The NBA Finals: Dallas vs Miami … Chemistry & Confidence To Be A Champion

~ The NBA grand stage is set for the final performance of the 2010-2011 season. 16 teams came in and 2 teams are now left to battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks took completely different paths to get to this point. However, Miami and Dallas both have what it takes to take that final step. They both have the chemistry and the confidence to secure a championship and it didn’t happen overnight.

I could easily turn this post into a statistics-filled post that could explain why and how Miami or Dallas could win. The bottom line is that to make it to this point, it takes a lot more than the stats.

The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers were dismissed this year by Dallas in the 2nd round. The Mav’s then took out the young and talented Oklahoma City Thunder.

Miami took out last year’s runner up to the title, the Boston Celtics in the 2nd round. This was followed by eliminating this year’s MVP Derrick Rose and his Chicago Bulls.

The Heat and the Mav’s have what the Lakers, Thunder, Celtics, and Bulls struggled to maintain. Chemistry and confidence that must go along with the statistics everyone uses to justify teams needing to win.

The confidence a team needs to win does not come before the chemistry needed to turn a collection of talented individuals into a winning team.

Team chemistry does not just happen as soon as a team is put together, it takes time to develop. There is going to be conflict and egos are either going to be put aside or bruised along the way. The price to pay for bad chemistry can set a team back years in some cases.

Miami was expected to be in this position when they put LeBron James and Chris Bosh together with Dwyane Wade last summer. They learned this season through ups and downs that while talent can put a team into a conversation, it takes more to become the conversation.

 

Miami has 3 of the top superstars in the league today … 2 plus 1 really good basketball player in Bosh, depending on the conversation;  surrounded by a mix of role players either in their prime or past it. They have the potential in place to launch a dynasty. That’s just what it is though, it’s potential. Potential buys the groceries, it does not prepare the meal.

Dallas does not have 3 superstars, they only have 1 and that’s Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki has been great in this post season. His performance against the Thunder to get Dallas to the Finals should go down as nearly legendary when we look back on it. However, it’s what Dallas has done this year to surround Nowitzki with the talent he needed to get back to the Finals.

 

Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and Peja Stojakovic. These are three players who have not only each had individual success in their careers, they are also into the sunset of their careers. They have stepped up and allowed for Nowitzki to play to the level he is right now.

 Dallas took a major roll of the dice to bank on three well seasoned NBA veterans to play major roles in a championship run this year. You throw Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler into the mix and the hustle of JJ Barea and the gamble has paid off to this point.

These are two teams that would not be anywhere near the Finals right now if not for how well the team chemistry has come together. When the playoffs started, how many can really say that Dallas or Miami were sure things to get to this point? The Mav’s because of their age and question marks about their roster and Miami because of their struggles to incorporate the talents of Wade and James on the court together.

Which team is going to win this series? What’s guranteed is that this will be a great one and that it’s too close to really call. Miami looks like it has figured out the proper balance of James and Wade. Bosh is now embracing his role as the 3rd weapon. The superstars are going do their part to make this a great series. Miami has the younger legs and Wade and James are the two best players on the floor.

If there ever was a key for Dallas to win this series, it will be their bench and their depth. If Miami figures out a way to deny Nowitzki enough to limit him from going off, someone else on Dallas will have to step up.

I think this series will go seven games and that would be great for the league, the fans, and definitely the media networks. What Dallas has been able to do in the playoffs has been amazing. However, Miami is peaking at the right time and I don’t see them losing a Game 7 for the championship on their home court.

Miami in 7 games over Dallas.

 If Dallas wins, it gets Nowitzki, Terry, Kidd, Marion, and Peja the championship they have chased all of their careers and have fell short to reach. If Miami wins, it could possibly launch a new sports dynasty to talk about for years to come. It also would give LeBron James the championship he needs to offically launch the discussion of where he stands among the NBA’s all-time elite.

Two teams, two different paths to get to this stage. It took talent and skill at it’s highest level. They both have that. Between Miami and Dallas, at least 4 of the players on the court are future hall of famers. The chemistry is there and because of that, the confidence is there as well.

These 2 teams met in the Finals in 2006 and even though Miami won that year, those were 2 completely different teams. This wont be the start of a new NBA rivalry for years to come like Lakers-Celtics. For this year though, we as fans get to sit back and enjoy what should be a great battle on the grand stage.

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Dallas 4 Wins Away From The Elusive Goal, OKC Not Ready For Prime Time

 

~ This series had the potential to go seven games, it only went five. The Oklahoma City Thunder had the potential to make the NBA Finals, they came up three wins short. Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks for returning to the NBA Finals for the 1st time since 2006. The Mav’s knocked off the Thunder 4 games to 1 to win the series and move on. They now await the winner of the Miami-Chicago series over in the Eastern Conference finals.

For the Thunder, lessons will hopefully be learned from this series. They are a very young team that had their youth exposed in this series thanks to a series of late game mental mistakes in Games 4 and 5.

 OKC blew a 15 point lead with 5 minutes to play in Game 4 and it cost them in overtime. In game 5 they blew a 6 point lead with a little over 4 minutes left to play. They are now headed home for the summer.

What the Thunder are going to have to determine for next season is who exactly is the point guard. This team was repeatedly outplayed in their half-court offensive sets and looked lost at times on what play to run next. This played a big part in their 4th quarter collapses in Games 4 and 5.

 As good and talented as Russell Westbrook is, with the exception of his triple-double performance that helped knock out the Grizzlies, Westbrook was an enigma for this series against the Mav’s. Is he going to be a point guard? Is he a combo-guard?  He’s also still growing up and the Thunder should hope that he will only grow from this series.

 OKC has a solid 1-2 punch with Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The Kendrick Perkins trade didn’t exactly work out the way it was intended. They did though see James Harden take a step forward this season. Many said this team arrived to the big stage a year too early. If that’s the case, and it looked like it was, next season the pressure will definitely be on for this Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.

 The Mav’s move on and right now it is hard to pick against them winning the championship right now. Dirk Nowitzki is playing at his highest level right now and badly wants and needs a NBA title to put a stamp on his legacy. His Game 4 performance against OKC was historic and his go ahead three pointer with a little over a  minute to go in Game 5 helped put the Thunder away.

 It’s all coming together for a team that looks like a who’s who of flashbacks from post season’s past failures.Long time Phoenix Sun Shawn Marion has never been to the Finals. All his Suns teams did was make the playoffs while he was there.

 Peja Stojakovic is headed to the Finals. Peja was such a huge part of the success for those Sacramento Kings playoff teams.

 Jason Terry was with Nowitzki on that 2006 Finals team that loss to the Miami Heat.

 Jason Kidd gets a chance to add to his legacy as one of the greatest point guards in history. Kidd has emerged as a clutch shooter as well and provided Dallas with something the Thunder did not have on the floor, leadership.

 These are all players who are looking to make up for years worth of playoff shortcomings. They know that this maybe the last chance they’ll get. Thats what makes it all the more special that they are all playing so well right now at the right time. 4 wins away from a championship they have chased for so long as individuals. They have a chance to secure it as a team.

Hiring Mike Brown Is The Right Move For The Lakers

 

~ The Lakers are reportedly ready to bring in their 22nd head coach in team history. For Mike Brown, what a difference a year makes. For fans of The Los Angeles Lakers, when Phil Jackson stepped away as head coach, how many of them could have possibly seen this coming? Coming out of nowhere to emerge as the leading canidate for the job, Brown is expected to be offically named the new head coach of the Lakers. This is indeed a stunning move, however it is also the right move.

 Mike Brown isn’t going to be another Phil Jackson. He is not flashy or smooth like a Pat Riley. He does not teach the game like a Larry Brown or even a Hubie Brown for that matter. What Brown does bring to the Lakers is intangibles that none of the other canidates the Lakers targeted could bring at this time.

The 41 year old Brown led the Cleveland Cavaliers to two 60-win seasons and the NBA finals one time. Those teams were led by a superstar and elite player, LeBron James. He inherits a Lakers team that is led by a superstar and elite player, Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers are a team that’s defense was badly exposed in this year’s playoffs. They couldn’t rotate at all and at times looked completely lost while being swept out of the playoffs by Dallas. Brown is a defense-first coach.

The isssue being argued by many fans of the Lakers is that it’s Mike Brown replacing the great Phil Jackson. The saying goes that you’re only as good as your last performance. For Brown, it was a year ago that his Cav’s were bounced from the playoffs and set off 12 months of change with LeBron James leaving for Miami and Brown losing his job almost as soon as he got off the team plane back from Boston.

First of all, no one is going to replace what Phil Jackson has done. It didn’t work with the Bulls in the 90’s and Tim Floyd. It didn’t work for the Lakers either with Rudy Tomjanovich. At some point, the time comes when you have to reinvent yourself. It’s no different for a professional basketball team.

 For all the criticism that Mike Brown will get during his transition into taking this job, Brown is a good basketball coach. He went to the playoffs in every year he coached the Cav’s. (5 seasons)

Did he have an elite basketball player? Yes. He also didn’t have very much else to work with either.

In Brown’s 5 seasons as Cav’s coach, the organization didn’t exactly surround LeBron James with many 2nd or 3rd options like Kobe Bryant has had with Paul Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum. An aging Shaquille O’Neal and an inconsistent Mo Williams don’t count.

 Brown made mistakes as Cav’s coach and his rotation moves were questionable. However, he did what he could with what he had and wisely ran everything through his one star player.  He now gets a clean start, just like the Lakers get a chance at a clean start.

Brown reportedly will sign a contract for four years and $18.2 million dollars. As good a track record as Brown has a defensive minded coach, he’ll need to establish quickly what his offensive gameplan will be for the Lakers.

 This is a team that definitely wants to get back to running up and down the court and entertaining the fans. A lot will depend on what the Lakers do this summer to rebuild around Bryant. Does Gasol, Odom, and Bynum stay with the team? Do they begin to make plans to go after Dwight Howard?

 This Laker team needed to turn the page after bowing out to Dallas this year. The team needed a facelift and Mike Brown will help provide them a new idenity on defense as well. For both sides, it’s the right move at the right time.

The NBA Should Have Suspended Joakim Noah For Anti-Gay Slur

 

~ Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls has been fined $50,000 for directing an anti-gay slur towards a fan during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat. Noah did admit to the use of the slur and apologized for it as well. Clearly, he knew an expensive fine from the league was on the way. What Noah should’ve gotten along with that fine was a 1 game suspension.

Throughout the playoffs, the NBA has produced PSAs about the use of slurs regarding race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.  Kobe Bryant of the Lakers in a game towards the end of the regular season was caught on national television using a gay slur in the direction of an NBA referee.

 NBA players all saw what happened, and agree or disagree with it, they know what the punishment is going to be if they get caught.

Bryant was fined $100,000 for his actions, so Noah didn’t even get punished to that extent. The fact that Noah’s incident occured so soon after Bryant’s though clearly shows a lack of discipline just as much as it showed a lack of professionalism on his part.

I understand this is basketball and trash talk on and off the court is apart of the game. It’s a very emotional game. Professional athletes have to endure the bad from the fans just as much as they love the good from them. Those bad times can be a test of ones composure. The reality of the situation though is these are also professionals that we are talking about. They are being compensated a lot of money to play this game and should be held accountable for their actions.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) wasted no time to reach out to the NBA about the Noah incident. It did the same with Kobe Bryant.

 Everyone knows going up against GLAAD is not a battle any image-conscious multi-million or multi-billion dollar business would want to take on. It’s a pubilc relations nightmare.The league wasted no time and handed out fines to Bryant and Noah the next day after their incidents.

Giving players a fine for rule violations is one thing, however when it becomes a repeat offense is when it gains the potential to become a pattern. Thats an expensive risk to take for the player, that player’s team, and the league that the team and the player represent. If the message did not get across the first time, what do you do next? Fine the player again? These are multi-million dollar athletes we are talking about!

Eventually a message has to be sent from employer to employee that clearly gets across that certain things just can’t be tolerated. Most fans who have regular 9 to 5 jobs would have been terminated by their employers for that type of conduct. The punishment has to be one where other employees know that such behavior will never be accepted.

I’m not saying Joakim Noah should lose his job. Professional Sports operates a little differently than Corporate America. The tolerance lever is higher. However in this case, the punishment did not fit the crime and a strong enough message was not sent out to the rest of the league.

Fighting had become such a major issue in the league to the point where the Commissioner implemented a stronger punishment for players who were seen leaving the bench to involve themselves. Leave the bench …  it’s now an automatic 1 game suspension … not up for debate. It’s now time for the league to make another major statement. If a player is seen on camera making anti – gay slurs or gestures, don’t just fine them for it anymore … suspend them from their next game.

In the case of Joakim Noah, the punishment would have cost him not only $50,000 it would have also cost him the next playoff game. Noah would have realized that because of his unprofessionalism the team would be punished right along with him.

Here is the reality of the situation as it stands now …

The cameras are always watching the players. They are watching as soon the players step onto the court. Noah is young, however that’s no excuse. The use of Anti-Gay Slurs has been a hot topic across the country for years now. The NBA is realizing just how hot a topic it really is.

NBA Playoffs > ( Video) Kevin Durant With The Monster Dunk On Brendan Haywood!

~ Kevin Durant Leaves Peja Stojakovic Standing And Proceeds To Throw Down What Could Be The Dunk Of The 2011 Playoffs So Far. Not One of Brendan Haywood’s Better Moments In The League … Throw It Down KD!!

NBA Draft > Cleveland Wins No. 1 Pick, Irving On The Radar

 

~ The Cleveland Cavaliers had just about as good a night as a team can possibly have that didn’t make the playoffs. The Cav’s came away from the NBA Draft Lottery with the number one pick. To add icing on the cake, the Cav’s also have the number four pick in the draft. The team that within the last 12 months lost LeBron James to South Beach and endured a nightmare season with one loss after another, has finally come across some good fortune. The number one pick came from the Los Angeles Clippers in the Baron Davis trade. The pick only had a 2.8 percent chance of winning and it wasn’t protected. It ends up turning into the top pick in the draft. Cleveland is most likely to take Kyrie Irving of Duke with the number 1 pick to jumpstart the rebuilding process they are currently going through.

The draft class this year is not a deep one by any means. Teams are going to have to dig deep with their scouting departments in finding a gem in this year’s draft. That’s why having 2 of the top 5 picks in the draft is such a big win for the Cav’s. The Minnesota Timberwolves will draft second and it’s expected they will take Derrick Williams of Arizona. Once Irving and Williams are off the board, that is where the draft is expected to take a turn for the unexpected. The Clippers can now only imagine what a lineup with Irving and Blake Griffin could have done for their franchise.

The Utah Jazz came out ahead as well by securing the number 3 and number 12 picks in the draft. The number 3 pick came from the New Jersey Nets courtesy of the Deron Williams trade. There is a sub plot here to keep an eye on. It remains to be seen if Williams will sign his contract extension with the Nets. If he decides not to sign, the Nets could possibly come away from the trade with Utah empty-handed. To acquire Williams, the Nets also gave up Derrick Favors who was their 1st round pick last year and they also gave up their 1st round pick for next year. This would be a major setback for their rebuilding plans.

Here Is A Look At The Draft Order

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (from L.A. Clippers)
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
3. Utah Jazz
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
5. Toronto Raptors,
6. Washington Wizards
7. Sacramento Kings
8. Detroit Pistons
9. Charlotte Bobcats
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Golden State Warriors
12. Utah Jazz
13. Phoenix Suns
14. Houston Rockets
15. Indiana Pacers
16. Philadelphia 76ers
17. New York Knicks
18. Washington Wizards (from Atlanta)
19. Charlotte Bobcats (from New Orleans via Portland)
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Memphis via Utah)
21. Portland Trailblazers
22. Denver Nuggets
23. Houston Rockets (from Orlando via Phoenix)
24. Oklahoma City Thunder
25. Boston Celtics
26. Dallas Mavericks
27. New Jersey Nets (from Los Angeles Lakers)
28. Chicago Bulls (from Miami via Toronto)
29. San Antonio Spurs
30. Chicago Bulls

Additional Info: Pro Basketball Talk

Photo: Getty Images

MLB > The Yankees & Mets vs. Father Time & A Budget

 

 

 ~ When the baseball season started this year, fans in New York City were prepared for the expected. The Yankees making the playoffs and another run at a championship. The Mets … not so much. It started out looking that way through most of April. The Yankees were on top of the American League East and the Mets near the bottom of the National League East. This is baseball though and that means it’s a 162 game season with an array of sub plots. “It ain’t over til it’s over” and it’s far from over. However we are now heading into June and the sub plots have drowned out the expectations for both teams. While the Mets are quietly playing good baseball lately, the Yankees are not only playing poorly they are imploding off the field.

The off the field issues were supposed to be all about the New York Mets in 2011. The team came into this year under great financial stress from the fallout of the Maddoff / Ponzi scandal. This led to them not being very active in the free agent market and faced with many questions concerning their core players. After years of spending big money on big name free agents and signing off on big contracts, the Mets are now learning how to win on a budget. When a team is faced with money problems, like any other franchise or business payroll has to be reduced. That definitely effects what you do with your star players. Jose Reyes is in a contract year. Carlos Beltran is near the end of a long term contract and most likely won’t get another one. David Wright has been the face of the team since 2005, is he still an untouchable or is it time to move him? Thats a lot of questions to address without the money to help answer them. Surprisingly though, the Mets have been better on the field than expected so far this season. They gave been hit with the injury bug hard so far. However, new manager Terry Collins has gotten the most out of a team that didn’t look very good on paper.

Over in the Bronx, the Yankees lately have been looking more like the old “Bronx Zoo” teams of the past than the dynasty they have restored over the last 15 years. The bottom line with the Yankees is that like any other sports dynasty, eventually the players get old and have to be replaced. When that time comes for many of those players, feelings are hurt and the business becomes the new reality. Now imagine that scenario for a team that has a lineup full of all-stars and icons. Jeter, A-Rod, Posada, Sabathia … these are are not just everyday players.

 

 The Yankees are known for their air-tight Public Relations machine. Fans are used to hearing about the players coming in and putting on “The Pinstripes” and doing things “The Yankee Way”. There is a code of ethics that comes along with being a Yankee. The Yankees are more than a major league baseball team, they are more than a franchise, they are a brand. Winning is the only results that matter, no matter how much it cost. It’s a philosphy that has brought them championships and yearly playoff expectations.

This year and for the first time since the winning started up again back in the mid 90’s, the Yankees are faced with a hurdle they had hoped to avoid at all costs. Derek Jeter. Jorge Posada. Father Time. Yes … Father Time is a member of the New York Yankees. Father Time is a member of many teams in professional sports. His role is not a popular one, however it is a mandatory one. As an athlete, when Father Time knocks on the door, it can only be ignored but for so long. Eventually that athlete has to open the door. It does not discriminate and it is not bias. Michael Jordan had to answer that knock. He did it in a Washington Wizards uniform.

The Yankees already have lost Andy Pettitte to a knock on the door. Only they and Derek Jeter actually know how close things were to losing him as well. Jeter has struggled this season on the field and one can only wonder if it’s because Jeter is hearing the knocks on the door. He’s 36 years old and already was told for the most part that he’s seen his last long-term contract. He has a milestone of 3,000 career hits to reach this season. The season started out with talk of when will the Yankees move Jeter from the leadoff spot in the lineup. (Knock Knock) Before that when Jeter finally re-signed with the only team he’s ever played for in the Major Leagues, one of the first questions asked him was what position would he finish his career playing … because it’s not like it’s going to be at shortstop. Right? (Knock Knock) Currently the Captain is struggling to hit the same fastballs he’s used to knocking the opposite field for extra bases or clutch base hits. The talk has now become will Jeter even finish out his new contract that he accepted after bitter negotiations.

 

Jorge Posada has definitely heard the knocks of Father Time recently. It reflects in his numbers. A non-baseball fan could look at .165 and realize that’s not a good batting average for a baseball player. Maybe someone who bowls for a hobby. Not for a professional baseball player and definitely not for a New York Yankee. At 39 years old, Posada knows the end is near for his career and like any other proud athlete, the urge to go out on his own terms is a strong one. It’s just not working out that way for him. He has been the starting Catcher for the Yankees the majority of his 16 year career. This season he is only the Designated Hitter (DH). Posada was recently dropped to the bottom of the lineup and it didn’t go well with him. Who’s to blame? Upper Management? Posada? How about neither? It’s simply the sounds of knocking at the door.

Most baseball experts and fans will say that it’s only May and there is plenty of baseball to be played in the season. This is true and if there is any team that has the talent to turn things around right away, it’s the Yankees. They have struggled early in the season before and still found their way to the playoffs in October. However this is a little different this year. The Yankees don’t just have players in their All-Star lineup struggling, they have household names who are struggling. Upper management has not handled it well. The reality though is no matter how strong the Public Relations machine is for the Yankees, it would not have prevented the headlines that have recently come up. It only will get more complicated from here on. CC Sabathia’s contract status is up after the season and Alex Rodriguez is still A-Rod, just a year older now. The knocks at the door continue to get louder. Father Time is making his rounds at Yankee Stadium right now. Eventually, you have to let him in.

 

 The off the field issues are still there for the Mets and playing well right now could eventually lead to a very difficult business decision to make in the summer. Hypothetcially, if the Mets continue to play this week up until the trade deadline in July then will they clean house or make a run for the playoffs? It’s a decision that could impact the team’s revune problems in a major way. The nightmare for the Mets is possibly playing baseball in the summer in front of very little fan support at Citi-Field. That’s attendance that could go a long way in helping payoff debts that have become national headlines.

Which team has it worst right now? The Yankees vs. Father Time? The Mets vs. The Recession? It’s not exactly the debate that baseball fans expected to have when the season started in April. The answers may not be what fans of both teams will want to accept either.

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