Good afternoon from New York, where I'll be heading to the Meadowlands tonight for the final time. (Look for a Farewell to the Swamp column in tomorrow morning's Daily Dime and on the ESPNNewYork site). First game I covered there was Nick Van Exel's final college game for Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament. He hit 6 or 7 3s in the first half and then got shut down in the final 20 minutes by North Carolina, which rode George Lynch and Eric Montross to the victory. A couple nights ago, I challenged Chris Quinn to try to score the final points. Three days left in the season, and nobody knows who their playoff opponent will be. Strange, eh? Nets can help out tonight if they win against Charlotte, because it would lock the 'Cats into the No. 7 seed against Orlando.Off we go.
Troubles in LaLa Land : no decent PG, no real bench, thin frontcourt since Bynum's injury, and now Kobe doesnt find the net. Please explain to me how they can get out of the first round if Kobe can't get healthier ?
Why Kobe hasn't shut it down and done surgery in his borken finger when he could ? Not a huge mistake it'll just cost them their repeat chances.
Why you media guys (except Hollinger) haven't already declared LA toasted ? A starting pg launching brick after brick, a star shooting even worse lately, no bench, no depth upfront ('cause of Drew out).
What's more tougher for LA lately ? Not the pg situation, not the injury of Bynum, not the ineffective bench, not even the candy habits of Odom, the major problem : Kobe's inability to shoot the ball well. He's a superstar but right now he's unhealthy and shooting LA out of games ! Can he get his mojo back before it's doomsday for Lakers ?
Check this out. I was scrolling through the submissions, and Laker panic has spread all the way to France. Here's a sample of what was lined up in the question queue. Now hold on a sec while I type my answer.
I agree that Kobe's shootin slump is a major cause for concern, but here's a strange twist: He has been shooting it much better on the road than at home since the All-Star break, and he hasn't had a good game against a good opponent since Feb. 5 when he scored 33 (11-22 FG) against Denver. Since then at home against good teams: 3-for-17 vs. Denver; 5-for-23 vs. Utah; 8-for-24 vs. San Antonio; 8-for-23 yesterday vs. Portland, not to mention what happened at the FT line.
I'm not sure what kind of a take to have on that ttrend, but it is alarming. That being said, it should be pointed out that the Lakers have played 13 o their last 19 on the road, and they haven't had anything to play for -- and thus haven't needed to be their sharpest mentally -- for a while. If I am a Laker fan, I am hoping that Kobe, now a wise old man of 31, will be locked in when he needs to be, which begins next weekend.
Even if the Bulls make the playoffs--can this team attract a marquee free agent with Vinny stearing the ship?
I don't see the two as being all that related, and there's still the open question of whether Del Negro will return. As K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune noted, when they lost in double OT a couple night ago at the Meadowlands, VDN wouldn't go over the 36 minute limit that was put on Joakhim Noah pre-game. The Bulls needed him to defend Brook Lopez, and Vinny didn't have the freedom to use him in a game with major playoff ramifications. To me, that's a coach who's doing everything he can to not cross the line with his bosses.
Chris, please tell me who going to get that final seed in the East and why?
As big as that win was yesterday for the Bulls in Chicago, you have to ask whether it was so deflating to the Raptors that they'll have nothing in the tank tonight in your city, Art. If Raps lose to Pistons, Bulls only need to win one of their final two -- but those two are no gimmes: Boston on Tuesday, then on the road in Charlotte on Wednesday night. Ironic, isn't it, that Michael Jordan will be leading the cheers against them if that's the game the Bulls need to win to get in.
Do you forsee any problems with lebron returning in the playoffs after a week's rest? Or will having an easy opponent (TOR, CHI) make the transition easy?
The cavs will win that one in a sweep, OK? And they won't need Shaq for a single minute to get that sweep.
Chris, do you see any scenario where Wall is not taken first?
Yes, if Utah wins the lottery with the Knicks' pick, or if Minnesota wins the lottery. I think both teams would trade down a spot, maybe even further if someone knocked them over.
Hey Chris. Just heard several analyst label the Cavs as "much better" than the Magic. This year's additions put them over the top. I feel like I'm watching last years comments. I'm not saying the Magic should even win. Just want to know if you think it'll be really competitive (around 50/50), or slightly competitve (Cavs's clear favorites)?
Right now I would pick the Cavs in 7 in that series, but I would not label them heavy favorites. Both teams are so much different than they were a year ago (Jamison, Shaq, Vince, Barnes) that it makes comparisons between last year's series and this year's somewhat irrelevant. What's relevant is whether Shaq will be able to contain Dwight and whether the Magic will still find the individual matchup they can exploit. And Stan Van Gundy is good at that.
From what I can tell, if Atlanta beats milaukee tonight, they lock up the 3rd seed, which would give Boston nothing to play for over the last 2 games of the seasons. Would you agree that with a Hawks win tonight, the bulls will almost definately face boston and charlotte with both teams more interested in resting starters and staying healthy than in winning games to close out the season?
Incorrect. Boston can still get No. 3 seed if they win their final two and Atlanta loses once, because they'd then finish with the same record and Boston has the first tiebreaker - a division title. So the C's will have something to play for Tuesday night in Chicago, plus Doc is trying to get them sharp and in playoff form now that everyone on the roster is as healthy as they've been all season (his words), and I think he'll coach it accordingly and go with his A rotation.
Do you really think Lebron stays in Cleveland if they don't win it all? I really think he is going to bolt either way.
We did a piece on this for the launch of the ESPNNewYork site, which you should take a look at. All of the ESPN.com writers were asked what the percentage was that he stays. My answer is 80 percent he stays if they win; 40 percent he stays if they lose.
As a Cavs fan am I rooting for the Hawks or Celts for possible 2nd rnd match up? On one hand we have owned the Hawks despite there athleticism. The celtics are aging and have health concerns. But they have championship experience. Your thoughts?
As a Cavs fan you should root for a Cleveland-Boston second round series simply for the exceitement it would generate given the mutual dislike between the teams. Plus, you want the Cavs to be pumped mentally at some point before the ECF, and this would do it.
Chris, but if Utah or Minny trades down, Wall still gets taken first, right?
The scouts and front office people I speak to all believe so.
Everyone talks about how the talent around LeBron is better than last year...but no one talks about how the talent in Orlando is significantly better as well. Jameer is much better than Skip, Matt Barnes is better than CLee, and Vince is better than Hedo. Not too mention having Bass and Anderson as the backup 4 instead of Battie and JWill instead of Anthony Johnson. This is a huge upgrade than the team that made the Finals last year.
Blv I just made that point. You make it more eloquently though, Jason,
If the Knicks don't get LBJ whats the backup plan assuming they can't get Wade?
What was it that Socrates drank? Hemlock?
In all seriousness, though, they're going to be biting their nails more than LeBron as they wait for him to make his decision. There's a significant chance someone makes David Lee a take-it-or-leave-it offer that he'll have to make a choice on almost instantly, and that could happen on the second or third day of July if the Knicks are still waiting on LBJ. If Lee bolts, their best sign-and-trade asset will have disappeared, too. Gonna be an interesting July, eh?
Who would you want in the first round if you are Phil Jackson?
Portland, despite what happened yesterday. and I should mention that I was left wondering what kind of motivational message he was sending to Kobe by designing the last play for Gasol to shoot the 3 for the tie. Maybe he was just trying to throw a bone to Pau, who hasn't hit a 3 all year after making at least one every year of his career.
Just checked, and Marc is 0-for-1 on 3s this year. Now watch one of the Gasols go and get one sometime in the next 3 nights.
Bogut=Biggest loss to his team for the postseason?
No question. And it's a shame, too, because the early rounds of the East playoffs have the potential to be super-lame. The Bucks with Bogut would have been an eyecatcher, and now their only chance is to live for die with the 3. (FYI they are ranked 12th in the NBA in 3-point accuracy).
Why portland over OKC? We have no experience.
Because Brandon Roy is hobbled, and OKC is young, inexperienced and crazy-good enough to come into Staples and steal a Game 1 or a game 2.
Chris, at gunpoint, how do you see the 2010 free agency period play out if the Lakers beat the Cavs and win the title? Who stays and who goes?
Drop your weapon, please. Like I've been saying, if Cavs lose it puts LeBron into the equation, and he's the lead domino. If Cavs win and he stays, I think Bosh becomes the lead domino, because I think Wade is staying in Miami. (BTW we also did a staff survey package last week on DWade staying or going, which you can find a link to on the main ESPN NBA page.
How do you see the Spurs doing in the playoffs?
I'm going to let a poster from San Antonio answer because his post came in right below yours, Micky: (Ignore what he says about Hill winning Sixth Man. That award is Jamal Crawford's in a landslide, with Varejao a strong second.)
Dont sleep on the spurs!!! Parker's back and as healthy as he has been all year with the rest he received, G. Hill (6th man of the year) will soon be back and with Manu doing what Manu does any team in the west want to see these spurs in the playoffs including the lake show?
Chris, why wouldn't a matchup with the Hawks "pump up" the Cavs? Are you saying the Hawks are that inferior to the Celts? I'm just curious, given the Hawks beat the Celtics four times this year...
It would pump up the Cavs (and the Celtics) because of the level of mutual contempt. The Hawks wouldn't bring out the same emotion from the Cavs.
OK...so we know what Drew from SA thinks about the Spurs. What do you think? Do you think they can beat LA, Dallas, or Utah in the 1st round? Who is their best match-up?
It's going to be tough for them starting every series on the road, but I never count them out. Their best matchup might actually be Dallas, maybe Denver (though probably not if Kenyon Martin is healthy enough to be effective).
That's a wrap for today folks. Thanks for all the good questions and comments, and sorry I couldn't get to more. Enjoy the final three days of the regular season.