Tag Archives: Kobe Bryant

Last night in the NBA by the numbers

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Last night, in one of the most historically-relevant nights in NBA history, I couldn’t help but think about numbers. They were everywhere. Let’s break some of them down.

14 – The number of NBA games played last night. OK, that one was easy.

2 – The number of NBA games played last night that REALLY mattered. Sure, there was some Eastern Conference seeding to hammer out and the Houston Rockets clinched a playoff berth. But the two games that people will tell their grandkids about (the most reliable barometer for historical significance BTW) were the Golden State Warriors gunning for 73 wins in a single season and Kobe Bryant’s last NBA contest.

2 – The number of NBA streams I flipped between for about three hours from 10:30 p.m. ET onwards. Yup, it was a late night. And yup, I should have split-screened them. And yup, I’ll go to bed earlier tonight.

37 – The number of years since Kobe was born. His age, in other words.

20 – The number of consecutive seasons Kobe has been a Los Angeles Laker, the longest any NBA player has been with the same team. Death, taxes and Kobe being a Laker. Three things you can always count on.

Infinity – The number of damn celebs at this damn game. I mean I know this is L.A. but damn!

A fun hypothetical: How people would have reacted had Kobe dropped X number of points

X=15Good job, good effort. I mean, he averaged 17.6 points this season, well below his career average of 25, so this hovers around what he’s been doing all season. Makes sense. Thanks for the memories, #mamba.

X=25Alright, now we’re talking. A nice throwback effort from the Black Mamba. He hit his career average, a solid way to end his career. Enjoy retirement, Kobes!

X=40Yo, did Kobe really just do that?! That shit is crazy. I did not see that coming. This from a guy who shot 29% from three and 36% from the field this year?! SMDH. Hats off to Kobe. What a way to go out. Mad respect.

X=50Hold up, Kobe did WHAT?! You’re fucking with me, right? No way he did that. Dude IS like 50. Let me look up the box score. Damn, you’re right. #Mambaout indeed. Kobe dropped that mic and stepped on it.

60 – The number of points that Kobe scored last night in the final NBA game of his amazing career. That means that in the 2015-2016 NBA season, Kobe scored more in one game than any other player. Watching this unfold live was one of the most insane things I’ve seen on a basketball court. It was surreal. It was video game-like. It was like one of those cheesy yet fantastic Disney sports movies. It was everything anybody could have hoped for in Kobe’s finale.

50/50 – The odds that Kobe was going to have to be carried out on a stretcher (thumbs up raised to the sky just like a Disney movie) due to exhaustion. Seriously, he looked THAT tired.

Oh right, the other game. Well, the other game was ONLY the Warriors trying to win the most games EVER in an NBA season. Only.

72 – Prior to last night, the most wins in a single NBA season, set by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1995-96 campaign.

73 – The number of wins the Warriors achieved last night after beating the Memphis Grizzlies 125-104. The Grizz never stood a chance in this one. I don’t care how good Matt Barnes is at scowling.

30 – The number of dollars I won this year from betting on the Warriors 🙂

402 – The number of three pointers that Steph (i.e. Chef) Curry has made this season, the most in NBA history. Dude is lit from three.

286 – The second-highest number of three pointers made in a single season, accomplished last year by, wait for it, Curry. That means he broke his own record by 116. WTF.

276 – The third-highest number of three pointers made in a single season, accomplished this year by, wait for it, Curry’s backcourt mate, Klay Thompson. Yeah, they’re the heavy favourites to repeat as NBA champions, I’d say.

433 – The total number of three pointers made this season by the entire Milwaukee Bucks team.

2 – The number of days left until the NBA playoffs tip off. Can’t wait.

4 – The number of hashtags I’ll end this post with.

#ThankYouMamba #ThankYouWarriors #LetsGoRaps #WeTheNorth

 

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An ode to the San Antonio Spurs (psst…they aren’t boring)

Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan

Why is everybody turning their backs on the San Antonio Spurs?

Before I answer that question, let’s look at some Spurs history. Here’s the skinny:

  • This past Thursday, the Spurs became the first NBA team to reach 50 wins in the 2012-13 season
  • They are an astounding 28-4 at home and an equally astounding 23-12 on the road this year
  • They have three five-game winning streaks, one seven-game streak, and one 11-game streak, with 15 games left to play
  • They have had to deal with lingering injuries to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (only their three best players BY FAR)
  • For those counting at home, the Spurs have won at least 50 games every season since the 1997-98 season and make the playoffs 89% of the time (31 out of 35 since 1967-68)

Here’s the thing, though. Despite their immaculate play all season, people would rather talk about the 36-33 LA Lakers. Or the 36-31 Houston Rockets. Or the 39-26 New York Knicks. Or whether Dahntay Jones decided to change his locks in order to “Kobe-proof” his house.

Fans (Spurs fans not included) and the media alike seem to want to talk about everything but the Spurs, despite the fact that they are reeling off wins like Tiger Woods in his prime with a 36-year-old Tim Duncan and a 35-year-old Manu Ginobili.

I find this discrepancy fascinating.

So what’s the issue here? What exactly am I missing? Is it because they have always been this good? After all, it’s no secret that disappointment and struggle sell more papers than continued success. Just look at newspaper covers. Shootings, natural disasters, assaults and robberies litter the front pages. Want a positive story? Better keep digging.

When things aren’t going your way, when you’re underachieving, especially in sports, people’s ears seem to perk up like Catholics when that white smoke puffs up from the Vatican chimney. The media loves the combination of ridiculously high expectations and superstar X failing to meet them. Just ask 2010 LeBron James in his first year with the Miami Heat. Or Tiger Woods during his current major-less streak. Or Kobe Bryant right now.

But this theory doesn’t fully answer the question.

Would we stop paying attention if the Heat ripped off not five, not six, not seven NBA titles in a row? Did we collectively tune out when Tiger not just won but dominated four straight majors starting with the 2000 US Open? Or when Roger Federer won five straight at Wimbledon AND the US Open?

The simple answer: No friggin’ way. We had our eyes firmly glued to our TVs.

Did we stop paying attention when these two guys were dominating their respective sports? No way.

Did we stop paying attention when these two guys were dominating their respective sports? No way

So it’s clear that we love watching the best of the best. An athlete or a team that is leaps and bounds above the rest draws eyeballs, period. While athletes and teams that don’t live up to expectations (see 2012-13 LA Lakers) peak our collective interest, it’s also obvious, by the same token, that we enjoy watching one person or team just flat-out dominate.

So what’s the real problem then, you ask?

To put it simply,  most people just find the Spurs to be a boring team. Where are the highlight dunks? Where are the outspoken personalities? Where’s the flair? Where’s the swag?

The numbers bear this out. Since 1976, according to TV ratings, the two lowest-rated NBA Finals’ were in 2003 and 2007. Guess what? Yup, you guessed right. The Spurs won the NBA championship in 2003 and 2007.

At this point, I’d like to say that I do not find this basketball team to be boring. Whatsoever. I never have and I never will.

Here’s why:

Coaching

My favourite coach in the NBA for sure

My favourite coach in the NBA for sure

I enjoy efficiency in any aspect of life. And out of the 30 NBA teams, the Spurs are definitely the most efficient of the bunch, running like a well-oiled machine. Led by Gregg Popovich, the smartest (and probably the funniest) head coaches in the league, the Spurs get more out of their roster year-after-year than any other team.

One recent example comes to mind. This past November, the Spurs have a tilt with the Heat in a nationally-televised game. Very quietly, Pop decides to send Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Danny Green home. That’s 80% of their starting lineup! The team was gutted! Heat fans were miffed when players such as Nando de Colo and Patty Mills were announced in the player intros. I still don’t know who these guys are!

So with a starting lineup that might have had some trouble against D-League talent, everybody readied themselves for a Heat blowout. But it just never happened. Pop mixed and matched his team to hang with the Heat until the very end, eventually losing out 105-100 in a hard-fought game that probably felt like a moral victory for the Spurs.

It didn’t matter that the Spurs lost. It really didn’t. In my opinion, they made as big a statement by hanging with the Heat with that lineup than they would have made with a win armed with a full roster.

To use a popular term, the coaching staff of San Antonio are busy playing chess while the rest of the league plays checkers.

The players

The Spurs have been supporting each from the start

The Spurs have been supporting each other from the start

I can understand why people would find Tim Duncan boring. I really can. But I just love watching this guy play. Set to go down as probably the greatest power forward ever, Duncan has been doing everything right since being drafted in 1997. He might also go down as one of the most humble superstars to ever play the game. Just don’t mistake humility for passivity.

He always seems to be in the right place to grab boards. His post-moves are effective, efficient and a joy to watch. And if he’s defending you, get ready for a very long night. He’s the walking personification of leading by example. He has to be one of the most quietly confident players ever, not playing for the attention of the media but for the respect of his teammates, his coaching staff and his fans.

He probably doesn’t even enjoy playing in the All-Star Game because all that razzle dazzle just seems like it’d be foreign to him. But who cares? The point here is that if you’re a big man and want to play in the NBA, you couldn’t find a better role model than TD. We all know he’s good but allow me to roll out his career numbers for good measure: 20.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.2 bpg, 51 fg%. Woah.

Parker and Ginobili are two of the speediest and feistiest NBA guards to ever play the game, as well as two of the most entertaining. Parker’s one of the quickest players in the game and always brings a steady hand to the Spurs’ offence. And Ginobili, quite simply, is one of the most unique players in the history of basketball. He may have an unorthodox style of play but he brings a tough, Argentinian soccer mentality to the Spurs every single night. To quote Pop, “He’s Manu Ginobili.”

To be honest, I can at least understand why people might find Duncan boring to watch. But if you think that watching Parker and Ginobili play basketball is boring, then we must be watching different things.

Chemistry

With the Spurs, you can’t help but feel that the organization is like a second family to each and every one of them. It’s like Vince, E, Turtle and Drama. The Spurs are the Entourage of the NBA. You know these guys will stick with each other through thick and thin. They’ll stand up for each other through trying and tumultuous times. They’ll support each other off the court as well as on it.

It’s cliche to say but I really believe there are no egos on this team. They’re the team-iest of all the NBA teams, by far.

And one thing I can pretty much guarantee you is that they’ll continue to do these things until the day they retire. Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Pop will be Spurs for life. Mark my words. They’ll never work for another organization, something that’s becoming more and more rare these days no matter what you do. And something that should be applauded.

Did I mention they won four championships over the span of eight years?

Did I mention they won four championships over the span of eight years?

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Five random, bulleted thoughts regarding the NBA

So I read a lot of columns, sports or otherwise. And whenever I see a piece that’s bulleted, my first thought is to deem the writer lazy. Because a bulleted article allows the writer to hand something in to his/her editor that doesn’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. It’s pretty much just random thoughts. For those of you who remember essay writing from your university days, bulleted columns essentially lack a thesis statement. But hey, we lead busy lives, right? Not all of us have time for thesis statements, rising action, conclusions, and whatever other components make up an official essay these days. All that being said, here are some of my bulleted thoughts. Feel free to call me lazy because you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.

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Kobe Bryant on his own team: “We’re old as shit.” I love this guy.

  • How in the world are the Los Angeles Lakers (15-16) a sub-500 team? We all expected a getting-to-know-each-other phase. Not many people expected them to come flying out of the gates. But this? If the season were to end today, the Lakers would finish as the 10th seed in the Western Conference and miss the playoffs. If I had more energy, I’d look up the last time that happened. OK fine, I’ll look it up. They last missed the playoffs in 2004-05. One other tidbit: Since 1948, they’ve missed the playoffs a total of five times. Thanks, Wikipedia. Anyway, coming into the season, it was clear to me and everyone else who cared that they had a measly excuse for a bench, “highlighted,” I suppose, by 36-year-old Antawn Jamison. But I thought given their starting lineup of multiple All-Stars Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol and one-time All-Star (look it up) Metta World Peace, they’d, at the very, very least, be a playoff team. If this team doesn’t put together a winning streak soon, chants of “We Want Phil” may start raining down at the Staples Centre once again. Or maybe “We Want Andrea.” Wouldn’t that be sweet?
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Yes you do, Matt Barnes. Yes you do. That’s why Clips fans love you. And opposing fans, well, don’t.

  • Oh, I ain’t done with the City of Angels just yet. If the Lakers have been bad, their stadium-mates have been, well, great. That’s right. The Clippers, perhaps at one point the biggest laughing stock in any sport, consistently dismissed as the clumsy little brother to the Lakers, didn’t drop a game during the month of December as they amassed 17 straight wins. 17! They have the best record in the league! Unlike the Lakers, their bench has a collection of guys who would start on most other teams. The Clippers!? With the Lakers falling like flies and the Clippers rising like stars, the city of Los Angeles is truly embroiled in a bizarro world-type situation. Oh, and they play each other tomorrow. You don’t think both LA squads will be up for that one? Please let Gasol pat Chris Paul’s head again. Please. And in case you were wondering, since 1970, the Clippers have qualified for the playoffs a grand total of eight times. Ocho!
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He seems like perfectly nice guy so he’s only here because he’s the oldest player in the league. In your face, Grant Hill!

  • Let’s start off by reviewing the ages of some of these New York Knickerbockers. Kurt Thomas: 40. Jason Kidd: 39. Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace: both 38. Amar’e Stoudemire: plays defence like he’s 38. Just kidding. Well, not really. For the record, he’s 30. To be fair, of these senior citizens, only one, Kidd, plays more than 20 minutes per game at 29.9. Coming into the season, I expected the Knicks’ age to show. But thanks to an MVP-like performance so far from Carmelo Anthony as well as an honourable mention to J.R. Smith’s decision to stay away from the New York nightlife, this team is 21-10 and currently in second place in the Eastern Conference behind LeBron et. al. Now, as we all know, the East is (how should I put this politely?) inferior to the West but still. The Knicks could potentially beat Miami in a seven-game series. They’ve already done it twice this year, by a combined 40 points, actually.
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Will this happen again in June? I’d put their chances at 60-40.

  • As for the aforementioned Heatles, they’re doing pretty much what I expected. They have the best record in the East but the fourth-best record in the league. There’s no doubt the champs are playing well but isn’t there a feeling that they could have a better record at this point? A vague sense that because they realize the weakness of their conference, that they’re not playing full bore at this point? They’re smart enough to know that preserving their bodies for a deep playoff run should be their top priority right now, not winning games in November and December. They should focus on getting the top seed in the East and not on shooting for any single-season record at this point. Win the East, win the “statement games” such as their Christmas tussle with the Thunder on Christmas day and they should be just fine.
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No comment.

  • So I can’t talk about every team so let’s just move right along to my home squadron: The Toronto Raptors. I, along with many members of the media, were putting forward a strong sense of cautious optimism at the beginning of the season. Given that the pucks were in a lockout, I was hoping (praying) for some Cinderella-type story that seems to mostly happen in the movies but sometimes materializes in real life. In an ideal world, the Raps come out of the gates strong, beating teams nobody expected them to beat, eventually wrapping up the season somewhere in the 2-4 seed range in the East. Meanwhile, the NHL owners and players are forced to cancel the entire season, putting the Raptors directly in the spotlight in Hogtown. After that, who knows what could have happened? But winning a round and maybe even losing out to the Heat in the Conference Finals would have been priceless for the game of basketball in Toronto as well as Canada. As we all know, this will likely not happen. Because from November 20 to December 12, the Raptors lost 12 of 13 games (we beat Phoenix at home!), putting us at 4-19 on the season. The good news? What we’ve done since then. Coincidentally, once Bargnani left the lineup due to injury, the Raps magically started stringing together some wins, namely eight of their last nine. Now I’m no rocket scientist. I can’t even tipe corretcly but it seems we may be a better team without our no-doubt-talented yet no-doubt-unmotivated no. 1 pick. And according to ESPN, he’s a lock to be traded. Please take note of the four exclamation points after the topic name. And this is a pro-Raptors site. ‘Nuff said.

 

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Jeremy Lin: A great story saddled with unfair expectations

Kobe beat me to it.

Moments after deciding to write about Jeremy Lin, the point guard for the New York Knicks, I googled his name only to discover that Kobe had already chimed in on the matter.

And he stole the words right out of my mouth.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the next big thing in the NBA.

For those who don’t know, Lin, who was playing in the D-League a fortnight ago, has enjoyed three consecutive impressive games and is, all of a sudden, the NBA’s new golden boy and the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Here’s a (G-rated) transcript  of Kobe from Yahoo! Sports:

“I don’t even know what the [fudge] is going on. What the [fudge] is going on? Who is this kid? I’ve heard about him and stuff like that, but what’s he been doing? Is he getting like triple doubles or some [stuff]? He’s averaging 28 and eight? No [stuff]. If he’s playing well, I’ll just have to deal with him.”

In my opinion, Kobe is the ultimate competitor in the league today. Like all elite athletes (the Michael Jordans, the Tiger Woods’, the Roger Federers), Kobe has that winning gene. When he strides onto the court, you know it’s on. He’s ready to battle for 48 minutes. Kobe, the epitome of consistency and longevity, will praise a fellow competitor. But that praise must be earned.

Speaking of longevity, Lin has had three good games. Three! So did we really expect Kobe to say anything different when asked to comment about a kid who, over the past two years, has been dropped by two NBA teams and was playing for the Erie BayHawks less than two weeks ago?

Nope. Not a chance.

For the record, I am not hating on Lin. The 23-year-old American of Taiwanese descent and Harvard grad has played three fantastic games: 25 points and 7 assists, 28/8, and 23/10, all of them wins.

Has Lin become the feel-good story of this shortened NBA season? Without a doubt.

Asian-Americans finally have an NBA player to call their own. Harvard, who hasn’t churned out a professional basketball player since the 1950s, now has a notable one to support. Christians around the world will be drawn to Lin, a devout believer who wants to one day be a pastor. China, the most populous country in the world and one absolutely in love with basketball, will make efforts to catch Lin vs. Kobe tonight, as well as every subsequent game he plays. I am a Canadian with a Chinese mother so I can definitely feel the pride.

Jeremy Lin is good for the growth of the international game. Jeremy Lin is good for the city of New York. Jeremy Lin is good for dreamers and underdogs around the world. Jeremy Lin is a big draw for Ivy-Leaguers, Christians, Asian-Americans, and anyone else who can’t contain a smile when good things happen to good people.

In other words, it’s all good.

My only problem is that the amount of press and attention given to Lin has not been proportional to his accomplishments. I’m sure many in the media, even those who are guilty of prematurely hyping up Lin, would agree with me. Even TMZ got caught up in “Linsanity.”

So why has three games caused such a huge buzz?

Maybe it’s because Lin stands out in a league dominated by African-Americans. Maybe it’s because this is all happening in New York City, romanticized as the city where dreams come true. Maybe it’s because he’s been sleeping on his brother’s couch for the past few months. Maybe it’s because Ivy League schools are associated more with books and brains than basketballs and brawn.

If a black kid put up three consecutive games like Lin did in say, Milwaukee, would we be talking this much about him? Would I be writing this blog post? Would that player have his own catchphrase?

It’s a fair question to ask.

No matter the reasons, the pressure heaped on this kid after such a short time is almost palpable. It simply doesn’t seem fair. In this fast-paced world of Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle, we seem to have lost some of our perspective.

The catchphrases “Linsanity” and “Linsane” became common expressions after one good game. There are Jeremy Lin rap videos on YouTube. At the time of writing, Lin is the top story on ESPN.com.

In this age of instant gratification, we can tear down our heroes as quickly as we build them up. And that’s what I’m worried about. Let’s say Lin has a poor game tonight. I can almost see the hashtag: #Linisabust. And that, once again, would be entirely unfair.

It’s sad to say (and I sincerely hope I get proven wrong) but tonight may just be the night that Lin comes back down to earth. His past three games have come against the Nets, the Jazz, and the Wizards, hardly elite teams in the NBA. Tonight’s game will see the Knicks host Kobe and the Lakers at MSG.

Despite all the gushing praise, one thing that can’t be denied is that Lin won’t average these numbers the rest of the season. He simply will not. So when he does eventually put up a stinker, let’s try to keep things in perspective, sort of like Kobe would.

Nobody’s perfect, no matter how much we’d like them to be.

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Shedding a tear for the NBA lockout

At one point there, you couldn’t help but feel some hope.

This was fun, wasn't it?

It appeared the gears were possibly in motion and the wide chasm between the two sides was potentially shrinking. For what felt like a nanosecond, it seemed that cooler heads might prevail and the NBA Players Association and the NBA owners just might put their collective interests ahead of their individual ones and start training camp and the 2011-12 NBA season on time.

Storylines ran through my head at breakneck speed. How will Miami’s Big Three fare in their sophomore season? Can Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire get Spike Lee and the New York faithful on their feet once again? How does Dirk back up his championship season? Derrick Rose his MVP one? The list goes on and on and on.

Finding out what happens with this dynamic duo also figures prominently on the list.

And then, like glass panes falling from Toronto condominiums, it all came crashing down. This is unfortunate for two main reasons. First and most obviously, NBA fans stand to lose an entire season. Secondly, from a business standpoint, it couldn’t come at a worse time for the league.

That’s because it seems to me that the NBA hasn’t enjoyed this level of popularity and attention in quite some time. While a lot of it has to be credited to one man’s “decision” to relocate his talents, the fact remains that not since a man named Michael dominated the game has it been this star-laden. This rich with storylines. This damn compelling.

If the NBA was a winter jacket, it’d be a Canada Goose. If it was a Hollywood actor, it’d be Ryan Gosling. If it was a film festival, it’d be TIFF. The point is that the NBA is hot right now and, unsurprisingly, the numbers bear it out.

Simply put, millions of people will be disappointed and thousands downright pissed if the NBA cancels the season. I don’t know why I do this to myself but here are two reasons among many why:

The Big Three/Two-and-a-half/Two and their encore performance

Remember when LeBron turned into one of the most polarizing figures overnight after he decided to take his talents to South Beach? According to one source, the one-hour special drew upwards of 10 millions viewers, more than most NBA playoff games. Let me repeat: MORE THAN AN ACTUAL GAME.

So from the opening tip against the Celtics in late October to their crushing defeat to the Mavs in the NBA Finals (giving team play vs. pure talent an early 1-0 advantage), the microscope was firmly aimed at Lebron, Dwayne and Chris. Opposing fan bases relished the chance to boo the Big Three. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley took shots at LeBron’s legacy. The city of Cleveland damn near ripped his head off. One clever ESPN analyst even likened Bosh to a Spice Girl.

If they were already under a microscope, this pre-pre-season celebration certainly turned up the magnification. Orlando Magic coach (and one of the best quotes in any sport) Stan Van Gundy said it best:

“I do chuckle a little bit when they sort of complain about the scrutiny when they get. My suggestion would be if you don’t want the scrutiny, you don’t hold a championship celebration before you’ve even practiced together.”

Like it or not, the pressure was on for this team not only to win but to win big. With a team armed with two of the three best players IN THEIR PRIME (distinguishing them from Boston’s or San Antonio’s Big Three, for example), anything short of a championship would have been deemed a failure. And doesn’t the fact that they failed make their second attempt that much more fascinating?

Two dynamic duos in two very different markets

Oklahoma City has 580,000 people as well as the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. New York City has 8,175,133 people and Times Square.

NYC is commonly referred to as “the city that never sleeps.” Some might call OKC a great place to catch up on your sleep.

NYC has Jay-Z, Beyonce, David Letterman and Jon Stewart. Who does OKC have as current residents? Well, to be fair, they do have this guy:

All jokes aside, one thing the cities do share is a high level of optimism for their respective NBA teams and their abilities to make a championship push.

In the Big Apple, a hoops-crazy city if there ever was one, you have one of the best big men in the league (when healthy) in Amare Stoudemire and arguably the best pure scorer in Carmelo Anthony. With a rejuvenated Stoudemire under the basket grabbing boards, swatting shots and posting up while Anthony unloads his very special offensive arsenal, the recipe for success is there. The question mark, of course, is the rest of the team but if the Heat can make it to the finals with two-and-a-half men, what’s to stop the Knicks from doing it with two?

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Too bad we might have to wait awhile to watch these two at MSG.

Chemistry in team sports is both one of the hardest things to achieve as well as one of the most vital to success. Adding to the problem is that it’s virtually impossible to predict. Anthony and Stoudemire have only had half a season together, not long enough to make any conclusions. But there is no doubt people will tune in to form their own.

Speaking of chemistry, there have been signs of strain and tension in OKC (much of it media-driven) between Westbrook and Durant. From my end, it seems the main problem is that while everybody on the planet believes Durant to be the first option, Westbrook continues to think, “Uhh. Maybe it’s me?” Selfish at times and a bad decision-maker often, Westbrook has to hand over the team to Durant for this baby to work.

That being said, it would be an immense blow to the organization if they were to ship Westbrook. He’s a burgeoning superstar and a legitimate multiple All-Star. Once he learns how to help his team rather than hurt it and whether he’s a point guard or a shooting guard, his athleticism and explosiveness will do the rest. The potential for greatness is too high to split these two up.

These are only a couple of storylines to follow once the NBA starts up again, whenever that may be. Sigh. Well, at least the refs worked out a deal.

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Lakers-Celtics: Need I say more?

So the NBA Finals begin this Thursday after a lengthy break for the players and coaching staff. And once my beloved Suns (the Raptors were long gone, leaving the Suns as my favourite) bowed out to the Lakers in six on Friday night, it was official.

As an aside, Kobe made a couple of unbelievable shots down the stretch, didn’t he?  Dude is crazy good.

Anyway, the most storied rivalry in the NBA will start anew with Boston and Los Angeles set to spar in the Finals. As a relatively young NBA fan, I didn’t grow up watching Bird and Magic in the 80s. And I definitely didn’t see Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain go at it in the 60s. But after doing some research, it became clear that the rivalry is not dreamt up by the media to sell more tickets or lure more viewers. It is legit.

Here’s a few reasons why:

  • From 1959 to 1969, the Lakers and Celtics met in the Finals seven times, with Boston winning them all.  To have the same two teams at the end seven out of ten times is pretty amazing.
  • Almost 20 years later, the rivalry was renewed with the two teams meeting in the ’84, ’85, and ’87 Finals with the Lakers winning two of the three
  • Those series in the 80s can best be summed up in three words: Bird vs Magic. Even the most casual sports fan knows what they mean.  These guys symbolized their respective teams and cities.  Bird was less flashy and represented the working-class grit of Boston, an efficient and amazingly productive player.  Magic would dazzle you with his nifty playmaking, representing the glitz and glamor of Hollywood.  As Bryant Gumbel once said, Bird and Magic “saved the NBA.”
  • After the battles in the 80s, a guy named Jordan came along and briefly put the rivalry on hold.  But lately, the teams have gotten used to seeing each other again.  Two years ago, the Celtics beat the Lakers in six to win the championship.  By the way, the clinching game for Boston was won by 39 points.  Think the Lakers remember?

Fast forward to the present and all I can say is here we go again.  I’ll be back to offer up some prediction but in the meantime check this out:

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Four teams, one trophy.

No, I’m not talking about the Habs making it to the final four.  Although I must admit that I even surprised myself by watching a good chunk of game 7 against the Pens.  I couldn’t believe it!  It had been years since I actually watched a hockey game.  Maybe it will lead to more.  Who knows?  I will say that given the awesome story that the Habs have become, it was temporarily spoiled by the small collection of idiotic fans who choose to celebrate a victory by looting Foot Locker and the liquor store.  Not down with that.

Digression aside, here’s some thoughts on the NBA.

Post-game love

  • Watching Lebron last night remove his Cavs jersey while walking through the tunnel made me wonder if that would be his last time.  LBJ’s Cavs, who most thought would win it all, were knocked out in 6 games by the deeper Boston Celtics.  It’s been suggested by many that if Lebron didn’t go all the way this year, his career in Cleveland will end.  There are no certainties but it was clear that the supporting cast for Lebron didn’t get it done for him in this series.  Lebron (and every other NBA player) wants to win.  Winning comes from a team effort and the early exit of the Cavs last night points to the fact that one man can’t do it all; but maybe one woman can.  Some telling stats:  Jamison gets 5 points, AP gets 7, and Shaq gets 11.  The entire bench got 13!  This may (should?) not be enough to keep Lebron a Cav.
  • Everyone used to talk about the big three of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen.  But Rondo has quietly become more valuable than any of them.  I know I mentioned it already but his game 4 numbers were off the charts:  29 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists.  Are you kidding me?  With an aging roster brimming with experience and playoff savvy, Rondo has become the most reliable playmaker on the team.  While the big three are icing their old-er bones on the bench, Rondo can do his thing all night.
  • I think that Toronto’s public enemy number 1, Vince Carter, may be the X-factor for the Boston-Orlando series.  If he is assertive, aggressive, and channels the Vince of old, this series should go Orlando’s way.  Boston has some bigs they can throw at Howard but none can really guard him.  They should get consistent production out of Nelson and Lewis. If you’re a Raptors fan, you know that this is no guarantee but if Vince shows up, I give the nod to Orlando.  And when I say show up, I don’t mean attend.  Unless he has another ill-timed graduation ceremony.
  • If you visit these parts, you’ll know that Steve Nash is god!  I love his hockey attitude that he brings to the court.  Saying that his hockey friends back home would have ribbed him had he not returned to play with a swollen eye was priceless.  Not only is he the best facilitator in the game but it seems like he is the heart and soul of that team.  He leads by example by showing up and leaving it all on the floor.  And he’s directing a Terry Fox documentary for ESPN!  Gotta love a guy who doesn’t forget his roots.  Lakers-Suns should be an epic series.  Suns have had the upper hand recently, knocking out LA the last two times they met.  But as always, fear the guy out for revenge.  Kobe has apparently not forgotten about those defeats and the last thing this guy needs is more motivation.  A re-enactment:

REPORTER:  Will it be extra special to play against the Suns, a team who has eliminated you the last two meetings?

KOBE:  (long pause, blank stare)  What do you think?  (pause, look of frustration)  You already know.

Predictions are fun, right?  I’ve been wrong recently so maybe I’m due.  A lot of this is based on guts and thinking with my heart rather than my brain but I’ll say that Phoenix move on in 6 and Orlando and Wince win in 7.

Oh, and the Habs have already beaten the top 2 teams in the East.  Let’s go with Montreal in 6, ending their run of game 7s.  Less stress for Montrealers.  And hopefully less broken windows.

One more Steve Nash tidbit.  Just found this.  Know that the other guy is supposed to be Tim Duncan.  Took me awhile.  Enjoy!

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