Archive for the ‘NBA Finals’ Category

The Kid is Alright

June 9, 2009

Not that he needs my help, but I feel the need to come to the rescue of Courtney Lee. It is in no way Lee’s fault that Orlando finds itself in a two games to none hole in the NBA Finals. Comparing his last second alley oop miss to Nick Anderson bricking four free throws in Orlando’s last Finals appearance, as some writers have done, is ludicrous. Lee’s shot was far from an easy layup, and since when did he become the Magic’s go-to guy? Isn’t it enough that a rookie from a small college is being asked to guard the most dangerous scorer in the game – Kobe Bryant – on the sport’s grandest stage? No, the Magic have far graver problems than Courtney Lee’s play.

Like the fact that Dwight Howard has more turnovers than field goals made after the first two games. That is a mind blowing stat. As a friend stated to me in an e-mail after Game 2, “Dwight Howard is no Shaquille O’Neal – not even close”. Truer words have never been spoken (or typed in this instance). Making his first Finals appearance, going up against one of the greatest centers in NBA history – Hakeem Olajuwon – the 23-year-old O’Neal averaged 28 points, 12.5 boards and 6.3 assists. So it goes without saying that Howard is not the second coming of Shaq Attack. Is it unfair to compare Howard to Shaq? If Howard wants to be a championship-level center, then there is no one better to compare him to than Shaq. And if he wants to get himself onto Shaq’s level, then the man needs some post moves. Howard’s big problem in this series is that when he gets the ball in the post he doesn’t immediately attack – he waits and subsequently gets himself double teamed.

Which brings me to the question of whether or not Howard is, or ever will be, a championship-level big man. After his 40 & 14 performance in the close-out game versus Cleveland it certainly looked like he was. But now that the lights are shining brightest – and where legendary players become legends – Howard is shrinking away. It wouldn’t be so much of a concern if the doubts concerning Howard were based just on the past two games. However, his lack of a post game, over reliance on his athleticism and strength, and lack of a “killer instinct” were all knocks on him going into this series. His putrid performance thus far have done nothing to quiet the detractors. And even if he does turn things around the rest of the series, it probably is too late for Orlando, and possibly for his reputation.

So the blame for the Magic squandering a win in Game 2 – on a night when Kobe either wasn’t able or willing to dominate – shouldn’t fall on Courtney Lee’s shoulders. It should fall squarely on Superman’s broad frame.

The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight

June 5, 2009

I’m in the middle of the ocean as I type this, which is fitting considering the Magic couldn’t throw a ball in the ocean last night if they tried. When a team known for its shooting touch shoots less than 30% from the field it will always add up to a L in the win/loss column. But things could be alot worse for Orlando. They could have shot well and STILL lost – then they would have something serious to worry about. As it stands now, they can just chalk up Game 1 to a cold shooting night and expect things to be back to normal on Sunday.

What should be of more of a concern for the Magic is the way Kobe Bryant is playing. To say he is playing like a man possessed is an understatement. All his talk about it not being important to him to win a title without Shaq is a lie – he feels he needs it to solidify his legacy, just like the rest of us feel. The Magic players had no answer for Bryant in Game 1 and seemed clueless after the game as to how they should go about stopping him. Their whole “not much you can do but hope he misses” approach to things after the game doesn’t bode well for Orlando. Neither does the fact that pretty much only Kobe went off last night for the Lakers – only two other L.A. players even scored in double-figures – yet Orlando still lost.

Nor does it bode well that Rafer Alston is already complaining about losing his rhythm while he is on the bench and Jameer Nelson is in the game. So while things aren’t as bad as they could be with Orlando, they certainly aren’t magical either.

It’s A Man’s World

June 2, 2009
I’ve just spent all day driving, to New Jersey of all places, so I’m going to keep this short. But I would be remiss if I didn’t make a few comments on the NBA Finals. With The Hoops Manifesto still in its infancy I really shouldn’t be contradicting myself already, but its not like anyone is reading this anyway, right?! So here it goes – THE BIG MAN STILL RULES THE NBA.

Now, I’m not stating that the best players in the League are big men (even though there really is no size difference between LeBron and Ben Wallace when they’re standing side by side), but to have any shot at winning an NBA title you can’t just have a passable big man. You need a stud, a star big man. In fact, no team has won an NBA title without having an All-NBA big man manning the paint since the Bulls in 1998. And, in case you forgot or are really young, that Bulls team had two of the greatest players of all-time out on the wing and Dennis Rodman, WHO SHOULD BE IN THE HALL OF FAME, down low. I’m not joking about Rodman and the Hall of Fame, but that argument can wait for now. With Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the Finals this year, the big-man-winning-a-title streak will live for another year.

So the recipe for a NBA championship squad is pretty simple to figure out, harder to actual put into place. Get yourself two star players – at least one of them a big man – and you’ve got yourself a legitimate shot (but that isn’t always good enough either – just look at Houston the past few years, or Utah back in the day). So Cleveland and Denver really didn’t have a reasonable shot at winning the title this year, unless they planned on slapping history in the face.

As much as things change, the more they stay the same. As much as many of us have hoped that a change was going to come to the NBA, that small ball and run and gun teams would have a shot at the title, the times aren’t a-changin’ just yet.

Oh, and in case the Lakers haven’t heard the news yet, Dwight says that God wants Orlando to win, so no sense even showing up.