Chat with John Hollinger
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, NBA columnist John Hollinger will stop by to share his thoughts on all of the NBA news.
Send your questions now and join Hollinger Thursday at noon ET!
John Hollinger (12:03 PM)
Hey everyone. Playoff match-ups are set and it's time to play ball. Let's talk about it...
Steven Lubbock, TX [via mobile]
Which first round match-up has the best even match-up?
John Hollinger (12:05 PM)
I'll say Boston-Miami in the East. That one was the closest I came to just throwing up my hands and hurling darts at a board. Although several come to mind -- this is the most trouble I've ever had making playoff picks. Normally you can count on getting at least two-thirds of the 15 series right; this year I wouldn't be shocked if I turned out to miss two thirds of them.
Tyler (ATL )
Can the Hawks beat the Magic in the 2nd round?
John Hollinger (12:07 PM)
I'm very skeptical. They played four times in the regular season and got absolutely hammered in three of them; the one ATL win came at the buzzer. Horford has trouble with really big centers; Howard is really big. ATL doesn't defend in transition well; Orlando runs. ATL gets a lot of points on second shots; they won't be getting many with Howard patrolling the middle. Just a bad match-up all around.
Matt Stevens (Boise)
Do you think the Jazz have a chance vs the Nuggets? What's going to be the deciding factor?
John Hollinger (12:08 PM)
I absolutely do, in fact those of you who have seen our series pages will know that I have Utah in six. (By the way, explanations and my picks for the entire playoffs should be up shortly in today's Per Diem). The biggest key for both sides is health, as Kenyon Martin's knee, Carlos Boozer's ribcage and AK's calf are likely to be the primary factors in determining a winner. I like the Utah guys' chances of a full recovery better than Martin's.
Chris D (San Francisco)
John, Love your stuff, but I'd like to see the Playoff Predictor get an overhaul. What use is it when it gives Utah three times the chance as Cleveland to win the title? I think it leans a bit too heavily on recent performance, and I'd also like to see it incorporate the effect of injuries on record. Any comments?
John Hollinger (12:11 PM)
If you're talking about Playoff Odds, obviously they don't know that the Cavs rested LeBron for several games down the stretch, which hurt their power rating. But the biggest reason it rates Cleveland's odds so low is because Orlando is such a formidable obstacle; no team in the West presents such a daunting task. By the way, Utah's championship odds (9.6) are still less than Cleveland's (12.9)
Do you think the Thunder have a chance at upsetting the Lakers?
John Hollinger (12:12 PM)
Absolutely. L.A. was only 16-12 after the All-Star break and is still dealing with a lot of injuries, as are virtually all the West contenders. I picked L.A. in seven based primarily on their home-court advantage, but I'm not real gung-ho on the Lakers' odds of making it to a third straight Finals.
Are the Suns a serious threat in West to the likes of the Lakers? With Kobe and company all battered and beaten and with the Suns surging - can the Suns actually be stopped at this point?
John Hollinger (12:13 PM)
I think everyone is completely sleeping on Phoenix. They're the team I'll be watching most closely in the first round.
does crawford have 6th man locked up?
John Hollinger (12:14 PM)
Yes. There's been a late push for Manu, who has better overall stats, but if you look most of Manu's damage has come as a starter -- Crawford has nearly 1,000 more minutes as a reserve and his off-the-bench stats rival Ginobili's.
I am convinced that Utah's success lies solely in the hands of Andrei Kirilenko. If he isn't injured for the last month, Utah gets the two seed easy.
John Hollinger (12:15 PM)
I'm with you. Millsap can replace 80% of what Boozer does, but nobody on their roster can replace what AK does.
Victor (San Juan)
Love your chats! Since Arroyo was made the starting PG the Heat have gone 18-4. Is this only due to an easy schedule or is Carlos a better complement for Wade than the other PGs?
John Hollinger (12:16 PM)
It's largely schedule-driven, along with two other factors, 1) he's not Rafer Alston, and 2) Wade is in much better shape physically than he was the first two months of the season. The more I think about this the more uneasy I am with my Boston pick....
micah (san antonio)
thank you for being one of the few picking the Spurs (in 6 no less) to beat the Mavs. I have come to trust your mathematical wizardry over the years and I'm putting my trust in your selection (even though only 3 out of the 12 of ya'll picked the Spurs).
John Hollinger (12:17 PM)
I love how I'm a mathematical wizard if I pick in favor of somebody's team and just some computer nerd if I pick against them.
micah (san antonio)
Was Pop smart to concede to a Spurs/Mavs 1st round by resting Timmy and Manu last night?
John Hollinger (12:19 PM)
Yes, because that was preferable to playing Utah or Phoenix. True, San Anto lost two of three to Dallas heading into last night, but they went a combined 1-6 against Phoenix and Utah. The fact the Spurs nearly beat them on the road with their backups has to make them feel good about their prospects.
Johan (Portland, OR)
Lakers road to the finals will look like this: OKC, Jazz, and Mavs. That sure is a lot easier than the Cavs: Bulls, Celtics, and Magic. Don't you agree?
John Hollinger (12:21 PM)
I think it looks more like OKC, Jazz and Spurs/Suns, and I think it's a lot harder for them to get out of the first two rounds than it will be for Cleveland. Not sure if you've seen Boston lately but they're a spent force; at this point Miami might scare the Cavs more than playing the Celtics does.
Does a healthy Noah and dialed-in Rose give Chicago a chance against the rusty Cavs?
John Hollinger (12:21 PM)
How many games will chicago/milwaukee/charlotte win combined?
John Hollinger (12:22 PM)
I'll set the over/under at two. I think the Bucks and Bobcats have been good enough at home to each sneak one, but can't see any of those series going beyond five.
John, I think Portland caught a lucky break, the first one this season, in playing Phoenix in the first round. I'm confident they can take them. Your thoughts on the series please.
John Hollinger (12:22 PM)
I know Portland fared well against Phoenix in the regular season, but I also think the Blazers would have been much happier to face Dallas. Phoenix has been the best team in the West over the past three months or so.
Matt (San Antonio TX)
So I am guessing you still think the mavs wont make it far correct?
John Hollinger (12:24 PM)
That's correct, although they played much better in that five-game streak to end the season. They didn't get a real friendly draw either, despite landing the No. 2 seed they would have to face the two hottest teams in the conference back-to-back to make the WCF.
if you had to bet on 1 first round upset, what would it be?
John Hollinger (12:25 PM)
Spurs-Mavs. Just think San Antonio was playing at a really high level to end the season and they can do a lot of damage if their creaky vets are in good health.
Aren't people sleeping on the Nugs a bit? Yes, they looked bad at times, but had key injuries to Kmart and Lawson. Plus, they were 3-1 vs the Jazz and had a superior home record.
John Hollinger (12:26 PM)
I missed the part about Kenyon being healthy again -- he sat out the second half of the Phoenix game because his knee was still hurting. Nuggies have been very beatable over the past six weeks and I'll be surprised if they can turn it around in time to make a deep run.
Henry (Puerto Rico)
What do you think of Stan Van Gundy Coach of the Year?? Scot Skiles has done a great job with that team, but the second best record in the NBA it belongs to the Magic.
John Hollinger (12:27 PM)
I thought he should have won last year. This year he's again a strong candidate, but I have a hard time not voting for Skiles given that he won about twice as many games as a lot of people expected.
How will Lopez's injury affect the Suns? Will he be back and contributing for them?
John Hollinger (12:29 PM)
He's been ruled out for the first round. Although it seemed he was crucial because the Suns began their hot streak when he took over at starting center, they haven't lost any steam since he went out and his plus-minus doesn't indicate any special importance. I don't want to diminish this too much, he certainly has some value and would help them greatly in size match-ups, but I think Phoenix is capable of a deep playoff run without him.
Victor (San Juan)
Beasly is playing good as of late; Haslem has been double-doubling the leather off the ball, Wade is in great shape; Arroyo can give you 7 assists per game; Q-Rich, D-Wright and Chalmers can hit the 3 when open: How scary is Miami right now? And how scared should Boston be?
John Hollinger (12:32 PM)
Actually, you just made me feel a lot better about picking Boston. Richardson? Wright? Arroyo? Chalmers? Brrrr, I'm sure the Celtics are shivering right now just thinking about it.
Re: Coach of the Year. McMillan also exceeded expectations despite all the injuires. Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, Nic Batum, Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Brandon Roy, etc. How does Nate not get more COY love?
John Hollinger (12:35 PM)
I go back and forth on Nate. The funny thing is that when he had all his guys healthy he was having a lot of trouble making it work; then when he was counting on guys like Juwan Howard and Dante Cunningham he got a lot more out of them. Blazers had arguably league's deepest team so we knew they could deal well with injuries, but yes this was an especially strong onslaught. Overall I'm not comfortable putting him in front of Skiles, but he belongs on a ballot somewhere.
John in your opinion, other than Cleveland, LA, & Orlando, is there another team that has a realistic shot at winning the title?
John Hollinger (12:36 PM)
Actually I would subtract L.A. from that list. I will be fairly shocked if the Eastern Conference champion isn't also the NBA champion.
Is Andy Varejao first team Defense? Also, do the Cavs sweep through the first two rounds of the play-offs again?
John Hollinger (12:38 PM)
Yes on Varejao making first-team All-Defense, at least in my book. No on going 8-0 in the first two rounds, I think either Boston or Miami match up well enough to take a game off them.
John, you ever had to work harder to turn in a deadline piece, maybe "turn it on" to do something? Why is it so hard to think a professional can't "turn it on" when they have done it in the past like the Lakers have? I've seen them just shut teams down when they were motivated, I think they will turn it on in the playoffs.
John Hollinger (12:39 PM)
I think they were trying to "flip the switch" at the end of March and it shorted out on them. I think Kobe saw the same thing, which is why he aborted his rest and tried to come back in the Portland game.
Josh (Knoxville, TN)
A couple years ago you had LA beating the Spurs in 5 games b/c that's what the numbers said. I thought you were crazy, but it went 4-1 LA. Of course, the series was actually much closer than that (Spurs falling apart in Game 1 and Joey Crawford exacting his revenge on SA), but I had to give you props. Think you nailed the Spurs losing to Dallas last year too. And I also remember you hitting the Spurs spot on for their last Championship when everyone else said Dallas. So I say you're a wizard whether you favor the Spurs or not.
John Hollinger (12:40 PM)
I've had an inordinate amount of success picking Spurs' series for some reason, with one exception (had the Hornets beating them in 7 two years ago; it went 7 but Spurs won). Let's see if it continues this year, I do believe they'll beat Dallas but after that the match-ups are pretty much 50-50 propositions.
The Blazers somehow look very happy to play the Suns... Too confident?
John Hollinger (12:42 PM)
I think their **fans** are very happy to be playing the Suns, but partly it's just a huge sigh of relief that they aren't playing Utah -- the Jazz owned them.
John, do you think Orlando may gain an advantage by sprinting to the finish rather than resting guys? Did Cleveland maybe lose some its mojo and set itself up for a harder time by not maintaining its flow and continuity over the past week?
John Hollinger (12:43 PM)
Not really. Both these teams are going to have long breaks after the first round and likely after the second round too. Besides, how much flow and continuity are you getting when you still have to reincorporate Shaq at the start of the playoffs either way?
Charles (San Jose)
Do you think Henry Abbott is going to enter his Blazers in 7 prediction in the stat geek competition?
John Hollinger (12:44 PM)
I'm sure he will. By the way I'll be entering too, I'm out for blood after the Nuggets cost me the crown a year ago by frittering away Game 5 in L.A.
You talk above about how the Spurs were smart for sitting Tim and Manu but yet you forget to mention Dallas sat Caron and Jason Kidd was on the bench for most of the game
John Hollinger (12:46 PM)
Butler played 39 minutes, Kidd played 28. Not sure what game you were at.
Thomas (KC, MO)
Why are you so confident that the finals winner will come from the east? Playoff Odds give the east 53% of winning it all.
John Hollinger (12:47 PM)
I think the P.O. dramatically underestimate Cleveland because of the Cavs' sitting LeBron and their not having Shaq/Varejao for much of the stretch run. Think they overestimate a couple of the West teams for the same reason -- virtually every contender has a major injury question mark right now.
What do you make of the Raptors epic collapse?
John Hollinger (12:48 PM)
They just weren't that good. Their midseason surge was mostly an effect of a soft stretch of schedule, and Triano never got them motivated to play decent defense.
really? LA-OKC going 7 games? you don't really believe that do you?
John Hollinger (12:48 PM)
Why not? Have the Lakers done something impressive in the past two months that I missed?
Does the altitude in Denver really affect opposing players? They have HC advantage 1st round.
John Hollinger (12:50 PM)
I wrote about this in Per Diem, but Denver and Utah won't have their usual advantage against each other. Normally the travel to those places is brutal, but not in this case. And normally the elevation adjustment is a big factor, but they're both used to it.
Let's talk losers! Would you re-sign Darko and if so, what would you do with either Jefferson or Love?
John Hollinger (12:51 PM)
I do think the Wolves should re-sign him but I wouldn't invest a lot of money in it. He's disappointed too many other people already, and it's always after an initial "he's more motivated! he's really talented!!" phase with his new team.
Prediction on Westbrook's stat line against Fisher? I'm thinking 24-8-9.
John Hollinger (12:53 PM)
I'd be strongly tempted to pick OKC if Westbrook hadn't been so awful over the last month. I don't know if he hit the wall or what, but I had been noticing it for a few weeks and then saw him positively stink up the joint in Portland on Monday -- no assists, five TOs, missed a wide-open dunk, picked twice in open court by Andre Miller, etc. Thunder have a real shot at the upset if they can get Westbrook turned around.
Do you think its a good idea for Brandon Roy to try to play through this injury.
John Hollinger (12:55 PM)
From what I've read he can't do any more harm by trying, but my worry would be how he'll adjust to the new limitations -- I don't think he can be The Man with that knee and if he tries it might be kinda ugly.
I think you aren't giving the Lakers any respect. Seriously, The lakers path to finals looks pretty easy and Kobe and Co will turn it on in the playoffs. They have proven it the past two years. So what exactly are you basing the Lakers fall on?
John Hollinger (12:57 PM)
Look at how they played from the All-Star break onward the past two seasons. Look at how they did in the same stretch this year. Anything jump out at you? Saying they're just "bored" or "playing down to the competition" is wild-eyed optimism; the more likely cause is maybe they aren't as good as you thought.
Sure phoenix has been the best team since the all star break, but Portland isnt that far behind them. Also portland won the season series.
John Hollinger (12:59 PM)
You left out the part about your best player being injured. I'd be tag-teaming with Henry Abbott aboard the Blazer bandwagon if they were at full strength, but they're not.
so u really think Kobe will be this bad in the playoffs?
John Hollinger (1:00 PM)
Not sure what you mean by "this bad", but I don't think he'll be at the level he was the past two springs, just because physically I don't think he's in nearly as good shape.
Dan (Atlantic City)
Who will be the next Sixers coach?
John Hollinger (1:01 PM)
Would be surprised if it's not Larry brown. Of course, he insisted that Charlotte would be his last coaching job, which would be true if he was angling for the GM slot instead.
Brandon Roy (Portland)
If I'm healthy what odds do you give my team on winning?
John Hollinger (1:02 PM)
Haven't considered it because, well, you're not. But if Joe Johnson was still with the Suns I'd make them the favorite.
Jay (Tacoma, WA)
What do you think will be the fallout in Toronto? Big changes, or a "well, Bosh *was* injured" mulligan?
John Hollinger (1:04 PM)
Gonna have to be big changes because Bosh is outta there .. probably a sign-and-trade. I suspect Colangelo will stick with Triano/Turk/Bargnani since he's pretty much gone all-in with that group already, but he may trade Jose and will probably be active with his midlevel exception.
Leo (Brooklyn, NY)
Dr. H how much insight do you gain from talking to your fellow colleagues at ESPN? Do you look solely at the numbers or are there some fellow sports writers that you trust?
John Hollinger (1:07 PM)
I gain a lot, especially from talking to them when I bump into them on the road, which unfortunately is altogether too infrequent. Lots of other writers that I trust, not just the ones here, and no, I don't just look at the numbers, I'm at a couple games a week and watch a great many more -- in fact you'll see a couple cases in my picks where I went against them based on subjective criteria (or because my numbers countered each other and I had to make a call).
I heard RJ might opt out in San Antonio? Could the Spurs really be that lucky, and what would that do to their summer?
John Hollinger (1:08 PM)
Better chance of a Bulls-Thunder Finals than there is of RJ opting out. Not believing that story for even one second.
Sebastian (Krakow, Poland)
Who did you have last year in the Mavs-Spurs series? As a Mavs fan I need to know whether to stat worrying.
John Hollinger (1:10 PM)
I had Dallas in six, and then in the second round I had Denver in seven.
Seeing how Dwight Howard was dominant and unstoppable against the Cavailers in last season's Conference Finals is there any reason to believe the Cavailers can actually slow him down this time around?
John Hollinger (1:10 PM)
Yes. His name is Shaquille O'Neal. Perhaps you've heard of him? Howard didn't cause nearly as much collateral damage (open 3s, etc.) in the three regular-season meetings between Cleveland and Orlando.
Suns in 5?? What?
John Hollinger (1:12 PM)
Five games seems harsh, but it's the most common outcome for series won by the home-court advantage side. So I tend to pick series in five even if I don't think they're terribly one-sided.
After last nights performance, would you say dejuan blair is gonna be a factor in the Spurs Mavs matchup?
John Hollinger (1:14 PM)
Not sure. He was playing center, and the Spurs already have a pretty decent one with Tim Duncan, even if we're not allowed to publicly acknowledge that he's a center. So I'm not sure Blair gets more than 10-12 minutes. Can he be a factor in those minutes? Absolutely. But he's not going for 20-20.
John Hollinger (1:15 PM)
Folks, that's all the time I have but thanks again for all the great questions. My picks for the entire playoffs should be up soon. Also, I'll be chiming in from first-round games all week, and will be back in the chat room either Thursday or Friday next week. Enjoy the first round everyone ...