The (Not-so) big three

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Flashback to July 8, 2010. A small boys and girls club hosted one of the most controversial TV specials of all time, the second LeBron said “I’m taking my talents to South Beach and joining the Miami Heat”. That led to a Vegas-Caliber unveiling of Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade all on the same team. Predictions, (Not one, not two) magazine covers, interviews, fanfare, merchandise, and much more were created and embraced.

Flash forward to June 12, 2011. The Dallas Mavericks took an NBA Finals right in front of all of Miami to see. Bust? It was looking like 2012 was the year instead. The big 3 would prevail, as always.

Flash forward to December 25th, 2011. The NBA was back. Lockout shortened, but back. But this time, it wasn’t around the Heat. It was lob city, New York and other teams sharing the spotlight, and sometimes stealing it from the big three. They were fine, and expected huge seasons from everyone.

Flash forward to June 21, 2012. Turns out, they didn’t need a big three. They just needed a big one, as LeBron led them to a title. But this title didn’t feel too real. The season was a good two months short, and it didn’t seem like domination in the regular season. Some people wouldn’t accept Miami’s championship until they one won in a full season with some domination.

Skip forward exactly one year to today, and we can say this season was dominated by the Miami Heat. Owned by them. But it wasn’t a big three effort. It was LeBron and co. Bosh had a mediocre-at-best season, and Wade was very on and off. Mike Miller and “Birdman” stepped up, along with Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers showing more of an on court presence.

So now, it’s all over. The next NBA game isn’t until October. Which gives us some time to ponder a couple things. First things first, as I said before, this was not a big three performance. It was LeBron and Co. LeBron led the entire team in points, steals, rebounds and assists. His 596 points in the playoffs were second to none anywhere. Bosh performed mediocre, and his point average is steadily decreasing. Wade is seeming older and more injury prone by the day.

This finals has lead people to believe the Heat are the next dynasty. However, I don’t believe that. Why? Because a team simply cannot revolve around a single player. Unless the big three play like they did when they were hired to become the big three, it simply doesn’t work that way. LeBron can’t hold this team up forever, and a huge reason they won was because the supporting cast all stepped up big time. The big three are not being big enough right now for the Heat to become something Jordan-like.

Many people are asking if this team can be compared to the Bulls of the Jordan era. I don’t know if it can. While this team is performing, so much question surrounds them. Will LeBron stay? Will D-Wade retire? Will Bosh step up again? Will Ray Allen leave? Was Miller just a fluke? Is there too much centered around James? Can Birdman play better in the regular season? Is Chalmers good enough? I can think of many more. This team was so dominant this season, but it just doesn’t seem comparable yet. 2 titles. While that’s good, they’re still under the Spurs. LeBron isn’t Jordan yet. He very well can be. But there are simply too many questions around this team.

This team was a guarantee in 2011. They are no longer like that. The only player who is playing like their contract is paying them is LeBron. It’s no longer a matter of dominance. Now, it’s a matter of keeping them at the same level. If somebody slips, that affects everything.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Heat will be sighted in the playoffs many years following this one. LeBron could pass Jordan, but he needs help. Celebrate now Miami about your title. But if you don’t get the people you paid to be big to play like it, watch out. Because I can see Oklahoma City in the horizon.

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NBA Preview!!!

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I know I’m pretty darn late to the party. This one has been in the works for a while, and only now have I really just gotten around to finishing it. But no more procrastination! So, without any further ado………. my NBA Preview.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

1. Miami Heat. I hate to say this, I really, really, really, really hate to. But unfortunately, they forced me. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, this team is (A) Pretty good, (B) Playing with a swagger that’s just hard to describe, and (C) finally finding talent that doesn’t involve LBJ, DW or CB.

2.  Chicago Bulls. The only reason they should be number 2 instead of 1 is simple. No Rose. While they will still be good, the Bulls are Defined by D-Rose. Without him, they’re good. With him – they can be unstoppable.

3. Boston Celtics. Remember when I said 2011 is the last year for Garnett and Pierce? I was wrong. But now, this is Rondo’s team. So expect another few years out of this lineup before it’s back to square one.

4. New York Knicks. I really don’t feel confident in this prediction. But if everything goes decently well for the Knicks, then they’ll have the 4 seed taken just because of the talent they can produce. Not saying they will, but it’s very possible.

5. Brooklyn Nets. I feel a bit more confident on this one. With the new image, new players and a new chance, I feel good about the Nets. They have a decent bench and a great starting lineup.

6. Philadelphia 76ers. You know the name, Seventy Sixers? I feel like they’ve been hovering in this area for a bit – now they take a step up. Next year, maybe they’ll get rid of the name, change to the Fifty Fourers.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving looks poised to make a sophomore stretch, and become one of the elite point guards in the game. Next year, this team will be ready for prime-time.

8. Atlanta Hawks. This team is getting older, but I still think they’re playoff caliber. They can play with the big boys, but it could be hard in the division owned by the Heat.

EASTERN PLAYOFFS.

Heat Over Hawks, In 6

Bulls Over Cavs, In 7

76ers Over Celtics, in 5

Nets Over Knicks, in 7

 

76ers Over Heat, in 7

Bulls Over Nets, in 6

 

Bulls Over 76ers, in 5

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE 

1. Thunder. With the playoff experience checkmark off the list, the only thing standing between them and this spot is their ego. Keep it low, and Aloha, Number one seed.

2. Clippers. Also mark the playoff experience checkmark off. But this will be more than a checkmark season. This season will be the second breakout. Get ready, because LA has a new king.

3. San Antonio Spurs. Seriously. When will they go away?

4. Lakers. It’s not going to be the same. They’re on the way out, and don’t be surprised if they finish lower than this. Kobe, Meta, Gasol and Howard are getting older and more prone to injuries. Sorry LA – there’s a new King here.

5. Houston Rockets. With the addition of Harden and Lin, this team is going to be offense heavy. And while the lack of defense might be scary for Rockets fans, the offense will be enough to propel them to the number five spot.

6. Denver Nuggets. It’s a new look for them, and it’s looking good. Don’t expect a miracle season, but definitely a good one.

7. Memphis Grizzlies. One spot up from last year, they look ready – and they will be. Returning veterans are everything here, and they want to give Memphis a long journey through the playoffs, and look poised to take the first step.

8. Mavericks. One last time for them. Nowitzki is past his prime. Terry waved goodbye, and the Mavericks might be doing the same with the playoffs for a while starting next year.

PLAYOFFS

Thunder Over Mavericks, in 5

Clippers Over Grizzlies, in 7

Nuggets Over Spurs, in 7

Rockets Over Lakers, in 6

 

Thunder Over Nuggets, in 6

Clippers Over Rockets, in 5

 

Thunder Over Clippers, in 7
Which brings us to the NBA Finals. And I predict the team that will hoist the Larry O’ Brien Trophy, in 7 games, with the MVP Kevin Durant, will be the Oklahoma City Thunder, bringing a championship to the franchise for the first time since the seventies.

 

The Updater: The Spurs Spark lives on

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Not again. Not this again. How many times have we seen this? How many times have we said, “They’re gone, they’re gone for good” and then this continues to happen year after year, and we all just wait, wait for somebody to put out the spark – that the Spurs have had for the last decade.

We thought they were gone last year – they were too old. But, lone behold, the first seed was their’s for the keeping. But when the Grizzlies beat them, that’s when we thought they were really gone, and the first seed was a fluke.

And then.

And then, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker came back with a combined 33 points a game, and the top three rebounders started totaling in at 21 a game. And they don’t just get points from starters – they’re all around – the top ten scorers a game all are above 8.8 points a game.

Oddly enough, the number one worry for me about this team was that their scoring wouldn’t be able to keep up with the fast moving and thinking defenses of teams like the Heat’s, who only give up about 92 points a game. But I was worried for nothing, as the Spurs have the second highest scoring total per game in the league – 103!!!

While the defense was in the lower half, it was comparable to defenses of teams like the Clippers, who are only a point less in total points given up. They also proved they could win in shootouts – they beat the Clippers and Jazz easily like that.

There are really only three teams that stand between them and another Larry O’ Brien trophy – The C’s, the Thunder, and The Heat. With the two easterners, it’s the defense that worries me – they both have good offenses and defenses, which might kill shootout opportunities, (which is what they want). The Thunder have an offense that is able to explode at any time, any place. And even on average nights, they still score the same as the Spurs, 103 points a game on average, and will keep games very close with pretty much identical stats – but completely different styles of play.

If the Spurs win the NBA Championship this year, unless they don’t have a playoff spot – I will – and you should never – count the Spurs out.

Is it over for the Lakers?

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The Lakers are in a tough situation right now. Kobe Bryant is the face of a renowned franchise, and yet struggling. His criticism of the Lakers front office and the players could land him in a spot where he doesn’t want to be. And while we all think the Lakers are the greatest, they would actually barely be the number 6 seed in the playoffs on this day.

Now, to all my friends in Los Angeles (which I’ll admit there are few), I’m not trying to say the Lakers stink, and they don’t. But, they need to do a couple things here, like get points from other sources aside from Gasol and Bryant.

Let’s take a little pressure off of Kobe here, okay? In case you noticed, he isn’t bad – in fact, he’s the only player on the team that is in the twenties for scoring. And Pau, for a center is playing pretty darn well. But, after Steve Blake, everybody else is below 5.5 points a game.

Getting a little more out of everyone else could keep Kobe and Pau in the place they want to be – Los Angeles. But can they? Well, we’ll know as soon as the trade deadline approches if Pau Gasol will stay a Laker, or wear another uniform, which will greatly effect Kobe. And we wait another day.