Friday, April 27, 2012

NBA Playoff Preview 2012

With only 1 day between the end of the season and the NBA Playoffs, I don't have time for my usual blowout analysis, references to old movies, etc.  This year, I will just do a quick preview so I at least have a record of what I was thinking.

Eastern Conference 

1-Chicago over 8-Philly - Even with the injuries, Chicago is deep enough to advance.
4-Boston over 5-Atl - Atlanta has homecourt actually.  Could be a tough series for Boston, but I think Boston can make at least the 2nd round, as they were playing better in the 2nd half.
3-Indiana over 6-Orlando - No Dwight Howard, no chance.
2-Miami over 7-NY - Yawn.  Should be easy.

1-Chicago over 4-Boston - If Boston's playing at top of their game, and PG Rose is still iffy, this could be a real exciting series!
2-Miami over 3-Indiana - Shouldn't be too bad for Miami, though I don't think Indiana is as bad as everyone else thinks.

2-Miami over 1-Chicago - Wanted to pick Chicago all season, and I was going to, but with Rose's injury situation, it doesn't make sense.

Western Conference
8-Utah over 1-SA - The spurs biggest weakness is opposing big men, as evidenced by the damage Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol did last year when the Spurs lost to an 8-seed.  The Spurs are improved in some areas this year (mainly due to the emergence of rookie K. Leonard), and should have Ginobili back... but neither of those players address their one weakness.  Unfortunately for the Spurs, the Jazz have started playing a jumbo a lineup of PF-Favors, SF-Millsap (who really is a PF) , C-Jefferson, and it has resulted in crazy efficiency numbers and amazing stats.  I think SA is going to become the 1st 1-seed to lose to an 8-seed two straight years.  If they had drawn a different team, it wouldn't have been a problem.  Granted, I still think the Spurs would lose to the Grizzlies again, even if they beat the Jazz this year.
4-Memphis over 5-Clippers - The Clippers' Blake Griffin doesn't play enough defense for me to believe.  And their coach is an idiot.
3-Lakers over 6-Denver - I don't have the balls to pick this episode.
2-OK City over 7-Dallas - Shouldn't be a problem.

4-Memphis over 8-Utah - Memphis is one of the few teams who may be able to handle at least two of the Jazz big men.  The key may be Conley and Tony Allen forcing bunches of turnovers.
2-Ok City over 3-Lakers - The Lakers have been too dysfunctional... and OkCity has just been too good.

2-Ok City over 4-Memphis - should be a great rematch of last year's 7-game slugfest. 

NBA Finals 
2-Ok City over 2-Miami - Does LeBron still get stage fright?  I'm guessing he does!  This can only happen if James Harden is healthy.  I'm guessing he should be 100% a month from now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2011-2012 NBA Season Recap: The Year that 1 in 5 Coaches Had Already Coached the Cavs

The 2011-2012 NBA season was compressed, with teams having back-to-back-to-backs, 9 games in 12 days, and strange results due to the compression of the schedule.  However, there's one thing that has been overlooked in this maddening season...
the fact that one in 5 teams ended up with coaches who formerly coached the Cleveland Cavaliers!

If one stops to consider this, the first thought is going to be:  "wait a minute, outside of Mike Brown and Lenny Wilkens, who isn't coaching right now, what coaches were actually successful with the Cleveland Cavaliers?"

The answer to this first thought is the fact that the other coaches really have NOT been notable or successful.  However, in a bizarre twist of fate, these are the men which make up my favorite stat of the 2011-2012 season:  1 in 5 coaches are from the Cleveland Cavaliers!

1) Paul Silas, Charlotte Bobcats - Silas' tenure with the Cavs began with Lebron's rookie season.  It culminated in lots of yelling, dysfunction, and Lebron's 56-point outburst in a loss... resulting in Silas getting fired at the end of his 2nd season.  Silas somehow got the Bobcats to perform well in the middle of the 2010-2011 season, resulting in the removal of his "interim" status, but the Bobcats have since been on track to have the worst winning percentage in NBA history in this 2011-2012 season.  Partly due to injury, and partly due to Silas' incompetence I'm guessing.  I'm expecting he will be fired within 24 hours of the end of the season.

2) Keith Smart, Sacramento Kings - Keith Smart was an interim coach for the Cavs, sporting a nifty 9-31 record on the way towards "earning" ping pong balls to help get Lebron James.  This is amazingly the 3rd time he's been elevated to head coach (apparently he did the same thing in Golden State last year).  He supposedly is on contract for next season and is going to be brought back... but the Kings have a very bad record.

3)  Randy Wittman, Washington Wizards - Wittman is currently the interim coach for the Wizards.  He was coach of the cavs for the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons.  He was very consistent - going 32-50 and 30-52.  There winning percentages of 39% and 36% are actually his two best seasons.  As coach of the Timberwolves for 2.5 seasons, he was worse (29%, 27%, and 21% before getting fired).  As coach of the Wizards this year, he is 16-31, for a nice 34% winning percent.  Sadly, I don't think he's getting brought back either.  In his defense, he hasn't really had much of a chance with any of the teams he's been given.  However, I will say from watching some Wizards basketball this year, I don't know if I've ever seen a lazier team when it comes to defense!

4) George Karl, Denver Nuggets - He actually counts as a Cavs coach!  Back when he was 33 years old, he got almost 2 seasons at the helm in 1984-1986... before Daugherty and Price were there!  He'll be in the playoffs with the Nuggets this year, as usual.

5) Mike Brown, Lakers - It's well documented and discussed the ups-and-downs of Mike Brown's career.  I will say this... he's still a great defensive coach and always improves his team defensively.  He will be judged thoroughly based on the Lakers playoff performance this year.

6) Byron Scott, Cavs - current Cavs coach.  He'll be back next year.  He will probably be expected to actually win next year, or at least show some progress.

While only 3 of the coaches on this list are likely to be back next year, all I can wonder is what the parlay payout in Vegas would have been of Smart and Wittman being named interim coaches and Silas SURVIVING the entire season in Charlotte!  Now, if only Mike Fratello would make yet another comeback....

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Super Bowl Preview: The Super Bowl Sequel

Super Bowl week is a joyous time of the year for every American. It’s a time to eat heavily, drink heavily, and refuse to go to the bathroom during the commercials. It’s also a time of the year, where recently, I’ve enjoyed comparing head coaches to other fictional characters. It started in 2006, with Sgt. Slaughter (Cowher) vs. Colonel Mustard (Mike Holmgren) and continued in 2007 with McDowell’s, the dad from Coming to America (Lovey Smith). In 2008, I pointed out that Bill Belichick is a Sith Lord. In 2009, I just said that Nobody beat the Whiz (Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt) except on Super Bowl Sunday. And in 2010, I realized that Colts- Saints was Good Guy vs. Good guy (at least for me) and was like Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior. In 2011, I pointed out the pure evil of James Harrison and how he is Mr. Glass from the Movie Unbreakable, who ***SPOILER ALERT***, harmed other people but had no idea he was an evil villain.

This year? I can't figure out if this "Sequel" is going to be more like Blues Brothers 2000 (where we want to pretend it never happend?) or like Terminator 2: Judgment Day (completely obliterating its quality predecessor).

Fact 1: The 2007 Super Bowl had an unprecedented event - a 16-0 team. The 2011 Super Bowl has a 9-7 Giants team.
The 2007 Super Bowl was incredibly gripping because of the historic nature of the event. The 1972 Dolphins famously went 17-0, by winning 3 playoff games after just a 14-0 season. The 16-0 and 19-0 seasons seemed mythological and almost impossible. Provided great theater... whereas this year's Pats and Giants have nothing historic on the table. Not even Belichick has the power to retroactively declare this season as an undefeated season and say "my undefeated season is inevitable."
Advantage: Blues Brothers 2000

Fact 2: The Pats brought in Chad Ochocinco to play WR... and for comedic relief!
This still is exciting. Just put a mic on him during the game. Please. And don't censor him. Let him take pictures of girls in the stands, say obnoxious things, second-guess the coaches, try to predict plays, put whopee cushions under the O-linemen before they sit down. Let him do all that stuff! You have to think outside the box if you want the sequel to trump the original... and we all know the Pats didn't get Ochocinco for his on-field performance at this point. This is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that leads to a shape-shifting, gelataneous terminator.
Advantage: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Fact 3: Randy Moss was in the last Super Bowl for the Patriots with a 1500 yard, 23 TD season... but not this one.
Is this like the Blues Brothers returning without John Belushi? Granted, in terms of getting the band back together, Kevin Faulk is still around. I don't think that's going to push the needle very far though.
Advantage: Blues Brothers 2000

Fact 4: The Pats have added Rob Gronkowski who had a 1300 yard, 17 TD season.
Does this mean he's John Connor from T2? Or is it Victor Cruz from the Giants (1500 yards, 9 TDs)? Both players had very special seasons and were two of the most explosive seasons in real football and in fantasy football. Of course, no one has any idea how healthy Gronkowski is. When healthy, he is absolutely impossible to cover may I just say.
Advantage: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Fact 5: The Giants have someone on their roster named Bear Pascoe. Yes, they have a Bear as a backup TE!
Talk about trying to do anything they can to entice us to watch the sequel? Adding Bears that play football is gimmicky. This is almost like having Blues Traveler guest star during the Blues Brother 2000 movie thinking it would really entice people to see the movie.
Advantage: Blues Brothers 2000

Thus, as I have shown from these facts, it appears more likely than not that this Super Bowl will not be as exciting as the original and will probably resemble Blues Brothers 2000 more than it resembles Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I sure hope I'm wrong, because nothing puts me in a worse mood than watching a Super Bowl stinker (I'm talking to you Ravens-Giants from the year 2000!)

Game Analysis

This year, as we all know, the Giants surprisingly ended the Patriots undefeated season in the 2007-2008 NFL season. Four years later, we somehow ended up with the same two teams meeting each other, though the teams have changed in some unique ways (Giants offense much better/consistent, Patriots defense much worse) despite the stability at QB and coach.

However, the strangest thing about this rematch... is that it is exactly 4 years ago, which in the NFL, happens to mean that each time the teams faced each other during the regular season. In that 2007 season, the Giants gave the Patriots everything they could handle to try to prevent the Patriots from getting to 16-0... but the Pats prevailed 38-35 (then lost in the Super Bowl). In this 2011 season, the Patriots lost to the Giants in week 9, 24-20, behind New England turning it over 4 times (but forcing 2 TOs), to go -2 on the day.

I think this game reinforces the one thing that has been true all season with this high-scoring Pats team... (and also applied to the high-scoring Packers and Saints teams)... they have to give up some turnovers for the other team to win. The Patriots lost to the Bills in a game where they also turned it over 4 times. In the Pats only other loss this year, to the Steelers, the Pats did finish +1, but the Steelers somehow held New England to 170 passing yards, which of course was a season-low.

The critical fact for me is that the Giants almost single-handedly let 49ers TE Vernon Davis beat them in the NFC Championship game. People don't talk about TE Aaron Hernandez as much as Gronkowski, but he is nearly just as skilled and will create just as many problems. Outside of the Giants finishing +2 or +3 in the turnover department, I only see an inevitable scoreline...

Pick: Patriots 38, Giants 21

Hope it is more exciting than Blues Brothers 2000!