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May 14, 12:06 PM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (3:03 PM)

Greetings from chatville everyone ... six teams still standing and four of them going tonight. Let's break it all down.

Kevin (Chandler, AZ)

Did Kevin Pritchard make his first big mistake in not using Raef LaFrentz expiring contract for Richard Jefferson? I can't see any decent deals for Portland this off-season unless we are willing to give up Travis Outlaw

John Hollinger
  (3:05 PM)

Is Richard Jefferson even a better player than Travis Outlaw at this point? Better enough that you'd be willing to pay three times as much and go into the tax once you extend Roy and Aldridge? The Blazers have taken some heat for not making a move at the trade deadline, but the RJ and Carter deals weren't good ones and they were right to turn them down.

Mark Hartford

I think the Magic are done tonight. How about you?

John Hollinger
  (3:05 PM)

No, I think they rally the troops tonight. Orlando could just as easily be up 4-1, so it's hard for me to install Boston as a favorite on the road tonight.

Ron (Cranston, RI)

Does Orlando get Dwight the touches he wants tonight? If so, do they win because of it?

John Hollinger
  (3:07 PM)

It will be an interesting story to watch, but Orlando has played this way all year ... so why would they suddenly change gears in game 94? The real question is whether they'll go back to that ridiculous "prevent offense" if they get a lead -- I've seen them do that four times in seven games against Boston since Nelson went out.

Will (Denver)

It's the big question out West, Nugs vs. Lakers, who you got and in how many games?

John Hollinger
  (3:08 PM)

I still haven't decided. I'm serious. It's that close. I want to see how L.A. looks tonight before I make a decision. But I expect a fantastic series either way.

T. Ho (SLC, UT)

So does Boozer stay or does he go? And at what cost? Is Okur and Milsap more valuable to the team's chemistry in the long run?

John Hollinger
  (3:09 PM)

Boozer goes if he opts out, because Utah can't afford to keep him without going over the tax line. The bigger worry for the Jazz, actually, is what if both Boozer and Okur decide not to opt out -- making it virtually impossible for them to keep Millsap and avoid the tax.

Alex (NYC)

Though they're close in your Playoff Power Rankings, don't the Nuggets match up terribly against the Lakers? A lack of front-court depth vs. three 7 footers?

John Hollinger
  (3:12 PM)

I don't think DJ Mbenga counts, so you've got two 7-footers, not three, and one of them hasn't played well since February. Nuggets do need to worry about fouls, plus Pau+Odom gave them a lot of trouble in the first round last year and J.R. can't cover Kobe, so those all are concerns. But at the same time Denver has big advantages at point guard and small forward and their bench is playing much better than L.A.'s.

Will (Denver)

Who would Cleveland want to see less in the finals? Wouldn't it be ironic if somehow Melo and D Wade got rings before Lebron?

John Hollinger
  (3:13 PM)

Here's the one thing about LeBron vs. Melo -- they'd be matched up a lot more than if we got LeBron vs. Kobe. So that makes it interesting. At the same time, I think Cleveland would be pretty happy to see the Nuggets considering L.A. beat them twice in the regular season.

John (LA)

Could the weak opponents the Cavs and Nuggets have faced thus far be deceiving us on how strong they really are? How would they react when they face tougher opponents?

John Hollinger
  (3:14 PM)

Denver went 14-2 over its final 16 games before a meaningless season-ender in Portland, while Cleveland had the league's best record and best point differential. In other words, it's not like these guys suddenly started playing well on April 19.

Brian (SF, CA)

John, can you put Lebron's playoff PER in perspective? It seems he is almost too far ahead of the pack, is there a specific reason his PER is so high?

John Hollinger
  (3:16 PM)

I can 't put it in perspective, actually. It's completely off the charts. As for a specific reason, other than "he's awesome," I can't offer one -- he's just been exceptional in every category. I expect his numbers to come back to earth a little in the next two rounds, obviously, but these last eight games have been among the best eight-game stretches you'll ever see.

Nima (Menlo Park)

Are people finally convinced that Carmelo is a top 10 player in the league, or does he have to do this all-season?

John Hollinger
  (3:17 PM)

The latter. He's playing like a top-10 player, yes, but he has to do it for than a month before we can put him in the same company as people who do it year after year.

Jimmy (LA)

On TNT, the "analysts" continue to exclaim that the Lakers' fault is arrogance. Is that correct? Why is it that when Lakers don't play well, they're arrogant, but when others don't, it's just a "bad night" or "slump?"

John Hollinger
  (3:19 PM)

I got into this debate about the Pistons the last few years. People would always say they played down to their competition, and ignored the possibility that maybe they just weren't as good as they thought. Whatever the cause, I think everyone can agree that L.A. will have to play better the next two rounds than it did the last two in order to win a title.

John (Bay Area)

With all of the talk in the east being about the Cavs. Is it a foregone conclusion that they will make it out of the Conf. Finals?

John Hollinger
  (3:20 PM)

It is to me. Neither Boston nor Orlando has played nearly as well since losing All-Stars in February. Cavs lose one game, two at most heading into Finals.

Mark (Toronto)

Is Denver Fever out of control? I mean...if the refs had eyes this series would be going back to Dallas and lets be honest Dallas isn't that good.

John Hollinger
  (3:22 PM)

There were two nip-and-tuck games and they split them, and three one-sided games that Denver won. Doesn't sound like luck to me. And the Mavs were playing awfully well before they ran into the Nuggets.

Michael (Philly)

If you are RC and Pop with the Spurs - do you try and make a splash this offseason with teams trying to cut costs or do you save the cap room to 2010?

John Hollinger
  (3:23 PM)

The Spurs are pretty heavily invested in a 2010 strategy right now, but there are some things they can do around the edges to bring a player or two before then. So I'd look more for a ripple than a splash this summer.

Daniel (Ontario, CA)

I know Denver's defense is greatly improved, but they still have a tendancy to try to outscore opponents. If they try that against the Lakers they won't win one game.

John Hollinger
  (3:24 PM)

You mean, as opposed to the Lakers, who have done the exact same thing since Bynum went out? Nuggets and Lakers are birds of a feather in that regard.

Sam (NY)

The three that Denver won easily were all at home - how big an advantage is it for them to play there? Does that mean the Lakers will have to sweep their home games?

John Hollinger
  (3:26 PM)

Denver's home-court edge has been bigger in other years, actually, and the altitude adjustment is less severe in the playoffs when you have more time to acclimate (particularly heading into Game 4). Besides, L.A. won twice in Denver in the first round last year. So it's an advantage for Denver, sure, but I don't see it being massively bigger than any other team's home-court edge in the postseason.

Dave (houston, tx)

apparently in addition to your quantitative expertise, you have also found a way to travel in time. Last I checked it was 3:30 EST on May 14th and the Lakers have not advanced to the Western Conference Finals yet.

John Hollinger
  (3:28 PM)

I had that same thought, but the Denver fans in here pretty clearly think the Rockets are toast.

andy (vegas)

YAY! to Doc Rivers for fouling while up 3 with under 10 seconds to go. finally. finally.

John Hollinger
  (3:29 PM)

Exactly. After calling out all the coaches who didn't do that this year, it was pleasing to finally be able to praise one for employing common sense.

Chad (Oklahoma City)

My Thunder fan friends and I have had several discussions on playing Russell Westbrook as a PG, since we see him as being more of a combo guard playing out of position. We argue the pros and cons of Westbrook at point versus a guy like Rubio or CP3. My question is, do you think a team can win games with an unconventional PG like Westbrook? Unconventional meaning a combo guard who rebounds at a rate that most SF's would be proud of, playing out of his natural position.

John Hollinger
  (3:30 PM)

Teams win with unconventional PGs all the time. The problem is that everybody's standard for a point guard is John Stockon/Jason Kidd/Steve Nash/Chris Paul and they rip on anybody who falls short of that.

Josh (Knoxville, TN)

All-NBA Question: Duncan had more 1st place votes than Nowitzki, but Dirk wound up on the 1st team. I know Dirk scored very well this year, but Duncan had him beat everywhere else (except for FT%, of course). The PER reflects it too (24.51 vs. 23.20). And that's not even touching on the defensive differences. Thoughts?

John Hollinger
  (3:32 PM)

Found that one a little odd too, but I'm guessing a lot of people voted Duncan as a second-team center rather than a first-team forward, which is sensible since he's been playing center for the last half-decade but we have to pretend he's a forward so as not to hurt his feelings.

Raymond (CA)

Denver's supposed "big" advantage at PG means nothing. Didn't Utah have a "big" advantage at PG, and the size to match with the Lakers? Aaron Brooks is proving to be a mismatch at PG as well. The simple fact is that the Lakers have more than enough to outman Denver, and Denver (excluding Billups) is full of perennial losers.

John Hollinger
  (3:34 PM)

I'll ignore the fact that you just compared Aaron Brooks to Chauncey Billups, and instead point out that Denver is a much better team than Utah, and even with Yao I think they're probably better than Houston too.

John (LA)

Pau Gasol on All-NBA 3rd team? Wasn't he the Lakers MVP this year?

John Hollinger
  (3:34 PM)

Putting Pierce second team and Pau third team was indefensible, but people were voting off the 2008 Finals rather than the 2008-09 regular season.

Chris (Ann Arbor MI)

Will AI find a job? Isnt it pretty clear that any team would be better off without him rather than with him?

John Hollinger
  (3:35 PM)

I think Charlotte is a natural landing spot for him. They have a bunch of guys who play defense and they desperately need another scorer, and then there's the Larry Brown connection. All the pieces fit.

Matt (ATL)

John, what do the Hawks do this off-season to get to the next level? re-sign Bibby or go another direction? trade Josh? bring in or trade the rights to Childress and/or David Anderson? Thanks.

John Hollinger
  (3:38 PM)

I'm conflicted on Andersen -- productive player in Europe but total Mr. Softie ... but it would be nice to have a backup 4 who can shoot. I think Bibby will be back if they don't have to go too far on years (I.e., two only or perhaps partial guarantee on third), otherwise they'll play the market. I presume they re-sign Pachulia, so the big questions besides Bibby are Childress and Marvin. My instinct is that Childress stays over there -- his value didn't go up this year, let's put it that way -- and Marvin, since he's restricted, comes back on a palatable deal for midlevel or just above.

JA(New Jersey)

what sense does it make that melo wasnt an allstar but made all-nba third team? and did kobe really deserve first team over chris paul?

John Hollinger
  (3:40 PM)

No and no. 'Melo made third-team All-NBA because nobody actually watched the Nuggets, they just looked at the standings and figured he was having a good year. As good as he's been over the last month, he really struggled with his shot most of the year. Kobe over Chris Paul was totally an I'm-more-famous-than-you vote, much like the MVP vote a year earlier.

andy (vegas)

Joe Johnson--Overrated, playoff choker, or just had a bad month....

John Hollinger
  (3:41 PM)

You left out "exhausted." Dude led the league in minutes and had to take tough defensive assignments every night to cover for Bibby's shortcomings.

Ryan Grand Forks ND

Will Bynum show up big tonight?

John Hollinger
  (3:42 PM)

In the literal sense, yes -- I expect him to be 7-foot and 275 pounds at tipoff. As far as how he plays, that's anyone's guess, but I wouldn't get my hopes too high based on one game.

John (LA)

While I admit last year Kobe was "given" the MVP, what about 05-06 Kobe?!? He deserved it much more than Steve Nash. I mean Nash has 2 MVP's and Shaq only has 1?!?!?

John Hollinger
  (3:43 PM)

That's a legit gripe. I thought four players had reasonable claims on the award that year: Kobe, Wade, LeBron and Dirk. All but Wade have since won it.

Will (Denver)

You told me at the beginning of this that Nugs-Lakers is to close to call right now, based on some of your answers though it looks like your gut is the Nuggets, right?

John Hollinger
  (3:44 PM)

No ... I'm really split right down the middle. Just getting a lot more Denver questions today since Nuggets fans are so excited.

John (MPLS)

Have you heard anything about MN filling its GM position? Is it just me or does it seem like no one wants the job?

John Hollinger
  (3:47 PM)

The only contender we know of to pull out was Dennis Lindsey (San Antonio), but Minnesota actually isn't a bad job in terms of where their roster is. The top contender now appears to Blazers assistant GM Tom Penn, who would be an excellent hire, but things are moving slowly up there.

Greg Libby (Coral Springs, FL)

Are the Celtics going to close the Magic out tonight and are the B's going to come back and win the series after being down 3-1? In other words, is Boston going to be celebrating two, one or no victories tonight?

John Hollinger
  (3:48 PM)

I think Orlando will win tonight. As for the Bruins, I'll save that for Simmons since I haven't watched a real live hockey game since the last winter olympics.

David (TX)

John, I noticed your the only person that picked Houston to win this series, do you think they have a chance without yao?

John Hollinger
  (3:49 PM)

Actually, Sheridan was the one who picked Houston. I had Lakers in six. So you can probably guess what my prediction is for tonight.

Eric (California)

Refer Andy from Vegas to the 4th quarter game 7 of last years playoffs. Joe Johnson scoring at will against Boston, one of the most impressive performances I've ever seen.

John Hollinger
  (3:50 PM)

I think you're referring to Game 4 -- by the fourth quarter of Game 7 the Hawks were down by 90.

David (houston, TX)

What about Simmons as Wolves GM?

John Hollinger
  (3:51 PM)

Only if we can have a camera in his draft war room right before their pick, as his scouts tell him the top three players left on their board are European jump shooters who looked really good in workouts.

Entire Lakers squad

You really think we'll lose to a team we won 3 out 4 this year and swept in last year's playoffs???

John Hollinger
  (3:52 PM)

Not the same opponent, not even remotely. Even the win at the end of this year came with Bynum playing well (asterisk one) and K-Mart out for Denver (asterisk two)

Steve (Chicago, IL)

Hey John, if the Lakers don't win the championship this year, does Kobe's legacy take a huge hit?

John Hollinger
  (3:54 PM)

No. He's already been to the Finals with this team, so even they lose to Denver it doesn't affect his legacy much. The LeBrons will be favored in the Finals, so if anything the opposite is true -- that if L.A. wins and Kobe is the Finals MVP, it will enhance his legacy.

kidquick10 (Charlotte, NC via Philly)

Who is the best coach for the 76ers? Collins? Avery Johnson? Eddie Jordan? We just want someone who has a "backbone"...

John Hollinger
  (3:55 PM)

Eddie Jordan appears to have the inside track. He's an offensive coach, and the Sixers could certainly use some help in that department, plus he and Stefanski are very familiar from their New Jersey days.

Jason, Battle Creek, MI

Seven conference finals in a row, Chapionship, finals MVP. Has Billups had a Hall of Fame career?

John Hollinger
  (3:56 PM)

His case is becoming increasingly strong. If Denver wins the title he's a no-brainer, even if not I think he's better than 50-50 at this point.

Dre(Midland TX)

What do you think are the Rockets chances of pulling the upset off. I dont know if you saw it but they had a lot of great open shots in game 5.

John Hollinger
  (3:57 PM)

Big problem I see is that the Rockets keep throwing the ball all over the gym, leading to easy run-outs for L.A. If Houston can make L.A. a halfcourt team they have a chance, but I still have a hard time seeing them scoring enough points to win.

Kyle (Miami, FL)

Now with the Heat out of the playoffs, do you see any significant roster moves in the off-season to help out Wade?

John Hollinger
  (4:00 PM)

The Heat will be active in the "rumors" game, but I'm dubious that they have much in the way of assets to get a major deal done. About their only tradable asset is Haslem, and really, what's he going to bring back? Maybe a half-decent point guard? That would be an upgrade, but it won't rattle any foundations. Miami essentially made its big move already when it traded for O'Neal.


Hey Fish! Did you get old over night?

John Hollinger
  (4:00 PM)

Looks that way, doesn't it? Perhaps there's some undisclosed injury or something, but he's really struggling.

John (CO)

Worth noting: Billups made 7 straight conference finals under four different coaches and two different teams. Certainly shows his ability to play in different environments.

John Hollinger
  (4:02 PM)

That is unquestionably the strongest line in his HOF resume. And this wasn't one of those Robert Horry deals either-- you an argue that he was the best player on his team in all seven of those seasons.

jim (atlanta)

John, 5 seconds left down by two, who do you want taking the last shot, Lebron, Carmelo, or Kobe. The stats say Carmelo are you willing to agree.

John Hollinger
  (4:04 PM)

Thanks for bringing this up -- I meant to write about it when Melo beat Dallas and never got around to it. His numbers in last-second situations are unbelievable, far better than LeBron's or Kobe's (even though both of them are also very, very good) ... so yes, as unbelievable as it sounds, I think I'd take Melo.

John Hollinger
  (4:04 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. By then maybe I'll even have a prediction for the Western Conference finals...