Friday, June 20, 2008

NBA Finals: Punt-Counterpunt

Chubbs - Boston doesn't win this series without its bench. While Boston, as evidenced by Game 6, was obviously a much better team than the Lakers (or at least massively outcoached the Lakers, I'll choose to believe the former over the latter) it had a lot to do with its advantage off the bench. Coming in, everyone kept discussing how the Lakers had a clear advantage from its bench. Nothing could've been further from the truth. While seemingly everybody on the Lakers not named Derek Fisher played well below their potential in this series, guys like Eddie House, James Posey, and Leon Powe made huge contributions. True, Sasha Vujacic had a great game 3, but with the amount of stupid shots he took throughout the series, he was bound to have one good game. Posey and Eddie House played a huge role in the Celtics victory. Both made clutch shots in seemingly every game, and Posey's defense helped frustrate a normally impressive Lakers offense. If the Celtics want to repeat, they need to bring those two back. Everyone talks about the big 3, but I think the "crucial" 3 in this series were Rajon Rondo, Eddie House, and James Posey. So Anthony, do you think the Celtics repeat? What do they need to do, personnel wise to stay at a championship level?

Anthony - The repeat, eh? I honestly felt like I was on crazy pills watching this whole series after having watched the Celtics earlier in the playoffs. It seems to me the Celtics will be about the same next season. First of all, can they get out of the East? They own the Pistons - and the Pistons just get a little worse every season. The Cavs always seem lost to me. LeBron can't seem to really play with another player at this point in his career - but, at the same time, they should have won this year and definitely have the toughness on defense to handle them. Orlando is scary because of Howard - he could take the leap. But, yikes, Jameer Nelson and Bogans playing a lot of minutes? Don't think they will ever have the talent. Then, finally the Heat could run out Wade, Marion, Beasley, Haslem next season. So they have an outside shot. You really need a tough interior to beat the Celtics, and the Spurs and the Hornets would have been a better match-up than the Lakers this year. Next year, the Lakers, Spurs, Hornets and Jazz should all be pretty tough inside - and I like those teams to have a good shot at toppling the Celts. So, I guess I haven't answered your question at all. I'm assuming they are staying basically unchanged, and I give them a 75% chance to get out of the east and maybe a 20% shot to repeat. I still like the Lakers more next year. Quick note on the Hornets: They are one of my favorite teams, but I don't see them getting any better. Chandler, West, and Paul all played out of their minds this year and they still have Morris Peterson . . sigh. My question for you is, how good is Paul Pierce? I can't figure it out. Part 2: Horry or Posey as your 7th man - both in their primes.

Chubbs - OK, so I'm going to answer a question you didn't ask, and say that I think Chris Douglas Roberts or Bill Walker would be a great addition to the Hornets. I would really like to see them add a scorer at the 2/3. I think that would be good. Um, I don't really know how to quantify Paul Pierce's goodness. I think he's shown it before, but on irrelevant teams. I also think that maybe we didn't notice it as much until the playoffs because KG started playing poorly (comparatively) and it was up for Paul Pierce to take over. I like how you described his moves as "old man rec moves", because that is exactly what they are, but they are AWESOME. I came out of this playoffs a big fan of Paul Pierce's. I think, both in their primes... I take James Posey. I love Big Shot Rob, but all-around, and for the length of a whole season/the playoffs I think you have to take Posey. He can hit big shots (although he may not have hit as many as Horry) and play absolute shutdown defense. Posey frustrates opponents and I think, overall, is more valuable. My question to you is? Without looking at the stats, who do you think took more shots per minute in this series: Sam Cassell or Sasha Vujacic?

Anthony - It has to be Sam Cassell. That was a terrible question. I am pretty high on Bill Walker also though. The critics are right. He has no real position, but I think he can defend a little bit at least. There is a precedent for this type of player. There was a period of time when Bonzi Wells was nearly a twenty point a game scorer and one of the best players on those hyper-talented Trail Blazers teams. I think he could be that kind of power guard difference-maker. But that is his ceiling. The thing is, though, Walker still won't be enough. Their only real hope is for Walker/Julian Wright to really become a force on defense. They just desperately need another guard who can take some pressure of CP3 on the defensive end. Posey would be a really nice fit their as well off of the bench. I know you want this question. Rate Kobe as a player in this decade. Keep in mind Wade, LeBron, Kobe, Duncan, Shaq, KG, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, and anyone else.

Chubbs - OK, this is a tough question, and I really don't know how to answer it in terms of players who have played "x" number of years this decade, but I will give you my answer for guys this decade and how I'd rank them in terms of "guys I'd want trying to singlehandedly lead my team against a great defense to a championship."

1. Tim Duncan - I don't like his style of play really, and I hate the Spurs, but I think you have to give him his due as probably the best player of this decade and a great clutch player.

2. Lebron James - I know you're going to criticize this, but his performance against the Celtics with a much, and I cannot emphasize the word much enough, worse supporting cast than the Lakers was light years better than Kobe's. He steps his game up when it matters, and while the Cavs didn't win Game 7, you sure as shit cannot blame Lebron, who put up 45 points on 48% shooting, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Kobe didn't even sniff that in the finals.

3. Dwyane Wade - It's hard to place Dwyane on this list, considering his performance in the finals in 2006, despite being massively aided by the refs, was one for the books. He's an absolutely clutch player, and if it weren't for his current injuries, and the Heat's inability to do anything of importance since Shaq's departure/recent spat of injuries I'd probably put him 2nd.

4. Allen Iverson - This is a complete homer pick. I love Allen Iverson. I would go to war with him on my team any day. I think he's one of the most underrated superstars in NBA history.

5. The rest of this list is really a second tier, so I'm not going to get into it. Although, Shaq's performances in the early 2000s on the Lakers were unreal. He absolutely carried that team. Look at the statistics. There's a reason why Kobe feels the need to prove himself. Shaq put up some of the greatest numbers ever in an NBA Finals in those Laker championships. Kobe? Nowhere close.

33. Kobe Bryant.

Anthony, how do you think this Finals bears on Kobe's legacy, and while somewhat off topic, what do you think Shaq's legacy is like? I know he wasn't as important as Dwyane Wade in the 2006 finals, but I think the Heat's recent struggles has to at least point to him being a still very important factor in their championship.

Anthony - First of all, I need to defend the Miami Heat's title run on a public forum like this. "Massively" aided by the officials is strong. If you saw games 1 - 3, you saw the Heat not get many calls at all. The amount of charges that were called on Shaq, and how many times Wade would get cracked on his way to the lane was crazy. Then, if you recall, Wade had his miraculous fourth quarter to win game 3 for the Heat and make the series 2-1 instead of 3-0. At that point the Mavericks overreacted and shifted to a strategy of intentionally fouling Shaq or Wade anytime they got into the paint. The free throw discrepancy came from tons of fouls on both of those players early in every quarter. Now, the Game 5 foul was absurd. It cost the Mavericks a 3-2 lead in the series. I will freely admit to that. And Wade definitely got a ton of calls in game 6, also. But, it doesn't deny the fact that he was the best player in the world for one calendar year (seriously, check out his playoff stats from both the title year and the year before that when he got injured), and has had the truly the only Jordanesque finals performance since Jordan. At the same time, I would be willing to say that he rates too highly on your list of decade's best players. He has only been in the league since 2003 and he has been injured so often, it's tough to rate quite that high.

Now to the Kobe question. What we can't forget is Kobe's finals against the Pistons during the Lakers final run at a title. It was maybe the most selfish, and destructive performances of all time. He scored 22.6 points a game on 38% shooting. Meanwhile, Shaq shot 63% and scored 26.8 points a game. All Kobe needed to do was keep feeding him the ball and finding ways to get it to Shaq who was unstoppable - and they win the title. Instead he shoots 38% trying to unlock the Pistons defense by himself. This has to be the most damaging part of his legacy - even worse than his inability for two straight finals to score with any sort of efficiency over a several game period. I think people get wrapped up with the Jordan comparisons, because when Kobe is at his best, he can seem better than anyone - super strong, 6'7", quick, great three point shooter, great defender, nasty finisher. He really does have more tools than anyone out there including LeBron. He just is in no way as consistent as the other all time greats. But, then again, if he wins 2 or 3 more titles truly no one will remember this and he will go down as a top 5 all time by media pundits - if not the best ever- considering several were already saying he was as good as Jordan.

I'm too tired to discuss Shaq's legacy. All I can point out is that the Heat have sucked for the past two years, largely because Wade has been injured. Wade relies more on his athleticism than just about any top player in the league. When he can't finish at the rim with dunks (and he couldn't in 2007) it really disrupts his whole game. The Heat rely on him not being a good player - but the best player in basketball.

And, my final point about LeBron. I dislike him for several reasons which don't really have anything to do with his greatness- more his personality. But, I will say this: LeBron's press conference after losing game 7 to the Celtics was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen. All he talked about was how happy he was to be a part of such a great game, how this was his Bird and 'Nique moment. This guy just lost to the Celtics in a series they should have won and in a game they should have won. And he's putting it in this strange perspective. Can you imagine Jordan, Barkley, Isaiah, Wade, Bird, Magic - anyone - not being pissed off after a game like that? And there he was like the game had taken place a week ago? I still don't get him. If you were to re-draft all current NBA players, almost anyone would take LeBron. And why not? There is a chance he has a 40, 8 and 8 season in him. Passing him would make you look like an absolute moron. I still would take Chris Paul, though - not nearly as many stupid shots and he actually seems to give a crap. For some reason I just don't think LeBron is going to make it.

Chubbs, you're a Nets guy. How good was Jason Kidd when he was good? Ho


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