And So It Begins ……….. The NBA Playoffs Are Here …….

And So It Begins ……….. The NBA Playoffs Are Here …….

The NBA postseason is almost upon us and the first round of games beginning this upcoming Saturday the 16th April . But on a side note it cannot have escaped the latest incident whereby NBA Commissioner David Stern had to impose a severe $100,000 fine on the Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant for using a derogatory homophobic term towards a referee during the Lakers’ game against the San Antonio Spurs . I’ve always felt that far too many of today’s athletes are nothing more than a bunch of entitled primadona self absorbed idiots who think themselves above the law and above the rules that govern their game ! Bryant seems to be no different and his less than contrite apology speaks volumes as to the player’s immaturity at this juncture .

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The Lakers’ season has now become all the more tenuous when it was announced that their center Andrew Bynum has a recurring knee injury that could very well sideline him for initial part of the first round of these playoffs. A match-up against the New Orleand Hornets has all the semblance of a potential upset if the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t fully prepared for their task against the Chris Paul and David West led Hornets . This will be a match-up of styles and though many feel that the Lakers are the more athletic of the two teams I personally believe that the Lakers’ Achilles’ heel is that their bench lacks real depth ! The likes of Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff on paper may well look impressive but in actuality , do they actually strike fear into anyone much less you as a fan ? Admittedly , the Lakers may well this season’s potential Sixth Man of the Year in Lamar Odom but beyond that the roster in terms of its bench has nothing . The team’s greatest strength is that of their duo Pau Gasol and Bryant himself who leads the team in scoring .

Courtesy of NBA.com

NBA fines Kobe $100,000 for apparent slur toward ref

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 on Wednesday for using a derogatory gay term in frustration over a referee’s call.

NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a swift disciplinary ruling after the Los Angeles Lakers’ five-time NBA champion guard cursed and used the homophobic slur when referee Bennie Adams called a technical foul on him Tuesday night in the third quarter of a victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

“Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable,” Stern said. “While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. … Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.”

Stern’s action drew praise from gay-rights organizations that had demanded a fuller apology from Bryant and condemnation of his words by the Lakers. Bryant, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying his words came strictly out of anger and shouldn’t be taken literally.

“We applaud Commissioner Stern and the NBA for not only fining Bryant but for recognizing that slurs and derogatory comments have no place on the basketball court or in society at large,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said. “We hope such swift and decisive action will send a strong and universal message that this kind of hateful outburst is simply inexcusable no matter what the context.”

Bryant’s words and actions were captured by TNT’s cameras during the network’s national broadcast of the Lakers’ regular-season home finale.

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A patron (JW aka Dubs) of my site had posed the question to me who amongst the teams in the Western Conference would simply be good enough to derail the hopes of the Lakers in the off-season ? My response to him ___ was , that should the Lakers and Spurs meet in the conference finals it would not be beyond the realms of possibility to see the Lakers succumb to Gregg Popovich coached Spurs . The equalizing factor may well be the two head coaches in Phil Jackson and Popovich who between them have won nine of the last fifteen NBA titles since 1996 . If that’s not accounting for the dominance of these two coaches and their respective teams , someone needs to explain to me what is.

The seedings within the Western Conference has worked itself out coming into the last week of the regular season schedule with the San Antonio Spurs sewing up the number one seed followed by the Lakers , Dallas Mavericks , Oklahoma City Thunder , Denver Nuggets , Portland Trailblazers , New Orleans Hornets and finally the Memphis Grizzlies .

The Eastern Conference played itself out with the Chicago Bulls taking the number one overall seed much to the surprise of many who may well have felt that Tom Thibodeau’s young team led by MVP candidate Derrick Rose weren’t yet ready to be viewed amongst the elite teams within the conference. Instead we had the inconsistency shown by the Celtics , Heat and Magic all thought to be potential leading candidates for the conference’s number one seed. But the inconsistency shown by those trio of teams over the course of the season opened the door for the Chicago Bulls their successful regular season.

Rose for his part ably abetted by Luol Deng , Joakim Noah , Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer have all played their part resurrecting the fortunes of the ball-club from those lofty days when Phil Jackson was the coach and Michael Jordan was leading the organization to their numerous triumphs . The question now being asked by the faithful Bulls’ fans who’ve attended the home games at the United Center is whether or not this team is actually capable of winning this season’s NBA title. This postseason may well go a long way in answering those questions and a great deal more not only about the Chicago Bulls also as to the aspirations of several other teams within the Eastern Conference. Undoubtedly the coaching acumen of Tom Thibodeau as coach of the Bulls has to be admired and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him being rewarded with the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award as he’d be thoroughly deserving of the award !

It goes without saying that while the Miami Heat were obviously viewed as the prohibitive favorites within the Eastern Conference merely because of the Pat Riley off-season engineered moves amongst the free agents on the market _____ many felt that the Heat would walk away with the conference. You even had the asinine notion being raised by none other than former coach Jeff Van Gundy and former Knicks’ point guard Mark Jackson that this incarnation of the Miami Heat would be able to challenge the Bulls’ single season record of 72 wins . In essence both Jackson and Van Gundy were enamored with style over substance rather than what was tangible and in front of their very eyes. And hence ,it’s one of the primary reasons why I tend not to take anything that they have to say about the NBA with any sense of intelligence. Because it’s as if duo had a man crush on LeBron James and this team rather than looking at their body of work over the course of the season . Gullible and unintelligent would simply sum up their knowledge and the asinine prognostications that they’ve made about this team and what they thought was actually possible.

Now while I believe that the Heat stands as good a chance as any of the deemed favorites within the Eastern Conference , I firmly believe that if they’re to prevail then the play of their main trio of James , Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will have to be at a heightened level with the role players on this roster also stepping up their game . If they’re able to do that then it’s my belief that they can prevail within the conference but given the relative postseason inexperience of the team’s coach Erik Spoelstra it could well be that in part that they will struggle along the way as the team’s postseason efforts evolve. My firm opinion is that the top four seeds within the Eastern Conference will be the conference semi finalists and that the match-ups there will go along way in suggesting who we are likely to see in the conference finals .

If there is to be a surprise to be had in the first round of this season’s playoffs I do believe that it could come at the hands if the New York Knicks pushing the Boston Celtics for all their worth. And though this Knicks’ team leaves a great deal to be desired in terms of their defensive efforts there’s no denying that offensively they can stand toe to toe with just about any high scoring team left in these playoffs. GM Donnie Walsh in acquring Amar’e Stoudemire , Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups made sure that the team was at least capable of competing but there’s little to suggest that there’s now that consistency sought to actually make that one big push in the postseason. But herein lies the caveat once the postseason comes around everything indeed appears to be on a level playing home field advantage or not , and I do believe that both Anthony and Stoudemire wish to prove the team’s doubters wrong.

The Boston Celtics with a mix of some youth and veteran experience seem to relish the postseason and in Doc Rivers they have a coach who knows how to coax the best out of his players. But as I’ve repeatedly said to a number of patrons who’ve proffered an opinion on the team , it’s my belief that GM Danny Ainge made a profound mistake trading both Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson and getting very little in return. The duo of Perkins and Robinson were two of the unsung heroes on this roster . Unfortunately, they have an aging pair of seemingly unproductive players in Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal whom I believe will offer very little beyond their experience in the league. I know Shaq has five rings to his name but in reality after his decade and a half in the NBA, he’s no longer the once potent offsensive player he once was. And to my mind Jermaine O’Neal is literally robbing the Celtics blind while offering little in return !

Now while I’m really looking forward to the postseason it goes without saying that what I truly do hope to see are some very competitive series that are adjudicated by the officials with a great deal of impartiality and sound judgment rather than the usual quantity of blown calls and rather insidious wish of theirs to place themselves in the midst of a series, as if they’re indeed part of an ensemble cast. I’ve always felt that a great game is one where you see very little of the officials and more of the players exhibiting their skills and athleticism ! More often than not once the NBA postseason comes around you tend to see little of the latter and more of the referees interjecting themselves into a game or series for all of the wrong reasons that in the end tends to create more controversy than there really needs to be.

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thoughts if any do you have on this upcoming postseason and what if any are you really looking forward to seeing in terms of the teams playing ? Simply chime in with a comment on your thoughts on the NBA postseason . As a bye note are you also in agreement with the fine imposed on Kobe Bryant after his display , pointed and heated comments at a referee during the Lakers’ game against the Spurs ? Once again do leave a comment concerning that incident also.

Alan aka tophatal …………….

https://tophatal.wordpress.com/

Picture and slide show details below .
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(1) Sacramento Kings fan Ralph Miller IV, 9, holds a sign conveying his sentiments during the Sacramento Kings NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 13, 2011. The Maloof family, majority owners of the Kings, are expected to go to New York later this week to ask the NBA permission to move the team to Anaheim. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli ………………

(2) (L-R) Tiago Splitter(22), George Hill (3) , Chris Quinn (11) , Steve Novak(23) , and Gary Neal(14) of the San Antonio Spurs look on against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California . NBAE/Getty Images/ Andrew D Bernstein ….

(3) Andrew Bynum (17) of the Los Angeles Lakers grimaces after an injury against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images / Harry How ……….

(4) 12: Kobe Bryant(24) of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots as he is defended by Tiago Splitter(22) and Richard Jefferson(24) of the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California . Getty Images/ Harry How …….

(5) CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 13: of the Chicago Bulls of the New Jersey Nets at the United Center on April 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Nets 97-92 . Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images ……

(6) Carlos Boozer(5) of the Chicago Bulls is called for charging as he hits Dan Gadzuric(50) of the New Jersey Nets at the United Center on April 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois . Getty Images/ Johnathan Daniels ……..

(7) ‘The Three Stooges’ Jeff Van Gundy, right, appears comfortable with his broadcast partners Mark Jackson, left, and Mike Breen. Breen says of Van Gundy, “He’s even smiling sometimes.” . I’m not so sure that the trio mightn’t be the worse on air analysts covering the NBA either on broadcast or cable network today ! What they believe they provide in , insight , is simply dulled by their ineptitude and stupidity with the belief that they’re also funny ! Courtesy of ESPN / Scott Clarke …….

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(1) Chicago Bulls …. vs …. (8) Indiana Pacers

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You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks ………….. But Can Someone Teach The Knicks How To Win ?

You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks ………….. But Can Someone Teach The Knicks How To Win ?

With the vast majority of the teams now within the NBA having but a mere 12 games left before the culmination of the regular season a number of the teams in question are looking to make that final push to place themselves within the playoff picture. That may well be all well and good but there are some teams thought to be certainties who are now turning their runs into something of an unmitigated disaster. I’ve simply looked at the New York Knicks since the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony and Lord knows as bad as this team was before the trade they’re simply appear to be getting worse by the very second . This team is now two games under .500 and in their last 10 games they’ve posted an abysmal 3-7 record . How anyone can believe that this Mike D’Antoni coached team can actually do something within the playoffs is beyond me.

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I know the saying is ………..”God don’t like ugly ” but truth be known I think that God would want to bitch slap the Knicks back into last week if not further back that’s for sure ! Anthony as much as he’s said to have contributed to the team and the excitement at Madison Square Gardens I am now beginning to think that GM Donnie Walsh may not have made a blundering mistake but I do believe that he gave up way to much for a play whose game is so one dimensional . Apart from Anthony you now have a player in Amar’e Stoudemire whose early season performances may well have seen him viewed as a viable candidate for the league MVP this season . Unfortunately with the Knicks’ play having fallen off …… literally off side of a cliff I’m not so sure that the NBA writers around the league will still look upon his candidacy as a viable one.

Though I do believe that the New York Knicks will indeed make the playoffs that’s if the remainder of their season doesn’t implode I can’t see them being beyond a 5th or 6th seed within the Eastern Conference . They’ve simply not played consistently enough over their last dozen or more games to be even considered legitimate contenders within their division much less the conference. Ahead of them in the standings within the conference are Chicago Bulls , Boston Celtics , Miami Heat , Orlando Magic , Atlanta Hawks , Philadelphia 76ers with the Knicks , themselves holding down the seventh seed in the standings followed by the eighth seeded Indiana Pacers over whom the Knicks hold a 3 1/2 game lead.

That cushion should afford the New York Knicks to comfortably play themselves back into some semblance of consistency but the team’s inherent problems stems from the fact that defensively they just leave a great deal to be desired , it has and will always be their Achilles’ heel and lead to their inevitable downfall . And it is one of things that I continually find annoying about Mike DAntoni as a coach as he seemingly refuses to address the situation as to his team’s lack of defensive capability. He simply seems to remain under the impression that the team can outscore an opponent at will and that is clearly not the case given their 7-3 record over their last ten games.

The one great advantage perhaps that the team has is that in Anthony and Stoudemire they do have two prodigious scorers and with Stoudemire’s rebounding prowess on both ends of the floor it gives them somewhat an evenness and sense of fluidity. But herein lies the caveat to this team it doesn’t help if no one else is prepared to pick up the slack as and when needed. And while the fans seem to be in awe of the Knicks’ alleged relevance once again within the NBA , it could become something of a short-lived renaissance should they not even have a comfortable run in the playoffs. Doubt my word , wait watch and see if it doesn’t all pan out as I envisage it will ?

One of the more surprising stories of the season I feel within the Eastern Conference apart from the Chicago Bulls and the play in particular of Derrick Rose has been the mini resurgence of the Philadelphia 76ers ( 76Eers ) who are now coached Doug Collins . Who knew that there’d be an life after the abrupt retirement of Allen Iverson from the organization ? President & CEO Ed Snider along with GM Rod Thorn , his Exec VP Ed Stefanski and Manager Tony DiLeo seem to have lifted this team out of the rubble after its implosion last season when the team finished with a 27-55 record within the Eastern Conference . This season the Sixers will exceed that mark having already posted their thirty fourth win of season and they now sit at 2 games over .500 with a 37-34 mark within the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference .

Much of the team’s improvement this season rests squarely with Doug Collins and is coaching staff where he’s ably assisted by lead assistant Michael Curry . But it has also been the veteran leadership now being shown by Elton Brand in leading this young roster and we’re now beginning to see Andre Iguodala finally flourish and actually show some of that potential that many have felt that he long had. But if anything it has been a collective effort by the team as a whole where they now sit in their present position of being the sixth seed in the East and where there’s a growing confidence amongst the younger players such as Jrue Holiday , Marreese Speights and their rookie first round draft pick Evan Turner who’s showing the promise first on view as a member of Thad Matta’s 2010 Ohio State Buckeyes team .

From my own perspective I can’t see the Sixers going deep into the playoffs should they still retain their seeding up until the culmination of the regular season . A potential first round match-up against the LeBron James led Miami Heat may well have the smell of an upset but unless the Heat come out ice cold then I can’t see the Sixers parlaying that first round series into an outright upset ! And even though I have my own doubts about the Miami Heat I for one can’t see James , or Erik Spoelstra , much less Heat team President Pat Riley letting that scenario rear its ugly head at the AA Arena at the beginning of that series. If that were to happen then the Heat would be booed out of the arena by their very own fans and they’d be ridiculed for such an inept display were they to lose the series.

Now as the regular season winds down it’s going to be interesting to see how the fates pan out for both the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers . One on appearance seems to have over achieved whereas the other seems to be unsure as to its immediate future in terms of its play , goals and expectations. This much is certain failure for the Knicks and they’re still going to be thought of as the NBA’s answer to the New York Mets ……….. just a bunch money laden wannabes ! Both organizations’ only real claim to success has been to boast about their history rather than anything that they’ve achieved in recent years . Can't really put it anymore succinctly than that !

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

What thought if any do you have as to the postseason for either the Knicks and Sixers ? And what expectations do you have as to that of the other prospective teams vying for a playoff spot ? Simply chime in with your thoughts on this and any other topic as it relates to the NBA .

Alan aka tophatal ……………………

https://tophatal.wordpress.com ……….

Picture and slide show details below .
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(1) New York Yankees’ Bernie Williams performs the national anthem before the New York Knicks play the Orlando Magic in an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, in New York. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II …..

(2) Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard (12) loses control as he drives past New York Knicks’ Chauncey Billups (4) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, in New York. Howard scored 33 points as the Magic won the game 111-99 . AP Photo/Frank Franklin II ………….

(3) New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, right, shoots over Orlando Magic’s Quentin Richardson (partially obscured) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, in New York. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II ……….

(4) New York Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire (1) drives past Orlando Magic’s Ryan Anderson (33) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II …………

(5) Philadelphia 76ers’ Thaddeus Young, right, reaches for a rebound against Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Smith in the half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2011, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 105-100 . AP Photo/Matt Slocum ………….

(6) Philadelphia 76ers’ Elton Brand, center, goes up for a rebound between Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Smith, left, and Zaza Pachulia, of Georgia, in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 23, 2011, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 105-100. AP Photo/Matt Slocum …….

(7) Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner, right, drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings center Samuel Dalembert , left, during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Friday March 18, 2011. The 76ers won 102-80 . AP Photo ……………..

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