NBA Playoffs Mega-Mailbag

With only a short time until the playoffs get started (and no, the 1PM Indiana-Chicago matchup does not count), I figured I’d write a column on the NBA! C’mon, it’s a special occasion. And by the way, why did the NBA start the playoffs with Indiana-Chicago? I understand trying to get the marquee matchups in primetime for both coasts (such as Celtics-Knicks Saturday night) but really? This your big kick-off to non-stop NBA basketball these next two days? It’s almost as anti-climatic as the First Four. Now, if you started off your Saturday with a play-in game between Indiana and Houston for the East 8th seed—instead of just handing it to Indiana based on geography—for the right to play Chicago the next day, THAT is excitement. Works for fairness because Houston deserves a crack at it, while Indiana surely does not but can still play its way into the playoffs with a win. Plus, Indiana can have home-court too. Instead of trying to kick-start your playoffs with Derrick Rose and Roy Hibbert, you have a one-game playoff for the right to play Chicago tomorrow night—both teams playing for their seasons, going all out. What’s the problem?

All this playoff talk is getting me excited so without further ado here it is, my official NBA playoff Q and A. These questions may or may not be real.

(And yes, I know Bill Simmons does this but he hasn’t in a while so I’m doing it. And it’s a good way to talk about the NBA.)

Q: I average 18 and 8 and we won 58 games this season. Why in the world would I get traded? Yes, maybe I’m not the toughest interior guy and my rebounding numbers have gone down—but I’ve never been a grind it out big! We clearly still need a more traditional and capable (sorry, Joel) centre to play beside me for future years but I am not the problem! I am your Pau Gasol! Please don’t trade me!

–Chris, Miami, FL

A: Problem is that you don’t fit any of Miami’s needs. Sure, you’re athletic and can score by taking it to the basket—but so can the other guys on this team! If you get traded, it will be for is either:

  1. Another comparable sub-star that fits Miami’s needs better. Earlier on in the season people were saying Chris Paul but you’ve clearly played your way out of that scenario. I could see maybe Kevin Love. Miami needs rebounding and Minny needs more scoring. Seems like a fair trade. Great return for Minny on a guy that will most likely leave and Love is the most underratedly egotistical guy.
  2. A plethora of players that can fill all the gaps that Miami has. I’m thinking to Minnesota (again) for Flynn, Wes Johnson, rights to Rubio, Martell Webster, Pekovic and some first round picks. Miami has Rubio (who once he finds out he’s going to Miami will “stumble upon” a cheaper buyout clause in his contract) and Flynn to be their point guards, Wes Johnson is a good prospect off the bench to help Lebron and Wade, ditto for Webster and Pekovic is another big. Only flaw I see is that the Heat are left big-less…maybe Beasley goes back? Maybe the Love deal? Not sure. But I just need to put this out there for the mere entertainment value of a Rubio-Wade-Lebron backcourt. Even though I think Rubio is way overhyped (and that the trade I proposed is utterly ridiculous on so many levels, outside of sheer entertainment and shock value) and isn’t very good, he would actually go to an ideal situation. Flynn/Chalmers could start and he would come off the bench and would play the poor man’s Rondo role. Just feed Lebron and Wade and run. He wouldn’t have to worry about his broken jumpshot. It’s just my inner fan speaking.

Q: So, I’m going to Minnesota?

–Chris, Miami, FL

A: At least you already own a winter coat…

Q: Did Chris Paul just say he would consider Charlotte? And I heard Dwight Howard might go there, now. What did I do wrong? What happened? Am I the only one that sees that they start Kwame Brown and Gerald Henderson?

–Gerald W, Portland

A: Well, Paul’s quotes were taken from some sort of Jordan event so I can’t imagine he’d laugh off Jordan at his own event. And the actual quotes were more along the lines of “anyone would want to play for Michael Jordan” and that because of that Charlotte would be an attractive place for free agents. So, the media connected some dots that shouldn’t have been connected. Chris Paul thinks free agents will want to play for Jordan AND Chris Paul is a free agent soon??!?! Therefore, Charlotte is now the leading candidate? No, I don’t buy that.

But what I do buy is Michael Jordan’s plan for the team. The media ridiculed trading you for two first rounders because they look at things from a shortsighted perspective. Every year, trades like this happen and people are like “Oh, well they made out like bandits!” And then the next two drafts come around and you’re like “Why did Portland trade two first round picks for the right to be kicked out AT MAX in the Western Conference Semis every year?” Meanwhile, Charlotte is trading up, trading down and combining picks to get solid prospects. That’s actually how Portland got there to where they are now and the same goes for OKC. They just hoarded draft picks. I’m not saying it’s a bad deal for the Blazers. It makes sense and they are great now—but don’t overlook those trades. It allows the Bobcats to completely bottom out (critical in building a championship team in a market outside of Miami/LA etc.) while getting assets. They need to bottom out anyway—and they got two picks on top of it.

Q: Was it a mistake when I announced that I wouldn’t be able to run until September?

–Greg, Portland Hospital

A: You could say that you have no legs and some GM will give you 5 years, 55 million. Have no fear, Greg.

Q: I miss my friend. Like, a lot.

–Rajon, Boston

A: OK, you miss Perk. He was your only friend. Fine. But you gotta harness whatever inner Celtic swagger you have and play your heart out. To show Perk you guys still have it, to do it for Garnett, Pierce and Allen who are on their final legs, to do it because even though Danny Ainge screwed you over you’re still going to win. Or, maybe, because you’re a paid professional athlete. Any of those reasons should do it.

Q: *Casually mowing lawn*

–Jerry S, Relaxation, USA

A: You did it Jerry. And you did it, right. You got out because you had enough. The DWill trade proved you were right and you did it perfectly. Now Tyrone Corbin is stuck trying to fill your shoes while you can be laughing it up. With everything you’ve accomplished, you didn’t need this headache of a Jazz team. And apparently, as if we didn’t already think that the Jazz management self-destructed, you have an open ear to other coaching opportunities. Life is good, Jerry. You proved that in the world of coaching, single-minded, dictator-esque, old school coaches win out. Players’ coaches may sound nice but guess what, Larry Drew and Keith Smart won’t be roaming the sidelines next year, but you might be.

(If you can’t tell, I’m a Sloan fan. At least stylistically).

No surprise that Jerry won this battle

Q: I know this season was a disaster and it was embarrassing at some points. But we got wins against Miami, LA and Boston and considering our lack of talent and injuries—we fought hard! Yes, the losing streak was dreadful, but if there’s one thing we have to look forward to is the lottery and the draft because we have the highest odds and therefore—wait, what? Is this a misprint?

–Byron S, Cleveland

A: Yes, that’s right, folks! The Cavaliers lost EVERYTHING this year. They even lost at losing! Despite an absolutely disgusting losing streak and national embarrassment—they are NOT, let me repeat, NOT at the bottom of the standings. The Minnesota Timberwolves hold the best odds in the lottery this year (hold it one sec, I’m receiving some new emails).

Q: I think I’m a very good fit in Miami. Like, very good fit. I’ll take a pay cut. I’m here to win anyway, right? ….PLEASE!

–Chris, Miami

Let me continue. Get this. Every casual basketball fan thinks Cleveland is by far the worst team in the league and they aren’t even getting the one and only benefit of being the worst team in the league! They still have a good shot at Kyrie Irving and it would for sure help a fan base that has been absolutely tortured. Yet, I still am kind of hoping for Minnesota to hold on to the first pick. It’s a Kahn paradise! Irving-Rubio-Flynn! The only reason Kahn won’t take a point guard is because Irving is a good one and Kahn has a propensity to keep only bad point guards. Remember when he picked Flynn and Rubio? He also picked Ty Lawson that year, who is easily the best of all of them, but traded him to Denver! Humorous!

Q: Doesn’t it frustrate you that I could have been great, but got lazy and never worked on my game so that when my athleticism deteriorated I could still be a somewhat useful NBA player, yet I am still making ridiculous sums of money and despite my poor work ethic and general inability to play basketball at this level, I am going to latch on to some contender next year and totally be ineffective but maybe a grab a ring because I’m “Vince Carter” and some elite team thinks they can squeeze out whatever basketball talent I have left even though I have no interest in doing so, and would rather settle into my role as a poor shooting, spot up shooter?

–Vince, Phoenix

A: Yes.

Q: Seriously, you think I am going to let an NBA team leave my city? The city elected a 5-time all-NBA guard and I’m going to let the NBA team leave the city?

–MAYOR Johnson, Sacramento

A: This is actually what every team fearful of relocation should do—make an NBA player your mayor! You know you’re a basketball town when…

But in all seriousness, I’ve already talked about how the Kings move looked pretty imminent a few weeks ago but now with this new local billionaire that wants to buy the team, an unknown relocation fee that could be a deal breaker and of course KJ being your mayor—it’s looking a lot more positive. I hope they stick around. What I don’t understand is Seattle fans that hope for the Kings to move to them. You really want to do that to an equally emotionally attached fan base? It’s unfortunate, but Seattle shouldn’t be wishing for other NBA cities to have the same fate.

This is your mayor, Sacramento. Youre in good hands

Q: See what we’ve done? Everyone just threw us out as championship contenders and then BAM we’re right here in the thick of it and are one of the favourites now! We have 58 wins. We have Lebron and Wade. We are about to destroy basketball forever,

–Pat R., Miami

A: It’s funny because the fact that Miami has Lebron and Wade almost sort of skips our memory now. Like, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. Wow. And assuming the Heat will run through the Sixers, they’ll have to really only get 12 wins and be able to play Wade and Lebron mega minutes because there are no back to backs plus the season is over. The Heat’s biggest flaw is by far their bench. It’s disgusting. It looks like a houseleague team with 2 and a half good players that get distributed to every team and then the rest of the team can’t dribble the ball. But, now they can play Wade, Lebron and Bosh 40-45 minutes every night! They have their biggest weakness eliminated.

Heat are looking good but it’s true, they are about to destroy basketball forever. The little welcome party they had this summer should have punched their ticket to negative sports karma hell. The only thing I’m hoping for is that the sports karma gods are building up the Heat only to take it away from them even more devastatingly. I can still hear Lebron saying: “Not two, not three, not four…”. SPORTS KARMA GODS! ANSWER MY PRAYER!

Q: Nobody thinks we can make it out of the West this year even though we’ve been the best team all season, have already done it before with the same core, and we’ve had Tim Duncan essentially relaxing in one of those Avatar tanning beds all season. If Ginobili is healthy, how are we not even favourites?

–Gregg, San Antonio

A: The biggest issue is that San Antonio—for some reason—faces the hardest road to get to the finals. Oklahoma City-Denver is in their bracket and they still have to fight through a weirdly good Grizzlies team that still have never had one playoff win in franchise history! Then obviously Denver-OKC is a tough matchup and then you have to play the Lakers. Meanwhile, the Lakers get the first round bye past the Hornets, and then get to play the Blazers or Dallas. Maybe we need to open up the idea of allowing the top seeds picking who they want to face in the first round.

Q: No chance?

–Frank V., Indiana

A: I’m going to say no chance. But, best of luck.

Q: Am I in the Jordan conversation if I win this year? 6 championships, two three-peats, 13 all-star games, 4 all-star game MVPs, 12 time All-NBA, 10 time All-Defensive Team, two finals MVPs and one MVP. C’mon, I’m in the conversation right? By the way, I’m a totally tolerate person. It was just in the heat of the moment, I can sometimes blurt out ignorant slurs.

–Black M., Los Angeles

A: First, the suspension is justified and the only argument against it is that you should have gotten a game with it as well. But despite some people arguing against it, I think it’s a pretty open and shut case. I don’t care if its heat of the moment, you should never say stuff like that. If you said “F— that” on cameras, then your argument saying that it was in the heat of the moment makes sense. But it’s not a good argument when you’re instinctive angry reaction is to use that word. You look even worse. That means it’s pretty embedded into your speech. When I’m upset when playing I may say “F— that” because I say that when I get upset. But I never say something along the lines of what Kobe said, because it’s just not part of my vocabulary, ever.

You are in the conversation for Jordan-level, Kobe. Except the conversation is quite short. The answer is no. You’re great and absolutely one of, if not the, transcendent star of this generation but there’s a few reasons why you just don’t reach Jordan levels. Remember those years when you guys weren’t very good and you tried to force a trade to Chicago? Remember the fact that you have only one MVP award? Remember the fact that when you won with Shaq, you were never Finals MVP? Remember when you won Finals MVP by shooting 6-for-24? Remember when you were/still are being accused of being a selfish, ball-hog? There are too many dents in your resume. It’s unfortunate, because you’ve had an amazing career, but to match Jordan’s killer instinct, dominance and impeccable performances in big games? I don’t think so. You don’t have a Flu Game under your belt.

Q: Who’s your Finals pick?

–Me, I’m right here

A: This is stumping me. Last summer, I said that the sports gods would have San Antonio beat Miami in the finals. The pick seemed funny at the time but it is actually very possible. And from a storyline perspective, it makes perfect sense. The dynasty lead by a superstar who stayed with the same team that drafted him. The Spurs drafted well. They invest in a good amount of good character guys. They are just an appealing team and are really the blueprint for less attractive cities to create a championship team.

Meanwhile, in South Beach, the Heat have done the opposite and have stolen stars from their original teams, guaranteed championships before stepping on the floor and have done everything in a non-traditional way! It’s the best good versus evil matchup and the sports gods could exact revenge on Miami by giving the title to a team that already has 4 since 1999. Not one, not two, not three…

It is just the best poetic justice to all that has gone wrong in the NBA and re-assures fans around the world that the NBA isn’t destroyed. That we aren’t corrupted by superstars forming together. It’s also most likely the end of the line for the Spurs, especially if we face a lockout soon. But then again, people counted them out this year and they won 60+ games, so I’m not going to make that argument

My only concern with the Spurs is that they have to face three excellent teams before even getting to the Finals. So, I’ll be cheering for it—but I just don’t see them getting through Memphis, OKC and the Lakers and then beating the Heat or Bulls.

So, I’m going to stick to my real prediction that I made around mid-season. Yes, it’s boring but at the same time it’s the most exciting possibility. Celtics-Lakers. Round 3. This is for all the marbles. Kobe and Phil trying for the three-peat, the Celtics looking for revenge and perhaps a fitting finale to their big 3 before a lockout. This settles the score. The Lakers getting out of the West needs no explanation. They’re better than every other team.

One more time, for old times sake?

Meanwhile, I’m not sold on Chicago and think that despite DRose’s competitive nature, I don’t trust the Bogans/Korver/Brewer off-guard combos, I don’t think Boozer is a winner and I don’t feel comfortable betting on their experience. Meanwhile, Miami looks good but they’re so fragile. I like the Celtics because Garnett has done this dance before. Pierce and Allen are deadly and I think Rondo wakes up for the playoffs. Shaq can rest and get warmed up in the 76ers series. Remember, the Celtics beat Miami 3 times earlier this year convincingly without Perkins in the line-up. I just have confidence in the Celtics after seeing them do what they did last playoffs that I can’t bet against them right now. They have too much mental toughness compared to Miami and Chicago. I’d feel wrong not doing it.

Celtics-Lakers. The final matchup. I’m loving it. We get to finally bury this and officially end the era of guys who were all-stars in 2001 (Shaq, Garnett, Allen, Pierce, Kobe, Jermaine O’neal, Iverson, Carter, McGrady, Kidd, Duncan…) and move on to the next generation of basketball, which is 25 years of Bulls-OKC Finals matchups

Q: But, if we make it to the Finals, I’m staying, right?

–Chris, Miami

A: The best advice I can give you is to just stay away from Gloria James, OK?

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