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March 23, 6:42 AM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (3:07 PM)

Greetings from Atlanta, just back from the big battle in Orlando last night that gave the Magic the inside track on the No. 2 seed Let's talk about that and whatever else is on your mind.

Eric (Los Angeles)

I'm a Cavs fan, and even I'm perplexed by the Lakers sitting in 4th in your power rankings, despite having the second best record in the league by a fair margin over Boston and Orlando. What's pushing them down to 4th?

John Hollinger
  (3:09 PM)

Had several questions on this lately. First of all, understand that there's a pretty small margin between No. 1 and No. 4 right now, only 0.7 points. So a good hot streak could flip things pretty quickly. That said, L.A. is third out of the four teams in scoring margin and is the only one to have played more home games than road games (something that will even out these last couple weeks obviously). So that's what puts them fourth out of the four.

Emilio, London

Do you see Marbury making any impact for the Celtics come playoff time?

John Hollinger
  (3:10 PM)

At this point the best impact he could make would be to go away. He's been vastly worse than even the biggest pessimist could have expected.

Paul (Cleveland)

Good luck today John, I can't wait to see what the Kobe maniacs have in store for you today... Kobe's the best in the league, who would you want to take the last shot... blah blah blah.

John Hollinger
  (3:11 PM)

Actually they seem more upset about the Power Rankings today. At least they're mixing it up ....

Neal (Chicago)

Is there a better 1-2 punch at the 5 spot than Przybilla/Oden?

John Hollinger
  (3:11 PM)

On second thought, maybe I should take more Lakers questions ...

Kyle (Atlanta)

John..... Last time we chatted you had the Heat taking down ATL in the 1st round. Now that Joe Johnson is scoring at will do you have ATL getting a shot at Lebron?

John Hollinger
  (3:13 PM)

Two things to mention here -- 1) There's a decent chance that it's Philadelphia and not Miami that the Hawks face in Round 1; 2) Since I wrote that (was actually a few chats ago) got to see the Hawks play Miami again and befuddle Wade by switching all the screen-and-rolls. It's actually a pretty good match-up for Atlanta. Would probably take them if I had to choose today.

Rob (Portland, OR)

In your power rankings, the Celtics rating went up even though they lost a game yesterday. I know it was on the road, to a good team, and a close loss, but aren't losses still a bad thing?

John Hollinger
  (3:15 PM)

Usually when that happens it's because there was a bad game that fell out of a team's "last 25%" rating ... on its own, the narrow loss to Orlando would hardly have changed things at all, since the Power Rankings' expectation was roughly a 3-point Orlando win.

AJ (Los Angeles)

I was wondering how big of a difference you think it makes that the Cavs are in the Eastern Conf? Would they have just as good of a record in the West or would the Lakers be ahead of them? I know they play pretty well against the West but I feel like just the sheer volume of games against dangerous teams is greater when you're in the Western Conf.

John Hollinger
  (3:17 PM)

Remember, however, that the sheer number of games against awful teams is MUCH greater in the West. The West is slightly better overall, but the disparity is nowhere near as large as it's been in past seasons. And given the fact that 58 of the 82 games are exactly the same regardless, the "we're in a tougher conference" argument is pretty worthless this season.

MJS in Miami [via mobile]

What up J-Hol? Stan Van Gundy: refreshingly candid or annoying gasbag? My vote's for the former.

John Hollinger
  (3:18 PM)

I concur. Stan kept it very entertaining last night after the game, first promising not to start any trouble this time and then complaining that everyone talks about Boston's injuries when Jameer Nelson alone has missed more games than the Celtic's entire starting lineup.

Kyle (Atlanta)

Follow up..... Do you think ATL would rather play Miami and not the 76ers? Cant be a lot of fun having to play Dwayne Wade in a series, but Miami is one of the few teams ATL can dominate inside against.

John Hollinger
  (3:19 PM)

Disagree with the latter point now that O'Neal is there, but it's a fair question. I still think the threat of Wade is enough that they'd rather play Philly, though; the only drawback to Hawks-Sixers is that all seven games will be relegated to NBA TV or, at best, the early Monday game on TNT.

David, Cleveland

With D-Wade's horrible game last night, has LBJ wrapped up the MVP?

John Hollinger
  (3:20 PM)

Went a long way toward it, yes, but I think even if Wade had gone 30-15 it wouldn't have mattered. This is LeBron's trophy to lose.

dave, chicago

looking at the Bulls remaining schedule, any chance THEY get the 5 or 6 seed?

John Hollinger
  (3:21 PM)

I have a hard time seeing them move up that much, but I do think they will pass Detroit and end up with the seventh seed .. which would come as a huge relief to the Magic.

Cruz: orlando, fl [via mobile]

John, since you were at the magic vs celtics game, what do you think are the magic's chances in the playoffs with rafer alston?

John Hollinger
  (3:22 PM)

I've seen them play the Celtics twice in the past month, and they won both games ... and yet I still have a hard time envisioning them beating a healthy Boston team in a playoff series. So it depends much more on Kevin Garnett than it does on Rafer Alston.

John (Orlando)

What is with all these ATL questions? Home cooking! Seriously, how can anyone argue against Dwight Howard for DPOY?

John Hollinger
  (3:24 PM)

I think that was an award-winning blocked shot on Pierce last night. Orlando's defense hasn't received nearly enough credit (as I wrote in today's Per Diem) -- they're second in Defensive Efficiency, and Howard has been the main reason.

Ale: Austin TX

Do you see the Laker chemistry fading away as the season goes forward...I notice it with body language and the way the players talk to each other...do you see any difference with the Lakers?

John Hollinger
  (3:24 PM)

Sometimes a slump is just a slump. I'm not ready to read anything into it beyond that.

Matt (Kitchener, Ontario)

Hey John, Obviously you are advocating strongly for Lebron to win the MVP this season. That being said, how do you see the Cavs holding up against a healthy Celts team in the playoffs, or better yet a healthy Lakers team with Bynum back in the mix? As much as Lebron has had unbelievable numbers, I cannot see them taking a series from LA, even with home court advantage.

John Hollinger
  (3:26 PM)

I think the Lakers are the one team that has the best shot of beating Cleveland, and the two biggest factors would be home court and Bynum's health. Unfortunately the Lakers look like they may not have the former and are still iffy on the latter.

Mervstafa (Irvine, CA)

How do you contend against Wade being arguably the best offensive player and arguably the best defensive player and not being MVP?

John Hollinger
  (3:27 PM)

He is possibly the best offensive player, though I would nominate LeBron -- but he's certainly not the best defensive player, so that's where the argument breaks down. He's been very good by cutting out some of the reckless gambles he took a year ago, but he's no Dwight Howard.

Doc Rivers (Boston)

Stan, I hear what you're saying. But Jameer is done. Your team is what it is right now. Our team has yet to return. That's the difference that makes last night tolerable, if not far off from a success.

John Hollinger
  (3:29 PM)

Pretty much my sentiments too -- I don't think the Magic dented Boston's confidence these past two games, let's put it that way.

Al Harrington (NY)

Not that it matters much, but how horrible was that call last night? The league will be in shambles soon if something isn't done about this horrible officiating.

John Hollinger
  (3:31 PM)

Still haven't seen highlights, plus I'm still recovering from seeing that Mike Taylor had 35 and 8. But the past two games I've been to in person had real doozies by the refs -- in San Antonio on Sunday two refs told two Rockets two different things about what kind of shot the Spurs could take with 0.3 left; and yesterday in Orlando, I saw one of the worst calls I've ever seen when Garnett blocked Lewis's shot over the backboard two feet in front of the ref and he awarded the ball to Boston.

Carl (Toronto)

Question about VA. How do you figure that the PER of a replacement player is is around 11.0? I've seen starters a with PER lower than 5.

John Hollinger
  (3:32 PM)

I averaged the results of the players who played the least ... don't have my data in front of me but I believe the cut-off was 250 minutes. (Don't quote me on that though).

Billy, Tulsa OK [via mobile]

Have to think Portland vs LA and Dallas vs SA would be better games then DAL and LA. You see any chance the Mavs slip past Portland?

John Hollinger
  (3:33 PM)

If the Mavs are going to pass anybody it will be Utah, because the Jazz still have several tough road games left to play.

Bryan (L.A.)

I agree that Van Gundy is refreshingly candid...but shouldn't he at all worry about giving the C's bulletin board material with those types of comments?

John Hollinger
  (3:34 PM)

I think he's more trying to instill some confidence in his own side. Believe me, experienced coaches know exactly what they're doing when they put stuff like that out in the media ...

Bob

MVP has become a "who's the best shooting guard type" award. You know the award has lost its meaning when players from only one position are considered, while centers like Howard are ignored.

John Hollinger
  (3:36 PM)

In the last ten years since Jordan last won it's only gone to two wing players (Kobe and Iverson). If anything, complain about the power forwards -- they've won five.

Rinde (Cleveland)

Have you ever heard of a team tanking the second seed? Do you really think the magic wants the second seed and have to play Detroit?

John Hollinger
  (3:37 PM)

No chance, because they'd be giving up home court in the second round to do it. Tanking is much more likely in the 3/4 spots since there's no second-round cost.

Brian (Orlando, FL)

Explain this to me - why, even in chats with your admittedly more objective analysis, are the Magic always considered to be on the outside looking in? They are something like 7-2 against the top teams in the league, a top record and even a top star and yet every morning after a big win the story is all about calls that could have gone the other way, injured stars and moral victories for the opponent. As a fan, that's pretty annoying.

John Hollinger
  (3:38 PM)

Because we all presume that when they meet in the playoffs that Boston's best player will see more than 17 minutes of action and be able to show a pulse after halftime. If not, then yes, advantage Magic. And it's unquestionably a big deal that they're likely to be the No. 2 seed now.

Steve (FL)

Doc, I think what SVG was saying is that everything said about the Magic comes with a but... But Boston wasn't at full strength... But LA was on a back to back... But Lebron shot poorly... But whatever. Yet his team keeps winning despite the respect, despite being without an All-Star, despite Rashard being in a funk because his 1 year old is sick and no doctor knows why, despite having a rookie starting at the 2, despite everything... But whatever, his boys will prove it in the playoffs.

John Hollinger
  (3:41 PM)

I can see his point. But I had a lot easier team buying this team as a real threat to win the East when Nelson was healthy. They just don't have as much offensive punch with Rafer.

James (SLC, Utah)

What do you think the Jazz record will be against these .500+ road teams left on their schedule? @POR, @DEN, @NO, @DAL, @SAS, @LAL...

John Hollinger
  (3:42 PM)

How about 0-6? Jazz have yet to win on the road against any of the league's top 12 teams.... OK, realistically, they'll probably break through at least once, but it's hard to be optimistic given their track record.

Devon(Phoenix)

Will the Suns make it? Their last dozen games don't look that tough

John Hollinger
  (3:44 PM)

They have to win the final match-up in Dallas -- that's a must, and I'm guessing they only have about a 1-in-3 shot of doing it. But if they do win that game, the rest of the schedule is so advantageous (compared to the Mavs') that they'll probably get in.

Jim(Flower Mound, Texas)

If Kobe wins the championship and performs as well as he did in the playoffs last year, would you change your mind about Lebron being MVP?

John Hollinger
  (3:45 PM)

No ... I would vote him MVP of the Finals, but it wouldn't change my assessment of who had the better regular season one iota.

Skip, Kip VT

How big is Leon Powe's return to the celtics? If he's not healty and getting the minutes he deserves in the playoffs, than the celtics might have the worst second unit in the league...

John Hollinger
  (3:46 PM)

It deserves more attention -- Boston really could have used him last night, especially with Garnett's minutes being rationed, because Mikki was terrible and Bill Walker didn't give them much.

rav (liverpool)

if isiah goes to the clippers would they lose their entire fanbase overnight?

John Hollinger
  (3:47 PM)

I was absolutely shocked to read that ... Simmons might actually, really light himself on fire if that happens. It's as if they're trying to find new ways to alienate their fans.

Gus (Pensacola)

Tell Jim from Flower Mound that Kobe Bryant shot under 40% in 4 of the 6 games in the Finals last year.

John Hollinger
  (3:48 PM)

Was gonna bring that up too, but didn't want to distract from my main thesis.

Jack (Northbrook)

If you are Boston, Orlando or Cleveland are you a little worried about the prospect of playing either the Bulls or Pistons in the first round?

John Hollinger
  (3:49 PM)

I think Orlando is a little worried about Detroit just because they've played so poorly against the Pistons the past couple years. Realistically, it probably just means they need six games instead of five.

Adam (Dallas, Texas)

John, I respect your use of PER, but why is it that you don't like Kobe so much? It's not like you only use PER to justify Lebron as better than him, you have used it to justify Chris Paul last year, Steve Nash a couple of years ago, and Dwyane Wade. And this is coming from a Tim Duncan fan- another all time great who is ranked a bit low on the PER scale.

John Hollinger
  (3:51 PM)

It's not me, it's them. I probably get more questions about Kobe than the rest of the players in the league put together, so inevitably we end up in these drawn-out conversations of his worth relative to the league's other stars.

MIke (Portland, OR)

John, It looks like more and more like the NW Division will come down to the last game of the season in Portland. Does Portland take the division and the 4 seed?

John Hollinger
  (3:52 PM)

Don't be so sure. Nuggets play a bunch of cupcakes between now and then and may have the division wrapped up before tip-off.

Ron (Cranston, Rhode Island)

So would you write off Mikki Moore and Marbury as busts yet, or would you rathr wait to see how they perform in the post-season?

John Hollinger
  (3:55 PM)

How they perform in post-season is more critical than how they do now ... all I can point out is how they've played, and the yawning gap between that and what the Celtics need from them.

Younger (Los Angeles, CA)

I'm wondering what you think of Houston's playoff future. Will they finally make it out of the first round? Are they better off without McBrittle in the line-up?

John Hollinger
  (3:56 PM)

I like Houston's chances, with the one caveat that Utah is a terrible match-up for them and it's one that seems somewhat likely to happen. But against New Orleans, Portland, Denver or Dallas, I'd take the Rockets.

Sam (UT)

I was amazed that the Magic hardly went to Dwight at all down the stretch last night. If that's the way they play in the playoffs, I'd be surprised if the series went to five games.

John Hollinger
  (3:58 PM)

What amazed me even more was that they kept running through 3-for-18 Turkoglu and went away from Lewis, who was playing well. But yes, Dwight's 0-point fourth quarter was duly noted in these parts (he did get three post up chances but missed all three).

John: (Long Island):

Paul Pierce's drive to the hole with 30 seconds left down by 1 didn't end in a foul for what reason?? If that was D-Wade or Lebron then Dwight Howard may have been thrown out of the game. I think that call was rediculous

John Hollinger
  (3:59 PM)

It wasn't ridiculous by any stretch, but the consensus among the writers at courtside was that it's a foul in Boston.

John Hollinger
  (4:00 PM)

Folks, that's all the time I have but we'll do this again in two weeks. Thanks again for all the great questions.