Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

April 22, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (12:04 PM)

Greetings from Portland everyone, where I'm settling in for four days as Suns-Blazers shifts to the Rose City. And what a shift ... it's about 30 degrees colder and a 100% cloudier than it was in Phoenix.

jordan (miami)

do you think the heat can bounce back? we want a lebron-dwade in the next round.

John Hollinger
  (12:05 PM)

I think Miami may be able to extend the series, but win it? Can't see that, not after watching their offense implode in consecutive games like that. I wrote about the Heat a fair amount in today's Per Diem, but suffice it to say I'm shocked at how little the supporting cast is supporting.

Sean (Utah)

When does your stuff come out on this years' NBA draft?

John Hollinger
  (12:05 PM)

working on it. Stay tuned.

Lars (Germany)

Trap game for the Cavs in Chicago tonight?

John Hollinger
  (12:06 PM)

Could be. Bulls didn't play badly last game, LeBron just made a bunch of crazy shots.

Tim (Chicago)

What can Portland do to counter the moves that Phoenix made in Game 2? Will they just have to count on better jump shooting?

John Hollinger
  (12:07 PM)

Lots of things. For one, they have to defend better. They were really good in transition D the other four games vs. Phoenix, but were horrid in Game 2. For another, Rudy has to make Steve Nash play some defense. And yes, making shots always helps, but it's a matter of who takes them too. If Miller and Camby are shooting the jumpers, the Suns will live with that.

Andy (SLC)

Changing your mind (again) on the outcome of the Jazz/Nuggets series? Why or why not?

John Hollinger
  (12:08 PM)

Haven't wavered on that pick actually -- I Tweeted that I was changing my conference finals pick from Suns-Jazz to Suns-Lakers, but I still had Utah winning in six. Going to be harder now that Okur is out for the series, but I still think it's within the realm of possibility.

Jahmai (The Netherlands)

I think the Thunder should replace Jeff Green in their line-up for serge Ibaka in THIS series. He's doing alot for them defensively and Green is not doing well on D and O. What do you think?

John Hollinger
  (12:10 PM)

This is the classic playoff dilemma in a nutshell -- you don't want to do something rash, yet you know if things don't change fast your season is over. The thing about Green is that he spaces the floor and OKC doesn't have much of that, plus L.A. already crowds the strong side as much as any team in the league. If you're also playing Ibaka you better have Harden and Krstic out there to offset him, or Kevin Durant will be suffocated.

Mark Jackson (Madison)

How do you think the bucks/hawks game would have gone had Bogut been healthy? Do you think they have a chance to take a game at home and avoid the sweep?

John Hollinger
  (12:11 PM)

I think Bucks-Hawks would have been perhaps the best first round series if Bogut had been healthy; in fact I think I might be doing this chat from Milwaukee this morning if he hadn't been hurt.

Jared (Portland)

Beau Thai for dinner tomorrow night? I know it's early (and I know Miami kind of stinks), but the Celtics look to be peaking right now. Time to put them back into consideration with the top tier contenders?

John Hollinger
  (12:13 PM)

Way ahead of you -- went to Beau Thai yesterday straight from the airport. My go-to spot in the Rose City. As for the Celtics, I think they have to be encouraged, but we won't know until next round how much of this is Boston and how much is Miami.

Trey B (Dallas)

Why do you like Suns over the Mavs in Round two? Dallas is way deeper and still hasn't used Roddy B or Big Haywood enough.

John Hollinger
  (12:14 PM)

Because I don't think the Mavs are playing in Round 2. I had Suns beating the Spurs in seven. As far as Dallas's depth goes, that's another interesting topic in today's Per Diem -- tough to brag about your bench when Najera is the first guy you insert.

Shane (Los Angeles, CA)

JH: Have you heard anything about the Suns' Lopez? How bad is his back?

John Hollinger
  (12:15 PM)

Won't see him this series. Kind of gets into reading tea leaves beyond that point, but based on the word choices by the Phoenix people I'm not real optimistic.

Greg (MN)

Do the Thunder take 2 from the Lakers at home? I think Westbrook starts playing better and uses the fast break to the advantage of the younger team, and they take down LA, what you think?

John Hollinger
  (12:16 PM)

I think there's a real danger that it goes back to L.A. tied 2-2, yes, which is why I picked Lakers in seven in the first place. OKC crowd is going to blow the roof off the place tonight, plus Thunder's backs are to the wall, so this will be a very tough one for the Lakers to get.

Dave (Battle Mountain)

I watched Dejuan Blair tear up a Mavs team seriously trying to win the final game of the season. Why do you think he's hardly played in the first two games of the Playoffs? His offense isn't that much lower than Bonner or McDyess and his overall presence typically affects the game so much more than either of them.

John Hollinger
  (12:18 PM)

Blair is listed as a 6-7 power forward, but effectively his position is center. If you'll notice, they never play him and Duncan at the same time because it screws up the spacing -- so he's basically Duncan's backup at center, which limits him to about 10 minutes a night. The fact he couldn't make two-foot shots last night didn't help him either.

Bill (Orlando)

Some angst in Orlando despite two double digit wins and never trailing. Are the Magic not as good as hoped or is a case of a great opposing coach mucking up the game to make any team look ugly even while winning?

John Hollinger
  (12:19 PM)

Orlando's offensive numbers for the series are pretty strong, even though they're playing the no. 2 defense and Vince couldn't make a shot in Game 1. So I don't think they have a lot to worry about. Still gnashing my teeth about Orlando or Cleveland in conference finals; I think the winner goes on to win the championship.

Dan (AZ)

Do you favor starting Channing Frye in Collins' place?

John Hollinger
  (12:20 PM)

In this series, it makes a lot of sense. For most other opponents, they're probably better off starting Collins. So I can understand the reluctance to shake things up just for this series. However, I do expect the hook to come earlier and earlier as the series progresses. Portland just isn't the type of opponent where Collins' interior D has great value.

Johnny (Charlotte)

Do you see the Suns sweeping the next three games?

John Hollinger
  (12:22 PM)

I would have thought it more possible if Batum's injury had been serious. Turns out he may play tonight and will almost certainly play Saturday. Going to be very tough to take two with Portland's crowd; they'll probaby get one just by intimidating the crap out of the refs.

Dustin (Orlando)

Refs were absolutely ridiculous in the Bobcats-Magic game last night. It is like they are out to get Dwight Howard and put him on the bench. He played only 28 minutes. You will never see Wade, LeBron or Kobe in foul trouble in the playoffs!

John Hollinger
  (12:24 PM)

Hate to break it to you, but you never see those three in foul trouble in the regular season either. Howard, on the other hand, is in that situation constantly. Yes, some of the fouls were iffy, but big picture, he picks up a lot of offensive fouls and is Orlando's primary help defender. What do you expect is going to happen?

Trey (Plano)

I think Caron Butler would be most effective as a 6th man with Terry or Beaubois starting. That way the offense could run through him which is how things were done in his most effective seasons. Am I off base here?

John Hollinger
  (12:26 PM)

This is what I've argued for a while. Butler's primary asset is that he can create lots of middling-percentage shots, which is all but worthless when he's taking those shots away from Dirk but extremely valuable when he's taking them away from lesser players.

James (Austin)

Do you think George Hill's health/RJ's role essentially dictates how far these Spurs go? Who wins between Spurs-Phoenix and why?

John Hollinger
  (12:27 PM)

I'd hold off on Spurs-Phoenix talk for a few more days. As far as the Spurs go, Hill will be fine, it's the health of Duncan/Ginobili/Parker that you have to worry about. With Jefferson, expect about what you've seen -- one dog game, one good one, in roughly alternating cycles.

Dirk Nowitzki (I-35 South)

I was so on fire in game one against the Spurs I'm surprised the Net didn't burst into flames. In game two however, I had enough bricks to build a house. Some people are calling it a law of averages, to be honest it seemed to me that McDyss and the fundamental played with more intensity that night. What's your take on my poor shooting in game 2?

John Hollinger
  (12:28 PM)

LOA. Thought Dirk had a lot of the same looks he had in Game 1 and just missed them. Were there instances where San Antonio defended him better? Absolutely. But I'd say 75% of it was Dirk cooling off.

Erik (Boston)

Any more news on Batum's status? If he's unable to go, what adjustments will be made to the lineup/strategy for Portland tonight?

John Hollinger
  (12:30 PM)

Says he wants to play. Will probably be a game-time decision. If Batum can't go, Blazers will start Martell Webster and use Bayless more heavily off the bench; Cunningham or Howard would likely see more time too, since it would eliminate the Webster-Batum forward pairing the Blazers have used with the second unit.

Ross (Orlando)

Does our series come back to Orlando? Im thinking it doesnt.

John Hollinger
  (12:31 PM)

Check out Charlotte's home-road splits before making that claim. Bobcats had widest spread in the league (31 home wins, 13 road wins) and will be playing first-ever playoff game. I'm thinking they get one in the Queen City.

Rita (San Antonio)

Seems to me every time Tim Duncan is on the bench, Spurs' leads evaporate. Why does Pop allow the Spurs to be outsized so often and give up so many second-chance points?

John Hollinger
  (12:32 PM)

He doesn't "allow" them to be outsized, he has a bunch of short guys in the rotation, and since Dallas can line up two 7-footers opposite it's more glaring than against most opponents.

Hayden (Logan, Utah)

Do the Jazz take a 3-1 lead going back to Denver?

John Hollinger
  (12:34 PM)

Possibly ... but not a proposition I'd bet on either. I think the Nuggets will try much harder on defense than they did in Game 2, when they basically acted like they'd been handed the series by default because of Okur's injury and thus were absolved from having to contest shots, fight through screens or follow cutters. Whether that adds up to victory depends on whether Jazz can keep hitting all those Js and whether Utah's crowd scares the zebras.

Isaiah (Detroit)

Is it me or is it forbidden to even lay a fingernail on Gasol or its a foul? I used to think Kobe always got star calls but he's not even #1 on his team in that aspect anymore.

John Hollinger
  (12:36 PM)

I will once again maintain that no player gets more star calls than Golden State's Cory Maggette, and I have no idea why. As far as Gasol, the thing you really miss on TV is just how loooooong he is. That's why defenders are forced to foul, they're basically climbing a tree trying to get to his hook shot.

Ron Artest (LA)

How do you think I'm doing on Defense?

John Hollinger
  (12:37 PM)

Impressed me in Game 1. Didn't see enough of Game 2 because I was working Suns-Blazers, which is once again banished to NBATV tonight because of the Laker game.

Mike (Dallas)

Are you going to follow the NFL draft while watching playoff basketball tonight?

John Hollinger
  (12:38 PM)

Only up to the part where the Redskins trade their top pick for a 32-year-old has-been with a bad contract.

Tim (Portland)

John - what should I order tonight from beau thai?

John Hollinger
  (12:38 PM)

Salad rolls for appetizer, Panang Curry for the entree.

Kyle (Denver)

Did you noticed CJ Miles' foot on the line the play Melo fouled out?

John Hollinger
  (12:39 PM)

Wrote at length about this today. Most under-reported moment of the playoffs. We should be making a much bigger stink about this.

Aaron (Utah)

Do crowds really get into the heads of refs and make them make different calls? Can you give any examples of talking to an NBA ref that backs this up?

John Hollinger
  (12:40 PM)

Remember that game against the Thunder where C.J. Miles hit Durant on the wrist and the refs swallowed their whistles? You think they make the same no-call in OKC? I don't.

Yusuf (Cleveland)

Just saw SVG's comments about the ridiculous playoff scheduling. What's your take on it?

John Hollinger
  (12:41 PM)

News flash: The games are scheduled for TV friendlines first, fan friendliness second, and player/coach friendliness last. I'm sure it's frustrating, but you can't have 16 teams in the first round and go much faster than we are right now.

alex (manhattan beach)

how cool was it to see Grant Hill picking Miller up full court? how many 37 year old's with 5 ankle surgeries have done that - ever?

John Hollinger
  (12:42 PM)

Hill did a great job, and I'm still a little puzzled why Phoenix didn't open Game 1 with him checking Miller. McMillan didn't make a big deal about this post-game, but he did mention at one point that Miller needs to make a stronger effort to get the ball.

Kyle (Redskins Fan)

Hey, no more cheap shots.

John Hollinger
  (12:43 PM)

Hey, I hope they make the right moves. It's my team too and I'm rooting for them. At least until they sign Terrell Owens.

Andrew (Portland)

How amazing would it be to see Portland take a series without Roy? I think that the story of the 2009-2010 Blazers is more intriguing than the story of the 1977-1978 Blazers... Too bad Halberstrom passed away before he could write "Breaks of the Game II"...

John Hollinger
  (12:45 PM)

It would be incredible ... why is why I don't see it happening. If they could get it to a Game 7, however, and then Roy came back ... well, then it gets interesting.

The Dragon (in Portland for Game 3)

I improved by more than Aaron Brooks.

John Hollinger
  (12:47 PM)

If you're talking about Goran Dragic, you're correct, but the award usually goes to a more prominent player (i.e. not a 15-20 minute sub), and voters are also reluctant to plug second-year players because they're expected to take a big step up. Brooks wasn't my first choice, but he's not a terrible one either; in other years we've had some embarrassing votes for this award, so I'll let this year's lie.

Gary (Denver)

Why doesn't Dirk take more threes? It's baffling.

John Hollinger
  (12:48 PM)

He's taken a lot more late in the season, especially in late-game situations. Dirk is rarely in catch-and-shoot situations these days, but I agree he could spot up behind the line a bit more often, especially in transition.

Joe (NY)

Do you honeslty think the Spurs if the big three are at full strength can win it all. As a 7 seed??

John Hollinger
  (12:51 PM)

I doubt it. Winning four straight without home-court is just too hard. But I think they can make the Finals if they find a way to slip past Phoenix. First things first, though -- they're 1-1 in the first round against a team that won the season series against them.

Jeff Y (Also in (Plano))

Where did you write about CJ's foot being on the line? I can't find the article

John Hollinger
  (12:52 PM)

In today's PER Diem, which isn't up yet but will be soon.

Sagar (India)

Are your power rankings flawed? You had the lakers as 5th in the west, yet if they win the west how will you explain the logical relevance of your rankings system?

John Hollinger
  (12:54 PM)

Why don't I get questions like "if Charlotte wins the East how will you explain ...?" L.A. didn't play like the best team in the West over the second half of the season, which is why I gave Phoenix, San Antonio and pre-injury Utah better odds of making the Finals. Based on the first two playoff games I don't see any reason to waver from that position.

Mitch (ATL)

Should Bonner launch it every time the Mavs leave him open behind the 3-point line?

John Hollinger
  (12:55 PM)

Yes, without hesitation. I know he's been cold, but as a 40.5% career shooter from 3 the odds are strongly in his favor.

Ian (Corvallis)

Who is you COY pick. Seems crazy Brooks won it this year when McMillan did the same thing last year and didn't win. These awards have no consistency. Seems to me like Brooks is being rewarded for PJ's underachieving team last year.

John Hollinger
  (12:58 PM)

Well, Brooks won 50 with a team that was 3-27 to start last season. Not the same franchise, I mean the **Same team** -- none of the key players changed! That's amazing. That said, I think the entire award needs a rethink. Let me put it to you this way -- if you took a survey of who the top coaches in the league are, it wouldn't look anything like the COY voting. That, to me, is a problem.

Demetri (Columbus)

What's the best statistical method to use in disproving or proving officiating biases against certain teams? Just about every fan base complains about biased officiating and based on logic, that cannot be true.

John Hollinger
  (12:59 PM)

As someone who has maintained a completely unfair bias against all 30 teams (just read my email and you'll see), I actually find it pretty easy to pull off. The officials and I are constantly exchanging ideas on which teams to start hating and why.

Patrick (Cleveland)

You can have 16 teams and go faster in the first round. It's called the NHL.

John Hollinger
  (1:00 PM)

Um, not sure that's a model we want to imitate.

Dave (SLC)

If Melo goes off again in Game 3 like he did in Game 1, what other moves can the Jazz make to contain him?

John Hollinger
  (1:01 PM)

1) play a zone, 2) double him immediately on the catch. Either of those options exposes Utah to the threat of Denver's shooters though -- Billups, Smith and Afflalo all can burn them.

Speechless (charlotte)

Take away 2 terrible 1st quarters, the 'Cats hung in there with the Magic. Can they pull 1 or more off at home to make this a series?

John Hollinger
  (1:03 PM)

Problem: The first quarters count, and Charlotte's starters can't score against Orlando's starters. I think Bobcats will do better in their own building, but I say it's 3-1 Magic when it goes back to O-town.

Bryan (Springdale)

Why do you live in Atlanta but fly to Portland so much?

John Hollinger
  (1:03 PM)

I lived in Portland for six years before I moved to Atlanta, so I'm back in my old 'hood.

Mark Cuban (Dallas)

Can anyone scowl and shake his head like me?

John Hollinger
  (1:06 PM)

This is a great point. If they gave an award for this he'd definitely be up there every year. By the way, did everyone catch the unplanned TV cameo Stein had standing next to Cuban's exercise machine earlier this week as TNT was going to commerical? Made my week.

Johnny (Charlotte)

What potential series matchup are looking forward to most in the West and East?

John Hollinger
  (1:07 PM)

Suns-Spurs in West, Cavs-Magic in East. I'm thinking those two will determine our finalists.

Josh (Knoxville, TN)

Great call on Kidd's move on Jefferson. It was completely bogus, but really clever given the letter-of-the-law application of the rule. Maybe more players should consider it.

John Hollinger
  (1:08 PM)

Thanks, and that takes us to our grand finale -- today's Per Diem is up at

John Hollinger
  (1:09 PM)

That's all the time I have for today, but I'll be chiming in from Game 3 in Portland tonight, Game 4 on Saturday, and a quick drive-by from Game 4 of Utah-Denver on Sunday. Thanks for all the great questions and we'll do this again next week; be sure to check the chat schedule as the time may shift depending on travel plans.