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Friday, April 15, 2011

2011 NBA Playoff Preview and Rapid Fire Week-in-Review

This Friday brings a little more than usual at the Ink – a NBA playoff preview and the Rapid Fire Week-in-Review rolled into one post. For better or worse, here it is:

• After a very encouraging season by the Sixers, it is extremely disappointing to see them limp into the playoffs at 1-5 in their last six games to finish as a .500 team. The fact that they couldn’t secure a winning record with just one more win in that stretch makes me question their heart. I even heard Doug Collins, who is still the Coach of the Year in my mind, say on Mike & Mike that the team would learn more about themselves “in the next two weeks, or however long” they last in the playoffs than they have all season. If that doesn’t sound like they have already accepted defeat against the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs, people just aren’t paying attention.

I get that Lou Williams was hurt for the last several games, and Andre Iguodala was dealing with knee tendinitis. But right now, they look and sound like a team that’s just happy to make the playoffs. Beating Miami would be a huge upset, but I didn’t think it was impossible until I heard Collins’ comments on Thursday morning. I really thought they’d win one, maybe two, games. I still view a sweep by the Heat as a failure for the Sixers. Just about two weeks ago this team had a very real chance to lockup the sixth seed and play a somewhat more beatable Boston Celtics team, and instead they rolled over.

I rarely pick an amount of games that a series will go, and I will not do so here. But, I’m definitely picking the Heat to win – easily. Two weeks ago, I would not have done that.

• As usual the opening round of the NBA playoffs appears to be the most predictable in sports. I’ll have my official picks on Twitter, probably later today, but I am predicting that the Eastern Conference will go to form – the Bulls over the Pacers, Boston will survive the Knicks, and the Magic take care of the Hawks. No need to harp on Miami versus Philadelphia.

• In the Western Conference, I see one potential upset – Trailblazers over Mavericks. Again, call it a prediction, not a pick. Otherwise, I have the Thunder beating the Nuggets, and the Spurs and Lakers easily beating the Grizzlies and the Hornets, respectively.

• Back to the East, the Bulls beat the Magic in the second round. In what I’m guessing will be an upset according to the odds, I think the Celtics send LeBron James and the Heat home to watch the end of the playoffs on his couch – like he’s done throughout his career. In the Eastern Conference Finals, I predict the Bulls win over the aging Celtics.

• Out West, the Lakers and Spurs again will have little trouble defeating their respective opponents – the Trailblazers and Thunder – in the second round. If anyone is wondering, the NBA does not re-seed teams in the event of a first round upset. In the Western Conference Finals, I predict the Spurs beat the Lakers.

• In the NBA Finals, I predict the Spurs beat the Bulls in a very easy series for San Antonio. If it really plays out this way, I would actually expect a sweep.

Now, for an abbreviated Rapid Fire Week-in-Review:

• BYU actually requested that Jimmer Fredette finish his senior year online because he attracts too much attention at school. The story was kind of laughed at in the media, but I find it incredibly hypocritical. Brigham Young has always been synonymous with their Mormon principles and honor code. The university even suspended the leading rebounder on the basketball team right before the NCAA Tournament for having pre-marital sex. Now they tell a kid who is actually going to school to essentially mail it in because the student body can’t show restraint and just leave the guy alone. That doesn’t jive with everything else the university espouses.

• The next two items are for all the people who think I’m a “hater.” Kobe Bryant was fined for using a gay slur towards a referee this week. Actually, he was fined because he was caught doing it on camera and for some reason David Stern is allowed to run the NBA like a Gestapo. Fining Bryant was nothing but a PR move by the league. I understand people shouldn’t use the language Bryant used. But, first of all, fining guys for what they say in the heat of the moment is wrong, especially when he was fined only because he was caught on camera. It’s a slippery slope the league’s been on for too long. Secondly, a whole lot of people grew up with that type of language, and really don’t think of it in terms of being homophobic. It doesn’t make it right, and it needs to change. But legislating speech in any manner – even within a league – is a lot more dangerous.

• After spending millions of dollars on a trial, the government managed to convict Barry Bonds of obstructing justice. Are we done yet? Seriously, who cares? I don’t want the government funding BS non-profits, and I don’t want them spending millions investigating sports. Bonds should be out of baseball and never in step foot in the Hall of Fame as an inductee.

Beyond that, I really don’t care about his steroid use. None of what people hate Bonds for is really a crime. Even his “alleged” (yeah, right) steroid abuse wouldn’t get most people put in jail. And the one crime he was convicted of, lying under oath, is problematic in my mind. I’m not inclined to defend the egotistical jerk that is Barry Bonds. But I keep going back to the question – why was he under oath on the topic of steroids? Because Congress got involved in something it shouldn’t have touched – baseball.

And, by the way, of course he lied. Did anyone really think he was going to perpetrate a fraud of a career, and then say, “Yeah, I did it,” because they made him put his hand on the Bible?

Baseball should absolutely wipe the man from its history and invoke whatever punishment it wants. But not Congress or the judicial system.
Bottom line, I wouldn’t want my taxes buying Bonds three meals a day anyway. Though after the trial I guess that would be inconsequential.

One other thought: All indications are that Major League Baseball knew what was going on with steroid use during the year Bonds and Mark McGuire were chasing the single season home run record. So, while I can’t claim MLB was as culpable as Bonds, they’re certainly next in line.
Again, I feel like I’m defending the scumbag, and that’s really not my intention. As long as he’s out of the game, though, it’s a dead issue.

• Marreese Speights hasn’t been worth mentioning in quite a while, but Wednesday night he added to the mountain of evidence that athletes using Twitter is a bad idea. On Tuesday he tweeted, “If u got to share your cell phone with your mom still killyourself.” [sic] I cannot decipher what prompted this tweet, and I’m a little surprised at the lack of attention it has received. Sunday he tweeted, “I’ll never figure out why ppl talk trash about someone who is a professional at there work, n ur a spectator at best it amazes me.” [sic] But the Tweet of the Week has to be his Wednesday reply to someone who responded to his strange cell phone tweet by asking, “What if you have to share mop-up minutes with Tony Battie.” Speights replied, “I still will get paid 1st n 15th sorry.”

I’m quite sure the Sixers are very sorry about that.

I can’t believe no one on the Sixers PR staff is keeping track of what he’s putting out on a public forum like Twitter. In fact, he doesn’t seem to understand that his tweets are public, tweeting on Wednesday, “Hate when ppl not following me in they be knowing whats on my TL sheesh.” [sic]

All of these tweets were still visible late Thursday night. They explain a lot about his lack of playing time under a coach like Doug Collins.

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