Tag Archives: Jameer Nelson

Eastern Conference Finals: Magically Delicious

lucky charms

Making predictions, breaking down the future and saying things like “this team is done” or “this team is unbeatable” have made a lot of very talented people a lot of money and has given a lot of less talented people a very fun pastime. And in a seven-and-a-half month season, culminating in a two-week NBA Finals, it’s only natural that we look ahead, throwing out bombastic statements, defending them to the death despite their conformation being months away.

But sometimes, we need to remember that the beauty of the game is the game itself, not the conversations around it. And no matter how logical that next step seems, when the basketball is actually played, we always run the risk of getting our socks knocked off.

So allow me to officially apologize to the Boston Celtics for counting them out.

I had plenty of good reasons. The shaky bench. The old age. The effort that just wasn’t their any more. The presence of two (seemingly) far superior teams within their conference

None of it mattered.

None of it mattered because the one, biggest, baddest reason as to why the Boston Celtics were finished turned out to be untrue. For 15 months, it had seemed that Kevin Garnett would never be capable of playing at the level Boston needs to make substantial Playoff noise. And yet, against many people’s (including yours truly’s) favorite for the NBA title, Garnett finally reminded us why he deserved this place in this list , why he is an all-time great even though he was plagued by various Troy Hudsons in his starting line up, and why, when discussing a player of his caliber, you can never count him out until he finally hangs them up.

Overreaction? Tell that to Antawn Jamison. You can probably find him weeping in the corner.

Garnett looked like the KG of old, torching whoever guarded him (though, to be fair, Mike Brown could have been putting random people from the crowd on him and it wouldn’t have been as bad as guarding him with Shaq), consistently banging home that mid-range shot and showing that he is still more than good enough to orchestrate a dominant defense. Throughout the series, Garnett averaged 19 and 8 on 52% shooting – pretty similar to his regular season numbers in 2008 (18 and 9 on 54%). That is nothing near his all-world numbers from earlier in the decade, but it’s just what Boston needed — at just the right time. And that’s before factoring in his effect on defense.

As for the rest of those problems?

Tony Allen played the James Posey offensive spark/defensive stopper role, and combined with Glen Davis’ hustle and Rasheed Wallace coming back to life, the bench wasn’t a concern. Ray Allen continues to ignore the hints he gets from his odometer, Paul Pierce shook off a bad offensive start to the series and came up big in games 5 and 6, while acting as the primary defender on a certain someone whom I shall not name (he’s been named enough already, and if I eventually address his performance this series, it will be a long, thought out process, not half-heartedly thrown-out statements that take the limelight away from the teams who have earned it). And the effort? Apparently, they were just saving that for the postseason. As much as I don’t believe in flipping the switch, Boston proved that they have the championship pedigree needed to do so.

And above all, the masterful Rajon Rondo keeps on blossoming before our eyes, extending the “best PG in the world?!” discussion to, at the very least, a four-man race.

I apologize for focusing so much on the series preceding the one I should be talking about – and, yes, I’ll get to Orlando/Boston in a minute – but this can’t be reiterated enough. Because while the result of Boston’s six-game win over Cleveland was largely attributed to the fallacies of the losing squad (specifically those of a certain someone whom I still shall not name) this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Boston won this. Fair and square. And if their form from the first half of Game 1, Game 2 and Game 4 through Game 6 carries on to this series, they have a heck of a chance to make it back to the NBA Finals.

Of course, to do so, they must stop the team that has been playing the best basketball in the league for quite a while.

For months now, several voices have been ignoring the Magic, giving reasons such as “they’re not as good without Hedo” or “they rely too much on Vince Carter,” while people who actually watched the games half-groaned, half-cried: “Hedo wasn’t that good! They don’t need that much from Vince! STOP IGNORING JAMEER NELSON!!!”

Amazingly, their voices remain unheard in certain circles for reasons I cannot explain. While the Magic’s 8-0 run in the postseason so far is somewhat tarnished by the teams they met – both of which seemed quite content with playing the doormat – it still takes a very good team to capitalize on those “just-happy-to-be-here” feelings. Even though the Hawks’ second-round performance was as apathetic as they come, this was the East’s third-best team. And yet, they were obliterated completely, each and every strength nullified, each and every weakness exposed.

No, don’t let the “we just beat the number one overall seed” hype fool you: these Magic are favorites. And while this series is a whole lot closer than it seemed a few weeks ago, we must still remember that even though Boston’s defense seems to be returning to near-2008 levels, Orlando has been playing a similarly elite defense for two straight years, now — along with far superior offense. In fact, throughout this postseason, the Magic have been number one in both offensive efficiency (a ridiculous 116 points per 100 possessions, which is a full 2.8 points more than the Suns) and defensive efficiency (94.6, which is 2.7 points less than the Celtics).

Then again, these Celtics don’t really give a damn about favorites. That should give us a great match-up in and of itself — a match-up enhanced by the fact that, to my eyes, each team’s weakness is pretty ably countered by the other team’s strengths.

Boston struggles against young, athletic teams? Well, the Magic have their share of oldies, but they don’t get much more athletic than Dwight Howard. With Jameer and Jason Williams running the show, Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus and the still-athletic-when-he-wants-to Vince running the wings, and an abundance of three-point shooters trailing, this team should be able to run as much as it wants. Heck, we might even see some Brandon Bass.

The Magic’s weakest positions defensively are point guard and power forward? Well, those two positions are manned by Boston’s two best players, if the Cleveland series is any indication.

Boston has a bench full of question marks? The Magic go a legit 11 deep.

Dwight Howard’s offensive game still tends to be inconsistent (though it’s much, much better than the rep it gets)? Kendrick Perkins is the best Dwight-stopper in the league.

It goes on and on.

And there are so many x-factors. There literally isn’t a single player in the starting lineups that won’t have a crucial role in this series.

For the Celtics: Rondo will have to get to the paint, draw fouls on Dwight, create shots for his teammates, and basically carry Boston’s sometimes struggling offense through those sometimes struggly stretches, while trying to stop the scorching Nelson; Allen and Pierce will be counted on to make shots, whether by creating for themselves and trying – sorry if I sound like a broken record here – to draw fouls on Dwight (mostly Pierce) or by making spot-up outside shots (Ray); KG will need to exploit Rashard Lewis like he exploited Jamison; and Perkins? Well, Perkins is up against Dwight. Good luck with that.

For Orlando: Jameer will have to keep up his ridiculous play, breaking down the Boston defense and generally being unstopable; Vince will have to make sure Pierce doesn’t find a rhythm while fitting in to the offense, scoring when he is needed and deferring when he isn’t; Barnes will need to run through screens after Ray Allen; Lewis will have to make weakside threes and maybe even, god forbid, drive to the hoop against Garnett should he be able to force him out; and Dwight will have to stay out of foul trouble to anchor the defense, while still posing a strong enough offensive threat to shrink in the Boston defense, and maybe even getting Perkins and Garnett into some foul trouble of their own.

And those are just the starters. The series could eventually be decided by the benches or by the coaches or by the refs (hate to bring them up, but this has become an increasingly important factor with Dwight). Anything can happen. Everybody is important.

Which is why I think the Magic win.

When considering everything and anything, they just have more. They are deeper. They are younger. They are healthier. They are just as good, if not better, on defense. They are way better on offense. They have the better coach. They have home-court advantage.

The Celtics made everybody – including me – look like idiots after handing it to the Cavs. They sure could do it again. The difference is that this time, they aren’t facing a team on the brink of a mental meltdown. They are facing the defending Eastern Conference champion. They are facing a team that is playing better basketball — better than last season’s Magic and better than this season’s Celtics.

Magic in 7

Hawks vs. Magic: There Is Always Hope

banksy girl heart hope

I love the Hawks. Love, love, love, love, love, love, love ‘em. I want to write sonnets to them on a breezy day as I sit in the grass with a bottle of Shiraz. I want to take them to the state fair and win them giant stuffed tigers. I want to meet their dads. I want to surprise them with breakfast in bed on their birthday with their favorite meal of eggs over medium, grapefruit and blueberry pancakes.

But they can’t win this series. They just can’t. It’s a terrible match-up for them.

When trying to evaluate how a Playoff series will transpire, I’m not really into the whole “so-and-so beat so-and-so in the regular season” thing. And neither should you be. There are way too many variables — injuries, road trips, back-to-backs, the general malaise of the 82-game schedule — to take any of that very seriously. A seven-game Playoff series is a whole different animal. There are no surprises after Game 1, and anything a team does will be figured out and adjusted to by the other team. (Unless, ya know, Vinny Del Negro or Isiah Thomas is coaching.)

Still, the degree to which the Magic stole the Hawks’ lunch money this year can’t be ignored.

November 26, 2009 – Orlando 93, Atlanta 76
January 9, 2010 – Orlando 113, Atlanta 81
January 30, 2010 – Orlando 104, Atlanta 86

To their credit, the Hawks did manage to take the last regular season match-up in late March, winning an odd, dramatic, 86-84 affair in the ATL when Josh Smith’s walk-off tip dunk overshadowed a huge shot by Vince Carter on the other end just seconds earlier. For Atlanta, that was a really big, confidence-inspiring win against a division rival. For Orlando, it was first time they had lost to this so-called “rival” in their previous seven outings.

It isn’t so much the scores that make this year’s games meaningful as it is simply how much the Magic dominated every facet of these games. The under-sized Hawks just have no answer for Dwight Howard (as much as I love Zaza Pachulia) and, even when he’s not scoring, his mere presence allows his teammates to score that much easier. Sure, this is true against all teams, but it’s all that much more pronounced against this particular team. And defensively, Superman disrupts everything the smaller, less athletic front line of the Hawks do well.

It’s strange for Josh Smith to find himself out-classed in the springs, quickness and strength departments, but Howard has him trumped in just about everything. Put it this way, Smoove was hands-down the second-best defender in the league this year, in part due to him just being a man among boys nearly every time he took the court. There wasn’t anyone within miles of him. Now take that distance, triple it and that’s how much further ahead Dwight is than him in everything he does at an elite level (including, perhaps, three-point shooting).

Al Horford will also likely struggle. Atlanta doesn’t run much offense through their center, instead letting Horford score by out-quicking his opponent to the bucket on cuts, quick drives and putbacks. Understandably, he has found it difficult to do any of those things against Dwight. Though the differences are not enormous, he has shot fewer times, scored less and rebounded less against the Magic this year than he did against the rest of the league. And with a ramped-up Howard who is — rhetorically — ready to stop committing so many silly fouls and keep himself in the game now that the nuisance of playing the Bobcats is behind him, don’t expect a lot of easy looks for Horford.

Much more importantly, the entire Magic team just plays good defense (third best in the league). They’re very hard to score against. And while the Hawks are the second-best offensive team in the league and, thus, will be able to score in bunches, they will not be able to execute as well as normal in this series. Especially not late. “Iso Joe” isn’t going to cut it down in Disney World, guys. How many big shots do we really expect Joe and Jamal to hit going rover? What else are they going to do? Go to Marvin Williams in the post? Pick and roll with Joe and Josh? I just don’t see enough end-of-game offense on this team. I mean, they often struggled to score on key possessions against the Bogut-less Bucks. Are they really going to come up with something that works against the Dwight-full Magic?

On the other hand, on the other end, the Magic (the fourth best offensive team in the league) will be able to score.

Early and often.

Jameer Nelson, in particular, has been playing inspired ball so far this postseason, eating Raymond Felton’s soul over and over again in the previous series. With two 32-point games under his belt and shooting percentages of 48.4% from the floor and 42.9% from three, don’t expect Mike Bibby to slow his roll much. Jamal Crawford neither. And it’s not like Mike Woodson can slide Joe Johnson over to check Jameer without leaving Vince Carter free to erupt.

Meanwhile, Rashard Lewis, even if he doesn’t play great individually, will be drawing Josh Smith out of the paint, negating at least some of the time he can spend intimidating on the interior. Throw in the fact that the Hawks like to switch everything, and there will be a lot of mismatches where Josh is nowhere near the paint. And if he’s out of the way, look for guys like Jameer, Vince, Mikael Pietrus (expected to play tonight), Matt Barnes and even JJ Redick to get to the hoop.

Speaking of that huge list of capable perimeter players (plus let’s not forget Ryan Anderson, Marcin Gortat and Brandon Bass on the interior), Orlando’s depth should be the final death blow. While I love their recently crowned — and deservedly so — Sixth Man of the Year, the Hawks don’t have much on the bench besides him and Zaza (sorry, Jeff Teague and Mo Evans). Good luck to Atlanta if ever Horford or Smoove get in foul trouble.

Add all this up, and it’s just really hard to see the Magic doing anything in this match-up other than brushing the dirt off their shoulder and then sitting around, waiting to see how much Boston can wear down the Cavs before the inevitable Eastern Conference Finals we’ve all (except for Mo Williams) been waiting for commences.

Thanks for this season, ATL, but, unfortunately, this is where we have to part ways.

I’ll always remember you.

Magic in 6.

The NBA Logo Ranking Project:
#23 – Golden State Warriors

When you think of a “warrior,” an image of a Blue Man Group-looking dude on steroids holding a thunderbolt is conjured up in your mind, right? Wait, you’re actually picturing Kevin Costner wearing bear skin garments holding a spear? Sick bastard.

I get it, the dude is supposed to be a warrior wielding a thunderbolt. And since I didn’t read comic books, the only guy I know who threw thunderbolts was Zeus. And Zeus was just a big ol’ whore … which I guess is fitting since both the Warriors and Too $hort represent Oakland.

But Blue Man Warrior isn’t prepared to throw the thunderbolt down from the heavens as Zeus did. No, he looks like he’s about to shank someone in the shower.

Then you have the Eyes Wide Shut mask. Boy, the artist really has a thing for Greek mythology/Stanley Kubrick flick carnal undertones. He or she probably nicknamed the rendered character Fidelio and spanks it to creepy piano music.

Which brings me to another issue. Dude has his shirt off. How many warriors go to war without protecting their vital organs? None that I know. Brendan Haywood would probably call this warrior a regular Stephon Marbury.

Yep, the Golden State Warriors logo pretty much sucks. And if you were wondering … yes, I think I can do better. I’m talking neon-colored arm tassels people. But hey, I guess the current version is better than the smiling, basketball-dribbling Native American that the franchise first used as a logo when it was in Philadelphia.

Kyle Weidie runs the Wizards blog Truth About It and has also written on the NBA for Bullets Forever. He can tell you in vivid detail what’s so fun about Tom Gugliotta and his favorite beverage is Tuff Juice.

warriors logo

What exactly was wrong with this logo? Or the RUN-TMC uniforms? Someone might have overthought this whole thing.

Supercool Beas and Back Tats

I’m not really up with the tattooing trends of today, but it’s beginning to seem that “giving yourself a tagline across your shoulder blades where your name would go on a jersey” is the new “giving yourself a tagline across your stomach like Pac and Nas.”

Logistically, it makes sense. There’s more space, so you have a few more characters to work with.

Michael Beasley is the lastest addition to the club and his is particularly interesting in that he paid homage to the Nas’ “God’s Son” belly tat but relocated the words to a trapezius canvas. (via Red’s Army)

beasley-back-tat

Much like Tupac’s “Thug Life” piece (and, later, Nas’ “God Son”) popularized the stomach tat trend, 50′s “South Side” (of Jamaica, Queens) piece probably helped spur this new phenomenon.

50 cent tattoo

LeBron probably has the most famous one (via Slam). Unrelatedly, I saw the theatrical trailer for More Than a Game, the upcoming documentary about his Akron, Ohio, high school basketball team, last night prior to The Hurt Locker (which was excellent). It looks really, really good.

lebron chosen 1

Meanwhile, Bron’s “arch-rival” Deshawn Stevenson got one of his own. (via DC Sports Bog)

deshawn-tat

This isn’t a real tattoo, but Sideshow Varejao poked some fun at his teammate one day during practice. (via Shaver Sports)

varejao chosen 2

Jameer Nelson has embraced his inner Tupac.

jameer nelson tattoo

Brendon Jennings is similarly repping a Lil Wayne slogan.

brandon jennings tattoo 2

Vince Young isn’t in the NBA, but he does have his name on his back.

vince young tattoo

Some Chinese Olympic badminton player named Cai Yun is the “Face of Adversity.”

chinese olympics tattoo

Not a Lot of Dave Coulier Fans in Orlando

Skeets found a good video today where about half of the players on the Magic fail to identify the theme song to Full House. In their defense, most of them do actually know the song, but can’t come up with the show title.

One of them does eventually get it right, however. I’m not gonna spoil it for you, but it may or may not have been JJ Redick. I know, I was shocked, too. Courtney Lee almost had it though.