For the third straight season, the Detroit Pistons will not advance to the NBA Finals. And, though I am a Celtics fan, this truth is a result not of Boston’s strength, but of Detroit’s weaknesses. That assertion sounds crazy, I know. The Pistons have become, along with the Spurs, the league’s standard for consistency since the 2001-02 season, never winning less than 50 games since. In each of those trips to the playoffs, they have advanced past the first round. Their current series is their sixth straight Eastern Conference Finals. In 2004, the team upset the heavily-favored, star-laden Lakers to win the championship. Despite their experience, history of success, winning mentality, clutch players, and toughness, however, the 2008 version of the Detroit Pistons is not presently constituted to win a championship.
That first paragraph may strike you as ridiculous and unfounded. But I’m about to top the whole thing in one sentence. Ready?
The Pistons’ defense isn’t good enough to win this series.
Before you refer me to a psychiatrist, hear me out. As great as Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton are with a lead in a close game, the duo cannot consistently match baskets with another team’s go-to guy in the final minutes of a game, especially when trailing. And if you think the Piston’s stellar defense can make up for that weakness, you’re wrong. Since beating the Lakers in 2004, Detroit’s playoff history has been the history of opposing stars out-performing the Pistons in crunchtime. Continue reading
This summer, my two best friends and I were talking about the Red Sox and the possibility of a Johan Santana trade. They both agreed that giving up Buchholz and Ellsbury was a little too much. They were fine with giving up Lester though. “He’s just going to be a seven inning, four or five run, five or six walks kind of guy,” Tarit said. “I can see that,” agreed Izak.
“NO,” I said. Lester was only one season removed from CANCER, I explained to them. In the three starts before his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma started affecting his game, Lester had thrown a one-run game, a shutout, then a one-hit shutout, respectively. He had the potential to raise the velocity of his fastball to the upper nineties. He had just won the clinching game of the World Series. And he was only 24. Continue reading
For the first eleven years of my life, the Celtics were a joke. A perennial loser, the franchise was still crushed from the Len Bias and Reggie Lewis tragedies–two events that I was too young to remember. Cheapskate Owner Paul Gaston ignored the fans, Coach Rick Pitino ran the team into the ground, and promising young forward Antoine Walker cared more about wiggling than winning. The proudest franchise in the NBA was being destroyed.
Then Paul Pierce changed everything. In the 2001-’02 season, Pierce became one of the League’s brightest stars and most clutch performers. He transformed the Celtics into a scrappy team with a penchant for big comebacks. In the fourth quarter in a game against the Pacers, he and Antoine began holding up the Pacers’ lead on their fingers, counting it down with every bucket until they were ahead. The Celtics were the ultimate never-say-die team led by the ultimate never-say-die player. Continue reading
Nastiness and killer instinct. Say what you want about coaching, playoff experience, Lebron. The reasons the Celtics are where they are right now, losers of five (going on six) straight road games, all but two of the defeats close, are as simple as nastiness and killer instinct. The Celtics lack both. And there’s only one player in the history of the NBA who could solve both problems. His name is Reggie Miller.
You see, I remember Michael Jordan winning his last championship. I remember him pushing Byron Russell to the floor and rising up. I remember the ball falling through the net. I remember John Stockton missing the three at the other end. I remember Bob Costas saying, “If that’s the last image of Michael Jordan, how magnificent is it?” And I remember thinking, if that’s the last image of Michael Jordan, who was my hero now?
And I remember then thinking about Reggie Miller. I remember that I thought of Game 4 of the Easter Conference Finals. I thought of Reggie pushing off Jordan, catching the inbounds, and spinning to the basket. I thought of the shot slapping the back of the net and Reggie jumping in circles. I practiced that shot for hours on end. Then I realized who my new hero was. Continue reading
Muhammad Ali once said, “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round.” Before his second fight against Sonny Liston, Ali told reporters he had dreamed he would knock Liston out in the first round. He did.
In 1969, Joe Namath’s New York Jets were facing the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Before the game, the young Namath boldy declared, “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.” They did.
Before Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, Michael Jordan proclaimed, “I don’t care what happens today, don’t care what happened in the other series…. We will win Game 7.” They did.
On Saturday, Jameer Nelson told the media, “I’m not being arrogant or cocky or anything like that…. We’re going to win this game in Detroit.” Wait–Ali, Namath, Jordan…Nelson? Who is Jameer Nelson to make a guarantee? Who guarantees a win in Game 5? Continue reading
During the regular season, the Boston Celtics went 31-10 on the road, the best away record in the league. During the postseason, the Celtics are 0-4 on the road. Perhaps the losing wasn’t as troubling in the first round, when none of the Celtics’ away games were lost by double digits. But then the team lost by 24 points to Cleveland in Game 3. To put that in perspective, the Celtics lost by more than ten points in just two games during the regular season. Obviously, the Celtics need some mental toughness and they need it fast.
But, wait, this is 2008. Professional athletes aren’t pushed, they are pampered. So instead of getting chewed out and shamed, the Celtics are getting comforted. Dan Shaughnessy wrote in today’s Boston Globe that Celtics management is going to every extreme to make the next away game feel like a home game for the losers of four straight road games. The link to the article is http://www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/articles/2008/05/12/home_cooking_up/ Continue reading