Thursday, May 17, 2012

2012 NBA Playoffs - Musings

Who is up for some NBA Playoff musings from your favorite opinionated fan?  I thought you might be.

- For all the discussion regarding small market teams not having a fair chance, the NBA playoffs this year sure have shown different.  While you may not be able to name their starting lineups, there have been some amazing teams to come out of the woodwork the last year or two.  Denver, Memphis and Indiana are prime examples of franchises that are being run the way franchises should be run.  From the GM to the coaches, they are taking talent and putting them in the right spots to succeed.  You may not know the names Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gay or Paul George but you should.

- I was in a discussion about Larry Bird winning Executive of the Year last night and I am astonished by the lack of knowledge some people show.  While I would have voted for Masai Ujiri for the Denver Nuggets, Bird did an amazing job crafting this year’s Pacers team. The trades for Leandro Barbosa (former 6th Man of the Year and great off the bench scorer) and George Hill were masterful.  The signing of David West and the retaining of coach Frank Vogel, positions this team to be good for years to come.  It’s a shame more people aren’t paying attention to the job he’s doing there, as well as Ujiri and David Kahn in Minnesota.  Small market teams have a challenge in attracting and keeping players.  These three men, especially, have excelled at their jobs.

- Isn’t it funny how Lakers fans were so excited about the trade for Ramon Sessions, as if he was the savior point guard they needed?  As we’re in the midst of the playoffs, I think we all realize one thing…he’s still just Ramon Sessions.  He’s a mid-level point guard, at best.  He’s a guy who has been on four teams in seven years and there is good reason for that.  Congrats LA!  You have Jordan Farmar 2.0.

- While on the subject of the Lakers, isn’t it interesting how quickly the fans went for begging for an Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard trade to praising Bynum as the future of the franchise?  I think it is clear that, while Bynum can dominate in stretches, he’s not a guy you can build around.  This has nothing to do with maturity.  It has everything to do with a guy who clearly checks out of games for no reason.  The supporters will call him “enigmatic” or “misunderstood”.  Those are just code words for “aloof” and “underperforming”.  He doesn’t have the mental make-up to be “The Guy”.

- The Chris Bosh injury is a huge one, but few people are mentioning it.  Even fewer are mentioning the inability the Heat bench has shown to step up when needed.  If they don’t win the title, the backlash towards LeBron James will be ridiculous.  He will feel the brunt of the blame, regardless of how he plays.  It’s a sad state of affairs that a guy this talented and beloved two short years ago has become vilified and despised.  It boggles my mind how quickly “fans” jump on and off bandwagons.

- Speaking of bandwagons, I can’t think of any sports franchises that have more bandwagon fans than the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers.  I understand wanting to cheer a winner, but come on!  Sports fandom is born from proximity.  I grew up in Colorado Springs, thus I am a Nuggets and Broncos fan.  People growing up in Iowa as a Lakers fan?  Why not the Bulls or Timberwolves?  It’s always struck me as odd…

- Like it or not, I’m going to gush about the Denver Nuggets.  So many “experts” had them missing the playoffs and being one of the worst teams in their division.  It’s amazing what great coaching and good personnel moves can do.  The Nuggets were able to get a haul of players for Carmelo Anthony last year (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and Raymond Felton) and continued their “re-building”.  Funny thing is, they didn’t need to re-build as they were already in great shape.  They flipped Felton for Andre Miller, who is a tremendous upgrade and leader off the bench. While Chandler finished his obligation in China, rookie Kenneth Faried shined and allowed Denver to move the monster contract of Nené to Washington for JaVale McGee.  McGee, who has been a laughingstock for the Wizards, showed tremendous potential under the guiding hand of George Karl.  This team is constructed to win and win now.  They pushed the Lakers to the brink in the playoffs, despite falling down 3-1 in the series.  The Nuggets fought valiantly, but the Lakers were bailed out by the league and got Ron Artest back from suspension for Game 7.  Without Artest, that team was dead in the water.  At least Denver fans can take solace in the fact that they’re only going to improve.  Team basketball lives in the Mile High City!!  No superstar?  No problem.

- The concept of a team needing a superstar to “close the game” or “take the last shot” befuddles me.  I’d rather have a team make the smart basketball play than force feed an individual, who more often than not, will miss.  Even the best in history shoot between 35-40% in game winning situations.  Anyone can have a 50-50 chance, not just a star.  For example, in Denver, I watched game winning shots from Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee and Danilo Galinari this past season.  If a defense doesn’t know where the shot is coming from, doesn’t that make it more difficult for them to defend?  Even Michael Jordan passed up game winning shots.  It’s called smart basketball, kids.

- As good as the Thunder look some games, they look awful the next…or even right after.  All the while, the San Antonio Spurs just keep winning and dominating.  They may be the most underappreciated franchise in the league.  Do not sleep on them.  They just may come out of the West and challenge for their 5th title.

- Is there another player in the league who has gone from easily likable to absolutely easily detested the way Kevin Garnett is?  I recall cheering for him in Minnesota, and even the first season in Boston.  Once he got a ring on his finger, he just has gotten so ridiculously arrogant.  His angry persona seems to have taken over and he is so unlikable now.  Paul Pierce is too.  The guy, who was the leader of a 24 win team, suddenly is talked about as an all-time great?  Garnett, Pierce and Allen are all guys who didn’t carry their teams to anywhere alone, yet get accolades like they did.  Garnett had the one great season, but was helped along by Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, but the others never did anything alone.  True greatness is elevating bad teams, not running your mouth after you win with other underachievers.

- LeBron James won his 3rd MVP in four years and rightfully so.  I was ecstatic that the voters realized the error of their ways and awarded it to the best player on the planet.  Like him or not, you can’t deny how awe-inspiring he is to watch play.  The funny thing to me is that there was so much hype regarding his numbers this season.  “Historic” is how it was described by so many.  Yet, if you look at his numbers from last year, they are virtually identical!  Why the difference and why the MVP this year and not last?  Well, we all know the answer.  The voters were mad about “The Decision”.  Sorry Derrick Rose.  Your MVP has an asterisk and is a sham.  The voters used you to get back at LeBron like a scorned ex-girlfriend.   I hope you enjoyed your rebound MVP because you likely won’t see another.

After all of this, the one thing I have to say is…I love the NBA Playoffs!!!

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