Tag Archives: Lamar Odom

Injustices Across Sports Pt. 1

By BJ

It’s been an absolutely crazy week and a half in sports with superstars joining new teams via trades (Chris Paul) or mega-signings (Albert Pujols). But not to be overshadowed are the injustices that also seems to be breaking every other day. Let’s examine the darker side of sports.

NBA

Last week, Dan Gilbert made himself an owner to be dubiously

The desperate owner.

remembered–had anyone possibly forgotten about the LeBron James fiasco–by single-handedly getting the attention of Commissioner David Stern with this email I’ll re-post in its entirety.

Commissioner,

It would be a travesty to allow the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul in the apparent trade being discussed.

This trade should go to a vote of the 29 owners of the Hornets.

Over the next three seasons this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes. That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing.

I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn’t appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make a trade for Dwight Howard. (They would also get a large trade exception that would help them improve their team and/or eventually trade for Howard.) When the Lakers got Pau Gasol (at the time considered an extremely lopsided trade) they took on tens of millions in additional salary and luxury tax and they gave up a number of prospects (one in Marc Gasol who may become a max-salary player).

I just don’t see how we can allow this trade to happen.

I know the vast majority of owners feel the same way that I do.

When will we just change the name of 25 of the 30 teams to the Washington Generals?

Please advise….

Dan G.

I didn’t know you could shoot down a trade for fear of a team’s next move or that a player who averaged 12 and 7 last season is a max-salary player. (Marc Gasol quietly signed with Memphis Wednesday for four years and $57.7 million.) It’s nice to see the inner workings of NBA owners colluding to bring down better teams.

Whiny. Bitch.

Stern vetoed the trade citing “basketball reasons,” which sure as hell

The subject of all the fussing and fighting.

had nothing to do with ensuring the league-owned Hornets get as much as they can for their superstar.

What they got from the Clippers
Eric Gordon
Chris Kaman
Al-Farouq Aminu
1st-round pick

What they would’ve gotten from the Lakers and Rockets
Kevin Martin
Luis Scola
Lamar Odom
Goran Dragic
1st-round pick

I could make a case and simply say would you rather have Odom and Dragic or move up in the first round of next year’s draft? I’d argue you if you said the trade to the Clippers clearly got them better value nor did they have the foresight to see that marginal difference when they vetoed the first trade. Rather, Stern, Gilbert and co. saw the Lakers an already great team and the Clippers a non-threat.

Part of the reason the trade was admittedly vetoed was because they tried to prevent superstars from going to only big-market teams like L.A. That’s blatantly hypocritical to overlook the Clippers, who share the same stadium as the Lakers, as a big-market team.

Sunday, Lamar Odomwas traded to the defending champions for a

Maybe, 'Big Baby' Davis can finally hand off his nickname to L.O.

bag of peanuts. When responding to the trade, Kobe Bryant said they gave away the versatile forward “seemingly for nothing.” Now, you know how the Pau Gasol trade felt to everyone else. Lakers 1, Washington Generals 1.

Lakers fans have got the Odom giveaway all wrong. Or maybe, they’re just turning a blind eye as they do whenever anything doesn’t go their way. Odom cried his way out of the team. I can’t remember the last time someone got so publicly butthurt over a trade, failed or not, but the man missed both practices and had no intention of returning to the court in purple and gold. He got his wish, and there will be no sad eulogy for his departure.

MLB

Saturday, NL MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for PEDs and if it holds, will be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2012 season. The injustice? No baseball award has ever been revoked, and there’s absolutely no talk of Braun losing his. But that’s the second injustice. How Braun ever won the award to begin with, or it even being a two-man race, is beyond belief.

Matt Kemp owned Braun across the board and was one homerun shy of 40/40, a feat that I believe would’ve made the voting a little easier for the Jayson Starks‘ out there. The only reason I could think of for voters choosing Braun over Kemp is because the Brewers made the playoffs, a criterion I hate in MLB MVP voting. Braun had Prince Fielder, who had as good a season as him; the Dodgers didn’t have a single other player even have a decent offensive season, which ensures better opportunity for Braun. As if the PEDs didn’t do that.

I disagree with everything Starks says in his article, defending Braun in that he should keep his undeserving award. From reasons ranging from ‘because it’s never been done in history before and if we do it to this, when will it stop” (like a total idiot) to ‘his stats weren’t any better this year than in his career’ (which is even worse; question his entire career), it should be a no-brainer that Braun should have to give up his award to the second-place Kemp. You know, the best guy who did not cheat this season.

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Utah Retains Millsap; Odom Drifting from Lakers?

By Bryan Jeon

Utah matched Portland’s four-year, $32 million offer for Paul Millsap, solidifying the Jazz’s claim that Carlos Boozer is no longer in their long-term plans. With the 24-year-old Millsap the starting power forward of the future in Utah, current discussions have Boozer going to Chicago in a three-team trade.

What’s been baffling the league is why Portland almost wasted $8 million a year for LaMarcus Aldridge‘s backup

Smile while youre still happy, L.O.

Smile while you're still happy, L.O.

when they could have used that money to try to get Lamar Odom, where they lack at small forward? Granted, they are that third team in the rumored three-team trade and could have just been putting the pressure on Utah to make a move, but that’s quite a bold move by Portland just to save some time. Well, now that that money is freed up again and the Lakers recently pulling out of a three-year, $27 million offer to Odom, Portland needs to step in now after its failed attempts at getting Hedo Turkoglu to Toronto.

Odom and the Lakers agreed to the $9 million annual salary, but Odom balked at the Lakers offering the 29-year-old forward just a three-year deal. Another Lakers forward playing hardball this offseason. Trevor Ariza, anyone?

NBA Awards

By Chris Le

Each year before the NBA heads into the playoffs, I like to sit down and think of a storyline that defined the regular season.  A solitary episode that shaped the year in basketball.  This season it could have been a number of stories: the Allen IversonChauncey Billups trade; the Mo Williams acquisition; the parity in both conferences, aside from the Lakers and Cavs (with five days left in the regular season, there still isn’t a set playoff series); and the ever-present injuries (Manu Ginobili, Tracy McGrady, Andrew Bynum, Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, the list goes on) that affected their respective team’s fortune.

Ironically, this year’s defining moment didn’t even occur during the season but three months before a single NBA tipoff.

Above anything else, more than the trades or the injuries, the Beijing Olympics and Team USA made this season what it is.  Every single member is better for having been on that squad, and their subsequent seasons saw the Olympics as the starting point.  Dwyane Wade’s Mickey Rourke-like resurrection began in the Games; seeing the energy with which he played and the burst in his every step, you just knew Wade was back in full effect.  Dwight Howard, who was relegated to being strictly a rebounder and defender, realized he had more to learn and transformed into a better-rounded beast.  And Kobe Bryant, to his credit, became less of an asshole. But most telling of all, LeBron James learned from Kobe what it takes to be truly great.

Which is in large part why…

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James — He’s had it in the bag for a while now.  It’s been evident from the onset of the season that King James is on a mission to make it clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is the best player in the league.  Though raising from last year his field goal, three-point, and free-throw percentages, the true elevation of his game is seen on the defensive end.  Unlike years past, James is now a consistently dependable on-ball deterrent while remaining a lethal help-side defender, perfecting the come-from-behind swat that Tayshaun Prince made famous.  James is the motor of the best defense in the league.  To sum things up, Wade has been the most dynamic player of the year, Kobe the most skilled, but LeBron is the most valuable.  The 2009 season will be looked back upon as LeBron’s.

Ballot: 1. LeBron James 2. Dwyane Wade 3. Kobe Bryant 4. Dwight Howard 5. Chauncey Billups

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard — Here’s another benefactor of being on Team USA.  Coach K, a master at teaching team defense, wanted Howard to do two things and two things only: rebound and block shots.  Well, that he can do.  D12 leads the league in blocks (2.9) and is second in defensive rebounds (9.6) for the third-best defense in the NBA.  Dwyane Wade will rightfully receive some first place votes, seeing how he’s been a complete menace in the passing lanes, amassing 173 steals and an astounding 105 blocks — not bad for someone who’s only 6’4”.  But as much as he’s done, he’s still not a defensive anchor like Howard, who’s an absolute eraser in the paint.

Ballot: 1. Dwight Howard 2. Dwyane Wade 3. LeBron James 4. Ron Artest 5. Kevin Garnett

Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose — This is the easiest pick of the bunch.  Rose is well on his way to mastering the most difficult position in the game, and he’s doing it on a playoff-bound team, which won a measly 33 games in ’08.  He has a look of a seasoned veteran, brushing aside any pressure of living up to being the number one pick.  In any case, he’s exceeding any and all expectations.  It’s a big gap between first and second, but Russell Westbrook has shocked some people with his athleticism and all-around ability.  And Brook Lopez is proving to be a steal as the 10th pick and as a possible franchise center for the Nets.

Ballot: 1. Derrick Rose 2. Russell Westbrook 3. Brook Lopez 4. O.J. Mayo 5. Kevin Love

Most Improved Player: Devin Harris — I’m finding that year-in and year-out the MIP award is the most competitive category.  Durant has matured into possibly the most effortless scorer in the league; a flick of his wrist from deep and the ball swishes the net.  But a sophomore leap is expected.  And this award in particular is very much an acknowledgment of exceeded expectations.  Devin Harris is a legitimate star in this league and has a lot of people in Dallas regretting the Kidd trade.  Now who saw that one coming?  Exactly.  Expectations exceeded.

Ballot: 1. Devin Harris 2. Kevin Durant 3. Danny Granger 4. Paul Millsap 5. Nene Hilario

Sixth Man of the Year: Jason Terry — He’s been the Mavs’ best and most consistent player all season long, providing a potent offensive punch in the second unit.  He leads all super subs with 19.6 points per game and 160 three-pointers made.  Like all great sixth men, Terry may not start games, but he finishes them.  Mark Cuban and his Mavs wouldn’t be where they are without him.

Ballot: 1. Jason Terry 2. J.R. Smith 3. Nate Robinson 4. Travis Outlaw 5. Leandro Barbosa

Coach of the Year: Mike Brown, Cavaliers — It’s not just the fact that the Cavs have the best record in the NBA; it’s how they did it that makes Brown’s coaching performance all the more impressive.  Cleveland withstood the part-time losses of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Delonte West and Ben Wallace, all of whom are starters.  The Cavs have played with a fully healthy squad for only a small chunk of the season, and that’s scary news for everyone else because they’re only getting better.  And this isn’t even mentioning the seamless integration of Mo Williams.  And once again, the Cavs are one of the best defensive teams in the league.  Credit this all to Brown’s tutelage — and, I suppose, to some guy named LeBron.

Ballot: 1. Mike Brown, Cavs 2. George Karl, Nuggets 3. Stan Van Gundy, Magic 4. Rick Adelman, Rockets 5. Gregg Popovich, Spurs

All-NBA First Team

G  Dwyane Wade
G  Kobe Bryant
F   Paul Pierce
F   LeBron James
C  Dwight Howard

All-Defense First Team

G  Chris Paul
G  Dwyane Wade
F   Ron Artest
F   LeBron James
C  Dwight Howard

NBA Predictions

By Chris Le

I don’t really have the time or the patience to write a flowery introduction that captures the essence of the nascent NBA season. So how about we jump right into the meat of things and head straight to the predictions.

Here we go.

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Cleveland – Simply put, King James is the best player in the league. And he’s just barely scratched the surface of his potential (I still don’t know why he hasn’t developed—not to mention his jumper—any semblance of a post-up game. Come on, ‘Bron, you’re fucking huge! Back these fools down!). Kobe Bryant may be more skilled all around, but nobody—I repeat, nobody—effects and takes over a game quite like LBJ. The most unstoppable being in the NBA. Hands down. His play is god like. I have high hopes for this improved Cleveland squad and fully expect James to propel them to a top-two seed in the Eastern Conference. This should be the first of many Maurice Podoloff Trophies for James.

Honorable Mention: Chris Paul, New Orleans; Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles

Defensive Player: Shane Battier, Houston – It’s about time a perimeter defender won this award; and, had KG not gone to Boston and completely transformed the Celtics into the best defensive team in the NBA, Battier would’ve had a shot last year. With Bruce Bowen missing barely half a step, Battier takes the mantle as the game’s top wing harasser. A nationally televised lockdown of Kobe or LeBron, like he did in 2007, would be a serious campaign boost.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett, Boston; Marcus Camby, Los Angeles

Rookie of the Year: Greg Oden, Portland – This one comes with a caveat: Oden needs to stay healthy. And with his track record and the severity of microfracture surgery, this is a big if. (See the nosedive that is Kenyon Martin and the slightly less pathetic examples of Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway, and Darius Miles—though Miles sucked even before the surgery, so that might be a bad barometer). However, if he manages to play 65-70 games, no one else will have a shot, as I wholeheartedly anticipate Oden to show almost consistent dominance, particularly on defense. Beasley will score at ease on a slightly improved Heat squad, but no rookie—or team—will be as dangerous as Greg Oden and the Trailblazers.

Honorable Mention: Michael Beasley, Miami; Derrick Rose, Chicago; O.J. Mayo, Memphis

Sixth Man: Lamar Odom, Los Angeles – There’s a solid chance that he will be reinserted in the starting lineup. But if he isn’t, this will be a one man race. Odom, with his versatility and size, would probably start on 95% of the NBA’s teams. But Los Angeles is loaded with offensive talent—even more so than last year when they reached the NBA finals. Odom may not start games, but I expect him to finish them, while playing and posting starter-like minutes and numbers.

Honorable Mention: Leandro Barbosa, Phoenix; Ben Gordon, Chicago; Manu Ginobili, San Antonio

Most Improved Player: Julian Wright, New Orleans – To be completely honest, this one is the mother of all gut picks. The Clipper’s Al Thornton is shaping up to be a stud, Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey showed how valuable he can be in the 2007 postseason, and Devin Harris should run wild on a horrifically bad Nets team. Plus, starting the season with a sprained right ankle doesn’t help Wright’s cause, but I saw twinkles of brilliance from this kid during last year’s playoffs. With a shaky bench, Wright should see a quantum leap in minutes (11.2) and points (3.9). He’s just too talented to be contained.

Honorable Mention: Al Thornton, Los Angeles; Rodney Stuckey, Detroit; Devin Harris, New Jersey

Head Coach: Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia – Seeing how everyone, from the media to the boys at your local barber shop, are on Portland’s balls, it’s almost a forgone conclusion that they are a dynasty in the making; and this indeed might be the year Nate McMillan coaches his Trailblazers to the playoffs and scares the hell out of a top seed, but no team will see a more significant jump in total wins than the Sixers. Having finished under .500 last season (40-42), thanks to the addition of Elton Brand to a squad that already seeps athleticism, the 76ers will be a top-four team in the East. Bank on it.

Honorable Mention: Nate McMillan, Portland; Rick Adelman, Houston

Surprise Team: Atlanta Hawks – This isn’t merely a knee-jerk reaction to the Hawks nearly making the new look Celtics a bust in last year’s first round. I look at their starting five, which is just saturated in freakish talent (I’m talking about sideshow type athleticism), and I see a top-five Eastern team. But then I look at the bench and realize why expectations are so low. I’m trusting that the loss of the treasonous Josh Childress won’t be as debilitating as most think, and that the initial five will be able to offset their complete lack of depth, ultimately finishing sixth in the East.

Honorable Mention: Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers

Most Disappointing Team: Utah Jazz – When I say Utah will be disappointing, I don’t mean they’ll take a page from the Miami Heat and drop off the face of the planet; I mean they’ll be the proverbial team that looks awesome on paper, but somehow lays an egg when it matters most. So pretty much they’ll be the Rockets of the last few years. My crystal ball foresees a drop in overall production for Jerry Sloan and his Jazz. Firstly, Utah christens the new season with a slightly banged up Deron Williams, and he’ll need an MVP type season to keep the Jazz afloat. Secondly, even if they have the best home-court advantage in the league, I simply don’t trust a soft team with an average defense that underperforms on the road. But I could be completely wrong.

Other Miscellaneous Prognostications…

  • Andrew Bynum will improve the Lakers…but not that much. Contrary to what I’ve read online the last few weeks, the word “force” has no business being in the same sentence as Andrew Bynum. Not yet. Not anytime soon. Look, I’m no hater—ok, maybe a little bit—he definitely opened some eyes last year, but come on, all this hype is based on, what, 30 or so decently played games? As a natural born skeptic, I need more proof than that.

  • The Ron Artest experiment will work…until the postseason. The parallel may be hackneyed, but it works: Ron Artest is like the NBA’s Terrell Owens. Both are prodigious talents, and both are bonafide nut jobs who can’t control their emotions for the extent of a full season. I initially thought having Rick Adelman, whom Artest played for and respected in Sacramento, would be beneficial for the troubled star. But with one first round loss after the other, Houston already has a history of being mentally fragile—bringing in Artest isn’t necessarily fixing the problem.

All-NBA Team

G Chris Paul

G Kobe Bryant

F LeBron James

F Kevin Garnett

C Dwight Howard

Conference Finals

Hornets in 6 over Spurs – Fuck you, Lakers fans! I need to see more defense and toughness to fully buy into your team. Don’t sleep on the Spurs. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker will keep things afloat in San Antonio the first few months; then, just in time for a playoff push, a healthy and rested Manu Ginobili will provide some offense that was lacking late last year. Unfortunately for them, that won’t be enough against the younger and better Hornets squad. Hell, they were younger and better in 2008 when they lost to the Spurs, but now New Orleans has a bench, with a consummate winner in James Posey and an improved Julian Wright.

Cavs in 6 over Celtics – Boston has to be the favorite to win it all again, but I just can’t bet against LeBron. He’s that crazy. He’s so good, I’m not going to give any further explanation as to why I think the Cavs will beat the Celtics. I’m not going to explain X’s and O’s or provide any type of insights. I’m just going to say LeBron James. To any question you have, my answer is LeBron James. End of discussion.

NBA Finals

Cavs in 7 over Hornets — The future is now, I guess. I’m going out on a limb here, but this is the match up I see come this June. We have Chris Paul and LeBron James, two young studs whose wills just can’t be denied, and both will be battling each other for MVPs and titles for the next decade. The Hornets are the more talented, better rounded team. But the Cavs are better defensively and, more importantly, have more experience—NBA Finals experience—on their squad. A slight offensive boost in the form of Mo Williams makes the Cavs better than they were the last two years. And if you forgot, the Cavs went to the Finals in 2007 and James almost single-handedly beat the eventual champion Celtics in 2008.

The Worst NBA Free Agent Signings of 2008

By BJ

As the free-agent signing period got under way Wednesday, so did a handful of teams quick to spend serious money to improve their teams. Naturally, the salaries creep up a bit from previous years, but there are always some really questionable deals made that just have people scratching their heads as to what kind of dope the GM was taking at the time. Thus far in 2008, I find virtually every signing absolutely ridiculous sans Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Chris Paul. The following is a list of the 5 worst deals in the first two days.

5) Roger Mason, PG: 2-year, $8 million deal with San Antonio
Last year’s stats: 21.3 min, 9.1 pts, 1.7 ast
Analysis: The Spurs have a number of aging free agents this season but didn’t bode well with Mason, who at best would be Manu Ginobili‘s backup at the 2-guard. Yet, the Spurs will make Mason the fifth-highest paid player on the team behind their trio and Bruce Bowen. Not what you want to pay for a guy whose career averages are 5.5 points and 1.1 assists.

4) Elton Brand, PF: 5-year, $80 million deal with Philadelphia
Last year’s stats: 8 G, 17.6 pts, 8.0 reb, 1.9 blk
Analysis: “Elton Brand didn’t leave for the money.” Partly true. Brand was hurt that the Clippers took him for granted and offered $20 million less than the 76ers, but in the end, the Clippers’ face for the past seven years just saw a better chance of winning in the easier Eastern Conference – the reason why he turned down $10 million more to be at Golden State, which would have been a really ridiculous deal.

3) Corey Maggette, SF: 5-year, $50 million deal with Golden State
Last year’s stats: 22.1 pts, 5.6 reb, 2.7 ast
Analysis: The Clippers created $130 million of space for the next five years with the departure of Brand and Maggette. It’s reported that their sights are currently on Hawks forward Josh Smith to fill Brand’s void, but an inactive offseason is just prep time for the incredible summers of ’09 and ’10, the latter appropriately named the summer of LeBron.

2) Andrew Bogut, C: 5-year, $60 million extension with Milwaukee
Last year’s stats: 14.3 pts, 9.8 reb, 1.7 blk
Analysis: The Bucks just acted like they were a fantasy team that overpaid for a center. The number one overall draft pick in 2005 has improved every year in his short 3-year career but is almost making as much money as Yao Ming, who last year made $13.8 million and averaged 22 and 11.

1) DeSagana Diop, C: 5-year, $31 million deal with Dallas
Last year’s stats: 16.5 min, 2.9 pts, 5.0 reb
Analysis: Speaking of overpaid centers, can someone please explain to me what the Mavericks are attempting to do at the center position? This deal is reminiscent of Nene‘s atrocious 6-year, $60 million contract with Denver two years ago. With Erick Dampier‘s 7-year, $73 million contract, the two will combine for $17 million a year and 9.0 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for one position.

A look ahead: The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to make their All-Star squad that much better with rumors of interest in Ron Artest. Artest, who recently exercised his option to stay in Sacramento, would likely be dealt in addition to someone for Lamar Odom, to match Odom’s salary. Stay tuned for the latest in the signing period.

NBA Conference Finals Predictions

By Chris Le

After a million home team victories, a pair of Game 7’s and one dirty play, it’s down to the final four.

In the East, we have Detroit and Boston, the two teams most pundits expected to face each other in the Conference Finals. Everyone is waiting to see if the Celtics are capable of channeling their regular season selves and win a road game. With home court advantage, will they have to? Chauncey Billups could be huge in this series, but is his hammy ready to go?

In the West, it’s once again Los Angeles versus San Antonio—an almost forgotten rivalry of the early 00’s with deep-seeded and very real animosity. Compared to the remaining teams, the Lakers have breezed through the postseason with their balanced yet potent offense. It’ll be interesting to see if they have enough weapons to trump the Spurs’ execution and know-how. Fatigue might be a factor for San Antonio and their aging legs after an emotional series against New Orleans that went the distance. But both teams match up well. Should we expect another Game 7?

Here’s my take:

Western Conference

(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (1) Los Angeles Lakers

Regular Season Series: Tied 2-2

Outcome: Throw out the regular season numbers—if they even matter in the first place—since their first three meetings were without Pau Gasol, and in their final game, the Spurs were without Manu Ginobili.

Now, I’m not going to claim journalistic objectivity and refute that I don’t have a horse in this race. I’m biased towards the Spurs. There. I said it. Everyone knows it. Attempting to say otherwise would be lying.

With that out in the open, however, I have to admit there’s no denying that the Lakers have been the most impressive team in the postseason, showcasing a juggernaut of an offense with 112.1 points per game. They have scoring at every position: Gasol in the post; perimeter shooters in Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic, and Luke Walton; Lamar Odom everywhere else, and obviously Kobe Bryant, the best player in the world.

But they work best in transition—even their big men, Gasol and Odom.

That’s why Tim Duncan will be the most important player on the court. The Spurs must establish their franchise player in the post—thus the game’s tempo—if they stand any chance of winning. I would normally think no one on the Los Angeles roster can effectively guard Duncan, but Timmy didn’t look like his usual impressive self against New Orleans. He missed a bunch of chip-shots and seems reluctant to use his patented 15-foot bank. He’ll really need to assert himself and get Gasol into foul trouble. If Duncan fails to do so, they’ll single cover him and deny the three-ball, which is the best way to beat the Spurs if you can get away with it.

Once in a half-court game, the Spurs could more easily sic Bryant with specialized defenders (Bruce Bowen and Ime Udoka) and take away a chunk of LA’s three-point attempts. In order for this maneuver to be effective though, San Antonio will have to rotate like they’ve never rotated before. It should be burned into their brains that giving up the three is almost certain death. The Spurs will live with Bryant getting his; it’s his teammates they should worry about.

When it’s all said and done, whichever team wins the battle of tempo and rebounding will take the series.

Using these criteria, my eyes and brain scream that the Lakers are the obvious choice, maybe in an easy series. But my gut and my heart say the Spurs. And when it comes to sports—or life, for that matter—it’s always best to go with the latter. Spurs in 6.

Eastern Conference

(2) Detroit Pistons vs. (1) Boston Celtics

Regular Season Series: Boston 2-1

Outcome: A closely matched pair of teams, this will be a battle of attrition. Both squads are stout and the play on both ends should be what we all expect from a playoff series—extremely physical and very defensive. The Pistons shot horribly against the Celtics, a combined 88 for 228 (.386) in their three regular season meetings. But if we’ve learned anything in the first two rounds, it’s that these postseason Celtics aren’t the same team we saw in the regular season, particularly on the road.

Kevin Garnett has shown his inability to take over a game, sporadically looking like an MVP candidate. Ray Allen has all but fallen off the face of the planet, something the Celtics won’t get away with against Detroit. But most glaringly, the vaunted Celtic defense has been mediocre at best outside of Boston, allowing 95.3 points per game against 77.4 at home.

Detroit, on the other hand, has proven it’s capable of winning away from home. They also are rested, while the Celtics are coming off of a second consecutive 7-game series. Don’t be surprised if the Pistons steal Game 1.

Like the Pistons-Magic series, this one comes down to backcourt play. (I’m assuming Billups is fully recovered from his hamstring injury. If not, the makeup of this series changes, evening things for Boston.) Frontcourts are a wash—KG and Rasheed Wallace cancel each other out in my eyes, and Tayshaun Prince can keep a lid on Paul Pierce. But Billups has the strength and savvy to abuse Rajon Rondo on both ends of the floor. Rip Hamilton can score in bunches, which will be magnified if Allen continues his disappearing act.

I don’t foresee an end to the Boston road woes, especially after fourteen playoff games, and now they must face their toughest and most experienced opponent yet. It’s just slightly too much to overcome after what the Celtics just endured. Pistons in 6.

Lakers Bounce Back Against Golden State

By Bryan Jeon

The Lakers blew a 9-point lead with 90 seconds left in regulation and had to come from behind in overtime to beat the Warriors Monday 123-119. Lamar Odom finished with 23 points and 21 rebounds, becoming the first Laker since Vlade Divac in 1995 to have back-to-back 20-rebound games.
The Lakers hold the second seed in the Western Conference behind the New Orleans Hornets, and I feel my job is done here. With Pau Gasol reportedly set to return as early as Wednesday against Charlotte, the Lakers are in pretty good shape with 11 games remaining in the regular season. Now how about them Mavs?

Results (with current conference rank in parenthesis):

3/11 Toronto (6) – W 117-108
3/14 @ New Orleans (1) – L 108-98
3/16 @ Houston (3) – L 104-92
3/18 @ Dallas (7) – W 102-100
3/20 @ Utah (4) – W 106-95
3/21 Seattle (15) – W 130-105
3/23 Golden State (8) – L 115-111
3/24 @ Golden State (8) – W 123-119 OT