Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lessons Learned

We apologize for the brief hiatus, but the home offices of Daily Onions were recently moved so we've been spending lots of time getting organized and readjusted to the new digs. Oh yeah, we are now under the same roof as the First Lady, so we may have potential posts coming about that new and exciting experience as well.

Let's get down to basketball business now though. We all know about the Twelve Days of Christmas, but we've recently had the first Twelve Days of the NBA playoffs. To be honest, thanks to the quality of the majority of the games, its pretty much been like Christmas for NBA fans. Over that time, we've learned a lot about some teams, players, and other things associated with the Association. In no particular order, here are some lessons learned in the first twelve days of the NBA playoffs.

Durant has been taking over 4th quarters
1. Closers: Over the past two weeks, we've seen a passing of the torch for the best closers in the game go from Kobe, D-Wade, Melo and Lebron (how'd that name get on there??), to Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant. The Bulls might have closed out the Pacers in five games, but they got all they could handle in four of those games. Needing to come back from fourth quarter deficits in three of their victories, it was Derrick Rose that put the Bulls team squarely on his shoulders, and took over down the stretch. What do you need...floater in the lane, a three, a block on the defensive end, a layup in traffic....doesn't matter, Rose has got you covered. The only thing Rose hasn't done, is figured out how to wake up Carlos Boozer. That might be the toughest challenge he faces, but one of the most important things that need to happen for the Bulls to make a run to the Finals.

And then there is Kevin Durant. He took a huge leap this summer as the leader of the USA team that won the World Championships. He was the man on that team, and everyone expected big things from him all season long, especially after he led the league in scoring last year. A sluggish start and the emergence of Russel Westbrook might have had a few NBA folks forgetting about K-D. Well, not the case anymore. In the five game series against the Nuggets, Durant went for 41 twice, and in the close-out game, he scored 16 of the team's last 20 points to erase a 9-point deficit with 3:30 to play. Oh, and Mr. Westbrook, there is no reason for you to take 30 shots in a game.

2. NBA Basketball in NYC is Back....? Basically someone threw the question mark at the end of the sentence, like they threw a question mark at the end of "I'm Ron Burgandy...?" I don't think anyone expected the Knicks to win a playoff series this year (trade or no trade), but I also don't think anyone expected the Knicks to get swept in the first round of the playoffs either. A few quick thoughts on the Knicks, which we will expand more on tomorrow in a special new feature on Daily Onions (the suspense..stay tuned): Not sure they have the right guy in place on the sidelines for this team. You have two big chips in place with Melo and Amare, as well as some good young role players in Tony "Bologna" Douglass and Landry "Lance" Fields (and Andy Rautins...go Cuse!). You need someone to make that all work, to define some roles, to get the team playing together on both sides of the floor. Also having better players than Roger Mason Jr., Shawne Williams and Jared Jeffries would help as well. One final thought here - do we know how much of each paycheck D'Antoni gives to Steve Nash for helping make his NBA coaching career? Just wondering.

3. Young and Fun - A phrase that was once used to describe the t-shirts I wore in high school, this can now describe the youth movement in the NBA with teams like Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, with a little bit of Indiana, New Orleans and Memphis thrown in there. I said it last week and I'll say it again, Oklahoma City might be one of the most likable teams in the NBA (minus the scariest guy in the league in Kendrick Perkins). They have fun, they like each other, they play hard, and they've embraced the city and community of OKC as much as the community has embraced the team. Good story all around. The Sixers, led by crafty veteran coach Dougie Collins, have a good core group of young players in Jrue Holiday, Thad Young, Lou Williams (who has been in the league 6 years, but is only 24) and Evan Turner (still not totally sold). The biggest question for the Sixers is what they do with Iggy in the offseason. Last summer on the USA team, he showed he is the perfect #3 guy on a team - can score a bit, lockdown defender, athletic as heck, and can fill up the stat sheet. What he's not, is a guy that should have the ball in his hands at the end of the game. Sixers should try and move him this summer (assuming there is no lockout) to try and bring in some reinforcements in the middle. All things considered, very impressed with what the Sixers and Dougie accomplished this season.

CP3 messed around and got a triple-double against Kobe & Co. (Getty)
4. Health and Happiness - Not only is this the favorite toast of Daily Onions reader, Ramy, but it also describes Chris Paul. If he is totally healthy, the basketball world is happy - minus the guy trying to guard him. What he's been doing against the Lakers is quite impressive. At 100%, I think I'm taking Paul as my point guard right now. But not sure he can put together an entire season on that knee, trying to lead a team all by himself. It will be interesting to see if he stays in NOLA or heads elsewhere to team-up with a few other superstars. Either way, let's hope the knee holds up because I'd like to see a few more triple-doubles from CP3 in the future. Speaking of knees, hello Brandon Roy. The guy goes from 8 minutes and one field goal attempt in Game 2, to saving the Blazers season in Game 4 with his take over in the fourth quarter. He only had eight points in Game 5, so which Roy shows up in the elimination game tonight?

5. On the Tube - I'm officially moving the broadcast team of Marv Albert and Steve Kerr to the number two spot on my current favorites list (they are behind the Big Monday crew of McDonough, Raftery and Bilas - good luck trying to remove them from the top spot). With the classic sound of Albert, accompanied by the knowledge and wits of Kerr, they've been a great duo to listen to throughout the playoffs thus far. Not high on my list are the local broadcast team feeds that NBAtv has been using. Brevin Knight and Sean Elliott just aren't doing it for me. At least give me some Stacy King with his "hot sauce", "too big, too strong, too fast, too good" and "Big Sexy" (nickname for Kurt Thomas) if you are going to go local.

Speaking of the coverage, I have never watched an episode of Bones or Charmed in my life, but I have seen the final few minutes of Bones probably a couple hundred times. Tuning in to catch the beginning of the coverage on TNT, I am usually a few minutes early, so I get to see the awkward sexual tension scene between Bones (is Bones the girl or the guy, or neither?) and the other person (I don't know who's who!). Have they gotten together yet? Also, who knew that Charmed was on every morning at 7 am on TNT. Actually, I did, because that's what channel my TV ends the majority of most nights on during the month of April and May.

6. Final Random Thoughts - How many people ordered a customized Gary Neal jersey on last night? Could you pick Gary Neal out of a lineup?.......Throw the Pacers into the mix of East teams that will fight for the 6-10 spots in the Eastern conference with teams like the Sixers, the Bucks, the Knicks, the Hawks, etc for the next few years. Lots of young talent on the team, and Vogel's got them playing hard........The Chris Bosh Face is one of my least favorite things of the NBA playoffs. Carlos Boozer's constant yelling when he misses a shot, turns it over, or thinks he got fouled is probably my second least favorite thing of the NBA playoffs..........I love this commercial..........If Orlando doesn't comeback to win this series, how many games does Dwight Howard have left in a Magic jersey, 0, 40, 90?........Last but not least, remember the Celtics? The defending Eastern Conference Champions that looked like crap at the end of is regular season? Well, they seemed to work some things out in their first round series against the Knicks. Granted, they were lucky to win games 1 and 2, but the Celts pretty much owned NY at the Garden. Christmas come early for all of us now, Celtics and Heat in Round 2.

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