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Derrick Rose

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A Rose is a Francis is a Marbury.

In the most recent attempt to revivify the moribund Knickerbockers — who, with the possible exception of 2012/13, have been terribad for as long as GitM has existed — Phil Jackson and new coach Jeff Hornacek decide to take a page from the 2010-2011 Chicago Bulls, adding PG Derrick Rose and very likely C Joakim Noah to the current nucleus of Melo and Porzingis.

Uh…yeah, hope springs eternal and all, but this doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. We already did the former-All-Star-PG-on-the-back-half bit with Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury, and those were not good years. And, to put it charitably, both Rose and Noah have Mr. Glass tendencies at this point. I know Rose, at worst, is a one-year-loaner, but wouldn’t it make more sense to build young around Porzingis?

Fan-Tastic 2011.

Since it’s that particular Saturday morning in April again, time for this year’s NBA playoff picks. (Note: accuracy of picks may well be impacted by the return of the Knickerbockers after seven years of ignominy.) Here we go…


The East

Chicago Bulls (1) v. Indiana Pacers (8): What a difference a year makes. This time in 2010, Cleveland was the Court of King James and the Eastern powerhouse everyone was watching, while Chicago was the lowly 8-seed that everyone expected would just be happy to be there. Now, Cleveland is fighting it out with Minnesota for lottery balls, and it’s Derrick Rose’s multifaceted Chicago Bulls with the targets on their back. As in the past several years, the Eastern Conference 8-seed is an iffy squad — Indiana went 37-45 and are coming in on a 2-game losing streak — so I don’t expect Chicago to be tested here. Chicago in 4.

Miami Heat (2) v. Philadelphia 76ers (7): This was looking like a return to the Knicks-Heat series of old before New York went on a late-season streak and the Celts faded down the stretch. Anyways, the Heatles (Wade, LeBron, and Bosh — does that make Mike Miller Ringo?) have been a combustible squad all season, and, after watching LeBron mentally check out of the Boston series last year, I have much less faith in his multi-ring playoff potential than I used to. Still, they were designed with the post-season in mind, and the Sixers are only slightly better than Indiana. Gonna have to go Miami in 5.

Boston Celtics (3) v. New York Knicks (6): Hey, look, it’s the Knickerbockers! Now, all the smart money has the Celtics in this match-up, and my head tells me that’s probably true. In fact, they’ll probably take the Knicks in five or six — New York is still a work in progress, and we’re really one more star and 2-3 more role players away from really contending. Still, after an ugly March, Amare and Melo seemed to be finding their groove in the last few weeks of the season, while Boston — a team I’d root for in most other situations — has looked haggard and ornery ever since they traded Kendrick Perkins away at the deadline. And, hey, it’s been seven years, so why not say New York in 7.

Orlando Magic (4) v. Atlanta Hawks (5): Like the Mavericks in the West, Orlando is a team built around a force of nature (Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard) that I’m starting to think is never going to put it together. That being said, they’re facing a team they swept last year, and one who has been struggling (10-17) since the All-Star break. Orlando in 5.

The West

San Antonio Spurs (1) v. Memphis Grizzlies (8): Much credit to the Spurs — Their transition has been extraordinary. Even as Tim Duncan’s era of dominance fades, the Spurs have been consistent all season and even managed to win the West. I don’t see them having much trouble with the Grizzlies. San Antonio in 5.

Los Angeles Lakers (2) v. New Orleans Hornets (7): Ironically, this is the first season in a long time where I might have rooted for the Lakers. Should they manage to make it to the Finals versus Cleveland, sure, I’d root for Phil Jackson to get his twelfth ring. But, like Boston, they have been showing their age down the stretch, and Bynum being hurt — again — doesn’t help matters. They’ll beat Chris Paul and the Hornets, but I’m thinking they won’t make it to June this year. Los Angeles in 6.

Dallas Mavericks (3) v. Portland Trailblazers (6): As I said in the Orlando section, I have my doubts that they’re serious contenders anymore. Unfortunately for Dirk, who’s a consistently impressive and gutty player, I’m starting to think he’s going to end up like Barkley or Ewing, a star without a ring. Especially when they’re facing a young, hungry, and dangerous Trailblazers squad, the team nobody wanted in the first round. Portland in 6.

Oklahoma City Thunder (4) v. Denver Nuggets (5): With a legitimate second option in Russell Westbrook and a playoff veteran manning the paint in Kendrick Perkins, it seems about time for Kevin Durant’s OKC to make the leap. Still, after watching Gallinari, Felton, et al play for the first half of the season, I have a soft spot for “Knicks West.” Denver in 7.

The Rest

Chicago Bulls (1) v. Orlando Magic (5): One would think Orlando might have a slight advantage here because they’re a playoff-tested team. Unfortunately, they’ve failed most of those tests. Meanwhile, the Bulls enjoy the benefit of a great and hungry coach in longtime-assistant Tom Thibodeau, a superstar floor general in Rose, a dangerous set of second and third options (Boozer, Deng, Noah), and guys who know their roles all the way down the bench. (For example, Brian Scalabrine will happily wave a towel, Kurt Thomas will pay 10 minutes, flagrantly foul Howard, and scowl, etc. etc.) Chicago in 6.

Miami Heat (2) v. New York Knicks (6): See, this is what being a Homer gets you. Now I have the Knicks outperforming the first round only to play the hated Heat in the second. And damned if I’m going to pick Miami — particularly this Miami team, the most easily dislikable since the Mourning-Hardaway outfits of the late-90’s — to beat New York, even if, you know, that probably makes a lot more sense. New York in 7.

San Antonio Spurs (1) v. Denver Nuggets (5): Like I said, I like this Denver team — but they’re gunners. If the shots aren’t falling, they are going to stink up the joint. And when you move deeper into the playoffs and the tension builds, those rims will start to clank more often than not. Plus, I have a feeling, even if the Spurs are built on speed attack these days, that Gregg Popovitch will figure out how to close Denver down with not much trouble. San Antonio in 5.

Los Angeles Lakers (2) v. Portland Trailblazers (6): WIth or without Bynum, I suspect Kobe has the killer instinct to put LA on his back and get them past the Blazers (or, at the very least, he’ll yell at Pau Gasol until he does it.) Still, LA may win this season, but Portland is going to tire them out, and that’s going to be a factor in the next round. Los Angeles in 6.

EAST FINALS: Chicago Bulls (1) v. New York Knicks (6): Ok, I think here’s where reality sets in. Even if New York makes it this far, they will have had to knock off two of the three main contenders from the East. Meanwhile, Chicago has had a pretty easy road of it — nobody’s really imagining Indiana or Orlando to go anywhere deep. Plus, let’s face it, the Knicks have a lot of exposed holes still…like Denver, they rely on offense and offense only. But wait ’til next year — Chris Paul will look great in the blue-and-orange. Chicago in 6.

WEST FINALS: San Antonio Spurs (1) v. Los Angeles Lakers (2): You again, I see — The two best teams of the last decade meet for yet another go-round in the Western Conference finals. And, this year, Tim Duncan has more fresh legs on his side than Kobe. San Antonio in 7.

FINALS: Chicago Bulls (1) v. San Antonio Spurs (1): Ok, they’re both one-seeds, but a lot of you have the Heat and/or Lakers here, right? Anyways, it’s hard to bet against Gregg Popovitch and Tim Duncan in the NBA Finals. But it’s also hard not to like this Bulls team, who are both well-rounded and deep. I’ll keep it real for the East and say Chicago in 7.

So, looking back on this, I actually find myself rooting for the Bulls and the Lakers at various points. Strange times we live in, strange times. Anyway, Game 1 is starting right about now, so let’s go to it! The NBA, it’s faaaan-tastic.

Fan-Tastic 2009.

These are actually a weekend late now, and my knowledge of the league now that I’ve left New York (and thus haven’t been watching Knicks games) is at an all-time ebb. Then again, broadcasting uninformed opinions is pretty what much the Internet was created for, so, without further ado and as per tradition, some quick NBA playoff picks…


The East

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Detroit Pistons (8): As per the last few years, I still don’t think King James’ supporting cast quite matches up to the moment. (I like Mo Williams, but he’s no Scottie Pippen, and “Big Z” — Zyldrunas Ilgauskas — is definitely no Dennis Rodman.) That being said, Lebron is pretty much playing to his amazing potential and then some, and it’s clear that — while he may still be Jordan circa ’89-90 at the moment — his dynasty is right around the corner. Conversely, the Pistons look old, tired, and broken. Particularly without Allan Iverson on hand, they would seem to be in the shoes of the mid-00’s Kings: a former title contender now obviously in eclipse. Cavaliers in Five.

Boston Celtics (2) v. Chicago Bulls (7): The Game 1 upset was a certifiable coming-out party for all-around player and Rookie of the Year PG Derrick Rose. (The facet of his game that most needs work: post-game interviewing.) But, let’s remember: The Bulls won Game 1 because Paul Pierce uncharacteristically missed a clutch free throw. With Kevin Garnett reportedly out for the playoffs, I think Boston is dead in the water this year — it’s just a matter of time (And, to be honest, that’s fine with me. They deserve some horrible mojo after swooping up Stephon Marbury as they did.) But they’re still a better team than Chicago and, remember, they had trouble with Atlanta early on last year too. Boston in Seven.

(By the way, was anyone else annoyed with the dubious and oft-repeated stat that Chicago hadn’t beaten Boston in a playoff game since 1948? Uh, well that may partly be because the Celtics were atrocious from the time Larry Bird’s back gave out until Michael Jordan retired. It’s not like the Bulls are the Bobcats, Wizards, or some other legitimately underdog franchise.)

Orlando Magic (3) v. Philadelphia 76ers (6): I’m fond of Superman (Dwight Howard), but, for all the hype surrounding Orlando mid-season, blowing an 18-point lead at home against the lowly Sixers is not something a real title contender would do. And, in the one (nationally-televised) Knicks game I have caught recently, the Magic looked terrible. But I’m not a particularly big fan of this Sixers crew either, so I’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt and say Orlando in Seven.

Atlanta Hawks (4) v. Miami Heat (5): To be honest, I don’t know the first thing about this iteration of the Hawks: I hadn’t seen ’em play until yesterday, and the last news I heard about their franchise was when Josh Childress went to Europe. But they looked pretty dominant yesterday, and they’ve got a proven clutch performer, Mike Bibby, running the point. So, even though the refs love them some D-Wade, I’ll go with Atlanta in Six.

The West

Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Utah Jazz (8): Always a tough call, for, as longtime readers well know, neither Kobe Bryant nor the Mormon church tend to be in my Fave 5. (And Carlos Boozer is his own case of bad mojo.) Still, the Lakers are deep, Kobe is an undeniable talent, and he’s got arguably the most underappreciated No. 2 in the league right now in Pau Gasol. I think, barring injury, this could very well be the Lakers’ year. In any case — sorry, Jerry Sloan — Deron Williams, Andre Kirilenko, & co. won’t stop ’em. Los Angeles in Four.

Denver Nuggets (2) v. New Orleans Hornets (7): This is one of those series where all my old intel isn’t of much use. Chris Paul and the Hornets looked deadly last post-season — exactly the type of team you didn’t want to run into early on. But I haven’t seen them play this year and don’t know if they’ve lost a step or if they’ve found a way to score when Chris Paul gets triple-teamed. Meanwhile, on paper Chauncey Billups running the Nuggets seems like a huge boon for them — he’s had experience managing hotheads (Kenyon Martin, meet Rasheed Wallace) and can successfully distribute shots among a bunch of players who all need the ball. But is he really enough to stop a George Karl team from choking early on? Given that they’re already one up, I’ll say Denver in Six.

San Antonio Spurs (3) v. Dallas Mavericks (6): With Ginobli out, the aging, injured Spurs got a spot of luck when they matched up against another fading West Coast giant, the Mavericks. I doubt the Spurs are good and/or healthy enough to get to the Conference Finals this year, but I don’t have much confidence in Dallas either. San Antonio in Seven.

Portland Trailblazers (4) v. Houston Rockets (5): I’ve gotten the impression from various sources that Portland is a much better team than they displayed in Game 1. And they’ve certainly got an impressive core of young talent in Roy, Aldridge, Oden, etc. (I kinda wish Channing Frye had continued to develop, but oh well.) Still, just by the law of averages, I think Yao et al are due to break out of the first round. (And there’s a certain irony that they’d finally get to do it after perennial loser T-Mac sorta checked out on them.) Houston in Seven.

[Hmm. With one exception, I picked the top seed every time again. Way to go out on a limb.]

The Rest

Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Atlanta Hawks (4): LeBron and the Cavs have pretty much been playing a higher-level of basketball than the rest of the East this year, particularly at home. And I think King James is too focused this year to screw things up in the second round. Cleveland in Five.

Boston Celtics (2) v. Orlando Magic (3): Like the Spurs-Mavs, I don’t have a lot of faith in either of these teams at the moment. But, while I had Boston winning this at first, I think I’m going to switch to the Magic. Perhaps the first round will work out the hiccups for Stan Van Gundy’s team, and — without Garnett on Boston — I’ll go with youth and energy over age and guile. Orlando in Seven.

Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Houston Rockets (5): I’m going to be rooting quite hard for Yao Ming and the Rockets here. But, as with the Cavs in the East, the Lakers are just operating at a different level right now. Los Angeles in Six.

Denver Nuggets (2) v. San Antonio Spurs (3): Unless they psychologically implode, and there’s always a chance of it with this combustible squad, I have to think Denver has enough weapons to take care of injury-ridden San Antonio. Denver in Five.

EAST FINALS: Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Orlando Magic (3): Third verse, same as the second and first. The Cavs are playing better ball that most everyone in the East at the moment, and James will not be denied. Cleveland in Five.

WEST FINALS: Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Denver Nuggets (2): With Phoenix, Dallas, and San Antonio on the way down, Denver now looks to be one of the premier contenders in the West. But, unless Carmelo has the type of break-out, monster playoff performance that many think he’s capable of but that we’ve yet to see, I don’t see this being all that close. Los Angeles in Five.

FINALS: Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Cleveland Cavaliers (1): If you read what’s come before, you may have noticed that I deemed this the Lakers year a few paragraphs ago. And that’s probably true — they’re hungry, they’re experienced, and I don’t see how Cleveland’s going to manage once Phil Jackson uncorks his own version of the Jordan rules on LeBron. But, I’ve gotten pretty far in life rooting against the Lake Show…so, no reason to stop now. Cleveland in Seven.

So, there you have it — Cleveland rocks. And, if they’re this good now, just wait until James get some legitimate help…I just hope it all happens on the Knickerbockers’ watch.

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