Eastern Conference finals — Pacers vs. Heat: Series Hub
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You have to give Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel credit. He’s never changed his style. He’s confident, fearless in what he’s willing to say publicly and has the utmost confidence that his team will back him up in any fight he picks.
So when he makes what seems like a harmless statement:
“It’s exciting, but this is not about getting back at Miami. If you’re in the final four you’re competing for a championship. And they’re just the next team that’s in our way. That’s how we’re approaching it.”
… as he did late Saturday night after the Pacers clinched their date in the Eastern Conference finals against the defending champions, he knew his words would catch the attention of the Heat, and LeBron James in particular.
Verbal shots have been fired in this series and they don’t tip-off for Game 1 until Wednesday night in Miami (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT). The response was swift. James took the bait, arguing that:
“We’re not just another team. I don’t understand what he’s saying. But we’re not just another team. That’s not true. He said we’re just another team in their way. We’re a great team. If we’re just another team, you really don’t prepare for just another team. You have to prepare for us.”
Using a trick utilized by some of the coaching greats of the past, Vogel has effectively drawn the Heat’s ire before any elbows are exchanged, before any hard fouls are delivered. That bodes well for us, the folks who get to watch these two teams battle for the right to represent the East in The Finals.
The anticipation is building for Game 1 and a series that promises to give us more than just words.
Vogel seems ready for the test.
LeBron and the Heat, too.
“We’re ready for whatever,” James told reporters Sunday. “I believe it’s going to be like last series. They’re going to try to put me on the floor, maybe. Be physical with me, maybe. I don’t know. Every team kind of does the same thing. They kind of read what everyone else talks about [and say], ‘You have to beat up the Heat to beat them.’ We’ll see what happens.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Kobe Bryant will never escape Michael Jordan‘s shadow, not as long as basketball fans from different eras continue to measure one superstar’s greatness against another’s.
The argument gets some unique spice this time around, though, from none other than Hall of fame coach Phil Jackson.
Jackson’s new book, “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success,” addresses the MJ-Kobe topic head on. The book is set to be released Tuesday but The Los Angeles Times received an advanced copy and highlights the Kobe-Phil-MJ dynamic in detail. Phil sides with Jordan in basically every instance, which kicked off a Twitter back and forth between Kobe and Phil that is sure to gain more steam when the hoops loving public gets their hands on the book, and throughout Phil’s book tour.
Listen friends of bball; don’t get hung up on words. I was most fortunate to have the chance to coach two of the greatest gds. EVER MJ/Kobe— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) May 17, 2013
In the book, Jackson finally details what separates Jordan from Bryant, comparing the two superstars with a perspective no one else can match. He won all 11 of his rings (six with Jordan and five with Kobe) coaching one of them. My main man Mike Bresnahan of The Times serves up the good stuff:
“Michael was more charismatic and gregarious than Kobe. He loved hanging out with his teammates and security guards, playing cards, smoking cigars, and joking around,” Jackson said in the book, which was obtained in advance by The Times.
“Kobe is different. He was reserved as a teenager, in part because he was younger than the other players and hadn’t developed strong social skills in college. When Kobe first joined the Lakers, he avoided fraternizing with his teammates. But his inclination to keep to himself shifted as he grew older. Increasingly, Kobe put more energy into getting to know the other players, especially when the team was on the road.”
While Jackson coached, he often jabbed at Bryant’s seemingly annual appearance on the NBA’s All-Defensive team. Now we know why.
“No question, Michael was a tougher, more intimidating defender. He could break through virtually any screen and shut down almost any player with his intense, laser-focused style of defense,” said Jackson, who coached Jordan to six championships and Bryant to five.
“Kobe has learned a lot from studying Michael’s tricks, and we often used him as our secret weapon on defense when we needed to turn the direction of a game. In general, Kobe tends to rely more heavily on his flexibility and craftiness, but he takes a lot of gambles on defense and sometimes pays the price.”
But the most interesting topic by far is his perspective on the differences between MJ and Kobe:
“Michael was more likely to break through his attackers with power and strength, while Kobe often tries to finesse his way through mass pileups,” Jackson wrote. “Michael was stronger, with bigger shoulders and a sturdier frame. He also had large hands that allowed him to control the ball better and make subtle fakes.
“Jordan was also more naturally inclined to let the game come to him and not overplay his hand, whereas Kobe tends to force the action, especially when the game isn’t going his way. When his shot is off, Kobe will pound away relentlessly until his luck turns. Michael, on the other hand, would shift his attention to defense or passing or setting screens to help the team win the game.”
Jackson’s most scathing observation of the two men involves the leadership qualities they possessed, and in Kobe’s case did not possess, and what kind of impact that had on their respective teams (and granted, Kobe was a youngster on those Lakers teams with Shaquille O’Neal):
“One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael’s superior skills as a leader,” Jackson writes. “Though at times he could be hard on his teammates, Michael was masterful at controlling the emotional climate of the team with the power of his presence. Kobe had a long way to go before he could make that claim. He talked a good game, but he’d yet to experience the cold truth of leadership in his bones, as Michael had in his bones.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – When the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team finished off the competition at the London Olympics in 2012, head coach Mike Krzyzewski was primed to ride off into the sunset with a sparking 62-1 record, two gold medals in Olympic competition (2008 in Beijing) and one in World Championship competition (2010 Istanbul).
Every indication was that the longtime Duke coach had finished the job USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo needed him to and that his replacement would be sought while Coach K moved on in some capacity to assist Colangelo manage the rebuilt program.
It’s an abrupt about-face after months and months of speculation about who might replace Krzyzewski on the sideline with the Men’s Senior National Team and also a stern departure from Coach K’s own words, as recently as February on an ESPN Radio program where he suggested that his successor could be named by this summer.
Things changed dramatically today, per that SI.com report:
On Saturday, Krzyzewski said he and USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo have been talking about his return “quite a bit.”
Colangelo said Saturday he and Krzyzewski have been discussing his return “in installments.”
“I think it’s very close to being resolved,” Colangelo said. “That’s all I can say for sure.”
He added: “Give it another week and it should be resolved.”
Nailing down a head coach is the only outstanding business Colangelo has to tend to right now, because the player pool for the national team is as strong now as it’s since he took over in 2005.
Scores of NBA superstars, All-Stars and role players will be eager to be a part of the teams that represent the U.S. in Madrid and Rio De Janeiro. And that list should include four-time MVP LeBron James as well as All-Stars Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and plenty more.
Were Coach K to return to the program, procuring commitments for future competition wouldn’t appear to be much of an issue, given his history with so many of the players that would be in the mix. The continuity alone would ensure that the U.S. program resembles, at least in structure, many of the international programs they’ll compete against in the coming years.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Kevin Durant is not getting a pass around here. No excuses, no pardon, exoneration or any other escape hatch for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s failures in these NBA playoffs.
There will be no handouts for Durant or any other superstar who falls down on the big stage. Durant should be held to the same standard all of his contemporaries, past and present, have been held to in the annals of this game. You either win it all or you go home with nothing. It’s a fair trade-off and one that all superstars sign off on when they play.
That said, the rush to judge Durant after he struggled against the Memphis Grizzlies without Russell Westbrook is overcooked dramatically. The Thunder’s 3-6 postseason mark without Westbrook, who saw a torn meniscus in his knee end his season in the first round against Houston, says more about Westbrook’s value to his team than it does about Durant’s inability to lift them up on his own.
This notion that a lone superstar of any ilk will lead his team to a championship is a longstanding myth that needs to be debunked. It almost never happens. Not at the NBA level. Not in the past 40 years or so. The only exceptions to that statement might be the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Houston Rockets of 1993-94 and the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks of 2010.
Magic Johnson didn’t do it alone. Larry Bird didn’t do it alone. Isiah Thomas didn’t do it alone. Michael Jordan didn’t do it alone. Shaquille O’Neal didn’t do it alone. Tim Duncan didn’t do it alone. And the list goes on.
Kobe Bryant had help (in the form of Pau Gasol and others) after serving as Shaq’s superstar partner and LeBron James tried to break the mold in Cleveland, only to find out that he needed Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami to seal the deal.
Contrary to Twitter wisdom, there is no shame in recognizing and realizing that reality. This need for someone to blame when things go wrong isn’t a new phenomenon. But it’s taken on epic proportions in the social media age. That’s why it’s fine to point out Durant’s breakdowns against the Grizzlies without absolving him of all responsibility.
He struggled mightily against a complete team that might not have a superstar of his caliber on its roster but is stronger collectively — something especially true when Durant’s superstar partner is out of commission. Jordan knows that better than anyone, having failed repeatedly against the Bad Boys Pistons before he and Scottie Pippen were able to finally stare down that demon.
Trials and tribulation are generally a prerequisite for NBA championship contention. The Grizzlies served that up aplenty in their conference semifinal conquest. Durant was met with defender after defender. He was the focal point of a Grizzlies defensive attack for which he and the Thunder had no counter-punch.
But that doesn’t mean you write Durant off now, not after all that he’s accomplished before his 25th birthday.
It’s not like he laid down for the Grizzlies anyway. He played 46 minutes a night in the series, averaged 29 points, 10.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.2 blocks, all done — save for Kevin Martin‘s Game 1 outburst — without any consistent supporting cast assistance. And basically every game went down to the wire. Durant, Westbrook and James Harden barely survived a seven-game series with these Grizzlies a couple of years ago, so there is no shame in falling to them under these circumstances.
To his credit, Durant stood up and accepted all of the blame. He didn’t shirk his responsibility as the Thunder’s leader. And with his track record and work ethic, you know his rigorous offseason routine will be fueled by this most recent failure.
His sudden crowd of detractors will, of course, label him and suggest that he just doesn’t have the fire or mean streak to be a champion because he chose to view this latest setback like the adult that he is. No, it’s not the end of his world. He doesn’t view the entire season as a complete waste of time, like Kobe claims he does when his season ends without confetti and a championship parade.
Save the drama, folks. You don’t have to give Durant a pass … he doesn’t want one and doesn’t deserve one.
Just give him the time to right whatever went wrong.
If he’s half the superstar you thought he was before this postseason, you won’t be disappointed.
Considering the Thunder’s performance lately, has your opinion changed of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or the Thunder? How?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com:No change in my opinion of Durant: If he is, in fact, the second-best player in the NBA, he’s No. 2 more than 1A. The step down from LeBron James to the Thunder’s quiet leader is considerable and plain to see with Durant thrust into LeBron-in-Cleveland mode. No change in my opinion of Westbrook, an irrepressible talent whose unbridled game is a nice complement to Durant. But slight change in my opinion of the Thunder. With the premature James Harden trade, they had as big a hand in this iffy postseason as fate (Westbrook’s injury) or Memphis. New CBA or not, front offices should worry about the financial feasibility of keeping a championship team together, not getting out front to shed parts from a contender before its time.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com:Not at all. They’re a team missing a vital piece. Nobody ever thought Kevin Durant could carry the Thunder to a championship all by himself. I have been a defender of Russell Westbrook for years and always thought those who believed OKC should trade him couldn’t tell the difference between a basketball and a watermelon. Yes, he exercises poor judgment at times. Yes, he takes wild shots and ignores Durant at times. Yes, he’s a fearless, spectacular talent and KD could crawl across broken glass on a bed of hot coals to have all those “problems” in the lineup with him right now.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: No change here. Kevin Durant has shouldered the weight of the franchise admirably. Since Game 1 he’s struggled in crunch time, but he’s had All-Defensive First-Team member Tony Allen all over him and one of the best defensive teams as a whole doing a great job on him late in games. He’s just missed shots, and some free throws, too, which is surprising, but likely a result of fatigue after going so hard all game. I’ve always been Russell Westbrook-backer. To me the guy’s a bullet train and OKC dearly misses his ballhandling and how he runs that offense. Not to mention, he would take Allen off Durant’s case. The Thunder will be back.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com:It has probably made everyone appreciate Russell Westbrook more. After all the talk in previous years, especially in the playoffs, of being the guy getting in Kevin Durant’s way, now there is proof of what happens when Westbrook really gets out of the way. But the opinion has not changed on Durant. He deserves every positive comment, still.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com:Nope. Durant’s a great player, but nobody can carry a team against a great defense by himself. Westbrook, though he makes some questionable decisions at times, is a huge part of what the Thunder do offensively. And though he’s not the best defender in the world, he’s disruptive (and a lot better than Reggie Jackson) on that end. Durant played 84 percent of his minutes with Westbrook in the regular season, so this is uncharted territory. And it obviously should be no surprise that they’re struggling to score against the Grizzlies, the best defensive team in the Western Conference.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com:There is nothing to change. All we have is confirmation of Thunder’s fans greatest fear, that if one of their superstars goes down the season comes to an end sooner than expected. Durant is still a spectacular player. But the responsibilities without Westbrook around to help do the heavy lifting increase dramatically. Like roughly 28 other teams in the league, the Thunder cannot afford to lose one of their two best players and maintain the same level of play. If anything, I think Westbrook ends up being the beneficiary (strange as it sounds) of his own misfortune with the knee injury. The Thunder are a really good team without him, but not a team capable of finding its way to the championship round. That speaks volumes about his importance to the franchise.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com:The loss of Westbrook hasn’t affected my opinion of him or KD — I always felt the two needed each other and were each others best chance to win a title. If anything I think Westbrook being out has sort of exposed Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin, the two guys who seemed most likely to pick up the scoring slack while Westbrook was gone. Instead, each player’s scoring numbers have stayed flat, which has been disappointing.
Philipp Dornhegge, NBA.com/germany:Not really, no. To me the Thunder always were a two-trick pony, with a bunch of solid-but-not-great role players. Durant and Westbrook both are vital parts of what OKC does and an injury to either one of them was bound to be back-breaking. Westbrook can be a headcase, but that doesn’t take anything away from his talent. And they simply have nobody to replace him. Not after James Harden left. If anything, I was surprised by how great Durant has been as a playmaker rather than the pure scorer that he usually is. He has expanded his game on the fly. Let’s hope he maintains that standard beyond these playoffs. [Philipp Dornhegge is an editor for NBA Deutschland (nba.com/germany)]
Adriano Albuquerque, NBA.com/brasil:Not really. I left the “Russell Westbrook is bad for the Thunder” bandwagon long ago, during the lockout-shortened season. My opinion remains that Westbrook and Durant make a powerful combo, and that the Thunder, when all healthy, are one of the top three teams in the West (if not the entire league). What’s been made even more clear since Westbrook’s injury, though, is they still need more offense from Ibaka and from the bench. Durant is good enough to beat most teams by himself, but even he needs some help against the league’s top defenses. [Adriano Albuquerque is a blogger for NBA Brasil (nba.com/brasil)]
Let’s assume that the Heat are the best team in the league. Pick another team, either conference: Who’s second-best?
Steve Aschburner,NBA.com: Tempted here to say Indiana, because a Pacers-Heat series for the Eastern Conference title could be dynamite, especially if Dwyane Wade’s sore right knee brings Miami back to the pack a little. And this is with Indiana spotting them Danny Granger. Paul George’s ascendancy, Roy Hibbert’s confidence and height, the X factor of Lance Stephenson… Thing is, my head says that San Antonio is the more complete and mature team at this point, edging ahead of the Pacers in the battle for No. 2. Now that both Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra are done with their personnel gamesmanship (no one would be skipping road games in a Spurs-Heat Finals), I think San Antonio would command the most respect from Miami’s stars. (And yes, I acknowledge Memphis might be better right now than either the Pacers or the Spurs.)
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It might be hard to believe considering they’re in a struggle with the Warriors, but I’m going with the Spurs. They’re experienced, they’re deep, they’re balanced and I believe that if they’re still healthy in June, they could give the Heat the best run in The Finals.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I don’t have to assume that Miami is the best team. They just are. A healthy Oklahoma City is second-best. But since they’re not healthy, San Antonio is next. Tim Duncan is in remarkable shape and Tony Parker, when he’s healthy, and he seems to be getting better and better, is an MVP-type player. The supporting cast is excellent, they are disciplined, proficient and can beat you in a number of ways.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com:At the moment? The Grizzlies. I would not have made the case at the start of the playoffs, but the answer of the moment is that not only is Memphis playing at a high level, but it has the best chance to give Miami a hard shove. The Grizz strength (inside game) against the Heat weakness (the same), plus Tony Allen as the first line of defense against LeBron James, would be an interesting watch.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Oh, man. That’s a tough call. The Pacers’ defense is the best in the league. The Grizzlies are also great on that end and seem to be getting better offensively every week. But I’m going to stick with the Spurs, who were a great team on both ends of the floor in the regular season. They’ve obviously struggled to slow down Stephen Curry at times in the semifinals, but they’ve survived the toughest test that any of the aforementioned teams have faced in this round, and they’re still the most complete team outside of Miami.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Let’s wade into the deep end of the pool and do that with the Heat. The second-best team, just as I predicted on The Hang Time Podcast weeks ago, is the Memphis Grizzlies. The ability to play at an elite level inside and out and on both ends of the floor sets this Grizzlies team apart from the pack. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph bring the pain every night. And Mike Conley, Tony Allen and the rest of an underrated crew on the perimeter have me skipping a few steps (it’s a foolish thing to do, I know, but cannot help it) and thinking about the matchups in a Heat-Grizzlies Finals scrap. I’d love to see how LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh try to deal with the Grizzlies’ frontline.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com:In the East, Indiana, and in the West, Memphis. Both teams have several similarities: Size and strength in the post (Hibbert/West and Gasol/Randolph); underrated point guards who can knock down jumpers or get to the rim (Hill and Conley); elite wing defenders (George and Allen). They also both could use an outside shooter and a little more depth, although I don’t think the lack of a bench really works against either team in the playoffs when the rotations are shortened.
Hanson Guan, NBA.com/china:The Grizzlies, definitely. Some see parallels between the Grizzlies and that 2004 Pistons team (and the common link of Tayshaun Prince helps). They are a chain without a weak link, their tactics are working well and the atmosphere in the locker room is perfect. As opposed to those Pistons, the Grizzlies rely on post players, but Conley has been showing a big heart as the playoffs have unfolded. If Memphis elbows its way to The Finals, the Grizz would be a great threat to Heat. They may even emerge the dark horse to replicate the unlikely feat of the Pistons, who, in 2004, came out on top at the expense of the Lakers. [Hanson Guan is an editor for NBA China (china.nba.com)]
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com/greece: No room for surprises in this one. The Pacers are playing like the best team right now, but is this truly what the question is all about? The Heat are the bullies of the NBA — the team with the MVP, the defending champions, the squad that everyone is afraid of. But if opponents’ fear is the one way to measure how good a team is, the other one is respect. And the prize for that one goes, without saying, to the San Antonio Spurs, the old dogs that tend to learn new tricks every now and then. They are at the edge of eliminating the “young guns” of the West and are ready to put all that experience-armor on for The Finals. No, I cannot avoid quoting the most important words that came out of a basketball coach in the last 20 years. As Rudy Tomjanovich once said: “Don’t EVER underestimate the heart of a champion.” And the Big-Three have won three in the post-David Robinson era. [Stefanos Triantafyllos is the editor of NBA Greece. (nba.com/greece)]
Akshay Manwani, NBA.com/india:It’s between the Spurs, the Pacers and Memphis — teams that are ahead in their series at this stage. A look at NBA.com’s advanced stats for teams in the postseason also puts these three teams among the top five in the Net Rating category, with Miami at No. 1. However, while San Antonio comes in at No. 2 here, with a net rating of 10.3, owing to a couple of blowout games against the Lakers, I’ll go with Memphis as the next best team in the league. They have the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the year in Gasol, two players among the top 10 in the postseason scoring category and Gasol and Z-Bo and get to the free throw line more than any other team. Memphis is also a younger and a more physical team than the Spurs and since they don’t have to play the Heat in the next round (unlike Indiana), they are most likely to represent the West in The Finals. [Akshay Manwani is a blogger for NBA India (nba.com/india)]
The Bulls finally look cooked, so complete this thought: If the Bulls get Derrick Rose back next year …
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com:… we’ll be talking about other guys’ injuries. Or Rose’s injuries other than his left anterior cruciate ligament. This wasn’t a case of one-and-done in Chicago this season – the Bulls have struggled with hurt and missing players for a while now. Rose only played 39 games in the post-lockout schedule of 2011-12. Luol Deng has missed all or parts of three playoff runs. Kirk Hinrich is a walking Ace bandage and Joakim Noah seemingly isn’t built for 82 games-at-35-minutes per. Coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t sweat the 2 1/2 hours he uses his guys on game nights because he expects them to be professional about body maintenance the other 21 1/2 hours. But something has to give, either in Thibodeau’s minutes distribution, in the trainer’s room or in Chicago’s new policy for 2013-14 of team-sponsored three-week sabbaticals for each starter, staggered from January through March.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Assuming Rose can dunk off his left foot by October, the Bulls are right back as a — maybe “the” — prime challenger to Miami in the East. Thibs will see to that.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: They will be an Eastern Conference contender. How can they not be? No way can they suffer a season like this again, not just with Rose out, but with the myriad of injuries and craziness (spinal tap gone wrong?). Jimmy Butler is only going to get better and Rose should — I say, should — be back for training camp primed for a huge seasons.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com:… they will open as the second-best team in the East. That’s with the assumption that he comes back healthy. It is impossible to make predictions without knowing the summer moves, and not just for Chicago, but there is still a lot to like about the Bulls moving forward. As much as Rose has come off like a drama queen as the saga dragged on, I don’t question his ability to make a major impact and make the Bulls better.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com:If? Ugh. They will a top-three team in the East. But they’re not necessarily better than Indiana if they can’t add some more depth. Thibs is going to be Thibs and ride his guys, but they need competent back-ups at the three and five spots to ease some of the burden on Luol Deng and Joakim Noah and keep those guys fresh throughout the season.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: If? If they get him back next year? Are you trying to start a riot in Chicago? The Bulls are definitely going to have the services of Derrick Rose next season and that will ensure their status as one of the top four teams in the East for the 2013-14 season, provided he and a few of his friends can stay healthy for the majority of the season. Rose knows that he owes Bulls fans a season they won’t forget, especially after the way things were handled this season. The epic grind they showed throughout this season and into the playoffs should be proof to Rose and his camp that there is plenty of talent around him to help win at the highest level. The assembly of said talent doesn’t guarantee anything, as we’ve seen in so many other cases (Los Angeles Lakers this season). But it does mean you have a chance to compete at the highest level. And that’s where these Bulls belong with a healthy Rose in the lineup.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com:… they become the second-best team in the East. In some ways losing Rose for this season could end up being a net-gain, as the other Bulls have all had chances to carry bigger loads and, in turn, mature and improve in ways that probably would have taken longer had Rose been dominating the ball and shouldering his usual load.
Davide Chinellato, NBA.com/italy:They will have a shot at the Heat. But they need to reshape their roster. I’d probably start using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer, using the cap relief to bring another big man to Chi-town. Then I’d re-sign Marco Belinelli (he’s had a real good year) because he would form a terrific backcourt with Rose. And I’d see if there’s anything we can find that’d say why they had so many injuries — what caused them to break down physically — in the most important time of the year. [Davide Chinellato is the editor of NBA Italia (nba.com/italy)]
Eduardo Schell, NBA.com/spain:Who knows what the future holds for the Bulls. Maybe Rose playing again ends up as a setback for Krypto-Nate, Jimmy Butler (or others), who both have stepped up and performed well beyond expectations. With D-Rose, the Bulls’ playing style might change and there can be a big ‘ego’ problem. Again, who knows. Teammates, though they’ve claimed to understand, might even harbor some resentment for how Rose handled this postseason. There have been lots of talks during the season regarding Boozer and Deng so lets see how they come into play. Lets put it this way: adding pieces doesn’t always end up being a great result. But there’s an ancient Chinese saying: the most beautiful flowers blossom during the toughest times. [Eduardo Schell is the editor of NBA España (nba.com/spain)]
Selçuk Aytekin, NBA.com/turkey: Derrick Rose is one of the best basketball players on the planet. If a healthy D-Rose came to the Chicago Bulls or virtually any other team in NBA, that team would become a contender. I have questions about his current physical health, so hopefully he is 100 percent ready to play, as his doctor’s said. But, yes, if he’s back to full strength, the Bulls will be talking about the Larry O’Brien Trophy. [Selçuk Aytekin is the editor of NBA Turkiye (nba.com/turkey)]
It’s not as simple as that, of course, what with the lawyers involved and the league waist-deep in a back and forth between two cities that are both desperate to keep a team, in Sacramento’s case, and regain a team, in Seattle’s case.
The Seattle group has covered all of its bases in trying to complete this deal. They’ve reached an agreement on that secondary deal, which they want enacted in the case that the Board of Governors reject the relocation proposal today.
That deal would include the Maloofs selling 20 percent of the Kings to the Hansen-led group for $120 million, and that’s based on a franchise valuation of $600 million. The Kings would stay in Sacramento for the 2013-14 season with the Maloofs as the owners. The Hansen group is also willing (and able) to pay an unprecedented $115 million relocation fee, a payout of approximately $4 million for every owner, if the owners allow them to purchase the Kings and move them to Seattle next season, raising the stakes yet again in this hundred million dollar exhibit in the business of basketball.
Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson is using the Kings’ history in Sacramento and the NBA’s loyalty to a fan base and city that has supported the Kings fervently, through good times and bad, as his trump card in this saga. The Sacramento group does not seem at all interested in some bidding war for the franchise that’s made it’s home there for last three decades.
Sort through the minutiae as best you can, but the bottom line is one set of fans will wake up tomorrow relieved that they finally have some answers about their team while another group of fans will wake up to the nightmare that their team is either leaving or not coming to town.
And then there’s Chris Bosh, the man who Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstrainsists has been his team’s most important player for quite some time. Yeah, Spoelstra’s right. Bosh might not look like the stand-alone star he was in Toronto, but he has become the Heat’s X-factor. His nightly performance often pushes them over the top and allows the Heat to “play our game,” as the coach explained earlier in this postseason when he was trying to describe Bosh’s role in Miami.
LeBron is a machine who gives the Heat everything you’d expect a four-time MVP to give in the playoffs. And no one is suggesting that Bosh is challenging LeBron as the Heat’s most valuable player. But Bosh’s steady presence at his position is what unlocks the box for the Heat, who need to be able to spread the floor and attack to play at their best. He’s made Bulls forward Carlos Boozer the invisible man in a battle that is as one-sided as the Heat’s 3-1 series lead.
Bosh struggled in the series opener, finishing with just nine points and six rebounds as the Bulls shocked them at AmericanAirlines Arena. Since then, he’s schooled the Bulls routinely. He dropped 13 points, five rebounds and three assists in that Game 2 blowout win, 20 points, 19 boards, four assists and two blocks in that grimy Game 3 win at the United Center and another 14 points, six rebounds and four blocks in Monday night’s Game 4 rout.
Even more impressive than the numbers, though, is Bosh’s presence and the way he has stressed the Bulls. Wade has been a shell of himself in this series, which would provide an opening for teams good enough to still be participating in the playoffs. But not when Bosh is the threat he has been in this series.
“Hell, yeah, of course. I’ve been a Hall of Famer like four years ago,” he said. “And I say that very serious, though. I’ve talked about it before with my friends.”
I’ve talked it over with a few of my friends as well, and, to a man, they disagree with Bosh. They still have a hard time seeing him as a true Hall of Famer. But I’ve come around to Bosh’s side over the last two seasons. I remember the Heat wobbling last year while he was injured in the playoffs and the boost both he and Wade provided when they got healthy and helped the Heat put away the Oklahoma City Thunder in The Finals.
The Hall of Fame isn’t a far-fetched notion for a player with Bosh’s credentials: career averages of 20 points and nine rebounds, eight All-Star nominations (and counting) and who knows how many championship rings he ends up with during this run with the Heat.