Dick Bavetta Reffing Game 7: Spurs @ Hornets

Well, I haven’t posted in a while… but who has time to post with all these NBA playoff games on?! I have so many thoughts on the NBA right now, just not enough time to write them all up. But one thing I must bring up is the decision tonight to have Dick Bavetta ref possibly the most important game of the playoffs so far, tonight’s game 7 San Antonio vs. New Orleans. This has all the making of an all-time classic, but I have a terrible feeling that I am going to sitting in my condo at 11:15 PM EST furious at another Dick Bavetta playoff travesty.

NBA Game Fixer Dick Bavetta

Noooooo!!!!!!

Where is the accountability, David Stern? How can the NBA possibly reward this guy after his performance during game 6 of the Cavs-Celtics series? I’m not even going to get into all the foolishness that went on in that debacle, but lets just say I’ve seen Harlem Globetrotters – Washington Generals games that were more legitimate. And what is Bavetta even doing still officiating important games? He should have been banned, arrested and possibly deported after his role in game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals.

But, instead David Stern and the NBA continue to send Bavetta, Joey Crawford, Bennett Salvatore, etc. to fix… errrr, officiate the biggest games of the playoffs. Does Stern have this little faith in the quality of the NBA product that he feels he needs to turn the league into the WWE just to get his most marketable players and teams to advance in the playoffs? I just don’t get it. Why are you trying to ruin the game that I and so many other fans love?

The audacity of the NBA in how they deal with official really is astounding. Not only do they quite obviously officiate games way different depending on arena, team and player involved in each call, but they don’t even make an attempt to appear unbiased. How could anyone argue that Dick Bavetta of all the basketball refs on this planet is the best person to be officiating this (or any) NBA game. Think about that. The NBA could basically choose any referee in the whole world to work these games and Dick Bavetta, Joey Crawford and Bennett Salvadore are the best three people they could come up with. Seriously? You are telling us all that there is no one in the world who could do this better?

Why isn’t Arlen Specter calling for an investigation into all of this? Tim Donaghy was alleged to have fixed over 100 NBA games! And clearly, something else is very, very wrong with how these games are being officiated. And its not like this is something new. I can remember back in 1999 the refs giving every single call to the Jazz in their first round series win against the Kings. Ralph freaking Nader even chimed in on that absurd game 6 from 2002. And lets not forget last year’s Suns-Spurs series, the Heat-Mavs Finals, just about any Lakers game from the Shaq-Kobe era… I could go on and on. God help us all if Lebron ever goes to New York… it will be like the perfect storm of NBA referee fixing.

I would honestly feel better with Doneghy working the game over the guys I mentioned above; at least Doneghy was (from what I can tell) fixing the over/under.

Oh, and one more thing, Stern… I’m not sure if you’re aware or not, but many of us now have DVR/Tivo. This makes it very easy to rewind any questionable call that is made. Combined with clear HDTV, we can easily see these bad calls instantly. So, your strategy of having ABC not show replays on obviously blown calls is not going to stop us from seeing through the BS. (I wonder who got fired today for letting that Lebron jersey pull replay) In fact, if anything, the fact that you are not showing these replays gives more credence to those of us who believe these games are being fixed or at least assisted by the NBA and its refs.

Anyway, I sincerely hope that I am wrong and this game tonight plays out fairly and the only deciding factor is that the better team will win. We will see…

NBA Playoff Predictions

Celtics vs. Lakers

Its been a while since I’ve posted, but I am reinvigorated for the playoffs. An amazing NBA season came to a somewhat uneventful end. The only intrigue over the past few weeks was the battle for the last playoff spot in the West. Now that all the dust has settled on the regular season, I am more than ready for the playoffs to begin.

This year’s Western Conference is loaded and I could see anyone coming out. People talk about the golden years of the NBA being when the Celtics played the Lakers or when Jordan’s Bulls dominated. I never understood that. Sure, those teams were great, but where’s the drama? I would much prefer this year’s scenario where we have 8 excellent teams in the West, each capable of beating any of the other teams. John Hollinger has an excellent piece on just this subject.

Western Conference

I’ll start with my predictions in the West, though I should point out that I have zero confidence in these picks. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of my picks lost in the first round or even if they all went down! Anyway, here we go…

West First Round

Lakers over Nuggets (7 games) – I think people are underestimating Denver, and they can make a series out of this. The Lakers have shown to be the best team in the West, but I think they are vulnerable as long as Bynum’s health is in question.

Jazz over Rockets (5 games) – The Rockets had that great run, but I don’t think they have enough to stay with the Jazz. The Jazz have been on fire down the stretch and I expect them to continue to play well, especially at home.

Spurs over Suns (7 games) – I think the Suns with a healthy Shawn Marion take this. But I still hate the Shaq trade. Amare has been on fire and they have played better with Shaq recently, but I don’t think they play good enough defense to beat the Spurs.

Hornets over Mavs (6 games) – I see CP3 all over this series. New Orleans has been just a flat out better team plus they will have the edge in motivation against Dallas.

Western Conference Semis

Lakers over Jazz (7 games) – Bynum should be at least back on the court by this series. That combined with Kobe’s ability to take over games, the Lakers’ homecourt advantage and the likelihood of the refs keeping it “fair” for the Lakers makes me pick Los Angeles in this battle of what I think are the West’s two best teams.

Hornets over Spurs (7 games) – The Hornets have the big guys to neutralize Duncan down low and CP3 should be able to take over. I think the Spurs age is starting to catch up with them and see them losing a hard fought series here in 7 games.

Western Conference Finals

Lakers over Hornets (6 games) – By this time Bynum should be 100% or close to it. With a healthy Bynum and homecourt advantage, I don’t see anyone in the West staying with the Lakers. look for Kobe to dominate this series in this matchup of MVP candidates.

Eastern Conference

The East seems much easier to predict and I feel fairly confident about my picks here. Of course, I also predicted a Suns-Raptors NBA Finals matchup last year… so take these with a grain of salt.

East First Round

Celtics over Hawks (4 games) – This is a total mismatch on every level.

Wizards over Cavs (6 games) – As much as the NBA would love to see Lebron go further in the playoffs, this Cavs team really isn’t any good. The midseason trade seems to have hurt more than it helped. Even without Arenas, i would give the Wizards the edge. Now that he’s back, I see the Wizards winning fairly easily. Of course, Lebron could always go bananas like he did in last year’s playoffs and make this prediction look foolish.

Magic over Raptors (6 games) – The Magic are the team that no one is talking about. They come into the playoffs red hot and should be able to take out a decent Raptors team.

Pistons over Sixers (5 games) – Detroit is just too deep and experienced. Successful season for Philly as they are headed in the right direction.

Eastern Conference Semis

Celtics over Wizards (5 games) – Remember when Gilbert Arenas predicted the Wizards would beat the Celts in the season opener, then they got blasted by 20? Thats pretty much how I see this series going.

Pistons over Magic (7 games) – I agonized over this pick more than any in the East. I think the Magic are an equal team to Detroit, but the Pistons just have too much experience. Usually the effect of experience can be overstated, but this Pistons team plays exceptionally well together (cliche alert!… the sum > parts) and they know all the tricks and when to use them.

Eastern Conference Finals

Celtics over Pistons (5 games) – The Celtics are too good defensively and KG will not let the team lose focus. The Pistons will be exhausted from their last series and when the Celts take game 3 or 4 at the Palace, the Pistons will have no chance in game 5.

NBA Finals

Celtics over Lakers (6 games) – Boy, I went out on a limb here, huh? In the series that everyone seems to be predicting, in the end I see banner number 17 being raised to the rafters of the Garden. To much defense, too much intensity and too much KG and Paul Pierce for a very good Lakers team to handle.

Isiah Thomas Fired?

Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas was officially fired this morning.  I’m baffled at this move… what has Isiah done to deserve this?!

NBA Awards (*so far)

Here is a look at my top ten candidates for NBA awards as of today (March 16):

Most Valuable Player:

Kobe

1. Kobe Bryant
2. Lebron James
3. Kevin Garnett
4. Chris Paul
5. Tracy McGrady
6. Dwight Howard
7. Tim Duncan
8. Steve Nash
9. Dirk Nowitzki
10. Chauncey Billups

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Rookie of the Year:

Kevin Durant

1. Kevin Durant
2. Luis Scola
3. Al Horford
4. Jamario Moon
5. Carl Landry
6. Al Thornton
7. Thaddeus Young
8. Juan Carlos Navarro
9. Joakim Noah
10. Mike Conley

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Most Improved Player:

Andrew Bynum

1. Andrew Bynum
2. Rajon Rondo
3. Rudy Gay
4. Travis Outlaw
5. Jose Calderon
6. Hedo Turkoglu
7. Ronnie Brewer
8. John Salmons
9. Jordan Farmar
10. Kendrick Perkins

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Coach of the Year

Rick Adelman

1. Rick Adelman
2. Byron Scott
3. Doc Rivers
4. Maurice Cheeks
5. Phil Jackson
6. Don Nelson
7. Jerry Sloan
8. Flip Saunders
9. Nate McMillan
10. Eddie Jordan

Two Teams No One is Talking About

Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas & Antawn Jamison

The consensus around here (Boston) and most of the country is that no one wants to play Cleveland come playoff time. After what Lebron did last year to the Pistons, I can sort of see that point. Even with Lebron playing out of his mind, I don’t see Cleveland as that scary of a team for either Boston or Detroit. The Cavs are 10-9 since Jan. 25 including losses to Seattle, Milwaukee and Chicago. it doesn’t seem like the trades have made the Cavs any better. They are a slightly above average team before and they are a slightly above average team now. Sure, they have the most unstoppable player in the game, but not much else.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic are 13-5 since the end of January and 4.5 games ahead of the Cavs. They have been the better team than Cleveland this season and are playing much better basketball right now. Lebron might be the best player in the NBA, but Dwight Howard ain’t that bad either. And he has a lot more help. In a matchup of the Cavs and Magic, Orlando would have 3 of the top 4 players.

And the team that absolutely no one is talking about is the Washington Wizards. Its amazing that the Wizards have maintained a near .500 record this season with the injuries that they have had – especially after their 0-5 start. If both Arenas and Butler come back at 100% (or close to 100%), the Wizards could be a very tough matchup for anyone come playoff time. And, yes, I realize that this is a very big “if”. But the Wizards were rolling along last year until injuries to the same two guys virtually ended their chances. The good news for Wizards fans is that the players surrounding the big 3 of Arenas, Jamison and Butler have drastically improved this season.

So while the Cavs get all the hype, its the Magic and (possibly) the Wizards that I see as the biggest upset threats to the two top teams in the East.

So be careful what you wish for Celtics and Pistons fans…

2008 NBA MVP

2008 NBA MVP

2008 NBA MVP

Who is the 2008 NBA MVP: Lebron or Kobe?

Updating this post, here are my top ten choices for the 2007-2008 NBA MVP (as of Feb 26):

1 – Lebron James
2 – Kobe Bryant
3 – Chris Paul
4 – Kevin Garnett
5 – Chauncey Billups
6 – Steve Nash
7 – Manu Ginobili
8 – Dirk Nowitzki
9 – Dwight Howard
10 – Antawn Jamison

The Demise of the Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns

Following the Suns was a fun ride while it lasted

The 2005-2006 Phoenix Suns might have been my favorite NBA team of all time. This was actually the first year that I ordered the NBA League Pass. I had this Suns team on my radar as one of teams to watch, but less than 2 weeks into the season it was clear to me that not only were the Suns a team to watch, but all Suns games were “can’t miss TV”.

This Suns team might have won the championship, but they played outstanding basketball and were by far the most entertaining team in the league. Here was that lineup:

C – Boris Diaw
F – Shawn Marion
F – Tim Thomas
G – Raja Bell
G – Steve Nash

Bench – Leandro Barbosa, Eddie House, James Jones, Kurt Thomas

Could you find a more unselfish group than that? I know that Marion and Tim Thomas might not be the most unselfish human beings on the planet, but on the court these guys were both excellent team players. Nash was the engine that made everyone go; Marion his perfect running mate; Bell added toughness and defense; Thomas hit nearly every big 3; Diaw flourished maybe more than anyone in this style; Barbosa broke out as a borderline All-Star caliber player; and House came off the bench at about 200 miles per hour. The whole team was just a joy to watch offensively.

Last year, they lost Tim Thomas and Eddie House but got Amare Stoudamire back from injury. They still somewhat resembled the run and gun Suns from the previous year, but the unselfishness was gone. A lot of the ball movement had disappeared on offense, thanks to the black hole known as Stoudamire.

Turn the page to this year and the Suns add Grant Hill while keeping most of the core from last year in tact. Now Hill is a great team guy and fit this system perfectly. Everything this season looked great as the Suns had the second best record in the West. The Spurs are struggling with Duncan, Bowen and Horry a year older and the Mavs not looking as good as they had in the past.

And what do the Suns do? Trade their second most important player for a fat, old, washed up Shaq! I still can’t get over this trade. How could the Suns have pulled the trigger on this? Now, not only do they have ballhog Amare clogging up the middle, but they’re going to have fat Shaq camped out there as well?! Forget about running now whenever Shaq is in the lineup. And you can also forget about getting anywhere near the amount of open shots the 2005-2006 team got since they won’t be able to spacing the floor or work the ball around on offense.

You thought Diaw was useless with Stoudamire on the team? Now with Shaq in the mix, he’ll have even less value. As far as Barbosa goes, its going to be harder for him to run or drive (the two things he does best) and he’ll have less open looks now. And if you thought Shaq is going to help their rebounding… Marion is a better rebounder (from the SF position) than either Shaq or Amare. Marion was also an excellent defender and the Suns most versatile defender. Shaq might be the least versatile defender in the league.

Maybe I am wrong and the Suns will make me look like an idiot by winning it all this year, riding a re-invigorated Shaq all the way through the June. But I probably won’t be cheering them on… at least not like I have the past two years. I still love Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa and maybe even Grant Hill. But I just can’t get into this team and don’t believe in what they are doing.

I also find Amare Stoudamire to be one of the most unlikable guys in the league. He clearly seems like a great player, but how much better does he really make the Suns? Does he make anyone around him better? Or does he do just the opposite? And Shaq is just a disaster… he can’t run, he can’t shoot free throws, he can’t defend, and he can’t do anything outside of the paint. He is the anti-Marion. Well, Marion absolutely flourished in this system and I just can’t fathom why the Suns would trade him away for so little. As Jim Rome said, adding Shaq seems like subtraction by addition for the Suns. So now the Suns are a worse team, less entertaining and less likable.

I hate you, Steve Kerr.