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April 8, 8:54 AM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (2:06 PM)

Greetings from Portland everyone. Got Blazers-Lakers tonight and the Nike Hoops Summit tomorrow, so it should be a great weekend out here. Let's get to the questions ...

eric (Santa Barbara, Ca)

do you think bynums play last night is a good indication of what we can see from him in the next few games in the postseason? or is it too much to hope that we wont see a little more rust on him then we did last night....

John Hollinger
  (2:07 PM)

I've seen too many times where the rust doesn't start showing until the second game -- once the adrenaliine rush is gone -- to sign off on Bynum playing this well the rest of the way, but if I'm a Laker fan I'm certainly pleased with what I saw.

Travis, Fairfax VA

Could either the Jazz or the Mavs give the Lakers ANY trouble? And, has Ginobili's injury taken all drama from the Western Conf Playoffs?

John Hollinger
  (2:08 PM)

Let's not overstate things. Blazers, Nuggets, Jazz and Rockets all are good enough to make some noise if they bring their A games, so I think the West remains very interesting. As far as Round 1 goes, Utah doesn't match up well against L.A. and neither does Dallas, so I think the Lakers are safe there -- the team they probably don't want to play is New Orleans, who could give them some problems if Tyson Chandler and James Posey are healthy.

Jon, Portland OR

How is Nic Batum getting absolutely no lovin' in the best rookies chatter? He plays great minutes and is a defensive beast. The Blazers would not be fighting for the 4th seed without Frenchie.

John Hollinger
  (2:10 PM)

He's been very helpful in his role, but let's not get carried away -- guys like Rose, Lopez, Westbrook and Mayo have had to be major contributors for their teams. Batum is a role player who does little on offense and rarely plays in crunch time. Nice pickup for that late in the first round? Sure. But you can't seriously put him in a discussion with the top rookies from such a strong class.

Andrew (Corvallis OR)

John how is it a few miles up the road? Can you feel the energy in the air for a town thats 100% NBA basketball?

John Hollinger
  (2:11 PM)

Grey, as I imagine it is in Cow Valley. But as long as you have The Beanery down there I imagine you don't mind ... one of the best cups of joe you'll get anywhere. As far as the energy here, yes, I'm expecting a ferocious crowd tonight -- Blazer fans are still angry about the Ariza foul, as if people here needed another reason to hate L.A.

Yatin (LA)

Am I crazy for thinking the Hornets stand really good chances against either the Nuggets or Spurs in the 1st round? All the 2-day breaks should certainly help CP3 and D-West play 40+ minutes so their subpar subs can stay where they belong, on the bench

John Hollinger
  (2:12 PM)

Spurs, sure. Nuggets, not so much. For starters, gotta have Chandler and Posey back if you want to do anything, because otherwise the frontcourt is totally overmatched. Unfortunately, odds are that San Anto falls to the 5 slot and you're stuck facing Houston or Portland.

Jeff(Bakersfield, Ca)

Will Greg Oden ever be better then Joel Pryzbilla?

John Hollinger
  (2:14 PM)

Yes, of course he will; in fact he might be already on a different team, but Przybilla's skills fit this group really well. I mentioned this in the Insider Gems yesterday, but if you break it down Oden's actually had a pretty good rookie season -- he just needs to stay on the floor.

Stan, SLC

Based on recent games, Any chance the Jazz have of winning any first round matchup? I think home court is officially out of reach and to me, all chances of a first round win.

John Hollinger
  (2:16 PM)

Keep in mind that the Jazz had a horrid finish to their regular season two years ago ... and then promptly went on a run to the conference finals in the postseason. Utah may also get a very favorable playoff bracket -- they could potentially get Houston and Denver, both of which have to be seen as very winnable pairings. Utah matches up extremely well against Houston in particular.

West Coast Bulls Fan

Any chance the Bulls make noise and give a first round opposition a scare? They seem to be playing very well and the acquisitions of Salmons and Miller have been huge.

John Hollinger
  (2:16 PM)

I think the Bulls could throw a scare into Boston given how the Celtics have struggled in the late-season -- I'm not saying they'd win, mind you, but they could make them sweat out a six or seven-game series.

Jay (Burke, VA) [via mobile]

Who is the one team the Lakers hope goes/stays in the 2,3,6, and 7 bracket and they avoid until the WCF?

John Hollinger
  (2:17 PM)

Portland, I believe. Blazers are probably playing the best of that gang right now and have fared pretty well against L.A. over the past couple years.

Michael (Philly)

How competitive would the East be next year if the Wiz got Blake Griffin and a healthy big three? It'd be amazing.

John Hollinger
  (2:18 PM)

And Flip Saunders, I might add, if the rumor mill is correct. They could very well make a 20 or 30-game jump.

Will (Denver)

John, why is no one mentioning that Kenyon Martin did not play last night for the Nuggets? He is their best defender who can guard almost anyone in the league sans Paul, D-will or Parker. The Lakers did not beat even close to the best team the Nugs can put on the floor.

John Hollinger
  (2:19 PM)

You overstated things a bit, but it's a fair point nonetheless -- Denver has a thin frontcourt, so not having K-Mart or Nene makes them much more beatable.

Sam (UT)

What do you see from the Blazers next year with another year of experience and the return (hopefully) of Martell Webster?

John Hollinger
  (2:21 PM)

I think they'll be very, very good, especially if Oden can take another step forward, and I wouldn't rule out Pritchard making a blockbuster deal in the summer to get a small forward or a point guard.

Kenny (Fresno)

You're the numbers guy, so tell me: What were the odds 5 years ago that the Maloofs would steer the Kings right off of a cliff and leave a city full of rabid fans hoping that Joe and Gavin would just go away?

John Hollinger
  (2:22 PM)

The funny thing is that what got them in trouble was that they were so passionate -- so they wanted to overpay guys like Bibby and got all excited about different coaches and made a couple other executive decisions that ultimately put them in this horrible bind. I just hope it doesn't end up costing the city its team.

Matt (L.A.)

So even without Deng to guard Pierce you think the Bulls can win a game? Come on Hollinger, if KG's back it'll be a sweep and you know it. Aren't the Celtics being hugely underestimated? Even with all their injuries, more than any team in the league, they are still a Top 3 team in the league...

John Hollinger
  (2:24 PM)

Salmons will guard Pierce, bigger problem for Chicago is having Ben Gordon on Ray Allen -- we might see a lot of Hinrich in that matchup. As for the Celtics, the fact you had to put an "if" before KG pretty much sums up why I think they may have a hard time in the playoffs.

Strick (Memphis)

I think we can just about rule out a blockbuster trade involving Portland if they weren't willing to make one with Raef's expiring contract. KP is on the verge of becoming Paxon 2.0 - acquiring good, young talent and overvaluing it to the point he feels no trade is bringing enough back.

John Hollinger
  (2:25 PM)

I disagree -- all the trades that were on the table with Raef were ones that would have made them taxpayers in 2010 (like the Vince deal, or the nonsensical Outlaw-for-Jefferson deal) -- so I don't blame them for holding their cards. All we learned from the trade deadline is that teams can't dump $60 million contracts on Portland any longer.

Tim (Boston, MA)

Do you see any 7-8 seeds taking their first round opponents to 7 games ala the '08 Hawks or the '07 Warriors?

John Hollinger
  (2:26 PM)

I see a couple intriguing possibilities, actually -- I think a Denver-Utah first-round series would be fantastic, and as I mentioned above I think Chicago can make Boston sweat. Another one I might add to the list, with a big asterisk, is that if the Hornets fall to No. 8, and if they get Chandler and Posey back before Game 1, they've given the Lakers a lot of problems the past two years.

Marcus (portland,OR)

John! Whats your favorite food spot to hit up when your in portland?

John Hollinger
  (2:28 PM)

Paley's Place if I bring the big wallet, Beau Thai if I'm looking for cheap and good. But I could list twenty different places -- dining out is amazingly inexpensive here and with all the great seafood and local produce it's almost always excellent.

Shawn (Dallas, TX)

Dude, is this a Portland chat? Shaq and CP3 to Dallas next year?? Cuban is one of the few willing to take on big contracts!!

John Hollinger
  (2:30 PM)

Forget about CP3 -- it was nice of Cuban to ask and I'd have done the same thing, but if the Hornets trade Chris Paul their fans will riot. Shaq seems a lot more plausible -- a deal for Dampier and Stackhouse works and I believe it would get the Suns under the tax line if they cut Stackhouse.

Jeff(Bakersfield, Ca)

Why do the Grizzlies run their offense through Marc Gasol? The guy is limited offensively and they have lottery picks in gay, Mayo, and conley

John Hollinger
  (2:31 PM)

I disagree entirely -- Gasol has been arguably their best player. Gay and Mayo don't get to the basket nearly enough and take way too many long 2s to have an efficient offense. Of course, none of those guys should really be a first option, which explains why the Griz's offense is so horrible.

Robbie (Sacramento, CA)

Hey John, Is there any chance the Miami Heat can slip into the 4th seed before the end of the season.

John Hollinger
  (2:33 PM)

Hawks would have to lose the rest of their games, Heat would have to win the rest of theirs. Atlanta is home against Indiana tonight and finishes the season against Memphis, so you do the math.

Will (Denver)

If the Nuggets don't get out of the first round, Will that start to become the tag line that always follows Melo's name. "Carmelo Anthony- still looking for that playoff series win" A la Tracy McGrady?

John Hollinger
  (2:33 PM)

I'd say that's a fair question, especially since the Nuggets will have home court and be favored against whomever they face (unless they somehow tank away the division over the next week).

MoNgO (Aurora, OH)

So John - any change in your thoughts regarding the hands-down MVP for this season?

John Hollinger
  (2:34 PM)

None whatsoever. If L.A. catches Cleveland good for them ... but it wouldn't make Kobe more valuable than LeBron.

Zach (Vancouver, WA)

John, would Kirk Hinrich be a good fit in Portland? It seems like he does every that Steve Blake does, but at a higher level, and is able to play off the ball in the fourth quarter, when Roy takes over.

John Hollinger
  (2:36 PM)

Hinrich would be a nice fit, but I'm not sure there's a lot of motivation to bring him in when Blake played nearly as well for half the money. If Portland does something at the point, it will be for a clear, obvious upgrade. Incidentally, I would think they'd keep Blake and use him as the backup, as he'd be perfect in that role.

Will (Denver)

Has J.R. Smith's late season surge put him into running for the 6th man award, or does Terry have that pretty much on lock down?

John Hollinger
  (2:37 PM)

Too little, too late. Sixth Man is down to Jet and Nate Robinson, and I believe Terry has the upper hand considering his team's greater success.

jay(portland, OR)

John, is there any arena louder than the Rose Garden when Lakers come to p-town.

John Hollinger
  (2:38 PM)

Yes, but the Rose Garden is definitely in the top five.

Justin, Rip City

John Do you think if Portland had home court against the struggling Spurs that this would be the best first round match up for the Blazers?

John Hollinger
  (2:40 PM)

Even better would be to get Hornets in a 3-6 matchup if Tyson Chandler isn't playing. Short of that, drawing the Spurs in a 4-5 isn't a bad consolation prize. They definitely don't want to see Houston.

Allan (Queens, New York)

Hey John, How would you evaluate Donny Walsh's current run and President of basketball operations for the Knicks so far? I think hes been a huge bust, trading expiring contracts for other expiring contracts (Rose for Wilcox) instead of getting Draft Picks.

John Hollinger
  (2:41 PM)

You weren't getting a draft pick for Malik Rose's expiring contract, sorry. Walsh has done exactly what he set out to do, and I don't understand why Knicks fans are so dejected right now -- the fact that they were in the playoff race as long as they were was a huge surprise to most of us, given the extent of the damage that Isiah Thomas did and the fact Walsh unloaded Crawford and Randolph early in the season.

Colin (Eugene, Oregon)

Is Nate McMillan going to win the coach of the year?

John Hollinger
  (2:42 PM)

I would be shocked if Stan Van Gundy didn't win, but Nate has done a fantastic job here and I think he has to be considered among the league's elite coaches at this point.

Dave (Portland)

Jonh, you say the Rose Garden is in the top 5 loudest arena's (2:38 PM ET)...what are the top 5 loudest areneas?

John Hollinger
  (2:43 PM)

Haven't been in all of them this year .. but of the top of my head I'll go Utah, Boston, Cleveland, Portland and Golden State. I'm sure I left somebody out though.

Fernando (Sorocaba - Brazil)

Nene gotta be the comeback of the year awar winner... right? Outstanding play this year and I do think the Nuggets at leats bring out the best in the Lakers in the west finals (BTW, Pacers fan down here...) Thanks for the great work as usual John!

John Hollinger
  (2:44 PM)

one little problem -- there's no Comeback award, they stopped doing it a long time ago. As far as Nuggets in the WCF, let's not put the cart before the horse -- right now I'm projecting they may get Utah and Portland back to back, and neither series would be easy.

Chris (Seattle, WA)

John! Do you think Orlando has a legit shot at taking Boston out in the playoffs (assuming they both get that far of course)? I think they're a bad match up for the Cavs if they can beat Boston.

John Hollinger
  (2:46 PM)

I think Orlando has a great shot at beating Boston, depending on the Celtics' health, though it appears the Magic will have to do so without home-court advantage. As far as beating Cleveland goes, I'm still not sold on that, even after that beatdown they put on the Cavs last week.

Fred, London

Do you think the Spurs have any chance of making The Finals? And, Kobe's PER is 6th best in the league - but he's still getting MVP shouts. So what is he doing that the numbers aren't showing?

John Hollinger
  (2:47 PM)

You're preaching to the choir on Kobe so I'll have to let somebody else answer that -- I think LeBron, Wade, Howard and CP all need to be above him on the ballot. As far as the Spurs, I didn't think they had a great chance even before Ginobili's injury. Now? I can't see it, sorry.

Pete (knoxville, tn)

How is Portland going to get out of a series with anyone? They are too young John!!

John Hollinger
  (2:48 PM)

They've been young all year, right? I think experience is far and away the most overrated factor in the playoffs -- young teams win in the postseason all the time.

matt (sfo)

i always argue b roy is a superstar statistically, but he doesnt get the love cause of portlands rain...in terms of PER, whats the superstar cut off? or too objective?

John Hollinger
  (2:50 PM)

It's not the rain, it's the time zone. But Roy is absolutely a superstar, and I think this postseason is going to be his coming out party in that respect.

Sean (Chicago)

What are your thoughts on Rookie of the Year? With such a strong rookie class, who impresses you the most?

John Hollinger
  (2:51 PM)

I've been arguing for a while that Brook Lopez should win, as he's clearly been the most productive player of the group, but guards put together better highlight films than jump-shooting centers.

Disgruntled Nation

Next time, warn us when it's going to be a Portland chat and we'll tune in another time.

John Hollinger
  (2:52 PM)

Hey, I can only answer what's asked.

David Baltimore [via mobile]

remember when Akeem destroyed David Robinson in the playoffs after Robinson won the MVP. I see Kobe doing the same thing to King James in the Finals.

John Hollinger
  (2:53 PM)

Well, let's just say Kobe's overdue to have a good Finals after his last two adventures.

George (Portland, OR)

John, if you had a choice to attend one first round series, which series would you go to?

John Hollinger
  (2:53 PM)

I wanna see the match-ups, but if Denver played Utah I would think that'd be an absolute barnburner.

Kevin MN

How has Lopez been "clearly more productive" than Love?

John Hollinger
  (2:55 PM)

He's been more valuable at the defensive end, and he's been on the court longer, though I realize the latter part isn't totally in Love's control.

Clutch

John, why do you think the Blazers are playing the "best of the bunch right now"? They recently lost to the Rockets and the Nuggets were just on an 8 game winning streak. I think the Lakers would definitely prefer to play the inexperienced Blazers in the playoffs over the other top teams in the West.

John Hollinger
  (2:58 PM)

Portland's Power Ranking has been steadily ascending over the past several weeks; Houston's the only other Western team that can say that. They haven't lost to a non-playoff team since the A-s Break and have 12 double-digit wins in 26 games ... that's strong.

DJ (SLC, UT)

Any chance brandon roy is not on the all nba 2nd team? What two guards do you have there?

John Hollinger
  (3:00 PM)

I think he needs to be on it, but we've seen some pretty weird stuff with All-NBA votes in recent years, and his low national profile may hurt him.

Evan (SF)

JOHN, 9-25 fg, 23 points, 6 turnovers from LeBron in LA in January. 5-20, 16 points a month later in Cleveland against LA, their only home loss. There's some numbers for you, numbers guy.

John Hollinger
  (3:00 PM)

Any thoughts on the other 80 games?

Chris (Ann Arbor MI)

Dude! We're sending non-blazer questions. Answer them! Can the pistons pull off a first round upset? They are playing like a team again with AI out. Stuckey and Bynum are stepping up in his absence!.

John Hollinger
  (3:01 PM)

Pistons couldn't beat Cleveland even with Flip and Chauncey. They've got no shot at it with this group.

Noah, MA

Maybe I'm just biased due to the fact that I seem him play every night, but Rondo seems to be the clear choice for most improved player this year. Last year he was the weak link in a potential championship team. This year with improved confidence, leadership, and shooting he seems to have matured from weak leak to essential cog. Your thoughts?

John Hollinger
  (3:02 PM)

The key word here is "Most". Rondo has certainly improved -- but more than every single other player in the league? More than Devin Harris, in particular? I don't think anyone can say that.

tim (Orlando, FL)

John, Should Dwayne Wade, and Dwight Howard get Co-Defensive player of the year awards, since both of them are having such amazing seasons.

John Hollinger
  (3:03 PM)

No, Dwight Howard should get it, since he's been the dominant defender on a team that is shockingly No. 1 in Defensive Efficiency.

Eric (Westlake)

Cant the Bulls catch the 76ers based on schedule. The 76ers have dropped 3 straight and have Boston Cleveland and Cleveland. Chicago has been playing great and has a much easier schedule.

John Hollinger
  (3:04 PM)

Yes they can, but I'm not sure they'd want to -- wouldn't you rather face Boston than Orlando right now?

Pete (Knoxville tn)

Why does everyone look at the mavs like the clearcut 8th team?

John Hollinger
  (3:04 PM)

Mavs lose tiebreaks to both the Jazz and Hornets, so they probably need to sweep New Orleans this weekend to get out of the No. 8 spot.

John Hollinger
  (3:05 PM)

Folks, that's all the time I have, but thanks again for all the great questions. We'll be back at my usual Thursday slot next week, where we can discuss all the playoff matchups.