I love the NBA playoffs. Not so much to see the stars do their thing because really, if you've made it this far, anything is possible. Look at the Oklahoma Thunder. Man, that city really rallied around their team and made us all believers at one point, even the Lakers. But our soldiers in the gold and purple pulled out a series win and moved onto their next battle: the Utah Jazz where the Lakers are leading the series 1-0. Phoenix is in the same boat, an edge up on the Spurs 1-0 in that series. Atlanta and Orlando begin their battle this week, too. Which leaves us to round out the final second round series match-ups with Boston and Cleveland. With all the talk about Cleveland riding their broom to the final and sweeping every last opponent out of the way, the Boston Celtics are out to prove MVPs don't win championships - champions do. We'll talk about this series, Lebron's legacy, the Lebron and Durant rumours and Vinny Del Negro packing his bags.
Boston Kicks it up a notch
You know, I had my doubts the Cavs were going to cruise to an NBA Championship this year. I think sometimes people forget the playoffs are not a sprint to the finish. It is a full - out marathon. And if any of you have put your body through the challenges only a marathon can provide, you'll know even the most experienced athlete can hit the proverbial wall and things can break down or another marathoner will simple have everything clicking at the right moment and literally whiz right past you. This is what happened to the Cavs in game two of this series. Congratulations to Lebron on his MVP accolades and I totally agree he deserves it. But the reason he got it is the exact reason the Cavs struggle sometimes. If the Cavs need to control their transition better, Lebron is there. If the Cavs need more force on the defensive end of their game, Lebron may not prefer to be there but he'll fill the gap. And if the Cavs need a half court jumper to beat the buzzer, Lebron is your man. Being all things to your team takes it's toll and Boston capitalized on that to tie up the series. And by a pretty sizable margin, too (104-86) so they didn't just get lucky. Rajon Rondo had twelve assists in the first half alone and just created Boston scoring opportunities everywhere. The Celtics really built a lead by moving the ball and hitting open jump shots. Looking at the stats, Ray Allen outscored the Cavs all by himself in the third quarter of game two by 17-12 and Rondo had a career high 19 assists on the night at this point. Unbelievable. From watching the Celtics all season, the key for them has been their real ability to claw their way to a win if they need to or to put it simply, working together as a team. If they keep this up, that MVP trophy will be the only one Lebron will have in his 2010 collection.
Lebron James and his Legacy
I know you probably think because I am critical of the Cavs, I am of Lebron, too. It's my job to present both sides and be critical. But don't take this as I am attacking his future legacy because that's what I know all the emails after this blog will be about. I think Lebron James is a true character and ambassador to the sport. He could have accepted his MVP award in a big hall with all the NBA dignitaries you can imagine but he didn't. He shared it with his hometown of Akron in a public ceremony and later celebrated at a party open to all. I really hope broadcasters don't give up and stop voting for him him out of boredom if no one challenges his game and what he gives to it. Remember back in 2000, a former ESPN broadcaster took some real heat for giving his vote to Allen Iverson over Shaquille O'Neal - that was huge since Shaq could have swept the voting that year. I like how Lebron remains grounded and remembers who got him to where he is: friends, coaches and especially his Mom. I think she'd like an NBA trophy rather than flowers for Mother's Day this year, Lebron. But you don't need me telling you that.
"Lebronzenator and Durantula" coming to an arena near you
Really? Do we honestly believe this? I'd believe Chris Bosh going to Oklahoma before I see Lebron and Durant on the same roster, so lets not get our hopes up. I think because the Thunder has a relatively small payroll and tons of room under the salary cap, various scenarios are getting tossed around and this can get fueled by emotions. Dinonation James touched on this while responding to Bosh's tweets about his future with the Raptors. This is business and you can't let emotions get the best of you - this is what happened to another Toronto team (Really Leafs? No first pickin's for you for two whole years...why, why, why). If you look at what the Thunder has done over the last three years, they focus on the draft, make some trades and then see what's out there in terms of free agents. Thunder General Manager Sam Presti has done a pretty good job of building a team that will grow together and last. Will Lebron make them last like the energizer bunny? Probably not. Will Bosh? Possibly. Will Durant look for another playground? Quite possibly. Though Durant is under contract to play for the Thunder next season regardless of what happens this summer, Presti will most likely have a discussion with his biggest asset come July 1st. Oh what a summer this is going to be.
Del Negro is Done
Pretty sad, really. The Bulls went 41-41 this season and made the playoffs in each of their two terms with Coach Vinnie Del Negro. We knew in December amidst rumours that he was on his way out after a Bulls slow start, that a "kinda sorta maybe - we like you" from Bulls GM Gar Forman was not going to keep Del Negro on the Bulls payroll. But the Bulls as a team rallied to the post season and sadly, that wasn't good enough. I don't think he was really given a chance and Bulls management seemed to have a sink or swim mentality with him. It's their own fault, too. Remember when Del Negro was hired? He got the job obviously not on coaching experience because he had none but because two other high profile candidates fell through. C'mon this isn't high school Prom. No one wants to start a season praying for it to be over already in December. So what happens now? The new coach will have the pleasure of working with Derrick Rose and gets to lead a team that has loads of salary cap space to offer a lucrative contract to an awesome free agency class this summer. Sweet. I really hope Bulls management does their homework this time because it would be nice to see this team enjoy some success next season.