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May 21, 11:04 AM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (3:04 PM)

Greetings everyone. Quick promo before we start: I'll be chatting live from the Pepsi Center at 8 ET on Saturday, just before Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.

John Hollinger
  (3:04 PM)

On to the questions ....

Charlie (Orlando, Fl)

Do you still think the Cavs will win the series and do you agree with Barkley & Webber that the Magic are the better team? Thanks and have a great day :-)

John Hollinger
  (3:05 PM)

The Cavs are the better team, but they match up terribly against Orlando. I still think they're going to prevail, but I'm thinking it will be more like a seven-game nail-biter than a five-game breeze.

Julio - Orlando, FL

Are my tickets for Game 6 at Orlando good?? Looks like it.

John Hollinger
  (3:05 PM)

I'd say that's safe, yes.

Dan Albany NY

Is there any alternative to the Clippers for Griffin? Can he pull an Eli Manning?

John Hollinger
  (3:06 PM)

Very tough to do that in the NBA, because of the timeline with a rookie contract -- the clock doesn't start ticking until you show up and play, and the big bucks don't roll in until the second contract. Rubio is in a much stronger position to pull off a power play than Griffin, because he can still withdraw from the draft entirely.

David (St Paul, MN)

Where are all the SVG haters now? It seems he can coach after all maybe?

John Hollinger
  (3:08 PM)

That was the most bizarre story of the second round to me, that somehow the blown lead in Game 5 became all Stan's fault and a sign that he couldn't coach, even after that team massively overachieved for the 92 games leading up to it.

Brian (San Jose, CA)

Considering the Cavs are now 1-5 combined against Orlando and LA with an average margin of victory for their opponents of 10.5, do you think they have what it takes to win it all even if they do squeak by Orlando?

John Hollinger
  (3:09 PM)

Interesting dilemma -- as you point out, the Cavs didn't play well against L.A. either, and had their only "real" home loss of the regular season against the Bynum-less Lakers. I'm guessing they'd much, much rather face Denver. For Orlando, incidentally, it's not as big a deal -- though Orlando won the season series 2-0 against the Lakers both games were close, so I don't think we learned much there. They split against Denver, with one fairly lopsided win by each side.

Rob (Portland, OR)

Aside from the cramps, Lebron also looked T-I-R-E-D at the end of the game last night. Do the Cavs need to rest him more during the game?

John Hollinger
  (3:12 PM)

That amazed me. That is the first time I've EVER seen him looked tired. Last year against Boston he was playing 46 minutes every game and still seemed fresh as a daisy by the end. Maybe the long layoff robbed him of his wind, or maybe they asked him to do so much in the first three quarters that even his superhuman stamina couldn't withstand it. I think part of the solution is playing him off the ball a bit more.

Tim (Laurel, MD)

Did it look to you like the officiating may have reflected a certain agenda. One airing in commercials.

John Hollinger
  (3:14 PM)

This is something everybody and their uncle will be watching like a hawk as the games roll on, but there didn't appear to be any overt agendas in the two Game 1s. I saw one horrendous call go Cleveland's way in the second quarter (Gortat getting stripped of the ball and the refs awarding it to Cleveland), otherwise nothing mysterious. Denver got the benefit of Chauncey's out-of-bounds 3, and the plays where Kobe got to the line looked reasonably legit (as near as one can tell from TV).

David Stern

John, just so you know, it's Cleveland versus the Lakers in the Finals. NO question about it.

Albert - LA

Is this every other day schedule eventually going to catch up with the lakers? Has it caught up already?

John Hollinger
  (3:16 PM)

Can't ignore the possibility, especially since the Lakers have some guys with nagging injuries -- Odom's back, Kobe's fingers, Bynum's knee. We'll really see during Games 3 and 4, when they're playing in the altitude while trying to overcome the fatigue. That's where not closing out Houston quickly may really come back to bite them.

John (Houston)

John, you are killing me. The only reason the Cavs lost that game is because the entire team other than LBJ went ice cold. How often does this happen? This is rare and this is not the reason they won 66 games. The magic should be counting their blessings. You can offer me a job after the cavs win the rest of the games.

John Hollinger
  (3:17 PM)

Except that this is exactly what happened every time they played Orlando in the regular season. Against the rest of the league it doesn't happen for some reason, but against the Magic we're now four-for-four on LeBron getting his and the other guys being bystanders.

Luke (Ferndale, MI)

you've suggested a couple times the Cavs go small, which makes sense to me intuitively, but then I noticed Z had a huge +/- in game 1. Is the answer to rotate Z and Varejao at C and keep Ben Wallace far, far away from the court?

John Hollinger
  (3:19 PM)

Wallace either has to show he can guard Howard one-on-one, or stay off the court. If he needs double-team help AND the Magic don't need to guard him, there's no point having him out there. I do believe the optimal rotation against this team has LeBron moving up to the 4 for large chunks of the game and Wallace and Joe Smith sitting most of it out.

Jason Tan (Chootiya, Texas)

How about Lebron James guarding Dwight Howard?! Eventhough Dwight is bigger (not by much mind you), it would be the TOP TWO athletes in the league 1 on 1. Would be awesome!

John Hollinger
  (3:21 PM)

I wrote about that before the series started, and still wonder if they should try it ... but now I'm thinking they need LeBron to guard Rashard Lewis.

Dave (Maine)

It seemed the Cavs offense went stagnant in the second half when Lebron, as transcendent as he was, morphed into Bad Kobe and started pounding the ball on the perimeter. His teammates are taking the blame, but shouldn't Lebron share some of it for stalling the offense? (Yes, I'm aware he shot 20-for-30).

John Hollinger
  (3:22 PM)

I suppose you could make that critique, but the Cavs scored more than enough points to win. The problem yesterday was almost entirely at the defensive end. If Orlando shoots 55.1% every game it's going to be awful tough for the Cavs, no matter how much flow the offense has.

Chris los angeles california

Hey Hollinger who do you think will win magic-cavs and if magic beat cavs who do you think will win nba title magic, lakers or denver( if denver beats LA).

John Hollinger
  (3:23 PM)

I still think Cavs will eke it out, but both these series look like legitimate toss-ups to me. Any of the four combinations is possible, even the league's doomsday scenario of Orlando playing Denver.

Fred (C-Town)

LBJ could also save some energy by not acting like my 12 year old son and guerilla-attacking the camera after every big play he makes.

John Hollinger
  (3:24 PM)

Several people in here have pointed out that LeBron used a lot energy strutting and flexing in the first quarter, and some of that glucose might have been better used in the fourth.

Rob (L.A., CA)

If the Lakers win tonight, wouldn't that almost end the series? Denver can't beat the Lakers 4 out of 5 can they?

John Hollinger
  (3:27 PM)

We've seen it happen in latter rounds a couple times just in recent years -- Miami-Dallas in '06, San Antonio-New Orleans in '08, Cleveland-Detroit in '05 -- so I'm not ready to go with the "must-win" mantra just yet. It's not like Denver can't play with these guys. Incidentally, I'd be singing the same song if L.A. had won -- I'm not a big believer in "must-win" Game 2s unless you're the road team and are down 1-0 to a team that's clearly better ... then you're probably hosed. Of course, in that situation, you're probably hosed anyway.

vince (denver)

yeah, I think Denver will go unbeatable in the Pepsi Center, so all they need is one win in LA, it is highly possible! Nuggets - Magic the NBA finals matchup, let's make it happen!!

John Hollinger
  (3:28 PM)

That's the other side of the coin -- Can the Lakers win in Denver? Nuggets have been ridiculous there over the past two months.

Mark (Orlando)

Shouldn't it be alarming that Orlando can play such an awful half, allow LeBron to score 49, and still win?

John Hollinger
  (3:29 PM)

Basically, yes. LeBron isn't going to shoot that well every game, and Mo Williams isn't going to get all net from 70 feet again. Cavs have to defend much, much better to win this series.

Terry (Portland)

For Lebron to stop having cramps he needs more Vitamin Water, the one that has more potassium in it.

Todd (Detroit)

I think it's almost comical how quick some media have condemned not the Cavs, but primarily Lebron for that loss. If Mo or West makes that shot, we are talking about how Lebron had one of the great performances in playoff history...

John Hollinger
  (3:30 PM)

I agree that it's crazy to blame LeBron. Cavs just couldn't get any stops, just like in their regular season meetings vs. this team.

Mojahed ( Los angeles, CA )

Your stat system pointed to orlando having a great chance of winning the series and yet you still pickd cleveland in 5.are you a victim of the cleveland hype also ?

John Hollinger
  (3:32 PM)

No, my stats said Cleveland was by far the better team. Where I messed up, as I wrote today, was not looking more closely at what happened when they played head-to-head. The last time I saw such a disparity between a team's performance against the rest of the league and its performance against the playoff opponent was when Dallas played Golden State ... we know how that worked out.

Austin (Denver)

Is Carmelo finally going to be in the "best players in the league" discussion now with his playoff run?

John Hollinger
  (3:33 PM)

On the fringes. But if he really wants in, he needs to do it for 82 games like the other guys have.

Jesse (San Antonio)

Should other teams be pumped the Clips landed Griffin? He lands on a team where he'll never hurt serious contenders and it makes Marcus Camby even more available.

John Hollinger
  (3:34 PM)

Pretty much. I think everyone in the East is overjoyed that Washington didn't get him, and most of the West is very happy that Oklahoma didn't get him.

Frustrated Cavs Fan

I only disagree with you when your opinion is different than mine.

Tomas (Toronto)

Is it safe to say that there's a strong possibility that we what we are witnessing now is the Laker's ability to rise up against the top notch teams and the Cav's inability?

John Hollinger
  (3:36 PM)

No. We saw one team win a close game and another team lose one, and every shred of evidence tells us that results in games that close are largely random. Don't read anything more into it than that.


Lebron is overrated. Truly not the best player to play the game. Until he has rings... I dont think he can win a title with this cleveland team, you see it in their eyes... choke city

John Hollinger
  (3:36 PM)

If that's the standard, then who would you nominate as the best player? Of the current fab five, the only one to win a championship as the best player on his team was Wade, and he's already home.

John (Anaheim)

You mentioned that Lebron won't shoot 67% from the field every game, but couldn't the same be said for Carmelo Anthony going 14-20 (4-5 from 3pt range)? Seems like the Nuggest wasted Melo's best game just like the Cavs wasted Lebron's.

John Hollinger
  (3:38 PM)

You can make an argument that way; personally I thought Carmelo's shots were more the type Denver wants him taking, and LeBron's were more the type Orlando wants him taking.


Do you think that the Cavs will bounce back in game 2, also do you think that its crucial for the Cavs to win game 2?

John Hollinger
  (3:40 PM)

Like I said before, I'm not a big believer in must-win Game 2s, but Cavs would be in quite a hole should they fall again tomorrow. I believe they'll scrape one out and even the series, but they may need to shake up their rotation quite a bit.

Anderson Varejao (Cleveland, OH)

Table for 3? Do you need more room, Rashard?

Zach (Mpls, MN)

John, care to refresh your thoughts on the Wolves hiring Kahn? I, for one, am highly dissapointed.

John Hollinger
  (3:41 PM)

Typical bumbling Wolves move -- couldn't convince anyone else to take the job and finally settled on a guy they had originally discarded because they were running out of time before the draft. Oh, and McHale will probably have the owner's ear on personnel even though he's theoretically been ousted. Have fun, Minnesota.

Mike (Clifton Park)

Is Odom quick enough to cover Mello at least at times. He's pushing the smaller guys around - Ariza and Kobe.

John Hollinger
  (3:43 PM)

Odom is a vastly underrated defender and this might be something Phil has to consider, depending on how the back is feeling. Of course that would force Ariza or Walton to guard Kenyon Martin, which is less than ideal.

Paul (Ann Arbor, MI)

You don't think that Game 2 is a must-win for Cleveland? You can't lose both games at home and go to Orlando down 0-2, can you? Not against a team as good as the Magic.

John Hollinger
  (3:44 PM)

TEams can and do come back from it. So must-win is extreme. That said, statistically the odds of a series win shift mightily -- from about 50% to about 15-20% -- if they drop it.

Deron Williams (Salt Lake City)

I am better than CP3.

John Hollinger
  (3:44 PM)

Thanks. I hadn't had enough deranged Kobe fans telling me he's better than LeBron, so it was good to get back to another completely irrational debate.

Steve (Columbus, OH)

I love how so many in the media, including yourself, are now bailing on the Cavs after 1 loss. The national media only sees the last game and makes a judgment. Cavs still have the best player since Jordan, tough to bail now don't ya think?

John Hollinger
  (3:46 PM)

"Bailing" is a bit strong -- I still said I think they'll win the series didn't I? Just pointed out that there some obvious signs in Orlando's favor that I failed to heed when the series started, and all of them reared their heads in Game 1.

Kobe (L.A., CA)

What do you think of the new Kobe-Lebron "Unstoppable" Nike Commercial?

John Hollinger
  (3:47 PM)

What would that make Dwight Howard and Melo if the Magic and Nuggets win? Will they do a "Correction--Stoppable" commercial during the Finals?

J (Milwaukee)

Either way, pre-game 1, Cleveland was -800 in Vegas. Now stastically they are at best a toss-up. Amazing how much one three pointer can change things??

John Hollinger
  (3:48 PM)

Vegas sets lines based on public perception, not genuine odds. The whole point is to match up the money bet on either side. Whether it's reflective of the teams' true power is immaterial.

Alex, LA

May this be like Mike's first title run where the Bulls had their "stutter-sweep" against the Lakers, losing the first before grabbing the series easily?

John Hollinger
  (3:49 PM)

I suppose it's possible, but that first Chicago-L.A. game in '91 felt so flukey. This one felt a lot different, like the Magic are going to give them fits all series.

mitch (NJ)

Lebron should cover Lewis, what do you think about that match up?

John Hollinger
  (3:51 PM)

Absolutely agree, I think the Cavs should go small, play Wally/Sasha/Gibson instead of one of their bigs and put LeBron at the 4; none of their bigs can handle Lewis but LeBron can shut him down.

Mike ( Bethesda, MD)

Are the Cavs better off doubling Dwight and being exposed to the 3 or letting Dwight do whatever he wants down low?

John Hollinger
  (3:52 PM)

That's the problem -- they've tried both and neither has worked very well. I think the best answer may be to double him and play with smaller guys so the rotations are faster.

Adam (Cleveland, OH)

As a native Clevelander, Game 1 was exactly what I was afraid of. If LeBron is on Lewis, Varejao is on Howard (or Z? Do we really want to give up 40 points?) then who is on Turkoglu? We let any of those three get going, we're dead, right?

John Hollinger
  (3:54 PM)

West would stay on Turkoglu; that was his assignment last night and it wasn't his fault that Lewis kept getting free on pick-and-pops. Varejao and Z would split the minutes on Howard, which would also allow them to foul fairly indiscriminately.

Jake (St. Charles, Mo)

Why was LA's front line considered to be such an advantage going into this series? It seems like Gasol is going to have a very difficult time going off with Denver's front line. Kobe can't win this series for LA, right?

John Hollinger
  (3:56 PM)

Very interested to see how this plays out -- I agree that it's more even than people think, but Gasol is clearly better than anyone in Denver's frontcourt and last year in the first-round sweep he and Odom just killed them. Obviously, it was a bit different Nuggets' team then ... but I do think Pau will have some big games in this series.

scott (fresno)

John, when you're done bashing Laker fans, mention that Laker fans are begging to play Cleveland rather than Orlando if LA gets to the finals. Yes, the match-up is that much better for LA.

John Hollinger
  (3:57 PM)

Interesting thought, because they'd have home court for the Magic but wouldn't for the Cavs. But I can see your point -- if Bynum is going to be this useless, then L.A. has no answer for Howard.

Dave (TO)

Any chance that the cash-strapped Griz decide against Rubio and his hefty buyout?

John Hollinger
  (3:59 PM)

Let's turn that upside-down. The proper question to ask is "any chance Rubio decides joining the cash-strapped Griz isn't worth paying his hefty buyout?" Rubio can either bluff and tell the Grizzlies he's not coming (which would land him in Oklahoma City instead -- you're gonna love this country, Ricky), or pull out of the draft entirely.


Seriously John. You are a complete Lakers hater and Kobe hater. Its not hard to put up stats when every play goes through you. Kobe doesn't have to do as much as Lebron does. Magic, Joh Berry, and Wilbon said if they were both 24 they would ALL take Kobe. Please stop the hating.

The rest of us

Um, how about you just go on bashing laker fans. I was sort of enjoying that.

John Hollinger
  (4:01 PM)

Lakers have by far the biggest fan base and their passion is appreciated. But LeBron vs. Kobe gets them unhinged -- we've talked in here before about how every fan base has its one hot-button issue that makes it completely irrational and crazy (DWill vs. CP3 for Utah fans, LeBron leaving for Cavs fans, league suspensions for Suns fans, etc.), and for Laker fans the Kobe-LeBron debate is the one.

Crawford (Denver)

John, I agree that Phil got the better of Karl late in the game, but give George credit -- he gambled by starting KMart on Bynum, allowing Nene to take Gasol out of the game. And JR's poor play was an equally big factor in giving Carter so many minutes.

John Hollinger
  (4:03 PM)

I didn't have a problem with Carter's extended burn earlier in the game because, as you point out, Bad J.R. showed up. But there was no chance of the Nuggets having to play defense on that last play -- it was strictly an offensive possession, and for some reason Carter was out there and not Kleiza.

Rashard Lewis (Orlando, FL)

Still don't think I'm worth that max contract? Well you were wrong.

John Hollinger
  (4:03 PM)

I was thinking today that Otis Smith has to be feeling pretty good about that deal these days. They grossly overpaid, but sometimes you have to.


Do you think the Cavs can mentally recover from this loss

John Hollinger
  (4:04 PM)

Of course. People put way too much stock in the "how can they possibly recover from this?" angle.

Andy (DC)

Is the Suns fans suspension anger really "irrational?"

John Hollinger
  (4:05 PM)

Perhaps that was a poor example. My point was more that any time the league makes a ruling now, Suns fans lose their minds because they're convinced Stu is out to get them.

Jake (St. Charles, Mo)

Can you ever remember the championship being so up in the air with only four teams left? It seems like any of them could win it.

John Hollinger
  (4:07 PM)

I completely agree. We've had lots of scenarios where one series or the other looked like a toss-up, but both at the same time? Scanning my memory for that and not coming up with much.

Suns Fan

I still get a gross quesy feeling whenever I think about game 4 of the suns spurs series. I went from feeling like we were winning a championship to wanting to die.

Charles (San Jose)

There's no suspension anger. It's the letter of the law for Stern and his cronies, unless it's inconvenient (see refs breaking gambling rules en masse).

Sacramento, CA

Don't even think about mentioning Game 6, Laker Boy.

Rob (DC)

Wouldn't the lakers try Odom, Bynum, and Gasol on the floor at the same time... clog the middle, put a taller guy on Chauncy and kill them on the boards? I know it's not a 40 minute strategy, but i'd like to see them try.

John Hollinger
  (4:09 PM)

It's possible we'll see that if they decide to let Odom check Anthony. The worry for L.A. is team speed -- Denver might run them off the floor with that unit out there.

Tae (Los Angeles, CA)

in the 2004 finals ben wallace guarded shaq one on one and held his own. the cavs should sit big Z and let wallace guard howard single coverage the entire game

John Hollinger
  (4:09 PM)

That was half a decade ago. I'm not sure Ben still has it in him.

The State of Minnesota

Go Twins.

james (london)

2006, surely wasent easy to predict?

John Hollinger
  (4:10 PM)

Not in the East, obviously, but even after losing Game 1 I think most people would have been very surprised if Dallas hadn't advanced in the West.

Tom Tom (Wisconsin)

LA trades Blake Griffin, Al Thorton, and Mike Taylor to the Memphis Grizzlies for Ricky Rubio, and Rudy Gay?

John Hollinger
  (4:11 PM)

If the Clippers trade Griffin they're an even laughier laughingstock than we thought. I had to make up a word just to describe it.

Pete (Cincinnati)

Another for the irrational fan base discussions: Passing on Kevin Durant for Greg Oden. I understand drafting on potential, but every Portland fan I know gets livid defending that pick...

John Hollinger
  (4:12 PM)

Good point. I spend a lot of time in Portland and ... um ... yes.

Dan (Cleveland)

Would chasing around Lewis wear Lebron out even more and make him less successful on the offensive end?

John Hollinger
  (4:13 PM)

I think it would tire him much less than having him guard Alston and trying to roam all over the court on double-teams.

Jake (St. Charles, Mo)

Why is Karl so hesitant to play Kleiza? He seems like a guy that could guard Kobe for stretches, and is clearly a better offensive threat than Carter.

John Hollinger
  (4:14 PM)

Kleiza can't guard Coby Karl, much less Kobe Bryant. That's why he hasn't been playing much. But an offensive possession with Nene fouled out, he should have been on the floor.

Rob (Portland, OR)

Could we be in for two all-time great series at the same time with these conference finals?

John Hollinger
  (4:15 PM)

Let's hope so. And on that happy note, I must report that we've fun out of time. Thanks again for all the great questions, and remember I'll be back here at 8 ET Saturday for a half-hour pre-game chat from Denver.