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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Golden Era of Point Guards Fighting History

As we approach the All-Star Game, the NBA is in the middle of a Golden Age at the point guard position. Not since Magic/Isiah era has the Association had the depth of talent at the position. Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo are the headliners of the class. Beyond that group you have upstarts like Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Stephon Curry combined with veterans like Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Jason Kidd and you get a nightly duels. With this new Golden Era, it begs the question:  Who will be the first to break the ceiling and win a title? but is the better question: Is it necessary to have one to win a title?

There have been many great point guards who never won a title. John Stockton, Kevin Johnson, Mark Price, Kidd just to name a few who never quite grabbed the ring. Tim Hardaway was one of the better PGs of the 90s and his quest came up short a couple of times. Isiah Thomas won two rings with the Bad Boy Pistons but there is a real argument that when he won them, he wasn't the best player on that team and certainly not its best offensive player. Gary Payton didn't win his ring until he was a role player for the 2006 Heat team. What has made this such a difficult task for the elite point guards?  Let's examine a couple of causes and see how it could affect the current crop

1) Size does matter: With the exception of Magic Johnson, most of your point guards are 6-4 and under. While many have been blessed with great leaping ability or great quickness, they are still relatively undersized compared with the rest of the NBA. This size makes a difference at the end of a game when its halfcourt basketball and your PG can't get off that quality look against a set defense....Magic , at 6-9, wasnt bothered by going to the basket and look at his famous Babyhook in the finals. he was eye level with Parish and Bird so he didnt have to alter the shot

2) Pulling double-duty is tough:  Many of your great point guards not only were distributors but also were first option scorers. Not only having to set everyone up but get baskets as well such as Hardaway, Payton , and Kevin Johnson. Fast forward to 2010 and you have that case with Rose, Williams, and Westbrook who have to score the ball as effectively if not more than passing. Against championship defenses, the scoring point guard can be forced into becoming a scorer only which for a smaller player in a series is tough or forced to get teammates involved that aren't good enough to take the load off

3)You are great but he is greater:  Sometimes its just a case of their being someone on the other team who is greater than you. In the 90s, it was MJ...In the 21st century, its Shaq, Kobe, Duncan and now Boston's Big 3. A great point guard is a wonderful thing but put that great point guard against All-Time great talent at another position and I will take the All -Time great. This is the big advantage for Rajon Rondo over his peers. Rondo can distribute, freelance on D, run the team while the Big 3 makes the shots. Tony Parker has had Tim Duncan to lean on (along with Manu). Even with all the talent at the PG spot, the favorites to win title are Boston, LA, Miami, Orlando, and Spurs. After Rondo, your next point guard in that mix is Tony Parker. The rest of them are D-Fish/Steve Blake, Jameer Nelson/Gil, Mario Chalmers/Carlos Arroyo. Hardly a great group and thats okay when you have whats around them

The challenge for the GMs of the Bulls, Thunder, Jazz, Hornets and other teams with great pgs is to find matching pieces. In the last 30 years of the NBA, only one team has one a title with point guard has the clear #1 on that team and that was the 87 and 88 Lakers led by Magic. John Paxson, Ron Harper,  Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell, Avery Johnson among others have won titles as role playing point guards. Can the Bulls find a complimentary wing player for Derrick Rose?  Can Westbrook evolve into a better distributor to go with Durant? Will Chris Paul have to change teams and get with an Amare or Melo to ever win? This great crop of guards has a lot of talent , and a lot of remaining questions

Monday, January 17, 2011

6 titles in 8 years, but it could have been greater

"Football Armageddon" comes to Chicago on Sunday January 23rd when the Chicago Bears hosts its most bitter rival, the Green Bay Packers for the NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl. This has the potential to be the biggest single game in my lifetime as a Chicago sports fan. Two legendary franchises with a long history playing for the right to go to the Super Bowl is as big as it gets since the two can never play for a World Championship.  As the countdown to kickoff begins, one of the questions being kicked around Chicago is "Is this game the biggest single sporting event in Chicago history?"  While I can't speak to the days of the 60s and 70s, I can say in my lifetime, it is.  Now the next thought is , "How do the Bulls Dynasty get left off with 6 titles featuring the Greatest Player of All Time?"

As I wrote in first entry to this blog, the  1990-91 Bulls were my favorite team of all time. The years of pain, frustration were swept away (literally) when the Bulls "Four-oh'ed" the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals to advance to the Finals to meet the Lakers. After an opening game loss, the Bulls swept the next four, including all three in the Forum. They say there is nothing like the first one, I can understand why. This started the Bulls dynasty rolling with only an abrupt retirement by MJ keeping the Bulls from an unheard of eight consecutive championships. Looking back on those championships, there were many great memories: The Pistons Sweep, MJ's Shrug Vs Portland, The Charles Smith Play vs the Knicks, The Flu Game, and the The Final Shot are all engrained in the minds of Bulls Fans. So why don't the Bulls get included in the discussion of Chicago's biggest sporting events? Let me explain.

Once the Bulls won the first title, it was the equivalent of trying to hold a cup of water in your hand. Once the first drop gets away, the rest of it is soon to follow.  Bird was gone, Magic was gone and MJ in his prime with a superior sidekick and Pip, and the Triangle at full tilt, there were no other challengers. The Bulls played 24 series to win those six titles. They were only pushed to a Game 7  TWICE. The first time was 1992 Eastern Conference Semis vs the Knicks. A physical intense series highlighted by hard fouls, near fights, trash talking, and two great coaches but in the end , MJ wasn't having it and dropped 42 in Game 7 to lead a blowout win. The second time was the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals vs thePacers and Reggie Miller (BIG SHOUTS TO MAN O-DOG FOR THIS ONE).  The Pacers led by as much as 15 in Game 7 with MJ and Pip having terrible nights. Despite a gas tank running near E, the Bulls summoned up everything they had and pulled out an 88-83 win to go to the finals where they would win title #6 over a tough Jazz outfit.

The Bulls dynasty always had the air of inevitability about them. No matter how good their opponent played, you never had the sense they were ever in real danger. Even in the Knicks series, you felt like in Game 7, MJ would just hit the afterburners and it would be done. The Pacers series was real danger because the Pacers had the balance,depth, and athletes to make it tough on the Bulls who were the oldest team in the league that year. As long as the trio of MJ/Pip/Phil were together, there just never was really a doubt. Maybe some sweat but never any fear.  A lot of basketball fans are weary of the Boston-LA rivalry but in truth Boston-LA embodies the best of sport and competition, it represents real rivalry. A rivalry is only a rivalry when the two sides are equally dangerous to each other. That danger then breeds contempt and fear because one side knows the other is more than able to keep them from winning a championship. Bird's Celtics were every bit the equal of Magic's Lakers and fast forward that to current days  KG/Paul's Celtics are every bit the equal of Kobe/Phil's Lakers. The games are competitive because of the balance on both sides. Boston and LA , despite their hatred, know the other side is just as capbable of winning the title as the other.  The Bulls dynasty lacked that. Were the Knicks, Pacers, and Jazz tough? Of course.....Did you ever think they would beat the Bulls? Not really...

As i have matured as a sports fan, its no longer about "my team winning" or "my team is better than yours". While i am true to my Chicago teams, I find myself being less of a homer. I root for great games, competition and to see the greatest players on their greatest stage instead of a favorable result. When the Bulls lost to Celtics in the first round of 2009 playoffs, i was not that disappointed. Bulls had played hard for seven games and tested the defending World Champions to their limit. Watching the latest edition of Boston-LA in the '10 Finals was everything you want as a basketball, hard fought games, great shot making, intense defense, roaring crowds. A True rivalry. The Bulls never had a real rival because you knew who was going to win in the end. Watching the Greatest of All Time was a treat, the celebrations were awesome, the performances breathtaking and of course the ability to talk trash to the New Yorkers i went to school with was the best. I wouldn't change those times for the world, except I would have given the Bulls tougher opponents. Here is what i would have changed. Would the Bulls have still won the 6 titles? Probably so but it would have been more fun and more of a challenge

1991- Instead of the Lakers, with Kareem gone and Magic and Worthy past their primes. I would have like to seen the Bulls vs the Spurs. A young and athletic Admiral , with a great wing scorer in Sean Elliott, and the point God, Rod Strickland. along with the long wingman Willie Anderson to try to slow down Jordan. The old Hemisfair Arena was a "bogey" arena for the Bulls but feel they could have gotten one there
 Prediction: Bulls in 6 

1992-  No change here, Portland was best possible matchup. Unfortunately, MJ was hellbent on ethering Clyde Drexler

1993- Phoenix led by MVP Charles Barkley was the best team in the NBA , at least record wise but let's exchange Phoenix for Houston who won 55. The Dream in his prime surrounded by three-point shooters and a building in The Summit that the Bulls routinely struggled with. This would have been a tougher series than you think. Especially with Houston having the one guy who could make MJ lose his mind: Vernon Maxwell.
Prediction: Bulls in 6

1996-Wouldnt change the Finals matchup of Seattle but George Karl should have played Gary Payton on MJ like any coach would have it would have been a bit more challenging. , instead let Horace Grant  have been 100% healthy for the Eastern Conference Finals and Nick Anderson have made the FT's in 1995 finals. Nick wasnt the same after those misses but i digress.

 1997-  instead of Utah, match the Bulls up with the Rockets led by Dream/Clyde/Chuck..With MJ/Pip/Rodman , you would have 6 stars all past their primes but all capable of still coming up with special performances...The amount of trash talking would be Epic but Dream would would have been too busy turning the Bulls Centers around like a top. Compaq Center, like the Summit, always tough on Bulls
Prediction: Bulls in 7

1998- instead of Utah, let's pit the Bulls against who else but the Los Angeles Lakers.  Shaq entering his prime, an All-Star guard Eddie Jones, the mercurial Nick Van Exel, along with Rick Fox, Robert Horry, and D-Fish. But the main attraction is MJ at age 35 dueling with the budding star of Kobe Bryant. The Lakers would have been the greatest combo of athletics and skill the Bulls ever saw and the youngest. Could the Bulls coming off a grueling series with Pacers had enough in the tank to deal with the Lake Show? There would have been no better finish to MJ's career than conquering the Diesel and the Heir to the Throne. Game 7 of this series still would be the highest ever rated game
Prediction: Bulls in 7 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, MJ!

I originally created this in January but decided to bring it back for the birthday . 48 Years on the Planet for the Black Cat

We all know Michael Jordan has an infinite catalog of great moment and games. "Flu Game", "The Shot 1 and 2", "The Final Shot", "63 vs Boston", "55 in the Garden" are the games that most of us all know and love. Even  MJ's secondary moments like the "The Switch -Hand layup" in the Finals, "The And 1" over X-man and knicks, and the countless posters and hanging layups are well known. Being a hoop head, I like to find the games or moments that you don't think of.  While MJ is an icon, he too has some hidden gems... Click and enjoy...

                               1986 ECQ vs Celtics, Game 1- "The Game Before The Game"

April 1988-" Jordan Rules from now on"



1992 NBA FINALS Game 5 vs Portland- "Clyde Who?"

1996 vs Pistons- "Grant Hill, meet MJ"

JAN 1997 vs, Knicks- "Con Game"




Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where are you, Jimmy Chitwood?

While watching highlights of Brigham Young guard Jimmer Fredette drop 47 on Utah last night, I thought to myself. "Damn, this white boy can play?" I dropped a text to my guy JNavaho aka Black Strom to alert him we may have a new white star. Of course, the ever cool JNavaho replied that we had seen this before and that he would wait and see. I understood his hesitation as their have been many false dawns about White American players. JJ Reddick, while having a solid year with Orlando, is still a long way from meeting the worth of the Lottery pick he was drafted. Tyler Hansbrough aka Mr Try Hard missed his entire rookie year with an eye issue/concussion and is just now getting mintues with Indiana. We won't even discuss Adam Morrison, a bonafide top -5 worst lottery pick ever. The question becomes "What happened to the White American Basketball Player?. I am leary of this topic because its just a spinoff of what happened to the "Black American Baseball Players?. However, baseball has always been a sport played mostly by Whites and Latinos over the last 30-40 years. The NFL is predominantly black but White players are still a more than significant part of the league and at the glamour position of Quarterback there were only 3 full time black starters (Vick, Campbell, Freeman).

This leads us back to basketball. The NBA, above any other sport, experienced the most dramatic shift in race in the shortest amount of time. Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton signed with New York in 1950 to become first Black player to sign a contract. The NBA despite having Russell, Oscar, Wilt, Elgin, was a reflection of the society , very slow to integrate and being accepting of Blacks. The ABA was formed in 1967 and the upstart league with its wide open play became a safer haven for black players landing stars like Dr. J, George Gervin, Spencer Haywood (the first early entrant). The NBA still had its original black superstars but there was still the air of "can't have too many black guys on the team". Only the biggest cities like New York , Los Angeles, Chicago had predominantly black rosters.  The folding of the ABA/Merger in 1976 ushered in a dynamic racial shift. Overnight the league became very black and very unpopular. Even the introduction of the great Dr. J couldn't stem the tide of negativity. The NBA was seen as too street, too drugged out, and too black. The drug part was definitely true. TV ratings fell to Nil. 1979 brought Magic and Larry but the 1980 finals were still on tape delay..However, the league did catch a break with Bird getting drafted by Celtics. Boston being a predominantly white and racially polarizing city had the NBA's Great White Superstar. Boston's rise along with Kevin McHale, and several other white role players like Greg Kite, Jerry Sichting and Danny Ainge were the centerpiece of the great Boston-LA rivalry. The "Showtime" Lakers were led by Magic, the magnetic charisma and smile of 6-9 wizard Magic Johnson.  The glitz and glamour of LA led by its black superstar against the blue-collar, fundamentals and toughness of Beantown and its white star brought us classic games and the byproduct: White fans came back to the NBA which spawned Lil Jimmy and Bobby putting down the baseball glove and picking up the roundball. I remember playing in the YMCA Sunnyside in Bloomington from third grade to sixth grade, and most of teams being predominantly white despite a gym in a black neighborhood, At that same time, most of my friends at stop playing baseball. This was the height of the Magic-Bird era with a young MJ just around the corner to replace Dr. J. 

The NBA was officially the most popular sport as we entered the 1990s. TV ratings were though the roof , primarily on the back of Michael Jordan and tremendous marketing. The move to globalize only made sense to expand as we talked about above and there were some talented players across the globe who did have an opportunity to play the NBA with the fall of Communism and Eastern Bloc dictatorships. The prime spots for talent became the former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union....Yugoslavia before its breakup into several states were a powerful force and produced several NBA talents including Dino Radja, Sasha Danilovic, Toni Kukoc, the late Drazen Petrovic, and Vlade Divac. The former Soviet Union produced Sarunas Marciulonis, Rimas Kurtinatis and maybe the greatest International Center of all time Arvydas Sabonis. Rik Smits of the Netherlands was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 1988 with the second overall pick even though he played at Marist University. Detlef Schrempf was drafted in 1985 with eight overall pick by Dallas. The league still had several White-American All-Star including Kevin McHale, Chris Mullin, John Stockton, Mark Price, Dan Majerle, and Tom Chambers but the tide was shifting.

The European player was thought of as fundamentally sound, disciplined, and not to be a problem. As more and more players were drafted into successful such as Dirk Nowitzki, Peja Stojakovic, Hedo Turkoglu, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Leandro Barbosa. The NBA had not only international exposure but real talent to have in its league. These players were All-Star Caliber players who could become stars in America as well. While the success of the international player on par has been great for the league, it has phased out the White American Basketball player. David Lee's selection to the 2010 NBA All-Star game made him only the second white American All-Star since Brad Miller in 2003.  The Current listing of NBA players on NBA.com (http://www.nba.com/players/) lists 32 White-American Players.  There are 30 Teams in the NBA!. Today's NBA is the bizarro 1950s. 

As I stated when i started this Blog, i am not an expert and definitely not a sociolgists. The reason for the lack of White American Players are numerous. Product of the Video Game generation? The rise of X-Games? Fantasy Sports? Too Much Jersey Shore? The reason is somewhere out there in the stars and maybe its a statement on where we are as a society that we don't notice race in sports as much but the virtual extinction of the White american player is a more than significant trend in Basketball. This also begs the question about how we feel about race period. Because the issue involves the majority race in our country, are we less likely to care and does it make it less important?  At least I know it is for Black Strom Thurmond.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Death, Taxes, and the Eastern Conference

"There is a lot of basketball left to play"
"We just taking it one game at a time..."
"We are not looking ahead..."

The above statements and variations of them will come out of NBA players and coaches over the next 3 plus months of the NBA season but the reality is that the outcome is done and dusted in 50% of the Association.  Most of your preseason opinion was that the best teams in the East were some combination of Boston, Miami, Orlando, Chicago with Atlanta on the fringe  of the top half. While the Knicks return to relevance has been a pleasant surprise,things have gone as we thought. Combined that with the fact that the other nine teams in the conference are non-factors, we can go ahead and preview the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Even injuries to players like Joakim Noah, big trades made by Orlando, and the ever-looming Carmelo watch haven't done anything to shake up standings. Let's look at where we stand today in the East. Keep in mind, unlike the NFL which doesn't re-seed, the NBA correctly does. Record takes priority over division winner

1. Boston : Despite injuries to Rondo and KG, Celtics have been most consistant team in the East from Day One. They still hold a slight lead on Miami for home-court advantage which doesn't mean much. Boston and San Antonio are the only teams in the NBA who don't need home court throughout to win the title. Veteran leadership, toughness, depthy and the best defense in NBA when its all clicking, They have already beaten Miami twice. Will Boston take foot of the gas a bit to save legs?

2. Miami (1/2 game behind Boston,  4 games ahead of Orlando in Southeast,): Put the first two weeks out of your mind, no one wants any part of the Heat right now. LBJ and DWade are doing their best MJ-Pip impersonations and Bosh has found his sea legs. Still worry about this team's lack of credible size but there is no doubt they have more than enough firepower to get out of the East and fulfill all the lofty expectations. One weakness is lack of cap flexibility to make a move for a quality big man. Should have enough to hold off Chicago for 2nd and very much in race for #1

3. Chicago (3.5 games behind Boston, 8 games ahead of Indiana in Central): Leaders of arguably the worst divsion in the NBA (Pacific Divsion right there), the Bulls have the pieces to give any of the elite fits. Well-coached and organized,  tough interior defender (Noah), an elite player (Rose) and a great second banana (Boozer). If they can swing a deal for a shooting guard (JR Smith? Rip Hamilton? Stephen Jackson?), Bulls become a real threat to come out of the East. Achilles heal is team struggles to score when Rose is not on the floor. A lock to win division, Bulls need to hold that #3 seed to get a better matchup with the Knicks. Falling to 4 or 5 , means Magic or Hawks who have given them fits in last two to three seasons

4. Orlando (4.5 games behind Boston, 4 games behind Miami in Southeast):  Correctly recognized that team they began season with wasn't good enough to compete with Miami once Heat got on track and too soft to beat Boston. Terkoglu, Richardson, and Arenas bring them much needed scoring and late-game toughness.  Needs a backup center or power forward to assist Howard on the interior. Despite the move, this is the one team in the top 4 who needs homecourt, best bet is to catch Chicago for 3rd to get a better matchup with New York.

5. Atlanta (5.5 games behind Boston, 5 games behind Miami in Southeast): The Hawks are what they are: a high 40's to 50 win team who doesn't have the matching parts like a Boston or even Chicago to go further, a highly athletic team that plays slower than it should. Hawks need a starting center to allow J-Smoove to move to small forward and Al Horford to power forward.  The trio of Johnson, Smith, Horford are just below an elite trio but talented enough to make Hawks a scary first round matchup. Do they part with reigning NBA 6th man of the year Jamal Crawford (in the final year of his contract) to get the center? Like Orlando, Hawks need to start at home in a series, grabbing the 4 seed would be an accomplishment for Larry Drew in his first year as coach

6. New York (7 games behind Boston overall and in Atlantic): Will stop here with the East as the rest of conference is garbage. The upstart Knicks are a nice story but now comes the question? With a lack of tradeable assets (Wilson Chandler? Eddy Curry's terrible but soon to be over contact?), can they make Carmelo's wishes (and satisfy Denver's wants). Felton and Stoudamire have been terrific in the first half, complimented by the erratic but skilled Gallinari and Chandler. If they can pull the Anthony deal, Knicks become a legit threat for #4. The Knicks are probably a year ahead of schedule but the MSG is back abuzz and that's a good thing

Sunday, January 2, 2011


1. RESOLVE THE NBA LABOR DISPUTE--The League is in a great place , most interest since the Bulls Dynasty broke up due to tons of great (young and marketable) talent, great television production (well except the ESPN studio team), international popularity, and open race for the title. Players and Owners, don't mess this up and take us back to the early 2000s by far the darkest time in League History since the Cocaine Years of the late 70s and 80s.

2. LAKERS VS HEAT IN '11 NBA FINALS- Even as a Bull fan, i recognize how monumental this would be for the league. Unbelievable star power, two glamour cities, and ratings through the roof.  Storylines galore but the primary one being: Can a "past his prime" Kobe muster up one more command performance to tie MJ against two of the best players of their generation in their primes?

3. THE KNICKS IMPROVEMENT CONTINUES- Simply put, the NBA is good when its biggest cities are relevant and playoff games in the MSG are like no other. The Knicks continuing their rise back to contender is something to watch. Facing a tough 2nd-half schedule, can Amare and Felton keep the Knicks on path for the playoffs?  Knicks have been a fun watch so far this season, with their ESPN Wednesday Night clash vs Celtics a Game of The Year contender

4. CARMELO HOLDS HIS WATER- The prevailing theory is that Carmelo Anthony wants to be back East, preferably with the Knicks. The Nets hold the most pieces to trade, a Russian billionaire,  and a new arena in Brooklyn. All that sounds well and good but even with all of that going Nets are still the 2nd team in the Tri-State area. Melo should hold on just a little bit and wait until the summer where he can move freely, just don't have your own "Decision". But if Melo had a "Decision" show, don't you suspect it wouldn't be on tv but held on the radio and hosted by FunkMaster Flex and Angie Martinez.

5. PUBLIC RELATIONS(SPEAKING) CLASS FOR DERRICK ROSE- The best young guard playing in a major market for an improving team means there will be a lot more camera time coming for Young Mr. Rose. 2011 will bring the second of many All-Star selections and has the Bulls get more exposure, we need Mr. Rose to start becoming more and more comfortable in front of the camera. The Nice, Quiet kid act doesn't sell on Madison Avenue and doesn't sell tickets and he's too good a player to not get more notice. You worked on that jumper this off-season, now its time to work on that speech.

6. EVERYBODY MUST GO, WELL EXCEPT FOR MAGIC AND LEGLER- As the premier sports network in the world , ESPN has set the trends in sports television and marketing. When its come to broadcasting, its fallen short in many areas and the NBA is no exception. The NBA studio crew ranks only behind NFL on Fox as the worst studio crew in television. Jon Barry believe he knows a lot more than he does, Jalen Rose (loved him with Fab 5) never makes a salient point, and Stuart Scott is Stuart Scott.  Here is my idea: Throw some more dollars at Scott Van Pelt with added duties and replace him for Stuart, steal Chris Webber from NBA TV to replace Barry and Rose, Tim Legler is probably the most underrated "ex-athlete" in sports and gives you the X and O combined with Magic's overenthuiasim at times, with C-Webb and you got in immediately watchable product

7. TAKING IT BACK TO THE OLD SCHOOL AT ALL STAR WEEKEND- Too many times the All-Star Weekend is seen as good or bad depending on what happens during the dunk contest and somehow the dunk contest becomes the measure of what's happening in the league.  Here are some ways to change up the weekend. A) Invite the old heads like Craig Hodges, Mark Price, Dale Ellis to be in three-point shootout as suggested by C-Webb. A shooutout between the greybeards and guys like Steph Curry, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce would be great. B) Take a page from NHL and Let Captains pick the teams: After fan voting and coaches have picked the 24 all-stars, Kobe on one side, Lebron on the other. You think it wouldn't be fun to see who gets picked last or who actually gets along with who.

8. BEST OF 5 IN FIRST ROUND: The best- of - 5 playoff series led to classic series ending games like '89 Jordan over Ehlo, ''94 Nuggets over Sonics, 99 Allen Houston beats Heat. But more importantly, the games were played with urgency. Being down 1-0 in a best of seven there is no pressure, in a five game series, you got one foot in the grave. Shortening series makes the favorites come out and have to put foot on gas early because of the fear of being behind.

9. HOW MUCH TIME OFF YOU NEED?  One of my biggest pet peeve with the NBA playoffs is how the league manages to kill its own momenum by putting three or four days between games , especially when the venue isn't changing. The following game then starts off slow for a quarter and a half like a preseason game because both teams are shaking off ring rust. Work with your adverstisers and networkers to get a better flow between games. The NBA is a rhythm sport, players are used to playing 3-4 times a week. Twice a week make series arduorus, lessens quality of game and more importantly becomes easier to lose interest in. Unlike the NFL, where the buildup to the game is as interesting if not more interesting than game itself, the NBA is about the game and its flow.

10. BRING BACK THE ANSWER- A long-shot I know but Allen Iverson belongs in the NBA. Granted most of why AI isn't in the league is on him and he has to sort himself out but even at advanced age, he still is a dynamic personality who could help give many teams a strong 20-25 minutes a night. Ask Celtic fans if they would rather see AI or Nate Robinson pulling off the sweats as the sixth man.

11. SEATTLE GETS THEIR SONICS BACK- Everytime I watch OKC Thunder highlights, its hard not to feel for Seattle Sonics fans. An up-and-coming , likeable team led by a certified star in Durant and a great 2nd option in Westbrook surrounded by a cast of young energetic players. While Oklahoma City has done a great job of supporting the Thunder, that team should be playing in the green, white and yellow of Seattle. Relocation means someone has to lose their team and that's not fun but if anything positive comes out of the new Labor talks, maybe Memphis, Toronto, or New Orleans loses their appetite for the NBA and the Sonics can return home.