Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

May 19, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (1:02 PM)

Greetings everyone -- I'm on a plane to Dallas to resume my "Thunder Index" duties for another series. Game 1 was the only playoff game of OKC's that I'll miss this postseason. Let's talk conference finals, draft or whatever else is on your mind.

James (Hamilton. Ont)

How do you see the Dallas-OKC series unfolding? I feel like this series is far from over. Their point differential is too close and OKC has been on a tear since the Perkins trade

John Hollinger
  (1:03 PM)

I think OKC will make it at least somewhat interesting, but there were some real defensive problems that Dallas exposed in Game 1. Dirk isn't going to hit every shot or get every call like he did in the opener, but the Barea-Terry stuff was a lot more problematic than I expected.

BJ (MA)

Have you ever seen anything like this Heat team with players being inactive one day and logging heavy minutes the next (and vice versa) yet still able to win in the playoffs? Is Spo a genius or just plain crazy?

John Hollinger
  (1:04 PM)

You mean because the centers who started 81 of their 82 games have yet to play in the conference finals? Yes, that's a bit odd. But putting Haslem in the rotation was a no-brainer; the part you can fairly question is using Magloire over Z.

Thomas (DC)

If Chicago loses this series due to an inability to score, what moves can they look at in order to improve? Would someone like Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson, or one of the other aging wings on expiring contracts be worth pursuing?

John Hollinger
  (1:06 PM)

I think they'll look younger if they can, based on the age profile of the rest of the roster, and obviously the new CBA will impact their strategy too. One interesting thing to keep an eye on - Chicago has a few million in non-guaranteed contracts and could use those plus the Charlotte pick to make a move for a younger 2-guard on a better contract.

Kyle (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada!)

John,What's your opinion of the Raptors resigning of Bryan Colangelo? A lot of people are upset at the fact he got resigned when he didn't do much for the team during his tenure. But if we didn't resign him, I don't think there would be anyone else you could sign as a replacement that would be an improvement.

John Hollinger
  (1:08 PM)

I'm lukewarm. BC has built enough of a track record that you can offset it against his mistakes of the last two years. I would like it if he replaced Triano, though; he's a good guy and knows Xs and Os, but the evidence is overwhelming that he never got his guys to play hard enough.

Dustin (Chicago)

Why is the break in the Bulls series so long?

John Hollinger
  (1:09 PM)

the league likes Sunday games and basically "moves up" other games in the schedule when they can. So, for example, this series was supposed to go Wednesday-Friday-Sunday; they moved the Friday game all the way back to this past Sunday when that date opened up because both second-round series ended early, so now we have Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday instead.

Naved (Gainesville, Fl)

I don't think we've seen Miami play to it's fully potential. How can opponents stop a Miami team running on all cylinders, especially on the defensive end? Wade/Lebron/Bosh go for 70+, haslem bench guys give you 20 .

John Hollinger
  (1:10 PM)

I think the opponent has something to do with that. Chicago was the No. 1 defense this year; the Miami guys aren't going to get their normal #s against them.

Kyle (Detroit)

To your point about Dirk getting EVERY call. How can a 7 Ft jump shooter take 24 fts? Will the Refs let OKC get a little physical with him?

John Hollinger
  (1:11 PM)

To be fair, OKC actually took more foul shots than Dallas. Also, the rules are pretty clear about two hands in the back on post-ups and the Thunder didn't obey them. That said, as I wrote in today's PER diem, it's been five years since Dirk had 24 FTAs in a game and he's only hit 20 once in the 400-plus games in between. It's not happening again this series.

Marty (Dallas)

What is up with the league having DAL-OKC start times at 8 Central, with no other game that day? If you have kids, that puts them home at 11 PM or later on a weekday. Is this just more proof that the NBA doesn't give a rip about paying fans, just TV advertisers?

John Hollinger
  (1:13 PM)

Because some people live in California and they like basketball too. Putting games at 9 ET provides the greatest possible total audience, which is why Monday Night Football has been in that time slot for decades. Not sure if you remembered, but a few years ago they tried moving up to 8 and it hurt their ratings so they moved it back.

Eric (Chicago)

Is zone (any for OKC; increased amount for DAL) a good strategy for either team?

John Hollinger
  (1:15 PM)

this came up in the Memphis series, so I'll say it again: OKC doesn't play zone. Ever. So scratch that. Dallas does play zone, used it a lot in Game 1 and in the regular season, and it's bothered OKC whenever they use it. Theoretically, the Thunder should be able to tear it apart, especially when Dallas's mighty mites in the backcourt are playing, but in practice it's proven really hard for them.

Udonis Haslem (Miami)

My team was -11 when I was on the floor last night, yet I clearly had a positive impact on the outcome for my team. What gives?

John Hollinger
  (1:17 PM)

The limitations of this stat come to light. Haslem was out there during the big run by Chicago in the second half, so his +/- ends up terrible.

Mel (Denver)

Carlisle was grumbling about defense after game 1. What was breaking down on all those Ibaka dunks in the 2nd half?

John Hollinger
  (1:18 PM)

Good question, I'd have to watch again because I was so focused on the carnage at the other end of the floor. One thing I will say - Harden is a really underrated passer, and his pick-and-roll stuff has been really hard for opponents to defend in the first two rounds.

Oliver (New York)

Please explain how the Clipps did not get slammed for NOT no.1 protecting the pick. You cannot tell me Cleveland wouldn't have agreed anyway as the top 3 would be critical but the odds of no.1 would have been so minimal.

John Hollinger
  (1:20 PM)

We missed the boat on that one. Terrible mistake by Clippers. As has been pointed out, they easily could have put a near-impossible stipulation about the Minnesota pick that would have made it possible to lotto-protect the pick they gave to Cleveland.

Steve (Columbus)

I like Steve Kerr and I appreciate what he brings to the games, and I have to say, Chicago can really make Miami look bad. So, when he says "Miami looks like they are in trouble", I see it and I agree with him. So, what happened that Miami seemed to be able to get things done when for a quarter and a half it looked like 0-2 was in the books.

John Hollinger
  (1:21 PM)

Steve was right, I felt the same way. Three things happened: 1) Haslem came in and gave Miami another source of points, 2) the Bulls stopped scoring, and 3) Chicago should have had a much bigger advantage at the time than they did.

Konway East (Chicago)

Would it be possible for any trade to ever look as bad as the Tractor Traylor for Dirk Nowitzki trade does right now?

John Hollinger
  (1:22 PM)

Kobe for Vlade Divac, anyone?

Peja (Dallas, Tx)

Do I have the greatest job or what? I get to guard the slowest guy on the other team on defense and just trot around the three-point line on offense, hoisting threes every once in a while.

John Hollinger
  (1:23 PM)

Actually, Peja is moving better on D than he has in along time. I was talking to somebody in the league last week who told me he thought Peja was finished the last time he'd seen him pre-Dallas. I was in the same camp. He played 4 in the first quarter the other night and OKC couldn't take advantage of him.

John (Dallas)

A more loosely called game should benefit the Mavs more, no? The Thunder depend upon free throws more than any team in the league.

John Hollinger
  (1:28 PM)

Actually, this may surprise you -- the Memphis guys all thought the tighter things were called in the post, the worse it was for OKC. You could argue the same after Game 1 for the Dallas series. Even though OKC is a high free-throw team, tight whistles affect their defense more than their offense.

james (los angeles)

Given how bad Chicago played last night, you gotta think they feel ok right? it was still a close game until about 3 minutes left

John Hollinger
  (1:30 PM)

Tough to feel "OK" about it when the offense melts down so badly. they had some shots rattled out that will go down normally, but they also had some serious fluke baskets (including two by Gibson and the 70-footer by Deng). Bulls have to find a secondary source of scoring to take some of the, er, heat off Rose.

BC (Dallas)

Does your hatred for the Mavs come from your Redskins love (Cowboy hate) or a rivalry with Stein?

John Hollinger
  (1:31 PM)

I love that Mavs fans still think I hate them because I said they were overrated last year. News flash: They were overrated last year. Unfortunately the Redskins-Cowboys thing has lost a lot of steam for me now that the 'Skins are owned by an eight-year-old.

Dave (Miami)

Is it fair to say that people forgot how average Chicago is offensively and how good Miami is defensively. If the Heat can limit the Bulls on the offensive glass how can Chicago score enough to win 3 more games?

John Hollinger
  (1:32 PM)

That's the scary thing for Chicago -- you'd think with a zillion second shots they'd get one or two of them to go in, but they couldn't. It won't get any easier on the road.

Jon (NYC)

John, I don't understand why everyone thinks Irving will be the #1 pick. Shouldn't the Cavs take Williams # 1 and then Knight or Kemba #4? That is a better combo of players than Irving and Kanter (and Kanter may not make it to 4)

John Hollinger
  (1:34 PM)

If you think Irving is the best player you take him. Historically, that is how you win on draft day. It probably eliminates Kemba or Knight at #4, but really that's not as big a deal ... they can trade if somebody else wants those guy at 4 and take a big man a couple spots further down.

Jakub (Wichita)

What kind of contribution do you expect from Haslem for the rest of the series?

John Hollinger
  (1:35 PM)

I was surprised he played quite as well as he did last night -- the flying dunks weren't a big part of his arsenal pre-injury and I don't expect to see them as a regular thing. But the big thing he can do is add some space by making 15-footers -- Haslem-Bosh in the frontcourt makes it a lot harder for Chicago's bigs to trap and help.

Patrick (Chicago)

T-Wolves passed on Cousins last year to take Johnson. Surely they won't pass on Kanter this year to take Williams. How many 3s do they need -- Beasley, Johnson, Webster, and now possibly Williams??

John Hollinger
  (1:37 PM)

I wouldn't be shocked if they trade the pick to get a legitimate starting 2. Not that I'm counting on logic to spring forth from 'Sota, but Williams strikes me as a weird fit.

Ruben (Los Angeles)

John, do you think the insertion of Nate Robinson in Game 1 was a panic move or necessary to see if any one could hang with Barrea?

John Hollinger
  (1:38 PM)

I thought it was a resonable dice-roll. They were getting rolled and it was time to try something different. Brooks was going small and I think he felt Cook couldn't hang defensively so he'd try Nate, plus Nate is enough of a wild card that you put him in when you're down like that and maybe something crazy happens. Now that the itch has been scratched I'm not sure we see Nate again.

Jason (Las Vegas)

You think the bulls regret not trading for someone like J.R. Smith? he would be a huge difference maker in this series for them wouldn't he?

John Hollinger
  (1:40 PM)

On paper, yes. But in terms of the culture that's allowed the Bulls to overachieve like this? I think Smith would only have been a detriment. And I think that's why they didn't pull the trigger.

Jerry Krause (CHI) [via mobile]

Olden Polynice for Scottie Pippen

Tommy (Dallas)

Is Dallas still "soft" or has Rick C's defense (with Tyson) helped lose the tag?

John Hollinger
  (1:40 PM)

They'll be "soft" until they win a championship, at which point they'll be "playoff tough". So basically, their toughness depends on how many jump shots they make over the next three weeks.

Paul (Tucson, AZ)

John, how do you feel about the fact that ESPN has built statues of Marc Stein and Ric Bucher in Bristol, but not you?

John Hollinger
  (1:43 PM)

The best part is that the statue of Stein is actually holding an In-n-Out burger. The statue of Bucher was more problematic; they had trouble finding a metal that was immobile enough to mimic his hair.

Kobe (Anaheim)

Even my band of irrational, overly-sensitive followers... er, fans can't possibly believe I'm the best player in the NBA anymore, right? Right?!

John Hollinger
  (1:43 PM)

Gotta think so, yes. People overreact to championships, so whomever wins this year (Rose, James, Nowitzki, Durant) will become The Annointed one.

Adrian (Dallas)

John, that's just dumb. So the Mavs are soft if they don't win the championship. By that logic, 3 of the 4 teams left that don't win the championship are soft.

John Hollinger
  (1:44 PM)

I think we need the sarcasm font again. Totally tongue in cheek.

Lance (Pdx )

Hey John, If only you had Bucher's hairdo. . . Man, you would be great!!

John Hollinger
  (1:44 PM)

I've been told this is the key reason they haven't green-lighted the statue yet.

Cody (PA)

Who you think the Heat will go after in the offseason to play point and center? Maybe Nene?

John Hollinger
  (1:45 PM)

You can't get Nene. in fact, depending on the new CBA, you might not be able to get anybody above the minimum. It's going to be very, very difficult for Miami to add to this core. Their best bet is probably buying late first-rounders.

Lebron (Miami)

Am I double dribbling?

John Hollinger
  (1:46 PM)

I don't think so, but am I the only one who thought Brewer carried the ball at least twice on his transition lay-up in the second quarter?

Red (Boston)

Joe Barely Cares for Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.

Tom (Portland)

Concerning Miami... Miller can't be worse next year can he?

John Hollinger
  (1:47 PM)

No. Right now he's out there like Willem Dafoe's character in the English Patient; one his thumbs become usable again he'll be much more proficient.

Greg (Chicago)

John, Miami pulling away coincided perfectly with Asik and Brewer coming off the floor last night. Discuss...

John Hollinger
  (1:49 PM)

Two points 1) Asik was going to have to come out some point, 2) The Bulls were hardly scoring themselves and he was one of the reasons. Don't get me wrong -- I love Asik and I think you can credibly argue he's even better defensively than Noah. But the Bulls need to score a few points too, and the fact their offense imploded late wasn't because they took out Asik and Brewer; if anything, it was in spite of that.

eric (chicago)

Do you think if General Asik and Destroy doesnt leave the game to get stiched up the Bulls win? He seemed so dominant on D.

John Hollinger
  (1:50 PM)

"Asik and Destroy." I like it. Much more intimidating than "Chef Linguini." As I noted above, Miami was going to score a basket eventually, and it was the Bulls' inability to counter with a few of their own that caused the loss.

Samson (Windsor)

How many more times can Thibs play Deng 46 minutes until he runs him into the ground? Remember Deng had that problem with stress fractures in his shin

John Hollinger
  (1:51 PM)

It's easier to get away with at this time of year, but I worry more about the cumulative effect. Gotta wonder how much Deng has left in the tank after a season of 43-minute outings.

LeBron (Chicago)

Asik wouldn't have stopped my 3 to put us up 76-73, would he have?

John Hollinger
  (1:52 PM)

I doubt it, although he did come way out to near midcourt to trap LeBron a couple of times and then still reacted back to his man before the Heat could exploit it. That's why I think the focus on Asik coming out is misplaced -- the Bulls lost on offense, and Asik wasn't going to help that.

Jake (Utah)

What are the chances the Jazz trade their picks and whatever else for a legitimate wing, Igoudala, for instance? That is their biggest weakness and this draft apparently has no impact wing players. Thanks.

John Hollinger
  (1:53 PM)

the Jazz are finally out of the salary cap constraint that limited them the past two years and effectively cost them Wes Matthews, I highly doubt they turn around and plunge right back in by taking on a big-money, second-tier player like Iguodala.

Paul (Northome, MN)

Do we know if ANYONE wanted Baron Davis' contract? If not, maybe the Clippers gambled on the pick to get rid of the money. After all, they have the Wolves' pick next year in what's seen as a better draft.

John Hollinger
  (1:54 PM)

I have no qualms with the general idea of giving Cleveland and a first to unload Davis. There was just an unlikely scenario that happened to come to pass, and they might have protected themselves from it had they been more worried about it.

Kevin (OKC)

Would you start Thabo or Harden next year for OKC? Do you sacrifice bench scoring to get Harden into the starting 5?

John Hollinger
  (1:56 PM)

Very interesting question. I think on that team Harden may make more sense as a bench player, albeit as a 34-minute one like the Spurs used Manu. One thing all the OKC people tell me is that he's much more engaged when he's The Man for the second unit than when he's sharing the floor with KD and Russ; in the latter scenario he's too deferential.

Lou (Chicago)

Professor, I love what Noah brings to the table but if the Magic are considering trading Howard why wouldn't the Bulls bite? Dwight dominates him on every level and the inside/outside game would be a beast.

John Hollinger
  (1:56 PM)

For Howard? Total no-brainer, sorry.

Eli (Orange County, CA)

On that Kobe/Vlade trade, I remember Kobe refusing to go to Charlotte and only wanting to play for the Lakers. True?

John Hollinger
  (1:57 PM)

And if Charlotte drafted him, he had what leverage, exactly?

Mavs Fan (Kalamazoo)

Why isn't anybody discussing the fact that Dallas got nothing on the offensive end in Game 1 from Kidd or Peja? The Thunder did a pretty good job of taking away the three, but could not stop the mid-range game or Barea's penetration. Will we see a long-range onslaught in game 2 from Mavs players who were quiet in game 1?

John Hollinger
  (1:58 PM)

It was notable to me that they were able to cut off Peja. Kidd not producing offensively isn't news, sorry. He had one of the lowest per-minute scoring rates in the entire league. But we may see the 3s come for a different reason, if the Thunder run extra defenders at Dirk.

Cody (PA)

Whats your finals prediction as of right now?

John Hollinger
  (2:00 PM)

Well, the two teams I picked both have home-court advantage at the moment, so I see no need to stray. Looking like an '06 rematch may be in the cards this year.

Tom (Dallas)

What is the Mavs biggest weakness and how do they address it after the season?

John Hollinger
  (2:01 PM)

the way they're playing right now it's hard to pinpoint anything, really. If you're really nit-picking, I'd say better backups at 4 and 5 and an upgrade on Stevenson as a defender/3-point shooter.

Sean (New York City, New York)

Can the Thunder afford to double Dirk when Peja and Terry are on the floor?

John Hollinger
  (2:02 PM)

I think probably not, but they have to make him put the ball on the floor. That's why I wonder if they don't just put Perkins on him, tell him to just crowd Dirk and it's OK if he gets beat off the dribble, and then use Ibaka as the help defender.

davet (toronto)

what are the most favourable match-ups for each team if they make it to the finals?

John Hollinger
  (2:05 PM)

It's weird because Dallas lost both games to the Bulls and won both against the Heat .. but these Mavs, I think, would greatly prefer to play the Bulls. That drive-and-kick stuff works great against Chicago, and while Gibson and Noah can put the clamps on Dirk (they aren't letting Boozer within 100 miles of him) I think Dallas's guards could win them the series. But against Miami? I just don't know how Dallas matches up on the wings for 48 minutes.

Don (Edmond, OK)

Why has Dallas' offense been so much more efficient in the playoffs?

John Hollinger
  (2:05 PM)

I wish I knew. Getting Peja obviously helped, but the rest of the guys have been here all year and gave no indication that this kind of onslaught was coming.

Kevin (OKC)

Another OKC question. How do you feel about OKC using Harden at the 1 and Westbrook at the 2? Would OKC be able to use Harden's driving ability to open the lane up for Westbrook? Or draw defenders off of Durant?

John Hollinger
  (2:06 PM)

Watch -- they do use Harden that way sometimes. Westbrook isn't an ideal off the ball player but he can create problems slashing and he's also a really good offensive rebounder.

Spo (Miami)

If it's an 06 finals rematch who do i put on dirk since alonzo won't be walking through that door anytime soon?

John Hollinger
  (2:08 PM)

Haslem guarded Dirk the last four games in '06 and did a fantastic job, helped turn around the series. I'd expect him to get the call in crunch-time, with heavy dollops of Anthony and Bosh earlier.

Robert (Los Angeles)

Any chance we see Roddy B get serious minutes?

John Hollinger
  (2:09 PM)

Only if the Mavs offense goes off the rails, which I'd say is highly unlikely based on recent events. He's really talented, but totally unnecessary at the moment.

John Hollinger
  (2:09 PM)

Folks we're starting our descent into DFW so I have to shut this down, but thanks again for all the great questions and be sure to check in for my missive from the game tonight.