Monday, June 15, 2009

Thoughts on the NBA Finals and the NHL Finals

The NBA and NHL finals both wrapped up in the past couple days and I while I don't feel like breaking down either in depth I had some thoughts that I wanted to share on both.
  • I admit I am not the biggest Kobe Bryant fan. But since entering the league as a precocious 18 year old who refused to go to Charlotte (Kobe for Vlade Divac is not a fair trade), Kobe has learned how to successfully lead a team. While I maintain that RIGHT NOW LeBron is the more talented player, Kobe has cemented his place among the all-time best with this title while LeBron still has a lot to do. Kobe is not at MJ's level and probably never will be, but he did show the same killer instinct and cold ruthlessness in these playoffs that emanated from His Airness when his Bulls were atop the Basketball World.
  • Speaking of LeBron, while a trade for Shaq may help the Cavs, I think they would be just as well served by trying to work out a trade for Antwan Jamison or Vince Carter. Shaq will still be Shaq, but adding him slows down the pace of the team and he can give you less minutes than he could six years ago. While Jamison has stated he wants to finish his career in Washinton, I think he could help take Cleveland to the next level if he was paired with LeBron. Carter would be a risker proposition as he is incosistent and plays a position similar to James, but he would still be the second best player on the team without question.
  • I don't care what kind of crazy dunks he can do, after watching the NBA finals I am fully convinced that Dwight Howard would have benefitted from a couple years of college. Perhaps he would have learned some post moves. Crap, if Howard had Tyler Hansborough or Blake Griffin's arsenal around the basket he would be at a completely different level. The age requirements for the NBA have been a hot topic as of late. For the sake of the NBA and college, the NBA needs to get rid of the one and done rule. I think that basketball players should be required to complete two years of college. It would ultimately help most players, giving them valuable coaching, not to mention an education. I know the financial situations of some players make them want to jump as early as possible, but an education and more experience are ultimately a better plan even if they have to forgoe the millions for one extra year. There are only a handful of superstars who jumped from high school and a much larger list of players who were not ready for the jump.
  • Outside of games two and four (both of which were choked away by the Magic, the NBA finals was completely unentertaining from a neutral sports fan's point of view. While a Kobe-LeBron showdown would have been entertaining, I really think the best matchup would have been a rematch of last year's finals with a healthy Celtics team. If I was David Stern I would be praying that LeBron gets help, the Bulls continue to improve, and that KG makes a full recovery. If those things happen the east should be very interesting next year.
  • In contrast to a rather dull NBA finals (except for Lakers fans) the Stanley Cup finals delivered in full. I thought Pittsburgh was down for the count after the beating they took in Detroit in game five, but they rebounded with a physical performance. Observant readers may have noticed I went back and changed the pick from Wings in Seven to Pens in Seven after game six. I usually don't like to do that but after seeing how the Pens performed in the Igloo I thought they may be able to pull off a miracle in the motor city. The game on friday lived up to the hype as both teams produced an amazing and tense game that came down to a few amazing blocked shots in the final seconds. Hockey still has a long way to go to build up a fanbase anywhere close to the NFL or NBA, but you have to feel these playoffs with the multiple exciting Hurricanes' series, a seven game showdown between Crosby and Ovechkin, and a bit of a changing of the guard as the Penguins take down the Red Wings in a rematch of last years finals. I watched hockey as a kid (when the Penguins had Lemeuix and Jagr) but after the strike I was pretty much done with hockey. Over the past three years the sport has me back among its fans and I think it can keep building in the next few years.

  • While Malkin deservingly was awarded the Conn-Smythe trophy as the most valuable player for the Penguins in the playoffs, the star of game seven was Fleury. Fluery had been horrendous in most of his games at Joe Louis arena but made some remarkable saves in game seven, especially down the stretch to bring the Stanley Cup back to the Steel City. While I know the Penguins rotation was limited by the injury to Crosby, I thought the decision to play defensively for most of the third period was a bit of a mistake. The strategy allowed the Red Wings to get off a lot of shots that period and play mostly in the offensive zone. Luckily Fleury was good enough to get the win, but getting conservative near the end of a game has come back to haunt plenty of playoff teams in sports (see Marty Schottenheimer).
  • Perhaps the most rewarding part of beating the Red Wings was the fact that Benedict Hossa, who turned down a better contract in Pittsburgh to play in Detroit (because he wanted to win a Stanley Cup, watched his plan backfire without contributing much at all to the Red Wings cause. On one hand I do feel bad for Hossa, who by all accounts is a class act, but he ate his words on this one and deserves what he got.
  • If you were wondering about the image at the top of the article, it is my somewhat poor attempt to replicate the awesome 1979 SI cover that was run the last time the city of Pittsburgh held multiple championships. I really think it would be cool if they did a throwback to that cover and I personally think that it should feature Crosby and Polamalu (though I would understand if they chose Big Ben instead).
  • More sports updates are ahead as tomorrow I will put up my updated NCAA Elite Eight, accounting for the players who returned to school/stayed in the draft.

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