Friday, May 20, 2005

5 Questions that Need to Be Answered NOW

Though he could not quite lead his Pacers to victory, Reggie Miller provided a memorable performance for fans as he scored 27 points in the very last game of his storybook career.

A lot went down in the NBA yesterday, so allow me to address your questions.

What the HELL is going on with the CBA discussions? Is there going to be a lockout?!
- I hate even bringing this shit up because A) Talking about it only makes me a hypocrite for ridiculing ESPN's relentless coverage; B) It's really not worth delving into...yet. Right now the two sides are playing hardball with one another. The league thought it had total control of the situation all along, and perhaps for awhile they did, but the Players Union has waffled on their position with a few key issues including the age limit and the maximum contract length players can be offered. I think Billy Hunter made a major mistake in trying to use the race card yesterday. There is simply no way race has anything to do with any of the negotiations going on and so Hunter looked like he was making a move out of desperation. I'm convinced that the Players Union, in light of what happened with Ron Artest and Jeff Van Gundy, does not want to give the perception that they're getting pushed around anymore and so they want to hold strong on a few issues. But seriously, the changes being pushed by the owners aren't even that overwhelming and the players would only end up giving fans and critics reason to cast the blame on them if a deal doesn't go through. I suspect that the negotiations go on until the 25th hour, but the Union will ease up and a lockout will be avoided.

Billy Hunter needs to spend less time worrying about his pathetic excuse for a perm, and more on the bullshit that flies out of his mouth.

Any last thoughts on Reggie's final farewell?
- Last night's game was one of the most touching sports moments on television in my lifetime. A bold statement maybe, but I'm dead serious. However, it could have been even better. Why ABC didn't run a continuous shot of Reggie Miller during the last timeout is beyond me. They could have easily gone split screen and we would have been able to witness the true emotions of a man enduring the final moments of an illustrious career. Instead we got a glimpse of Reggie after he wiped his tears away. Did anyone else notice that? His eyes were red and watery, but we never once got to see him shed a tear. Reggie has has fought so hard in holding back his emotions since announcing his retirement, yet the moment he simply could not contain himself any longer-- we have to miss that?! And though Al and Hubie got it right, Michele Tafoya mistakenly asked Reggie Miller how he felt when Rick Carlisle called the final timeout just to allow the crowd to give him a standing ovation as he walked off the court for the last time. It was Larry Brown, you ditz! How could you screw that up?! That was what made that moment so extraordinary! The opposing coach called a timeout on their arch rival's home floor just so the fans could give Reggie a walk-off to remember?! That's such a classy move. And if you're not all about Reggie, and if you did not care the least bit that he walked off into the sunset this season, consider this-- a lot of people will remember the 2004-05 season as Reggie Miller's farewell year. Who will remember the farewell season of Karl Malone? Patrick Ewing? Charles Barkley? Michael Jordan? I think what is most significant about Reggie's retirement, is that the door finally closed on the greatest era of stars ever to rule the NBA, and Reggie truly made it a memorable closing.

Exactly 7 months after the NBA's darkest day, we can thank Larry Brown for sealing the envelope shut on a saga that has overshadowed the NBA's best rivalry.

No franchise's future is more uncertain than Seattle's. What are they going to do?
- Supposedly Seattle management has been planning to base the team's future on how the Sonics fared this post-season. If that's the case, I really believe they have to do everything in their will to bring the core back. That means Rick Sund, Nate McMillan, and Ray Allen. I don't believe Ray Allen can carry a Championship team on his back by himself, but I don't necessarily think Seattle or anyone should expect him to if he re-signs. Allen can be your go-to-guy and can certainly be counted on to lead the team when it counts the most-- I think that qualifies him as a max-contract player. If Seattle shows him the money, he'll be back. At the same time, you have to consider the other argument one could make in not bringing Allen back and instead deciding to rebuild. You build franchises to win championships and while Seattle is up there, it's difficult to see them topping any of the elite teams next season if they come back with roughly the same roster. But when you're as close as Seattle was this year, and especially considering you could make excuses as to why you didn't beat the Spurs (no Vlad, Lewis), you just can't alienate the fans that backed you up all season long. That place was nuts last night and there's no doubting that Seattle will be hyped for the Sonics next year if they bring back most of the key parts from this year's squad. And with a few changes, I really do believe Seattle can take that next step up into being a legitimate title contender. Rashard Lewis and Luke Ridnour have to continue to get better if Seattle is going to make any progress next season. I think their experiences this year will not only make them into better players, but also help them to be mentally tougher and that's just as important when you're talking about what it takes to push yourselves ahead in the NBA Playoffs. I say let Radmanovic walk-- someone will overpay for him, and instead throw big bucks on a guy that better suits the team. DON'T overpay Jerome James. I really think Tyson Chandler would be a great fit on this team. A fresh start would do wonders for the kid's confidence, McMillan would further the schooling Skiles has given him the past two years, and Chandler would be given an opportunity to be more than a garbage man on offense. He's got ability, he's a tough kid, and he's still young-- I think he could legitimately be a 15, 11, and 2 guy for the Sonics and be the difference in them taking a step forward next year. Evans, Wilkens, Fortson, and Daniels all have to be re-signed to ensure the team still has some quality depth. And if they can bring in a Jon Barry or a Bonzi Wells to give the team some added scoring punch, they should once again be a tough out come Playoff time next season.

Both the Sonics fans and Ray himself want #34 to be back in Seattle next season, but it might not matter if the organization feels differently.

The series that everyone knew was going to happen has finally become a reality. So how about that Pistons/Heat matchup?
- Anthony's going into detail on the series this weekend, but I'll get my two cents in while I can. Best Conference Finals matchup since Sacramento/LA in 2001. I guess that's not really saying too much, but nevertheless, it's going to be a helluva series. Miami needs a healthy Shaq to win. Detroit is just too tough defensively to allow Dwyane Wade to single-handedly beat them and though Miami's supporting cast has been outstanding thus far in the Playoffs, you can't expect them to torch the Pistons like they did New Jersey and Washington. Neither Rasheed nor Big Ben can handle Shaq on their own, so Brown will double-team the big fella a lot. But since the Pistons are so quick on defense and rarely allow open looks from the perimeter, Eddie Jones and Dwyane Wade are going to have to go to the basket a lot to free up looks. I'd expect Miami to push the ball a lot from the get-go, regardless of whether Shaq can keep up or not. Stan Van knows Detroit is coming off of a physical series and he'll want to take advantage of the rest his team has gotten. If he can get 25-30 quality minutes out of Shaq while playing at a frenetic pace, I think the Heat have a very good chance at jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the series. If Detroit steals one of the first two games, I really believe they'll be sitting pretty. I just can't see an inexperienced Playoff team like Miami going into the Palace and stealing one from the defending champs. Normally home court doesn't matter so much in a series involving two excellent teams that match up so well, but I think this series will play out like a chess match given the circumstances. Stan Van has his eyes set on Games 1 and 2 while Larry knows he has the edge if he can snare a win on the road. Expect the Pistons to close the Heat out in 6.

Don't the Spurs look a bit shaky heading into the Conference Finals?
- Yes, surprisingly. They looked brilliant against Denver, but they seem to have run into a couple of road blocks since. Let's give Seattle credit first, they played one heck of a series when nobody gave them a chance. And that was before we knew Radmanovic and Rashard would be out. So wait a minute..San Antonio struggled that much against a team missing 2 of its 3 best players?! Yikes. For some reason or another, San Antonio's seemingly endless bench is suddenly looking quite thin. Nesterovic, Brown, and Big Dog can't even get off the pine anymore, Barry has been a major disappointment, and Udrih is only good for 10 minutes, leaving only Horry for consistent quality minutes off the bench. This is not good news. Whether the Spurs end up playing Dallas or Phoenix, Popovich is going to need quality minutes from his bench in a series that promises to be played at a rapid pace. We saw Pop go small against Phoenix during the regular season, so players like Barry, Udrih, and Big Dog could prove to be pivotal against the Suns, and that might not bode well for the Spurs. I still give them the edge however, because as we saw last night, they can really step up the defense when they need to, and they have much more close-game and Playoff experience than either Dallas or Phoenix.


At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reggie is a class act - something that is becoming more and more difficult to find in today's NBA - and he certainly deserved every bit of acknowledgement he received in his send-off. He may be the last of a truly GREAT era (Jordan, Bird, Magic, Barkley, Ewing, Isiah, Stockton, etc). I have never really been a Reggie or Pacers fan, but I can appreciate what he accomplished in his career and how he always handled himself with professionalism and class. The league and old-school fans such as myself will miss him greatly.

At 2:28 AM, Anonymous Mike P said...

About the Spurs shakiness...
I think that the lack of consistent play from Tony Parker is one of the reasons the Spurs have a question mark on them. Maybe Eva is wearing Tony out. Eva Longoria = "so hot right now", but that's a different story. Also, from recent memory, these playoffs seem to be one of the best ever! I mean, I don't even remember seeing playoff basketball this intense; at least not this early. Both teams the Spurs have played have been relentless. They best is yet to come!


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