Thursday, June 09, 2005

"Let's Get It Started" - 2005

WARNING: The following contains explicit NBA-content. If you don't care - and that's certainly cool if a Pistons/Spurs series doesn't excite you at all - then that's fine. Go read stuff on Lindsay Lohan and Tom Cruise at Defamer or something, because I know at least for me, it never gets old.

Things I think will be relevant to the upcoming NBA Finals. I wanted this to be longer and more in-depth, but you know what they say: Naps happen.

1) Tony Parker’s In Trouble - Remember how fantastic of a match-up the Suns series was for him? No guard that could cut off his penetration, no big men in the lane to knock him down. Well, this is the opposite. They can throw Billups, Rip and even Tayshaun at him if need be, then there’s Lindsey “I Stopped Dwyane Wade” Hunter coming in when one of them needs a blow. Let’s say Tony manages to make it past the larger, longer-armed perimeter defenders, then he’s running into the Defensive Player of the Year and a guy who is probably legitimately insane. Needless, to say, I don’t think things are going to go well for Tony this series.

(It’s not that I have a thing against Tony Parker, I just feel his 2003 ring should be taken from him and split in equal halves, with those pieces to be worn by Speedy Claxton and Steve Kerr as necklaces, since they carried him through the tough times.)

2) Rasheed’s Whining vs. Manu’s Flopping - Congratulations, NBA. If you truly have a copycat league, then next year you should see plenty of teams huddling around the refs complaining after every single call, since the two teams that do that the best have made the Finals. I’m waiting for the time when Manu slices into the lane, bangs off an immobile Rasheed and throws himself to the ground as the whistle blows and Roscoe is called for a foul. Will he immediately flip out, or just stare down the ref?

If Manu keeps up his flopping, then there will be Yao-type memo sent around so that he’ll literally have to be killed in the lane to get a foul called, or Rasheed will murder him in his hotel room between games four and five of this series. If this was a soap opera, these two would be the oil and water opposites who come together in the end, but it’s not, so one has to die.

3) Spurs’ Adaptability - Yes, the Spurs matched styles with whoever they played and beat them at their own games, using their veteran experience, leadership and cool efficiency to knock off these fantastic teams. But here’s a question for you: How many combined playoff series did the Nuggets, Sonics and Suns – the three teams the Spurs beat on their way to the Finals – win last year in the playoffs? Oh heck, in the last two years. Nah, make that three, just so we get a true gauge…

Oh, that’s right: zero. Lot of playoff experience being knocked off by ol’ San Antone there. Meanwhile, the Pistons knocked off AI, Reggie Miller and Shaq, three of the better postseason performers of the last decade. It’s worth mentioning.

4) The Match-Ups - The match-ups are really interesting, as both teams have enough defensive stoppers to cover up the other’s offensive weapons. Bruce Bowen will probably be chasing Rip around, though Manu can handle it as well. Tayshaun will attempt to keep Manu out of the lane, while Chauncey does the same thing to Tony Parker. Tim Duncan shouldn’t have any troubles with Rasheed in the post, and by throwing both Wallaces and Antonio McDyess at him, the Pistons will give the Big Fundamental a load of trouble in return. This is going to be a series where either somebody off the bench or somebody who isn’t supposed to score a lot – Bowen, Prince, Big Ben, Nazr Mohammed – make a big difference in the game.

5) Last Year - You don’t think the Pistons absolutely love hearing everyone pick against them, just so they can bring up “Well, last year when no one gave us a shot against the Lakers…” I understand the reasoning, because the Spurs are really good and the Pistons have been really inconsistent, but that doesn’t mean the Pistons can’t ignore that and just look at the headlines.

6) Eva - If there aren’t at least three Eva Longoria close-ups during each game, the production crew needs replaced. However, if the delightful Miss Longoria doesn’t feel like traveling to Detroit, a place that seems far too dirty for her beauty, I would totally understand.

7) Intensity - And I say this in relation to the defensive glass. Where Amare Stoudemire – whose offensive game was best summed up by Brett the morning after Game Five: “He’s still underrated. Even though they say how great he is all the time, he’s still even better than that.” – gazes skyward while rebounds careen into the hands of less athletic players like Rob Horry, the Pistons will snatch every one of them.

Not that the Spurs won’t do the same thing when Carlos Arroyo is firing up bricks, but it’ll be a different ballgame than in the Western Conference Finals.

8) Darko - Just kidding. It would take four overtimes before you’d see Darko get in during the game when it counted.

9) Tim Duncan - As much as I dislike his team, Duncan will end up being one of the top-five players of all time. Maybe thirty years from now he’ll be the Bill Russell to Kobe or KG’s Wilt, but anyone who watched him play will appreciate the little things he did. With all the talk of Amare, Wade and LeBron, if you’re starting a team to win the championship next year, who doesn’t take Duncan to start that team? Shaq’s getting old, KG hasn’t won that much (though he may have done the same thing if he and Duncan switched roles), Kobe isn’t a leader, T-Mac hasn’t won anything

It’s Tim Duncan, and while his plodding style killed the beautiful Sun(s) and Gun offense, he deserves more respect than he gets.

10) My Pick: Maybe this is just my anti-Spurs bias speaking, but I don’t think they have much of an advantage on the Pistons. I don’t care how lackadaisical they played throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, because they felt like the only team they had to play hard to beat was Miami, which they did. They’re going to bring the A-game to the SBC Center tonight, and I like them in six or seven games.

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