Shaquille O’Neal Refers To Miami As “The Big 2”

~ Shaquille O’Neal isn’t wasting anytime getting adjusted to his new career as an NBA analyst. O’Neal is going to be expected to do very in his new role for Turner Sports because he’s not afraid to tell it how he sees it. So how does Shaq see The Big 3 of the Miami Heat?

 According to O’Neal, we all might want to subtract 1 from that equation and call it The Big 2. The recently retired NBA center with four championships was on NBA-TV and while he had good things to say about Dywane Wade and LeBron James, O’Neal made no mention of Chris Bosh.

 Can we really conclude that O’Neal was wrong in his assessment of the Heat? Not really.

 Bosh came in last season with James to form the Big 3 with Wade and it didn’t take very long to figure out that the Heat were going to go as far as Wade and James took them. Bosh was quickly shifted into the role as the best 3rd option in the league and most likely that will be his role on that team going forward.

 Bosh was never apart of the post game press conferences with Wade and James which was possibly the most revealing of his role on the team.

 While O’Neal laughed off any notion that he was trying to start trouble with those comments, he was accurate in his analysis of Miami heading into next season. The thought of him and Charles Barkley in the Turner Studio at the same time commenting on games in their normally blunt manner is going to be must-see television.

 As for Miami, the bottom line will be determined by what Wade and James do on the court. Bosh will be a key to their success, just not in the high profile role of the “Big 2”.

Sunset In Miami: Dallas Wins The NBA Title

 ~ Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd can finally say they have one. Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic can finally say it. Jason Terry can finally say it. They can all  now look at each other and say that they now have a NBA championship.The Dallas Mavericks defeat the Miami Heat to become 2010-2011 NBA Champions. Miami now heads home for what will be a very long summer vacation, especially for LeBron James.

 

The Miami Heat went into the 4th quarter of Game 6 down by 9 points to the Dallas Mav’s. If it would have been Dallas down by 9, I really wouldn’t pay much attention to it. I know the chances are pretty good they are going to put themselves right back into a position to win the game. However, it was Miami that needed a 4th quarter comeback. The way this series went, for that to happen wouldn’t have been a smart wager.

 

 

The Role Players Step Up And Then The Superstars Step In

 

Dirk Nowitzi was not spectacular, far from it. He was 1 for 12 shooting the ball in the first half. It was what happened during that stretch which ultimately led to final score of this game. While Dirk was struggling to score, the role players for Dallas were picking him up. JJ Barea found his groove once he was put into the starting lineup and Miami couldn’t keep him out the paint. It was the outstanding shooting performance of Jason Terry though that kept Dallas afloat. Terry saved his biggest performance of the series for the elimination game. 19 big points in the first half, 27 points for the game. It was Terry’s shooting that allowed Dallas to continue running their normal offense. It paid off as Nowitzki came up with big shots in the 4th quarter to help put the game away and secure a championship.

 

Everything Dallas was in this series, Miami wasn’t. The Mav’s hustled harder, they fought harder, and they flat out outplayed the Heat in every important aspect of the game. That’s hard to imagine when two elite players are on one team. It’s harder to imagine when that team has the best 3rd option in the league. It’s exactly what happened though.

 

 

Winners Must Endure Adversity

 

 

This series was basically over after the back to back 4th quarter performances of LeBron James in games 4 and 5. The Miami Heat lost this series because James did not respond to the adversity that was thrown at him. As talented as this team is, they only get this far because of the play of Wade, Bosh, and James. The moment was there for James to grab when the efforts of Wade wasn’t enough.

 

James had moment after moment to establish himself as an elite player that belonged on the biggest stage. He was nowhere near the dominant player the fans have come to expect of him. James was indecisive, passive, and too quick to defer to the next player instead of letting his natural talent take over. It cost him a championship this season. It may also cost him further damage to the global icon status he is trying to build for himself.

 

LeBron James is in his 9th year in the league. That’s hard to imagine because he’s still so young. To be a winner, facing adversity and overcoming it is a must.He took Cleveland to the Finals in 2007 and they were swept by the Spurs. He couldn’t get them back to the Finals, finishing his time there on a losing note that’s best remembered for his final home game in Cleveland against Boston. In that game it looked as if James already had one foot out of the door and ultimately led him to Miami to team with Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh. 12 months worth of mostly public backlash later, James came up short again when it mattered most and when adversity is confronting him.

 

 

What happens to Miami from here on will be a point of conversation for weeks to come. Wade and James are the foundation of the team and as long as that’s the case, Miami will be title contenders. They had chemistry problems this season and that played a big part in their inconsistent play throughout the regular season. Wade and James must find a way to take the next step together as leaders of this team. Bosh has to find a way to get involved in the offense more. The supporting cast must be improved over the summer.

 

Whereas Miami took a step backwards in their pursuit of “multiple championships”, Dallas took full advantage of their time in the spotlight. This team wasn’t built for multiple championships. This was their moment. Kidd, Marion, Terry, and Stojakovic endured years of falling short in the playoffs as stars on their past teams. They embraced their role as supporting cast members while Dirk Nowitzki was the headliner. If there was any doubt left about Nowitzki being a big time superstar, it was erased in the playoffs this year. He led Dallas on comeback after comeback and dazzled everyone with his shooting. His mental toughness showed when he got hurt, sick, and eventually hit a shooting slump at the worst possible time. Dirk not only took on adversity, he embraced the challenge with the heart and determination of a champion.

 

This is a team that went the second half of the season without it’s Caron Butler. Butler was a big loss on offense and defense for the Mav’s. They overcame that to make the playoffs, run through Portland, sweep the defending champion Lakers, and hold off Oklahoma City to reach the Finals.

 

The Dallas Mavericks took their talents to South Beach and now head back to Texas with the trophy. When the moment comes, you have to be prepared for it. You never know when you’ll have that moment again. Dallas confronted the moment and ran with it, Miami was confronted by the moment and ran away from it.

The TFB Week In Review … June 5th-11th, 2011 Part Two

The NBA FINALS: Will The Real LeBron Please Stand Up?

 

 ~ The NBA Finals is about to reach it’s grand finale and it’s been a great ride so far. The storyline should be how great these games have been between Miami and Dallas. However, a storyline that’s been 12 months in the making has taken centerstage, the mystery of what happened to LeBron James: The Basketball Player.

 

He didn’t show in game 4, by far the worst we have ever seen him play on the big stage. He was nowhere to be found in the fourth quarter and Miami lost that game. In game 5 James at least showed up long enough to post a triple double. However, those numbers had no impact when it mattered most … the 4th quarter. Miami lost that game as well.

 

He hasn’t exactly been “King James” in this series. The man who is supposed to be nearly unstoppable on the court has been nothing close to that. Now the series heads back to South Beach with Dallas 1 win away from a championship and James possibly headed for the longest summer of his professional career.

 

No one really knows why James has not been the dominant player everyone knows he’s capable of being. It’s possible he could be trying to fit in too much onto Dywane Wade’s team instead of just playing his game. What is certain though is that James is in danger of damaging his reputation on the court. The doubters and the critics have had a field day with his free fall to this point. Miami can still come back and win the championship, however James has to get back to being himself. Anything less and the question will continue to linger, championship or not … When will we see the real LeBron James?

 

RED SOX-YANKEES: Does Boston Have The Yanks Number?

 

 

Another Red Sox-Yankees series at Yankee Stadium this season ended with another Red Sox Sweep. It’s only June and the baseball season has a long way to go. However, Boston is clearly comfortable playing in the Bronx this season. Proof of that was David Ortiz launching home runs off of Yankee pitching throughout the series. The Red Sox appear to be primed for a big summer and the Yankees may have to make sure they at least lock up the wild card instead of going after the division.

 

A lot of the Yankees summer plans determine on the state of their now very fragile pitching. The starting rotation is full of question marks after CC Sabathia. The bullpen was projected to have a big season for the Yankees, instead they have become walking M.A.S.H unit. Pedro Feliciano, Rafael Soriano, and not Joba Chamberlain have all gone down. Chamberlain’s loss was a surprise and a major blow. He’s facing Tommy John surgery which could put him out 12-14 months.

 

 

The next time these two teams meet will be in August. The Yanks are going to have to make a statement in that series that will set a tone for the stretch run in September. The American League East is going to come down to who’s the healthiest at the end of the season. The anticipation will now pick up to see who the Yankees will go after at the trade deadline, that’s if Boston doesn’t beat them to the punch.

The Heat Is On … LeBron James Is Running Out of Time

 ~ June 9th, 2011 may go down as the most important night in the professional career of LeBron James. If it turns out not to be the most important night, for James it better come very close. One thing is for certain and that’s after his latest no show in the NBA Finals, James is once again at a crossroads.

The Miami Heat and James find themselves in a 2-2 series tie with the Dallas Mavericks after a tough Game 4 loss. Dallas did what they have been doing throughout the playoffs, hang around just enough until the 4th Quarter and then come from behind to steal the win.

The gameplan for the Mav’s has been simple and time tested. The role players step up and the superstar steps in. That superstar being Dirk Nowitzki. That’s pretty much how it goes in the NBA. Now if only someone can tell LeBron James he is a superstar and not a role player, he’d be at least 1 game from a championship instead of 2 games from either a championship or the longest summer of his life.

James has created a lot of this on himself. He went to Miami to win championships and there is nothing wrong with that. It was how he went to Miami that made him public enemy number 1. His performance throughout his career to this point has followed that route. It’s never what James does that puts him in the crossfires of critics, it’s how he does it. His Game 4 performance only fueled the fire of his critics: Read more of this post

The NBA Finals > We’ve Got A Series … More Lessons Learned For Miami

 

~ I try not to blog or post during a playoff series because the ups and downs of a game can be too much at times and unpredictable. The 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks make it very hard to stay with that plan. They did it again. Trailing Miami by 15 points in the 4th quarter with a little over 7 minutes to play, Dallas stormed back and stunned the Heat to win Game 2 of The Finals 95-93.

 

The series is now tied at 1-1 and now heads to Texas for 3 straight games. It’s possible now that Dallas wont have to come back to Miami to win the NBA title.

 

Dirk Nowitzki did it again, scoring the last 9 points of the game for Dallas. The game winner was a left handed layup … the same non-shooting left hand that has a torn tendon in it from Game 1.

 

This series is and will continue to be one that gets analyzed to death. However, it still comes down to execution and which team is mentally tougher. In Game 1, Miami executed better. In Game 2, Dallas was the mentally tougher team.

 

Throughout this game, LeBron James and Dywane Wade ran up a highlight film full of dunks and big shots. When Wade hit that three to put Miami up by 15 points, it clearly looked like the game was over.

 

Lately that’s the way it has gone for Miami, play big time defense throughout the night, then pull away in crunch time with the younger and fresher legs of their two closers. After Wade hit the three though, the defense stopped and the offense lost it’s rhythm.

 

 Dallas has shown throughout the post season that they will not just pack it up and go home. They had more poise and stepped up with the big plays when it mattered most. They played like an experienced playoff team. A mentally tough one.

 

 It would be easy to say that Miami gave this game away. It’s a valid conclusion to draw. It’s a lesson learned for a team that is still learning to play together in situations they have never been in before as a team.

 

The point was made on NBATV by Charles Barkley that Miami should’ve handled this better because they’ve been on this championship level before. That was a completely different Miami team though. This team is being tested in every way possible this year and even though it hurts, they needed a loss like this one. Adversity always comes up when the road seems like it’s getting easier. It’s how Miami reacts in Game 3 that may determine how the rest of the series goes.

 

If you’re a Dallas fan, you should be happy that your team showed you what they didn’t showed you in Game 1. The role players stepped up. Shawn Marion and Jason Terry were steady enough throughout long enough to help Dirk Nowitzki unlike in Game 1. They also took Miami’s best punches throughout three quarters and were able to get off the ropes and recover.

 

If you’re a Miami fan, hope they continue to play great team defense. It opens up the way for those fast breaks when Miami is at their best on offense. They also need Chris Bosh to step up and be that weapon he was in the conference finals. Three games in Dallas coming up, Bosh is from Dallas. It would be pretty interesting to see if he’s able to take full advantage of the obvious moment that wil be presented for him.

 

 Dirk’s game winning layup looked almost too easy. We can second guess that Udonis Haslem should have been guarding him, however  Bosh should’ve played him better than he did. Miami also had a foul to give and basically forgot about it. Give Dirk credit for being aggresive enough to take it to the basket and not only did he score, he scored with the left hand … the injured left hand that some wondered might be a problem.

 

I still think this series is going seven games, the first two games showed why for different reasons. The stats are the stats, and the superstars are on the court. These first two games showed that it still comes down to mental toughness and execution.

NBA > Shaquille O’Neal Announces Retirement

~ Shaquille O’Neal is reportedly calling it a career. The 7’1 325 pounder with an endless amount of nicknames that all suited him well, has recently announced he is about to retire. O’Neal wraps up a 19 year NBA career that will eventually lead him to the Hall of Fame as one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball.

I’ve watched the NBA since 1985 and in that time I’ve seen a handful of great big men who had dominant seasons. Not 3 or 4 years in a row of dominant seasons, however they had seasons where they clearly were the dominant big man for that season. O’Neal was the dominant big man in the league for  consecutive seasons. For at least 15 of those 19 seasons, he was the most intimidating force in the league.

Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Patrick Ewing were all great big men in the league. No big man the size of Shaquille O’Neal could run the floor like he could in his prime. If the ball went to O’Neal down low into the paint, it was most likely going to end up with a “Shaq Attack” slam dunk. Occasionally these Shaq Attacks led to broken rims and shattered backboards. The fans loved it, the league needed it.

He injected a much need shot in the arm for the NBA in 1992 when he was drafted number 1 by the Orlando Magic. The league was in a transition mode with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird on the way out. 15 All Star appearances and 3 Finals MVP award’s later, Shaq goes out on his terms.

The backend of O’Neal’s career was not as strong or anywhere near as dominant as the Shaq we all came to know from watching him with Orlando and the Lakers. He went to Miami and helped Dwyane Wade win a championship. It wasn’t quite the same O’Neal, however his presence on the court could change the opposing team’s gameplan. That is what put him into that elite group of superstars … he had presence.

His presence on the court opened the door to his presence off the court taking him to celebrity status. The league will not be the same without Shaq.

I’ve read online how some are saying he leaves the game on a sad note. I don’t think that is anywhere near being the case. He’s leaving on his own terms. He’s not being forced to leave the game. As a basketball fan, I’m proud to be able to say I saw one of the greatest players in the leagues history play the game, dominate the game, and transcend the game.

Congratulations Shaquille O’Neal on 19 years in the NBA. The Hall of Fame Awaits You.

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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