Saturday, June 25, 2005

And Two Months Later...It Ends.

WARNING: Explicit NBA Content To Follow, but seriously, what do you want me to write about at this point in time?

So maybe I was wrong about the whole Pistons winning thing, but it’s not my fault Rasheed got in foul trouble and then he didn’t get the ball on every possession to start the fourth. Nor will I take blame for the confusing aspect of the offense being channeled through a struggling Tayshaun eighteen feet away from the basket. With Bowen – probably the real MVP of the series – shutting down Chauncey Billups in a way I didn’t think possible, Rip Hamilton really needed to step up. He didn’t, Duncan and Manu did and we have new champions.

It was a hard-hitting, not-pretty-to-watch, somewhat-boring Game Seven, but it was still a Game Seven and it was still pretty freaking cool. Sadly, that brings the NBA Playoffs to an end. They start when I was still in school. Heck, the first round was basically over by the time I left for home. Matt and I watched the Wizards eliminate the Bulls while my parents packed my stuff, then Dill and I watched the two blowout Game Sevens when I got home the next day. There’s sort of an empty space in my schedule knowing I can’t just go to Gina’s every other night at 9:00 for basketball, Deadzone and MTV/VH1/A&E reality programming, and it’s even worse because we’re pretty sure Nicole is going insane, and I wanted to monitor that.

But alas, the postseason is over, the draft is on Tuesday and since I’m in a stock style of mood, let’s look at whose stock went up and/or down during this postseason:

Season-Ending Stock Summary

Amare Stoudemire – Up, Up, UPPPPP - It would have been impressive if he would have just point up those insane point totals against any team in the Western Conference Finals, but he was doing it against Tim Duncan, who could not stop him.. There was no way Duncan was slowing down Amare, who also had The Greatest Block in NBA History – or at least it was portrayed so the next game. If the Suns make the Q-for-Kurt Thomas trade, re-sign Joe Johnson and draft Francisco Garcia, I think they’ll actually be better next year if Garcia is as good as I think he’ll be. Breakout postseason by Stoudemire, who still needs to learn how to defensive rebound with the same tenacity he attacks the rim, but there is much time left.

Dirk Nowitzki – Down - Nothing like bitching at a teammate then going 0-for the overtime, which is what the Mavs star did in Game Six against the Suns. He maybe had one or two good games all playoffs, and no great ones. Jason Terry carried them most of the time, with Michael Finley stepping up here and there. Dirk proved he was a playoff performer in years past, but he really struggled against two teams that didn’t really have great match-ups against him.

Dwyane Wade – Up, then down, then up again, then down, but I think it finally stopped at Up - The best example of the crazy writing and commentating to go on during these playoffs with all the time on everyone’s hands, as people would build Wade up as the Greatest Player In The History of The World after a couple great games, then take the time to tear him down and yell at those who overrated him - themselves - after a bad one. Hard to say how things would have turned out if he hadn’t become injured, but he definitely made his mark. Second biggest breakout next to Amare.

Tayshaun Prince – Down- Tayshaun, where were you the entire Finals? Yeah, the defense was there, but Bruce Bowen consistently outscored you. Yikes.

Bruce Bowen – Up- I’m not sure if his stock went up as much as it held even, but he shut down Carmelo, Ray Allen, Shawn Marion, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey over the course of the playoffs, and shut them down embarrassingly at times. Even hit some shots after Game One of the Finals, helping his team on both ends.

Robert Horry – Up- Granted, it’s hard for your stock not to go up (*cough*Tony Parker*cough-cough* when your team wins the championship, but, Big Shot Bob’s Game Five was something to remember. Sure, part of the legend will be Sheed’s ridiculous mental error, but it was still fantastic.

Rob Thomas – Depends On Your Opinion…- Well, this is it now….Everybody get down….This is all I can take…This is how a heart breaks!....

T-Mac – Down - Held a 2-0 lead in a series – going home – and couldn’t close the door. Granted, he didn’t have a lot of help and eventually wore down from doing absolutely everything, but the truth is he still hasn’t won a playoff series.

Ray Allen – Up- Not a bad postseason to go into the free agent market with, rough stretches against Bruce Bowen not included, of course.

Yao Ming – Down - How can someone so big with so much obvious talent disappear for such long stretches? Then the one game he is dominant – Game Four or Five, I believe – the Mavs started fouling him and he couldn’t make his free throws. He made a comment about how much better Amare had gotten since their rookie season, and it should be important to note that the gap between them is aided because Yao hasn’t improved much at all.

Shaq – No Change - His legacy would have been sealed with a romp through the Finals, but a thigh contusion screwed that up. I won’t dock him anything for playing injured and still making the occasional dent against the Pistons frontline, he just didn’t gain anything this spring either.

Manu – Up - Early Finals MVP buzz was killed when he banged knees twenty-one seconds into Game Three, but he was still breath-taking at times through the playoffs. Came off the bench, started, made hustles plays, unstoppable when he drives, made forty three-pointers…Well played all around by Manuuuuuuuuuu.

AI – Up - It was ages ago, but please don’t forget AI playing forty-eight minutes a night and keeping his team close to a Pistons squad that was obviously superior. If you switch Kobe and AI over the last six years, what happens? I think you get about the same results, only people don’t respect Kobe the 76er half as much as they respect AI the Five-Time Champion Laker.

Paul Pierce & Antoine Walker – Down - Umm….did you guys get the phone call about the Game Seven? No? To add insult to injury, the Celtics absolutely killed the Pacers the game Antoine was suspended. Surprised the Celtics didn’t consider the Blazers’ 3rd pick and Van Exel’s cap relief for Paul Pierce trade, considering the nice young nucleus they’re putting together.

NBA – No Change - They couldn’t follow up the success of last year’s Finals with a star-studded Good vs. Evil occasion, and that really hurt them. Game Seven and the fact there’ll be no lock-out helps out, but they need to pray Amare and Dwyane take that extra step next year – and that LeBron decides to join the party.

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