We have reached that point in the sports year that I refer to as “no-man’s-land.” Baseball is the only sport left worth watching. Soccer doesn’t count. Basketball is done (and what a magnificent finals we had this year!). Football is in optional workouts. Even college sports are done. 

The question is, what is a sports fan to do? Well, this year we are in luck. With the olympics coming up and with the parity shown so far in baseball, we may be in for an exciting sports summer.

The Yankees are hovering dangerously close to the bottom of their division, and certain young teams (read: the Rays and the Rangers) are not as bad as expected. They are at the point where the construction guys in Major League would say “These guys ain’t so @#%^ing bad.” (By the way, one of my favorite scenes in any movie, with the team on the rise, it shows all the naysayers starting to come around, thus reinforcing to the audience the team’s improvement)

America’s Olympic basketball team is about to start full-fledged practices. I believe that this is the best team the USA has had since the ’92 Dream Team. As weighty as that statement is, I believe it. Lebron, Melo, Kobe, Kidd….this team is going to dominate. One thing that the Americans have lacked in the past is a great low post presence, and with Dwight Howard, they more than make up for it. What will other countries do with a 7-foot-1 guy with a 40-inch vertical? 

As you can tell, I am really excited about this summer. Do not worry about what you are going to watch, sports fans, just sit back and relax. It is going to be a summer to remember.


You HAVE to watch this season’s Western Conference playoffs. HAVE to. Even if you haven’t watched a second of an NBA game since Jordan hit his shot against the Jazz–you still need to watch this season’s NBA Western Conference playoffs.

There are more good teams this year than there have ever been in the league. You could also make the case that there are more superstars this season than any other in league history. It is really unbelievable.

I think the Lakers have what it takes to win the whole thing, and a first-round series between them and the Nuggets would be as exciting as any first-round series.

Even the Mavericks, who clinched the 7-seed yesterday, are looking strong. Luckily my blog that I wrote last week worked. That was really just a reverse jinx, no way do I really want the Mavs to lose…. And if they play the Hornets in the first-round, the Mavericks could win. Even a series against the Spurs looks almost winnable.

I suggest drawing up a bracket, march madness style, and bet money on it. That will make it even more exciting.

Before I tell you why I am a terrible Mavs fan, let me explain something. I have followed this team my entire life. I went to games back when Jason Kidd played for the Mavs. Wait, I mean back when Jason Kidd originally played for the Mavs. However, with the Mavericks dangling on the edge of not making the playoffs, I find myself doing something I never thought I would ever do: I am cheering for them to lose.

I know, who am I? I am cheering for a team that currently is in the middle of a playoff race to lose enough games that it misses the dance. While this may sound crazy to a lot of people, especially fans of teams that aren’t close to making the playoffs, I do have my reasons for this insane turn of events.

First, there is no way that the Mavericks could win a first-round playoff series against any of the teams they would likely meet. If they face the Hornets, done. Lakers, see ya. Spurs, don’t kid yourself. Even the Rockets would beat the Mavericks in the first round and T-Mac has never won a first-round series in his life. I don’t know if I could handle another early exit by the Mavs, considering last year’s debacle.

The main reason, though, is the future is brighter for this team if it misses the playoffs. One, the only way that the Mavericks would have a first-round pick in the NBA draft is if it is in the lottery because of the Kidd trade. So, if the Mavericks lose in the playoffs, they don’t get a draft pick either. If they don’t make the playoffs, they at least get the 14th pick in the draft. Hello Ty Lawson! Lawson would make a perfect understudy to Jason Kidd and would allow Mavs fans forget about Devin Harris for a while. Furthermore, Mark Cuban would not let his team miss the playoffs and then not make drastic offseason moves. A good shakeup is exactly what the Mavericks need. Whether that is firing Avery Johnson and bringing in a coach who can utilize Kidd and Dirk more effectively in a half-court set, or if it is making another big trade to bring in another scorer, anything now could be an improvement.

Don’t crucify me yet and don’t question my fanhood. I am only saying that the Mavs and their fans may actually be better off missing the playoffs this year. Considering the disappointments that the playoffs have meant for Dallas fans of all sports, maybe taking one off wouldn’t be that bad of an idea. I foresee fewer broken remote controls and healthier marriages in Dallas could also be a byproduct of this situation.

Let me just say thank you to the Celtics, Cavaliers and Pistons. Without you actually playing basketball, the Eastern Conference would be completely devoid of any real teams. The Hawks might make the playoffs this year, and having gone to several Atlanta home games, I know they don’t deserve it.

The Harlem Globetrotters could make the playoffs in the East. I mean if they played NBA teams. With their current record they would be the one seed, but they play the same team every game. If they played NBA teams, and didn’t put confetti in a water bucket and fake out the crowd in the second half, they might win enough games to see post-season action. It really is a basketball wasteland out East.

The Heat, Bobcats and Knicks should be treated like English soccer teams. Whoever finishes last this year has to play next season in the D-league. Relegation works across the pond, so why can’t it work here. Baseball should do the same thing, but that is another blog.

David Stern should do something. He needs to step up and tell the Knicks that if they finish in the lottery, they will be disbanded and have to start over. Or, at least, he will force Isiah Thomas to be fired. Either way, it is a win-win for Knicks fans. Thomas will coach harder and the players will play harder (read: play), or they get all new players, except David Lee and Nate Robinson, who Knick fans love.

The Heat should be ashamed of themselves. Why did they build around a core of aging players and guys that nobody wanted (Ricky Davis, J Williams). You have D-Wade! Give him a three point shooter, a young big man and a decent small forward and you have the East’s version of the Lakers. Marion will help. If they get Michael Beasely, that will help too. If Pat Riley remembers that basketball is a sport that is meant to be played while running, that will help too. Bring Showtime to Miami, Pat.

I’m giving the Bobcats a pass for one more year because they are new. Please draft a player that can play next year. Morrison and Okafor were both average to below average draft picks. If the ‘Cats could swing Rose from MemphisU that would help. 

If you have any more suggestions for the worst conference in the history of American team sports (excluding WAC football), make a comment.

News Flash: Kobe Is MVP

March 5, 2008

I don’t want to hear any more talk about any other player winning the MVP award. After watching Kobe’s 52 against the Mavs, I’m a believer. He is either the best human basketball player in the league, or some kind of space creature teaching us how to play a new type of basketball.

Lebron is the only other player in the conversation, and he is not even in the same building as Bryant. I love Lebron, so don’t call me Skip Bayless or anything. it is just that Lebron is not the defensive player that Kobe is, and Bron Bron makes his living in the Eastern Conference, which means he plays the Bobcats and Knicks a bunch of times.

I know what you might be thinking: Kobe’s team is WAY better than Lebron’s. That might be, but Bryant is the glue that keeps it together. He is the reason the Lakers are so good. That team was good before Gasol. Don’t say Bynum and Luke Walton are the keys to Bryant’s success because that’s ridiculous. The man has a different gear than most players. Lebron is starting to get it too. They just come alive in the fourth quarter or when the game is on the line. Kobe still has the edge because he gets crazy stops on defense and can nail cold-blooded threes all day.

The only player I remember that was as ruthless and cold-blooded as Kobe was Jordan. Whether or not Kobe is better is tough to say because it is a different league now. What is eerily similar about the two is the way they get their teammates excited about the game, or maybe they get them scared to not screw it up. Either way, both are master motivators and nobody enjoys making another team lose more. It isn’t that Kobe wants to win, it’s that he wants everyone else to lose. That’s what makes him different, it’s what made Jordan different too. It’s why Kobe is the Most Valuable Player in the league today.

Who is this team? Some games they look like a force with D.Howard being the next Moses Malone. Other games they look like they are just a mediocre Eastern Conference team. Today they beat the Celtics on an improbable last-second three, hit by Hedo Turkoglu — who played like an awesome Tony Kukoc — and looked unstoppable. I wonder how long this will last.

This is one of the streakiest teams in the league, so I will wait and see before I call them a contender, but if they can play like they did today in the playoffs, this team will be scary. Currently, I don’t see them beating the C’s in a seven game series. They could, however, beat any other Eastern conference team other than possibly Detroit.

If Howard continues to play like a man possessed, the Magic will be just that. Look for at least a second-round playoff series with them in it. If they catch the Pistons sleeping, look for them to face the Celtics in the Eastern conference finals. That is, however, if the Magic don’t fall apart in front of us, which I think is also a possibility, given their youth.

Ok. I know that most people could care less that the NBA season is just around the corner. However, This season is going to be bananas because I foresee the East being much better this year than it has been in the past.

Even though that it would not take much for the East to improve because, as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith would say “THA EASTARN CONFERENCE IS TEAR-A-BULL!!!!” How he can have a radio show where he talks entirely in exclamatory sentences is beyond me. The man has a heart of a lion.

Back to the East, where there are now six legit teams. Well, five if you don’t count the Bulls, who I am growing tired of waiting on. Seriously, weren’t the Bulls supposed to be the team of the future, like, four years ago? When is the future? After they got rid of their best shot-blocker (Tyson Chandler) and best big man (Eddy Curry) so that they could pick up a veteran with no offensive skills whatsoever (Ben Wallace), I am supposed to buy into this Bulls team to beat out the Pistons, Heat, Cavs, Magic and now the Celtics?

I think that most of the East could fall into this category, if not the entire conference, but for the purposes of this blog I will limit it to five teams. The Bobcats, Hawks, Sixers, Knicks and Pacers in my opinion have little to no chance of making it to the playoffs.

With the Knicks it is obvious why: no one can overcome the offseason that they have had. It is unfathomable. The sexual harassment case will hang over them all season even though they will be improved thanks to good trades and a great draft.

The Bobcats are a year or two away from being a serious contender in my opinion. They added some veteran leadership in Jason Richardson, but it will be interesting to see how far that takes a team that is still so young.

The Hawks suffer from miserable management. However, they had a decent draft this year which surprised everyone. The Hawks will win 15-20 more games this year, but I don’t see them making the playoffs.

The Sixers will finish close to, if not dead last in the conference. They are young, inexperienced and don’t have a starting power forward.

The Pacers just aren’t any good. They don’t play well together and I’ll bet that Jermaine O’neal doesn’t finish the season as a Pacer, especially if they are way out of the playoff picture. Which they might be by December.

On the Outside Looking In
These are teams that could make the playoffs, but have no real shot of going to the finals. Only four teams really fit this category to me, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see any of these teams in the playoffs. I picked the Raptors, Nets, Wizards and Bucks to fill in this category.

The Raptors are a great team to watch. They are young and they have a superstar in Chris Bosh that is as exciting as anyone playing. Bosh may be the most underrated member of his draft class. I just don’t see the Raptors playing as well this year as they did last year, but I hope they do because the playoffs might be the only time I can see them on TV.

The Nets are old. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter are going to have to play lights-out for 82 games if the Nets want to have a shot at the playoffs. Otherwise they will finish just outside of the Dance.

The Wizards are going to suffer early from Agent Zero’s off-season knee surgery. However, Gilbert Arenas is good enough that when he gets back to 100 percent he can still carry this team. I see them challenging for the eighth playoff spot thanks to a big second half of the season by Arenas.

I’m scared that the Bucks might actually suck. I picked them to finish in the middle, but immediately I regretted doing it. I’m not sold on Yi yet, and Michael Redd can’t do it by himself. This team could make the playoffs, or it could finish 12th in the conference, I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

The Filet
The Eastern Conference is fairly top-heavy this year because I think it has six teams that could win it.  The Cavs, Heat, Magic, Pistons, Celtics and Bulls are all contenders and could each play in the finals.

The Cavaliers are the defending Eastern Conference champs. They have the best player in the conference as well in Lebron James and the experience of playing deep into the playoffs. However, they start Anderson Varejao who has to be one of the worst starters in the league. I don’t get what he brings to the table. Also, they still have no point guard. Who is running this team? How could they not get Lebron a point guard? All that said, I still think the Cavs have a good shot to win the East again.

The Heat are getting old. This may be Shaq’s last year and that means it is the Heat’s last legit shot at a title for a while. D.Wade needs come off the shoulder injury to play unbelievable to get the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals. Needless to say, I really don’t see the Heat going to the finals this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, but I don’t see it happening.

The Magic could really have been put in the “Outside Looking In” category because they may have only been good last year. Now that the East is improved, I don’t see them getting much better. I picked them as a contender because Dwight Howard scares me. He is super-human and could take this team deep into the playoffs by himself.

The Pistons are going to be the Pistons. They will play ridiculous defense and get scoring from every guy on the team. The problem with Detroit is that they miss Ben Wallace in the middle. His impact on that team will be more evident this seasonas the Pistons struggle to get rebounds. Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace are almost geriatric. This might be the last year we consider the Pistons as serious contenders.

The Celtics are the sexy pick. They now have three guys who could average 30 a game. The problem is that none of them play point guard. The Celtics will only go as far as Rajon Rondo takes them. However, it will be interesting to see how teams defend the Allen, Garnett, Pierce show without being able to double-team any of those guys.

I have already talked about the Bulls a little bit.  I asked when the future is and if I really am supposed to buy into this team. Well, I am. The future is now for the Bulls and they could easily represent the East this year. I think they will play the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals and could take that series in six. The reason I like them this season is because they don’t have a superstar. They show that team basketball can work at the highest level if you have shooters and guys that can create shots for themselves. If Big Ben can play like he did three years ago, the Bulls will be by far the best team in the conference.

Ultimately I don’t see any of these teams winning in the NBA Finals against the West. There are about seven Western Conference teams that could handle the Bulls in a seven game series. The East is much improved, however, and this NBA season is going to be a fun one to watch.