May 30, 2010

World Cup Bound: U.S. Tops Turkey 2-1 In Send Off Series Finale

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(Philadelphia, PA) - Despite a slow first half the U.S. National Soccer Team defeated Turkey 2-1 in their final international friendly on Saturday afternoon. This was the final match before the squad heads to South Africa for this summer's World Cup and the first since the final 23-man roster was set on Wednesday.

A crowd of just under 68,000 filled Lincoln Financial Field with the raucous intensity the team expects to see in South Africa. Coming into the match the U.S. was 4-1 in their final friendly before a World Cup.

Turkey struck first in the 27th minute as midfielder Arda Turan broke off a mis directed run by American Jonathan Spector a connected on a shot that evaded the charging U.S. goalie Tim Howard.

Despite failing to qualify for this summer's World Cup the Turks did start most of their international squad and pressured the U.S. National Team for most of the first half. Howard faced many rushes and lucked out on a missed shot by Tuncay Sanli just before the 45th minute to keep the lead at one going into half.

After some roster shuffling by U.S. head coach Bob Bradley the team responded. In the 46th minute. Bradley  subbed in Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo, José Francisco Torres and Robbie Findley to help the team spread the field.

The move worked as the newly inserted Findley connected with Landon Donovan at around the 15-meter line to set up the first goal. Donovan triggered a strike into Turkeys defense crossing up Turkish goaltender Volkan Demirel and sent a soft pass to U.S's Jozy Altidore for the equalizer.

Both teams pressured and had opportunities but incredible showings by both goaltenders kept the match close. It wasn't until the 75th that the U.S. took the edge as midfielder Clint Dempsey connected on a cross from Donovan to give the team the 2-1 lead.

Donovan was the all-star for the U.S. squad way beyond his two assists. Donovan connected on several set positions and corner kicks that could have seen the back of the net.

The U.S has one more tune-up match before the start of the World Cup on June 11th. They will face Australia on June 5th in Roodepoort, South Africa.

The first official match for the U.S. squad will take place on June 12th as they take on heavily favored England at Royal Bafokeng Stadium. The match can be seen live on ABC at 2:30 ET.
Scoring Totals:

United States:
- Jozy Altidore (59)
- Clint Dempsey (75)
-Arda Turan (27)
Yellow Cards:

United States-
Ricardo Clark (41)

Turkey- Mehmet Topal (57), Gokhan Zon (90)

May 22, 2010

2010 NBA Mock Draft Version 1.0 (3-of-3)

This is part three of my three part NBA Mock Draft. 

First before I begin giving you my first draft of the 2010 NBA Mock Draft season I want to preface this by saying I made the picks I did with the assumption that a few free agents are leaving their respected team and certain I feel are remaining. I think that D-Wade is staying in Miami, LeBron is leaving, Chris Bosh will no longer be a Raptor and Joe Johnson is exiting the way of Mike Woodson. I preface this by saying that if you don't agree I am sorry but I guess we won't know the true validity of the free agent market till July, 9th.

I made my picks based on need, availability and a large amount of common sense. Despite the rumors and theories John Wall is going to be the second pick and if the Sixers don't take Evan Turner with the second pick I might jump off a bridge... That being said I present you part 3-of-3 of the Mock Draft 1.0.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Larry Sanders (PF/C) VCU
This kid is the biggest anomaly of the draft. He is so unique because of his skills set he could go anywhere between a top 10 pick to the second round. Truth is he has so much upside but just as much unknown. I think he would be a great fit for the Thunder as it would be a step up to Nenad Kristic at center but also could help them pound with the bigs when Serge Ibaka becomes the full time starter in OKC.

22. Portland Trailblazers: Solomon Alabi (C) Florida St.
I always feel bad for the Blazers. They will always have to deal with the Sam Bowie / MJ comparisons and now as Kevin Durant ascends to the pantheon they will now always be the Greg Oden people. Facts are Oden is one more disappointment from being a complete bust and the only other option this team has was Joel Przybilla and with him entering his 10 season the Blazers need to start thinking about getting someone young.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves: Stanley Robinson (PF) UConn
This is third pick for the T-Wolves and with the first two I gave them SF help so I think that with this draft being so deep as the forward position why not another. Basically if Robinson is here they will take him because I think he is the best talent as trade bait. If hes the pick hell never wear the uniform. This kid was a under shadowed talent at UConn but I commend him for graduating and I think that he will become a useful role player for a team. Think Juwan Howard.

24. Atlanta Hawks: Eric Bledsoe (SG) Kentucky
If Joe Johnson leaves this team will be in desperate need of guard help. Bledsoe was over shadowed by John Wall but I think given the chance he could be a great combo guard, specifically for the Hawks. The Hawks have max money and if they decide the can keep Joe Johnson then Bledsoe could be groomed into the PG of the future for when Mike Bibby retires.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Elliott Williams (SG) Memphis
I know what your saying, The one thing Memphis has is guards, and you right. Just like with the T-Wolves, I dont expect them to keep all three picks. If this pick is not traded then the player chosen will be. But he was my highest player left on my list and I don't see him fitting with any other team with the last five picks.

                                          26. Oklahoma City Thunder: Willie Warren (PG/SG) Oklahoma
Great in state talent as well as a good kid overall. Who knows how long they will be able to keep Russell Westbrook in town and Warren could learn a lot in this system. We saw how successful James Harden was this year and I think the same thing could happen for Willie. The Thunder are excelling with picking up unknown talents and I think this may be another case.
27. New Jersey Nets: Paul George (SF) Fresno St.
This kid has great range and has been praised as amazing coach-able, which is a huge selling point for the Nets. Hes quick off the dribble and in workouts this week was described as NBA range when it came to his shooting. The Nets will take a big man at the third spot and try to deepen themselves with this pick.

28. Memphis Grizzlie: Dominique Jones (PG) South Florida 
This kid is a great leader and has smart court sense. The Grizzlies are deep at SG but with a young PG and the right coaching it could completely change their offensive strategy (which is deeply needed). He is a bit of a project but has the potential to be a leader.

29. Orlando Magic: Quiny Pondexter (SF) Washington
Not that the Magic need help as the SF position with Pietrus and Barnes Pondexter can also play SG when needed. He is a hard worker and I think Stan would really like this kid. He wont have pressure to start and could learn much from a good group of veterans.

30. Washington Wizards: Kevin Seraphin (C) France
The Wizards need help EVERYWHERE and I think that Seraphin would be a good pick for this team. He is registered as a C but I think that in the pro game he will fit more in with a team as a PF. Either way this kid has size and quickness. I don't know if he will come over right away but with the last pick in the first round its not a huge loss. The Wizards will need a few years to turn it around in the first place.

So there it is ladies and gents... my 2010 NBA Mock Draft. I expect it to go through some changes before the 24th but I think it a solid selection of the talent that's available.

Love it or hate it, I would love to hear your comments.


May 21, 2010

2010 NBA Mock Draft Version 1.0 (2-of-3)

This is part two of my three part NBA Mock Draft. 

(First before I begin giving you my first draft of the 2010 NBA Mock Draft season I want to preface this by saying I made the picks I did with the assumption that a few free agents are leaving their respected team and certain I feel are remaining. I think that D-Wade is staying in Miami, LeBron is leaving, Chris Bosh will no longer be a Raptor and Joe Johnson is exiting the way of Mike Woodson. I preface this by saying that if you don't agree I am sorry but I guess we won't know the true validity of the free agent market till July, 9th. I made my picks based on need, availability and a large amount of common sense. That being said I present you part 2-of-3 of the Mock Draft 1.0.)

Just as last year was the year of the guard this year is a chance for many clubs to replenish their rosters will high quality SF and PF and a fair mix of hybrid guys that can score as a PF but the size of a center...

11. New Orleans Hornets: Donatas Motiejunas (PF/C) Lithuania
It didn't take long  but with the 11th pick I expect the Hornets to take the best international available in this years draft. He is a Andrea Bargnani type talent but has been criticized as a little un-focused, I notch that up to being the best player in a league and not caring. Either way I think he could immediately help a Hornets teams that is in a bit of disarray.

12. Memphis Grizzlies: Patrick Patterson (PF) Kentucky
 The Grizzlies have three first round picks so if they don't make a move to get higher I think Patterson is a good fit for Memphis. He is one of the more experienced PF in this draft and would fit well in Lionel Hollins system, plus Patterson is versatile enough to fit on the court with either Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph.

13. Toronto Raptors: Daniel Orton (PF/C) Kentucky
Another Wildcat comes off the board with this pick and I think Orton is a security pick for Toronto is Chis Bosh leaves. Hopefully is Bosh decides to exit he will make it better for Toronto in a sign and trade but if he gets out of dodge and leaves the Raptors high and dry Orton might help patch a small part of the wound.

14. Houston Rockets: Hassan Whiteside (PF/C) Marshall
Another security pick here for the Rockets. No one is really sure what Yao Ming will play like when he comes back and with Houston brass assuring fans that Luis Scola will return next year Whiteside would be a smart choice. The Rockets have max money this summer but they only have two names on their radar (Amare or Bosh). Chances are they wont get either so like many teams security in the draft is the most reassuring thing.

15. Milwaukee Bucks: Avery Bradley (SG) Texas
The Bucks got a lot of miles out of John Salmons and benefited from his production as the biggest upstart in the Eastern Conference. With Michael Redd coming off a season of injuries the multi-talented Bradley is a good pick from a team looking to get younger and quicker. A young backcourt of Jennings and Bradley could solidify a team that needs to start looking towards their promising future.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gordon Hayward (SF) Butler
Minnesota has three of the first twenty-three picks in the draft so if anyone is making a move its them. Hayward made a name for himself in Butlers improbable run towards the national title. He averaged 15 points and 8 boards in the tournament and is a solid three point threat. He won't be a starter right away but think of him as a younger Jason Kapono just a little smaller. Definitely a point of improvement for the T-Wolves.

17. Chicago Bulls: Damion James (SF) Texas
I think that James is a smart move here as a security if the LeBron rumors done come true. The team still has faith in Luol Deng but you could see in the playoffs that after a few games of overplaying he became gassed quickly. James can step in and play immediately and will work well with Taj Gibson when he slides to the 2.

(Its sad that its going to take this long for a senior to come off the board but with everyone worried about next years CBA this draft is flooded with underclassmen.)

18. Miami Heat: James Anderson (SG) Oklahoma St.
This was a toughest pick because this was the 4th or 5th place I think Anderson could go. Hes talented (22.3 ppg) and could play SF is needed. He is also the best player as a D-Wade insurance policy (besides Evan Turner). If the rumors are true and Pat Riley is returning to the sidelines then Anderson could be groomed into an elite player and one of this drafts biggest steal. He has the Andre Iguodala potential but with less pressure.

19. Boston Celtics: Xavier Henry (SG) Kansas
With the unknown future of Ray Allen in Boston and the fact that Michael Finley is not a long term solution Henry could be the player with the best chance to success immediately. Last season he hit 41% from beyond the arch and could be a big part of the long term Celtics success. He will have his growing pains because much of his negative attention is about his attitude. The Celtics have had this issue before and look where that got them... Rajon Rondo.

20. San Antonio Spurs: Luke Babbitt (SF) Nevada
Just as they did with George Hill and his growth as the PG of the future and the steal of the draft in DeJuan Blair as the PF of the future, Babbitt could be the SF of the future for the Spurs. Who knows how long Richard Jefferson will stay in town and its a good idea to get a young talent in the mix before Jefferson's skills diminish.

Well that's part two of Mock Draft 1.0... I appreciate the comments so drop me
a line...


May 20, 2010

2010 NBA Mock Draft Version 1.0 (1-of-3)

This is part one of my three part NBA Mock Draft. 

First before I begin giving you my first draft of the 2010 NBA Mock Draft season I want to preface this by saying I made the picks I did with the assumption that a few free agents are leaving their respected team and certain I feel are remaining. I think that D-Wade is staying in Miami, LeBron is leaving, Chris Bosh will no longer be a Raptor and Joe Johnson is exiting the way of Mike Woodson. I preface this by saying that if you don't agree I am sorry but I guess we won't know the true validity of the free agent market till July, 9th.

I made my picks based on need, availability and a large amount of common sense. Despite the rumors and theories John Wall is going to be the second pick and if the Sixers don't take Evan Turner with the second pick I might jump off a bridge... That being said I present you part 1-of-3 of the Mock Draft 1.0.

1. Washington Wizards: John Wall (PG) Kentucky 
This pick was a no brain-er even before the Wizards won the lottery. Wall has the most hype and potential out of this draft. This is a good fit for the Wizards because it will allow the reinstated Gilbert Arenas to move to the SG position, which is his natural fit. This team has the money to take on a max contract so with Wall and Arenas in the backcourt expect them to make a move after a PF or PF/C combo.

2. Philadelphia 76ers: Evan Turner (SG) Ohio State
This is the smartest pick for the lowly Sixers. The team has no many multiples in the front court and having the chance to take Turner at the second pick is a gift to the Sixers who went a dismal 27-55 last year. Turner is a all around talent, and will make a strong asset to a team that needs a fresh start. The Sixers will get a back court of the future with Turner and last years first round pick Jrue Holiday. 

3. N.J. Nets: Derrick Favors (PF) Georgia Tech
Nets majority Mikhail Prokhorov took over with a grand plan in his first night as Nets gm: Take John Wall with the first pick, steal LeBron James in free agency and instantly turn around the Nets. Problem is in the last five years the worst team in the league has not won the lottery. With all of that in the past I expect the Nets to take the young and talented Favors. It has been made clear that Prokhorov does not plan on keep Yi Jianlian so expect Favors to slide into the starting PF position quickly.

  4. Minnesota Timberwolves: Wesley Johnson (SF) Syracuse. Johnson averaged 16 points a game last season and will fit in nicely with a Timberwolves team that is still rebuilding. Yes I know he is pretty much a Ryan Gomes replica but that will add some stability to a team that is lacking a deep bench. Plus Johnson can slide into the 4 when Kevin Love needs a break. Be advised I would not be surprised if the T-Wolves went with a center in this pick. (DeMarcus Cousins is option 2).
5. Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins (PF/C) Kentucky
The Kings need help in the low post and Cousins would be a great fit. The Kings would be better then they finished last season is Spencer Hawes wasn't injured. Cousins and his 6'11 frame will add some stability in the low post and allow Carl Landry to move to SF.

6. Golden State Warriors: Al-Farouq Aminu (PF) Wake Forest
At 6'8 with a seven foot wing span Aminu could really help the young fast Warriors. He used to playing in a run and gun offense and could balance well with SF Corey Maggette. The Warriors were a -10 rebounding next season and Aminu can crash the boards. Many have compared him to Josh Smith and I agree. He is a hybrid forward that plays beyond his size.

7. Detroit Pistons: Ekpe Udoh (C) Baylor
Ben Wallace is old and Kwame Brown is garbage so taking a center at the seven slot is the easiest pick since Evan Turner. Udoh will be an immediate starter and will allow Jonas Jerebko to move out of the paint and take more outside shots. This will be an immediate upgrade for Detroit. This is a SG heavy draft so expect that Pistons to take one with their second round pick (26 overall).

8. L.A. Clippers: Cole Aldrich (PF/C) Kansas
Aldrich won't start seeing as the Clippers are expecting a rookie of the year season for Blake Griffin but expect the 6'11 Aldrich so get plenty of time off the bench. The reason I took Aldrich here is because I think he could be a top 5 selection. Don't be shocked if the Clippers take a SG but I think they like the insurance policy Aldrich can give them is Blake Griffin becomes the next Greg Oden.

9.  Utah Jazz: Greg Monroe (PF) Georgetown
This is one of those picks that I mentioned in the preface. Monroe is a project player but may be a safe bet for the Jazz is Carlos Boozer opts out next year. Hes a smaller Lamar Odom type but with the right coaching could become a strong utility starter in the league. John Thompson produces quality Big Men and Monroe may be the next product to take over that crown.

10. Indiana Pacers: Ed Davis (PF) North Carolina
I really felt bad for the Pacers at the draft lottery. Danny Granger looked so stoked to be at the lottery but looked like someone shot his dog when the 10 pick came up. The Pacers have many needs and I don't think Tyler Hansbrough will ever be an NBA talent. In Davis the Pacers will get a true North Carolina PF and someone that will give Troy Murphy a rest when needed. Plus I think I speak for all NBA fans in saying the Pacers need to stop taking white guys, T.J. Ford looks like hes constantly being audited. 

Picks 11-20 to come tomorrow, just a hint: 9-of-10 will be forward hybrids... 
Let the scrutiny begin.


Sixers are real winners in draft lottery

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The top story surrounding the recent NBA draft lottery has been the unlikely selection of the Washington Wizards with the top pick, and the subsequent fall of the NJ Nets to the third selection. This ongoing drama has stolen the water cooler action among many NBA fans, but the true winner of the draft may have been the Philadelphia 76ers.

Coming into Tuesday's lottery the Sixers had a 5.3% chance of receiving the top slot and were expected to go somewhere between the sixth or seventh pick. As the choices fell and teams received their picks the Sixers, somehow in a chance of fait, were chosen to take the second pick of the upcoming draft (June 24, 7p.m. ESPN). For many reasons this was even better for the team then somehow receiving the top slot.

The Sixers, looking to show a sign of their future, sent rookie point guard Jrue Holiday as their representative in the draft. Holiday was the teams first round pick in 2009 and is one of the glimmers of hope for a team that finished last season at a dismal 27-55.

As the picks fell and ESPN flashed to a shot of Kentucky freshman John Wall, the discussion among the media was how he would fit in each of the top three teams (Washington, Philadelphia, N.J). As this discussion went on none was more nervous of Wall's selection then Jrue Holiday.

If the Sixers somehow received the top pick they would have been expected and even pressured to take the 6'4 Kentucky guard John Wall. As soon as NBA assistant commissioner Adam Silver announced the Sixers won the second pick you saw a rush of relief roll over the face of Jure Holiday.

As much of a sign of relief it was really a sign of job security as the second pick would give the team the opportunity to take Ohio State shooting guard Evan Turner, a pick that would give the Sixers a back court to grow with. Holiday looked elated as the fact that his job may have become the most secure within the organization.

Turner was last seasons NCAA player of the year and is, in many opinions, the top player in this year’s draft. At a slender 6'7 210lbs Turner has been compared to Portland Trailblazers Brandon Roy. Roy was the 2007 rookie of the year and the major reason the Blazers made the playoffs this season.

The draft will commence five weeks from today and if all pieces fall into place the Sixers may finally have a combo of young players to look forward to. This is an easy decision for the Sixers and with this pick could make the teams ongoing coaching search more appealing to possible suitors.

Only time will tell but with the ongoing success of the Flyers and the Phillies season well under way the Sixers finally have a point of discussion in the Philadelphia sports scene.

NBA Draft Lottery Selection:

1. Washington Wizards
2. Philadelphia 76ers
3. New Jersey Nets
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
5. Sacramento Kings
6. Golden State Warriors
7. Detroit Pistons
8. L.A. Clippers
9. Utah Jazz (from the Knicks)
10. Indiana Pacers
11. New Orleans Hornets
12. Memphis Grizzlies
13. Toronto Raptors
14. Houston Rockets

May 19, 2010

NBA Draft Lottery and Turn(er)ing the Page

Going into tonight's NBA Draft Lottery many people in and around the league thought that it was only a matter of destiny that the hapless N.J Nets would receive the top pick, and doing so take Kentucky PG John Wall. Those dreams and futures were set aside as the Washington Wizards grabbed the top spot in the upcoming NBA Draft (6/24 7 p.m. ESPN) giving them the rights to take the consensus number 1 pick.

With the Wizards making the top pick shock and the Nets slipping down to 3 the story of the Sixers draft was quickly pushed under the rug. Philadelphia had a 5.3% chance of receiving the top pick but lucked out in having their card pulled second giving the team the chance to select what many feel may actually be the best player in this years draft, Ohio State SG Evan Turner.

Like most I sat in my home waiting to see where my team fell. The first few picks went as expected and I was content with the fact that the Sixers would fall somewhere between 5-7 giving them a chance to take a developmental player like Cole Aldrich or Al-Farouq Aminu, a PF of the future to take over when the Elton Brand saga finally ends. The seventh pick came and went as I was sure that the Sixers would be next, yet as the names kept coming (Detroit, Golden State, Sacramento) I began to think in my head... wow maybe we can get a top 3. I frantically started thinking over the prospects and imagining what players like DeMarcus Cousins could do for this team and then the commercial break came and I looked at my t.v. ...

Like the scene out of rocky IV when Drago says to Stallone "I must break you" I gazed into the eyes of the Nets Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov and saw how nervous he was. Then I looked into the face of Abe Pollin's widow Irene and thought about what a top pick would mean for not only her but the Wizards franchise. And finally I looked at the face of Sixers rookie Jrue Holiday and above them all he seemed the most nervous and scared. Holiday, last years 17th pick, is one of the only glimmers of hope for the Sixers and at the point the team was sitting with a 1/3 chance of HAVING to pick another PG.

After the break I was glued... Pick 3 - N.J. Nets... THIS GUY IS PISSED... the dreams of John Wall, Jay-Z and LeBron in Brooklyn are now gone and good for us, LeBron doesn't deserve a fairy tale. Also I thought about how they might be screwed because picks 3-5 are mostly big men and centers and that is one of the only things that is going right for the Nets right now.

I veered over at Jrue Holiday... he's sweating... He sees his job and future flash before his eyes and then it was time for the second pick. It's like it all went in slow-mo, Adam Silver, like a bald Moby designed god announces... The Second Pick Will Be Made By The Philadelphia 76ers. WOOOOO.

This was a huge moment for not only fans of the Sixers but more importantly Jrue Holiday, you saw a wave of calm wash over his face as he realized that his job is pretty much the only safe one on this team. I mean I am very happy for Washington and I think that Wall will be a quality player for their team and with Arenas back next season it will work out amazingly well for them but the first pick was not something the Sixers needed or truthfully wanted.

There are good and bad things coming out of the Sixers number 2 pick that I feel may still hold them back from righting this ship.

1. This is a great chance for the Sixers to set up a back court of the future with Holiday at the PG and Turner at the SG. I feel that both of them are young and coach-able talents that could work well depending on the new coach.

2. Having the second pick makes the coaching position seem more intriguing for potential suitors. You give yourself a young nucleus and the feeling that there is no pressure to win right away. The Sixers could potentially have a strong lineup next season and with the contracts that will come off the books after next season it could be a great chance for a young coach to build a team from the ground up.

3. The second pick does give Ed Stefanski some job security, this is a no brainier pick and this is a decision he cant possibly mess up. If this turns out well and the team improves he will skate by and run this team for as long as Ed Synder's NHL playoff boner lasts. Hell if the Flyers win the Cup Snyder might just give the team away cause god knows the Flyers are like two wins away from giving the Sixers the Clippers syndrome (... for those of you that don't know this philosophy, The Clippers share the Staples Center with the Lakers and the building has purple seats and a locker room that doubles the Clippers) basically they will become the permanent CSN bastard child, but that's all for another day.

4. Drafting Turner will finally give the Sixers the leverage to part ways with Iggy. With a young back court of Turner and Holiday it would move Andre to the 3 spot, a position they drafted Thad Young for, who frankly fits better. If this team is going to ever rebuild, which this would allow them to do, parting ways with Iguodala (or at least not resigning him) is the smart thing to do. I think about drafting Tuner and I think that for once Iggy is not needed and as a fan that is a HUGE sign of relief.

By The Way: Just as a side note, after the lottery I spent 45 minutes on Chad Fords NBA Draft Lottery Machine (not once did the Sixers move out of either the 6th or 7th pick). And every time I tried again they seemed to always select Cole Aldrich.

I will be posting a mock draft tomorrow, its late and the Giants went 12 innings so i'm tired.

Sixers Fans... Just a taste of what we have to look forward to.

Youtube Courtesy of EHK246

- b chan

May 3, 2010

NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Semifinals #2

After a mildly surprising result of the Dallas v. San Antonio match-up we have our second round bout set between the veteran savvy Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs. I know I picked Dallas to be in the match-up but so did 99% of the NBA writers in the league so I don't feel so bad about my pick.

Matchup #2: #3 Phoenix Suns v. #7 San Antonio Spurs

Both of these teams are full of veteran and playoff experienced players and that will be the factor in making this series not only long lasting but memorable.  The Suns were beaten by Spurs in the semifinals in 2007 and lost in the opening round in 2008 and this will be the ninth overall meeting between the two franchises. San Antonio does have the advantage winning the last four post season matchups between the two clubs but this years Phoenix team is quite different and much more balancaed then their squad in the last two years.

As much as we talk about the Steve Nash empire that is the Phoenix Suns the two time league MVP will not be the deciding factor if the Suns are going to make it to the Western Conference finals. We all know that Nash will get his 15 assists and knock down nearly everything from the line and the Spurs know this. The key to their seasons hopes will be Amare Stoudamire. The mildly bi-polar power forward will be put to his ultimate test as he will be put in one-on-one situations against "The Big Fundamental" Tim Duncan. San Antonio has owned the Suns because of Amare inability to get anything productive done against Duncan. Amare has the size and ability to get into the lane and make plays but Duncan has mastered all of his tricks and will do so again in this series.

Now I know I said Steve Nash wont be the biggest factor because he will be schooling the young Spurs point guard George Hill for most the of series. Hill has been affective since taking over the starting role from Tony Parker but his talent is going to be tested against a veteran like Nash.

With Duncan getting the nod when it comes to low post and Nash getting the pick when it comes to the offensive side there will be many intangialbe that will make this series very interesting. Jason Richardson has been on fire as of late averaging a double-double in their opening round series against the Blazers but it has to be noted that Portland was playing depleated in the opening round and his totals will be less when he will be one-on-one against Manu Ginobili.

I also think that the Suns have a distinct advantage when it comes to the reserve situation. The Suns "second team" as they like to be called is a highly productive and sound group of young players and guys like Goran Dragic and Lou Amundson are just years from being the next class of players set to run this team. They are efficient and give their starters ample time for rest which will be key. The Spurs are thin off the bench with Tony Parker and DeJuan Blair touting the prime minutes of the bench. So like I said in the opening round, if San Antonio makes it past this round it will be on the back of Tim Duncan and only Tim Duncan.  

Prediction: If Tim Duncan controls the tempo, Spurs in 6.


May 1, 2010

NBA Playoffs: Western Conference Semifinals #1

OK so I went 3-1 in my opening round match-ups but I have to say I think my Thunder prediction was right on. Last nights game was insane and if it wasn't for a misplay on defense allowing Pau Gasol to float in the lane uncontested we could be talking about a game 7 in LA. But that's all in the past so lets look at the next round of the 2009-10 NBA Playoffs.

Matchup 1: #1 L.A. Lakers v. #5 Utah Jazz.

I among many NBA writers out there felt this match up was going to happen and I even predicted the resilience of the Utah Jazz. If a team has ever advanced on intangibles its this Utah Jazz team. They are the most resilient team in the league and pushed themselves every minute to get into this match up.  The tandem of Boozer and Williams was spot on last series but they are coming in taking on the defending NBA champs which could make (and will make) for a tougher upset then what they had against the gassed Denver Nuggets.

#1 L.A. Lakers- Don't take the Thunder series as a sign of weakness for L.A.. Every team in the Western Conference playoffs won 50+ games this season and from 1-8 each team had a chance to make it to the finals. The Thunder were a budding superpower with all the hype and expectations we gave them and lived up to them pushing the aging Lakers to the brink of an almost unbelievable upset in round 1. Letting that all sit in the past the Lakers did show us many things in the last series that will be very important in round 2.

Andrew Bynum is back and his injuries seem to be behind him. Bynum averaged 12 points and 9 boards against OKC and battled a much younger team that was dominant on offensive boards. He looked fresh and will be expected to work the low post as Carlos Boozers' shadow in the semis, and as much as I think Boozer has the advantage against Bynum, with Pau Gasol lurking in the low post for much of the game I think Bynum will have another productive round.

The Lakers bench has been mildly productive so far with Lamar Odom settling back into his role as the 6th man quite well making the most of his time on the court. Also I was surprised to see how effective Shannon Brown was in a series I thought he would be way to over sized. He only averaged around 15-20 minutes a game but was affective with 6.2 ppg. Brown caused trouble with his ability to drive into the lane and get to the line when the starters were resting converting on 10-14 Ft. (.714).

You cant talk about the Lakers without talking about Kobe. Bryant was his old self on offense, even though at times he did seem a little slow, but with a team that was an average on 8 years younger then him that was to be expected. Bryant played some relentless defense and was able to neutralize potential all-star Russell Westbrook. The good thing about the next series is that other then Deron Williams there is no real number one shooting threat for the Jazz and most of the series Ron Artest will be guarding Williams so expect Kobe to make plays in space to help his team against the Jazz.

#5 Utah Jazz: No real upset with them taking down the Denver Nuggets, they played well against them using their speed and not so surprising efficiency to take down a team in Denver that played without motivation. I think we all saw that the series was going to be over once Nene went down and the Jazz acted accordingly dismantling Denver in game 6.

You knew what Utah was bringing with Deron William and Carlos Boozer but I think coming into the opening round many people were unsure how they would react without Andrei Kirilenko or Mehmet Okur. Carlos Boozer is a low post threat but he is not a center type asset, hes a pure PF and did an excellent job working in the low post.

Who can honestly tell me they knew anything about Kyrylo Fesenko before this series started. I know the guy only played like 18 minutes a game but for an unknown he was mildly affective.

I think Paul Millsap had a bit of a disappointing series and if the Jazz are going to make it any further then the second round Millsap is going to need to step up his game and become more affective down low. He average 17pts and 9 boards a game but that will be depleted when he has to play against seven footer Pau Gasol. Not to mention, at times, work one-on-one against either Ron Artest or  Andrew Bynum. 

The Matchup:
For the average NBA fan you know who Deron Williams is, and that he is an undersized yet overachieving superstar. In this series you won't be disappointed as D. Will will show you that every game. The duo of  Carlos Boozer and Williams will make this match-up tough but they need to capitalize on a few things if they have a chance to take down the defending champs.

L.A. just finished a tough series and Utah needs to come at them quickly to wear the Lakers down. We saw with OKC that Kobe is not the best when defending a quick point guard off the dribble so expect to see Deron Williams pressuring Kobe in the lanes and going to the line. If he can do this, and get players like Paul Millsap and Wesley Matthews involved then the Jazz could win a few games... notice I said only a few games.

Utah was impressive against Denver but the Lakers are a lot different from the Nuggets. The Lakers are the deepest, strongest and most experienced team in the league and have a little too much to throw at the Jazz to make this a balanced contest. I expect to see players like Lamar Odom  having another strong series. He will play extended minutes and face many mismatches when it comes to both teams resting their starters, and lets be honest most of Utah doesn't deserve to start, so when their "bench" is on the court the Lakers will pick them apart. Odom has the size and speed to control the post when Boozer is resting and if he is on the court with either Artest or Bynum then the Lakers points-in-the-paint will be astronomical.

I wish I could say Utah has a shot but the Lakers are destined for the Finals and we all know it.

Result: Lakers in 5-or-6 depending on if Utah wins game 1.