Is Rajon Rondo the East’s Last Hope Against the Evil Empire?

One of the interesting joys of sport is the act of rooting against a team. We all do it, for one reason or another, and many of the teams we share. The Yankees, Duke basketball, Manchester United, the Patriots and the new flavor of the week, the Miami Heat. We hate them for many reasons. Their endless bankroll, the buying of titles, their douche bag quarterback, their arrogant coach, or the fact that they flop. But what we hate the most is that they are good. And they win. Well most of them. The Heat haven’t won yet, at least not what matters, and most of the population is united in the hope that they falter once again, and their season ends and LeBron is left with that stupid look on his face that just screams, “How did that just happen” and Chris Bosh is crying in a tunnel somewhere. The Eastern Conference’s Semi-Finals are set and with Derrick Rose’s injury, most have assumed that LeBron and Co. will walk right into the Finals. While Rose’s injury certainly made the path a little easier, Rajon Rondo, Boston’s dynamic point guard, poses a unique threat that Miami may not be able to deal with.

This is entirely hypothetical as the Heat still need to get past the Pacers and the Celtics need to get past the 76ers, but I think it is worth a look. Rondo is one of the most intriguing and distinctive players in the NBA right now. Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal summed him up rather well, “[B]ut his quirky talent must be witnessed to be understood; there are at least four or five times in every game that he does something that no other player can do quite like him.” Gay continues, “Rondo delivers something different—more elusive, unpredictable, an acquired taste not for shy stomachs. He’s an electric enigma, and he may be the least boring player in the NBA.” While his outside shot isn’t great, the defense is forced to pressure him because if they back off, his ability to see over the defense will allow him to pick them apart. It’s a lot like dropping eight against Peyton Manning. In theory the idea is good, there will be more people defending the pass, but if you don’t get any pressure on him and let him have all day, he will tear the defense to shreds. Rondo also has a very quick first step and is a very good finisher through traffic, creating quite a conundrum for the defense. You pressure him and he’ll blow by you, but if you give him space he’ll pick you apart. Mario Chalmers is a decent enough defender, but he’s not a physically imposing defender who has the ability to unsettle Rondo.

Boston also played Miami better than any other team this season, taking 3 out of the 4 meetings. In fairness, one of those games was the second to last game of the season and James, Wade, Bosh, Garnett, Rondo and Allen all were rested. So let’s say Boston took 2 of the 3 matchups, that’s still impressive. In those 3 games, Rondo averaged 18.7 points, 13.7 assists and 7.7 rebounds. In the game Boston lost, he had 7 turnovers, in the games Boston won, he had 3 turnovers and 2 turnovers respectively. Taking care of the basketball is one of the keys to victory for Boston as the Heat are way too good to give them extra possessions. Another key to victory is Kevin Garnett’s ability to shut down Chris Bosh. In Miami’s sole win in the season series, Bosh had 18 points on 8-11 shooting and 11 rebounds. In Miami’s 2 losses, he combined for 17 points and 20 rebounds on 7-24 shooting, less than 30%. The insertion of Avery Bradley into the starting line-up also improved the Celtics defensively, as he is able to cover Wade much more effectively than Ray Allen, and Allen can be a potent scorer and a dangerous threat on the second team. In the one game that Allen started, Wade has 24 points and 8 assists on 8-15 shooting, and the Heat won. In the two games that Bradley started, Wade averaged 17.5 points, 4 assists, and shot less than 40 percent from the field. Oh yeah, and Boston won both of those games. A large amount of Boston’s successes is dependent on the health of Paul Pierce’s knee. Pierce is their go to guy offensively and they need him healthy if they want a chance against the Heat.

While this is obviously a hypothetical match-up, I really don’t see Indiana giving Miami any sort or trouble, and I think Boston will be able to get by the 76ers, based on almost experience alone. Kevin Garnett has 111 playoff appearances. Spencer Hawes, Jrue Holiday, Andre Igoudala, Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams combined have 119 playoff appearances. Of those six Philadelphia players, only Elton Brand has played a series past the first round. I’m really hoping for a Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals matchup. To me, it remains one of the more compelling hypothetical’s, right up there with the Thunder-Lakers matchup that LA keeps trying to fumble away, but hopefully we’ll be able to see both.

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Why I Love Chris Bosh and 7 Other Thoughts on the NBA Playoffs

The shortened season has come to an end and the NBA playoffs are upon us. Being a Knick fan, I’ve followed their first round series quite intently and in doing so, I’ve rediscovered my love for Chris Bosh. Bosh receives a lot of hate from the public for “copping-out” and following LeBron and Dwayne Wade to Miami. You see a guy taking the easy way out, I see a man whose such a competitor, he’s willing to sacrifice many of his touches for a championship ring. I respect Bosh because what you see is what you get. He’s not constantly vying for your affection like LeBron, he’s not pretending he’s something he’s not and sitting front row at fashion shows like Wade. He is just himself; He’s awkward, sensitive, talented and kind of nerdy and he’s comfortable in his own skin. He is comfortable enough and competitive enough and cares enough to break down crying on national television after the Heat lost to the Mavericks in the NBA finals last year, a series where he didn’t fold like many expected, didn’t run away from the ball like LeBron or make costly plays in key moments like Wade. And when they lost, he didn’t have this dumb smile on his face like LeBron, he showed passion.

He signed up to be part of the Big 3 and it quickly turned into the Big 2 and that other guy which is too bad because Bosh was the only one of the three that the Heat could truly rely on in the Finals last year. Bosh seems like a normal guy and that’s admirable. He is down to earth, stands on his own, and doesn’t feed the paparazzi. Take his bachelor party last year in Las Vegas dubbed “The Hangover 3”. The four-day, LeBron and Wade free bash included a trip to a shooting range, dinners at N9NE Steakhouse and Lavo, a Criss Angel show, a comedy show, paintball and a “Rat Pack” themed casino night at Caesars. Good, clean, low-key fun by someone whose not worried about fitting a stereotype. Oh Boshtrich, how I love you.

•This is the deepest talent pool the league has seen in a long time. Basketball is turning into a global game as evidenced by the increasing number of international stars currently in the NBA. Many old-timers speak about the NBA talent vs. hype and how the current group of players can’t hold a candle to the NBA heyday of the late 80s early 90s. What it boils down to is this feeling of nostalgia and people tending to like the things they grew up with. We’ve all been in the car listening to music when your dad starts shaking his head and mutters under his breath, “music these days” or audibly asks, “What is this crap? When I was growin’ up music used to be so much better.” I’m sure his dad said the same thing to him when he was younger.

When we are young, we build up sports stars to be larger than life figures and nobody will ever match the idols we grew up with. The players from your youth will always be immortal and untouchable. It’s human nature and the feelings are subjective, what’s “better” is in the eye of the beholder. But those who declare that the NBA is garbage and don’t watch are truly missing out on an incredibly high overall talent level and individual level of play.

Lebron James

•LeBron James is the greatest basketball player on the planet by a good margin. He may not be the second coming of Michael Jordan but is that such a bad thing? He’s the first coming of LeBron James and that’s good enough for me. Why do we feel the need to constantly make comparisons to players past? Let people establish their own identities. More focus should be on just how good LeBron is as opposed to how he isn’t as good as MJ. Did LeBron handle “the decision” the wrong way? Most definitely. Does he display narcissistic traits? Yes. But don’t let poor management decisions detract from how good of a basketball player he is. The league has never seen a better combination of size, strength and skill. His ability to finish through contact is unmatched, his court vision combined with his ability to see over the top of defenses is unparalleled and I wish more people would appreciate what they are watching.

Chris Paul: The NBA’s best clutch player?

•I know Derrick Rose is the reigning MVP but Chris Paul is the best point guard in the league and one of top 5 players in the NBA. His leadership was on full display during the Clippers monumental 4th quarter comeback against the Grizzlies in Game 1 and there is no one else I’d rather have quarter-backing my team.

Rose’s injury dooms Chicago’s title hopes

•Speaking of Derrick Rose, it truly is a shame about his injury. Chicago and Miami were beginning to build a rivalry reminiscent of the Bulls-Pistons and Bulls-Knicks matchups in the 90s. Luckily for Chicago, they have had some experience playing without Rose this season but I just can’t see them making a long-run in the playoffs without their floor general.

The last hoorah for Garnett, Pierce and Allen?

•I really hope the Boston Celtics can advance a bit in the playoffs. This is potentially the last playoffs for the original “Big-3” and with Rose’s injury and the way they’ve played the second half of the season, the Celtics could make some serious noise going forward.

•The Indiana Pacers-Orlando Magic matchup is really not doing anything for me. Without Dwight Howard the Magic are really quite mediocre and while Indiana is a nice story and their core of young players is talented, they lack a go-to-guy. Danny Granger is very good, but he’s not great and with no closer, they will give away some games they shouldn’t, like Game 1 of this series.

Kevin Durant

•The potential matchup between the Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder is one of the most captivating possibilities of the playoffs. There are so many storylines at play here, including the recent concussion-inducing elbow thrown by the artist formerly known as Ron Artest. Also adding intrigue is the emergence of Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum who seems to be putting all the pieces together and is playing the best basketball of his life. The Kobe vs. Kevin Durant storyline is also very interesting. Kobe generally makes these matchups with his younger contemporaries personal, often to the detriment of his team’s chances and those watching Kobe this year will certainly realize he’s not the same player he was, regardless of what the stats say. Kobe is on the decline while Durant is on the upswing. Out of the NBA superstars, I can’t think of one who works harder than Kevin Durant. All he does is eat, sleep, ball and play video games. He keeps his nose clean and with him and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder could be poised for a deep playoff run and if this matchup comes to fruition, I see them coming out on top.

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