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March 15, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (2:07 PM)

What's up everyone? For posterity's sake, I've got Texas, Purdue, Ohio St. and Pitt in the Final 4, with Ohio St beating Pitt in the Final. We can all have a good laugh about those picks in three weeks. Now let's talk some NBA....

Avery (Memphis)

Where do you think the Grizzlies will end up in the playoff race and do they win their first round matchup?

John Hollinger
  (2:08 PM)

Looks like No. 8 given that Rudy Gay won't be back for a while longer and Gasol reinjured his ankle last night ... presuming they can hold off Houston, that is. From that spot, Griz match up well against San Antonio, but realistically they'll be very hard pressed to actually beat the Spurs.

Ryan (LA)

What could possibly be your argument against Rose as MVP OTHER than PER?

John Hollinger
  (2:10 PM)

You mean, besides the fact we're giving it to the key offensive player on the league's 15th-best offense, when the story of the team's surprise season has been their top-rated defense, and he's been the worst defender on the team in terms of plus-minus ... for the second time in three years? Must just be my irrational hater bias at work again.

Andy (MA)

What are your thoughts on the Nets making the playoffs now? After 5 straight wins including one over the Celtics, do they have a chance of catching the floundering pacers and the bobcats, who have a tough schedule.

John Hollinger
  (2:12 PM)

Looks like it will take 35 wins, which would require the Nets to go 13-4 the rest of the way, which realistically is going to be extremely difficult, especialy since some hard games are coming up -- Chicago twice, Orlando, Miami. They also lose tie-breaks to Indy and Milwaukee. That's why Playoff Odds still say just 0.2%.

Nick (Wisconsin)

How crucial is it for Chicago to get the 1 seed out East?

John Hollinger
  (2:14 PM)

As far as actually winning the East goes -- which, we should remind, would be a spectacular achievement compared to what expectations were before this season began -- yes, I do think they probably need the top seed to do that. Miami and Boston in succession is not a gamut I'd be interested in running.

Shane (Nova Scotia)

Isn't the only reason Rose is the leading MVP candidate right now because the Bulls are suddenly relevant and it makes for the best story?

John Hollinger
  (2:15 PM)

Pretty much, but it's also a case of connecting dots that sound good but aren't necessarily true -- i.e., the Bulls are having a great year (true), the Bulls only have one great player (true), therefore the Bulls would be garbage without that player (false), and thus that player has the most value (also false).

Billy [via mobile]

So the Mavs are fakes again huh?

John Hollinger
  (2:18 PM)

I wouldn't say that, no. Their scoring margin isn't as strong as their win total, once again, but they've also played very well of late and that's a good indicator heading into the playoffs. Last year was highly unusual because there was such a glaring disconnect between the win streak and what the actual results of all the narrow escapes against bad teams really said about them ... not the case this year.

marcus (florida)

Do you still have lebron as MVP? I think the last two weeks killed his chances. Go Miami!

John Hollinger
  (2:19 PM)

Leaning toward Dwight Howard now. Obviously his numbers are strong, but I'm also just amazed that they can be a top five defense with what surrounds him.

Danny (IL)

Ok, since the story for the Bulls success has been their defense, why not give Coach Thibodeau COY?

John Hollinger
  (2:19 PM)

Yes. I think he's an absolute no-brainer for COY.

GarPaxDort (Berto Center)

Should Gar Forman be the executive of the year over Riley, as well as Thibs COY?

John Hollinger
  (2:21 PM)

Interesting, certainly every move he's made has worked out ... the one fly in the ointment for Riley's case is that the Anthony and Miller deals are killing them. I think you could also look at Sam Presti or Donnie Nelson.

Nick (Chi)

Why are so many of your fellow writers picking Rose for the MVP? Are they all forgetting to read your opinion?

John Hollinger
  (2:22 PM)

You'd be amazed how little pull I have. It's like they want to make up their own minds or something.

Ryan (Chicago)

Any idea why Thibs didn't get a head job until he was 53? Is he a terrible interview or something?

John Hollinger
  (2:23 PM)

Actually, I had heard exactly that. Probably got the gig several years later than otherwise as a result.

Dan (CA)

If the Kings move to Anaheim, do you have any predictions for what their name may become?

John Hollinger
  (2:24 PM)

Haven't, although I suspect "Kings" won't stick around because of the local hockey team with the same name. Makes me wonder if they wouldn't bring back "Royals", which the franchise ditched in Kansas City because, ironically, there was a baseball team with that name. So they'll be the Anaheim Royals of Anaheim.

Elias (IL)

How much do the wins over LA and SA put to rest the "Miami can't beat the good teams" argument?

John Hollinger
  (2:25 PM)

It was always an over-simplifying-from-small-samples-and-close-games type of deal, these past two games just prove it. What I'm more interested in is the fourth Miami-Boston game, and in particular if the Heat can score on that defense. That's the thing that would have me worried for the playoffs.

Gus (Pensacola)

Why is no one making a big deal of the Celtics suddenly losing multiple games to bad teams after their trade?

John Hollinger
  (2:26 PM)

There's some concern here, definitely, but Boston is so banged up right now that it's hard to figure out what their real team is going to look like in the postseason.

Colin (MPLS)

What are Thunders chances to make it out of the west?

John Hollinger
  (2:28 PM)

Slim, I say. No. 4 seed in the West isn't a great place to be -- Denver is going gangbusters, Spurs await in round 2, and then you have to face L.A. or Dallas -- the last two without home court. I think OKC is a year away from making a deep run.

Bob (Texas)

Would Butler coming back in the playoffs actually hurt the team, kind of like Nelson did for Orlando?

John Hollinger
  (2:29 PM)

That's a fair question, but the thing about Butler is that they'd mostly be asking him to spot up and shoot, so it doesn't have the widespread impact on the offense that inserting Nelson did two years ago.

Kevin (Chicago)

So we shouldn't assume Rose is making the bulls great, but we should assume that Dwight Howard is making Orlando's defense great. Tell me again, what's the difference?

John Hollinger
  (2:30 PM)

The difference is that nearly all the arguments being made for Rose can be made better for Howard.

Michael (Charlotte)

Can we get your all-nba first team?

John Hollinger
  (2:30 PM)

Easy call for me -- Kobe, Wade, LeBron, Dirk, Howard. Clearly the five best players in the league this season.

Eric (Bogota, Colombia)

Doesn't the loss of Perkins by Boston lessen your concern with Miami's ability to score against the Celtics D?

John Hollinger
  (2:31 PM)

Actually, it's replacing Daniels with Green that has me wondering more. Perkins didn't even play in the first two games; it's Boston's system and the mutliple wing defenders they could use that seemed to do the trick. But Daniels played a big role in those early wins, he covered both LeBron and Wade well.

Mason (New Orleans, LA)

It only took me about 2 minutes to get the Hornets an NBA championship over the Bulls by plowing through the Mavs, Lakers, and Spurs to get there. Gotta be a good sign, right??

John Hollinger
  (2:33 PM)

I'm not sure why because I haven't gone under the hood, but Accuscore's predictor really likes the Hornets as an upset team. I had them making a deep run several times when I was playing with it this morning.

Scott (San Antonio)

Can the Mavs beat L.A in a 7 game series without homecourt?

John Hollinger
  (2:34 PM)

I think it's unlikely, but I wouldn't say it's impossible. I think the key for Dallas is they really have to use their quick guards to punish L.A.'s lack of team speed.

Joseph (Charlotte)

Why isn't Love on your 1st team over Dirk if Love is 5th in PER?

John Hollinger
  (2:34 PM)

Love isn't nearly as good defensively as some of the other guys on the PER leaderboard.

Josh (Knoxville, TN)

Should Popovich be playing Splitter more? The defense against bigs hasn't been very good lately and he's at least tall enough to get rebounds that Blair and McDyess can't grab. I mean, it can't hurt to try, right?

John Hollinger
  (2:35 PM)

I was surprised Splitter didn't get any run last night, because Bosh was just working them over and I thought they could use another true 5 ... and I also figured they'd want him in a series against L.A. The problem with playing Bonner and Blair together is that neither has the length to stop good post players.

vahe (la)

Obviously Rose looks like the MVP based on the fact that they weren't expected to be this good, and also Noah and Boozer missed many games. And other then Boozer, no one else is elite offensively besides Rose. It seems that Rose carried this team.

John Hollinger
  (2:37 PM)

"Seems" being the operative logic this year ... look, Rose is a great player, and he's offset my earlier criticism about not getting to the line by drawing a lot more fouls. But the Bulls are winning because of their awesomely good defense, and he's played a minor role in that story.

Cory (Brooklyn)

What's your take on Mike D'antoni's rotation and who do you think they should sign in the offseason that would help them both offensively and defensively?

John Hollinger
  (2:40 PM)

This is an open invitation for me to point out that Jared Jeffries has scored five points in 165 minutes as a Knick. Five. That works out to just over one point per 40 minutes, a rate so low that even Michael Ruffin would struggle to maintain it for long. It's not as easy to brush off now that they've been blasted the last two games, is it?

Irational Kobe/Lakers Fan (Syracuse)

I don't understand Bulls' fans insistence on Rose as MVP

John Hollinger
  (2:41 PM)

It is getting a little weird, but every fan base has their hot button issue. Speaking of which, I miss the repartee with Utah fans about Deron Williams vs. Chris Paul. We used to be good for about five of those in every chat.

JeremyB666 (Traverse City, MI)

Is there any hope for the Pistons in the near future?

John Hollinger
  (2:42 PM)

Only in the most big-picture, pie-in-the-sky kind of way. Even winning the lottery this year probably wouldn't help much.

Dan (Philly)

I know you're not a big DRose fan, but to say that he has not been one of the top 5 players in the league this year is shocking. No one thought the Bulls were going to be this good even if healthy. At what point do you factor in leading your team to victories?

John Hollinger
  (2:45 PM)

OK, Bulls fans, if you want to take this line of reasoning ... I mean, is the rest of your team crap, or is it not? Because to me Rose's argument sort of hinges on whether you think the rest of the team is any good. I happen to think the Bulls' bench, in particular, is shockingly good, and the plus-minus numbers seem to back that up. Thoughts from the crowd?

Martin (Los Angeles)

As a Bulls fan, its been so long since we have had a player in the MVP discussion.. Excuse us if we are a little over hyped.

John Hollinger
  (2:46 PM)

13 years may seem like a long time, but a lot of places have waited longer.

Will (DC)

John, you know how much time we'd have to talk about other NBA happenings if you would just annoint Rose as your pick for MVP and the Bulls as the odds-on favorite to win it all?

Nick (Fort Lauderdale)

Hollinger, more irrational fan base....Chicago or LA?

John Hollinger
  (2:48 PM)

What's funny is that both get more worked up over criticizing the PLAYER than criticizing the TEAM. I'll still go with L.A. -- Kobe fans are funny because they absolutely lose it if you say anything remotely positive about LeBron James -- but I feeli like they've also lost some of their edginess this year.

Bob (Texas)

Didn't Dirk's team prove they couldn't win without him? I'll break out my tiny violin for you Bulls/Rose fans when Dirk get's some love sent his way for MVP consideration.

John Hollinger
  (2:50 PM)

Dirk has a strong case. My biggest mark against him is that he did, in fact, miss all those games, and that could end up really costing Dallas in terms of playoff seeding. He's still only 16th in EWA because he didn't play nine games and only played bits of two others.

Danny (IL)

I am a big Bulls fans, but I also try to remove bias as much as possible (which is very hard). I completely agree that the story has been the defense, and we have Thibodeau to thank for that....however, the name of the game is making the ball into the basket, and Rose has defenitely carried this team many times in the season when no one could score.Oh and I gotta put a little fan-boy in here so here goes: The Bulls are WINLESS (0-1) with Rose out.

John Hollinger
  (2:53 PM)

Hah, that's a good one. I guess we'll let that one point loss in Denver swing the vote ... I agree he's been vital offensively, but he also hasn't been dominant if you look at percentages and TO rates -- more like an extreme high volume guy who can create shots when his teammates can't. There's value in that, but Westbrook and Melo do the exact same thing and nobody is measuring them for a statue.

goyo, Keizer, Oregon [via mobile]

You had the Blazers as an 85% of making the playoffs as a 7 seed. Who would the Blazers wanna face to have a chance to make it out of the first round? Oklahoma? Dallas?

John Hollinger
  (2:55 PM)

I'd think you'd want a shot at Dallas in the No. 6 position, that gives a much better shot of advancing than L.A. Although the Blazer crowd will froth at the mouth against the Lakers and L.A. always has problems playing up there, the problem is they have to win at least once on the road; have a feeling they're much better suited to doing that in Dallas.

Jake (LA)

Irrational Kobe fan, Chicago fans are just happy to have something to root for can't blame them for that.

John Hollinger
  (2:56 PM)

I'd say the same thing about New York fans, actually. It's great to have those markets matter again ...

Nick (OB)

I want DRose to get snubbed. It would be great for him in the long run and may take him to a different level. Dont you think?

John Hollinger
  (2:57 PM)

I'd be really amazed if award voting affected a player's preparation and work ethic in any meaningful way. But I suppose it couldn't hurt.

Emad (Toronto)

How big a role will Shaq play in this year's playoffs?

John Hollinger
  (2:58 PM)

Potentially an enormous one - in fact that's what Boston was counting on when it traded Perk. Boston played extremely well early in the year when Shaq was healthy, and he's the guy who can check Dwight Howard if they face him in the playoffs.

Matt (Texas)

Enough about Rose already!!!!

John Hollinger
  (2:58 PM)

Point taken... we'll discuss a few other things the rest of the way.

Justin (Boulder, CO)

Given that come playoff time benches are shortened significantly and one of Denver's greatest strength seems to be their depth, how realistic is a first round win over OKC?

John Hollinger
  (2:59 PM)

You are correct, I think that will hurt them against the Thunder. If I'm Denver, I'm also not really excited about having Lawson guard Westbrook. Nuggets best shot at doing some damage would be to spring past OKC for the division title, which is no longer a ridiculous statement -- they're three back and still play each other twice.

Eli (Orlando)

True or False. DPOY is Dwight's until the voters get bored of giving it to him.

John Hollinger
  (3:01 PM)

I think so, but we also have some young defenders who could challenge him in coming seasons, particularly the two centers in Chicago. Everyone talks about Noah, but I think Asik might be even better. He won't win DPOY playing ten minutes a game in Chicago, obviously, but if he's traded he could. Also, Memphis's Tony Allen would be a very strong candidate if Hollins had been playing him from Game 1.

Mark (Knoxville, TN)

Rockets chances of sneaking into the 8th spot out WEST??

John Hollinger
  (3:02 PM)

Unlikely, but not entirely outlandish now that Memphis is dealing with some injury issues. They're three back but have an easy schedule and own the tie-breaker.

Tyler (SA, TX)

Does NYK have a puncher's chance of beating MIA were the two to meet in the first round?

John Hollinger
  (3:03 PM)

I think "puncher's chance" is a great way to describe the Knicks in any match-up. I think their ceiling is winning one series, but I'd be a lot happier facing the Hawks or Sixers if I was in the East.

John (SLC)

Devin Harris is way better than Chris Paul!!!

Chad (UT)

Devin Harris vs. Rose? I'll take Harris.

John Hollinger
  (3:03 PM)

Utah fans to the rescue.

Nash Fan (Orlando, FL)

Stick a fork in PHX?

John Hollinger
  (3:04 PM)

Another one?

Brendan (Los Angeles)

What would be your dream matchup for The Finals

John Hollinger
  (3:06 PM)

I think the match-up everybody wants to see is L.A. vs Miami, even if it will produce outlandish levels of hype. Now that a Portland-Atlanta Finals doesn't appear in the cards, I think that's the most tantalizing pairing left on the board. But I think L.A. against any of the top four in the East has really good story angles, as does Dallas-Miami and Oklahoma City-Boston. San Antonio-Orlando is probably the worst, even if the basketball would be pretty good.

Sammy (Los Angeles)

Conventional wisdom is that differences in the loss column are more important than looking at games back (when looking at the playoff race)... True or False?

John Hollinger
  (3:07 PM)

True at the top, where teams win three-quarters of their games and so trailing by one loss is a bit like trailing by three wins. Not so much when you're talking about the eighth seed in the playoffs and teams that are essentially .500

John Hollinger
  (3:08 PM)

Folks, that's all the time I have but thanks again for all the great questions. We're skipping the chat next week while I recharge my batteries for the playoffs, but I'll be back two weeks from now for the stretch run.