A Quoteable Wrap-Up
A) The Magic, while being a very good team, did not have what the 2004 Pistons had going for it when they faced the Lakers this time. The Lakers then, had turmoil from within and were self-destructing. The Pistons were at the right place, at the right time. One shot deal, as evident by the fact that they only won ONE title. In spite of the fact that they returned the following year, they were not a better team than the Lakers.
While Orlando's style may have confounded Boston, Philly and Cleveland...none of them had Kobe and three seven footers in their frontcourt. When the bombs didn't go off for Orlando and their defense couldn't really do much with Kobe and folks...it was a wrap.
B) Kobe would not be denied. People saw once and for all, why Kobe's the best player in the Association until further notice. Kobe was set on winning it all and not having an oh-fer in the column in the 'Life Without Shaq' Finals category. There wasn't a man alive (Super or not), that was going to stop Black Mamba from striking early and often. I think once Orlando blew Game 2, they were out of it. Oh and for those who think it'd have been different had Cleveland made it, try something foreign and just THINK. Perhaps the Kobe/LBJ duel would've been great, but in the end, LA's supporting cast more than trumps Cleveland's. It's like having an Ace high to a Royal Flush. There's not enough bluffing in the world which changes the end result. So...
What now? Let's get with the significant moves that will alter the landscape and those which in retrospect...won't. Oh and since Sports Guy went all quotes with us, I'll try to do the same only from movies which folks know.
"It's all...part of the plan."
- This goes to the Spurs, getting rid of the old and bringing in the new with that Richard Jefferson deal. They lost to the Mavs because they had no third option beyond Duncan and Parker, that should not be an issue with the reasonably durable Richard Jefferson. Sure, it hurts to lose the defensive minded Bowen, but he was getting old and decrepit. The Spurs have traditionally been the only team man enough to stand up to the Lakers this decade. With the addition of RJ to an already proven nucleus, I like their odds of dethroning the Lakers next year.
"You know that one scene in The Wizard of Oz...when the flying monkeys pull apart the Scarecrow? That's what it was like."
- This comes from the movie, Step Brothers. Haven't seen it yet, but this just had me rolling. Know what move I'm linking towards this? The Houston Rockets' offseason. Let's see...
A) They lose T-Mac a little before the All-Star Break, have a great run thereafter sparked by Yao and Artest, leading an unheralded cast. They FINALLY GET OUT OF THE FIRST ROUND!!! But then...bit by bit, the limbs come off at an alarming rate.
B) Yao goes down with an ankle injury, sidelining him for the rest of the playoffs in the middle of their second round series against the Lakers.
C) Undeterred by this loss, the Rockets fight on to a Game 7 before being put out of their misery once and for all.
D) Yao's injury will cost him a lot longer than just the rest of the postseason, it will definitely cost him next year. Possibly longer than that.
E) They flip Ron Artest into Trevor Ariza. I know most are heralding this move as big, but I'm not for the following reasons.
- For starters, if you put Ariza in Artest's spot during the postseason, do the Rockets play Game 7? Or are they punched out in short order by Artest/Bryant and the Lakers?
- How can we be certain Ariza's legit? Did he just happen to have a hot stretch in the postseason as a precursor to making that "leap", or is he just an average guy getting a big payday? I'm more in line with the latter honestly.
So if you're a Rockets fan, you feel like you've been ripped to shreds in degrees. Your franchise center may never play again, he's definitely not playing next season. T-Mac has been a total nightmare, they made the second round almost in spite of him and honestly, I'm not sure what they do with him next season if ANYTHING. You're banking on Ariza to be more than what he may actually be...which is seriously pushing it. Face facts...the Rockets will probably not be back in the playoffs next season and probably won't be for some time.
"Shut up! Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?"
"No, no, I... don't..."
"Listen to me! You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you. He never wanted you. In all probability, he hates you. This is not the worst thing that can happen."
- I'm going to look at this in retrospect and think that I could've found something better. But a Summer from now, I think Cavalier fans will find themselves in this same boat as Tyler Durden. Hell, right now if you're a fan, you have to feel like you're being burned with lye. Follow me...
A) You're off to a hot start and have the opportunity to seize Shaq who's in the midst of an All-Star year. You could solidify your position within the East and going under the notion that the year plays out as it did...Shaq and LeBron trump anything in a seven game series. Especially a Shaq who's out to beat Kobe in the Finals and emphatically show, without Superman...you're not worth spit. All you have to do is cough up pocket lint, or the basketball equivalent thereof and he's yours.
Danny Ferry and Dan Gilbert, do not do it. Let me repeat this...one of the greatest bigs of all time can be yours for what's between your couch cushions and you don't do it? It'd be like if someone walked up to you, with the keys to a 2009 Dodge Charger and all they want are the hubcaps off your hoopty, why do you not do this?
B) Turns out, the Cavs weren't what everyone thought they were after all. (Ahem, everyone BUT ME, that is.) After the Pistons laid down and the Hawks were mercifully put down, they ran into a Magic team that had enough. They weren't good enough to be included in the "East Elite" convo that mainly centered around the Cavs and Celts all year long. Then, when Jameer went down for the year, they were really written off. Celts/Cavs in the East Finals, Cavs/Lakers in the Finals.
Guess the Magic didn't get that script, because they exposed Cleveland mightily. Cleveland wasn't big and definitely wasn't as deep as most "experts" led you to believe. Ya expose a team like Cleveland by putting them up against a team like Orlando and watch what happens. What happens is the Magic take any and every 3 that's given to them. What happens is the Magic get the Cavs to play their up-tempo game, which takes the score out of the 80s and into the high 90s, where the Cavs can't afford to keep up.
End of the day, LeBron walks off and Dwight Howard celebrates after his 40-20 game clinches a second Eastern Conference Championship for the Magic. Weeks after this, the Cavs make the move for Shaq and unfortunately, it's too little, too late. Virtually everyone worth a damn got better and even the Pistons got younger within the division, so Cleveland figures to have a fight on its hands to retain the Central next season. Meanwhile, Cleveland gets an even older center with a slightly better offensive game...but is still a liability at the stripe and in late game situations. So now, you're all in for one year. Do or die. Win a title or risk LeBron walking.
Oh and if the Cavs don't get it done next year, which they most likely won't and LeBron walks...here's the move which started the downward spiral for them. Oh and by the by, it's not even this deal that everyone's hailing like it's 2004. It's the big deal that broke up the 2007 Eastern Conference Champions, which sent Gooden and Hughes to Chicago for the Grandfather Clock known as Big Ben.
"The German will be sickened by us, the German will talk about us, and the German will fear us."
- I'm using this one for of all teams, the Celtics aka Inglorious Basterds. As if they weren't hated enough by most NBA fan nations, they went out and did the unthinkable...
They signed Rasheed Wallace. It has been a very crazy offseason for them after being demoralized by the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic in Game 7 of the East Semis. They shopped Rondo and Ray Ray, only to have the Pistons laugh at them horribly. (We later found out why, when they grabbed Charlie V and Commissioner Gordon.) Still, the Celts got deeper with the signing of Rasheed, ASSUMING we get the Rasheed who originally came to the Pistons and not the one who closed out Detroit's season with a flat out snooze fest in the first round (not like they had a chance in hell, but still, show some dignity). If this works out for Boston the way Moss worked out for the Patriots, the Celtics recapture the Eastern Conference. If it doesn't, well, it's anyone's guess who wins this conference.
Oh and by the by Danny Ainge, you may want to SERIOUSLY reconsider your stance on Glen Davis. With the realistic probability that Powe's gone, you need a young big to offset the age that Garnett and Sheed have together. Still, this is the deepest team in the Eastern Conference, quite possibly the Association if all breaks just right.
"No refunds, consider your refund escaping this death trap with your lives!"
- This goes to Ron Artest...who had to have seen the writing on the wall in Houston. No, I'm not talking about the morons who say that he wasn't wanted back there next season. That's bullshit. You remove Artest from this team and guess what? The Rockets would've been finished the second Yao was deemed DOA for the rest of the postseason. Now, Artest finds himself with the best chance he has at a ring since he left Indiana many moons ago. Houston, in no uncertain terms, will be the worst professional team in that city for the forseeable future. The Astros are showing remote signs of life and one of these days, the Texans will play a postseason game at Reliant Stadium.
So the age old adage of "if ya can't beat em', join em'" is alive and well. Ron has made (and lost) more than enough money in his career. He's 29, he's pining for a ring. Joining the Lakers solidifies their chances of repeating and gives Kobe his best "enforcer" since Shaq. The days of this team being called "soft" are done now. Ron's going to toughen things up in a hurry. But this reminds me...
"What is it that you do?"
"Obviously whatever it is that I do, I'm not doing enough of it, that's for damn sure!"
- This is definitely for the Magic as a WHOLE. Don't get me wrong, I like the deal to get Vince. It shored up an issue that DEFINITELY cost them in the Finals, something that nobody really exploited until that point. What made the Magic so tough last season was that their style was one thing, the size was something totally different. Now, with Hedo gone, they're just ordinary again. Yes, Vince adds a very viable third option, even a second if Rashard's having an off night. But unless they can find a big, lanky guy who can drain the outside shot during the regular season to fill Hedo's void...I don't like Orlando's odds of repeating as Eastern Conference Champs. I damn sure don't like their odds against whomever the West throws out (because with the moves made by nearly every major player out there, it's hard to call right now).
"For the entire Channel 4 news team, I'm Veronica Corningstone."
"And I'm Ron Burgandy. Go fuck yourself, San Diego."
- This priceless bit from Anchorman goes out to "What He-do" Turkoglu. Hedo, this is reality here. Actually, no, let me go Hubie Brown for a bit here.
You're Hedo Turkoglu. You're months removed from exorcising every possible demon from your Sacto past (except for the beating L.A. portion of it) and ya remade yourself into a reasonably good player on an exceptionally hot team. With the way the game's evolving, Orlando is the place to be. Young franchise big, great supporting cast, the works. So perhaps you see something better and that better be Portland. Now if you're a body looking to go somewhere to contend, Portland would be it. Hell, if the Blazers were in the East, they'd be champs of the conference within a year. Instead, you nearly sign a deal with the Blazers only to renig on it and sign with Toronto instead.
Alright, the Hubie portion of this is over. Actually, this one deserves a bonus quote from the same movie.
"It's so damn hot...milk was a bad choice."
Yes Hedo, it's hot and you chose Toronto Milk. That feeling of indigestion you're feeling or will be feeling, should hit ya right about the middle of February. About that time, Chris Bosh will be bidding the Raptors adieu, since he'd have to be absolutely moronic to resign with the Raptors. But yeah Hedo, you could've helped Orlando repeat as Conference Champs this year. But instead, you chose Toronto, where barring something absolutely freakish...they will be looking up at a double digit lead thanks to Boston before the close of 2009. This doesn't really help Toronto a great deal, especially in terms of helping them keep pace with Boston in the Atlantic.
"Mmmmm... I look good. I mean really good. Hey everyone come see how good I look."
- Another one from Anchorman (yeah, I love that movie) and this one is for ole Lamar Odom. He had two choices to go "back" this Summer. On one hand, he had an option to go "back" to Miami and reunite with Dwyane Castle. Or...he could stay with the Lakers and try to go back to back. In an unprecedented move, he chose to...stay where he was and go back to back. In doing this, the Lakers are as formidable a defending champion as you could have. He bolsters a bench that gave Orlando fits last season and will be just as fierce this year. That frontcourt can go as tall as Lamar, Andrew and Pau...which not many teams can keep up with.
Bottom line, sometimes it's retaining players that do more for you than going out and trying to GET players.
All in all, an interesting offseason. The Lakers at the moment, are probably the team to beat. Yeah, they lost Ariza. But they kept Odom and they got Artest. Kobe's going to be hungry to get his fifth ring and Lord of the Rings aka Phil Jackson, will look for one for his...toe? :P The Spurs should be up and around again, provided of course Parker's healthy by the start of the upcoming season. The Blazers with Andre Miller...eh...I dunno. They're the most dangerous young team with the most "upside" to make a leap into the upper echelon. With the Lakers and Spurs both aging, the top of that conference is ripe for a young takeover. The Hornets are going to be interesting with Emeka in place of Chandler. Yes, they lose size, but Okafor's durable and all but a guaranteed double double every night. The Mavs got older, making a similar Cavs move (basically, trades that would've been GREAT five or six years ago, but aren't going to shake anyone now). With the Rockets basically about to be totally dismantled (assuming Bill's favorite GM Daryl Morey deals T-Mack), we have a spot open at the table. My guess for who gets it?
The Clips. Stop laughing, I'm serious. With Griffin HEALTHY, this team when healthy, is one of the better young teams in the West. Telfair should learn how to play the point well under Ze Baron, Kaman and Kamby are formidable down low. It's honestly a good time to be a Clippers fan. Oh and for those of you that are honestly skeptical, look at the Arizona Cardinals and realize, there IS HOPE.
As for the East, it's down to virtually the same exact teams we talked about last year. Boston, is the favorite, provided they re-sign Davis. They MUST re-sign Big Baby. Orlando, will miss Hedo. Assuming Jameer stays healthy, I think the Alston deal will work out for them. Their move was about winning it all NOW and as such, Lee had to go. Cleveland...oy Cleveland. Way to blow it mega big time. If you made your "big move" a few months earlier, LBJ would've had his ring, extended his deal and would've started work on building a big dynasty in Cleveland. Instead, Cleveland sits and waits on a one in a hundred shot. Hoping the Big Aristotle has one last masterpiece in his body, that ends with a title. Miami's looking like its greatest team ever, will be the 2006 NBA Champions. I'm not sure how they're talking Wade into resigning, but eh. With Odom staying put, adding Boozer may not be enough to keep Wade. The Wizards added a couple of young pieces from Minnesota, in exchange for the 5th pick in an unimpressive draft...but I'm not sure if it's enough to even climb into the playoff mix. Detroit's younger, they should be better. Chicago's a team to watch, just to see if they make a move to get Bosh in season rather than wait for next Summer.
Bottom line, this will be a fun year to come. And you can quote me on that...
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