Come on, it was destined to go seven games. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics will battle to become the newest NBA champion when they square off in Game 7 tonight. Every game of this series has felt like a Game 7 and there is no reason to believe tonight will be any different, but at the same time it’s hard to imagine the Lakers not pulling this one out when it’s all said and done.
After the Celtics took a commanding 3-2 lead following a Game 5 win, it was strange to see how calm the Lakers were and how the momentum, that should have been in Boston’s favor, was still even at best. With the Lakers going back home for the next game and a potential Game 7, many assumed the Lakers still had the advantage. One game later, that assumption is now fact.
A Game 6 blowout win for the Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant’s 29 points and Pau Gasol’s near triple-double, has them feeling extremely confident as they prepare for the series finale at home. No one in the Western Conference had a better home record (34-7) than the Lakers this season, and they are 10-1 in the playoffs when playing at the Staples Center.
The personnel factor is also in the Lakers’ favor, as Boston’s Kendrick Perkins has been ruled out of tonight’s game after tearing knee ligaments early in Game 6, while LA’s Andrew Bynum is expected to play through a sore knee. Perkins hadn’t made much of a dent in the box score this series (averaging 5.8 points and 5.8 rebounds), but his defensive impact in the paint was something the Celtics will not be able to replicate. The team that has won the rebounding stat is 6-0 in the series, meaning Boston could be in deep trouble.
Instead, Doc Rivers and the Celtics will counter with a combination of Rasheed Wallace, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, and Shelden Williams. What was once considered to be an advantage for the Celtics in the series, their bench disappeared in Game 6 and will have to be expanded further tonight with the loss of Perkins. On the other hand, the Lakers bench combined for 25 points and stifling defense that contributed to the win. With the crowd behind them and the Celtics now being forced to jumble rotations up after 90+ games, the tides have turned in the bench department.
For as much as an NBA title would mean to each franchise, with the Lakers looking for back-to-back titles and the Celtics looking for title No. 18, there are also personal accomplishments and even legacies on the line. Phil Jackson looks for his 11th NBA title in the last 20 years (he’ll also receive a $2 million bonus from the Lakers) and Adam Morrison will attempt to bring home his second title in as many years. OK, that was a joke.
But when it’s all said and done, the spotlight will be on one player and one player only: Kobe Bryant. It’s near impossible for a player with four titles, an MVP trophy, and a Finals MVP to have his legacy determined by one game, and tonight will be no exception. Bryant and the Lakers had the most talented roster from top to bottom, but the Celtics are competing closely to be considered the league’s best unit. A loss by the Lakers won’t ruin __ incredible seasons from Bryant, but at the same time a win could make his legacy that much stronger.
With a win tonight, Bryant would rack up his fifth NBA title as well as his second NBA Finals MVP (which he might do even if the Lakers lose). It would put him that much closer in the debate over best ever and put him one more Finals closer to Michael Jordan. He hasn’t reached Jordan by any means just yet, but a win tonight puts him that much closer to one day doing so.
This game could go down to the wire, and each team will make their respective runs in the game, but it’s awfully hard to imagine Bryant walking off his home court as the Celtics celebrate an NBA title. He hasn’t been spectacular in the Finals and he’s got one heck of a supporting cast around him, but tonight’s game will be won or lost by Kobe Bryant. I won’t be betting against him when the lights go on.
During the 2008-2009 college basketball season, no player endured more ups and downs than Marquette University’s Dominic James did. The Golden Eagles were ranked 8th in the nation going into a game against Connecticut, but in the first half James came down funny and broke his foot. He did, however, make a valient return in what would be Marquette’s final game of the year against Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
That kind of tenacity that James showed throughout the year is the same thing that any NBA team that selects the 5’11” senior from Richmond, Indiana will get. On the year, James averaged 11 points, 3.4 assists, and five rebounds per game and averaged a team high 2.1 steals.
James’ obvious position in the NBA will be at the point guard position and, due to his lack of height but athleticism, would do a well in an up-tempo offense. His court vision was one of the best in the nation this past year and he sported one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in college basketball. With such a point guard heavy draft class, it will be tough for James to find a stop on an NBA roster, but it is hard to deny his positives.
It is very tough to find a comparison in the NBA to James, but the player closest to his type of game is Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks. Robinson is enjoying a breakout season this year, and while he is more of a jumpshooter than James, the similarities are there.
First and foremost, Robinson’s leaping ability is something everyone in the league knows about. Winner of this year’s dunk contest, Robinson can also get up on rebounds and blocks and plays very solid defense, all things (his height) considered. The same goes for James who became Marquette’s best defender last year.
Because of Robinson’s lack of size, the quickness that he shows in games all but made up for it. More times than not, James was the smallest player on the court but consistently blew by defenders that opened up shots for himself as well as lanes for open teammates.
Because of his great leaping ability, Robinson does not get blocked nearly as much as one would think, and James is the exact same way. James plays above the rim and surprises a lot of defenders with his hang time. Neither players shoot great percentages from the field, but neither take that many shots.
In Mike D’Antoni’s system in New York, Robinson was free to run the court and play a lot of transition basketball. When Buzz Williams came to Marquette this year, the tempo was turned way up and the Golden Eagles thrived.
Differences between Robinson and James are seen when jump shots come into play. While Robinson always had a lower field goal percentage, his three point percentage was always very solid and had a nice mid-range game to go with it. His speed allowed him to come off screens and take jumpers, and it has worked for him in New York.
James may struggle with finding his own shot in the NBA because he has trouble with defenders on him. He gets good elevation on jump shots but his body is usually leaning back, causing a miss. If James does not improve his jump shooting, his stay in the Association will be short lived.
The other area that needs a massive makeover is in the free throw shooting department. James shot 46.1 percent from the line last year, something that was really a back breaker considering how many times James went to the line. He is going to make his money off going to the hole, and in the NBA that means getting fouled.
He seems to fade away when he goes to the stripe and hopefully whichever team he goes to will fix the issue. Robinson shoots 84 percent from the line for the Knicks currently, something that has slightly improved for him since his college days.
On the defense side of the ball is where James will start to get looks. Leading your team in steals when you have a guy like Jerel McNeal in the starting lineup is quite a feat. Two times this year James held his opposing point guard to zero points (Cincinnati and West Virginia). James also came up with the occasional block and stepped up great in crunch times situations.
He really stepped up his game defensively when he realized he was really the fourth scoring option behind McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Lazar Hayward. It’s the kind of selflessness that James showed that makes him such a team player and an even better leader.
One thing that will entice many NBA scouts that may get overlooked in draft camps are the leadership qualities that James possesses. One thing you want from a point guard is confidence, and if there is one thing James has, it’s that. He is a great motivational leader and is very vocal with his teammates helping them out.
Teammate Wesley Matthews attributed his success in the last season to James calling him out and letting him know what he needed to do to help the team win.
When James went out with his injury, head coach Buzz Williams let James sit in his chair for the remainder of the season as a coach. Not only did James encourage his teammates better than any fan could have (as seen in the Villanova game), but he also took on a coaching role that Williams admits helped him a ton.
James has a very high basketball IQ that translates to smart decisions in games. He might not have had the best stats in the nation last year, but no point guard in the nation, minus Ty Lawson, meant more to his team than James did. The value that the senior has to any team that may pull the trigger on him will be the same.
He probably is not going to start in the NBA but can be a valuable asset coming off the bench, a great practice player, and an even better attitude in the locker room.
My Prediction: 2nd Round, 57th Overall to the Phoenix Suns
This year’s draft class is one of the weaker in recent memory, but a lot of teams are one piece away and there are great role players in this year’s draft who have the experience to come in right away and see minutes. Round two will be up tomorrow but for now, enjoy my 2009 NBA Mock Draft 2.0!
1. Sacramento Kings: Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
Unlike the NFL, when you have the first overall seed in the draft you go with the best player nine out of ten times. Count this one as one of those nine times as the Kings grab the best player in the draft in Griffin to tag-team with Spencer Hawes in the front court. NBA Comparison: Amare Stoudemire
2. Washington Wizards: Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut
Ever since his Olympics performance against the United States, scouts have been drooling waiting for Rubio to declare for the draft. Now that he has entered his name, the Wizards can start building around him to get back to the playoffs. Moving Gilbert Arenas to a Dwyane Wade-type shooting guard role will help both players out and make the Wizards that much better. NBA Comparison: Rafer Alston
3. Los Angeles Clippers: Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
Hill was one of the most improved players in the NCAA this year and will be rewarded for it in the draft. Hill is an outstanding scorer and and even better shot blocker. Hopefully Los Angeles can reverse their Lottery luck and start to build a core around Hill, Eric Gordon, and Deandre Jordan. NBA Comparison: Al Jefferson
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut
The Thunder are growing excellent young talent right now with Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook, but there appears to be a gaping hole at the center position. Thabeet was the best defensive player in the NCAA last year and if he can add a some muscle to his frame, he will be the next big shot blocker in the league. NBA Comparison: Sam Dalembert
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
A lot of people are underrating Jennings because of his decision to play internationally instead of going to Arizona, but do not deny Jennings’ talent for one second. He excels on his jump shot and getting to the hoop, where he finishes with great power. Minnesota can move Randy Foye to shooting guard to make room for Jennings. NBA Comparison: Allen Iverson
6. Memphis Grizzlies: James Harden, SG, Arizona State
I am not a huge fan of Harden as I wonder how good he can be without having top end speed. Still, you can not overlook his outstanding ability on jump shots. He needs to work on creating more offensively and he plays pretty good defense for his size. His potential is huge and despite having O.J. Mayo, the Grizzlies believe in Mike Conley and will build on more depth in getting Harden. NBA Comparison: Ben Gordon
7. Golden State Warriors: Tyreke Evans, PG, Memphis
Evans was one of my favorite players to watch this year, and for good reason. He has great size for a point guard and uses it very well getting to the hoop. He is also able to guard bigger players on the defenders, something Golden State has been known to give up on most nights. Evans also improved his jump shot as the year went on and will develop it even further in Don Nelson’s system. NBA Comparison: Dwyane Wade
8. New York Knicks: Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest
Teague is the definition of a combo guard as he has a knack for scoring baskets but also handles the point very well. He should thrive in Mike D’Antoni’s run-n-gun offense because of it, and with the uncertainty of Nate Robinson and Chris Duhon next year, Teague makes a lot of sense here. NBA Comparison: Gilbert Arenas
9. Toronto Raptors: Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke
Toronto really struggled to find a steady and consistent shooting guard this year, but Henderson should solve all thier problems. Henderson is unbelievably athletic and a smart player who will benefit greatly from an up-tempo style that he was not able to see while playing for coach K. NBA Comparison: Joe Johnson
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
I don’t know if Flynn will end up going over Ty Lawson in the draft come June, but he should. Not only did Flynn have a better statistical season (by a hair), but I believe that he is the next big thing to come and has more potential than Lawson. Flynn plays much bigger than he really is and the Bucks could use a starting point guard on a team full of back-ups in Luke Ridnour and Ramon Sessions. NBA Comparison: Tony Parker
11. New Jersey Nets: Earl Clark, SF, Louisville
Clark is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft and one of my favorites. I got to watch him quite a bit as he played in the Big East, and from what I can tell he has all the tools. His size matched up with his athleticism is unlike any other player in the draft. If he can focus on becoming a true forward (settles for too many jump shots), his outstanding defense and versatility will carry him far in the league. NBA Comparison: Josh Smith
12. Charlotte Bobcats: Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina
Ellington’s permiter game is outstanding and he has pretty good size for a shooting guard. Charlotte lacked a true two guard after the Jason Richardson trade, and it never hurts to have a little home-grown talent to bring some people to the stadium. NBA Comparison: Richard Hamilton
13. Indiana Pacers: Stephen Curry, PG, Davidson
The value that Curry brings falling to number 13 is too hard to pass up. Curry formed himself into a combo guard this year, taking over point guard responsbilities. This will be a key asset for NBA scouts to see as last year he was more of a pure shooter that did not do anything else very well. NBA Comparison: Mike Bibby
14. Phoenix Suns: Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
Lawson will become the heir apparent to Steve Nash and he should thrive in the Suns up-tempo system, somewhat similar to what he played in at Chapel Hill. Lawson lacks ideal size for a point guard but his combination of speed and strength should make him a very good player in the league. NBA Comparison: Deron Williams
15. Detroit Pistons: Demar DeRozan, SF, Southern Cal
DeRozan has filled up many a Youtube videos with his athleticsm and speed to go with it, but the question is whether or not he can translate that into a solid basketball player. At Southern Cal, DeRozan had an efficient year and, with so much potential on his side, Detroit should be able to turn him into a stud. NBA Comparison: Josh Howard
16. Chicago Bulls: Terrance Williams, SG, Louisville
I do not expect the Bulls to re-sign Ben Gordon this off-season, leaving somewhat of a hole at the position. Williams has the best intangibles and leadership qualities of anyone in the draft and plays excellent defense, which is something the Bulls could use more out of their guards. If Gordon is re-signed by the time of the draft, this pick could easily be Patrick Patterson. NBA Comparison: Andre Iguodala
17. Philadelphia 76ers: Chase Budinger, SF, Arizona
Budinger has significantly increased his stock since coming out of high school with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, and has become a much better all around player because of it. Philadelphia could use depth at the position but would also consider Flynn or Lawson if either of them were to fall this far. NBA Comparison: Luol Deng
18. Minneosta Timberwolves:James Johnson, PF, Wake Forest
While Minnesota has entrenched their front court with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, Johnson is a project that can sit and wait in the wings for a few years becoming a full time player. He flew under the radar all of last year because of Jeff Teague and Al-Farouq Aminu but his athleticism and strength are two great traits that could make him a stellar defender in the NBA. NBA Comparison: Al Thornton
19. Atlanta Hawks: B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
Mullens was the top prospect coming out of high school but did not have an unbelievable year at Ohio State. Still, he has a ton of potential that could very easily translate to the NBA game. He is very raw but has good size and is fluid in the paint and is one of the few true centers that could go in the first round this year. Atlanta could use some depth behind Zaza Pachulia and keep Al Horford at the power forward position. NBA Comparison: Sam Dalembert
20. Utah Jazz: DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
If Carlos Boozer is not back for the Jazz, which I do not expect him to be, depth at power forward will be a major concern. Paul Millsap proved that he is more than capable of starting, but behind him there is little talent on a team that runs on having depth. NBA Comparison: Paul Millsap
21. New Orleans Hornets: Marcus Thornton, SG, LSU
The Hornets are really lacking at the shooting guard position and Thornton is a project that could stem into something very positive if he continues to work on his game. He does a great job coming off of screens in offensive sets and even has a decent post game that he can use in the NBA. NBA Comparison: Ray Allen
22. Dallas Mavericks: Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky
Other than Brandon Bass, the Mavs do not have very man post-up forwards, and that is exactly what Patterson is. Injuries plagued him but when he is playing good basketball, he is a top-10 pick. He averages close to three offensive rebounds per game and works very hard in the post to fight for rebounds despite still being a very raw player. He could easily be the steal of this draft. NBA Comparison: Al Horford
23. Sacarmento Kings: Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA
After addressing the power forward position, the Kings pick up a big-time project in Holiday. He has the potential to be a starting point guard in the Association but will really need to polish up. He struggled late in the season but gives good versatility as a combo guard. I would not be surprised at all to see Holiday come back to the Bruins for another year of work in college. NBA Comparison: Rodney Stuckey
24. Portland Trailblazers: Sam Young, SF, Pittsburgh
Young is one of the most polished players in the draft that can come in right away and get minutes. He will be coming to a team in the Blazers that has some of the best young talent in the league, so player that can see the floor from day one will be important. Young plays great defense and really improved his jump shot this year. NBA Comparison: Brandon Rush
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Eric Maynor, PG, VCU
Despite having standout rookie Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have shaky depth at the point guard position. Maynor benefited greatly from the NCAA Tournament and was one of the most well-recognized names in March. He is a veteran player and a great leader that can translate to the young Thunder team. NBA Comparison: Nate Robinson
26. Chicago Bulls: Austin Daye, PF, Gonzaga
Daye is a very interesting prospect that, like most Bulls forwards, will be a project in the making. The one difference is that Daye is an outstanding defender and very strong in the post. Too many times this year the Bulls were “out-physicaled” and it cost them points in the paint. Daye also has a nice mid-range game on offense. NBA Comparison: Jared Jeffries
27. Memphis Grizzlies: Patrick Mills, PG, Saint Mary’s
Mike Conley showed flashes of starting capability, but just in case he is not the answer for the Grizzles, Mills will be a very good pickup with good value. Mills takes too many outside shots right now and will need to work on that, especially if he keeps missing them, but over time could prove to be a solid option at the point. NBA Comparison: Rafer Alston
28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech
With three selections in the first round, Minnesota will likely not have three huge needs to address, so they will either go with the player with the most potential or simply the best player on the draft board. Lawal’s potential is through the roof as he plays above the rim on most possessions and has thunderous dunks in most games he plays in. While he is still raw and not mechanically sound, he could be a star. NBA Comparison: Jason Maxiell
29. Los Angeles Lakers: Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
Just like they did with Jordan Farmar, the Lakers go back to a UCLA point guard and get a great floor leader in Collison. Staying for his senior year hurt his draft stock but he still produces at a high level and had three Final Four appearances, showing he knows how to win. Derek Fisher will be 36 and has stopped producing for the Lakers, while Farmar is strictly a backup. NBA Comparison: Chris Duhon
30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Tyler Smith, SF, Tennessee
The Cavs are in good hands with LeBron James, but injuries to Wally Szczerbiak and J.J. Hickson this year really exposed the Cavs lack of a bench at the forward position. Smith is definitely a project and there is a good chance he will return for his senior year, but regardless of when he comes out, he has the athleticism to make it in the pros, if only as a great defender. NBA Comparison: Tyrus Thomas
In one of the best playoff series I have seen in quite some time, the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics have matched up in a series that is almost bound to go to seven games. It has to, right?
It would only be fair for this seesaw battle to go as long as it could with a couple more overtimes thrown in, a few more Kevin Garnett F-bombs to the Chicago bench, a few more Derrick Rose unbelievable drives, and a couple more clutch shots from Paul Pierce.
In a crucial game five, Boston won a crazy game with a contoversial ending, with a non-flagrant foul call on Brad Miller. Say what you will, whether you believed Miller should have recieved two shots and the ball or not, but the fact of the matter is that the Bulls need to win game six or they will watch the Celtics celebrate on the United Center floor.
After watching all five of these games, I have come up with the five most important keys for the Bulls to complete in order to win the next game and then the series itself.
1. Keep the ball out of Rajan Rondo’s hands
Ever since Kevin Garnett went down, Rajan Rondo has been the new floor leader for the Celtics, and has done an outstanding job in the series thus far, averaging a triple double.
The fact of the matter is this key could have been titled “PLAY DEFENSE” and I would not have needed an explanation. Boston has been able to get off any shot they have wanted with ease, with Chicago’s defense nowhere to be found.
Chicago’s rebounds stats have been fantastic but I am starting to think it is because they are crashing the boards too much. Back to Rondo, he is the only guard that Boston has capable of running the point.
Stephon Marbury still looks lost on the court and has not meshed well and Tony Allen does not deserve to be on the court at all. Eddie House is a great role player and has taken the role of “James Posey-lite”, but will not run the offense in any positive way.
The fact is that Derrick Rose needs to clamp down on defense and, off of screens, the Bulls must double Rondo and let Glen Davis or Kendrick Perkins beat them from 17 feet out.
Rondo has penetrated the Bulls defense way too much and it needs to be cut down or the Celtics will continue to get shots at will.
2. Reduce the Minutes of Tyrus Thomas
-41. That is Tyrus Thomas’s +/- in the five games against the Celtics in the playoffs.
I am not saying that Thomas needs to be benched all the way and see no minutes, but other than blocks he is not contributing much to the team and is being overmatched by Perkins and Davis.
Thomas gives up way too much in the post and, while he is averaging over three blocks per game, gives up easy baskets too many times. Offensively, with the exception of overtime of game one, he has been average and really has not added anything more than Joakim Noah or Brad Miller could not on second chance points.
He is averaging 28.1 minutes per game and this number needs to go down to about 19 or 20. Brad Miller should receive these extra eight or nine minutes as I think he gives the Bulls a veteran presence on the court nowhere to be found in the starting lineup.
3. More Isolations for Derrick Rose
In this series, Derrick Rose has played his best basketball, A) on the fast break and B) from the top of the key on an isolation.
As quick as Rajan Rondo is in the passing lanes and on pickpockets, his man-t0-man defense is not as good and Rose is as quick as they come. In the series, Rose’s outside shooting has struggled and his shots inside the paint have decreased in attempts.
Getting Rose to drive more will also free up more opportunites for Noah and Thomas to crash the boards and get second chance points, something that has also been key in the series.
4. Keep the fast pace game and outrun the Celtics
At the beginning of the series, I was absolutely befuddled that the Bulls were trying to outrun such a good defensive team in the Celtics. I figured that these low percentage, outside shots would lead to blowout wins for Boston, but I was wrong.
With young, athletic, big men Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah, the Bulls seem to tire less than the Celtics do in games. While the Bulls really only go seven deep, they have a nice rotation going and are able to run the break.
In the Bulls wins this series, the teams have averaged just under 112 points per team per game. When the Bulls lose, teams are averaging 106 points per team per game. With the Bulls lack of a post presence and inability to shake the pesky Celtics defenders, shots off the break have made this series close and they must continue to do so to win it all.
Chicago has averaged 16.2 fast break points in the series as compared to Boston’s 13.
5. Keep the Celtics Out of the Paint
In a way, this key sums up a couple different ones, but I will give this its own due. Boston has averaged 46.4 points in the paint in the series, and those points have come way too easy.
I liked what the Bulls did on a few possessions by bringing a guard around the back side to swipe the ball out of Kendrick Perkins’ hand, which led to steals and those all too important fast break points.
They must continue to do so because Glen Davis thinks he has a better jump shot than he really does and Rondo does not have much confidence in that shot. Rondo has gone to the hoop way too easy in the series, so making him take jump shots will lead to less points and less confidence for the Celtics’ PG.
Other than Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, there are not a lot of good jump shooters on the Celtics roster.
Before game three at the United Center, staff littered the stadium with roses in a play on words for Derrick Rose, just one day after receiving word that he had won the Rookie of the Year award.
Rose became the third Bull to win the award, joining Elton Brand and Michael Jordan in some pretty stellar company. Before the game, he was given his trophy by David Stern and raised is above his head to a standing ovation from the home crowd, all dressed in red.
48 minutes later, Rajon Rondo had given Rose a lesson in how to play the point in a playoff game.
In game one, Rose was stunning as he matched Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie debut record with 36 points, and also added 11 assists in a 108-105 win over the Boston Celtics. Facebook statuses and Chicago newspapers alike were booming with praises for Rose and calling for his Rookie of the Year award to be replaced with an MVP award.
Two games later, I am left wondering if he is even the best point guard in the series.
Seemingly going unnoticed, Rondo has led the Celtics back from the game one defecit to retake home court and a 2-1 lead with one more game at the United Center. For the series, Rondo is averaging 22.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 4.0 steals, 2.0 turnovers, and shooting 50 percent from the field. Every one of those stats lead the Celtics in the playoffs. Tell me again why we are talking about Rose?
Yes, I am in the Midwest and am going to hear the praises of Rose, but even the ESPN outlets are giving the praise to Rose for being the rookie that is going to take the Bulls past the defending champs for the second time in three years (the Bulls knocked off Miami in 2007).
But where is the love for Rondo, the other point guard that has completely taken his game to a new level and become the leader of the Celtics with Garnett on the side?
I realize he is not KG, cussing out the Bulls bench any time TNT shows him. He isn’t sharpshooter Ray Allen despite being two for four from downtown in the series, and he isn’t the veteran Paul Pierce who seemingly gets it done every night. No, he is the outsider looking in on the Boston Three Party, but make no mistake: he is the engine that makes it run.
Meanwhile, you have Derrick Rose who is just getting taken to school by the Celtics defense now that they know what kind of player Rose is trying to be. In game one, Rose was 12-19 from the field, with 13 of those attempts coming in the paint primarily on drives.
In games two and three, Rose has taken a combined 12 shots in the lane and has had to rely on his jump shot, which he clearly does not have down. Anyone that watched game one knows the potential Rose has and he was unstoppable that game.
But he isn’t there just yet and the last two games have showed it. Whether Rose got a little too cocky or the Celtics put the clamp down, Rose has looked awful in the last two games and tried to do way too much on offense. Rose is averaging 4.7 turnovers for the playoffs and a lot of those turnovers have come from Rondo defense.
Speaking of which, aren’t these two guarding each other? Rondo is down two inches in height on Rose but has proved that is hardly a problem, leading the league in steals for the first three games of the playoffs. He has been quicker than Rose, more physical than Rose, and definitely more in control.
Rose, like every other guard for the Bulls, has not wanted it on defense. Rose has just one steal in three games and has let Rondo get most any shot he wants. The Bulls have failed to switch on screens and have overall been lazy. Joakim Noah needs to sit down with Ben Gordon and Rose and let them know that the defending champs can do more than clamp down on defense: they can score, too.
Yes, Rondo has been in the league for three years. He has played and won an NBA Finals game and has a championship under his belt. He is playing with two of the best outside shooters in the league on his team and a couple of great inside players.
But he has become the leader of this team and, if the series were to end today, he would be the MVP. Rose is a rookie that was thrown into a leadership role and has done an unbelievable job dealing with the stress, pressure, and emotions that come with it.
He also has not come close to matching what Rondo has done this series. It’s true that Rondo has not won a game by himself in this series like Rose did in game one, but don’t think for one second that if Stephon Marbury was running the show in game two the result would have been the same.
In three years, I hope that Derrick Rose is lighting it up and putting on a show at the United Center in the NBA Finals. As for tomorrow and the rest of the series, let’s focus on the point guard that is single-handedly showing Rose up and getting no credit for it: Rajon Rondo.
Yesterday, commissioner David Stern announced that, starting this year, the NBA Finals MVP will be renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in honor of the
If Russell didn’t define what a winner was, nobody did. The only pleasure I ever had to watch Russell and the dynasty he created was on Saturday mornings on ESPN classic. I can remember watching him in epic battles against Jerry West and the Lakers, day in and day out. But Russell was so much more than Saturday morning re-run entertainment. What made Russell one of the greatest players of our time was his ability to win at any level. Before he personally hung 11 banners in The Garden, Russell won two national championships with the University of San Fransisco in 1955 and 1956, and during his time there won multiple events in the high jump, including the Central California AAU meet, the Pacific AAU meet, and the West Coast Relays.
After dominating college, Russell went to the Olympics for part of the 1956 season before joining the Boston Celtics. There, his team won the gold medal in basketball in one of the most dominating Olympic teams of all time, winning games by an average of 55 points.
As for his time in Boston, all Russell did was win 11 titles in 13 seasons and 5 NBA MVPS, as well as being elected to 12 all star games, winning the MVP of the game once. His number was retired just 3 years after he retired, and was elected to the Hall of Fame 3 years after that.
The real crime is that the NBA Finals MVP did not come out until the last year of Russell’s storied career. In that year, the Celtics won their last title with Russell, but the MVP went to Jerry West of the Lakers in what would be the only time a player on a losing team won the award. It’s a shame that Russell wasn’t able to add a few more pieces of hardware to his trophy collection, but the honor bestowed to him all but makes up for it. Everyone knew how good Russell was, and now his legacy will continue to live on.