Thanks for joining me for this week's NBA chat on ESPN.com. Live here from San Antonio, where the Spurs took a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 against the Heat. Before I head back to Miami, I'm here to take your questions and takes on what's been a thrilling NBA Finals. If you've got questions on other league matters, that's fine, too. So let's get straight to the questions.
Why can't LeBron take over like Jordan, Magic, or Kobe in these finals? It seems like if it were Jordan, he would take the win despite being double teamed, unlike Lebron who backs away and asks for others to contribute....
Come on, Kip! We're still at that point? Let me counter you by asking why can't we just stop with the Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson comparisons with LeBron. He's his own player, with his own level of dominance and flaws alike. LeBron does have some puzzling performances on his resume, especially in the Finals over these three seasons in Miami. But as he stated going into Game 5, the Heat aren't in this position to begin with if he hasn't played the way he's played over the course of the past three years.
Is it time for Spo to put in Birdman rather than Haslam?
I can see that being an adjustment for Spoelstra. But does this series hinge on Chris Andersen playing 15 or so minutes rather than none at all? Let's be real here. He didn't play at all in Game 4, and the Heat responded with their best overall performance of the series. The whole point of the Heat shifting to small-ball was the spread the floor and create easier lanes and matchup problems that LeBron, Dwyane and Chris might be able to exploit. Giving Birdman a few minutes to see how disruptive he can be on defense won't hurt. But the better move might be to go with Shane Battier as a starter instead of Mike Miller, considering the starting role has resulted in Miller's impact plummeting overall.
Who wins tomorrow? Do the Heat push this to 7, or are the Spurs gonna clean it up?
At this stage, after seeing five games of this series, there's beauty in telling you that I don't have a clue as to which team will win Game 6. Conventional wisdom would suggest the Heat can take care of business at home in a must-win situation. But the wild card has been the Spurs hot shooting from 3-point range, and that can make things go crazy on the court. There's no shame in admitting I don't have a real handle on this series, in terms of trying to predict what will happen from one game to the next. I'm just enjoying the ride just like the rest of you. And I'll try to make sense of what I saw afterward.
Be honest either the 91-93 Bulls or the 96-98 Bulls would destroy this Miami Heat team? I think either of those teams would sweep the Heat.
From a style standpoint, those Bulls teams, especially the latter title-winning ones, were the prototype of what the Heat are doing right now with the spacing and matchup dynamics. But sweep? I wouldn't dare go that far. Come on, dude.
I'm sorry, but LeBron is not on Jordan's level. And it is not even close. One title in a shorten series and all of sudden he is talked about on that level? Crazy.
At age 28, you could also argue that Mike hadn't reached LeBron's level yet either with MVPs or trips to the Finals. So let this entire thing play out before comparing apples-to-apples resumes. Or, let's stop with the Jordan-LeBron comparisons, period. Mike is the greatest player to ever play the game, in my opinion. He stands alone. But I don't see that as being a knock on LeBron or Kobe or Magic or Wilt or Oscar or anyone else.
Could you see the blazers offering Pekovic a contract this summer? The blazers need a center and the blazers and wolves have a history of trying to stick it to the each other.
The Blazers could also go ultra-dynamic and allow Aldridge to be the de facto center and play a more up-tempo style that would benefit Lillard's game. They can create some crazy matchups with their size, length and athleticism. I wouldn't necessarily think, in today's NBA, that Portland will absolutely have to play a methodical style with a beefy center in the lane. They have options.
Why does the media make so many excuses for the Heat? Today you said that the Mavs beat the Heat because they didn't have enough time playing with eachother (a whole year, with training camp). Then they've been losing in these playoffs because Wade has a bad knee and Bosh sprained an ankle. Come on! We can make these same excuses for every team in the league, every year of the playoffs.
You're doing some very selective reading there. My point is very clear in today's column on ESPN.com that the Spurs deserve far more credit than they're getting for being up 3-2 in this series. In fact, I'm sick and tired of the narrative that when the Heat lose, there has to be something absolutely wrong with them. They aren't invincible. The Spurs are on scholarship, too, and have four titles. My only mention of the Dallas series was that the Heat dismiss that series as one when they were psychologically a completely different team and hadn't matured, conceptually, to the level they're at now.
Hi Michael: I see a lot of analysts and commentators I respect saying how great these Finals have been, and I don't really get it..... Only one close game in 5, and the rest have effectively been blowouts. Unless you're a hardcore fan of one of the teams, I'm not sure how this could be considered entertaining (after the blowout commences).
Because these teams are so evenly-matched, one small tweak or one minor adjustment can have an adverse effect on the outcome. It's been stunning in the fact that each team has had a counter for everything the other team has done. There's been only one constant in the entire series so far: Danny Green's outrageous shooting display.
when do you see the Wizards becoming relevant in the nba?
Depends on what they do with that No. 3 pick. They need to round out that roster with a solid, versatile small forward - via draft, trade or free agency. Above anything else, John Wall needs to stay as relatively healthy as possible. They finished the regular season as one of the hotter teams in the East. They should be a playoff team next season based on their natural progression, barring another major setback due to injuries.
What can you tell us about the new Nuggets GM, Tim Connelly? Is there any reason for Nuggets fans to assume this off-season is basically a wort-case scenari, losing the executive of the year, his assistant and firing a hall of fame coach basically over dollars and ego issues. We're coming of the best seasoning franchise history and it feels like the wheels have come off the cart and the franchise is being restocked on the previously opened aisle at WalMart.
Interesting take there. I can honestly say that what Denver and Memphis have done this offseason, respectively, has been mind-boggling to me. Perhaps both are tearing it down to rebuild after very successful seasons. But it's a gamble that better pay off relatively quickly, because both fan bases are very skeptical right now about what's going on.
Hello Michael - In regards to the Celtics-Clippers, I am on board with with Rivers-KG-Terry-Lee to Clips for Jordan-Butler-Green-#1 & #2. Trade Pierce to MAVs for Shawn Marion
Blockbuster deals at that level don't happen often. It still seems like there's a lot to be worked out for this to happen. The Clippers have to retain enough of their talent, even with acquiring Garnett, to still be a true title contender out West. Meanwhile, the Celtics would have to get enough assets to either flip in more trades or to build around Rondo and Jeff Green to stay in the hunt in the East. There are a lot of potential moving parts here. I'm almost at the point where I'll believe it when I see it formalize into a deal.
If Danny Green scores about 20-30 points in Game 6 and the Spurs close out the series, could he (Danny Green) possibly win the Finals MVP award? Thanks.
Absolutely. I think there's a strong sentiment brewing that he's been the most consistent and prolific player in the Finals. Parker playing so well on that bum hamstring has been an amazing development. But if the Spurs close out the Heat and Green simply meets his averages for the series so far over the next game or two, he'd get my vote - if I have a vote.
Do the Spurs big 4 (Pop, TD, MG, TP) ride off into the sunset if they win it all this year?
I don't think so. The one thing the Spurs haven't done during their remarkable run is to string consecutive titles together. I believe Popovich has a great handle on what it takes to manage his team through a title defense this time around. The West is wide open, but the Spurs would be right back in the hunt again if they close out this series and elect to come back for perhaps one last rodeo. Parker, however, seems to be at his peak at this point, with a few more seasons to go as one of the top three or four point guards in the league. So, for now, I'd save the potential swan song send-off.
Mike, What is a bigger difference, the refs or the confidence the home crowd provides? If you answer is the latter, then do you believe the crowd effects the refs?
All I'll say about officiating at this point is this: There's not much you can do about a game that's officiating poorly. But it darn sure better be officiated evenly if that's the case. I thought both teams got some bad calls in the second half of Game 5. The Heat had their runs end with a couple of questionable, at best, calls. But it generally had gone both ways over the course of the game and series.
Hi Michael - the Pistons have plenty of money to spend and two great big men. Who do you see them targeting via trade and/or free agency?
The Pistons have what should be a playoff-ready roster. They have a solid combination of young talent and veterans. They are maybe one move away from contending for one of the East's last two or three playoff spots. Perhaps Mo Cheeks can coach them over that hump after all the turnover on the bench there. With the combination of cap space and draft picks there's no reason to expect anything other than a resurgent season for the Pistons. This five-year rebuilding process has gone on way too long.
What do you see the Cavs doing with the #1 pick?
Using it. (Popovich voice)
Thoughts on the rumored Griffin/Bledsoe swap for Dwight?
Makes absolute sense for the Lakers, if they're backed into a corner. Makes absolutely no sense for the Clippers, in my opinion.
How can Lebron be so unsuccessful scoring on Diaw? Why try to post up or shoot jumpers against him? Is it just me, or would a quick cross over dribble be enough to knock him out of his shoes and onto the floor -- like he would be after a good buffet.
LeBron's struggles against Diaw are as astonishing as Danny Green's prolific rate of 3-pointers in this series. But credit Diaw for defending without fouling - or at least without being called for fouls - and consistently backing up to give LeBron space. He's basically inviting James into the lane, where there will be help defense. Again, the Heat's best remedy for this is to get out in transition and attack without hesitation instead of waiting for double-teams to come. LeBron has shown an ability to make that adjustment before. He must do so again if the Heat are going to stave off elimination Tuesday.
Although Shane Battier has struggled with shooting the ball recently, do you think increased minutes for Battier would help Miami defend the Spurs 3-point shooting in Game 6?
Battier finally seemed to regain some rhythm and confidence on Sunday night. His presence in the court is valuable in a number of ways. He can be a solid defender in this series, despite his penchant for trying to flop his way into drawing offensive foul calls. But he's also a spark when he hits those corner 3s. Mike Miller has slowed down drastically the past two games, and it appears that Battier and Ray Allen are heating up again. So that's an adjustment Spoelstra might have to make with his rotation.
Who do you think the Grizzlies wind up getting as HC? Also, do you see TA re-signing with the Grizz?
I think the Memphis' players - in fact, I know Memphis' players - are skeptical right now about the coaching change. The Grizzlies must hire someone with enough credibility to go right into that locker room and convince them they have a plan to get them to the Finals. That won't be an easy task, coming off a season when the franchise traded their leading scorer and fired the coach that guided them to the best season in team history.
I wish everyone would stop comparing Lebron to Jordan or to Magic. Why can't the media just treat him as his own player. There will never be another Michael or Magic, and pretty soon, there will never be another Lebron James!!! Heat in 7 !!
Agree on the first point. We'll see on the second, although I had the Heat in seven as my original pick for this series.
Who has been the MVP for the Heat so far in these Finals?
Great question. Even though LeBron hasn't played at his normal level, this entire engine starts, stops and runs with him at the controls.
Hello from the Philippines! Do you think Miami will ever get rid of their on/off switch? Is there anything Spo or the team can do to push this, or is it purely a Big Three mentality issue?
The Heat may have a switch. But the Spurs have a generator. They're in this series for a reason. It's not like the Heat are simply bored on some nights in the Finals and decided to be ineffective or off their games. San Antonio has a lot to do with it.
Good afternoon Mike - Can you explain to me Wade's behavior on defense because I am perplexed. He mentioned earlier this week how he wants to change after seeing his kids complaining to the refs in little league games instead of going back on defense. In last night's game, he was caught a couple of times lagging on defense after a no-call, and it resulted in open three pointers.
That's simply part of the package you get from the total D-Wade experience. It's hardly the most flattering part of his game. But when he's engaged, he also gives you games like Game 4, when he had six steals.
I would really love your thoughts about how the spurs are protecting the paint. I feel like they are getting away with alot of defenses three seconds in the paint. Its was a play where lebron was on the right side in the post and tony parker was inside the top of the freethrow line and it was more then three seconds. Yourthoughts ?
It's not a violation until the officials see it as one. The Spurs have packed the paint this entire series. But the Heat also have missed a bunch of layups along the way. LeBron estimated that he and Wade missed 12 layups in Game 5. They have to finish much better than that at the rim. Credit the Spurs for challenging without fouling and for their consistent defensive approach throughout the series.
Let's say the Clippers/Celtics trade happens and Bledsoe gets shipped to Boston. What happens to Rondo?
Not sure. He's been on the trade block each of the past three seasons. Wouldn't it be classic if Boston then shipped Rondo to the Lakers for Pau's expiring contract? Doc, KG and possibly Pierce would still have to share a building with Rondo.
Thanks again folks. That's my time for this week's NBA chat. Let's do it again next week, when we'll have our season wrap-up in this same space at this same time. Until then, peace - MW