"Say what now? :P"
“There is a word in German: Lebenslangerschicksalsschatz. And the closest translation would be “Lifelong Treasure of Destiny”. And Victoria is wunderbar, but she is not my Lebenslangerschicksalsschatz. She is my Beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand, you know? It means “the thing that is almost the thing that you want but is not quite. Lebenslangerschicksalsschatz is not something that develops over time. It is something that happens instantaneously. It courses through you like the water of a river after a storm, filling you and emptying you all at once. You feel it throughout your body, in your hands, in your heart, in your stomach, in your skin…have you ever felt this way about someone? If you have to think about it, you have not felt it.”
…On Blind Faith and the Poor…
While hearing Easter Sunday mass in Bicol, this small kid suddenly appeared out of nowhere to poke me and asked for alms. I told him off, saying a mass is going on. Later, this woman was guiding an older blind man to ask for alms as well. I shook my head and they went on to bother other parishoners.
At first, my choice of actions bothered me. Is it not hypocritical of me to hear mass, yet not “practice” the Lord’s teachings by “sharing” my gifts to the poor? But upon examination, I realize, I am either enlightened, or I will soon burn in hell. For what it’s worth, I’ll share my thoughts, and hope that one of you readers of mine would buy into my idea so that my faith in this country might be restored. Or at least I’ll have someone I know burning in hell right there with me.
I looked up Christian or Catholic countries in the world. And it seems to be dominated by either 3rd world, developing, or struggling countries. Yes, one might argue that Christianity is the dominant population in the world but looking at the ratio of it, I would conclude that Christian-dominated countries are struggling economically. It’s actually not surprising, though.
I’m not saying that God is to blame. The problem I see is lack of education. The poor continue to be poor because they hold on to the fact that “God will provide” for them. They love each other and express their love physically until they have enough children to form a basketball team. And a cheering squad. Some take advantage of their stature and a person’s faith, just like what the kid and the blind man did that Easter Sunday; they compel you to give alms because you wouldn’t have the heart to turn them down while in Church,would you? I guess they figured that since after-mass alms are the most they get in a week, why not take it a notch further by asking for alms DURING the mass?
It is said that “faith begins when reason ends”; there are things that we just cannot explain and would have to rely on faith to satisfy our curiousity. There are several variations of faith and religion, yet we cannot know for certain which is true, if there is any. Defenders of one’s faith may challenge me on this claim by proving their religion is true (I tried to debate with a Salesian Brother and an Iglesia follower back in high school, only to reach a dead end), but really, faith is only as strong as how you believe in it.
It is regrettable to admit that the most number of Church goers happen during Christmas and New Year. I reckon it is because people are dictated by the norm that one MUST go to Church during these days.
Faith, I think, has been reduced to a mere traditional norm and an excuse to be miserable. It seems to me that most of us have not completely shed our “indio” mentality and remain ignorant of how faith works. And sue me, but I think some local Church leaders exploit this fact by advancing their causes during homilies, leading ignorant zombies to believe, hypocritical parishoners to support, and power hungry politicians to prey on the opportunity to grab votes. What, you think a signature of Anti-RH bill will save your soul in the apocalypse?
I am not trying to antagonize Anti-RH Bill supporters. You people take a stand as I do, and as long as we stand for it for the right reasons, then we can educate each other through a healthy discourse. I am, however, against how some people are educated by “spiritual” leaders. And here, I am not exclusively talking about the Catholic faith. I try to watch a couple of TV shows despite the fact that I know somehow they would just take a jab at each other. I am under the impression that these “spiritual leaders” are dictating rather than enlightening minds. They tell people what they should think, and not educate them on what could be thought.
In the midst of the current calamities we are facing today, it is abhorrent to know that some people see these disasters as God’s way of “punishing” us because of the RH Bill. I think such a claim is another illustration of how religion is making zombies rather than enlightened people.
I dare say that blind faith keeps our country from progressing. As long as we have a false sense of salvation by following what is dictated by spiritual leaders rather than actually thinking, our country will remain a third world country. Beggars will continue to beg, exploiting one’s conscience so that they may live day by day without even trying to find a decent occupation. Politicians will continue to keep these beggars as they are even if they don’t pay taxes because they can eventually pay them for their votes.
…A New Hope: PNoy’s Third SONA…
Had to write it for FHM, I guess it was too long and too politically driven. I’ll be posting for my personal benefit, to keep an online record of the stuff I wrote. A shorter version could be seen at http://www.fhm.com.ph/incoming/fhm-feature/article/14619, but for the bored, patient types, check out the unedited version.
A New Hope: P-Noy’s Third SONA
“Humaharap po ako sa inyo bilang mukha ng isang gobyernong kayo ang boss at kayo pa rin ang lakas. Inuulat ko lamang ang mga pagbabagong ginawa ninyong possible.” – Benigno Aquino III, July 23, 2012
Yes, that is a Star Wars reference. The third SONA of the Noynoy Aquino administration may not have been about the Star Wars saga, but it did inspire a new hope, to believe that the impossible may be achieved.
Check out some highlights of the SONA for this year:
The Martial Law Baby
PNoy started his SONA by grounding it on his experience during the Martial Law. He said that he suffered as much as most of his countrymen that he vowed never to let anyone else experience it again. Martial law, according to him, was executed by a tyrant who abused his power. Today, this abuse of power came in the form of absurd government bonuses to undeserving officials, overpriced equipment, and excessive contracts to government-funded projects. He sought the understanding of the people as it he said not everything can be overturned in just two years, but he did praise the Filipino people’s perseverance through these challenges. He aims for a government that is with the Filipino people, and in part, the ”wang-wang” is now exclusive to police and ambulances, no longer from government officials.
A Sick Man Cured
PNoy said that once dubbed as “The Sick Man of Asia”, The Philippines is now bouncing back economically. He cited that the Philippines achieved the second-highest GDP growth, second only to China in Asia, which exceeded expectations. He claimed that international publications are recognizing that the Philippines may be the next “Tiger Economy”, and urged that local media may recognize this as well.
Pangtawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program
As mentioned in his last SONA, the Pangtawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program aimed to give money direct to those families in need most. The families who benefit from this are determined by the National Household Targeting Program that ensures that those registered are the ones who need it most. The long-term impact of this extra cash for the poor are more people are willing to have check-ups, kids suffering from diseases are getting treatment, and there are lower absence rate due to poverty.
PNoy cited the increase of members of PhilHealth. He also mentioned that the poorest households that are members of this government agency enjoy a no-pay benefit to ensure that they are given proper treatment. Due to poverty, some people do not make it a point to consult medical professionals. He cited the RNHeals program which deployed nurses and midwives to places in need, as directed by the National Household Targeting Program and the National Anti-Poverty Commission. He cited two problems being eliminated by this program; the underemployed and unemployed nurses are given a chance to perform in their craft, while the poor are given proper healthcare. He also propose a Sin Tax Bill, as he said that this could help the health care sector in a sense that more money will be used for health and people are discouraged from spending on vices.
PNoy cited confidence in Bro. Armin Luisitro of the Department of Education and his ability to make his vision for the education sector into a reality. He aims to address the shortage of seats as well as a 1:1 ratio of textbook to student by the end of 2012. He drew the largest applause in his speech when he hinted on the RH Bill by saying that Responsible Parenthood is the solution for the problem of overpopulation of students. He also proposed a budget increase for State-run Universities and Colleges, provided that the SUC Reform Roadmap by CHED is implemented to ensure quality of education from the said schools are excellent. He also cited the continuous increase of education budget from 2010, and joked that student activists who say otherwise should attend math remedial classes.
The TESDA Transformation
PNoy mentioned that during the previous administration of TESDA, vouchers were given by the authorities, but no funds were allocated for the budget. With the leadership of new TESDA chief Joel Villanueva, he cited that more than 400k people have been trained. Certified specialists through the TESDA program are now also earning above-minimum monthly wage.
The BPO Industy
PNoy cited the generation of more jobs, and the unemployment rate going down from 8% in 2010 to 7.2% in 2011 and to 6.9% this year. He cited that the drastic increase of employment by the BPO industry over the past decade has given positive results to other areas. The generated need and increase in purchasing power has given opportunities for employment in transport, food stalls, and other retail areas.
The Infrastructure Plan
PNoy also laid out his plans for infrastructure improvement. For airports, he laid out his vision of new airports and upgrade of current airports before the end of his term. He also noted that Sec. Mar Roxas has given his word that the NAIA 3 issues will be solved before the next SONA. For commuters, he cited a proposed LRT Line 1 Cavite extension. Also noted are two elevated NLEX-SLEX connectors by 2015. New quality provincial bus terminals should also be in place in Taguig, Quezon City and Paranaque before the end of his term. He said that when before people complained about inaction, today, people are complaining about traffic due to the increased number of projects by the DPWH. He commended the action of Sec Babes Singson in repairing National Roads, and noted that before the end of his term, the National Road Network must be fixed completely.
It’s More Fun in The Philippines
With the improved infrastructure in place, the Philippines is ready to welcome more tourists. He noted that the increase of tourism over the past two years is already more than the previous 9 years before his administration. He noted that Sec. Mon Jimenez still has bigger plans for Philippine tourism, and commended the Filipino initiative in voting for the Puerto Princesa Underground River as one of the New Seven Wonders of the world.
PNoy recognized the work ethic of Sec. Alcala in improving the agriculture sector. He noted his action on overstock of rice that became an issue before, and aims to export instead of import rice by next year. He also noted the commendable increase of coco water and coco coir export. On the issue of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, he promised that by the end of his term, all lands under the said program must already be dispersed.
Energizing the Country
PNoy criticized the past administration in the Department of Energy as they claimed 99.98% of the country is energized when in fact, only a single electrical line was installed in remote areas. Through the work of Sec. Rene Almendras, the budget for 1,300 towns was allocated to 1,520 towns at only a part of the total budget for this project.
Crime Rate and Pacman
PNoy moved to crime rates being down with less roads now without light. He cited the decrease of crime rate and reported car thefts over the past couple of years. He also cited conviction and actions on known felons. He also said that the PNP will no longer be unarmed, with the bidding on firearms already at the Quality Control stage. He even referenced Pacman fights, since these are usually zero-crime rate days, saying that Pacman can’t fight everyday to stop crimes from happening, which is why the police force must be improved.
The National Defense
PNoy reported that deals are already in place and budget has been duly allocated to the improvement of the national defense. The budget for the AFP Modernization Program almost equals the allocation for the same program over the past 15 years. The air force will be improved by new planes. The coast guard will have more ships to defend our coastal territories. He noted that this is not a show of arrogance, but rather for defense, which until today, was only a dream. The government focus on the military force increased the morale of our soldiers, and PNoy cited some accomplishments in peace and order in war torn barangays.
The ARMM Reform
PNoy commended the efforts of OIC Governor Mujiv Hataman in solving the mystery of non-existent schools with allocated budget, unfixed roads, non-existent teachers in the payroll, and ghost students. He has eliminated these “ghosts” and allocated the budget to proper avenues. With these reforms, he said that even the rebels who seek change are actually seeing results. Proof of this is that there has been no MILF encounter for the past 7 months.
The National Resource Defense
PNoy claimed that in the mining industry, only 9% of the total 2010 earnings went to the government budget. He urged the congress that laws must be passed so that the natural resources of the Filipinos are utilized to benefit the Filipino people. He also recognized tree planting programs that have been present, but there is no continuity. He cited that through the National Convergence Initiative, this issue will be addressed. It will also generate jobs for those who will safeguard the trees. On the issue of illegal logging, he praised the positive action of Butuan Mayor Jun Amate for his fast action on the matter. The confiscated logs are sent to TESDA-trained carpenters to make tables and chairs for public schools. He also cited the actions done to abusive officials and warned future offenders that they will be punished just the same.
Disaster Risk Reduction Program
With improved equipment, the government is already given improved and accurate forecasts to aid them in preparation for typhoons to come. He recognized the typhoons that devastated the country, and said that Project NOAH aims to improve the forecast to prepare the people in case such typhoons face the country again. He promised more equipment by 2013.
Pension and Incentives
PNoy promises that before the end of his term, old age and disabled pensioners should receive no less than PhP5000, from only PhP500. To eliminate the absurd bonuses by government offices, PNoy said that starting this year, government bonuses depend on performance of the agency. When before, non-performing government offices are able to shell out huge bonuses, this time the bonuses will be at the hands of the employees.
The Chinese Occupancy
PNoy noted that he employs calmness and respect to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in dealing with the Chinese conflict regarding the Spratleys. However, he made a bold statement that he will not take further indifference by China to the same laws, saying “Kung may pumasok sa inyong bakuran at sinabing sa kanya na ang kanyang kinatatayuan ay sa kanya na, papaya ba kayo? Hindi naman po yata tamang ipamigay na lang natin sa iba ang sadyang atin talaga.”
To Forgive and Forget
PNoy responded to critics who tell him to let bygones be bygones, and just forgive and forget. He strongly said that he can forgive, but never forget those who have wronged the Filipino people. And by not forgetting he cited the need for the plunder case to be filed against Cong. Gloria Arroyo and cited the Corona impeachment as a statement that despite the high post in government, justice may still prevail. He cited the challenges of the new Supreme Court Chief Justice, and hopes that the new appointee will perform up to par against these challenges. He also cited the Ombudman Conchita Carpio-Morales for taking the challenge of her post once again. He thanked the congress for their role in the impeachment. He also thanked his cabinet for leaving the private sector in favor of public service. And to close his SONA, he thanked the Filipino people, whom he said are truly responsible for all the changes happening.
1. PNoy once again delivered his speech in Filipino to truly reach out to the Filipino people. Another excellently-written speech.
2. Despite the long speech, he was able to insert some humor in serious issues to maintain interest.
3. He grounded most of his achievements in statistics and facts, and one can say he is no longer all talk.
4. He laid out his plans well and touched on a wide array of topics, while also presenting achievements for each field.
5. He received positive comments from attendees, with most saying that this is probably the most realistic SONA thus far.
6. By presenting deadlines, he gave the impression that he means serious business and his goals are aimed to be done, not just dreamed.
7. He displayed excellent leadership skills by appointing the right people for the right posts, and commending them accordingly for the work they have put in.
1. He still has not moved on from blaming the previous administration for some of the problems the country still faces.
2. Critics claim that some statistics that he laid out are immeasurable, in particular, the unemployment rate.
3. This is probably the longest SONA in recent history.
4. The presented deadlines are like double-edged swords; if he does it, then good for him, but if he doesn’t fulfill his promises, he will be the subject of public scrutiny for a long time.
5. The violence that erupted outside the session hall between the police force and militant groups may not have been a bad thing about the SONA, but it is worth noting as it did happen during the same day.
1. I still don’t get what the militant groups are trying to do by trying to block the President’s convoy. Not to defend the President here, but really, how could they change what is already written on the President’s SONA?
2. Wasn’t Satur Ocampo in the congress as representative for his party-list for 9 years? Why did he not advance their cause during those years, only to go back to street anarchy?
3. The RH Bill Reference drew the loudest applause during the SONA, but one wonders why it hasn’t been passed.
…Looking at UAAP Season 75…
I am feeling giddy that the UAAP Season is starting again. I’m a big fan of the NBA and the PBA, but only the UAAP can make me scream my lungs out from the first jump until the final buzzer. There are no safe leads in the collegiate league, which always makes it exciting despite seeing your team trail by 25 at the end of a half. The NCAA has good games to watch as well, but since I come from a UAAP school, I have a preference for the latter than the former.
…Looking Back at Past Articles…
Special shout out to my good friend, Mikey Agulto, for giving me the chance to fill this page up with links. And I am putting it here because I don’t know where else I could archive my links. Having an archive of these might be of help somehow in the future. =P Madami na rin pala sila.
…The 2012 NBA Playoffs: The Second Round…
(2) Miami Heat vs (3) Indiana Pacers
Both teams were expected to breeze through their first round opponents, with both their lower seeded opponents suffering from major injuries to important players on their team. However, the gritty Magic pulled off a couple of surprise wins against the Pacers, to make them work to get to where they are now. The Heat, on their part, had to withstand the offensive onslaught of Carmelo Anthony, and dropped a game in New York to give that team its first playoff win in years.
However, they clearly had their opponents overmatched ,and now thay face each other in the second round for what looks to be a fairly matched faceoff.
What to watch out for:
The Heat is always a fun team to watch, with highflyers LeBron James and Dwayne Wade manning the wings. They did show vulnerability against a fairly depleted New York Squad, but for the most part, they showed how good their team can be. Chris Bosh needs to show more of what he can do, but for this round, I think Shane Battier and Mike Miller’s play will dictate how then Heat can navigate through this Pacers team theough their defense and offense, respectively. While their contributions were enough to close out the mostly one-man show Knicks, it won’t be enough to stop the high-powered Pacers team.
David West showed he was willing to step it up in big games, and he picked up his pace at just the right time; during their playoff push and still going strong in the first round. Their point guard rotation is to be envied, with George Hill and Darren Collison alternating, and Leandro Barbosa can fill it up from that spot from time to time. Look for Roy Hibbert to make a living down low with no able body to stop him.
The Pacers are strong at the two spots the Heat are weak: the point and center spot. If the Heat can’t make the necessary adjustments, David West and Roy Hibbert will school the Heat big men the same way Collison and Hill will own Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
Despite the lack of depth from 2 spots, the Heat are still too much to handle when all cylinders are clicking. While Pacers can match them up offensively, they need to rely on their team defense to stop the Heat stars.
Prediction: Heat in 6
No disrespect to the Indiana squad, and not just writing as a fan. I think the Pacers reached a stage where they’re not ready yet, as it seems like this team was made to make a push next year. They were fortunate enough to not face Dwight Howard in the first round, but this hungry Heat team with everything to prove will be able to grind it out to win this close matchup. And I think they can do it on the road, after Indiana steals a home ga,e from them.
(8) Philadelphia 76ers vs (5) Boston Celtics
The Sixers made the upset of the year when they knocked off the Derrick Rose-less Bulls. While the Bulls were able to get the best record in the East without Rose for most of the year, the postseason is an entirely different story. The Celtics, on their part, knocked off the young Atlanta Hawks team, but not without scares. Al Horford came back to give the Celtics a difficult time disposing of the Hawks, but after missing most ofthe year because of injury, he was not able to pick up his game well enough to beat the Celtics. The C’s, on their part, showed just how championship teams are made of.
What to watch out for:
The Sixers picked up Elton Brand to bring a legitimate superstar to the city. As talented as Andre Iguodala is, they know that he can’t bring the championship to Philadelphia. The Sixers need more from Brand if they hope to continue their Cinderella run. How they stop Rajon Rondo’s penetration will also help pick up wins for them.
Paul Pierce carried the C’s in the clutch, and if Philly did its homework, they will lock him down for this series. Ray Allen needs to catch fire, as he will probably get looks with Pierce getting most of the defensive attention. While Brand is an offensive beast, he’s not known to be a defensive pest. If Garnett could keep up his Game 6 performance, the Big Three will be able to make another strong run for a champiomship for the ageing Celtics.
Age and injuries seem to be the only things stopping these Celtics from making a serious run at a championship. They have bench depth, star power, and clutch performers. When healthy, this is a pretty formidable team. However, with most of their important players at the late stages of their careers, injuries can happen most often than usual.
The opposite can be said for Philadelphia, with youth and inexperience their possible pitfalls. They did upset the top seeded Bulls, but it can be argued that they were never really tested during that series. Facing a legit championship contender that is relatively healthy, the Sixers might be overwhelmed this round.
Prediction: Celtics in 5
Philly might keep this thing close in some games, but with the Celtics knowing their window is closing fast, they won’t take their feet off the gas pedal to give the Sixers any hope of beating them.
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (5) Los Angeles Clippers
The Spurs made quick work of the Jazz with a masterful first round showing. After being upset by Memphis last year, the Spurs have learned their lesson and destroyed the 8th seed like they are supposed to.
The Clippers, on their part, was pushed to the limit by the higher-seeded Grizzlies. The main difference would probably be Chris Paul in the clutch. Paul led his team to an amazing 22-pt deficit comeback win and showed just how much he brings to the Clips.
It might have been fun to watch the Spurs face the Grizz to avenge their first round loss last year, but seeing Lob City in the second round is in no means a weak consolation to that expected matchup.
What to watch out for:
The Spurs showcased their bench depth against the superstar-less Jazz, and they need more of that in the second round, with a Clippers crew led by arguably the best point guard in the league today in Chris Paul. Look for Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard to get more minutes in this series, as they provide perimeter defense to keep Paul in check while letting Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker run wild on offense.
The Clippers big men need to step it up a notch,as they will face one of the most formidable and dynamic front court rotations in the NBAwith the Spurs. Tim Duncan can play inside out, Tiago Splitter is picking up his game that the Spurs expected from him when they picked him up, Matt Bonner has range, and Dajuan Blair is an rebounding beast. Blake Griffin should learn how to play defense, or he’s going tovget schooled by Duncan. Kenyon Martin is a veteran who thrives when playing with an elite point guard. For this round, I think the Clips need DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Evans doing more for them. These are two able bodies who can defend the post and grab some boards. If they can defend the Spurs big men one on one, I think it would greatly help their cause.
The veteran savvy of the Spurs might be too much for the young Clippers to handle. They might have passed a tough test in the Memphis Grizzlies, but it was mostly due to Chris Paul’s brilliant play and leadership than the Clippers actually developing playoff poise. They need other players to step up if they wish to advance against the Spurs.
Similar to the Celtics, it seems like this Spurs team can only be stopped by injuries to major players. While losing one of their stars may not cause them to lose the series, a couple might be difficult to handle. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are a couple of key players that have lost significant time due to injuries, and if by the unlikely chance that they both lose time during this series, they might find it difficult to adjust.
Prediction: Spurs in 5
Chris Paul can only carry this team so far. I think this will be a hardfought series, with the Clippers winning one for their home fans, but mostly not have enough to close games out.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs Los Angeles Lakers
The Thunder swept the defending champions in the first round, and looks like the championship contender they were supposed to be after a strong showing last year. James Harden won the 6th man of the year award, while Kevin Durant once again clinched the scoring title, beating out Kobe Bryant this year. This team is going nowhere but up, and facing the same Lakers squad that had Metta World Peace blatantly elbow Harden in the last week of the regular season, and the same Lakers squad that beat them last year only adds more fire in this interesting matchup.
The Lakers had to work for thier spot in the second round after being pushed to the limit by a deep Denver squad. They got World Peace back for Game 7 and they need him to not knock people out with elbows but rather knock down shots for them to win games.
What to watch out for:
While it would be amazing to watch the Lakers and the Clippers battle it out for West supremecy and Los Angeles love, both teams have an uphill battle ahead of them, facing teams of championship caliber as well. The Lakers face vengeful Oklahoma team they narrowly beat a couple of years ago, and now has what it lacked before (big men Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins) plus a third scoring option (James Harden) and a veteran with smarts and knows the enemy (Derek Fisher). If the Lakers hope to advance, they need to focus on defense rather than try to outscore the Thunder, because frankly, they can’t run with the Thunder squad with that much firepower.
For the Thunder, James Harden should flourish, with defenses attracting Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant, while the big men would be occupied with the space taken up by Ibaka and Perkins. That Metta World Peace elbow? It only adds fuel to the already lit up fire.
The experience factor is no longer an advantage for the Lakers. Despite the talent and depth this team has, the main difference of this team from the team that beat the Thunder was the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson. The loss of Lamar Odom also hurt their team a lot, but it should have been compensated if MWP and Matt Barnes played up to par. They will not be able to run wild offensively against this much improved Thunder team, and they will get burned trying to outscore the Thunder and failing miserably at it.
The Thunder is gaining swag, but that’s not an entirely bad thing. It could be if they let it go to their heads, but looking at Durant, it doesn’t look like it will. Overconfidence could burn them in this series, but its not too much of a roadblock. They have the tools to contain Kobe Bryant, but if Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum decide to show up, the Thunder will have problems.
Prediction: Thunder in 5
The Thunder have grown up right before our very eyes, and have the same drive as the older teams vying for a championship, which is scary when you think about it. While the Spurs and Celtics are pushing for one last trophy, this Thunder team still has a lot of ceiling left and they are already contenders. They have a bright future ahead of them, and destroying the Lakers would be a major step forward for this team. Not a dig on the Lakers, but the three key factors that are working against them are: 1. Mike Brown is no Phil Jackson, 2. Derek Fisher may not get enough minutes on the floor, but he’s most needed on the bench and on practice, and 3. Kobe Bryant will not fall down without fighting and it will make or break this team, and it probably would break them, most likely.
…The 2012 NBA Playoffs: The West…
The playoffs are finally less than a week away, and matchups are already set. Everyone will have they say on who’s going past who and I’m going to be one of those friends you have who’s going to throw my opinions out there.
So here goes, from the perspective of an odds and fantasy player for the 2011-2012 NBA season, my picks for the first round matchups of both conferences.
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Utah Jazz
(San Antonio won regular season, 3-1)
The late season acquisition of Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson only made the formidable Spurs much more scarier. They already have the still young Tony Parker, the immortal Tim Duncan, the exciting Manu Ginobili, the workhorse Dajuan Blair, and the Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter. Then you remember how Gary Neal was last year for them, see how effective Danny Green has been for Pop, and why they let go of George Hill in favor of rookie Kawhi Leonard. Despite the early retirement of TJ Ford (who was poised to have a good year before he got injured), the Spurs have maintained their competitiveness and excellence.
Gordon Hayward was best known for hitting a huge halfcourt shot for his college team that came out of nowhere two seasons ago. Despite not having an eye-popping rookie season (which was expected, considering his claim to fame), he took that thing called “sophomore slump” and ripped it apart, having a great season with Utah. Not to mention Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap dominating the boards all season long. Derrick Favors and rookie Enes Kanter provide stability in the frontcourt, as they can fill in nicely for the starters. Devin Harris has had a forgettable season, but he has picked up his game as of late, and may be able to carry that over to the postseason. Jamaal Tinsley has revived his career in Utah.
What to watch out for: Redemption, in different lights
The Spurs had the best record in the league last year, and clinched the top seed in the West. However, they fell to the 8th seeded Grizzlies, who were appearing in the postseason for the first time in a long while, their last when Pau Gasol was still wearing a Grizzlies jersey. This year, the Spurs look to redeem themselves as they again have the top seed and are matched up with another team that’s coming back to the postseason after missing out last year due to a roller coaster ride of a season that saw them losing their longtime head coach, the face of their franchise, and their postseason appearance streak. Whose “redemption” is hungrier would determine who will win this series.
Who to watch out for:
Coach Greg Poppovich gave Tim Duncan a DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision) with a reason being “old”. Timmy’s been playing great basketball this season, and Pop has done a great job of keeping him fresh for this stretch run. I’d say this might be Timmy’s encore, but who knows, he might still play next season. But the real story to watch out for in San Antonio has got to be Stephen Jackson. He had a good run in Golden State before things got sour. He had a good thing going in Charlotte and management decided to break it up. He never got his game going in Milwaukee, and now he’s back with a contender. He won’t be the main man, but how great is it for your team knowing that you have a main man-caliber player playing off your bench behind Manu Ginobili. And don’t forget Danny Green’s been playing stellar basketball too. Boris Diaw is also a name that should be watched, as he could thrive as a point-forward while Tony Parker is resting on the bench. That is one deep bench.
Devin Harris needs to regain his all-star form if the Jazz want to come out on top. They have the bigs to match up with the Spurs bigs and a competitive backcourt rotation, but may be a little weak at the wing position after Josh Howard went down. Hopes hinge on the continued rise of Gordon Hayward, but the spotlight should be on Harris, as he has not delivered on the expectations of him. This would be a perfect time for him to show up.
Prediction: Spurs in 5
I would not be surprised if this went to seven games, considering the brilliant play of Millsap and Jefferson. However, the Spurs team looks good not only on paper because of the system that they run.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (7) Dallas Mavericks
(Oklahoma won regular season, 3-1)
The Thunder has dominated their opponents this season with hot shooting from their stars (scoring champ favorite Kevin Durant, all around point Russell Westbrook, and super sub James Harden), and the defense of Kendrick Perkins and shot blocking machine Serge Ibaka. The rest of the roster just understands what their roles are in contributing to the success of the team, which I think Coach Scott Brooks should be credited for. There are not much airheads in this team (Kendrick Perkins may be a candidate, but they need his swag to make the team balanced), and it’s hard not to love this Thunder squad because they work hard and they don’t really talk much smack.
Letting Tyson Chandler go was a head scratcher, getting Lamar Odom was almost genius but it never really took off. The Mavericks never really got their stride this season, with most of their key players suffering injuries and cold streaks. After years of lacking a solid big man to win it all, they got it in Chandler last season, and they got their title. I never understood why they had to let him go, considering Mark Cuban’s willingness to spend. From what they have now, they need to settle with Ian Mahinmi in the middle, and hope that Brendan Haywood turns out to be the force they hoped he would be when they got him. Vince Carter had his moments this season when it looked like he turned back the clock, but in true Vince Carter-esque fashion, he has been inconsistent in his production all season long.
What to watch out for: The “Future” making it “Now”
The defending champions have a formidable test ahead of them, with the Thunder squad growing up way too fast for the old guards (powerhouse teams of the last decade who still have some fight left). The Thunder would want to get past the aging (and totally different) Mavericks team easily to “actualize” all those “potential” people said they have. Dallas may have earned their “champion” tag and would have the hunger to defend it, but would that hunger be stronger than when they didn’t have their rings yet? Jason Kidd’s production seems to say it isn’t so.
Who to watch out for:
Kevin Durant will take over for the Thunder. That’s the popular choice, and I’m going with it. But considering this Dallas squad, I think Kendrick Perkins will have his field day owning the glass and the paint. He will play a major factor and re-affirm the perception that his acquisition last year was the biggest boost in the Thunder’s title hopes. Derek Fisher will complement Perkins’ championship experience with his veteran wisdom and leadership skills, which will be the key factor in the Thunder negating that “championship experience” advantage by the Mavs.
While it seems at times that this Dallas squad has lost its fight, look for Dirk and Kidd to not easily give up that title they have dedicated their lives to claim as theirs. Their numbers this season have been disappointments, especially Kidd, but I think they’ll pick it up on their home floor after they get spanked by the Thunder in OKC.
Prediction: Thunder in 5
I initially had Dallas upsetting the Thunder in 7 games, but looking back at the season and looking at the makeup of both squads, I am leaning more towards believing that the Thunder is going to grow up fast than the creaky legs of Dallas suddenly getting greased. That “championsip poise” advantage is limited to Kidd, Dirk, and to some extent, Terry because this is not the same Dallas team that won it last year. Their veterans can only take them so far, and this year, it doesn’t look very far, really. Besides, with Derek Fisher on that Thunder bench, it’s not difficult to imagine that these kids will mature fast.
(3) Los Angeles Lakers vs (6) Denver Nuggets
(Los Angeles won, 3-1)
Safe to say that Los Angeles is still Lakerland rather than Lob City? Their supremacy in the City of Angels has been challenged by their co-leasers at Staples, but at the end of the season, they have a slightly better record than the buzzing Clippers. Andrew Bynum is turning out to be a force inside, but shows he’s still young by making some bad decisions and throwing tantrums. Pau Gasol has had a fantastic season, and he’s extending his range more, with Bynum ably manning the middle, stretching defenses and opening it up for slashers. Kobe Bryant had a ridiculous start of the season, scoring like he’s shooting a ping pong in the ring. Their young guns have provided energy off the bench and when called upon, with Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts not really getting the credit they deserve. The Ramon Sessions acquisition may have the same effect on the Lakers as when they got Gasol; he’s a solid point guard playing behind a rookie and soon-to-be superstar in Cleveland, and he’s just what the Lakers needed. Sure, they had to let go of longtime point guard Derek Fisher, but getting a younger, more agile Sessions is not a bad tradeoff.
When discussing bench depth, it is impossible to not have the Nuggets in the discussion. I don’t think even George Karl has a definite starting lineup. Andre Miller or Ty Lawson at point? Aaron Aflalo may be locked as the 2 guard as Rudy Fernandez is injured. Sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari or the athletic two-way player Corey Brewer at 3? Big man with range Al Harrington or “Manimal” Kenneth Faried at 4? Shot blocking machines JaVale McGee and Chris Andersen or bulky Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos at center? Rookies Julyan Stone and Jordan Hamilton have had their burns in playing time and showed potential as well. And imagine if Wilson Chandler was healthy. What makes this Nuggets team difficult to beat is that you can’t guard just one person because they don’t have a definite go to guy. You can’t lock up one player because the 4 others can destroy your team in other ways.
What to watch out for: Depth against stars
Denver is a well-balanced team, while the Lakers, for all the talent they loaded that team up, is still pretty much Kobe’s team. This matchup will feature the team concept against a star-centric Lakers team thanks to Mike Brown. If the games are close, you know that Kobe and his Lakers will have the chance to get the W. But with all the weapons Denver has, it will be difficult for the Lakers to keep games close if they rely heavily on Kobe. Oh yeah, there’s Gasol and Bynum too.
Who to watch out for:
Andrew Bynum has a lot to prove in this series. He’s a piece the Magic desperately want in exchange for Dwight Howard, and the Lakers not giving in to that says a lot at how they see Bynum. While he still is young, they need him to grow up fast because Kobe is not getting any younger. And honestly, I can’t imagine a Lakers team winning without Kobe.
For all the balance I’ve kept raving about Denver, they have a player who has the heart to push them beyond what is expected of them; Andre Miller. He’s playing off the bench behind Ty Lawson, but he can take over games like no one else in that Denver team, and he does it on both ends of the floor. He’s not the face of the franchise, but I daresay that he personifies what that Nuggets team is all about; all heart, and understanding one’s role.
Prediction: Lakers in 7
This series could go either way, and if I turn out to be wrong and Denver upsets the Lakers, I would not be the least bit surprised. I’m giving the edge to the Lakers because of their winning tradition rather than the Nuggets who are still establishing their identity. There’s that possible storyline that the Lakers still aren’t buying into Coach Mike Brown’s system, but it’s difficult to imagine that a Lakers team with this much talent will fall in the first round.
(4) Memphis Grizzlies vs (5) Los Angeles Clippers
(Los Angeles won, 2-1)
Lob City had the basketball world buzzing when Chris Paul signed up with the Clippers. People were excited when Baron Davis was throwing lobs to Blake Griffin last year, so imagine the frenzy when they learned that Chris Paul was going to do that this year. They also got Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams, creating a logjam of point guard talent on their bench. It proved to be just what they need, as Chris Paul missed an extended period early in the season due to injury, and Chauncey Billups going out of commission even before the half of the season ended. Randy Foye picked up his game after the all-star break, hitting 3’s like crazy. Late acquisitions Nick Young and Kenyon Martin surely made this team better. DeAndre Jordan had a solid start in the season, but he wasn’t able to keep it up through the season, but seeing how he dominated early, it wouldn’t be surprising for him to find his form.
After their magical run last season, people expected the Grizzlies to get better, with Rudy Gay back in the fold. Then just a few weeks into the season, Zach Randolph, arguably their best player last year, suffered a season-depleting injury that saw him sidelined for most of the season. The Grizzlies found ways to win though, with Marc Gasol playing big and earning an All-Star reserve selection, Mike Conley causing havoc on defense, Rudy Gay still making clutch baskets, and Tony Allen being the defensive pest that he is. Early season acquisition Mareese Speights provided some quality relief at the PF spot while Zbo is out. Dante Cunningham was a surprise source of energy off the bench. O.J. Mayo is playing somewhat effectively this season, after spending it in the doghouse last year. Gilbert Arenas was a surprising acquisition for the Grizz, and though he looks more like the Gilbert Arenas of Orlando rather than Agent Zero of the Wizards, he may become an effective player if he embraces his role in this team.
What to watch out for: Spoilers yet again?
Grizzlies pulled off a massive upset last year when they beat the top seeded San Antonio Spurs, who were also the best team in the regular season. This year, they face a crowd-favorite Los Angeles Clippers team who’s making an appearance in the playoffs for the first time since Elton Brand and Sam Cassell led them to a 2-round push. With the exciting tandem of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, people are certainly rooting to see more of those aerial acrobatics that “Lob City” would provide. But the Grizzlies may have other plans. They kept Zbo on the bench since he returned, presumably to get his groove back on, but not push him too much so that he would be fresh and game-fit come playoff time. With O.J. Mayo getting to show his stuff and Gilbert Arenas mellowing down and making his case on the court rather than on blogs, this dangerous spoiler team of last year just got better and even more dangerous. And a late push by the Grizz and the Clips struggling had homecourt advantage swinging the Grizzlies’ way, which is going to be huge in this series.
Who to watch out for:
Chris Paul will definitely have the world watching him. After essentially pushing for his trade to come here, he now has to prove that he can indeed elevate this team to being THE team in LA. But don’t sleep on Nick Young. The former Arenas protégé in Washington might want to back up all those praises Arenas had for the young fellow. Randy Foye has that starting 2 spot because of his late brilliance, but Young has a lot of upside considering his length and athleticism.
The Grizzlies had a lot of success with Zbo in the paint last year. This year, they got the 4th seed mostly without Zbo. Much like the argument for Rose’s absence in the Bulls lineup, we are all going to have to wait and see if his return to the lineup is more beneficial to the team more than it hurts them. In this case, I vote that it only helps them greatly. They’ll be 2-deep in all positions and can go toe to toe with the big guys of the Clippers. And don’t forget about Gilbert Arenas. He made a name for himself by creating a mini-rivalry between Washington and Cleveland during the better days of the Eastern conference. If he can channel some of that swag back to his game the Grizz are going to be tough to beat.
Prediction: Memphis in 7
I feel like I will get burned with this prediction but these are two teams that have shown inconsistencies all season long. Even with Chris Paul on his game, the Clippers seem to drop games that should be in their bags already. Memphis, for their part could beat a contender today then lose to a team like Charlotte tomorrow. The Grizzlies look to have a more refined group than the Clippers team that though promising, looks like it still needs to grow more.
…The 2012 NBA Playoffs: The East…
The playoffs are finally less than a week away, and matchups are already set. Everyone will have they say on who’s going past who and I’m going to be one of those friends you have who’s going to throw my opinions out there.
So here goes, from the perspective of an odds and fantasy player for the 2011-2012 NBA season, my picks for the first round matchups of both conferences.
(1) Chicago Bulls vs (8) Philadelphia 76ers
(Chicago won regular season, 2-1)
They are one of the best teams in the NBA this season, winning with or without reigning league MVP Derrick Rose. They have an abundance of talent to make up for the loss of even their best player. They are a title favorite, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to give up an upset.
They had a good stretch during the start of the regular season, which propelled them to the upper half of the East standings. However, as the season progressed, their performance dipped as well, losing games they should be winning. Now they’re down to the 8th spot in the East, and it’s probably their own fault. They still are a dangerous team and can pull off an upset against another team, probably, but not the Bulls.
What to watch out for: The “Bench Mob” vs The “Night Shift”
This is a matchup of 2 bench-heavy teams; the difference being Chicago having a solid starting 5 filled with all-stars Rose, Boozer, Hamilton and almost All-Stars Deng and Noah while the Sixers have Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala (has he ever been an All-Star?), which says a lot when comparing talent depth of both squads. With Rose not being in his best form, look for the Bulls to look to their bench to see how they can best compensate for the lost production from Rose. On the other side, look for Sixers to employ a heavy reliance on their bench more because of adjustments rather than keeping their starters fresh. The way that Sixers team has been playing all year, it doesn’t look like they consider their “starters” to be their best 5 on the floor.
Who to watch out for:
Taj Gibson is going to have a field day in this series. The Sixers don’t have much inside presence, and Gibson might be able to use that to his advantage by posting up or just crashing the boards.
Spencer Hawes is still not 100%, and may not be able to provide the numbers he gave his team at the start of the season, but Nikola Vucevic has played well filling up for him. Lou Williams might make his case to be starting point guard at some of the games as well, if he can pick up the defensive slack to complement his explosive offensive game.
Prediction: Chicago in 5
I think this has a sweep potential, but I won’t go that far. I think the Sixers will win at least one of their home games, catching the Bulls off-guard.
(2) Miami Heat vs (7) New York Knicks
(Miami won regular season, 3-0)
They’re on their way to yet another successful season together, with LeBron playing for his 3rd MVP plum, and the team gaining more chemistry as this is their second season together with the three stars. Norris Cole has been a nice surprise for the Heat; the rookie has provided a nice spark off the bench to give more stability at the point guard spot behind Mario Chalmers (like they still actually needed it). They’re still undersized at the center position, with Joel Anthony not given enough minutes because he’s an offensive liability and Udonis Haslem not really the big, bruising center they need.
Fans have forgiven the Knicks for a dismal close to last year’s campaign, thinking this year would be better with Anthony and Stoudemire having training camp together. Then they got Tyson Chandler, which got everyone buzzing as it suddenly transformed them to title contenders. Then the losses. Then Jeremy Lin explodes from nowhere. Then he goes down to injury. Talk about an up and down season for the Knicks. They made a nice push to get in to the playoffs despite their season struggles, and only time will tell if that’s enough to overcome the mighty Heat.
What to watch out for: LeBron vs Melo
As much of a Dwayne Wade fan I am, I think this series is a test for LeBron more than it is for Wade. Wade can close out games, no doubt. But the way that LeBron has been playing has earned him the right to call the Heat “his” team. To complete this process, LeBron needs to own his team by actually closing out. He can take over games to give them a chance to win, but at the end of the game, he doesn’t seem to want to take that last shot. If he can learn how to close out, it will only make the Heat more dangerous as teams would not know how to deny the last possession when they have to guard both LeBron and Wade.
Adversely, Melo has shown time and again that he can close games. However, he can’t seem to always will his team to win, as he tries to do a little too much at times. New York has offensive options that can help Melo out in cutting leads down; streaky JR Smith and sweet-shooting Steve Novak are there, Landry Fields has some shooting range as well, plus the inside presence of Amar’e and Tyson Chandler.
Whoever learns faster, LeBron closing or Melo sharing, could determine the fate of these two teams.
Who to watch out for:
Chris Bosh will be a major factor in this series, if he decides to play the bruising center that they need (a realization he had during the offseason), or he just plays his role effectively. Much of the attention will go to LeBron and Wade, so Bosh needs to prove why there are 3 stars in this team.
Baron Davis is a strong candidate for the most crucial player in the Knicks roster. They have ball hogs in Melo and Amar’e who want to create for themselves, but if there’s a point guard who will be able to take them to the right spots, it would make this team more efficient. Davis could be a ball hog himself, and he does have a strong offensive game, so enhancing his passing game would greatly benefit the Knicks.
Prediction: Miami in 6
New York has the potential for an upset, especially if they wax hot. But I don’t think this is their year just yet. I’m looking at Miami to close out in the Garden, as stars usually bring their A-game there.
(3) Indiana Pacers vs (6) Orlando Magic
(Orlando won regular season, 3-1)
This team is an illustration of what a “streaky” team looks like. Their regular season win-loss record is filled with long win streaks, but had losing streaks as long as those win streaks were. Like all teams, they lost some players due to injuries, but didn’t have significant roster losses to explain their long losing streaks. However, this team still looks good, with Roy Hibbert blossoming into an All-Star, David West regaining his form, Danny Granger still leading the pack, Paul George just having an amazing season, and the backcourt rotation of Darren Collison and George Hill where you can’t go wrong whoever you choose. The late season acquisition of Leandro Barbosa is a brilliant move for the Pacers to infuse an offensive boost in their bench.
I’d say this was a potential upset if Dwight Howard would still be able to play for this series. They do have the tools to compete, with Glen Davis filling in nicely for Howard offensively and on the boards, JJ Redick and Jason Richardson shooting nicely at the backcourt, Jameer Nelson picking his game up, and Ryan Anderson having a career year. However, without Dwight, they’re not the same team.
What to watch out for: Pacers Dominance
If there’s a playoff series that I think I can bet my arm on, it would be this matchup. The hustle and energy of the Magic can only get them so far; the Pacers have those hustle and energy guys too in Lou Amundson and Tyler Hansborough.
Who to watch out for:
George Hill is a player that got the coach rethinking his point guard rotation when his initial choice of starting point guard comes back from injury. It’s a good problem to have, really. With his length and defensive prowess, Hill may just showcase how good a player he is and get the nod for a starting spot despite the return of Darren Collison.
Jameer Nelson was selected as an All-Star reserve some years back, but injury prevented him from playing in that game. Without superstar Dwight Howard manning the middle and this team desperately looking for an identity, Nelson has to find his all-star form and lead this team to win.
Prediction: Pacers in 5
I would call sweep, but the Magic look like a gutsy bunch that could pull off at least one win.
(4) Boston Celtics vs (5) Atlanta Hawks
(Boston won regular season, 2-1)
The aging big three look like they still have something left in the tank and at the same time, they have look to have a good young core with them. Despite the loss of Jeff Green for the season due to a heart surgery, they did have nice revelations in their rookies Avery Bradley and Greg Stiemsma. Bradley has given them a lift on both ends of the floor when called on, and Stiemsma has been a shot blocking machine. The return of Marquis Daniels will also help the cause of the Celtics. Brandon Bass has been pretty solid for them but I think it would be more beneficial for him to move to the bench in favor of a center to play alongside Garnett, so that the Big Ticket can play his natural PF position rather than play as a center or for Bass to play undersized.
What started out as a great season for the Hawks went back down to being another mediocre season when Al Horford went down. If Horford does indeed return for the Hawks in the postseason, it will only improve their chances of advancing to the second round. Zaza Pachulia, who has been playing well to fill in for Horford, is also set to return, which will make the team formidable. They already have a strong backcourt with the improved Jeff Teague, the steady Kirk Hinrich, and the sharpshooting Joe Johnson. Marvin Williams has played his role nicely as the wing man, and rookie Ivan Johnson has shown skills and energy on both ends of the floor.
What to watch out for: Tradition against Promise
The Celtics has a winning tradition and a group of guys who understand and live by this tradition. The Hawks have a promising future ahead of them, with current players not even on their prime and already playing well. This will be a close series to call, with the Hawks trying to get over the hump by beating a Celtics team whose core has already won a championship.
Who to watch out for:
For Boston, there won’t be any surprises. Marquis Daniels might provide a spark off the bench, Sasha Pavlovic might have his moments, but for the most part, this is going to be where Paul Pierce will take over. Rajon Rondo’s brilliance have people buzzing over how he may be taking the torch even before the Big 3’s time is over, but I think Paul Pierce will step up to show the basketball world that this is still his time, their time.
Atlanta’s Josh Smith will need to get his head in the game if they want to win. His contributions show up in the stat sheet, but for the most part, he plays erratically and wants the ball when he doesn’t need to have it in his hands. He needs to crash the boards on both ends, and don’t try too much on the offense, because they have good players who can get him the ball on places where he can score.
Prediction: Boston in 7
Not a dig on the talent level of Boston, but more on respecting the Hawks’s ability to match up well against the Celtics. This could be over in 5 games, with the Hawks stealing one in Boston and the Celtics winning the rest of the games, but I’m leaning more on the possibility that this will be a home and home series, with no team giving up their homecourt advantage.
*NOTE: I started this thing last week, thinking I could finish it before playoff matchups were going to be set, but I never got around to finish it. So I’m posting this because I just finished it, but I won’t bother cooking up the West as it would take more time. I’m working on predictions. The playoffs are almost upon us. And as I have been doing for the past three years, I’m throwing out my two cents on how I see teams are going to stack up against each other. Since the playoff race is still too close to call (West’s 6-10 are still just within 2 games of each other as of April 17), I’m throwing out my pre-playoff look on teams that might make it. Opinion and analysis is based not much on stats, but rather by a full year of odds betting and fantasy basketball. While I do keep track of stats, I don’t have a John Schumann-esque way of delivering exact numbers. Chicago Bulls (46-15) Starting 5 Derrick Rose Rip Hamilton Luol Deng Carlos Boozer Joakim Noah Bench Kyle Korver Omer Asik C.J. Watson Ronnie Brewer Taj Gibson John Lucas III Overview: When the Bulls picked Derrick Rose as the first pick in the 2008 draft, they knew they were getting someone really good. But I don’t know if they expected him to be THIS good. After winning the RoY award in his first year, he was selected as an All Star in his second season, and in just his third season, he was the league MVP, carrying the Bulls back to contender status, after the Kirk Hirnich-led team brought it back to relevancy. People argued that they could have gone all the way last year with how good Rose was playing if they had a legit shooting guard. They got that in Rip Hamilton this year and everyone expected the Bulls to dominate this season. At this point in the season, we see the Bulls having the best record in the league so far, but not in the way they were hoping for. Their starting 5 has lost some time this season, with Luol Deng (another important piece for the Bulls) and Rose missing an awful lot of it. What’s scary is that the Bulls are actually still winning without two of their best players on the floor. Different players have stepped up in the absence of Rose, and they have proven all season that they are not as Rose-centric as people might think. How Far They Can Go: Anything less than a championship is a disappointment. Roadblocks: 1. Losing to the star-powered Heat will not be considered an upset. 2. Don’t sleep on the Celtics who are playing well, but a bad start has them at the middle of the standings, setting up a possible second round matchup with the Bulls. 3. Health. They are a good team without key players, which means they could be a better team when everyone’s healthy. To win a championship, you can’t be just a “good” team. Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers were always a “good” team. 4. Winning without Rose for a long time makes this team’s chances really polarized; did they gained enough experience as a team to win it all, or would their chemistry be affected adversely by the return of their go-to guy? X-Factors: Depending on how their matchups will go, Taj Gibson and Kyle Korver will play major roles on defense and offense, respectively. They will perform under the radar, but stats-wise, Luol Deng will prove to be Derrick Rose’s Scottie Pippen. Miami Heat (43-17) Starting 5 Mario Chalmers Dwayne Wade LeBron James Chris Bosh Joel Anthony Bench Mike Miller Udonis Haslem Ronnie Turiaf Shane Battier Norris Cole Trey Harris James Jones Dexter Pittman Overview: As much as people hate Miami, the phrase LeBron uttered was generally received as possible. “Not one, not two, not three…” are the number of championships they are going to win together, they said. People hated the fact that they almost started last year, but loved the fact that Jason Kidd finally got his much deserved ring. Looking at the Miami team, their main problem would be the center position, as they have an abundance of wings that can destroy teams in different ways, scrappy forwards, and able fillers to man the point (LBJ and Wade dominate the ball most of the time, so really no need for a traditional point guard). Joel Anthony is ok defensively, but wouldn’t cut it as a starting center for any other team in the league. They picked up Eddie Curry in the offseason, but that hasn’t turned out too well. Ronnie Turiaf is a late season addition, but he’s a less skilled Udonis Haslem clone (read: scrappy, physical, but undersized in length). LeBron James showed once again in the All Star Game his willingness to pass the ball, unlike the oft-criticized Kobe. But whether Kobe wins games or loses them, he takes the slack, the responsibility, and the heat by having the ball in his hands when it matters most. LeBron? He made the run happen, but in the end, he didn’t want the ball in his hands. Wade has that in him to win or lose games. If they can harness these strengths, they will go a long way. And people don’t see that Bosh has indeed stepped it up this season for the Heat, who lost Wade for long stretches this season. When dominant, they are still scary good. How Far They Can Go: Anything less than a championship is a disappointment. Roadblocks: 1. The Chicago Bulls owned them during the regular season matchups. With the Bulls being arguably the best team in the league right now, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to think they can’t do it in the playoffs. 2. The Boston Celtics is another team that lights up when matched up with the Heat. Despite how old people say they are, they seem to always have something left in that aging tank. Looking at playoff positioning, they might be set up for a second round meeting and potential upset. 3. LeBron James’ ability to close out is still in question, and coming back to win against a Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace-less New Jersey Nets is not an example of how he can “take over” games. 4. Dwayne Wade, for all his “closing out” prowess and versatile ability, will be tested by injuries. 5. The bench is still a question mark for the Heat. While it is expected that the Big Three will play heavy minutes, fatigue might be a factor if they go deep into the playoffs. Mike Miller is not producing as much as he was hyped up to be. X-Factors: Would you believe me when I say that the Heat are going as far as Chris Bosh wills them to? With all the attention focused on Wade and James, Chris Bosh should blow his numbers up with rebounds and hustle points. The two superstars are going to get their numbers and wouldn’t be a surprising pick to win the Finals MVP award if they win, but it’ll be Bosh who’ll glue this team together. The Ronnie Turiaf acquisition is an under the radar move that might propel the Heat to the promised land, but he’s currently injured, so I guess that makes it a non-factor. Indiana Pacers (36-26) Starting 5 Darren Collison Paul George Danny Granger David West Roy Hibbert Bench George Hill Leandro Barbosa Tyler Hansbrough A.J. Price Lou Amundson Dahntay Jones Overview: If there’s a team that you’d be willing to slow clap for, it would be the Indiana Pacers. After suffering through years of futility and playoff droughts since “The Brawl” happened, they have slowly built their team to compete with the best of them. They had higher expectations this year, after winning out on the David West pursuit, and the surprising draft day acquisition of promising point guard, Popovic favorite, and Indiana native George Hill for a draft pick that turned out to be Kawhi Leonard. While they did show flashes of brilliance throughout the season by going on hot winning streaks, they also had their fair stretches of struggle, losing games in as many stretches as they have won. Their bench is filled with scrappy players who will gain possessions through hustle plays, but wouldn’t be able to create for themselves. With a late season acquisition of Leandro Barbosa, they infused their bench with a much needed scoring punch it needs to be more effective. They look to be a complete team on paper, with the development of Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and Tyler Hansbrough. The question now is how far can their level of talent take them? How Far They Can Go: If they can be matched up with Philadelphia, it would make for a good first round matchup, with Indiana winning narrowly in 6-7 games, but wouldn’t be able to get through the second round. Going against Orlando would be an easy call for them to breeze through the first round. Roadblocks: 1. Danny Granger and his borderline All Star status. Stars are supposed to carry their teams to wins. While Danny Granger certainly has the will to take over games, there are times that his skills fail him. 2. Following the blueprint of their leader, it seems this team also does not lack heart, but talent fails them. Lou Amundson and Tyler Hansbrough are nice players to have on your team because of their hustle, but they would not have the skills to create scoring opportunities for themselves. While their bench was improved by Barbosa, it still needs a lot of work. 3. As with other teams, health is of a main concern for the Pacers, as they are still playing without Darren Collison. With him healthy, they can relegate George Hill back to the bench to provide more stability in their second unit. X-Factors: For all my Barbosa talk, I still think Tyler Hansbrough will be a key factor for Indiana’s run. While their scoring off the bench will mainly be from Barbosa, Hansbrough’s hustle and intangible contributions will determine how far Indiana can go. And I’m not sleeping on David West either. Though it can be argued that he was a better player when Chris Paul was his point guard, he does have enviable perimeter skills to stretch defenses to create openings for fast slashers such as Barbosa, Hill, George, and Collison. Boston Celtics (36-25) Starting 5 Rajon Rondo Ray Allen Paul Pierce Brandon Bass Kevin Garnett Bench Greg Stiemsma Sasha Pavlovic Marquis Daniels Keyon Dooling Ryan Hollins Avery Bradley Overview: When the Big 3 came to Beantown, they knew they were getting aging superstars with a small window to establish a dynasty once again. They looked to be on their way to that dynasty when they won a championship in their first year together. But doubts started to swirl as to how much gas is left in the tank for these superstars after they were upset by an upstart Orlando team the next year, and to the formidable Lakers the following year. However, but year in and year out, this team seems to figure out how to compete and erase those doubts. After they let go of Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green (a deal that hasn’t been good for the Celtics, as Jeff Green got sidelined for the whole season following a heart surgery), people thought they were going on a full rebuild and would not be able to compete for a championship with consideration to the old legs of Garnett, Pierce and Allen. But alas, here they are once again, battling for home court advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs, and right in the middle of the East playoff picture. Powered by a passionate Garnett, the clutch performances of Pierce, the sweet shooting Allen, and the scrappy bunch of role players such as the workhorse Brandon Bass, and the rookie combo of Avery Bradley and blocking machine Greg Steimsma, these Celtics are fighting to prove people wrong once again and are looking to go deep into the playoffs, if not gut out a hard-earned championship. How Far They Can Go: First or second round. Going to the conference finals would be an overachievement. I’ve been burned before by picking the Celtics as an easy upset a couple of years back, and I may not have learned my lesson yet. While I respect the talent this team has, I still have doubts as to how far their legs can take them. Roadblocks: 1. The Big 3’s health. This Celtics team was built around the 3 superstars, and produced another all-star in Rajon Rondo. No matter how old they are, they still are the fuel that makes this team go. 2. Bench depth will be an issue for this team. The superstars can win games, no doubt, but if they’re looking to go deep into the playoffs, they need to rest their starters every once in a while or else they will get burned out come second round. 3. The Atlanta Hawks look to be their first round opponent, a team that tries to get over the hump every year. A matchup with them will not be easy. X-Factors: Brandon Bass is their glue guy. His contributions won’t show on the stat sheets, but he’s going to provide ample support at the PF position. However, I’m going with Greg Steimsma providing solid impact for the Celtics. His development will be key, as he allows Garnett to slide down to his natural PF spot instead of being forced to play Center with Bass manning the 4 spot. Rondo’s overall brilliance is expected if they want to go deep in the playoffs. Atlanta Hawks(36-25) Starting 5 Jeff Teague Kirk Hinrich Joe Johnson Josh Smith Zaza Pachulia* Bench: Marvin Williams Vladimir Radmanovic Tracy McGrady Jannero Pargo Jason Collins Ivan Johnson Al Horford* Overview: The Hawks have come a long way from once being the worst team in the league. While they may have had some bad draft choices, it ultimately led them to this team; good enough for the playoffs, but not good enough to win it all. This season looked to have promise when it started for the Hawks; Al Horford was playing well, Josh Smith was attacking the ring more, and you’d expect Joe Johnson will come up big when called on. Offseason acquisition Tracy McGrady was not the superstar of before, but he was effective most of the time going off the bench. Jeff Teague played pretty well to start the season, filling in for the injured projected starter Kirk Hinrich, and ultimately won that job, which is actually a nice problem to have. It looked as if this is the season that the Hawks might get over the hump. And then destiny frowned at them. Al Horford, probably their most efficient player at the start of the season, suffered a season-ending injury, and the Hawks turned from title contender back to playoff hopeful. Kirk Hinrich did come back, but T-Mac couldn’t keep up his hot performance off the bench. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith filled up the production they missed from Al Horford, and Zaza Pachulia gave them an able big guy in the middle. Ivan Johnson emerged as a solid rookie pickup, and Marvin Williams has been contributing pretty solid numbers. Even without Al Horford, this team is still good enough to earn a spot right there in the middle of the East playoff picture. Coach Mike Woodson was there when they were the worst team in the league, and he was right there when they made the playoffs. Then the Hawks let him go last season. Could these injury bugs be caused by karma? How Far They Can Go: Will figure in a competitive first round series. Going through the second round would be an achievement, but shouldn’t come as a surprise. Losing in the first round wouldn’t be either. Roadblocks: 1. I don’t know how bad Zaza Pachulia’s injury is, but if he’s not on the court with this team come playoff time, the Hawks’ chances are going to take a huge hit. 2. Running a 3-guard set with an agile rather than a “power” forward would mean less post up plays and more perimeter and outside shooting. And that would probably mean they will live and die with their outside shooting. However, don’t discount the fact that they have a lot of shooters in this team; the streaky Pargo, Hinrich, and JoeJo can light it up any given night. 3. To get through the first round, the Hawks can pick their poison, depending on how they finish off the season; they can draw the young, promising Indiana Pacers, or the aging, veteran laden Celtics. Both matchups can produce 6 to 7 hard-fought games. X-Factors: Their 3-guard lineup have done them well in the regular season, but will be tested in the playoffs. I want to say and hope that T-Mac makes his presence felt in this postseason, but I’m leaning towards that being more of a fantasy than a possible reality. Don’t sleep on Vladimir Radmanovic and Marvin Williams. These two rotating at the SF-PF spot provides different looks for the Hawks and the opposing defense, which could mess up their opponent’s defensive schemes. For those who haven’t been able to watch Ivan Johnson play, you’d be surprised at how this guy can contribute to those hard fought Hawks wins. If Pachulia and Horford can come back from injuries, it would only do the Hawks good at least from game 3 of their matchup. Orlando Magic(36-25) Starting 5 Jameer Nelson Jason Richardson Hedo Turkgolu* Ryan Anderson Dwight Howard* Bench J.J. Redick Quentin Richardson Daniel Orton Earl Clark Chris Duhon Von Wafer Glen Davis Overview: The Magic were considered to be a title contender in the East, but the season-long drama of Dwight Howard’s next possible destination has taken its toll on the team. What was projected to be the third or fourth best team in the East has fallen to the lower end of the playoff picture. They are not without talent; despite Hedo Turkgolu not getting back his form when they had their championship run, Jameer Nelson has played well after a rough start, J.J. Redick has performed well throughout the season, and Ryan Anderson has been making his case as a Most Improved Player candidate, shooting lights out this season. However, news has it that Dwight Howard will be sidelined due to a herniated disk, and will have to sit out the next few months. Glen Davis has picked up the slack ably, though he’s not as intimidating inside as Superman Version 2.0. They can still be a pretty dangerous team, but without D-12, they seem to have lost any hope of going all the way. How Far They Can Go: With Dwight, they might have been able to pull off an upset. Without Dwight now, getting out of the first round would be an overachievement. I don’t think they’d be swept, though. Roadblocks: 1. Now that they need to live and die by their 3-point shooting, cold streaks are going to be their toughest roadblock yet. 2. The team suddenly lacks identity, and a team can’t win without one. They will fight to win games with hustle and heart, but at the end of the day, we’re looking at a team that is playing without the player who is supposed to be their leader. The Bulls were still a great team without Michael Jordan, but they could only go so far. Not saying that D-12 is MJ, but at least to this team, he is. 3. I’m guessing Stan Van Gundy isn’t looking at who they could match up with right now, because no matter where they fall on the standings, they’ll be matched up with teams that can run them down. X-Factors: With Dwight out, Glen Davis needs to keep his game up if they want to win. Stan Van Gundy may probably be playing his last season as head coach of this team, but his adjustments will play a key role on how far this team can really go. From a post-dominated playbook, they need to figure out a way how to free up their shooters for good looks. J.J. Redick’s continued rise will also play a major role in the Magic’s success, not to dig at Jason Richardson’s play. New York Knicks(32-29) Starting 5: Baron Davis Landry Fields Carmelo Anthony Amare Stoudemire* Tyson Chandler Bench Iman Shumpert JR Smith Mike Bibby Jared Jeffries Steve Novak Toney Douglas Josh Harrelson Jared Jordan Dan Gadzuric Overview: With the arrival of defensive dynamo Tyson Chandler, expectations were high for New York. However, they failed to live up to it at full strength, and Mike D’Antoni’s head was on the chopping board after they lost a string of games with their stars on the sideline. Then there was Jeremy Lin, who played Jesus for the Knicks at their darkest hours. Baron Davis was close to being able to play, as well as Carmelo and Amar’e. Then they lost a bunch of games. Then Lin got injured. Things looked bleak again until Melo upped his scoring. Now they look like a competitive team with a clutch performer and a bunch of scrappy defensive players in Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields. Steve Novak is playing like he’s with the Clippers again. They have the tools to pull off an upset, but having an on and off season, could they have peaked too soon? How Far They Can Go: Possibly the second round, but that would mean a BIG upset. Roadblocks: 1. Carmelo Anthony’s possible cold streak. As hot as he’s been playing recently, the Knicks may fall to the trap of depending on him too much. If he gets locked down by a solid perimeter defender, they won’t get far. 2. The Miami Heat look to be their first round opponent. Not just being a fanboy here, but the Heat are up 3-0 this season against them. And they have the tools to stop Melo. 3. Upon his arrival, Amar’e looked to be an effective savior for the Knicks. Now, it seems he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be in this team. X-Factors: Baron Davis. Carmelo can play out of his mind, and Amar’e can dominate games, but both need to have the ball in their hands. A generous and effective Baron Davis will be key to the Knicks’ success in the postseason. Insurance policy Dan Gadzuric will play a significant role in the rotation, but won’t show up in stat sheets. Philadelphia 76ers(31-30) Starting 5 Jrue Holiday Jodie Meeks Andre Iguodala Elton Brand Spencer Hawes Bench Nikola Vucevic Evan Turner Thaddeus Young Lou Williams LaVoy Allen Overview: The Sixers started out hot, and at one point held on to the second or third spot in the East. Columnists argue that it was because of their soft early schedule, but they do recognize the balanced roster that Philadelphia has. A point guard rotation of Jrue Holiday and sweet shooting Lou Williams, a 2-guard choice between sharpshooter Jodie Meeks and all-around player Evan Turner, and the frontcourt consisting of savvy veteran Elton Brand, the surprising Spencer Hawes, and promising upstarts Nikola Vucevic and LaVoy Allen. Down to the 8th spot in the East after a rough mid-season performance, they have an uphill battle ahead of them, going against title-favorite Chicago Bulls. How Far They Can Go: Slim chance they’re going to get through the Bulls in the first round. If they do, they might match up well against their second round opponent. But that’s a big “if” right there. Roadblocks: 1. Chicago Bulls. No question. Despite the Sixers’ deep bench, the Bulls have a deeper one. And they have that Rose guy who destroys defenses. 2. Cold streaks. The Sixers are not a physical bunch; their big men make a living on the perimeter, with Brand, Hawes, and Vucevic each having nice mid range touches. They can get their open looks, but if the shots don’t fall, it could get ugly. 3. There is no legit closer in the roster. Iguodala could be their best player in the roster, and though he’d have the heart to want to close it, his skills fail him. Elton Brand was a true force inside, but he’s not the same player that he was when he led the playoff-starved Clippers to a second round playoff run. X-Factors: The “Night Shift” as their bench is fondly called, will be relied on heavily during this playoff run. They don’t have a starting 5 that you’d wish your team would have, but their strong bench force would compensate for the lack of talent their roster has compared to the star-heavy Heat, Bulls, or Celtics.
…How Things Change, Or Not…
It’s been a while since I blogged, and my motivation on blogging again is to rant about how frustrating life has been. I do realize that I’ve written something similar to this before, and I looked at my Multiply timeline, and saw this post http://voltz1129.multiply.com/journal/item/237/.An_Admission_of_Weakness…?replies_read=2 which, incidentally, was posted on Feb 20, 2011. Talk about coincidence. Is February made to be shitty?