These bullets would be a lot better, but I could not stop watching this. If that doesn't give you playoff fever, nothing will.
About the NBA and research into referee bias. More to come on this topic next week.
A nice breakdown of the players in the Euroleague Final Four with NBA ties. There are a lot of them!
A proposed theme of the the 2009 playoffs, post Kevin Garnett's injury: It's the year one of the big three, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant, gets to prove the doubters wrong. (Does Chris Paul have doubters?)
Brandon Jennings says he feels at home in Italy, and wins praise by making a donation to earthquake relief there.
Gloomy prospects for a bill that would help bring a new stadium to Seattle.
Pretending you know what you're talking about during the NBA playoffs: A cheater's guide.
This may have been Kevin McHale's last press conference as coach of the Timberwolves, but Mark Madsen hopes not.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons
Brian Windhorst explains how Danny Ferry assembled this Cavs team, piece-by-piece: "[T]he Cavs have focused on collecting players with reasonable or short-term contracts so they have flexibility to juggle their roster around James. Plus they have guarded their first-round draft picks, and Ferry has made multiple moves to acquire second-round picks, not only to take a look at overlooked players but also to draft players to develop overseas. As a result, they have been able to execute a series of trades to supplement their core players. In his four years and the three years since, he learned being a big player in free agency isn't all it is cracked up to be, Ferry has used the draft and trades equally with free agency to construct a championship contender."
NBA coaches have decided to dedicate the postseason to Chuck Daly: "NBA coaches throughout the playoffs will wear a lapel pin emblazoned with the initials "CD” as a show of support for Daly, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February and is currently undergoing treatment."
Cavs-Pistons, a history. One factoid: "In 13 playoff games against Detroit, James has played 598 minutes (46 per game), collected 115 rebounds (8.8), dished 93 assists (7.2), made 26 steals (2.0), blocked eight shots (0.6) and committed 50 turnovers (3.8). He's made 122 of 274 field goal attempts (44 percent), including 13 of 43 3-pointers (30 percent), and has hit 83 of 113 free throws (73 percent)."
What's more likely: Phil Jackson would really take Dwight Howard over LeBron James ... or Phil Jackson is belittling LeBron James as he always does with opponents he fears? I would't read too much into this.
Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference.com: "Tayshaun Prince led the Pistons in Win Shares, and was one of the only players on the team whose numbers didn't significantly decline in '09. He's also a player who brings defense, a high basketball I.Q., and a great deal of postseason experience to this club. He's their most important player."
Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls
Bob Ryan, friendly fatalist: "You know the deal up front. The Celtics will not become the 2009 NBA champions. You won't be teased. You won't be living through one of those tedious, agonizing, will-he-or-won't-he scenarios. Barring some unforeseen medical miracle, Kevin Garnett is O-U-T, out of the playoffs. They now have a new goal - the Eastern Conference finals. That remains quite attainable. Orlando's good, but not scary good. So relax. The pressure's off. Sit back and watch an entertaining team do the best it can, whatever that happens to be. There is no other sane way to look at this."
Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: "Breaking defense down into Dean Oliver's Four Factors shows that the Celtics missed Garnett's defense in virtually every area. Opponents shot better on both twos and threes, grabbed far more offensive rebounds, and turned the ball over less frequently."
Matt McHale's series preview at By the Horns ends like this: "Unless something unthinkable (like a Paul Pierce's right leg falls off) or bizarre (like both of Paul's legs fall off) happens, the Celtics should win this series 4-1. Unless John Salmons gets a bionic groin implant. But then again, if a man can cut steel with a piece of bacon -- yes, it's happened -- then why can't the Bulls beat the Kevin Garnett-less Celtics? As KG himself has pointed out: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLLLLLLLLEEEE!!!!"
Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah have traditionally had a tough time against Kevin Garnett. Will KG's absence give the Bulls' young bigs a chance to break out?
Zach Lowe of CelticsHub talking to By the Horns: "[Derrick] Rose scares me. I think [Rajon] Rondo is a very good
defensive player, but I think his ability to keep quick guards in front of him is a little over-rated -- it's why he resorts to trying to poke the ball away from behind so often."
Orlando Magic vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The Blowtorch analyzes Orlando fans watching Dwight Howard dunk: "These people are so fed up with Dwight Howard just dunking all the time. They're like, 'sweet dunk Dwight.' Then they roll their eyes to their friend behind Dwight's back."
Dwight Howard responds to Sports Illustrated's suggestion that he's not serious enough to win. "[T]hat magazine will be going up on my mirror at home. But it will be there to serve as motivation for me in the playoffs. I want to show people that I can dominate AND have fun at the same time .. People who watch the games sometimes take my kindness for weakness, but I don't think the guys on the floor playing against me feel the same way. I can smile and still get the job done. I've been smiling my whole life and I'm not going to stop. Basketball brings me joy and I'm having fun blocking shots and dunking, so I am going to smile."
The Sixers feel reasonably confident, even though many people are picking them to get swept. You notice the teams facing the longest odds (Detroit, Philadelphia) are expressing the most confidence?
Yahoo's Kelly Dwyer: "Orlando may have lost its starting point man last February, Rashard Lewis is a little gimpy, Hedo Turkoglu recently turned his ankle, and those three-point looks are always in danger of drying up. But Rafer Alston is around, Lewis can still hit flat-footed threes, Hedo will be fine, teams don't suddenly start shooting unrepresentative percentages from long range over a seven-game sample size, and they're playing the 76ers. The Sixers, who lost six in row to end the season before beating Cleveland's reserve unit on Wednesday. By one. In overtime."
Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat
There isn't a team in the league that's had a less stable ownership situation in recent years than the Haws. Part-owner Michael Gearon, Jr. answers some questions from Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Sekou Smith.
Erik Spoelstra is staying mum about Miami's Game 1 lineup.
The Heat say they will be really careful not to accidentally party in Atlanta.
Tony Mejia of Pro Basketball News: "For whatever reason, Beasley has flipped the switch. The precocious 19-year-old who perpetually looks like he's enjoying a stick of gum in front of a massive plasma screen has transformed into the Michael Beast-ley that owned amateurs back at K-State. He's drilling jumpers, attacking the boards on both ends of the floor and making an effort on defense. He's playing smart, instinctually. Spoelstra was never going to go the Gregg Popovich-George Hill route with his rookie forward, but up until the last few weeks, you wouldn't have been able to fault him if he tried to minimize his role come postseason. Beasley had been too inconsistent to truly count on. If he responded, it would be a bonus, but you surely couldn't count on him as an essential piece. The last few games have scrapped all that."
Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "There's some healthy debate going on in South Florida about whether or not it's wise to start Beasley in place of Jamario Moon (another elite athletic talent that could cause matchup issues if brought off the bench). And as an observer of this series, I'm siding with the start-Beasley camp. I want to see the kid out there from the start and watch him match up with Williams, Smith or whoever else the Hawks have guarding him. I want to see both teams go at it with their best on the floor."
Once a tagger, always a tagger I guess. Michael Beasley (who famously got in trouble for such things in high school) writes "Beas Was Here 09" on a table in the Heat's interview room.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz
Brian Kamenetzky has priced in an explosion or two by Deron Williams into the Lakers' inevitable domination of the series: "If they manage to corral him, that's just gravy."
Remember when everybody doubted Mitch Kupchak?
Whoa. A shoe commemorating the very short period when Kobe Bryant was the property of the Charlotte Hornets.
Mark Heisler of the L.A. Times: "Meanwhile, the odds in the Western draw can be summed up as follows: Lakers, 1-5. Portland, 5-1. Five other teams, 20-1. Utah, 100-1."
The Salt Lake Tribune's Ross Siler quotes Jerry Sloan: "The pressure is they have to beat us. Nothing could be any more devastating to them than to have us beat them. So the pressure lies strictly on their back, if they accept the pressure, but they're a veteran team that probably won't accept pressure." So does that mean the pressure's back on the Jazz?
Denver Nuggets vs. New Orleans Hornets
Dave McMenamin of NBA.com illustrates the insane amount of pressure on Denver to win: "If the Nuggets can't get out of the first round with everything on their side -- the home court, the healthy roster, the 8-2 record over their last 10 games -- you have to wonder if it will ever happen with this mix of personnel. If they fizzle out as they did against the Lakers last season, expect wholesale changes with nobody on the roster (outside of maybe Billups) safe. Anthony already was dangled on the market last summer, and all of the goodwill built up for coach George Karl by supporters of his
Coach of the Year candidacy won't save him if the Nuggets make it 0-for-6 in the first round since 2004."
Chris Paul might steal your best move: "A self-admitted basketball junkie who is an NBA League Pass subscriber, allowing him to watch several regular-season telecasts, Paul admits he studies the moves of other players and tries, at times, to add to his repertoire. 'I don't really copy other guys,' Paul said, 'but at the same time, I may see one guy do something and say to myself, "I need to take that page out of their book and put my own little spin on it.'"
A big mess of Nuggets vs. Hornets content, including the realization that the elevation difference here (mile-high vs. below sea level) has to be league-leading, James Posey can't keep up with J.R. Smith, and about those Shaquille O'Neal rumors.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks
A roundtable of really smart Mavericks observers hosted by Rob Mahoney of Two Man Game.
X's & O's of Basketball: "Some coaches are laid back, some are possessive and controlling, Rick Carlisle falls under the latter. After 2-3 months of mediocrity (offensively and defensively), Carlisle decided to bring in Darrell Armstrong as an assistant in February. Armstrong related well with the players as a former teammate and was able to communicate the message clearer. Which ultimately led Carlisle to release some of the play-calling duties over to Jason Kidd. While the defense has still be inconsistent, the changes on offense have been remarkable."
A catalog of bad blood moments between the Spurs and the Mavericks.
Tim MacMahon of the Dallas Morning News digs into the issue of how Dirk Nowitzki plays in the playoffs: "There is a perception that Dirk can't get it done in the playoffs. You hear fans and talking heads say every season that the Mavs are too soft to do much playoff damage, starting with their 7-foot Euro superstar. That's so silly that Mark Cuban can't even be bothered to shoot it down. 'That's like giving credence to people who still think that the earth is flat or that man didn't land on the moon,' Cuban said, scoffing and rolling his eyes."
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets
Brody Rollins of Rockets Buzz: "The Blazers are clearly the trendy pick, but I'm still surprised at how little people expect from the Rockets. Let's not forget that the Rockets won the season series 2-1 (would've been 3-0 if B-Roy hadn't nailed this shot), present a number of mismatches, and don't have to worry about McGrady's first round curse."
Dave from BlazersEdge on the Rockets: "Houston does not depend on turnovers or blocked shots to key their defense. They're inexorable, not opportunistic. They can sometimes be beaten by a running game. Mobility and commitment aren't universal strong points among their roster. Presumably the latter will not be an issue in the playoffs but the former may be. While the Rockets rank only 11th in the league in three-point percentage allowed, this is not a (comparative) indictment of their perimeter defense. Alongside that near-average number stands their 4th-place standing in three-pointers attempted against and made against. Part of this is pace (19th in the league). But part of it is them closing on shooters so as to prevent the deep shot from coming up in the first place. When they are active the perimeter defenders play the inside-outside game as well as anyone. One of the biggest stats in the Rockets' favor is their 2nd-place mark in opponent free throws attempted and allowed. With opponents saddled with a paucity of three-pointers already, the lack of extra scoring opportunities at the line hurts."
SLAM's Lang Whitaker did not vote for Rick Adelman for Coach of the Year: "A lot of guys were pushing for Rick Adelman, but I couldn't do it-I thought the Rockets spend way too much not time not getting the ball inside to Yao Ming, and that had nothing to do with injuries or anything else."
I have talked to three people in Houston today, and they all think that Aaron Brooks is the key to this series.