I spent the bulk of my radio show last week (yes, time to plug the show Friday night/Saturday morning, 2-8am ET on Sporting News Radio) bitching at the NBA for playing favorites regarding playoff game suspensions. They had no problem tossing Dwight Howard for Game 6 following his elbow of Samuel Dalembert in Game 5 last series vs. Philly, a suspension he did deserve. The league didn’t suspend Rajon Rondo for his hard foul in Game 5 on Brad Miller which was also the correct call, though Rondo deserved a flagrant for it. The one area where the league missed out and probably played favorites in my opinion is when they failed to suspend Rondo for Game 7 against the Bulls following his actions with Kirk Hinrich in Game 6. Rondo initiated the skirmish and threw either a hand or elbow towards Hinrich and definitely deserved the boot. But since Game 7 was the deciding game in an exciting series, the NBA went soft. Of course. Couldn’t be controversial by taking out one of Boston’s best players in a game of that magnitude. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy may have been wrong in his judgment of what deserved a suspension, but he is on-point about the NBA playing favorites:
The Lakers/Rockets game on Wednesday night was notably physical. While the Celtics/Magic wasn’t as physical, they still had their moments. The standout moment was when Rafer Alston hit Eddie House in the back of the head with an open-handed slap. Alston claims House provoked it by throwing an elbow his way (which was totally harmless). House says it was just because Alston got pissed that House was draining shots over him all game-long. Check it out in case you missed it:
My boy Matt Watson feels Alston deserves a suspension and so do I. Frankly, I don’t see how you can watch a player slap someone for no reason other than being a poor sport and not punish them for it. Alston let his emotions and hurt feelings overcome him for a moment and he could end up costing his team big time. Remember that Alston was acquired in a trade with Houston once Jameer Nelson got knocked out for the season. It was pretty clear at that point that the Magic knew backup Anthony Johnson couldn’t get the job done. Tyronn Lue isn’t the answer either. So if there’s no Alston for Game 3, who does that leave, Courtney Lee who’s coming off sinus surgery and not even a point guard for them? Lue? Johnson? Rajon Rondo’s already had his way in two games so far against Alston (though he didn’t shoot too well in Game 1). It won’t be pretty against any of those others. Nice job, Alston. Way to help the team.
The way Laker fans were acting following Fisher’s stinker in Game 1, they might actually be happy if Derek Fisher were to be suspended for Game 3 against the Rockets. Luis Scola seemed to be in the middle of every tussle in the second half of Game 2 Wednesday night against the Lakers, getting into it with Lamar Odom late in the third quarter. So when Scola went to set a screen on Derek Fisher, he got leveled. Check out this hockey-style check by Fish that resulted in a flagrant 2 ejection:
Fisher’s intention to make contact and hurt Scola, while leading with his elbow, makes me say this is suspension worthy. It will be up to the league so who knows what they’ll do (Scola’s flop-job won’t help Fisher, either). Maybe this is just the sort of thing that will make the Laker fans happy — not that they want 17 minutes of Farmar jacking up threes instead.
I was pretty surprised that the MVP voting turned out to be such a landslide in favor of LeBron James. Even though Dwyane Wade made an excellent charge after the All-Star break, his dropoff down the stretch made LBJ the easy selection. I just can’t believe it was that easy. LeBron got 109 of the 121 available first-place votes, dominating the race (Kobe and Chris Paul got two each, Wade got seven, and Dwight Howard got one). Upon receiving the award, LeBron told the members of the audience in attendance that he was really just doing it for the Kia (referring to the car given to the recipient of the award), and that he had visions of driving their fine SUV to motivate himself while he was playing on the court. OK, that never actually happened, but it’s funny to think that a guy who drives a six-figure Ferrari to the event is getting a $27,000 car for free. Right, because that’s just what he needs.
LeBron actually accepted the award at his high school in Akron, praised his teammates and said that it was their award though it would be kept at LeBron’s house. I pretty much have to agree with Jimmy from SI’s Extra Mustard who wrote: “unless your team is playing the Cavs, how can you not like LeBron James? The guy accepted his MVP trophy at his high school yesterday, and gave each of his teammates a new camera.” He seems like a pretty classy guy, and the same can actually be said for most of the players involved in the MVP race. Now that he’s 24 and already won his first MVP, the logical question is to ask how many more can he win?
I think MVPs are hard to come by because you never know what’s going to draw the attention of the media and you never know when they’ll grow tired of rewarding a guy for doing the same thing year after year. You also never know when they’ll give it to someone else just because “the guy finally deserves one.” If I had to make a guess about LeBron, I’d say he’s due for four or five MVPs in his career. I’m just hoping he doesn’t wind up teaming up with another star player like Wade or even a guy like Bosh — that would be totally unfair.
By the way, nice to see that Mike Brown dressed up for the ceremony.
Gotta love Ron Ron. First he meets with Craig Sager to say that Brandon Roy was the best guy he’s played against. Apparently unfazed by the backlash from that interview, he met with Craig yet again, this time to show off his new do. In case you missed Game 1 between the Rockets and Lakers, Ron Artest was sporting a mohawk with some designs carved into the sides, including the Rockets logo. As NBA tipoff shares with us, Artest just wants to know if you think the cut is hot:
I would say that Anthony Mason definitely approves. I’m not gonna lie either, that is kinda hot — you know, as far as Artest haircuts go. I think the Lakers might have to lose on purpose just so the world can see what his inverted mohawk will look like. Skeets has more on the Artest ‘do at Ball Don’t Lie.
Can we be safe and say we’d all prefer if it were a best of 15 matchup? This series has been pretty darn incredible. Except for the Boston blowout in Chicago for Game 3, this has been one of the tightest and most exciting series to watch, especially considering that it’s a first round series. Let’s just examine what’s made it so much fun:
- Five of the six games have been determined by three or less points (tying an NBA record)
It’s the first playoff series with four overtime games (seven total OTs)
There have been 106 lead changes over the six games and 65 ties
You can’t help but get the feeling that the games are being played at a high level and going to overtimes because guys are stepping up, not screwing up. Rondo’s been a walking triple double, Big Baby’s been great, Ray Allen’s had some studly games including a 51 point effort (and calls this the best series he’s been a part of), and Paul Pierce has been his usual consistent self. For Chicago, Joakim Noah’s been a stud on defense and the boards, Derrick Rose has been great all-around, Ben Gordon’s been Mr. Clutch, and even Brad Miller and John Salmons have had excellent games. It’s like every player on the roster is stepping up in the series.
We’ve had drama, excitement, true hate — the series is definitely developing into a rivalry. Let’s just hope they give us another show in Game 7 to follow-up the three overtime thriller in Game 6. I don’t want it to end! (Thanks KG, with you in there none of this would be possible). Will either team have anything left in the tank for Orlando next round? I don’t think so.
I’m sure Dwight Howard, not to mention Stan Van Fidgety, will be pretty ticked to read this quote. The Magic beat the Sixers to close out their first round series 4-2 on Thursday night. Orlando made a habit of building up huge leads in the series only to blow games in the 4th quarter. This time they didn’t, winning 114-89. They also happened to be playing without Dwight Howard and Courtney Lee — two members of their starting five and an MVP candidate in Dwight. Because of the easy, blowout win, some people are wondering if the team is better without Howard:
“They’re actually better without Dwight Howard,” Sixers guard Andre Miller said. “One of their players told me that they were better without Dwight Howard. They said the ball moves quicker. They’re not standing around a lot.”
OK, maybe that happened to be the case for Thursday night’s game, but there’s no way that Orlando’s better off without Howard. Maybe the Magic won big on Thursday night because they’re a three-point shooting team and happened to have their best three point night of the series shooting 12-26 (46%). The team won Game 5 despite shooting a less impressive 35% from long range, thanks to Dwight Howard’s 24 boards, 10 on the offensive ends. Game 4 was a three point win and Orlando only shot 30% from the threes. They shot 26% in Game 2 and 40% in Game 3, a win and a loss, respectively. In their Game 1 loss, they shot just 28% on threes. Have I made my point well enough?
For one game they played well without Howard. In the long run, there’s no way they’re a near 60 win team, there’s no way they compete with Boston and Cleveland, and there’s no way they’re better off without Dwight. I think people are getting carried away by one good performance. Matter of fact, I know that is the case. By the way, I’m guessing it was Gortat who made the comment. Doesn’t he get to start if Dwight isn’t playing???