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April 30, 10:32 AM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (3:08 PM)

Greetings from Atlanta everyone, could potentially have four Game 7s this weekend ... or none. Let's get to the questions.

Alex (Denver)

Nuggets that good, or NO that bad? Also what's your prediction for next round?

John Hollinger
  (3:09 PM)

I think it's some of both, but more the latter. Five of the six key Hornets were playing with injuries, and at times they were barely trying. I expect a great series from Denver and Dallas since both enter playing very well, but I think the Nuggies advance.

Jeff (Ft. Collins, CO)

Who in the West matches up best against the Lakers?

John Hollinger
  (3:11 PM)

i think the Blazers do, but I think the Rockets are a close second. So the Lakers will be pleased if Houston wins tonight.. .but not exactly giddy either.

Jeff (Ft. Collins, CO)

About the seeding for the playoffs John...doesn't it seem wrong for the Cavs to practically get a free pass to the NBA Finals while teams out West are battling it out? How does the NBA fix this issue?

John Hollinger
  (3:12 PM)

Orlando won more games than any non-LA team in the West. So did Boston. Might be time to re-evaluate who's getting the free pass.

Patrick (Strongsville OH)

What series is going to be better..Cavs vs Hawks or or Philly vs Boston?

John Hollinger
  (3:13 PM)

I'll say none of the above and go with Orlando-Boston. Philly will probably win Game 6 but I'd be absolutely shocked if they won Game 7.

Nick (Cleveland)

Do you think that the addition of Joe Smith to the Cavs' big men would possibly tip the balance of opinions of who is favored in a finals matchup against the Lakers?

John Hollinger
  (3:15 PM)

It helps, especially if Ben Wallace can't go. And for all the bluster from the Celtics about "we didn't care if it was Smith or Mikki Moore...", they have to be killing themselves for plunging in to sign Moore. Doc's terrified to play him against a No. 7 seed; meanwhile, Smith was a monster in the first round.


Why am I scared to shoot?

John Hollinger
  (3:16 PM)

Good question. I see two reasons -- the first, a positive one, that he's trying to fit in and be a good teammate; and the second, a negative one, that he's not that good anymore and knows he's not likely to convert.

Nasir, Philly

Are Stu Jackson and the NBA trying to save face by saying Rondo's foul is not a flagrant? Its a shame the NBA still has bias in officiating, even after the Donaghy scandal.

John Hollinger
  (3:17 PM)

The call wasn't "bias" -- it was just missed. But I do think they're trying to save face with their ruling yesterday; it's basically open season on players driving to the basket now, since apparently you can punch them in the face as long as you don't wind up or follow through.


I think Jeff is saying that the Cav's will get to the E.C.F. by playing two teams that would not have made the playoffs if they were in the west conf. BTW, the Lakers won more games than Boston or Orlando.

John Hollinger
  (3:18 PM)

Correction -- I meant more than any 2 thru 8 seed out West. The opponents in the first two rounds are of less importance, frankly, because historically No. 1 seeds almost always win those series.

Michael (NYC)

John, don't you think the missed flagrant on Rondo was really overplayed? I haven't heard much mention about the missed flagrant by Hinrich on Perkins and Gordon stepping out of bounds before being fouled by Tony Allen. Seems like Chicago was fortunate to be that close to begin with, no?

John Hollinger
  (3:20 PM)

Is this actually Bill Simmons? Look, they completely blew a call with two seconds left that may have swung the outcome of the game. How can people NOT make a big deal out of it?

Rod (Chicago, IL)

Isn't Atlanta the toughest opponent for Cleveland outside of LA?

John Hollinger
  (3:21 PM)

A) No, and B) Double-No if Al Horford and Marvin Williams aren't at full strength, if they're on the court at all.

Chris (Miami, FL)

Does Horford miss the last two games of the series? What does that do for Miami's chances of pulling out the series?

John Hollinger
  (3:23 PM)

We'll know more in the next 24 hours, but the way Horford was limping around on that thing looked like a 2-3 week injury to me ... Obviously losing him would be a huge boost to the Heat, because the Hawks were only playing seven guys to begin with and now will have to put uberscrub Solomon Jones into a prominent role.

danny (denver)

If chauncey leads the Nuggets to the WCF's or beyond what does it do for his legacy. does is start to look hall of fame esque. All he does is win.

John Hollinger
  (3:24 PM)

Well, making the conference finals for a SEVENTH consecutive season wouldn't exactly tarnish his resume, I'll put it that way, especially since he has a Finals MVP on it too. HOF has tended to reward marginal candidates who were on winning teams, so he may end up making it.

Fredrick (Miami)

What are we gonna do without Dwight? *scared as heck*

John Hollinger
  (3:25 PM)

You lack faith in the Polish Hammer? File this thought away: Nobody in basketball could benefit more from exploding for 23 and 15 than Gortat tonight. He's a free agent, he's hardly played, and he'll hardly be seen again after tonight.

NBA Refs (NYC)

Look folks, we're not evil, we... we're...we're just not good.

John Hollinger
  (3:27 PM)

There's the rub -- everyone wants to add some kind of insinuation that an outcome was fixed or pre-determined. You don't know how many people in Atlanta last night were convinced that Bavetta would send Wade to the line 30 times; instead Atlanta shot 41.

Joe Dumars (Detroit)

Hooray for marginal candidates on winning teams being in the HOF!!!

John Hollinger
  (3:28 PM)

James Worthy and KC Jones heartily second your thoughts.

Mark (South Beach)

Are Atlanta and Miami going to be exhausted by the time this series is over? Seriously, how will a team have the energy to beat Cleveland ON THE ROAD?!

John Hollinger
  (3:29 PM)

Cleveland is probably rooting for the Hawks tomorrow -- Atlanta would have to do a quick turn and play Sunday at 1 in Cleveland, and might be down two starters. Not that it matters -- healthy or not, the best either can do is lose in five games instead of four.

Noam (Israel)

How amazing has Rondo been? He's been playing like a Jason Kidd who can score, and as a point-guard enthusiast, generally getting me giddy at the prospect of Paul-Deron in the west and Rondo-Rose in the East. Could he eventually be a 20-7-10 perrenial all-star?

John Hollinger
  (3:31 PM)

I'd like to see him against somebody besides Rose before I answer this question. Certainly he's been fantastic in Round 1, but Rose statistically was among the worst defenders in the league. If he does the same thing against Rafer or Andre Miller, then I'm ready for this conversation.

Ethan (Austin)

They myth of the stronger Western conference really seems to be getting overplayed by analysts and on the message boards. All of those win totals are inflated by playing bottom-feeders like OKC, Sactown, the Clippers, etc. Agree?

John Hollinger
  (3:33 PM)

They're right and wrong. They're right in that three of the top four seeds in the West had tougher first-round opponents than their counterparts in the East (Can't put the Hornets in that group), and that West No. 1 LA will have a much tougher second-round opponent than East No. 1 Cleveland. Otherwise, they're wrong -- the East won more games head-to-head, was strong in spots 1-3, and had only one bottom feeder instead of the six polluting the waters out West.

Sam (Los Angeles)

What chance do you give Portland in the Toyota Center? If they win, what chance back in the Rose Garden for Game 7?

John Hollinger
  (3:35 PM)

I'd say about 1-in-3 tonight, and 3-in-4 if they can get it back to Portland. So overall, you're looking at a 1-in-4 shot of playing L.A. on Monday, and a 3-in-4 shot of getting psyched up for AAA baseball.

Michael, Edmonton, Alberta

In your latest article you mention that JJ won't be able to stay on the floor because he's too short to guard JR Smith, but I counter that J.J. Barea could really cause penetration problems for the Nuggets, and they don't have anyone small and quick enough to guard him.

John Hollinger
  (3:37 PM)

Carter can stay with him, but that's besides the point. Barea is a secondary player, if you're Denver you'll live with Dallas running offense through him, espeiclaly if it means you can light him up at the other end. If they go Chauncey-J.R. at the guards, Barea can't get on the court.

Rick, Idaho

Rajon Rondo is having a Hall of Fame playoff series. Hey Hollinger, if he keeps this up is he an all-star next season or for years to come?

John Hollinger
  (3:38 PM)

I thought he should have been an All-Star this year, but folks were slow to come around on the idea at the time because they were wedded to the Big Three theory.

Jim (Portland, OR)

Now that we know Bennett Salvatore is the official for the Houston-Portland game tonight, what are the Trailblazers chances?

John Hollinger
  (3:38 PM)

I actually think that helps them. Bennett calls lots of touch falls, which should benefit Brandon Roy. Could be a brief outing for Mr. Oden, though.

Adam (NY)

Is it time to put the Chris Paul as "undisputed best point guard in the NBA" talk on hold after getting drubbed so badly in Round 1? I Know N.O. had many injuries but so do alot of teams.

John Hollinger
  (3:39 PM)

Except that Paul was one of the injuries, and things really went off the ledge for the Hornets when he got hurt.


Are you seriously saying James freking Worthy is "marginal"? You're a joke.

John Hollinger
  (3:40 PM)

Major side conversation here, but you can find a lot of players with superior accomplishments who aren't in the Hall.

Ed, Chesnut Hill, MA

It seems like we say this every year, but isn't the officiating just terrible right now? When will the NBA stop brushing this under the rug?

John Hollinger
  (3:41 PM)

I actually thought the playoff officiating was really good until the final two seconds of the Boston game. They just missed (or didn't, in Stu's world) a crucial call at exactly the wrong time.

Kevin MN

How does Kevin Love get left off the all-rookie team?

John Hollinger
  (3:42 PM)

Because it was an unusually strong and deep rookie class, and a lot of them had more extended playing time than Love.

Cooper (Halifax NS Canada)

Chris Paul = great regular season player Deron Willimans = built and made for playoffs

John Hollinger
  (3:42 PM)

Compare their playoff stats -- Paul's are still vastly superior.

Ray Allen,

You thought the last 2 fouls called on me was ok?

John Hollinger
  (3:44 PM)

5th one was fine, 6th one was dicey. Of course, putting a guy with five fouls on the other team's leading scorer isn't exactly the greatest strategy, now, is it?

justin (miami)

Would you say the Heat are the favorites at this point assuming Wade is 100% the last 2 games of the series and Horford and Williams are out or seriously limited by their injuries?

John Hollinger
  (3:45 PM)

That's a lot of assumptions ... last night was so weird because Wade was the worst player on the court in the first half and the best once his back loosened up. But here's the crazy part -- even with Wade going off, no Horford, and no Williams, Miami couldn't cut into Atlanta's lead. Bad, bad omen going forward.

Rich (DC)

If you are Sacramento and you get the #1 overall, do you swap lottery picks with OKC if you get another #1 this year and OKC takes Beno Udrih?

John Hollinger
  (3:47 PM)

You do not trade the #1 under any circumstances in this draft. Everybody I've talked to has said Griffin is miles better than anyone other player available.

T (Columbus)

I suppose Horry isn't a HOFer either math boy??

John Hollinger
  (3:48 PM)

Not even close. That would be a tragic selection actually. If you want to make a Hall of Pretty Good for guys like him, Bruce Bowen and Cornbread Maxwell, go for it, but let's not confuse being surrounded by greatness with possessing it.

Jeremy (cleveland)

Griffin better learn to shoot. He's not going to blow by everyone in the NBA, right Beasley?

John Hollinger
  (3:49 PM)

Beasley averaged 22 points per 40 minutes as a 19-year-old rookie. I think he's going to be just fine.

Kobe Bryant

Is Roy better than me?

John Hollinger
  (3:49 PM)

Emphatic no.

Nick (Toronto)

So many big-name free agents are coming off bad seasons -- A.I., Rasheed Wallace, Shawn Marion. Do you think any of them get more than the MLE? What other big-name stars will have to settle for the MLE?

John Hollinger
  (3:50 PM)

None of them get more than MLE -- the guy I really wonder about is Andre Miller. He's been so good this year, but with his age you have to wonder how long he can keep it up. Would you be comfortable giving him a multiyear deal for more than the MLE?

Jack (NYC)

Seriously Hollinger....Wade was the "worst player on the court in the 1st half"....he is NEVER the worst player on the court!

John Hollinger
  (3:51 PM)

Unless his back is seized up and he can't move. I was shocked how many balls bounced near him that he couldn't get to, and how out of it he was on the defensive end.

Chuck (Minneapolis)

John - assuming I have to take the 3-in-4 shot and turn my attention to Beavers baseball, what do the Blazers need to do in the offseason to make sure next year's playoff experience progresses further? Any FA's that would compliment their core group?

John Hollinger
  (3:52 PM)

They're going to take a hard look at upgrading at the point, with Blake most likely moving to a backup role, and they may look to improve their situation at small forward as well.

Matt (Champaign, IL):

Simmons said the Bulls' performance during this series bodes well for them in 2010 and beyond. Do you agree?

John Hollinger
  (3:54 PM)

We don't know a lot of things yet -- foremost among them, whether it's more a sign that the Celtics are just another team without KG, or whether Gordon will be part of this group going forward. But you have to like that core group to, at the very least, be a fixture in the postseason.

Andy (Denver)

Simmons said that there will be a lockout in 2011. Do you agree?

John Hollinger
  (3:55 PM)

I think there's a decent chance, unfortunately, but much depends on how much ground the players are willing to give. Stern will likely ask for a lot.

Amin (DC)

Assuming a Cavs-Lakers finals, do you think Delonte will guard Kobe while LeBron takes out Odom, or do you think it'll be all Kobe-LeBron, all the time?

John Hollinger
  (3:56 PM)

They will hardly guard each other at all until fourth quarters, and then we get the match-up we all want.

Phil (Chicago)

You said you have to like the Bulls core, but who is considered in the core? Deng isn't playing, Kirk is paid alot for a backup, Tyrus could be trade bait, and Gordon is a free agent. Only Rose and Noah seems locks to stick around, no?

John Hollinger
  (3:57 PM)

Rose-Hinrich-Deng-Thomas-Noah. They're all signed through next year at least and are likely to be around longer. Maybe Gordon is in there too, or maybe they sign somebody else for that spot. And Salmons and Miller will be there next year, and they"ll be healthier than they are now.

John Hollinger
  (3:58 PM)

Quick update: No Von Wafer for the Rockets tonight. Out with back spasms. Rudy Fernandez rejoices. Looks like Brent Barry gets the call off the Houston bench.

Kristoffer (Norway)

What are the odds of seeing Denver in the finals John? And wouldn't Nugs-Cavs be just as sweet a matchup as Lakers-Cavs?

John Hollinger
  (3:59 PM)

Still low odds of Denver in the Finals -- though they're playing well, Lakers aren't a great match-up for them, in fact one of their few late-season losses was a pretty one-sided one in L.A.

Kieran (Hood River, OR)

Fortunately I love AAA baseball, go Blazers

John Hollinger
  (4:00 PM)

Good for you. I'm kind of excited to catch some MLS out there next summer too. The new Hot Lips pizza outpost next to PGE Park is an added plus.

Josh (Knoxville, TN)

Just a little what if... what do you think would have happened if the Spurs had Ginobili and a healthy Tim Duncan? No way they lose to Dallas, right?

John Hollinger
  (4:01 PM)

Most likely they make the conference finals with those two what ifs.

Joshua (Houston)

No Rockets/Blazers talk? Whats happens tonight?

John Hollinger
  (4:01 PM)

Get ball inside. Get ball inside. Get ball inside. If Battier is the only Rocket willing to pass Yao they ball they'll lose again.

Steve Ohio

Rudy Fernandez should have been 1st team All-Rookie? Was he shafted by only making the 2nd team? He did have the most 3 pointers as a rookie ever. And a majority of those were very important FGs.

John Hollinger
  (4:02 PM)

Too many good rookies -- who are you bumping down to second team for Rudy? Mayo? Gordon? Both guys were just as productive and played more minutes.

Vin (Chicago)

What happens in Bulls-Celts game 6?

John Hollinger
  (4:04 PM)

I picked Boston in six before this series started, so I suppose it'd be foolish to change course now. But I am wondering if all these minutes are going to start taking a toll on Boston's bigs. Perk was running on fumes by the end of Game 5.

Poops (PDX)

Best fans in the NBA is Portland right? Or atleast I should say best fans when the team is winning and devoid of a**holes.

John Hollinger
  (4:04 PM)

Tough to earn the title of best fans when you're blaming the refs for a 27-point defeat. But definitely in the top five.

Chris, Seattle

So the blazers gameplan is to front Yao and hope the Houston role players are average or worse?? Do they start Rudy? Should Roy look to get teamamtes involved or go kobe in the all star game and take it to the hoop every chance he gets?

John Hollinger
  (4:06 PM)

I think they start Batum because they don't want Roy to get early fouls guarding Artest, then they bring in Rudy at 6 min mark and, if Roy doesn't have fouls, start him in the second half. That's how I'd do it anyway.

charlie (san diego, CA)

Does no Von Wafer for the Rockets change your prediction of their victory? They get a lot of help from him offense off the bench.

John Hollinger
  (4:07 PM)

Having home court is much more important than having Von Wafer. But his absence will be felt. Rockets may go to Lowry-Brooks backcourt when Roy isn't in the game.

Brad (LA)

Not saying who, but some are calling the bulls celtics series a classic. A classic? Seriously? Ive seen alot of poor execution, bad coaching decisions, missed ft's, and blown opportunities between 2 above averge teams. What are your thoughts?

John Hollinger
  (4:08 PM)

It's an absolute classic in terms of entertainment -- four edge-of-your-seat heart-stoppers out of five is tough to beat. In terms of quality, not so much -- but at times that's only increased the entertainment value.

John (LA)

The reason why the West has so many bottom feeder teams is cuz they play the upper echelon teams in the west 3 or 4 times. It's hard to do well if you are the clippers when you play the Lakers 4 times! Can't say the same for the East cuz everyone is just marginal at best.

John Hollinger
  (4:09 PM)

Then why do the West teams lose to the East teams so much?

Mikey (Orlando)

Are you sure you haven't answered enough Rockets and Blazers questions John? How badly could the Lee injury affect the Magic?

John Hollinger
  (4:10 PM)

Just read that he's out of for the playoffs, which isn't a big surprise, and it means Pietrus is going to have to step up and show he can be the stopper/3-point guy the Magic thought they were getting last summer.


What is Derrick Rose's ceiling. Top 10-15 PG in the NBA? Hes probably in top 25 now right?

John Hollinger
  (4:11 PM)

HIs ceiling is enormous. I'm getting a lot of flak from Bulls fans for my critiques of him and nominating Brook Lopez for ROY, but it's important to differentiate -- right now he has a lot of weaknesses; in a couple years he might be ridiculously good.

Larry (Orlando)

Go Magic!! this should be their starting lineup tonight: Alston, Turk, Rashard, Battie, and Gortat. That lineup could take down Philly.

John Hollinger
  (4:12 PM)

Hadn't considered that, but you're correct that Stan can slide everyone down a spot with that lineup. Wouldn't expect that group to start -- not sure how much run Battie can give them, in particular -- but wouldn't be surprised if they finished. We might also see Anthony Johnson play some at the 2 tonight.

Patrick (Strongsville OH)

Ok then rank your top five fan bases

John Hollinger
  (4:14 PM)

It's hard because I haven't been to Cleveland or Dallas since the last time each was in the Finals -- both are obviously right up there. I'd also put Boston, Utah, Golden State and Portland in the upper crust.

John Hollinger
  (4:16 PM)

Folks, that's all the time I have, but thanks again for all the great questions and we'll do this at the same time next week.