Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pre Finals Preparations, MVPuppets Edition

I have loved the Most Valuable Puppet commercials. Some of the moments in those commercials are among my favorite Playoff moments. Here are a few:

Lil Dex to LeBron: You've got over 20 triple doubles, can I have one?

LeBron to Kobe (after answering the phone call from Mrs. Lewis): She said...YOU AIN'T GOT NO DEFENSE.

Kobe to LeBron (while he is parading around throwing chalk in the air): Why do we live together?

Lil Dex to Kobe: Kobe, Why you shave your 'fro? Are you more aerodynamic now?

Kobe to LeBron (on the phone long distance to each other right after Game 6, LeBron is in Orlando and Kobe in the apartment): Mrs. Lewis said you can share a room with Lil Dex until you get your own place.

My only hope now is that we don't get bombarded with Puppet commercials featuring only Kobe. The success was in the Puppet Roommate Chemistry. (If only Dwight Howard had signed with Nike) Turkoglu would be an awesome new roommate for Puppet Kobe. It might turn out a little like this show (though Kobe would have to grow out his 'fro again). They could cut to scenes of LeBron having dinner with Mrs. Lewis and Lil Dex, LeBron not being able to sleep at night because Hedo and Kobe and playing one-on-one. This could be really great.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Playoff Musings, Blindsided Edition

"Its so much fun to see someone get blindsided."

Not the exact quote but it was something close to that that everyone's favorite Mormon Survivor said just before his well laid plan was carried out, eliminating the Entrepreneur who thought he had the inside track on eliminating deep V Mormon boy. Entrepreneur never saw it coming, but the best part was the following week when deep V himself was blindsided. Its not often the blindsider gets blindsided immediately after doing the blindsiding. (for those keeping track, my percentage of blindside to words in that last sentence is equal to JR Smiths FG% in game 5)

The Conference Finals have provided a bit of blindsiding on their own. Magic winning game one, then losing game two. Then the Magic being up 3-1. There is also Denver hitting LA hard in the first two games and then getting knocked of their high horse in game 3 and 5. Its really been quite back and forth as far as the teams surprising one another. Who comes out on top of all this? The fans and the networks. Ratings are sky high and it correlates with genuine interest from all of us.

If you like getting blindsided, stop reading now. If you don't, read on. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Anyone who thought they were getting a Magic/Nuggets Finals is about to be blindsided this weekend, just like those who were convinced that it would be Cleveland/LA and then got T-Boned last weekend.

Jay-Z and LeBron have their own handshake. You've been warned for the last time Cleveland. (get in line now for a Cleveland Stimulus're going to need it)

How does Dwight Howard not flip out every other possession with his team running around behind the 3 point line while he grapples with Big Z and Sideshow Bob only to have to race back down court because someone missed a stupid shot? If I'm Dwight Howard, everyone on my team has a copy of the game 4 overtimes and I hold them down and make them watch it before Game 6. (How does Rashard Lewis make 4 million more a year than D12?) When Howard goes Hulk-Smash on everyone at the Amway, don't say you weren't warned.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Playoff Musings, DPOY edition

I will openly admit at the onset that I watch way more basketball in the postseason than the regular season. In part because it is on every night and also because frankly its more exciting. Don't be misled and think that I am not an avid NBA fan just because my viewership peaks in May. With that disclaimer out of the way lets address the topic at hand.

The defense in the playoffs is getting worse and worse. And few are exempt, especially the D-POY himself.

Defensive Player of the Year. The best defender in the league. One on one, help defender, team defender, you name it they do it. Right? I'm not so sure I would go that far. It seems to only be a big man award. 20 of the 27 times it has been given out, it went to big men, forwards or centers, who include Olajuwon, David Robinson, Mutombo, Mourning and Garnett. (I hesitate to agree with Ben Wallace winning 4, but two of those came in the same year Steve Nash won back to back MVPs so lets just all agree the voters didn't know what was going on those years) Big men routinely win this award, but why. The stats tell the story there. There are two defensive stats; steals and blocks. Nine winners of the award led the league in blocks the same year they won the award and three other winers led the league in steals the year they won. Basically half of the winners were "statistically" superior, and of those stat leading winners, 90% of those came in the last 18 years. So its turning into a question of which is more impressive; Chris Paul's 2.8 steals or Dwight Howard's 2.9 blocks. Or was Dwyane Wade's combination of 1.6 blocks and 2.2 steals the most impressive? If you are using stats as the measuring stick, HOW do you know? The truth is, the stats will never tell you.

After seeing the Magic play more times than I care to, and watching Dwight Howard roam the paint, (though its more of a set up shop in the paint) I can't say I am all too impressed with the reigning D-POY (pronounced DEE poi). I know games get more physical, and some would say its the officiating and their quick whistles. If you watch Dwight, he roams around but more often than not be shies away from contesting the shot aggressively. If we look at just the evidence from the box scores we see that in the playoffs this year Howard has fouled out of 4 games, had 5 fouls in 4 others. Most of the fouls he gets called for are when he keeps his arms straight up on the air and jumps backward. Is that good defense? Now I understand that a big man is more likely to get fouls called on him because he is guarding the basket and plays at the rim usually result in fouls, but I won't accept that as a definitive excuse.

I am not singling out Howard, but he is a good example and is easy to follow. I hate to see it, but far to many players are falling into that routine; putting their arms straight up and hoping to not get the foul called. You know what, I hope they call the foul every time for being pansies on defense.

In the Rockets' two playoff series, Battier had the assignment against Brandon Roy and Kobe Bryant. Granted he was much more dedicated to Bryant than Roy, but Roy averaged over 7 FT attempts against Houston and Bryant was right at 6 per game, yet Battier never fouled out and only one time did he reach 5 fouls. If you watch Dahntay Jones in comparison, you'll see its no easy task. So good, hard nosed defense might just be rewarded with more leeway on the whistles.

Is this another Battier is underrated article? Not specifically. The best defense doesn't show up on the defender's stat sheet. It might not even be visible in any box score. But it sure is apparent when you are watching the game. Call me crazy, but good defense isn't watching Pau Gasol come barreling down the lane for a dunk so you don't pick up your 5th foul. Good defense is not jumping backward with your arms straight up in the air.

When was the last time this post season you saw a player change their shot because they were afraid of it being blocked? Only when LeBron was chasing them down from behind. Why was he chasing them down from behind? Because the two defenders that got back don't know how to stop a fast break. Why is the only thing we have seen throughout the whole LA/Denver series (and Orlando/Cleveland for that matter) been nothing more than a guy coming over to double team and then him passing to the open man? Because so few are the good one on one defenders. I am tired of seeing Kobe pass to a wide open Vujacic because JR Smtih left him open to "help". Like he was going to actually do anything to deter Kobe.

Maybe its the changes in the rules or the quick whistles of the 70 year old referees. Maybe its just just a lack of some good old fashioned defensive drills every once in a while. We hear all about some player showing up an hour early to work on the rhythm of his jumper. Can we get somebody showing up early to work on moving their feet on defense because they got beat off the dribble EVERY posession? Lets remember the days when Dutch Boy ruled the paint and the Davis Brothers cleaned up the rest. (how else do you think a team with Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson got past the First Round) Patrick Ewing never won a D-POY but he definitley had a little more fortitude in the middle than the Smiling Superman especially when he had Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason knocking guys out as they came near the paint.

Whistles are going to come. They always have and always will. But come on guys, "Its like we're not even trying"

Monday, May 25, 2009

Playoff Musings, Breakfast at Sulimay's Edition

The internet is a bottomless mine of creative and interesting things. Here is the latest thing I've found that I wish I would have though of first (via Stereogum). This is a group of candid old folks somewhere near Philadelphia who are given new music and whole-heartedly critique it. They share the same feelings on Animal Collective as yours truly, some love for universal blog darling Bon Iver, mixed opinions on hip-hop and a generally honest assessment of the music. Although the reviews are only based on 30 second clips, it still worth wasting a half hour or so seeing these old people cut through the hype/crap and call it as it is.

In the same vein of the aforementioned breakfast troupe, I am going to try and cut through some of the lingering hype of this years playoffs.

First of all, I think Dwight Howard is right. I wouldn't have said it at the first of the post season because the only previous hype he had gotten was over some ridiculous Dunk Contest theater. But as we stand today, I agree whole heartedly. (WARNING: He could drop a big turd sandwich the rest of the series and I would immediately do a 180 and give him the two word review for Spinal Tap's album Shark Sandwich.)

Second, we have briefly mentioned on here before the over use of the word CLOSER in the playoffs this year. It makes for a nice surface deep cross-over term from baseball, but what is a closer? In baseball its the guy you bring in when you are ahead in the 8th or 9th inning. So, your closer is your best front runner, your best pitcher for 3 to 6 outs when you are ahead. So if we cross over without changing the meaning, Kobe is the best front runner in the game. I am no expert on Kobe Bryant, but I think many people would agree that he is the best at playing from ahead. Last nights blow out is a perfect of example of him being terrible at playing from behind, which would only solidify him as a front runner. But here is the question; isn't everyone better playing with the lead as opposed to playing from behind or in close games? (On a side note, Kobe had a non-awkward moment last night, just to see what it was like.)

This brings me to my next point. Stats. In baseball we track hitting with runners in scoring position (on second or third base), so shouldn't we track players performance in close moments of games? It could be broken down to certain scenarios; down 20+, down 15-20, down 9-15, down 4-8, down 3 to up 3, up 4-8, up 9-15, up 15 to 20 and up 20+. To me that would be most telling of a players value on the court. Do they still play as hard, make correct decisions or take good shots as they are falling behind? I think you would find, if these stats existed, that coaches could coach better, by playing guys in the right situations. JR Smith is a good example. Great when its not a close game. Paul Pierce is great at making comebacks. Chauncey Billups on the other hand seems to play better in tight games. Now these are only gut feelings. Some stats would really tell the tale.

Back to Billups. He has to love playing the Lakers going clear back to the '04 Finals, when him and the New Bad Boys dismantled the Laker Dynasty. How many Nuggets games do you thing Joe Dumars has watched this post season? Do you thinks its more than Iverson has watched? I for one have watched almost all of them. And I have never been more impressed with the guy who used to sport the zig-zag shaved in part in his eraser head flattop. He seems to always make the right decisions, has just as big of a killer instinct as the Black Snake, and has a believable smile.

And a few random observations.

When was the last time Jeff Van Gundy Slept?
He has reached the Emperor Palpatine level of bags under his eyes.

Is it just me or does Phil Jackson look like Frankenstein on the sidelines in his extra large chair and lack of rotation in his neck?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Playoff Musings, Masterpiece Theater Edition

Sometimes it seems like plot lines for movies just get recycled over and over. So much so at times that the movie can't even hold our interest until the end because it becomes so predictable. Add a little bit of bad acting and you probably don't even finish watching it. That is usually the NBA Playoffs in a nutshell. The same tired story of the powerhouses free-throwing their way through the playoffs with little exception of unsuspected drama or conflict. And when there is conflict, it usually only makes things worse, i.e. the Phoenix Suspensions.

This year, beyond the Kobe Vs. LeBron bologna (the guys have only played head to head 11 times in 6 years, and both players have scored over 30 in the same game TWICE, so I don't know how they are even thinking bout comparing them to Bird and Magic when they played each other 36 times and 17 of them were in the Finals not to mention the 1979 NCAA Championship) there is quite the intriguing Conference Finals going on. And not only does the drama of each game hold you until the final buzzer, the cast of characters is as diverse as it is unsuspected.

Who would have thought Ariza would steal two inbounds passes in almost identical fashion to ice close games in the closing seconds? Who would have thought Turkoglu would be knocking down serial killer 3 pointers in Cleveland with LeBron on his jock? Who would have thought that Orlando could have been going home up 2-0 and Denver as well? The average margin of victory so far; 4.6 points (and thats after some end of game fouling that gave the Lakers a 6 point win which should have only been 2 or 3).

So not only is this playoff theater unsuspected, but it is surprisingly good. I'll put the conspiracy theories aside and just enjoy the fact that we have a competitive playoffs because it just doesn't happen that often.

Speaking of surprisingly good, this guy surprised the heck out of me. You might recognize him from this. (I always thought the BS Report intro sound bites were some impersonation of George W)

I have one final question; how come nobody is ever able to get Jordan to weigh in on comparisons to his career, the current landscape of players in the league or even the Playoffs?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Playoff Musings, Conference Finals

Yes, you probably already knew all this. But it's news to me.

The one and only scenario, not involving the Olympics or terrorists and potential harm to my loved ones, is when Carmelo is playing against Kobe. With the exception of TeeMak, who doesn't make the cut simply because we only count players who have played in the second round, these are probably my two least favorite players in the NBA. Maybe ever. But let me go the record here: GO 'MELO. KICK THE CRAP OUT OF THAT SCOWLING, PREENING MAMBA. Happy?

I doubted the Magic. I like Howard, but he's a FT liability in the crunch. I like Lewis, but his smooth shot (and it is smooooooth) is more than a little overpaid (not sure anybody in Orlando feels that way after last night). They lost their all-star caliber PG. The bench seemed shallow. Stan Van seems a little uneven to me. So I wasn't really onboard.
They may only win Game 1, but I have to say that that's a real team. They kept digging in, especially Turkoglu who looked like a sloppier, white Magic Johnson last night, right down to the big smile after timeouts. You'll see the Cavs do some stomping in Game 2, but it won't be because the Magic aren't legit. The Cavs just might, when they're angry, be legitter.

Did anyone else see in the postgame when he got visually bugged because he didn't get his printouts in time? Chill, baby. You're flanked by talkers galore. Your job is secure. Don't blow all the Mellow Dude Equity you've built up. It was like seeing Jack Johnson put on combat boots, a leather duster, and start spitting bullets all across the North Shore.

Playoff Musings, Conference Finals

So I went against my creed after the Lakers/Nuggets game of not commenting on a series until 2 games have been played. It was a bit knee jerk and frankly might be completely invalid after Game 2. But to keep things fair for both the East and the West, I will provide a bit of reaction from Game 1 of LeBrons/Magic.

- Mo makes that shot we are talking sweep, we never see the end of the replay and we have the first straight to "Where Amazing Happens" play ever.

- Did you have any question in your mind that LeBron would successfully tip the ball right to Williams? Neither did I.

- Can LeBron guard Rashard AND Hedo at the same time on every posession? He is going to have to because Sideshow Bob is too immobile and Delonte is to small and Wally is to worried about whether or not he got the right amount of gel in his hair.

- Can SVG ever be interviewed by a sideline reporter and not sound like he is so disappointed in his team he might not come back after half time?

- Back to the Mo shot. Him missing it and ruining the the hype on the Cavs is the equivalent of the last 30 minutes of Wolverine where the entire movie was ruined by the Island of Misfit Mutants and the ensuing nuclear power plant Battle Royale. It totally went from salvageable and might make a good FX run in a few years to the biggest joke of the summer. But it might be the best thing for the franchise making them be a little more critical about the stuff they decide to put out there and maybe, just maybe, we will get a good X-Men movie again. Likewise for the Cavs, this was probably the same kind of "Lets get serious about this" wake-up call.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Musings des Playoffés, Conference Finalés

Boston ran out of gas somewhere in the second half of Game 6 and now we have my 4 least favorite playoff teams still in it; LA, Denver, Orlando and Cleveland. Now the great mental debate is to figure out which of those teams is the lesser of the evils. I can't go with LA and even less after the Spike Lee mockumentary. Denver was winning my heart over a little with some Billups, being paired up against the Lakers, and Carmelo losing his cornrows and baby fat, but they are still the Nuggets. Orlando has the worst jerseys still in play. And Cleveland has all the hype and the overflowing bandwagon. I don't really know how to keep interest in these playoffs now. And to top it off, there are now TWO Kobe/LeBron commercials after the Nike Muppets showed up. We all know what that means. The Conference Finals are a formality.

All these things stacked against me left me looking for something to grab on to. Then it hit me, if a McCafé can make work that much better, then maybe it will make these playoffs better. So lets look at last nights game through McCafé-eyes and see if it helps.

Before the game we had the Draft Lotteré. Highlights there included the Larry Bird Face (as seen here), Stern giving the stiff arm during the pre-lottery interview, a Chris Webber we-just-got-screwed-but-I-shouldn't-have-expected-different laugh and the best was the hand shakes between the the final three.

First of all we no longer have Kobe or Nene, but Kobé and Nené. The latter was solid for three quarters and turned into a lost fourth grader in the last quarter. The former had the opposite type of game thanks to the officiating manage-a-trois.

We had a little Chauncé making some big shots. But it was only a little. Perhaps one of the most perplexing story lines of the playoffs is how the terrible Lakers PGs don't get killed every night. Sure they let Williams have some good games, but he wasn't as dominant as he should have been. Lil' Chris Rock could only torch them every other game. And shouldn't Chauncé have had 30-15?

Next we had Uglé. Formerly known as Ugly and before that he was known as Pau Gasol. He somehow had more offensive rebounds than the big, crazy Brazilian Nené. As long as the smaller Uglé is pushing around the beast of Nené, we are in for a lot more post-tip-in primal screams.

Carmelo Anthoné. Gosh he played good last night. But even with that and some McCafé I still can't do the Anthoné.

Can anyone explain to me how, when Odomé and Birdmané were spooning on the floor and Odomé was the big spoon, it could have been considered a jump ball? That was the beginning of the hosé job and a sign of things to come.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Playoff Musings, Round 2, pt. 2

Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron's only misstep was his painfully executed banter with Jay Harris after accepting the MVP award.

Cleveland is printing the "Fo, Fo, Fo, Fo" shirts right now....assuming they already got permission from Moses.

Denver Nuggets

Chauncy joins the list of guys "I didn't like but this year's playoffs is turning me into a fan." This sure didn't hurt things either.

The rest of the list includes
1. Yao Ming (looks good in a suit too)
2. Ron Artest
3. Billups
4. LeBron (the way they have handled killing everyone is much more mature than I predicted)
5. Battier (a hand in Kobe's face on every matter what. Show me 5 guys who can and will do that)

Houston Rockets

Remember the 2000 Western Conference finals? LA was up 3-1 going back to Staples but Arvydas and Co. won the next two games only to get screwed in game 7. You might not remember that because the screw-job on the Kings two years later was even worse. They took it in both games 6 and 7. Volumes have been written on the thoroughness of that particular hose job. Fast forward to 2009. Yao breaks his foot in a game 3 loss, Artest looses his cool and the home court we all thought Houston could protect was gone. So the Rockets roll over and LA books their flights to Denver. Not so. Chris Rock/Andre 3000/Aaron Brooks shows up in a red bowtie and saves the day. Great. Now LA wins at home in game 5, Houston in game 6, setting up a screw job of all screw jobs in game 7. Now that is a lot of screw jobs in one paragraph. Dang straight it is. There is no way Houston or Denver is making it to the Finals this year. Want proof? Here it is.

At least we got some memorable and intriguing series before the script became to obvious to overlook.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Playoff Musings...Round 2

Only two series have made it to the critical 2nd game, hence we only have two series to muse about today. Some loose ends also need tied up from the first round. Relevant matters first.

The Houston Rockets

Like any team who is playing against the Lakers, they are quickly become my new playoff darling. Their MVP has to be TEEmak's doctor who suggested he needed microfracture (or the guy he hired to pretend to be a doctor) or it has to be the guy the Rockets hired to keep him away from the team. I can only imagine the tactics he might be using. Ex-Lax in his milkshake, intentionally locking TMAQ's keys in his car, setting all his clocks a couple hours ahead, looping black and white footage of his 13 points in 35 seconds while that piano music plays (you know the "Where Amazing Happens" one) I can't wait for the Outside The Lines on this guy.

With the series shifting back to Houston, and real fans coming into play in the series (there was a Lakers fan wearing a purple and yellow Yankees hat at the game...I love that type of fan), I am going to list my 5 most wanted cheers rocking the Toyota Center.

5. "EAT THE HEAD, EAT THE HEAD" This happens anytime Yao checks in or out of the game. (For those who don't get it, here)

4. "RELEASE TRACY clap....clap...clap clap clap, RELEASE TRACY clap....clap...clap clap clap"

3. "SECOND ROUND" (with the same clapping)

2. "BREAK HIS NECK" (again the clapping) This is done anytime Artest's man gets the ball.

1. I can't actually write this one here (for our younger readers) but it has to do with Vujacic and female anatomy.

LA Lakers

Which was more poorly executed from a script, Odom walking to the game tonight to "get back to his roots when he was a kid waling around New York looking for a pick up game" or Kobe's wife meeting him in the tunnel after the game with a kiss?

Question for Lamar: Was Craig Sager and the camera crew an important part of making the whole flashback thing more authentic?

Note for Kobe: You only get to shake your head and say "You can't guard me" to Battier AFTER you have made 3 or more shots in a row. Its a rule that dates back to NBA JAM.

Orlando Magic

Barkley said it best, "Orlando was happy with getting a split." And thats exactly how championship contender think...right?

We have added a new degree of slapping. It is somewhere between the bitch-slap and the how-dare-you slap...its the Rafer.
Used in a sentence, "I made Joey look like a total loser last night while he was tried to get that waitress' number at Chili's. So on the way to the car I got Rafered."

Boston Celtics

Big Baby is your starting power forward, Jackie Moon is playing significant minutes and your team MVP, Pierce, played all of 16 minutes, 6 of which were during garbage time, and you still won by almost 20. Who else is happy to not be seeing the Bulls for 7 more games?

Dare I say Perk > Dwight? If we are talking bang for your buck, yes. If we are talking over-hyped, poorly staged dunk contests...push.