Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NBA Playoff Preview

I’m not excited when I turn on a basketball game anymore. Don’t worry; this isn’t a misguided plea for more teamwork and passing in the NBA, with a shorter 3-point line. This is a plea for the playoff season to start already! I’m at the point of the season where I’ve seen all the teams. I’ve seen every permutation of every possible matchup and dissected what every result meant.

What I need now is a game that really means something. The playoff teams are all but set, barring the late scrabble to be a sacrificial 8th seed. There are only three weeks left in the season, but I’m part of the microwave generation and I can’t wait that long. With that in mind, here is my Probably-Two-Weeks-Premature NBA Playoff Preview.

Consulting with a certified basketball genius who will remain nameless, I have projected the results of the remaining games to come up with a playoff seeding.

1. Spurs (64-18)
2. Lakers (59-23)
3. Mavericks (57-25)
4. Thunder (49-33)
5. Nuggets (48-34)
6. Blazers (48-34)
7. Hornets (46-36)
8. Grizzlies (45-37)

1. Bulls (60-22)
2. Celtics (59-23)
3. Heat (58-24)
4. Magic (55-26)
5. Hawks (44-38)
6. 76ers (43-39)
7. Knicks (41-41)
8. Pacers (37-45)

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting previews and predictions for every series, ending with my prediction for the 2011 NBA Champions.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

NBA Power Rankings


1. Spurs .815

It must be hard for a Texas team to be heard above the din of New York and LA. How else can you explain the anonymity of a team that’s five and a half games up on everyone else?

2. Lakers .697

Phil Jackson has never coached a championship team that had a four-game losing streak before. But it’s Kobe.

3. Mavs .723

Just like the Spurs, they don’t get a lot of respect. Tough at home, tough on the road...they’ll make some noise.

4. Celtics .730

A shock trade has left the Celtics clinging to bona-fide contender status. Can the Big 3 get back to the finals again?


5. Bulls .719

The Bulls have made people stand up and take notice in the playoffs before. No one wants to see the MVP standing in their way.

6. Heat .677

Has there ever been a more dramatic team in history? Wild swings of emotion seem to carry the Heat’s season from explosive highs and desperate lows.


7. Magic .621

They probably think that they belong at the top table. They’ll need to show it in the playoffs to get there.

8. Thunder .641

They’re a very good, but still very young team.


9. Blazers .569

How good would the Blazers be if they could keep everyone healthy? They’re pretty good anyway and no one wants to see the Blazers in the first round.

10. Nuggets .585

It’s hard to know what the Nuggets are so soon after a big trade. What they look like is a well coached team that is legitimately 11-deep and has all the swagger with none of the ego.

11. Hawks .569

I don’t really like having the Hawks this high, since it doesn’t really seem like they’re going anywhere. They might never be great, but they’re still good and we’ve seen them stand up to a bully in the playoffs before.

12. Knicks .531

They might be a year or two away from being where they want to be, the NBA Finals, but STAT and Melo have shown more chemistry in 3 weeks than Miami’s mustered in an entire season.

13. Grizzlies .545

I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that the Grizzlies are just the new Hawks.

14. Hornets .567

I can’t help but feel like the fact that the Hornets are so high is a testament to how good Chris Paul is. That does a disservice to David West and Emeka Okafor, but despite injuries, Paul has this team punching above its weight.


15. 76ers .523

They may have started out slowly, but have steadily improved to get back into the playoffs. I don’t think we really know how good they are yet, they might not either.

16. Suns .524

The Sun may be setting on this Phoenix team. It’s a veteran team and this could be their last chance to make something happen together.

17. Jazz .515

They lost their coach of 20+ years and their franchise player in the same week. Anything this reeling club does will be done on guts.

18. Rockets .500

This team always feels like they’re playing uphill, but they play well.


19. Warriors .446

Nelly’s gone, but they can still score. They can’t do a lot else, but they can sure put some points up and look good doing it.

20. Pacers .415

Larry Bird has a little something cooking in Indiana. They have a lot of under the radar guys just waiting to break out.

21. Clippers .379

There’s nothing under the radar about the Clippers, thanks to Blake Griffin. There’s some substance behind the style too and it seems the Clippers won’t be bad forever after all.


22. Bobcats .415

They just traded away their best player in Gerald Wallace. Even before that I didn’t see a lot of point in watching a Bobcats game.

23. Bucks .397

At this time last year, Bucks fans were wondering if Brandon Jennings was the next Iverson. This time this year, I’m wondering if we’ll ever care what the Bucks are doing.


24. Nets .328

They have Deron, they’re moving to Brooklyn, they have a Russian billionaire owner. That’s a lot of good things; are they good now; no…will they be good soon? Why wouldn’t they be?

25. Pistons .348

Detroit…Basketball…is kinda weak right now. They have a few guys who can play, but they need to figure out what’s going on with the old guard before they move forward.


26. Timberwolves .254

Love’s a beast. The Wolves need to do a lot of work to convince him to he’s not wasting time in Minnesota.

27. Raptors .277

The Raptors have half a great team. Unfortunately, it’s the bottom half.

29. Kings .238

DeMarcus Cousins might turn out to be the best player in his draft class and is already the best player on the Kings. No one’s told Tyreke yet though.

28. Wizards .254

If it wasn’t for Blake Griffin, we might care more about the Wizards, if only to watch John Wall play for Rookie of the Year. But Blake Griffin exists, so the Wizards might as well not.

30. Cavs .188

Historically bad…what else is there to say?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

State of the Nick-Nation

What happened to all the cool nicknames in basketball? I feel like we’re in the middle of a nickname drought right now. I mean, people have nicknames, but it’s not like Magic Johnson, where he was his nickname. The old nicknames just sounded so great: Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwan, “Air” Jordan and so on. What are we calling these guys now? Most of the stars in the NBA are just going by some combination of their name and number. CP3, DWill, DRose, D12, CB4 (back when Bosh was in Toronto)…those aren’t nicknames! Nicknames are supposed to be colourful and cool, not sound like a barcode. Has the human race’s creative spark been so blunted by technology that this is what we’re reduced to?

No doubt we have to step up our name-game, that’s the fans and the media, cause you can’t give yourself a nickname…that’s elementary nickname etiquette. Did you ever just kind of sidle up to someone at school and say, real casual, “So…people are calling me T-Bone now, you hear about this? It’s stupid…but…yeah you can call me T-Bone I guess.” No you didn’t. Because if you did that, your friends and everyone else would be well within their rights to give you any nickname they wanted; punishment for a blatant nickname foul.

Speaking of nickname fouls, how did we let Dwight Howard get away with calling himself Superman? Not only did he give himself that name, he did it while there was still another Superman running around the schoolyard. He’s lucky we’re not calling him Princess right now.

But there are a few good nicknames kicking around the NBA, all is not lost. I love the Black Mamba for Kobe because that’s what he is on the court: a deadly assassin. Ray Allen is Jesus, Glen Davis is Big Baby, Sasha Vujacic is Machine (not, “the Machine”, just, “Machine”), AK47 is just a name and number, but the fact that Andrei Kirilinko is Russian and looks like an AK47 toting bad-guy from central casting helps, LeBron James is the King.

Just a side note for those of you thinking, “How is LeBron the King? What has he done for the crown?” Don’t be so quick to think that being called the King is such a great thing. That nickname, like so many things associated with LeBron these days, is a poisoned chalice. It could very quickly take on a mocking tone if his career doesn’t go the way he wants it to. If I was him, I’d way rather go by L-Train, which is what the Cavs colour guy used to call him. Nevertheless, I think the name fits him…King James sounds right and he has the bearing and confidence (arrogance?) to pull it off.

It’s easy to criticize, but I feel like I should at least attempt to make a contribution to this supposed dearth of good nicknames that I’m claiming. It’s tough, because obviously the best nicknames come from really knowing someone and their idiosyncrasies, but I’ll give it a shot.

First of all, it’s really too bad that Chris Bosh left the Raptors, not because he was their key to success, but because he looks exactly a dinosaur. To be more specific, he looks exactly like Littlefoot from the Land Before Time movies. Google it. Even better, his

girlfriend, I don’t know if they’re still together but the girlfriend he had in Toronto, the one that heckled LeBron, looks exactly like Sara, the triceratops from Land Before Time. Google that too. But Chris left Toronto, robbing us of the nicknaming material of dreams, so I won’t even try to think of a dinosaur name for him. It’ll just make me sad that it doesn’t apply anymore. Velocabosh. What a waste. What a waste.

Another one I’ve been thinking about lately doesn’t really sound that great, but it has some potential, I think. I saw this picture of Rondo guarding LeBron and it really brought home something I’ve kind of thought all along. That Rajon Rando looks like a goblin. He’s short (relatively) and he’s got the long arms and his face is just…gobliny. Rajon Rondo is The Green Goblin. He’s throwing pumpkin bomb dimes on the regular. The ball is orange and everything. At the end of the day, I really just want to hear Marv Albert say, “Oh my goodness! There’s a goblin in the garden!”

Who is the Green Goblin’s arch nemesis? It’s Spiderman and for the sake of symmetry I will now force that nickname down some players’ throat. Spiderman as a basketball player has to be able to hang around in the air, weave around people and he should probably be wearing a red suit. Don’t Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo have kind of a strained relationship, a little bit of a rivalry? Beautiful, because Derrick Rose is Spiderman. Boom. We got a little momentum going now. Dwight Howard can be Mary Jane.

I got a couple more to run by you:

Dwight “Disney” Howard – Because he plays in Orlando and he has cartoon muscles and a huge smile.

Delonte “Rambo” West/Delonte “Wild” West – The man was pulled over on a three-wheeled motorcycle with a pump action shotgun, a semi-automatic pistol and a revolver. Something like that needs to be commemorated. Other options could include “The Matrix”, or any reference to someone who would conceivably roll in on a three wheeled bike packing a shotgun.

Kevin “The Ant” Durant – Because he looks weak but he can carry a lot on his back. Pretty weak but it rhymes.

Sonny “Money” Weems – A favourite of mine, both the name and the player.

That’s all I got. It’s not a lot, but it’s a start. Can you think of a good one?