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April 14, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (2:06 PM)

What's up everyone? Playoffs are just around the corner and forecasting this thing seems more difficult than ever this year. Let's talk about it...

DC (Chicago)

Do you think that Thibs needlessly overworked his starters to get the overall #1 seed since it was only in play if the Spurs made the Finals?

John Hollinger
  (2:06 PM)

a fair question given the way the other coaches approached the final game. The more generalized worry I have with Chicago is how hard they pushed during the regular season, and whether they can raise their game any higher in the postseason. Deng's minutes in particular are troublesome.

Marc (Vancouver, WA)

Who is the difference maker in the Dallas/Portland series?

John Hollinger
  (2:08 PM)

I think it comes down to Marcus Camby. He hasn't been healthy most of the second half of the season and hasn't looked good when he's played, but Portland doesn't have the depth to withstand a bad series from him.

CC (Atlanta)

Will the Hawks finally blow this "nucleus" up after getting embarassed again in the postseason? Can't watch another minute of Josh Smith. Or Marvin Williams but he seems untradeable.

John Hollinger
  (2:09 PM)

I think the Hawks will do OK against Orlando since it's the one team they match up well against, although the ankle injury with Jason Collins is a worry because they need him against Dwight Howard. I do believe Josh Smith will be traded if they lose in the first round again, even if that seems kind of senselessly knee-jerk.

BSB (Philly)

Why is no one talking about the breakout season by Thad Young? Shouldn't he be the MIP? Did he also just played himself out of Philly.

John Hollinger
  (2:10 PM)

The Sixers will keep Young; they'd trade Iguodala before they let Young walk, if they're smart. He should be a factor in MIP, but what amazes me more is how ignored he's been in Sixth Man voting. I've seen a lot of ballots list Glen Davis and not Young, and I just don't get that.

Adam (Phoenix)

Are the Thunder your dark horse candidate to get to, or even win, the title?

John Hollinger
  (2:11 PM)

I have them as a wild card, yes, because they might lose in the first round and they might just as easily make a deep run. Winning the title doesn't seem realistic to me though -- you're talking about winning three series without home court at that point, which has only been done twice in the past 27 years.

Matt (PA)

How many less wins do you think the Bulls would have in a harder division? 4 ? 5?

John Hollinger
  (2:12 PM)

Wouldn't matter much. People try to make a big deal about divisions or conferences, but 58 of the 82 games are exactly the same no matter what. That leaves only 24 games for a difference, and they're going to be distributed pretty well among good teams and bad ones regardless of division/conference. You end up with a small handful of games with marginally harder/easier opponents.

Nick (OB)

How many wins do the Bulls have this season if Del Negro is the coach, everything else the same?

John Hollinger
  (2:13 PM)

Great question, I think the number is clearly lower but they might still have won 55 given the development of Rose and all the offseason pickups.

Ryan (DC)

Do you think the League, will add more tie breakers so a future finals match is not decided by a coin flip.

John Hollinger
  (2:14 PM)

The League tends to react after problems become obvious, not before -- witness the playoff seeding thing that they didn't fix until the ridiculous Dallas-San Antonio second round and Clippers tankapalooza in 2006. So they'll keep it like this until we get a Finals seventh game decided by coin flip and enough people are outraged that they decide to fix it.

James (Denver)

What's it going to take for Denver to get out of the first round with OKC? I'm trying to be positive, but I'm none too confident in our chances.

John Hollinger
  (2:15 PM)

That Lawson injury worries me, I thought Denver was at their best when they went Lawson-Felton and they can play that way for stretches against the Okies. Denver played great post-trade but in general this series isn't a great match-up for them and they've had a lot of injuries the past two weeks.

Paul (Houston)

If JJ Redick somehow comes back healthy, does he make a difference against Chicago provided each team wins in Rd. 1?

John Hollinger
  (2:16 PM)

I think Redick could make an impact, yes, but abdomenal injuries are notoriously slow-healing and prone to re-injury. Chicago-Orlando is going to be a sneaky good series I think.

Nick (Wiscon)

Who do you have winning it all John?

John Hollinger
  (2:17 PM)

tomorrow's Per Diem. Or you can listen to Simmons' mega-podcast, when that posts.

Adam (Austin)

Which match-ups would you look forward to seeing the most in the later rounds of the playoffs?

John Hollinger
  (2:17 PM)

Miami-Chicago, without any question. I don't want to hint at too much more, but suffice it say I expect a fantastic Eastern Conference finals.

Scott (Northglenn, CO)

OKC-Nugs will be the most entertaining series...who will be harder to guard for the Nugs, Durant or Westbrook?

John Hollinger
  (2:18 PM)

I think Wilson Chandler can do a decent job on Durant, it's the Westbrook match-up that has to worry Denver. Felton may need to play heavy minutes because Lawson just can't hang with him physically. Of course, Denver's best hope may be to "encourage" Westbrook to pursue his scoring at the expense of passing to Durant.

the strange ranger (the chi)

how has chicago done it? i don't see them as being particularly deep, they get no production from SG and have had to rely way too much on 658 yr old kurt thomas. i know rose has been incredible and same with thibs but still!!

John Hollinger
  (2:19 PM)

You may not see them as particularly deep, but the numbers say they're killing when their bench comes in. It's not just offense, remember -- the Gibson-Asik combo is as good defensively as any frontcourt in the league.

George (Texas)

Did Popvich just cost the Spurs a chance to do anything in the playoffs by playing his starters in a meaningless game and having Ginobili get hurt?

John Hollinger
  (2:21 PM)

There's a fine line between keeping players sharp and keeping them healthy. The thing coaches worry more about at this time of year is a) fatigue, and b) worsening existing nagging injuries. Stuff like we saw with Bynum, Ginobili and Lawson the past two days .. that's harder to control unless you just don't play the guys at all, in games or in practice, and I don't think that's the optimal way to prepare a team.

Brett (Altoona, Pa.)

What did you think about the Kobe fine?

John Hollinger
  (2:22 PM)

Two interesting notes: 1) How did he not get a second technical for that? That would have taken him to the league limit and carried an automatic suspension for the Kings game, which would have changed the playoff seeding in the West. 2) What would they have done if it was a 10-day contract guy, or just somebody on a rookie contract? The guy would have ended up owing money.

Anthony (Oregon)

Really John? Lakers haven't beat any of the quick guards en route to their two rings that give them fits? Nash? Obviously isn't quick but deserves to be mentioned in any point guard discussion. Russell Westbrook last year? D-Will on more than one occasion? Aaron Brooks? Rajon Rondo? If by quick point guards you mean Derrick Rose, then no they haven't beat any. Response?

John Hollinger
  (2:24 PM)

This is in reference to my Per Diem column today. I'm talking 5-11 waterbugs, the quickest of the quick; those guys give the Lakers fits and by and large they've avoided them in the playoffs. Lawson was a match-up that really made them sweat, so having him in the other bracket is a break for L.A.

Cavs Fan (Cleveland)

Do you think LeBron will quit in this years playoffs the way he did in the Boston series last year?

John Hollinger
  (2:24 PM)

The magnifying glass could not be more focused on him. Anything short of a title will be viewed as a failure.

Ron (RI)

Kobe's a superstar... Stern never would have let him get suspended and negatively affect the Lakers' playoff seeding.

John Hollinger
  (2:25 PM)

Not sure it would have affected the Lakers any. You really think they would lose to Portland or Dallas in a seven-game series, home court or not?

Adnan (Chicago)

Player 4 -11 on your final PER Rankings are all within a point. Has it ever been that close in the top 10?

John Hollinger
  (2:26 PM)

A little unusual to have such a traffic jam so far up the list, but not completely unprecedented either. It does make it very difficult to fill out an All-NBA ballot, however, because there are about ten players who are basically equivalent in terms of value this season.

Shane (Denver)

Will we see the return of the Truehoops Smackdown?

John Hollinger
  (2:27 PM)

It's coming. Just sent in my picks.

Rick (Dallas)

Do the Mavs have any hope? Am I right in thinking they drew the worst possible first round matchup with Portland?

John Hollinger
  (2:28 PM)

No, the worst matchup for Dallas was Memphis or Denver. I can't for the life of me understand why Memphis tanked the game in Portland, and I have to wonder if Heisley phoned it in because he didn't want the possible match-up against the Lakers. Dallas-Portland is pretty close to a toss-up for me.

TomD (Philly)

What would be a successful post-season for my beloved Sixers? If they win 2 games against the Heat? I think that would help get the Wells Fargo Center rocking once more.

John Hollinger
  (2:29 PM)

Win Game 3 at home. Anything more than that is gravy.

David (St. Louis)

Is it fair to say that Chris Bosh was the worst FA signing this season? Comparing PER to salary, that is.

John Hollinger
  (2:29 PM)

He wasn't even the worst signing on his own team. But yes, he's underperformed expectations and will need to step it up in the playoffs.

Junior J. (Los Angeles, CA)

Hey John, just wanted to thank you for all your hard work throughout a great season. Please continue to keep up the good work in the playoffs. From a Lakers fan who doesn't hate you.

John Hollinger
  (2:30 PM)

I swear I didn't plant this message, nor did I have a family member write it.

Brandon (Pacers Fan)

Can the Pacers win at least one game?

John Hollinger
  (2:30 PM)

One is about the ceiling in my estimation. Huge disparity in quality from top to bottom on these roster, and Granger talking smack probably wasn't helpful.

Mike (NY)

Given your criticism of Rose for MVP how would you compare him to billups in the championship season? better? worse?

John Hollinger
  (2:31 PM)

Better. Billups was very unique as far as "best players on a champion" go ... Detroit had no superstars but such a depth of talent that it won anyway.

John Hollinger
  (2:32 PM)

[EDIT -- somebody asked about the Kings move getting less attention than the Sonics. Apparently the question didn't post.] A) Pretty much everyone is talking about it, but B) there isn't the same level of outrage because the Kings owners were actually trying to stay in Sac and couldn't make it work out. While you can argue about the choices they made to achieve that end, they weren't lying and scheming to leave the way the Sonics owners were. That's why there was such outrage over the Seattle thing.

Adam (Utah)

Do the Jazz move Millsap in the offseason in order to get a top guard?

John Hollinger
  (2:33 PM)

I really like their frontcourt rotation right now and wouldn't mess with it. Unloading AK's contract should let them spend a bit more freely, which combined with hoped-for development from Hayward and Miles is probably their best route toward a return to relevance.

Adnan (Chicago)

Here's why the Hawks can beat the Magic: 1) Magic aren't as good as last year 2) Hinrich can guard any Magic guard that gets hot 3) Collins can make it tough on Howard... Agree?

John Hollinger
  (2:34 PM)

Agree on all three, and I would add 4) nobody on Orlando can guard Josh Smith, and 5) the Hawks were so embarrassed by last year that they might actually play hard in this series, something they've done about ten times since Christmas.

philip (hong kong)

Do you agree with the people who say Chris Bosh's numbers are down, but only because he sacrificed?

John Hollinger
  (2:35 PM)

Does that include sacrificing rebounds to the opponent? I expected his offensive numbers to decline, but the board work is a head-scratcher.

Jeff (NYC)

Odds of a Knicks over Celtics upset?

John Hollinger
  (2:36 PM)

Can't rule it out, but can't say I'm really expecting it either. The Celtics in 5 pick is because so many series last five games in the 2-2-1-1-1 format; I think it will be competitive. But Boston has very good numbers this year when the Big 4 are on the court together, and they'll be together a lot more in the playoffs.

Jim (Normal, Il)

if your a bulls fan do you not want to see the Celtics in the conference finals because by then they would have there swagger back and that could be trouble right?

John Hollinger
  (2:36 PM)

Actually you're doing cartwheels because they knocked out the Heat. I'll take that over swagger.

Suheal (Tracy, California)

John do you think that the Orlando Magic can upset the Chicago Bulls in the second round?

John Hollinger
  (2:38 PM)

That's a sneaky-good series to me, I'll talk more about it tomorrow but the Magic match up pretty well against Chicago ... if they can get past the Hawks. It pretty much sums up the Magic's bizarreness that a match-up against the Hawks worries them nearly as much as one with the Bulls.

Ashby (Austin)

Judging by point diff, why is Dallas/Portland a toss-up for Mr Numbers himself?

John Hollinger
  (2:39 PM)

More on that tomorrow, but you're correct that Dallas has a major edge in full-season point differential. But a lot of those games aren't relevant to this series. If the Mavs could play this series with Caron Butler and Rodrigue Beaubois and remove Gerald Wallace from Portland's roster, then I might feel differently.

Nate (NC)

Kobe made out like a bandit. Had he been suspended one game, he would have lost $334,000. Wonder why he's appealing?

John Hollinger
  (2:40 PM)

Best post of the day. Fantastic point.

BalutPDX (Portland)

If Portland/Dallas is a toss up why did you pick PDX in 6 rather than 7?

John Hollinger
  (2:41 PM)

Because when the non-home-court team wins it's almost always in six games. A seventh game would swing the odds in Dallas's favor. So you'll never see me pick the road team in 7 before a series, because the odds of it actually happening are pretty slim.

Suheal (Tracy, California)

Hey John, do you think the Nuggets have a legitimate shot to reach the Western Conference Finals?

John Hollinger
  (2:42 PM)

Nothing the Nuggets do will surprise me. They played extremely well after the trade but I still don't totally trust it, plus they're banged up right now and the playoff format doesn't favor teams that play ten guys 25 minutes apiece.

david (boston)

when rondo goes so do the celtics. they are 25-3 when rondo has a double double

John Hollinger
  (2:43 PM)

I have a chicken-egg beef with that stat, however, because he only gets an assist when the shots are going in.

Mitch (Alberta)

John, aside from New Orleans do you see Dallas as the weakest team out west? It seems no matter who they are facing they are being picked as an easy out.

John Hollinger
  (2:44 PM)

The Mavs are the least respected 55 win team since the 1994 Hawks, and perhaps that's unfair. However, if you look at how teams are playing heading into the playoffs ... the other six teams in the top seven have all looked a bit better.

Walter (Dallas)

Chicken-Egg Beef! Nice one!

John Hollinger
  (2:45 PM)

I didn't even realized I'd done it til just after I hit "post." This will be my most spectacular food reference of the postseason.

Jason (Orlando)

So you dont think Brandon Bass or Earl Clark could give Josh Smith any problems?

John Hollinger
  (2:45 PM)

If Earl Clark gets extended run it's a victory for the Hawks. Bass's main strength against Smith is that Dwight Howard is behind him.

Richard (Memphis)

Does Memphis have a chance to beat the spurs if ginobli is hurt?

John Hollinger
  (2:47 PM)

Absolutely. Very interested to see what news comes out of there today as it could dramatically swing my pick. The Grizzlies beat the Spurs twice and barely lost a third ... this is a decent match-up for them.

matt (NYC)

what matchup is worse for the lakers, Dallas or PDX?

John Hollinger
  (2:47 PM)

It doesn't matter, they're winning in five either way.

Elias (IL)

Should be the best playoffs in years, right?

John Hollinger
  (2:48 PM)

We'll see... remember, the best thing about the playoffs is usually when the stuff that was totally unexpected happens. So it's hard to say we "expect" the playoffs to be great.

Stevie (St Lo)

Do you htink the Knicks can get DRose and Noah for landy fields and a #1, rose is going to leave in free agency anyway

John Hollinger
  (2:48 PM)

Knicks fans are the best.

Matt (State College)

There you go, assuming Josh Smith will play hard again. I make that mistake every time I turn on a Hawks game.

John Hollinger
  (2:49 PM)

"play hard" hasn't been that big a problem. "Play smart"? Uh, that's been a bit more of an issue.

Randy (Portland)

Could be the last playoffs in years, right?

John Hollinger
  (2:50 PM)

well said.

Scott (Northglenn, CO)

Are you a Gallo fan? Could he make Durant work on the defensive end?

John Hollinger
  (2:51 PM)

I doubt it but Chandler, Affalo and Kenyon Martin (whom Karl has often used as a stopper against wings) all can.

George Vartanian (Irvine)

How big of a factor will Roy be? No back-to-backs should help, right?

John Hollinger
  (2:52 PM)

I was pondering this the other day. The lack of back-to-backs should help, sure, but realistically he Blazers have been doing everything they can to limit his minutes and the strain, and he's still been mediocre-to-awful. Will be very interesting if he's relegated to 5-minute outings in the playoffs.

John Korellis (San Mateo, Ca)

Hypothetical question for a Finals match-up... which one would be more intriguing for NBA history? Another Lakers vs. Boston or Lakers vs. Bulls which would be interesting from a Phil Jackson perspective?

John Hollinger
  (2:53 PM)

I disagree with both and think Lakers-Heat. We've never had Kobe against LeBron in the Finals.

Samson (Windsor)

What does Kobe have left to prove this postseason? Is his legacy already set, or does a 6th ring keep the GOAT-debate open? And same question with Duncan?

John Hollinger
  (2:55 PM)

There's no GOAT debate. Sorry. That's just Laker-fan silliness. But I also don't think Kobe worries about what he has to prove, he just loves the game and loves competing and is going to keep doing it til he has to be dragged off the court.

Dizzil04 (Chicago)

How many years do the Celtics have left? Same with the Lakers before the bulls, heat and thunder take over?

John Hollinger
  (2:57 PM)

Maybe just a year for Boston. Lakers window might be open a bit longer because the two 7-footers will still be seven feet tall five years from now, and because it's such a magnet for prospective free agents.

Nick (OB)

Replacement level coach = VDN, yes?

John Hollinger
  (2:57 PM)

Yes. Bulls fans are actually upset with me for saying 55 wins.

Travis (Fort Worth)

Why would anyone be so quick to pick the Heat over the Celtics? I really don't care about homecourt the Celtics had the upper hand on the Heat most of the season and that experience is going to come into play.

John Hollinger
  (2:59 PM)

The Celtics also made shots and won games most of the season. But not in the last two months. That's why their bandwagon has emptied out.

Sean (Reno)

Can we please shorten the playoffs? I mean two to three days rest between home games is ridiculous.

John Hollinger
  (3:01 PM)

You're talking to the dude who's doing a Sunday-Wednesday combo in Oklahoma City, so you probably won't get much protest. I understand why they do it this way for TV, but it can be a bit of a drag. The pace picks up in the next two rounds, thank goodness.

Billy [via mobile]

There is a GOAT discussion for 12 year olds who never actually saw MJ play

John Hollinger
  (3:01 PM)

So true.

John (San Francisco, CA)

If the Grizz manage to beat the Spurs (conceivable), does the ride end there? They match up well with OKC.

John Hollinger
  (3:02 PM)

They matched up very well, but a lot of that was because Z-Bo murdered Jeff Green and that match-up is off the table now. So I'm not sure how well their 3-1 regular season advantage would translate to the playoffs.

colonel appleseed (queens, ny)

the kings simply fouling gasol last night(back to basket) while up 3 would've probably changed history...westphal should be getting crushed

John Hollinger
  (3:04 PM)

That was such a classic Kings move in so many ways, almost fitting that they would exit on such a note. Gotta wonder what objects Mark Cuban threw through his TV when that play happened -- goes from basically having a bye against the Hornets to a tough grind against Portland.

goyo. keizer, or [via mobile]

Who of the 4 lower seeds has the best chance of making it to the 2nd round in the west?

John Hollinger
  (3:05 PM)

I'd go Blazers, Nuggets, Griz, Hornets, in that order. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Portland or Denver won. I'd be a bit taken aback if Memphis won. I'd be utterly shocked if New Orleans won.

Joe (NYC)

What coach would be a good fit for Minnesota once Rambis gets fired? Presumably someone who will RUN, right? With Love rebounding throwing outlets to Rubio, makes sense that they should turn into a running team.

John Hollinger
  (3:07 PM)

They already were a running team, actually, they just weren't any good at it. Wolves need better perimeter players before coaching will become very relevant, and I'm not sure Rubio is going to help much, at least initially.

roy (charlottesville)

please stay and chat forever! no more games until Saturday.

John Hollinger
  (3:07 PM)

Unfortunately I have to depart, but thanks again for all the great questions and we'll do this again next week.