best stat of the night: Delonte coming up with 9 assists and looking aggressive on the drive and midrange game. When him and Mo are making plays along with LeBron, this is an unstoppable team.

Worst stat of the night: our three best bigs (Andy, Z, Joe Beast) combining to go 4-21 from the field, with Z rushing his outside shots tremendously-he’s got to know to only take that shot when it’s there. He’s plan B on offense, and must act accordingly. But they did their job on the boards and defensively, so I’m not that mad. 

We have to remember that we were better in the half when LeBron was playing the facilitator then we were when he was in “F***ing right I’m the MVP” mode. 

Bullets of Randomness:

Josh Smith was agressive and playing the right way tonight. For reference, it is ALWAYS a bad idea for him to take a jumper. Does anyone actually believe he’s more intense for the playoffs, or it was just that his spirit animals told him to go inside tonight? I think Josh Smith is too talented to actually game-plan or care about basketball. If LeBron is Infinite Jest, then Josh Smith is definitely Brief Interviews With Hideous Men- for every great story, there’s a “screw you, I’m doing the second half of my story as a schema because I am that freaking talented” play. I honestly think basketball bores Josh Smith.

On LeBron James’ MVP Award and thoughts from the press conference

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

 

Sorry, internet troubles or this would’ve been up sooner. Thoughts from today’s MVP announcement and corresponding press conference, in the bullet form that I tend to prefer when writing after midnight:

 

-I know it was a foregone conclusion for a couple of weeks, but it’s still a good feeling to see LeBron actually have the award in his hands-after the last few votes, you never know what could happen when those writers get behind closed voting booths.

-On that note, who’s the guy who put LeBron in third place? 

-On a macro level, it’s comforting to see him win an MVP award-as much as everyone more or less was sure LeBron would get one at some point, a lot of things have to go right at once to get an MVP award-the team has to be there, there can’t be a sympathy candidate, the numbers have to be there, a million things. There’s a reason Shaq and Kobe only have one MVP each, and Tim Duncan has a very controversial two.

-At the same time, the team success required of a MVP right now almost insures the award is an anticlimax; last year, LeBron winning the award (and there was an argument) would have been a kind of moral victory in and of itself; this year, LeBron’s season is almost certainly a total failure without a championship. If anything, this adds more pressure-Kobe losing one game to the Rockets today shifted the tides in the never-ending “who’s king of the hill” debate than the award did. 

-The real question is: now that LeBron’s won one, how do they not give him the award every year in the near future? LeBron’s 24, and only getting better, you’d imagine, and that pretty much means he’ll have the best individual numbers in the league, like he has three out of the last four years. And he’ll be giving defense. The Cavs could well have lightning in a bottle with 64 wins, but they’re probably not dipping under, conservatively, the 55-58 win range anytime soon. So you need someone putting up comprable production (Paul, Wade, Kobe maybe) on a team with no wins. But do you see Paul or Wade’s team overtaking the Cavs in wins anytime soon, or Kobe having 82 MVP-level games left in his knees at this point? The nearest scenario I can imagine is the Magic having a huge year, but Dwight gives quite a bit less production. 

Anyways, this is all barring injury, which you can never do, and a lot can happen in the NBA and you never know who’s going to make the next huge leap or which team is going to catch lightning in a bottle. But I feel like part of the reason LeBron hasn’t won before now is a fear of setting a precedent. 

-As for the press conference, here are the highlights:

-Everything involving Kia was hilarious. 

-You pretty much knew what LeBron was going to say before he say it, but going scriptless and delivering everything in a semi-improvised rambling monologue was actually a fantastic human touch to an athlete who just seems a little too manufactured in public sometimes. 

-If the utter sincerity of LeBron’s commitment to his team didn’t come through in his insistence in the requisite “I don’t care about awards” cliches, it certainly did when he called the team up to tell what must be the least funny Delonte West anecdote ever told and awkwardly give them flip cameras out of a plastic grocery bag with no context given whatsoever. This is a team that really doesn’t care about looking like a team, they just are one, if that makes sense. 

-Almost forgetting to thank Savannah was LeBron’s largest misstep of the year. 

-I could say more, but I’ll open it up from here. First and foremost, congratulations to Mr. James on being recognized for all the joy and excitement he’s brought to us over his first six years in the league.

Preview Chat: Hawks-Cavaliers Featuring Hoopinion’s Bret Lagree

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Alright, Let’s hope this works. 2 PM is when the party starts:

Double Announcement: LeBron James Set To Be Named MVP, Hawks Preview Chat @2 PM EST

Monday, May 4th, 2009

First things first: it’s been a foregone conclusion for some time, but according to sources, LeBron James will be presented with his first MVP trophy today. Obviously, this is something that has been discussed at length, but I’ll have more thoughts on this after the press conference. (HT: Windhorst.)

Secondly, stop by at 2 PM EST for a preview chat of the upcoming series with the fantastic Bret LaGree of Hoopinion. Join us as we try to get a bead on the league’s hardest to pin-down playoff team for the least two years. See you then.