Outside of the NFL season, my favorite time of the year has come! Yeah yeah, I know the NBA is not all that exciting anymore. But hopefully, the next few days will bring us some excitement and new discussions. Without further ado, here are my picks:
(1) Celtics vs. (8) Bulls: Going into this game, a lot of people are already counting the Bulls out, but I think otherwise. I personally think that the Celtics move the ball pretty well and have more of a fast paced game than the Bulls, who are their own worst enemy. The winner will depend on the sole play of Isaiah Thomas and Jimmy Butler. However, even with age, Wade and Rondo have the postseason experience that will be much needed against the surprising top team. Through it all, I think the Bulls are still riding on winning streak. My prediction: Bulls in 6.
(2) Cavaliers vs. (7) Pacers: This series does not need much talk about it. Cleveland has three All-Stars and has depth. Unfortunately, Paul George cannot win a series by himself. With all due respect, I look for Lance Stephenson to make multiple “what was he thinking” mistakes. When he is on, he is on. And when he is off, he is way off without a stop button. My prediction: Cavs in 5. If Paul George was surrounded by more talent, the outcome might be different.
(3) Raptors vs. (6) Bucks: The Raptors are considered a dangerous team with a back-court of DeRozan and Lowry. On the other side of the ball, the Bucks have a danger of their own…the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is one of the most dominant and unique players in the NBA. Sadly, it will be impossible for him to carry his team to the next round. I’m picking the Raptors in 5. However, if Serge Ibaka is the defender of his earlier years, Raptors in 4.
(4) Wizards vs. (5)Hawks: These two teams size up well against one another and will come down to the end. John Wall and the Wizards have played rather nice this season, as they should considering the team that they have. Dwight Howard and the Hawks defense will be the key to winning this series. This series will be a toss up and could go either way, but I’m taking the Wizards in 7.
(1) Warriors vs. (8) Trail Blazers: Another series with little to say. Golden State has the best team in the league. I think Damian Lillard is a great player, and he has a nice lineup around here. However, injuries down low will make it tough from them. The Warriors lineup and bench play will outlast the Blazers. This series will be the only sweep in the first round. Warriors in 4.
(2) Spurs vs. (7) Grizzlies: Of course, no one is really excited about this match-up. The Grizzlies are still searching for a plan to get out of their own way. They need more younger players to give them that extra lift for advancing deep into the playoffs. Stopping Leonard will be the key to the Grizzlies at least getting one win out of this series. Spurs in 5.
(3) Rockets vs. (6) Thunder: The most interesting match-up this first round has to offer in my eyes. I look for this to be a very high scoring series with Westbrook and Harden both on a mission to continue making their case for MVP. Westbrook will need his teammates to step up in this situation as they face a good team. The team that plays the most defense this series will come out on top. I’m predicting the Rockets in 7.
(4) Clippers vs. (5) Jazz: With no distractions to place blame on this year, this series should be titled “Clippers End”. With the fourth seed, the Clippers have played nice ball this season, and it’s about time. The talent built around Paul and Griffin has only led to total disappointment each year that they didn’t make it to at least the NBA Finals. The lack of hard play by the team themselves, has been their reasoning for early exits and lead diminishing. Unfortunately, the Clippers fate has overshadowed the play of the Jazz and their capabilities to beat the Clippers this series. Due to this, the youth of the team, and being ranked one of the best defensive teams in the league, I’ll take the Jazz in 7. I just cannot take the Clippers serious myself given their history.
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Disappointing is the only way to describe the season that the New York Knicks had this season. Being a fan of basketball, I honestly thought with the lineup presented at the beginning of the season, the Knicks would’ve been one of the good teams in the Eastern Conference this year. However, their season tanked with lackluster play from their players and the often said inability to learn Phil Jackson’s push for the triangle offense. Losing still hurts, but it is now more acceptable by the fans with an upside hope for a great opportunity at a lottery pick.
Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee appeared to be a pretty decent line-up on paper prior to the season. No disrespect to other players on the team, Anthony and Porzingis was going to be a good duo in the Eastern Conference. Some even would’ve went as far to say that they could’ve made it out of the second round if they would’ve remained healthy, played as a team and had depth on the bench. Unfortunately, everything that could go wrong went wrong this season.
Carmelo has been healthy for majority of this season but is not averaging at his career level. As they are now officially out of the playoffs, it is no secret that his playing time will diminish. Showing small flashes of his earlier years in Chicago, Rose was a good player this year for the Knicks. But the team needed more than a good player in Rose in order to win. Noah, plagued by injuries, really since entering his contract, has not provided the tenacity, defensive-driven out pour that the Knicks signed him for. He has not played a game since the beginning of February. Lee and Porzingis has held their own spots on a team that is desperately missing a lot of pieces. Both have shown up on both ends of the ball and has proved that they are a good fit within the teams future roster for winning.
So where do they go from here?
Besides Rose, the team will probably remain in tact. Justin Holiday and Ron Baker will become free agents, but will likely re-sign as New York seems impressed with their play. However, it will depend on other offers they receive elsewhere. Rose will become a free agent and likely will not re-sign with the Knicks. Even though his recovery time is a short one, the Knicks should consider looking for players that can compliment the team and lead them to be contenders. With the history of injuries, Rose is not the right guy to help New York on this drive.
Phil Jackson needs to go as president. Yes he is one of the greatest coaches and masterminds behind a dynasty. However, those were the yesteryear’s of the NBA. Since his on-boarding the team has struggled and has been one of the first five teams eliminated from playoff contention. Until he is able to accept the change of the game and that the triangle is not the best option for this league, especially for the roster of the Knicks, he will continue to average 50+ loses in a season as president.
It has to be understood that the Knicks will not become a championship team within the next two to three seasons. They have to go through the rebuilding process which starts with building around Porzingis. He has the potential to succeed as the star of the team following Carmelo’s reign as the leader. No need to wait for that to happen as Anthony is exiting his 13th year in the league. I would hate to see Porzingis waste all his talent in New York without getting anywhere due to the executives poor decision making. It is now or never for the Knicks.
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