Tag Archives: Miami Heat

The Ave Podcast – The Joel Anthony Interview

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 94: The Joel Anthony Interview

Today on The Ave Podcast, we invite 2x NBA Champion & NBA veteran Joel Anthony to the show. We break down his whole basketball journey, discuss his Team Canada experience & where Canadian basketball is headed, his best experiences as an NBA player, his “Heatles” experience playing for one of the most famous teams in sports history, and a lot more.

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below, and also, the podcasts are now available for download. You can now check out the podcasts on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, and Spotify. You can get to all of those apps on your IOS or Android devices. ***

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee / Episode 94

(Photo courtesy of NBA.com)

 

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Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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South Shore Ave’s NBA Season Preview: The East

Welcome to Part Deux of our South Shore Ave’s NBA Preview where we tackle the improving Eastern conference. Click here if you missed Part 1. Please enjoy…..

Does Derrick Rose need to drink Holy Water before the season officially starts?

Not only do I think he needs to guzzle it by the litre, but I would nominate Rose for a Holy Water Bucket Challenge if said challenge existed. I won’t even rehash the knee troubles that Rose has gone endured.  You already know he’s missed the last two seasons due to his injuries. It’s robbed him of some of his prime years, & as a basketball fan, it’s disheartening. As it stands, coming off his participation at the World Championships this summer, this is the healthiest that Rose has been in a few years. With that said, it once again vaults Chicago to championship contending status, which for Bulls fans must scare you enough to stunt your breathing. I think Chicago management knows that the future isn’t promised because between Rose’s injury history, and with LeBron heading back to Cleveland with Kevin Love & company in tow, boy did it load this summer to win. They added Paul Gasol, along with rookies Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, to last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, and 6th Man runner up Taj Gibson to form the best frontcourt in the NBA. Between Gasol & Noah, they also have the two best passing big men in the league, and honestly, the offensive sets need to go through those two guys as much, or even a little more so than through Rose.

Chicago’s biggest problem since 2011, is they don’t score easily. Having two big men that can pass from both the low block and high post, and you can run screens & cuts off of them open things up for a team more than people think. They need to score easier, & for now, they have to lessen the load for Rose & get his legs ready for the second half of the season. If they can do this on offense, coupled with the defensive intensity they usually bring every night, they will be the best team in the East, no matter what Cleveland has in store. They have to take advantage now because in 2016, Cleveland may also be ready to take over the East once Kyrie Irving & Kevin Love pop their playoff cherries. The Bulls can’t wait for the future.  They have to go for it all now.  Sometimes ‘later’ can become ‘never’.

LeCavs

For the second time in four years, LeBron James completely dominated the offseason like no NBA player ever. His move to Cleveland not only shocked the NBA, and all its fans alike, but its ripple effect set off change across the league. Except for San Antonio who probably looked at LeBron’s move and laughed amongst themselves.

Let’s break it down in a few ways:

By returning to Cleveland, LeBron gained as much control as any NBA player has wielded since Michael Jordan during his 1st retirement comeback. The way his contract is laid out, he will be receiving max money for the foreseeable future. By signing a 2-year deal, he not only gave himself flexibility, with the new TV deal set to begin in 2016, but he ensured that he is no longer leaving any money on the table. Quite frankly, he shouldn’t due to the salary cap almost tripling in two years, LeBron can, & will make much more per year than the $21M he’ll be making in the next two years. Going into his 12th season, this will only be the 4th time he is actually the highest paid player on his own team, which quite frankly is ridiculous considering he is only the 4th player in NBA history (Russell, Abdul-Jabbar, & Jordan) to win 4 MVPs. Let’s face it, LeBron is still far and away the best player in the world.  He is still in his prime, and will probably win at least one more MVP if not two. The value of the Cavalier franchise in itself has been raised at least by $100M with his return & the regular season camp hasn’t started yet. He probably sees that he’s sacrificed enough financially given what he is worth for the NBA as a whole, & will get his Carmelo on* from here on out. He reaped the benefits of coming home by appearing humbled, & more endearing than ever before. Now everyone will root for Cleveland if and when they finally get to have a championship. Taking Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, along with incumbent Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varajeo, the likelihood of that happening will be very high. Basically, LeBron left the wife he was with (“Heat”) for the younger, hotter version of her (“Cavs”). Speaking of which…..

Was the Miami move really THAT successful? It’s not a crazy question to ask, right? Yes, LeBron joining Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh four years ago at the peak of their prime was viewed as almost unfair in some eyes. No matter how people looked at LeBron with disdain for leaving his home and joining a super team, he wanted to be in a position to win titles every single year, and he had a chance to do that in Miami. He went against the conventional ways, took over the power of player free agency, in ways that had never been done before or experienced by the NBA, & set his destiny. And for that, I give him a lot of respect…… but here’s the thing: With that move, the Big 3 set the bar extremely high for themselves, the organization & everyone watching (& I’m not talking about their infamous “Not one, not two, not three…” rally). After four years, didn’t you expect them to win more than two titles? Weren’t you expecting at least three by 2014? In the annals of the NBA’s greatest champions, would you even put this Heat run in the Top 5? Think about this for a second: If Ray Allen clangs his three off the rim instead of swishing it at the end of Game 6, the Heat literally walk away with ONE title after everything’s said and done. I mean, it’s literally that close. They don’t come close to the MJ Bulls run, Magic’s Lakers or Bird’s Celtics. Shit, they don’t even reach the Shaq/Kobe Lakers (3-peated, 4 Finals in 5 years). This run, in retrospect, falls in the tier with the Bad Boy Pistons of the late 80s (Back-To-Back titles, 3 straight Finals appearances) which isn’t fine when you put together three Hall of Famers (yes, Bosh is one too. Face the facts people!) entering their prime years together. This was something that was supposed to last until the latter part of the decade, not end before Year 5. We will remember the run as probably the most polarizing sports team of the digital/social media era. LeBron/Wade/Bosh all became more popular (especially Bosh), made more money, & raised their brand profiles higher than it would have reached if they remained carrying a team by themselves, but the collaboration wasn’t fully completed. The run was similar to the Watch The Throne collaboration from Kanye & Hova: Good, but not great.

* The term “Carmelo On” means that under no circumstances do you leave any money on the table when signing an NBA contract, no matter how much it might hurt your team from being able to afford to build a championship team around you.  Unless of course you leave $4M short of the $129M contract you sign to show everyone publicly that you can in actuality sacrifice money for the good of the team.

Who should be the happiest player in the NBA right now?

Who else can it be but Chris Bosh? Think of where he was as a player four months ago. He was perfecting his role as the 3rd option of the Miami Heat. Once the Heat got demolished by the Spurs in the Finals, and the Big 3 all opted out of their contracts, Bosh was hoping that the ride would continue as normal. Once LeBron decided he was heading back home, Bosh figured he would head back to his home state of Texas, fall into the 3rd option role behind James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston, while getting paid max money of course. At the last minute, Pat Riley rides the waves on his desperation surfboard and throws the max contract for Bosh to stay. Now he gets to wear the real superhero costume? He can now sit in the cabin of the Bat-mobile and not hop in the trunk like he’s been used to doing since 2010? I mean, how can he not sign that deal?? He got a max deal to be at worst the #2 option most nights, and didn’t even have to leave his beachfront mansion. He should have been sending LeBron roses, boxes of After Eight chocolate mints, and Twerk-a-grams on a weekly basis as an appropriate thank you this summer.

Instead, we find out that he didn’t even talk to LeBron this whole summer outside of Wade’s wedding. He’s giving advice to Kevin Love stating that he’s going to have trouble sacrificing his game to LeBron & more or less sticking his chest out. Is that the way you say thank you??? LeBron saved him from 3rd wheel status forever with this move, and with Wade’s health over the last couple of years, he gets to be the man on South Beach! Does he not understand this?!?! And now he seem like he don’t even care if LeBron is gone. The audacity….

With that said, the Heat are still a playoff team, scooping up Luol Deng in free agency this summer, adding Josh McRoberts, and signing Danny Granger (ok, pretend I didn’t type that last name) to a team that has championship pride and pedigree. In addition, Wade looks pretty loose and limber this preseason, cutting his weight down from last year, we’ll get to see how good of a coach Erik Spoelstra is, which was taken for granted these last few years, and we also really can’t count out a team led by Riley, can we? They will still play hard, tenacious, and efficient every night. If there’s one thing we can count on, those fairweather Heat fans will be showing up by halftime to these games if at all now. If they showed up late when LeBron was there, what are they gonna do when he only comes once a year?

We The North!! (Hollup Hollup Hollup) #WizKhalifavoice

I have to say, I have been wrong about the direction of where the Raptors needed to be in. About this time last year, I had them pegged to win around 35 games, not make the playoffs & secure a high draft pick. After they traded off Rudy Gay, I celebrated like they won the championship, figuring that they were headed to #TankCity for Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, or Jabari Parker. However, the way the Raps played from that point on was what basketball fans want to see: hard working, intelligent, efficient play where the team leaves everything they have out on the floor. This is exactly what they accomplished right until the last second of their Game 7 loss vs. Brooklyn. Going forward, I believe that not only can they get better this season, but I feel most people are sleeping on Toronto.

It all starts with the resigning of Kyle Lowry. With him coming back & teaming up with DeMar DeRozan to form one of the best backcourts in the NBA, they give the Raps stability at both spots that they haven’t had since Alvin Williams and Vince Carter were on the floor together 10+ years ago. DeRozan is the team’s best player and their hardest worker, but Lowry is the heart and soul. My only concern that I have is that last year was a contract year, & you hope that he doesn’t start the process of shutting things down now that he’s got his money. While I don’t believe that this will happen, I thought the same thing when Antonio Davis signed his $60M deal after making the All-Star team & helping the Raps come within one win of the Eastern Conference Finals back in 2001. He was the team’s heart and soul too. By 2003, he was falling into the “Thanks guys, it’s been fun…but I’m gonna shut this things down….nnnnnnow” mode & was never the same player. Contract year runs are funny to predict with players sometimes. It can wake a player up, & help him reach his potential from that point on, or that player can rest on his laurels once he gets his cash. Again, I don’t think that will be Lowry in this case, but stranger things has happened, especially with this franchise.  Which leads me to my next point….

We know Toronto is a hockey town, and most likely will never change. But the way Tim Lieweke came in bringing energy and light to this franchise as part of running MLSE is so important. This is why I feel losing him, is a huge & underrated story moving forward this season. He made basketball a priority for the corporation and even for this city in 2014, and with him scheduled to leave at the end of the season (or possibly before that), I’m afraid that his successor will be a hockey guy that will throw the Raps on the backburner again like in years past. Lieweke is a basketball guy at heart, and having him run MLSE I felt gave the feeling like the Raptors won’t be ignored anymore. They can start setting championship goals and not be laughed out of the room for saying it. From getting the All-Star game here next season (finally!!), getting Drake as the Global Ambassador (& let’s face it, secret recruiter), upgrading its practice facility, getting Masai Ujiri as a GM, the possibility of an MLSE nightclub, he’s put steps in place to be recognized as a prominent franchise in the sports world. Will the next person that steps in keep that train moving and take things further? It remains to be seen. Another year of improvement from Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross, a deep bench (resiging Grevis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, trading for Lou Williams, picking up former Raptor James Johnson from the Grizzlies), another year under the belt for Dwayne Casey, the confidence that both DeMar and Jonas bring back from their respective World Championship teams is all very important going into this season. In fact, I believe they will win 50+ games for the first time in the franchise’s history. The short term views look promising to show everyone in the NBA that last season was not a fluke. But the long term vision of where this franchise will be headed post-Lieweke & if the goals will remain high, is what worries me more than anything else. I’ll tell you one thing: if the new MLSE head honcho doesn’t get along with Ujiri and forces him to explore his options (which happens sometimes when the new guy wants to bring in his own people), I think the “We The North” mantra will change to “We Be Done” in Raps Nation. Stay tuned…

Biggest Sleeper

I’m very tempted to say Charlotte will make some moves up the standings (and they will), but don’t sleep on the Atlanta Hawks. Even if there’s a possibility that Hawks GM Danny Ferry has a little passive-aggressive racism in him, getting back Al Horford from injury, picking up Thabo Sefolosha, and drafting rookie Adreian Payne to this team will hopefully continue to mask the uncertainty in the front office. For Ferry’s sake, he better hope I’m right and that the on-court production masks his unresolved problems. This team has a chance to still make some noise in what will be the toughest division in the conference. With Washington finally tasting some playoff success, Charlotte adding Lance Stephenson, and having a great draft in grabbing Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston, and all the chipped shoulders residing in Miami, this division will be really tough to deal with most nights. With that said, Atlanta can possibly be that team people don’t want to deal with come playoff time.

Regular Season Standings

  1. Chicago – As long as Rose, Gasol, and Noah (offseason knee surgery this summer) stay healthy, this is the best team in the conference. Built to win now.
  2. Cleveland – If the Bulls falter in any way, Team LeBron will take advantage in what will be a two-team race all season.
  3. Toronto – Surprised??? You shouldn’t be. I’m going to predict 53 wins this season. #WeTheNorth
  4. Charlotte – Surprised??? Hornets coach Steve Clifford had them playing hard last season, now Stephenson brings more attitude to a team that needs it.
  5. Atlanta – Sefelosha signing is underrated.  What he brings on defense will be needed for the SGs he’ll have to go against in the division (Wade, Beal, Stephenson….Oladipo???)
  6. Washington – Beat a depleted Bulls roster in Round 1, then got wiped out by a Pacer team who decided to flick it’s “On” switch halfway through Round 2. With Nene and Bradley Beal’s health, Randy Wittman on the sidelines, old Paul Pierce….I need to see more.
  7. Brooklyn – I love the signing of Lionel Hollins. Don’t love that Nets GM Billy King is still making decisions in the front office. Also, I like my franchise center Brook Lopez to average more than 7 boards for his career. Is that too much to ask?
  8. Miami – Too much pride for them to miss the playoffs. Would be great if they can meet Team LeBron in Round 1.
  9. Detroit – Stan Van Gundy will have to move a couple of contracts around before this team gets better. Which players (Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith) will remain to be seen. Will have them playing better.
  10. New York – Carmelo Anthony will have the most efficient season he’ll ever have in this offense. But still, no playoffs here.
  11. Milwaukee – Now THIS is the kind of team Jason Kidd should be coaching to start off his career. Let him have fun and experiment with Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  12. Indiana – “We take any and all applications here at #TankCity. Fill out these forms please…”
  13. Boston – Just counting down the days until Rajon Rondo is traded. The question is, “Where”?
  14. Orlando – Still 2 years away from making any kind of noise. Good thing they have Nikola Vucevic locked up for the next four years.
  15. Philadelphia – I won’t watch a game of theirs until Embiid steps on the court. See you in 2016.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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South Shore Ave’s NBA Playoff Preview: The East

Welcome to South Shore Ave’s NBA Playoff Preview #SaturdayMorningSpecial. With the help of my friend Headley Bent, we provide you a quick and efficient breakdown of the Eastern Conference Playoffs to get your morning started before we get to the first set of today’s playoff games. So get your popcorn coffee ready, we got you covered….

Will Indiana Recover From Their Slump Enough to Make Out of the East?

Headley: The short answer is No. While the thinking is Miami will end their journey in the conference finals… I beg to differ. Pacers better not count their eggs before they hatch. I don’t see them having many problems with the depleted Atlanta Hawks, but then it gets interesting in the second round when they take on the most likely foe in the Chicago Bulls. Without Rose, this team is more blue-collar than the Pacers. They’re ending the season hot with a winning road record. And with potential DPOY in Noah playing his best ball (although undersized)… he ain’t shying away from Hibbert. And who would right now? He is playing like straight garbage. The Bulls have great defense like their counterpart, and has bench scoring in Augustine and Gibson that Indiana can’t match. Remember what Chicago did to Brooklyn last year?

Cee: Nope. I’m not sure about anyone else, but from the beginning of the season, I thought it was a little weird the way Indiana approached the year gunning with all their might to get the #1 seed in the East. As if this is the only way to beat a team like Miami. If you plan on winning an NBA title, you’re going to have win games on the road. Miami two years ago won the NBA Title giving up homecourt advantage to Oklahoma City. The year before, Dallas won the NBA Title on Miami’s floor. It’s important to get homecourt, but it’s not the end of the world. It makes it worse that the early season success they had went to their heads faster than gulping down a .40 ounce bottle of Ole English on an empty stomach.

A couple of months ago, I stated that the Pacers were retracing the arch of those early 90s Knicks teams. But those Knicks teams had more of a killer instinct and would not have faltered like this. They would have fought everyone first before they let themselves go into a funk like this. Can you imagine Pat Riley benching Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks, Doc Rivers, and Charles Smith vs. these Milwaukee Bucks to save their confidence from totally shattering to pieces had they lost against Brandon Knight & ’em? Gimme a break. It turns out that they did get that #1 seed after all, but the way they got it can’t be celebrated. It’s like celebrating a home run after only getting a double. The job’s only halfway done, & seeing that they go through scoring lapses & droughts at times, I don’t see them getting past third. Especially not past a healthy Miami team reaching for history.

Would It Have Been Better if UConn or Kentucky Got the #8 Seed in the East?

Headley: The short answer is Yes. The Hawks should lose in 4. I might as well see the best in college lose in 4 to see how they man up against NBA talent. That game would surely have better ratings. But in all honesty, they need to do a cross-conference playoff swap. For one spot only… if the best team in the conference to miss a playoff spot is eliminated and they posted a win-loss record that’s better than the other conference’s best team in the same scenario by 10 games or more… they get in. FYI: Suns had 48 wins while ATL had 38.

Cee:It might have. Better yet, if you combined the top 6 players from both programs (think Julius Randle, James Young, Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, & DeAndre Daniels as the starting five), I definitely think it would have a better shot vs the Pacers than the Hawks would. I know for a fact that Kentucky Huskies would have appreciated being there waaaaaaaaaaay more (Napier would have been shit happy with the road Per Diem alone). Look, Atlanta’s probably the only playoff team in the NBA that’s not happy to be there. What do you think they would rather: the 8th or 9th pick in the lottery or locking down the 15th pick, AND the right to lose in five games to Indy where they average about 13,000 fans in their 2 playoff home games? Hmmm, you tell me. I mean, Hawks GM Danny Ferry, basically told us he doesn’t care about the playoff spot. You’re telling me the UK Huskies couldn’t get a trial run at this??? Also, NO! I don’t want to see the Knicks in that spot either. After what we just saw for 82 games, they have no business being there. I don’t care how good Carmelo played this season.

We can’t understate just how utterly shitty the East has been this regular season. Indiana fell into a 2 1/2 month swoon & Miami went 11-14 in their last 25 games, yet not only did both teams finish head & shoulders about the rest of the teams in the conference, but they were the only teams in the East to win 50 games or more. New York (a team who won 54 games last season) & Cleveland (a team whose owner said after winning last year’s lottery “This is our last year in the lottery”) both underachieved to alarming degrees. Detroit who spent almost $80M in salary to upgrade their team with Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings didn’t even win 30 games. Philadelphia at one point lost 26 straight games this season, & still finished 4 games behind Milwaukee in the standings. Outside of Miami and Indiana, none of the other playoff teams really move the needle in terms of interest. If it wasn’t for the Raptors, I would actually boycott all the series in the East until the Conference Finals.

What Player Can Make Himself a Star in the Eastern Conference Playoffs?

Headley: Players like John Wall and Al Jefferson have a chance to show they’re worth their hefty contracts, but I don’t see them getting past the first round. I’m biased, but I believe DeMar Derozan and/or Kyle Lowry finally have a chance to showcase their stuff on national TV for a couple series and see why the Raptors just posted the best record in franchise history. With a solid post season… they can become solidified in Raptor history and earn the notoriety that they simply don’t get playing north of the border. And for Lowry… a solid post season may finally put to rest doubts of him signing the contract he wants.

Sidenote: I had to add this at the eleventh hour when I found out our matchup is against Brooklyn and not Washington. I’m scared of the Brooklyn Nets. They finally ended the season how people expected them to enter it. A team with that much talent and post season experience… you cannot take them lightly. They won’t wilt under the lights so you better not leave the door open or they will capitalize. And Toronto is green to post season experience so while I am taking Lowry and DeRozen, as having a breakout post season. I pick them slightly over Wall and Jefferson seeing they have home court advantage, but I am not overly confident. Plus I don’t want a-hole friends like Marco texting me.

Cee: I’d like to pick someone who will possibly get out of the first round, so that immediately eliminates Al Jefferson (who I predict will still dominate the Heat in Round One) and John Wall (1st time playoff participant vs. THAT Bulls D? No thanks.) from contention. By default, it will be the Raptors duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. I know people are counting them out against the Brooklyn Nets, and teams are trying to line up to get into their bracket, but there was a reason why they got the #3 seed. Since trading Rudy Gay, they have been one of the best teams in the NBA, & they play hard on both ends of the floor, but it starts with Lowry & DeRozan. Although DeRozan was the All Star on the team, Lowry was the heart & soul of the Raptors & the team has taken on his personality more than anyone else. I can see him having a big series vs. the Nets, hitting big shots & making big plays. It won’t be on a level like Steph Curry put on in last year’s playoffs, but it’ll be more than noticeable.

Who is Coming Out of the East? 

Cee: After watching how Indiana’s imploded the last few months, I don’t even care if they have homecourt advantage through the Eastern Conference Playoffs, their confidence has shown its cracks. They’ll get past Atlanta relatively easy, then will get past Chicago after a bruising series, and will run out out gas playing the Heat. For the Pacers to get to the Finals, they need Paul George to perform like that MVP candidate that he showed earlier in the year. More importantly, they need him on offense, to match LeBron’s skillset when they meet up. As much talent as he has, I think he’s another year away to possibly reach that LBJ/KD level. Between that & my expectation that Lance Stephenson will do something stupid at the worst possible time, Miami will be heading to their 4th straight finals.

Headley: Miami has made the finals three years consecutively, why would I think anything differently?!?!? If you asked me around the all-star break, it would involve a lot more pondering. However, the way the Pacers has faltered the last third of the season, and the fact I have the Bulls upsetting the Pacers in the conference semi-finals, this decision is easy as pie. I wish I could be more insightful but there really isn’t much to say about the inevitable.

Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

Headley

1st Round 

1. Pacers over 8. Hawks

4. Bulls over 5. Wizards

2. Heat over 7. Bobcats

3. Raptors over 6. Nets

Eastern Semis

4. Bulls over 1. Pacers

2. Heat over 3. Raptors

Conference Finals

2. Heat over 4. Bulls

Cal Cee

1st Round

1. Pacers over 8. Hawks

4. Bulls over 5. Wizards

2. Heat over 7. Bobcats

3. Raptors over 6. Nets

Eastern Semis

1. Pacers over 4. Bulls

2. Heat over 3. Raps

Conference Finals

2. Heat over 1. Pacers

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

Follow me on Twitter or email me at southshoreave@gmail.com

Special thanks to Headley Bent for contributing to this article/posting.

The Tunnel & The Light

Wow!

Incredible!

My stomach’s queasy.

My head hurts.

I need a drink…..

These are the things that were rattling through my mind after watching the epic Game 6 nail biter between the Miami Heat & the San Antonio Spurs, the first truly great game of a weirdly played series. This is probably the weirdest NBA Finals that I can remember watching.  This NBA Finals resembles one of the Rocky boxing scenes where Rocky throws continuous flurries of jabs, and haymakers that all land because the boxer during the exchange forgets to try to defend any of the punches coming his way.  Only to then have it happen to him minutes later in the scene when it’s his turn to drop the gloves, and his opponent starts wailing on him.  The only thing that’s missing right now is Adrianne crying uncontrollably on Miami’s courtside seats beside the white haired woman.  The repeated blowouts, the lapses of concentration from both teams, the flurries of runs from both teams from game to game, if you didn’t know any better, you would think this pattern of win one-lose one is as choreographed and staged as those Rocky scenes before the director says cut.  Outside of Game 1, this has been an odd series to follow and watch… until Tuesday night.  With the stakes being high and everything on the line for both teams: from the way San Antonio controlled the game for three quarters, to the frantic Miami comeback and finish, it will go down as the best game of the year as well as one of the best NBA Finals game ever, as it’s destined to be replayed over and over again on NBA TV.  As we go into Game 7, here are a few things to recap:

THE SPURS BLEW A WASTED OPPORTUNITY.   More importantly, they wasted an absolute throwback game from Tim Duncan.  Back in his prime, around the time when he was collecting back to back MVPs & winning titles every other year, he would drop the hammer down during elimination games when his team needed it most.  As he gets older, there are only so many games like this that this 37-year old great has left in the reserves.  Sensing that he was so close to winning his 5th ring in his career, he came out and put on a clinic on the Heat as if he were going after his 1st, scoring 25 points in the first half alone.  The most he has scored in any half in his whole playoff career.  He raised the energy of his teammates, while killing the spirit of the Heat players and sucking the life out of the arena.  By the end of the 3rd quarter, it looked as if Miami was dazed and defeated.  Then in the 4th, Miami turned up the defence, and the Spurs were giving them back the ball like an undercooked Rib Eye to a waiter at a steakhouse. Before you knew it, the game was tied and it became a dogfight until the final buzzer of OT.  This was the time where the Spurs players were supposed to help Duncan out.  If they even took care of the ball half as bad as they did and made their free throws, we would be talking about how incredible Timmy’s Game 6 performance was, and trying to figure out where to rank it in historical context of the NBA Finals history.  If San Antonio loses this game tonight, this throwback game gets tossed on the closet floor like an old T-shirt & no one will remember it, which is a damn shame.  Duncan was supposed to leave American Airlines Arena early Wednesday morning with the Larry O’Brien trophy and possibly his 4th NBA Finals MVP.  Instead, they face the task of being the first team since the 1978 Washington Bullets to win a Game 7 NBA Finals on the road.  I’m still shaking my head here….

LEBRON’S BAD/GREAT GAME.   Years from now we’ll look at the stats of the game & say, “Wow, LeBron really came through with that triple double”, or “King James really owned that game”, but anyone watching that game was wondering if he was slowly becoming undone by the pressure of having their backs against the wall.  Taking bad shots and still looking to distribute the ball even when the Spurs had their foot on his team’s throat, it took his headband getting knocked off for him to unleash all of his athletic talents on the floor.  Taking over the 4th quarter with 18 points and imposing his effort and will on the game, the Heat completed their maniacal comeback and had a 3 point lead with less than 90 seconds to play……then Tony Parker drained that 3 in his face to tie the game.  All of a sudden, LeBron made two critical mistakes, Parker capitalized, & the Spurs were up by five.  Had it not been for Ray Allen’s beautiful 3 of his own to tie the game at 95, this would have haunted LeBron’s offseason as much as when he lost to the Mavericks two years ago.  If you compared him to Duncan through three quarters, Duncan was leaving everything on the floor while LeBron looked like he was coasting through a game vs. the Bobcats in January.  When someone is as good as he is, shouldn’t we know it at all times?  This is the 3rd time in 4 years that he looked as if his brain was subconsciously checking out during an elimination game where his team was down in the series.  Call me spoiled by the Bird/Magic/Jordan era that I grew up in, but I’d like to never question the mindset of the best player in the league during one of his biggest moments.  Once you enter those prime years as the best player in the league, those moments cannot be wasted by these things.  Not when you’re staking your claim alongside the all-time greats.  Even if he’s missing shots, we should be leaving the game saying, “Man, he was really off tonight”, instead of thinking, “Is he checking out again”???  Having a conversation with my friend Les last night, he said it best:  “It’s almost as if LeBron needs the perfect circumstances around him to get the optimal performance out of himself”.  Right opponent, right situation depending on where they are in the series, he will dominate & almost eclipse that game itself like the sun.  If his team is down in an elimination game and the supreme pressure is on him, you can see that weary signature look on his face. When the pressure hits like it did late in Game 6, you can almost see the wires frying in his head.   It’s a harsh reality for him (almost unfair), but when you win 4 MVP’s and you’re in the prime of your career surrounded by two All Stars in Wade & Bosh, that expectation comes with the territory.

WHY CRAWFORD?  The NBA for years have been fighting the image of them fixing games or having conspiracy-like overtones surrounding their playoff games, with everything coming to an apex when the Tim Donahy scandal happened.  So why would the NBA assign Joey Crawford, the NBA referee with the most negative personal history against the Spurs to ref such a pivotal game?  Why even entertain the thought of putting him out there?  I mean, it’s not exactly a secret that the Spurs have past issues with Crawford.  I don’t care if he’s in the Finals rotation, I’m almost positive they could have gotten another competent referee to ref Game 6.  I’m not saying he affected the outcome of the game & I don’t blame him for the Spurs giving up the victory Tuesday night, but by doing this, you understand why the conspiracy theorists continue to come out the woodworks.  Anyhow he refs Game 7…..

SIDELINE NOTES

The funny thing about this series is that after the excitement of Game 6, and the generating buzz of a Finals Game 7, it might not even match the buzz created by Jay-Z & Samsung during Game 5, taking over the whole commercial block between the end of the 2nd Quarter and the Halftime show.  The announcement of his new LP, Magna Carta Holy Grailwas in short, an incredible marketing ploy for both parties.  Samsung found an innovative way to promote their phones, tablets, and apps, while Hov started an innovative buzz on his new LP, while at the same time going platinum before his LP touched a shelf or an online store.  Between this & his simmering takeover of the Sports Agency world, he is redefining the game on how to do business in music and sports.  You can read about the Samsung deal here…..  8 game winning streak huh?  Can the Blue Jays come back to take one of the wild card spots?  It’s June, it’s not too late, but they have to continue to play as well on the field as they apparently did in the offseason…..  I like the move of Jason Kidd becoming a head coach.  I think he has a great basketball mind as one of the best point guards to ever play in the NBA.  As long as he has the right assistant coaches surrounding him, he can definitely make this work to his favor…. if he was coaching The Raptors.  For a playoff team with title aspirations in the next two to three years in Brooklyn, this was the wrong move.  Lionel Hollins or George Karl gets hired to coach this team?  I’m fine with this. I feel like this was a splashy move to appease the owner as well as the media, but they should only be worried about getting wins, not making publicity wins in the New York market…..

My Game 7 prediction I’ll stick with my original prediction & say the Heat win tonight, and by 10+ points.  I don’t see how the Spurs come back & take Game 7 after what happened on Tuesday, no matter how much it bucks the trend that no team has won 2 straight games. It’s extremely hard to win a Finals Game 7 on the road. IF by miracle or prayer Tim Duncan repeats his Game 6 performance, then it will be a much closer game. The crowd’s energy & the calls will be on the Heat’s side, & by midnight, they should be popping bottles. Hopefully, we don’t get another version of this.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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NBA Finals Breakdown (Part 2)

CLICK HERE TO READ PART ONE.

In Part 2 of today’s post, I’m going to give a quick breakdown of the positional matchups in the NBA Finals series between the San Antonio Spurs and The Miami Heat with a boxing-style score count. Yes, inventive I know!

POINT GUARD

Mario Chalmers vs. Tony Parker

2013 Playoff Stats: 

Chalmers: 8.9 PPG // 2.1 RPG // 3.5 APG // 77.5% FT // 30% 3P // 9.62 EFF Rating

Parker     : 23 PPG // 3.9 RPG // 7.2 ASG // 86.7% FT // 37.5% 3P // 21.8 EFF

Doesn’t seem fair does it?

Chalmers is going up against a point guard that Charles Barkley refers to as the best PG in the NBA.  I’m not 100% sure I agree with it, but by far he is the most underappreciated.  Most people don’t have him ranked in their top 5 PG list much less the top 3 (where he should be ranked). He’s the best player on the best team in the West and has been for at least the last two seasons, officially taking the reins from Tim Duncan & Manu Ginobili.  Chalmers & Norris Cole will take turns (as well as LeBron for small stretches) trying to corral Parker, as well as trying to make open jumpers & threes to offset the damage Parker will do to them on the other end of the floor.  This matchup can really hurt the Heat here, they might need to throw constant double teams (& possibly holy water) & hope he turns the ball over.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 8 

SHOOTING GUARD

Dwyane Wade vs. Danny Green 

Wade: 14.1 PPG // 4.9 RPG // 4.9 APG // 44% FG // 74% FT // 25% 3P

Green:  9.6 PPG // 4.1 RPG // 1.9 APG // 45% FG // 71% FT // 43% 3P

** Disclaimer – This comparison is about Wade, the player in this playoffs, not the normal, healthier version. **

In most cases, Wade would dominate this matchup on a “Hakeem on Robinson” type level, but with his knees betraying him, playoff inconsistency, & struggling to fully embrace the Robin costume (let’s face it, they don’t even talk about Wade anymore when the Heat’s name comes up, & he ran Miami for years.  He’s only 31, but he’s slowly coming out of his prime.  It’s a hard adjustment).  This matchup is a little closer than you think.  Green’s not going to match up with him scoring wise, but defensively he’s going to pester Wade for stretches at a time.  The key to this matchup is for Wade to keep moving without the ball, make quick decisions, and be aggressively smart to get Green & his teammates in foul trouble. But will we even see the old Wade this series?  If so, then this series might be done a lot faster than most imagined.  The SG spot may be the most important matchup in the next two weeks to be honest, especially when a well-rested Manu Ginobili enters the game.  I actually can’t wait for him to go against Wade for seven games, in all their elite level, Euro-stepping glory.  I’m going to lean towards Wade here, “barely”, but I think he might have just enough impactful moments to win this matchup here…Just enough.

Score: Heat 10, Spurs 9

SMALL FORWARD

LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard 

James: 26.2 PPG // 7.3 RPG // 6.4 ASG // 51.4% FG // 77.2% FT // 38.7% 3P

Leonard: 13 PPG // 8 RPG // 1.1 ASG // 56.5% FG // 59.4% FT // 41.7% 3P

Nothing to see here, keep it moving and please use the side exits…..

……..I like Leonard,  I think he is a really solid player with a bright future.  However, asking someone to guard a 4-time MVP in the prime of his career, carving out his legacy along the very best players in NBA history, while also giving up 30+ pounds to the most physically imposing, small forward the game has ever seen, is too much to ask of anyone much less a second year player. NEXT! 

Score: Heat 10, Miami 7

POWER FORWARD

Chris Bosh vs Tim Duncan 

Bosh: 12.3 PPG // 6.6 RPG // 1.2 APG // 45.7% FG // 73.3% FT // 48.4% 3P

Duncan: 17.8 PPG // 9.2 RPG // 2.1 APG // 46% FG // 79.7% FT // 1.7 BPG

As much as people like to kill Bosh for his photo-bombing awareness, his ability to get clowned relentlessly for being himself, and everything else in between, he’s still an 8-time All Star who is very likely on the path to the Hall of Fame (sorry, it’s true), especially if he can add two more rings &/or 2-3 more All Star bids to his resume.  However, he is entering the series in a slump, averaging less than 10 points in the last 4 straight games. What’s the worst way to try to break a slump?  Facing off against Tim Duncan in a seven game series.  His focus on taking away the things that you love to do – like he did against Zach Randolph in the Western Conference Finals – is almost unprecedented.  We know the old story: he’s boring to watch, his game puts people to sleep, but the consistency of his greatness is almost unmatched.  I can throw all the stats out at you, but this may be my favorite one yet:  in his rookie year at age 21, he made the All-NBA First Team.  Sixteen years later at age 37, he made the All-NBA First Team.  Has that even happened before???? He sees the end coming soon, but with the way Roy Hibbert look like Mikan, Wilt, & Bill Russell all rolled into one against Miami, I can’t see how he doesn’t do similar damage to them.  He’s as smart mentally as Hibbert is physically imposing. I expect to see him at the line a lot, getting the Heat’s big men to use up most of their 6 fouls each.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 9

CENTER

Udonis Haslem vs. Tiago Splitter 

Haslem: 6.3 PPG // 3.9 RPG // 0.9 SPG // 61% FG // 53.8% FT

Splitter: 6.8 PPG // 3.7 RPG // 1.8BPG // 68.2% FG // 78.3% FT

Both Haslem and Splitter are role playing big men, who make their bones playing off of their superstar teammates by collecting garbage points, finishing dump off passes, setting solid screens off the pick and roll, and playing tough defense.  They do it with slightly different styles, but both get the job done.  It’s an even matchup but I give the slight edge to Haslem.  Playing in his 4th Finals will make him more well-adjusted to the whole experience then a young player like Splitter, I’m expecting him to make less mistakes as the series prolongs.

Score: Heat 10, Spurs 9

BENCH

Both teams have a pretty solid bench, Miami: Allen, Birdman, Battier, Miller, Cole, Anthony; Spurs: Ginobilli, Diaw, Bonner, Neal, Cory Joseph. For Miami, Allen, Battier, & Miller MUST make their open shots here.  They struggled the whole Pacer series, and versus a team who averaged the 5th most bench points in the league, they will quickly fall behind if this happens again.  The Spurs have been more consistent out of the two teams throughout the playoffs, so the needle tilts to their side on this one.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 9

COACHING

Both coaching staff in my opinion are the best in the game today.  Eric Spoelstra doesn’t get enough credit for coaching the team this season.  27–game winning streaks doesn’t just happen because you roll out the balls to your great players, then sit back, & enjoy the show.  A lot of it involves having your players dedicated to the system, while keeping them motivated for perfection in every game.  He built the system around the unique talents of his best player while making sure Wade & Bosh were having a major impact.  He brought a guy off the street (Birdman) and blended him in almost seamlessly. But this will be his biggest test, matching Xs & Os with Gregg Popovich, a legendary coach who’s 4-0 in the NBA Finals…… who has now had 10 days to plan for this series.

Score: Spurs 10, Heat 9

PREDICTION

Game 1 is probably the most critical; a team that rests this long against the Spurs usually comes out rusty.  While a team like the Heat coming off of a grueling series, will still be in game-time rhythm.  If the Spurs can shake off the rust & steal this game, it can potentially be a big blow to the Heat, as the Spurs will only get sharper as the series progresses.  Ultimately, I’m going with the Heat in 7 because they have the trump card in James, who as I mentioned before, is by far the best player in the NBA playing at his absolute peak, and in basketball, that counts for a lot. His game almost has no flaws right now, and having that specimen on your team is like having a universal key that can open any door in the building.  As long as he’s constantly attacking this defense and causing problems in the paint with his scoring and playmaking, it will eventually wear the Spurs down…. even if they only wear down in Game 7.

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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