That Grantland story just opened up a can of bitter emotions. If you have ever watched an NBA game and thought, “This game is rigged”. You may be correct. David Stern is capable just ask Tim Donaghy. I don’t have to write much about this game. The video will do most of the explaining. I was Kings fan at the time (I could only root for the Jalen Rose/Marcus Fizer led Bulls to a certain extent). This game almost made me disown my parents when they kept telling me, “There’s always next year” or “It’s just a game” or “Bojan, put that knife down”. I will just let you watch this travesty and imagine being a fan. Imagine being devastated. Imagine being a poor youth with a broken heart. Imagine being Lawrence Funderburke flying through after being clobbered by Shaq, with no whistle blown. Even Ralph Nader was outraged. The footage is coupled with a Coldplay song…sorry. I hope this doesn’t ruin this beautiful Thursday afternoon. Enjoy, I guess.
Here is my NBA breakdown for the 2012 playoffs. This is my favorite time of the year. Lots of late nights watching basketball. Being sleepy at work. I am excited because of the interesting match-ups in the first round in the Eastern and Western Conference brackets. I am also excited for this year more than last because I think my team has enough to win it all. My pick to win the championship are the Chicago Bulls. Read on to find out why. Enjoy.
As I have said in the past, DO NOT use my opinion to gamble and then come back and be all winey about it. “Waaah! Waaah! I lost my mortgage payment because of you!” “My kid is going to have crooked teeth because we can’t afford the braces!” Joking about gambling is not funny, I know. Sorry.
Ok, with that now out of the way I can get to what I really love, writing aimlessly about sports.
Western Conference Playoffs
Favorite: Oklahoma City Thunder
Dark Horse: San Antonio Spurs
It’s Possible: Los Angeles Lakers
#1 – San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker is quietly having an MVP type season. It may surprise some that Parker is only 29 years old. (It feels like he might be 39) This team was written off at the beginning of the year by “experts” because of their age (Ranked 12th by The Bleacher Report Preseason). What people didn’t realize is that they have been drafting really well. (Leonard, Blair, Splitter) These aren’t stars because it is difficult to draft stars late in drafts but they are solid contributors. They are also getting major contributions from guys like Gary Neal and Danny Green. They are always scary in the playoffs because of their experience. However, this is not your father’s Spurs team. They are 2nd in scoring at 103.2 points per game. The last few years they have been tarnishing their reputation for being a great defensive team. They are out scoring people now. Those old legs can’t move and stay in front of people. My concern about this team is that I don’t know if they have someone down the stretch who can take over like Ginobili used to be able to do. I think every team needs that in the NBA to win a championship. Utah is a decent team but I think they will get swept. I still think they will go deep into the playoffs.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the league. He is one of the best scorers I have ever seen (Just won his 3rd scoring title in a row). Russell Westbrook gets a lot of criticism for the amount of shooting he does as a point guard but that is what makes this team dangerous. They can really fill it up from different positions. The difference maker on this team is James Harden. He has emerged as the 6th man of the year and can go off for 20-30 points in any game. This team is scary on offense and has Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins holding down the inside on the defensive end. They will get their revenge on the Mavericks from last year. They will get zoned by the Mavs but I don’t think Dallas can score enough this season to beat the Thunder again. OKC is my pick out of the West.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Championship.
( This felt very similar to this…)
#3 Los Angeles Lakers: How good is Kobe Bryant going to be after missing a significant amount of time? That is really the difference between them competing for a championship or not. Ramon Sessions was a great pick-up at the trade deadline. He gives them a true point guard that can create and also score when needed. Believe it or not, I think this Metta World Peace (I will refer to him as Artest) suspension is going to hurt them. Artest has been playing really well in March and April. Something that might help the Lakers in the first round is their opponent. The Denver Nuggets are a “team” with no standout stars that Artest would need to lock down. Andrew Bynum, though an immature human being (see my Blake Griffin article to see his reaction to a teammate getting yoked on), has evolved into the best (healthy) center in the league. He goes through stretches where he dominates the game. I think they will beat the Nuggets and challenge the Thunder but that is all, challenge them. I think this is still a dangerous team if Kobe is healthy. He can still play.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2nd round.
#4 Memphis Grizzlies: It makes no sense that this is the 4th best team in the West. Rudy Gay has been great averaging about 19 points per game and Marc Gasol has turned himself into a real player (not just Pau’s chubby little brother). Zach Randolph has only played 27 games for the entire season. He is just trying to get back into playing shape which is not that easy for a guy who is already not great with his conditioning. I think they are playing the team that poses the most match-up problems in the Clippers. I don’t know if they can guard them at any position. I think it can be a long series but I like the Clippers to win in 6 games.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Clippers in the 1st round. (My first upset, yeah!)
#5 Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers are actually a legit basketball franchise. I never thought I would ever type that. Not only are they legitimate, they are extremely popular. The L.A. Del Negros have been shown on national TV 35 times this season and have been the talk of many sports and NBA columnists/analysts. The Clippers have had an up and down season and at one point Vinny almost lost his job. I think they are a dangerous team in the West capable of beating anyone. If I take an unbiased look at Chris Paul, he is the best point guard in the league. He has unbelievable vision and feel for the game. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan get so many easy buckets because of Chris Paul. When they get 12-15 points from Mo Williams or Caron Butler they are really hard to beat. However, their problem has been consistency. Can they win 4 games against 4 different teams? I don’t think so.
Season Outcome: Lose to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2nd round.
#6 Denver Nuggets: How are the Nuggets good? I don’t know. They have no stars, no explosive scoring, and they traded away their best player at the trade deadline (Nene). After everything George Karl has been through in the last year concerning his health, I can’t help but pull for the Nuggets to do well. I think he should be in consideration for Coach of the Year. If you look at their starting line-up and compare that to the Lakers, it looks like this should be a sweep. It won’t be. Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari have led this team for most of the season and they possess a great defender/sing player in Aaron Afflalo who gives Kobe trouble. I love their grit and ability to just win games and beat teams they should beat. Their match-up against the Lakers could be a 7 game series.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1st round.
#7 Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs won the championship last year and I think they just laid around all summer and ate hot dogs by their respective pools. They lost their edge and it all starts with Dirk. He is not scoring like he did last year (from 28 ppg to 21ppg) and on top of that he doesn’t have much help. They lost their toughness when Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stephenson both left the team. They were expecting some help from Lamar Odom which obviously didn’t work (Kardashians are bad for athletes)(Possibly story to come). This is not the same team as last year. I think they will still steal a game or two from the Thunder but then lose. They are lucky they won it last year because that roster is old. Really old (8 guys over 30 yrs old). I don’t think they will be back for a while. Poor Mark Cuban.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 1st round.
#8 Utah Jazz: Their two big guys Al “Devil Eyes” Jefferson and Paul Millsap are a little undersized at the 4 and 5 spots but boy are they talented. Gordon Hayward has come on strong in the last month of the season. Devin Harris is finally out of a year and half funk. I love the way that they share the basketball and think they could have a bright future if they can keep this group intact and try to add a guard that can score. They suffer when they have to go to their bench and don’t really have a go-to scorer down the stretch. I think they can steal a game from the Spurs in the first round, but that’s about it.
Season Outcome: Lose to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1st round.
Eastern Conference Playoffs
Favorite: Chicago Bulls
Dark Horse: Miami Heat
It’s Possible: Boston Celtics
#1 Chicago Bulls: This was supposed to be the year. They needed a second scorer that can create his own shot and they got Richard Hamilton. He has only played for 28 games. They needed a healthy and productive Carlos Boozer. He is the only starter to play in every game this season, but still is not as productive as Bulls fans want him to be. I just want to see him finish at the rim against a good defender. I won’t hold my breath. Most of all, they needed Derrick Rose to take that next step in his game. He has not. He has missed 27 games this season with a variety of injuries. Many of these injuries are limiting his ability to attack the rim, which is the thing he does best. He must finish games more efficiently. He needs to be their closer, which is still a part of his game he can improve in.
They haven’t played together for an extended amount of games at all this season. This worries me about my Bulls. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Kyle Korver. I did not make a mistake there. I mean it. He is playing with a lot of confidence and shooting the ball extremely well. He spreads out defenses and allows for the rest of the offense to have some space to operate (He did not do this in the Eastern Conference Finals last year and it killed the Bulls).
The Bulls bench might be the best I have ever seen. Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, C.J. Watson, along with Korver have been awesome. They are the #1 seed for the second year in a row and will have to play the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. The 76ers have given the Bulls problems in the past but have been playing horribly as of late. I like the Bulls to sweep or win in 5. I would hate for them to go into the playoffs without much chemistry and play poorly because of it. That would be a shame and a waste of a very talented team. I do not think this will happen. They are deepest team in the playoffs and they play the hardest. They are well coached and I think have enough this time around to defeat the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. (I will write more about that when the time comes) Then go on to beat the Thunder in a very entertaining series. (Also, more to come)
Season Outcome: Win the NBA championship by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder.
( I want this to be Derrick, not LeBron )
#2 Miami Heat: This team is still a mystery to me. I have seen them at times this year look unbeatable. LeBron James is the best player in the league and should be the MVP. Charles Barkley said recently that if the Heat win it all, it will be on the back of LeBron James. I agree. Wade still has the ability to take over, but is starting to wear down. Bosh is a nice player that can get hot but he is not a star. Their bench is terrible and they still don’t have a great front line. Defensively they cause people fits because of their activity and athleticism. They led the league in forced turnovers and points in transition. To beat them, you have to take care of the basketball and limit their transition game. I think that the Knicks will give Miami some trouble. Carmelo has been on a tear and I love Iman Shumpert on Dwayne Wade. This could be a long series. I still like the Heat to win it but don’t be surprised if there are several close games that make those people in South Beach squirm (I would never be able to squirm in South Beach, I would get far too sweaty). All of the pressure is all on them again. They folded last year. To end their season they will run into a deeper, better Bulls team. The Bulls/Heat rivalry is becoming must watch basketball. Here’s to hoping for a long, competitive series that the Bulls win.
Season Outcome: Lose in Eastern Conference Championship to the Chicago Bulls
( Awesome hands and a great athlete )
#3 Indiana Pacers: I am slightly uneasy about admitting that I like what the Pacers have done with their roster these last couple of years after ripping them for being terrible for so many years. That being said, they don’t really have a standout player. Danny Granger has taken a step back in his development but is still their most talented player. Roy Hibbert was an All-Star which still surprises me because every time I watch him he looks like he has two 35 sized left feet and tennis rackets for hands. David West was a great pickup after no one really wanted him. He is a huge upgrade from Tyler Hansbrough. Paul George and George Hill are nice players as well. I can see Paul George turning into a Luol Deng type of two-way player in the future. I like his game a lot. I know people in Indy are really excited about getting home court advantage and playing the Orlando Magic in the first round but, this is not the year. They don’t have enough fire power to beat the Bulls or Heat.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Miami Heat in the 2nd round
(Yes…I know and I don’t care)
#4 Boston Celtics: Really? Again? Yes! This Boston team came out of nowhere to have a great second half of the season. They are aging but it seems like Paul Piece and Kevin Garnett were just playing dead in January. Rajon Rando is such an amazing passer at the point. He struggles to score but just makes things happen on the offensive end. He has also improved on defense as his career has gone on and gets his hands on so many passes. Avery Bradley has been a nice surprise as a wing, slasher that defends. I feel like they can plug anyone into a supporting role at any position and they will flourish in Boston. I am as surprised as anyone that this team is playing this well and did not blow itself up at the trade deadline. I guess they have one more run in them and then the buzzards will come peck away at their bones this summer. I am not sure what to expect from this series against a pesky Atlanta Hawks team. If Josh Smith starts shooting jump shots, Celtics will win. That is my best analysis.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Chicago Bulls in the 2nd round.
#5 Atlanta Heat: They have played really well this entire year led by Joe Johnson (criminally over-paid, so glad the Bulls did not go after him) and Josh Smith (Stop shooting that 15 footer dude!). They have had overcome the injury to Al Horford. Their first round series is actually a pretty good match-up. Neither team really relies on their inside game and are both primarily guard oriented. I feel bad for the Hawks but I think they are stuck under a giant contract (Johnson) which hand-cuffs their ability to add any more talent in free-agency. They will be a 3-7 seed in the Eastern Conference for years to come, but will not be a top team or a championship contender.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Boston Celtics in the 1st round.
( This is how J-Smoove needs to play )
#6 Orlando Magic: This has become a mess. Reality show style train wreck. I would watch a Stan Van show. I can imagine him eating a lot of pastrami sandwiches and yelling at J.J. Reddick. Well, let’s talk about the basketball. This team lives and dies by the 3 point shot. I saw them play the Bulls this year and look unbelievable. They hit eleven 3’s and shot 50% from the field. I heard people rumbling that they will have a chance to win it all. Then a week and a half later they played the Bulls again and scored 59 total points. They are dangerous but only if they are making shots. A lot of shots. I hate what Dwight Howard has done to this team. He has made this whole franchise about him. I dislike the way that went down. But, they have to move on without him. Glen Davis has filled in nicely and they have Most-Improved Player of the Year candidate Ryan Anderson. I still think they will lose in the first round to the Pacers, possibly badly.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Indiana Pacers in the 1st round.
( Hahahahahaha )
#7 New York Knicks: The Knicks are so much better when it is the Carmelo show. Carmelo is so much better when he doesn’t have to worry about passing… ever. Ever. Also, I don’t know how Mike D’Antoni can get a job after his most recent mis-adventure. He doesn’t worry about defense and defense is needed to win consistently. I am really happy the Bulls didn’t end up with him. Melo has been playing some defense under Mike Woodson and they are getting results because of it. I think Tyson Chandler has been the unsung hero of this team and an anchor of that defense along with Iman Shumpert (mentioned above) that has helped them turn the season around. I just think they have a few too many gunners to possibly upset the Heat. This will be a tough series. Probably 6 or 7 games.
Season Outcome: Lose in a tough 1st round series to the Miami Heat.
#8 Philadelphia 76ers: This team started the season with a lot of promise and then slowly withered away. They are young and I think hit a wall. If the season was 5 games longer the Bulls would be playing the Milwaukee Bucks. They have some young talent like Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young that will be very good. Just not yet. I think they over-achieved to start the season and then got exhausted. Hopefully Evan Turner keeps his mouth shut this time around against Rose. One of these two players got waaaaaay better since the last time he talked bad about Derrick. I think they are a nice young team but I don’t think they can scare the Bulls.
Season Outcome: Lose in the 1st round to the Chicago Bulls
In conclusion, I have to tell you that I am a Bulls fan. But, I actually think they will win the championship. I hope I’m correct. If you are interested in reading my NBA thoughts throughout the playoffs follow me @bojansayspotato .