The Dirk Grande Finale? Or A Super-Finish? (Finals Overview)
I like to think of this as the "Len just eats his crow now and gets it over with" edition of my Finals preview. Normally, I wouldn't be writing this so soon. But between the boredom I'm presently faced with just before I head out the door for work and the fact that both of these Conference Final series have been absolute mismatches (it's a wonder they both weren't sweeps) made this easy on me. We've learned quite a lot during the postseason thus far have we not? For starters...
No Country For Old Champs
- The three teams which accounted for more than 75% of the titles won over the last decade (Spurs, Lakers, Celtics) were all gone before the Conference Finals. The Spurs were the only team that didn't get out of the first round, while the Celts and Lakers were exposed as too old and possibly in the case of the Lakers, not quite as intimidating as previously thought. Memphis more than made its case for a permanent seat at the table out West, while we're wondering if Westbrook and Durant are either The Next Great Thing together or if it's a "this team isn't big enough for the both of us" type of deal.
The Regular Season MVP Award Is Just That...A Regular Season Award.
- While this hasn't been a situation akin to 1995 where Olajuwon seemingly went out of his way to embarass, humiliate and eviscerate David Robinson...facts are facts. Derrick Rose got more out of his team than he was really meant to. Thibodeau to his credit, got more out of them than he was supposed to in his first year. But now it seems like against a Two Man Band from South Beach, they seem all kinds of out of sorts. They can't close games the way they did in the previous two rounds and Miami's closing out with frightening efficiency. If there's any disappointment on either Wade or LeBron for netting any legitimate MVP consideration, they seem to be taking it out on Chicago in this series. In any event, since I don't forsee a three game losing streak in Miami's immediate future, looks like D-Rose gets to join a very long list of MVPs that won't add NBA Champion to his resume in the same year.
The Rise of Dirkzilla
- Anyone who has read my stuff for a while, knows I haven't held Dirk Nowitzki in the highest regard. I believed that he wasn't a guy you could build a franchise around, definitely not a guy you could win a championship with. I reamed him when he won MVP in 2007 over Nash, even went as far as to say Nash was de facto MVP which was augmented by Dirk's egg that was laid against Nellie and his Warriors. (Ironic how the last two #1 seeds to lose in the first round are out of Texas.) I initially didn't have Dallas beating the Lake Show. But then Dirkzilla appeared, eviscerated the Lake Show's vaunted frontline and now he's making OKC look too young and too green to run with the former Western Conference Champions.
Dirkzilla is finally showing signs that he is without question, the toughest one on one matchup in the Association. Whenever he wants his shot, he'll get it. However he wants to do it, he'll get it done. He and Jason Terry are the only holdovers from 2006 & 2007 respectively. Which leads me to my final point...or more like equation so to speak...
Len's 2 Games In Playoff Primer (NBA Playoff Dealie)
I figured the song "No Country For Young Men" was the perfect track to base my "late as usual" Playoff Primer on. So far, there are at least four teams in 0-2 holes. Two of which are probably waiting on their last rites to be read, the other two could get new life going home. I'll let you figure out who's who. Now for some quick hits on the rest of these first round series and who will be in the Finals.
The Melo Halfway Column (NBA All-Star/Trade/2nd Half Outlook)
There are two tragedies in the world. Not getting what you want and getting it.
Its funny that Carmelo Anthony sparks my fire to start writing my first NBA column since the Preview and I give ye my word, this probably wont be very long. Three things to cover, Melo, The East & The West. First, Carmelo. Lets not get it twisted, Carmelos a Top 5 talent. He has not missed the playoffs in his career, he has 13 game winning shots with under 10 seconds left to play in his career. He has averaged at LEAST 20 a game in every season since 2003. He was all the Nuggets have and now, Denver joins Toronto and Cleveland as franchises that have been decimated by departures of their franchise player. For Denver, you get younger (Galinari and Felton figure to start right away, but theyre all but done for as a playoff threat out West) and not much better. (In their defense, they got a lot more for Melo than either city got for LBJ & Bosh combined.) New York gets another star, but essentially turns into a clone of the Heat, only with a slightly more formidable starting lineup (cause the Knicks actually had pieces around Amare that were starting to emerge, but most of those were sent to Nuggetland.). When a trade like this gets made, you have to ask the following questions
"Merry New Year!!!" - Eddie Murphy, Trading Places
Yeah, I'm back. New Year, same ole Len...sorta. I'm back to rant on a few things, first of which...
LeBron. Look, for anyone who really believs LeBron didn't deserve his two MVP trophies, look at the Cleveland Cavaliers now. They BLOW. No...that was my thought after LeBron walked in there and straight up eviscerated them 2010 Freddy style. They SUCK. No, I think that's been the Cavs since that game in which for the first time ever, the crowd had more balls to them than the players they were rooting for. Still, last night against the Lakers...I'm not sure if there's such a thing after the two things I mentioned to aptly describe what the Cavs really are. Swallow, almost seems like an insult to that particular word at this point. I have coined the "AAU" label for teams in the Association that have a fairly decent, young 25 and under core to them. Cleveland's a team I label as nothing more than a Practice Squad. Simply put. Other than maybe Jamison and Mo Williams, who in this team could you point to and say, "Yeah, they could be a legitimate starter for some team in the Association" about? Boobie Gibson? Varejao? I think those guys are pretty much reserves AT BEST. Sorry folks, but your team's done. Byron, sometimes waiting on a great job is better than taking a shit one. I give you three years max before you're shitcanned or just flat out QUIT.
The Later Than LeBron Wants To Be Playing NBA Preview Edition
Well, as it turns out, I actually had this written two weeks ago. No, really, I did. Then work got to me and for whatever the reason, I didn't get around to finishing it. Sometimes, stuff just works out for the best. I'll hit on a few things I feel worth noting and well, I guess we'll go from there. Oh and starting this year, Len Cosell's gonna start dedicating his columns to various women within the sports world. This year's NBA column goes out to my favorite ESPN female not named Beadle, namely Erin Andrews. :P (Hey, I'm single. I'm allotted the leeway to do this sort of thing until some woman snatches me up and domesticates me. Then I'll have to get creative on how I do it. :P)
Mi-Mi-Mi-Miami World Order! 4 Life. (The Decision Wrap Up)
Call me Lenny "The Brain" Heenan, because I told y'all this day was coming. Oh, wait, let me go back.
For the first time in the history of my writing on this site, I'm going to write a column and intersplice two things that really are like oil and water. Namely wrestling and basketball. Yes, I'm going to pull it off and here's how. Wrestling fans, remember July 1996? Bash At The Beach? Yeah, y'all know where I'm going with this.
Time: Thursday Night, July 8th, 9 PM EST.
Location: Somewhere in Greenwich, Connecticut
Occasion: LeBron James announcing his decision to play ??? for the 2010-2011 season and beyond.
I'm done with the letters and honestly, I think I'm just about done with all of this. Because apparently now, what LeBron said post Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals is set to come to fruition. Oh and I've got news for ya Cleveland, I don't think this story ends well for you at all. I've quietly held the notion that in horror flicks, if you show tits and you're a female, you're pretty much a done deal. For the last three weeks or so, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Miami, Cleveland and the Clips have shown their "tits" to LeBron and his corporate crew. Tomorrow night, a little after 9 PM EST, we're going to witness five teams get gutted in unceremonious fashion. Oh, did I forget to mention the guarantee that LeBron's going to win at least three titles within the next five years or so? No?
Changing Faces And Artest Praising (Part 1 of 3/NBA Wrap Up)
Alright all my Lenholics...it's that time of the year. Time for Part 1 of the NBA Wrap Up.
"But Len, why just Part 1 now?"
Well, in case ya haven't heard, Free Agency starts on Thursday morning at 12:01 AM EST. For the first time since I've really taken up writing this stuff, Free Agency will account for a LOT of how this year concludes and how next season will look as teams get into position to chase the Los Angeles Lakers. So let's start there shall we?
Don't look now, but we've got a Finals on our hands.
Not but 24 hours after the Blackhawks brought a title home to the Chi, Boston evens up its series with the Lakers. Why? Da BENCH. Let me say this right now...last night's game is the reason why I picked Boston over Los Angeles to start this series. When you've got the luxury to leave your reserves out on the floor in the 4th quarter of a game that if you lose, you've all but guaranteed you're finished (no team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals), that's saying a LOT. Yes, Rasheed and Nate managed to get boneheaded technicals (Rasheed's was more damaging as he's now one tech away from being done for the series, depending on when he gets it and what the series is), but the Lakers uncharacteristically couldn't make em' pay from the line. But there's a few other basketball stories that deserve my attention, such as but not limited to...
Boston/Los Angeles XII: Green With Title Envy (NBA Finals Breakdown/Preview)
Alright, if this were Street Fighter, it'd be Ken vs Ryu. Only if Ryu were rocking a green fit and Ken were styling old school purple and gold. Don't believe that this isn't personal for Kobe, cause it is. Don't believe it's not about payback, because the more they try to sell that, the more it IS about payback for the Lakers. Here's the facts...
A) These teams combined have accounted for more than HALF of the NBA Championships celebrated in NBA history. You realize what that means? That's the equivalent of the Steelers and 49ers meeting in the Super Bowl, accounting for a chunk/half of the Lombardi Trohpies handed out in February. (Also note, we NEED to see those two hook up just once in February.)
B) This is the 12th time these two have met up in the NBA Finals. 9 out of 11 times, Boston's gotten it done. Never mind "rivalry", this is BEEF. This is what Biggie was rapping about once upon a time. Maybe we won't get Ron getting clotheslined by Kendrick, but this is personal.
C) For all that Kobe's done this year to inch closer towards Laker Immortality, here's a surefire way to get his name mentioned.
Beat Boston. As it stands right now, only a handful of Lakers stand in that hall so to speak. Big Game James, Kareem and Magic. The Showtime Lakers succeeded where Wilt, The Logo and others failed. They wrested the title away from Boston in the 80s, besting Larry's Big Three TWICE in three tries. How poetic is it that in order for Kobe to get one for the thumb, he has to best the Lakers' traditional summertime rivals? Hatfields, say what's great to the McCoys rocking the Boston green.
No Hooks To This One For Cleveland...(Game 6 Retrospect)
(Note, I'm listening to "No Hooks" by Shaquille O'Neal w/The RZA & Method Man as I post this. I originally typed this up late Thursday, but I sat on it in the oft chance that I may have changed some things. Which of course, I did.)
Come on, tell me I'm wrong. I dare you.
Tell me how much of a "hater" I am and I'll tell you what a fool you are for doing so. I'll laugh as I point out that the Cavs in two straight years have won 60 games, gone into the playoffs as the consensus pick to win the East and win it all, only to flame out in the Conference Finals and Semifinals (TWICE IN THREE YEARS NO LESS). Tell me that Cleveland's just fine and I'll tell you you're absolutely naive...or maybe you're Mike Brown, which might be one in the same. This team did something I don't think I've seen in all my years of watching basketball.
I'm going to do two things in just one column, well, make it three.
1) I'm going to put LeBron's performance Tuesday night into perspective and explain WHY as much as he has been pounded into the ground...he seriously deserves a break. Which leads me to...
2) I'm going to explain why win or lose tonight and in general the next 7 days or so, him leaving Cleveland is PARAMOUNT to any hopes he has of being successful.
3) I'm going to explain to any and every Boston fan why regardless of what happens tonight, the Celtics will win this series.
I hate to say I told ya so...well, okay. That's a lie. I LOVE doing that.
But ya know what? I'm laughing now that the folks at ESPNis are starting to acknowledge that maybe, just MAYBE LeBron is really LeHype after all. That perhaps, LeBron only looks really menacing, when the team he's facing isn't truly putting up a fight. Last year, against Orlando, they put up a fight and LeBron was sent home. The year before that, Boston sparked by three future HOFers who were deprived of their first ring...went all Super Twins and again, sent LBJ home. In 2007, after Detroit folded up shop way too soon, they ran into the Spurs who didn't forget LBJ posterizing the True F'N Franchise Tim Duncan. They were rolled up in 4 rather uneventful games. This Spring has been enlightening on multiple levels...let us count the ways...
The "Denver" Edition Of Len's 2nd Round Primer (Horribly Late, In Other Words)
What? Thought the second round would get underway without yours truly throwing his three bucks in?
Alright, a few quick things I took from the first round...
A) I like what the future holds for Oklahoma City. I do. I don't see this as a teaser, a one year bit where we're enticed with what's to come before they're back to Lotteryville next season. Kevin Durant is a perennial MVP candidate and he has a solid cast around him, that you figure Sam Presti will continue to build on. I gave them 6 because I felt they were young enough to get 2 from them (which they did) but in the end, the champs are just that for a reason. In the later rounds, they knew how to will their way through and that's exactly what they did.
B) I'm not sure who lit what fire underneath Orlando in that first round, but yeesh. Perhaps the Bobcats drew the single shortest straw they could've drawn in that first round. Perhaps if Larry Brown played Chandler more...no, wait. Dwight stayed in foul trouble, so that wouldn't have mattered anyway. Okay, perhaps if Jameer Nelson didn't have an out of body experience, it could've been a series. Either way you slice it, the Magic showed you why I see them winning the East for a second straight year. They are that deep and they are that angry over last year. Hell, they're probably angry over the fact folks are STILL looking past them to yet another L.A./Cleveland Finale.
"What are you screaming for? I haven't even cut you yet."
Since we're about two weeks out from the single most anticipated remake in the history of ever (IMO), I figured I'd kickstart my look out West with a quote from A Nightmare On Elm Street. Now yes, I get that Denver/Utah got started last night and as I type, Da Champs and those young Thundercats are going at it in Los Angeles. Still doesn't mean I can't give you my take on how this, arguably the toughest conference in all of sports (49 win teams need not apply here) could conceivably give us our first champion of the new decade.