NBA Playoffs Part 2

Talking Points for Saturday’s NBA Playoff Games

Last night’s Mavericks’ and Bulls’ wins were spectacular.   MVP Derrick Rose (Bulls) scored 45 points to lead the Bulls while the Mavericks were led by Dirk Nowitski’s masterful performance.  If you’re out today and want to talk about these games, just know that the Bulls appear to have rounded out to their regular season form, which means the Atlanta Hawks are in trouble.  Derrick Rose’s virtuoso 45-point performance is definitely a conversation piece, especially in light of his ankle injury.  For the Mavs-Lakers series, know that Phil Jackson has only coached a team to victory when down 3-0 one time.  Let’s go into the other two-playoff series for the ladies who will be watching the games today.

Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics (Miami 2 – Boston 0)

The Miami Heat have been under the microscope since last July’s poorly executed “Decision” and the subsequent introductory conference where the new Big Three (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh) said they were going to win multiple titles.  If you don’t know what the “Decision” references, you basically need to know that LeBron James had an ESPN televised event where he announced that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Heat, spurring jersey burnings and mass fan outrage in Cleveland.  The Heat have continued to put themselves in the spotlight with unnecessary bravado, a prime example coming in LeBron James calling the team “The Heatles”.  Honestly, why he thought it was a good idea to compare this group to the legendary Beatles, the world will never know.

As far as series intrigue goes, the Boston Celtics are a veteran team that won the 2008 NBA Title over the Lakers.  This Celtics team, however, is markedly different from previous years due to the midseason trade of defensive centerpiece and bad-boy Kendrick Perkins.  Since that trade, though the team has not come out and publicly said it, something has been amiss with the Celtics.  The Celtics still feature a big three of their own in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, but the Miami trio is much younger.

With the history outlined, your key talking points for this game should include these topics:

  • The comparison between the two teams’ “Big Three” stars.
  • The physical play in the series (Boston’s Paul Pierce was ejected in the first game after a minor head butt and some trash talking).
  • How Boston defends the basket without Kendrick Perkins.
  • Rajon Rondo’s shooting: The Boston point guard is a fantastic player who is a bad shooter.  Watch how Miami defends him and then point it out to your date or the guys you’re watching the game with.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies (OKC 1 – Memphis 1)

This Western Conference series has two very young and talented teams with different paths to the series.  The Thunder are one of the top teams in the West, led by their two star players, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  Both players are dynamic scorers but get their points in different ways.  On the hand, Memphis features power forward Zach Randolph and the other Gasol brother (Pau plays for the Lakers and is more well known).  Marc Gasol and Randolph are the focal points of the offense and on most nights combine for 30 points and handfuls of rebounds.  The Grizzlies dispatched the top seed in the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs, with relative ease, while the Thunder handled the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

Here are some key points to focus on while watching this game:

  • The different offenses played by the two teams:  Memphis continually feeds the ball into the low post to Randolph and Gasol for layups, dunks, and short jump shots.  The Thunder on the other hand are much more reliant on jump shots and three pointers.
  • Russell Westbrook’s shooting:  The Thunder need Westbrook to score, but he must do so efficiently in order for the team to be successful.  If Westbrook is taking a lot of shots and not scoring, ask your date if he thinks Oklahoma City can overcome Westbrook’s ball hogging.
  • The Kendrick Perkins Effect:  Earlier we mentioned how Boston has changed since Perkins was traded from the Celtics something has been off in Boston.  Well, since Perkins was traded to OKC, the Thunder have become a much tougher team on defense, even having a bit of a mean streak.

Enjoy the games and good luck!

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The NBA Playoffs

If you’re going to be going on any dates this weekend you’ll want to make sure you can talk about the NBA Playoffs.  Before moving onto the individual series, you should probably know some playoff basics.

The NBA is divided into two conferences, Eastern and Western, with eight teams from each conference making the playoffs.  These teams are seeded from high to low, and play each other in seven game series.   Winning four of those seven games allows a team to move on to the next round.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks

The Lakers, featuring NBA star Kobe Bryant and coaching legend Phil Jackson, have won the past two NBA Championships and are going for a “three-peat”.  Though they’re currently down 2-0 to the Mavericks, Phil Jackson likely has a plan to get his team back in the series.  You can definitely show some knowledge of Jackson if you know the following:

  1. His longtime girlfriend is the Lakers’ owner’s daughter.
  2. He was the coach of the Chicago Bulls for two different “three-peats”.
  3. He has coached the Lakers to one “three-peat” in the early 2000s.
  4. He is the all time leader in NBA Championships won.
  5. Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban referred to Jackson as a “boy toy”.

Dirk Nowitzki, a 7’ forward with a knack for making shots while falling down, leads the Dallas Mavericks.  The Mavericks have a history of being terrible in the playoffs, at least since 2006, when they went to the NBA Finals and suffered a total meltdown against the Miami Heat.  A lot of the NBA experts and media doubted the Mavericks’ ability to beat the Lakers, but so far they have badgered their opponent while winning the first two games of the series.

Having a 2-0 lead in a best of seven playoff series is a big deal.  Historically the team that takes a 2-0 lead, especially when those games are won on the opponent’s home court, wins the series about 80% of the time.  The series has been a lot of fun to watch with each game being extremely competitive and physical.  You should definitely know that Lakers’ forward Ron Artest will be suspended by the NBA for Game 3 (Friday night) for his clothesline move on Maverick’s guard JJ Barea.  That chippy play was not the first though, as a late season Mavericks/Lakers game ended with four player ejections for an under the basket tussle.

Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks

One of the Eastern Conference semifinals features the Bulls and Hawks.  Both teams are relatively young, but have gained significant playoff experience over the past few seasons.  The Chicago Bulls had the top record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference in addition to having the NBA Coach of the Year and NBA MVP (Most Valuable Player) in Derrick Rose.  This series is tied 1-1 after the first two games, but the main talking point for this series revolve around the left ankle of Derrick Rose.  Rose sprained his ankle near the end of Chicago’s first round series with the Indiana Pacers, and though he is able to play, rolled it during Monday night’s Game 1 against Atlanta.  The affect this injury has on Rose, a player who thrives on driving to the basket and shooting free throws should be something to watch and talk about.  For example, if the game starts with Rose shooting a lot of jump shots, you will have a great opportunity to broach the question as to whether or not his shot selection is being caused by his bum ankle.

There will be an additional post on the other two games going up either tomorrow night or Saturday morning.  Until then,  enjoy the two games tomorrow night.  I will be traveling during the early game, but should be able to catch pieces of it at the airport.  Follow the @second_base_man twitter feed for in-game talking points as well.

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Send it Ins, Onions, and Little Kisses

A lot has happened since my last chance to write, specifically the NFL Lockout and the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament (March Madness).  Let’s jump right in and get started with a few things to watch on the NCAA tourney…

March Madness

The NCAA Tournament is in its second weekend and before you suggest watching the games, make sure his bracket isn’t completely blown to shreds.  If it’s not, then make sure you know some about each of the remaining weekend games.  Another good card to play is to know about Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery, since they will both be calling games this weekend.

Saturday’s Games

Arizona Wildcats vs. UConn Huskies

This features two of the best players in the country in Arizona’s Derrick Williams and Connecticut’s Kemba Walker.  Williams is an electric player who can effectively shoot from long range as well as play close to the basket and dunk with authority.  Williams had a monster game against Duke on Thursday night, scoring 25 points in the first half, finishing with 32 points overall.  He has been tabbed by a number of college basketball coaches as the likely number one overall pick in June’s NBA Draft.

Kemba Walker, on the other hand is a smooth shooting point guard who has been in the running for National Player of the Year honors since the season started.  While his season has been up and down, starting with the end of season Big East Conference Tournament, Walker has been consistently lighting up the scoreboard and UConn opponents for the last three weeks.  Against San Diego State on Thursday Walker had 36 points.  When watching UConn play it will be very easy to know which player Walker is, since he dribbles the ball up the court and is the focal point of Connecticut’s attack.  Walker, like Williams will be playing in the NBA next year and will be drafted very high in June.

Butler Bulldogs vs. Florida Gators

The story here is whether or not Butler can beat the bigger and stronger Florida team and return to the Final Four for the second year in a row.  Last year Butler was the Cinderella (each year there is a team or two which makes an unlikely run late in the tournament, capturing the eyes of the nation and attracting a bandwagon following overnight), going all the way to the National Championship game only to lose to Duke University after a last gasp half court shot barely missed.  This year, the Bulldogs have gone through the tournament playing close games and finding a way to win.

See Matt Howard

See his doppleganger

They have two excellent players in Sheldon Mack and Matt Howard who shares a striking resemblance with SNL’s Andy Samberg.  Butler is fun to watch and even more fun to root for.

Announcers

Gus Johnson – If you need to know why people love Gus Johnson listen to some of his calls from previous seasons’ NCCA Tournament. Also, if a soundboard has been created in your honor, then it’s a pretty indicator that greatness has been achieved.

Bill Raftery – He is the anti-Gus Johnson.  He’s neither jovial nor entertaining, merely annoying with many “signature” phrases.  In the past Raftery would stick to screaming “Onions!” and a “Little Kiss!” when someone used the backboard on a shot.  Unfortunately for viewers everywhere every time someone dunks the ball he now says, “Send it In!”  Watch a game he is calling and be sure to point out how annoying it is.  It’s sure to score you some points.

NFL Lockout

The NFL Lockout is in full effect now with the players and owners unable to figure out how to split their obscenely large profits and agree on a few key issues.  In order to be able to carry on a basic conversation about the NFL Lockout you need to know the key issues.   The short story is this: the owners want a bigger piece of the pie and an 18 game regular season schedule, while the NFL Players Union is against the 18 game regular season schedule (the current is 16 game), wants full disclosure of NFL team financials, and improved health care for current and former players.

The two sides went into federally mediated negotiations for a number of weeks over their key issues with the NFLPA (Player’s Union) repeatedly requesting that the NFL owners turn over their financial books to prove their need for a larger cut of the pie amidst statements of financial hardship.    When the NFL owners refused to turn over the information, leading to the player’s union decertifying and a class action anti-trust law suit by prominent players Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning among others.  This lockout is long from over and could impact the 2011 NFL Season.

For more information and random sports talking points, follow the blog on twitter (@second_base_man) or email me at secondbaseman@gmail.com


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Tradestravaganza

Today brought the NBA trading deadline, closing out a week of hectic trades and rampant speculation on would or wouldn’t be moved.  The NBA is a scary world of quirky salary rules and things like trade exceptions and expiring contract values, but in order to impress your date you don’t have to know everything, just some of the key trades and why they are relevant.

Key Deadline Trades to Talk About…

Carmelo Anthony Trade

One of the biggest issues hanging over the NBA all season was resolved on Tuesday night when Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks in a three team swap between the Knicks, Denver Nuggets, and Minnesota Timberwolves.  Remember that Carmelo was involved in trade rumors with the Knicks, Nets, and Lakers as recently as two weeks ago.  You definitely don’t need to know all of the nitty-gritty details to carry on a conversation, just the main points in the trade.

There are two main points of view on this trade: those who say the Knicks gave up too much, and those who say the Knicks are primed for success.  If you go with the first theory then make sure to know that the Knicks gave up a first round draft pick, their starting point guard, small forward, and a key reserve (one of the bench players who is an important part of the team) in order to acquire a handful of new players to work into their system.  The second point of view focuses on the Knicks being better prepared for the long haul regardless of the quality and quantity of players surrendered to acquire Carmelo Anthony.  The main point here is that the Knicks will have two elite players in Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony who can help attract a third elite player to rival the “Big Threes” of the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.  In addition to having just those two players, the Knicks received Chauncey Billups from the Denver Nuggets with Anthony.  Billups is a quality veteran with significant playoff experience who historically makes the players around him better due to his leadership on and off the court.

Deron Williams Trade

If you’ll recall from the No More Football…. post a few weeks back, Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan resigned abruptly causing a lot of speculation that star point guard Deron Williams had something to do with it.  Some of the prevailing thought around the resignation of Sloan focused on the Jazz being able to re-sign Deron Williams when he became a free agent.

All of that changed on Wednesday when the Jazz traded Williams to the New Jersey Nets (remember they struck out on the Carmelo Anthony trade, but still wanted to land a big time player) for a bounty of quality young players and draft picks.  The Williams trade brought out some press for Williams who was reportedly unhappy with the trade, but seems to have now had his fears quieted by Nets brass.

This trade shifted the balance of power in the NBA to the Eastern Conference, a sentiment superstar LeBron James made sure to express to the media.  Whether or not Williams stays with the Nets when the move to Brooklyn in 2012 remains to be seen, but the next year will shed more light on that.

For more regular sports updates, follow the blog on twitter @second_base_man

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Spring Traditions

February brings many things, Groundhog’s Day and Valentine’s Day to name a few, but this month also delivers the start of the baseball season, nightly basketball on the collegiate and professional levels, and plenty of Charles Barkley.

Baseball Topics:

It’s early in baseball season since pitchers and catchers are just reporting this week, but there will be plenty to talk about this baseball season.  The major news this week revolved around the Albert Pujols contract negotiations with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Albert has played for the Cardinals for ten years and been one of the best players to ever play the game over those ten years.  He is a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he will also be a free agent (a free agent may sign to play with any team that is willing to pay him). at the end of this season.  The basics behind the negotiations are this: Pujols is 31 years old and appears to want a contract that pays him like he is the best player in the game for a long time.  The numbers that have been talked about in the media are $30 million per year for ten years, but that’s an awful lot of money to commit to one person who will be 41 at the end of the contract, especially with all of the statistics showing how players perform as they age past 35.  He set a deadline for contract negotiations for Wednesday at noon, saying that he would not discuss any contract extension until the season ended and he became a free agent   The thing to know about this is the sides never came to an agreement, and now the disaster known as #Albertageddon is looming towards free agency.

Another quick baseball link for you is the Miguel Cabrera DUI.  The story can be found here and his mugshot is great.  Cabrera is an immensely talented baseball player with a very serious drinking problem.  He has a history with the sauce, including an incident in which he was arrested at his home the night before a crucial game at the end of the 2009 season.  Would your boss bail you out of jail and take you to work?  Probably not, but his certainly did.

Basketball Conversation:

The NBA has reached its midpoint which means the All Star game is this weekend, the trade deadline is next week, and Charles Barkley is up to his usual shenanigans on TNT two nights per week.  The biggest story to follow is still the Carmelo Anthony trade discussed in last week’s post, but you also should know a bit about the NBA All Star Weekend.

This year the All Star festivities are being held in Los Angeles which means the All Star parties are going to be lavish and outrageous.  This event is mostly about parties and dunking.  The game will be held on Sunday night and will almost certainly feature little to no defensive effort by the stars playing.  The best part of All Star weekend is probably the Slam Dunk Contest.  Not only is it completely ridiculous, but any lady who actively wants to watch the Slam Dunk contest is instantly that much more awesome to spend time with.

A Tribute to Toomer’s Corner:

The final talking point for this weekend is more somber, having to do with the poisoning of the Live Oak trees at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, Alabama.  The trees are the sites of many memories and traditions for students and fans of Auburn University, but they are also beautifully majestic living things.  Following the Iron Bowl (the annual rivalry football game between the University of Alabama and Auburn University) a 62 year Alabama fan went to Toomer’s Corner an spread a lethal poison on the ground around the trees, then proceeded to call into a syndicated Alabama sports radio show to brag about his feat.  The man has been arrested and charged, but his actions were unspeakable, regardless of which team he roots for, especially when experts say the 130-year-old trees will likely not survive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No More Football….

Here are a couple of quick items on the NBA for the coming weekend’s dates.

Utah Jazz’s Jerry Sloan Resigns

The Utah Jazz’s head coach of twenty-three years abruptly resigned today leading to speculation in the sports world on what is behind it.  Some pundits are saying that Sloan lost a power struggle with the Jazz’s star player Deron Williams.  There will be more news on this over the coming days so keep an eye out.

Carmelo Anthony’s Trade Request

A quick and dirty run down on this will allow for conversation on any pending Carmelo Anthony trade.  Carmelo Anthony’s team, the Denver Nuggets, offered Anthony a three year $65 million contract extension last year, which he has yet to sign.  Carmelo, husband of MTV’s LaLa Vasquez, will be a free agent at the end of this season and has expressed a desire to play for the New York Knicks.  Anthony is originally from Brooklyn so for a while the New Jersey Nets tried to play the Carmelo sweepstakes in hopes they could acquire Anthony and convince him to sign an extension with them before they move to Brooklyn in two years.  Since the trade fell through and the Nets removed themselves from the running, other teams like the Knicks and the Lakers have been linked to Anthony.  Even though the deadline is still two weeks away, Anthony has begun to waiver on his unwillingness to sign an extension with Denver, saying that it’s something he would consider if  no trade forms in the coming weeks.  Staying up to date on this over the next two weeks should make for some simple talking points until there is resolution at the trading deadline.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

If your man is a Celtics fan then chances are he will be excited about shooting guard Ray Allen becoming the NBA’s all time leader in three point shots made.   Allen is one of the smoothest players you will ever have the opportunity to see play, so sit down and watch a Celtics game with your beau sometime.  Besides, he did play Jesus Shuttlesworth in the late ‘90s movie He Got Game.

Outside of Ray Allen setting the record, there are a few good conversation pieces coming out of this rematch of the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals.  The Lakers are an excellent team with a deep bench.  It goes without saying, but Kobe Bryan is scary good.  Kobe Bryant was able to sit on the bench and rest for the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter and then come in fresh to close out the game.  That is only made possible by a well-formed team with good depth, which is something the Lakers certainly have.  The rotation includes Kardashian-in-Law Lamar Odom who can play anywhere on the basketball court.  His versatility allows the Lakers to at times field a lineup with three players over 6’10”, a benefit that greatly helped the Lakers defeat Boston in the finals last year.  During the game tonight Lamar Odom showed some major toughness when his teammate inadvertently tried to take a bite out of his forehead.  Luckily for the Lakers, Odom received some stitches on the bench and came right back into the game to contribute to the Lakers’ victory.

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Now What Nashville?

If your date this weekend is a Tennessee Titans fan, the last two days have probably completely turned his life upside down.  You can show your knowledge of the Jeff Fisher/Titans divorce after 17 years of solid coaching and results if you know some of the back-story from the last few years.  There are a couple individual with roles here, specifically owner Bud Adams, coach Jeff Fisher, and exiled quarterback Vince Young.

Bud Adams is the elderly owner of the Titans who moved the team from Houston to prior to the 1998 season.  Adams maintains his offices in the Houston area and has continued to hold team meetings there in the off seasons.  He is also an elderly fellow exhibiting sure signs of senility as evidenced by his flipping off fans after a game last season.  Adams, with his deep Texas roots chose a quarterback from Texas in the 2006 NFL draft who just so happened to be from the Houston area.

Vince Young was the third player selected in the draft despite some serious question marks surrounding his maturity and intellect (Young reportedly scored an alarmingly low score on an aptitude test used by NFL teams when evaluating prospects).  The Titans brought Young in despite those shortcomings and he led them to a playoff birth in his rookie season.  Young has had some issues with injury and immaturity prompting his coach to notify the police at one point, worried for the quarterback’s well being when he dropped off the grid after being booed by fans and injured in a game two years ago.  Within the last year, Vince Young has been involved in a fight in a Dallas strip club and had a post game tirade when he threw his pads into the stands after a loss in which Fisher had benched him.  The final straw was his post game meltdown when Fisher essentially banished Young from the Titans’ facilities.

All of these transgressions surely must have irked Jeff Fisher; a no frills coach who, until his resignation this week, was the longest tenured coach in the NFL. Many NFL experts expressed a belief that either Vince Young or Jeff Fisher would return to the Titans in 2011, but not both.  Most assumed with Adams’ announcement that Vince Young would not rejoin the team for the 2011 season that Fisher would remain coach for at least one more year; however this week’s announcement certainly changed that.  There is a lot of speculation about who will be the next coach, why Fisher and the Titans are parting ways, as well as whether or not Vince Young will return now that Fisher is gone.

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