Exit Stage… Brooklyn?

I like Dwight Howard. I like him a lot.

I don’t care that he has gotten bad press, a lot of players do, it’s just a part of being an NBA player. Fans are fikle, the media too. The same people that hated LeBron now love him again.

But what I don’t like is a lack of respect and in particular, commitment to the cause. So if Dwight Howard wnats to leave Orlando, and beleive me he does, then do not stand in his way. Luckily he opted in to stay on a little longer when he signed on for next season in March, and so some assets can be recouped. But the bottom line is, this is not the end of the world.

As far as I can see, Cleveland are doing ok. Look it’s not easy there, and certainly a championship wasn’t won before the Miami Heat as promised, but it hasn’t been that bad either. Nothing is irreplaceable, the Magic have been here before after all. Centers don’t just grow on trees, yet the Magic did once own Shaquille O’Neal. Times will be tough if, when, Dwight goes. He is a player I love to watch and who makes everybody around him better. He is a genuine character too. But the future, scary as it is, might not be as bad as people think. KG moved on, the Timberwolves still grind it out, LeBron of course too, things will be ok, just maybe not right away.

I can’t blame Dwight Howard for wanting to win elsewhere, he gave it a good go with the Magic, what I do mind is not being up for the challenge.

Posted in Basketball, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Dallas Mavericks, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade | Leave a comment

Miami… Hate?

Before I embark on the Miami Heat and devote yet more time to them, let us firstly look at all that is good about this wonderfully talented basketball team… http://youtu.be/-x2G3AvHeaM

 

Now with that being said, let us look at a possible problem that the Heat may bring to the table, for years to come. A fantastic team, check. A team worthy of winning the title multiple times in the future, check. But perhaps this meticulously assembled team is doing something which few predicted, and that is stiffle and stop the growing talents of some of the league’s best and up and coming players. Of course, we can not predict what teams will challenge for the title in the next five years, but most would agree that the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks and others like the promising youth of the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers will be up there. (Of course both the Lakers and Celtics cannot be discounted either, as always.) But because of the Miami Heat, these teams will either never get the chance to go for the title. Even worse though, and selfishly for us fans, they will deny the people some great match ups in the process.

Think about it, it is not impossible to believe that every year for the forseeable future that Miami will make the Finals. Great if you’re a fan of them for sure, but does this mean that Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant will not get to meet in a Playoff series during their best playing years? Two fantastic talents, who year after year will run into the brick wall that is the Heat and never facing each other for the gold? That would be a shame. Or how about the ageing and masterful Dirk Nowitzki, never getting to tangle with a superpower in his prime like Dwight Howard? Kobe Bryant having one final swan song against a John Wall type? The fact is, Miami seem to have thrown a spanner in the works here.

Looking back on the past, great talents staying on seperate teams resulted in classic match ups between Jordan, Bird, Magic, Wilkins and Thomas amongst others. It was a natural progression and a passing of the torch of sorts, but bringing together some of the best players of a generation has stopped this progression from occuring. How disheartening must it be to know that if you are a team from the East, you must pass by the Heat at some stage every year just to get to the Finals? Similarly for teams in the West, how annoying must it be to know that it will be Miami waiting in the Finals no matter what? Actually, this is probably how teams would have felt in the Jordn era.

This Miami team is great, and watching them can be a pleasure, but knowing they will be up there year after year is kind of boring, especially when you consider the talent that may never get to hoist the Larry O’Brien aloft as a result. However, all is not lost. As Dallas have shown this year, this team is beatable, especially over a seven game series. It would seem that Miami just need the right pieces around their three star players to win a title, after all they were only two games away from victory last time out. So, although it will be great to see if Miami can build one of the all time great successful dynastys, it is also a sad thought to think that some potentially great match ups may never get the chance to play out.

Posted in Basketball, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Dallas Mavericks, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Jason Terry, Jokim Noah, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers, Larry O Brien, LeBron James, Luol Deng, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, NBA, NBA Players, Orlando Magic, Playoffs, Rajon Rondo, Sports, The Finals, Tyson Chandler | 1 Comment

Team of The Playoffs

Picking a team of the playoffs that everybody agrees with is pretty much impossible. However, this for me is the starting five, a little different to what most would pick, but my personal favourites.

Point Guard

Rajon Rondo: Of course it is madness to overlook Derrick Rose, and in all fairness he should probably be here, his statistics don’t lie. But, just as last year Rondo diving betweeen Jason William’s legs to grab the ball and then lay it up against the Magic was one of the iconic pictures of those Playoffs, Rondo falling over Dwayne Wade and mangling his arm and elbow is burned into the memory of all who watched this time around. Injuries like that result in players missing months of action. Indeed, Andrew Bogut suffered an injury along the same likes and in truth is still not the same player he was before the injury. Having Rondo return, not months later, or weeks, heck even days, but that very same GAME, now that is heart. Diving for the ball and making baskets, all with his arm in a splint, gave the crowd and his team a boost that sadly they could not capitalize on. In truth playing again 48 hours later and playing generous minutes too, was more of a hinderance to the team. Still though, his effort was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing post season for the Celtics. Runner Up: Derrick Rose, (I know, I know.) Honorable Mention: Jason Kidd, (Hey, he’s winding back the years out there in pursuit of that elusive chip.)

Shooting Guard

Dwyane Wade: Has not had to be at his explosive best throughout the playoffs with all the help he has had, but against both the 76er’s and Celtics he was genuinely class. A suspected shoulder injury kept him quiet against the Bulls, but the beauty of the Heat is that real quality such as Wade’s can be replaced by James, who can then carry the load. Make no mistake though, he is the heartbeat of this team, Miami’s adopted son, and if the Heat win it will be as much because of Wade as James. Runner Up: Jason Terry: Consistant, a constant threat off the bench who, along with J.J. Barea brings some great energy to the second unit. Brilliant against the Lakers with his shooting ability and work rate, it would be great to see an honest player like him lift the Larry O’Brien this season in what may be his last serious run for the title. Honorable Mention: Kobe Bryant, (My oh my how times change. Seen as favourites going in by many as they always come good when the post season begins, but Kobe and the Lakers just could not get it done this time round. Going all the way two years straight can take its toll though.) Honorable, Honorable Mention: Monta Ellis, (Yes not even in the playoffs, I just wish he would get there soon as I think he is a very talented player and a joy to watch.)

Small Forward

LeBron James: After all of the ridicule and all of the hype, and we’re not going to go back through it all, LeBron James is back in the finals and well, he’s looking better than ever. What’s more, he’s added the one facet to his game that really has been missing throughout the years, he has become a closer of games, and the Celtics and Bulls are proof of that. A ring seems inevitable, if not this year then next, but interestingly some of his best ball this post season has come from playing the point guard position too, making him a canditate in two catagories almost. Yes the team around him is better, but my word is he a better player too, even Scottie Pippen has thrown his hat into the ring on the subject, and Scottie’s word is gospel! He goes off big when it counts, and seems relentless in his quest to win. If this list were to be done every year for the next eight to ten years, it is a safe bet ‘Bron would top it. Runner Up: Kevin Durant, (Viewed by most as being a year or two shy of being serious contenders, Durant brought the Thunder to the Western Finals with some stunning displays, but did go cold at the wrong times too.) Honorable Mention: Luol Deng, (Produced some heroic displays and is surely one of the most underrated players in the NBA today. D Rose is the focal point, but without Deng, the Bulls would not have made the run to the East Finals that they did.)

Power Forward

Dirk Nowitzki: What more needs to be said other than the fact that Nowitzki finally came good and delivered a championship to Dallas. He continued to grow as the playoffs went on, heck he even had a Jordan moment with that ‘Flu Game’ in the Finals, and put a ring on his CV. By defeating a heavily fancied Miami Heat team and grabbing a title just as his window seemed to be closing, Nowitzki has cemented his legacy in the NBA. Possibly the best European player to ever play the game, certainly the best German. Runner Up: Zack Randolph, (The Grizzlies were the surprise package of the playoffs, with Randolph leading the charge with Rudy Gay sidelined. Stunning the top seeded Spurs was some achievement, but the way he played against Oklahoma was even better, inspiring them to a seven game series. Although they did fall to the Thunder, Randolph’s heroics did not go un-noticed.) Honorable Mention: Chris Bosh, (It pains me to put Bosh as the honorable mention it really does, I think that he flies under the radar far too often on his Heat team. He has had a fantastic post season, sacraficing some personal statistics whilst still playing at an All-Star level. Some huge games against the Bulls lifted his team, and he played great against the Mavericks too. He will be back to claim revenge next year for sure.)

Center

Tyson Chandler: Although perhaps an unlikely choice, it was Chandler’s grit that got them through some tough times, notably against the Thunder who pushed them hard. Both he and Kendrick Perkins had some great battles in that series. His defence was invaluable against the Heat too. An unlikely hero and unlikely champion this year. Runner Up: Jokim Noah, (An excellent year all round for Noah, and against the Heat in particular he was a menace on the boards. Part of a Bulls team that looks to be around for years to come, expect to see Noah on lists like these for years to come too. If the rumours are true and Chicago refused to trade him in a deal for Carmelo Anthony, it seems to have been the right call.) Honorable Mention: Marc Gasol, (Another player who surprised a lot of people, his heart, commitment and ability to play at a consistant level helped the Grizzlies on their unlikely post-season run. Perhaps it is time for Marc to break out and trade to a championship contender, just as brother Pau did? Even if he doesn’t he is a part of a very exciting Memphis team. Confused Final Note: Dwight Howard, (How a three time defensive player of the year doesn’t make this list is crazy, but the Orlando Magic seem to be a team in trouble, even with Howard’s outrageously good performances.)

Posted in Basketball, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Dallas Mavericks, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Games, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Jokim Noah, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers, LeBron James, Luol Deng, Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Monta Ellis, NBA, NBA Players, Orlando Magic, Rajon Rondo, Sports, Tyson Chandler, Zack Randolph | Leave a comment

Game Over

Well… LeBron killed it out there tonight. 38 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds and the luxury of sitting out the 4th quater as the Heat decimated the Cavs 118-90. The atmosphere was intense but, in truth, after around 9 minutes the Heat had taken the edge off the crowd’s boos with their accomplished perfromance, easily their best of the season to date. The sense of relief was there too, the feeling that this team can push on from here, all 3 of the ‘Big 3′ performing well together for the first time this season. This may well have been the turning point in their season. Credit to the Cavaliar’s though, they tried to make it difficult out there and for the majority of the first quater they achieved that goal. The Heat settled into the game though, and from there their class shone through. A blowout it was, but one of the more entertaining blowouts you’ll ever see.  The King’s return to his first home was brief, but emphatic.

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Showtime…

As I am from Ireland, I will be staying up late tonight to watch the Miami Heat travel to the Cleveland Caveliers. All the hype is around LeBron James return of course, and although it has been talked about to death, it is at least an interesting storyline that could well define this NBA season. Usually I’ll record a game to watch the next day, but staying up till nearly 4 in the morning to watch this live shows the power this saga has had over the entire NBA.

I’d love Cleveland to win tonight or for Lebron to score 2 points, but I feel it won’t be like that. LeBron will have prepared himself for this, and I can see the Heat winning comfortably as the occasion gets too the Cavs. I also predict some hefty challenges going in on LeBron too. Whatever happens though, it promises to be a memorable night.  More after the game.

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The Best In My Eyes, But Not In Yours, Well Probably…

Well the new NBA season is upon us tonight. There has been plenty of talk and speculation during this off season, and rightly so as it was one of the most exciting and unpredictable well, ever, with a lot of time spent opinionating on who will eventually come out the other end as champions next June. There really is no point on me weighing in with my unwanted opinions on the subject that has been talked to death. (I’m tipping the Lakers to do it one last time and beat the Magic in the Finals if you’re wondering. No Miami Heat you ask? I’m giving them a year to find themselves before almost inevitable dominance.) There is one thing I would like to bring to your attention though before the first tip off, partially because I feel strongly about it and also because it did not get nearly as much coverage as it should have.

The Celtics. The Boston Celtics. Talked about as dark horses to win the title this year, and I think that’s a fair assessment of their chances. Funny thing though, when people talk about their chances the ageing ‘Big 3′ and the aquisition of veteran big man Shaquille O’ Neal are all that is really talked about. Kendrick Perkins knee injury is brought up occasionally too. Of course, this is all true and fine,but has everybody on earth forgotten about the class that is Rajon Rondo?

I’m going to say this before we go any further, the guy straight up does not get enough credit for his effort and hustle for this Boston Celtics team. He injects the flair, pace and youth needed to keep this organisation where it is. Not alone of course, but with the help of the ‘Big 3′. The 24 year old point guard out of the University of Kentucky, via the prestigious Oak Hill Academy high school, has lit up courts since his introduction to the NBA in 2006. These were subtle contributions at first, playing behind Sebastian Telfair in his rookie season, but once given the keys to this team in 2008 his class really shone through. He won a championship that year, (That’s one more ring than Lebron, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard has by the way…) and yes it is true that a large part of that success was because of the ‘Big 3′ that is Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. But he contributed as well and right there and then the ‘Big 3′ should have then on been known as the ‘Big 4′.

The season just gone by saw another massive improvement in Rondo, his electric movement and cheek to take on the big men in driving to the hole or pull up and knock off a three becoming far more consistant, contributing more to the team and dragging them back up when they needed somebody to step forward. Then during the post-season he became an animal, posting two triple-doubles en route to the Finals against the much fancied Lakers. Of course the Lakers came off best in that classic duel but not Continue reading

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NBA 2K11

WOW… That is the first word that comes to mind having played this game. I will admit I was a bit sceptical picking the game up, even if I did get a staff discount on it, as I have always been a firm fan of the EA Sports franchise when it comes to sports games. To me they have always given the most authentic gaming experience to sports games, especially the FIFA and Madden games that come out once a year. I had always believed the same was true of their NBA series of games too, I have bought them loyally every year from 2003 onwards, firstly on my Playstation 2 and then later on the Xbox 360. They have always been very hard to track down and find too, Ireland is not the biggest market in the world for basketball games, I even had to resort to buying last year’s installment online but was not dissapointed. There has always been the general concensus too that the 2K franchise of basketball games was better, but I never bought into it and remained loyal to the EA brand. In truth it is only because this year’s EA game, NBA Elite 11 has been pushed back until January that I decided to give this game a go, to fill the void if anything else. Now though, I am unsure if I will part with my money at all when NBA Elite does finally come out next year, staff discount or not.

To begin with, the opening sequence of this game blew me away. Having Micheal Jordan as their poster boy this year (Shown above) is a massive coup for them, I’m sure nearly most people in the world would be aware of who he is and have some idea of what he has achieved in the sport. The game begins with you in the tunnel with Jordan and then running on court, and then you are expected to actually play a game their and then! The game in question, a 1991 finals against the Los Angeles Lakers with Jordan’s Chicago Bulls is a very famous one in it’s own right, it was Micheal Jordan’s first appearance at a finals and Magic Johnson, another of the all time greats, last. And to actually be able to play the game right their and then just took me by total surprise. No tutorials, no practising, just straight into the action before a menu has even been seen. Naturally I got hammered as it took me half of the game to get the hang of the new controls associated with the game, but just being able to run around the court as Micheal Jordan felt brilliant, it was a joy to lose as I played out a piece of basketball history, with the venue and commentary spot on and feeling the right kind of dated aswell.

Once you get stuck into the game modes it is even clearer to see that this game means business. Highlights include being able to play classic teams against current ones in one on one games (Kobe versus Jordan anybody?), a solid season mode in which you play the games, but also take part in press conferences and watch players enter the arenas in fancy suits before the games, really exceptionally detailed stuff. Then on top of that you have the Jordan Challenge, which could have almost been a stand alone game in itself. Here you get to play as Jordan, putting him on the team of your choice and reshaping his career, as well as taking ten of his most iconic moments and replaying them in your own living room. This gives the game the edge over any others that have come before it in my opinion, being able to recreate history with iconic fully licensed players and teams.

A quick note has to go to the gameplay itself. Although a little tricky to get used to, when you do finally get the hang of it it feels all the more satisfying pulling off that high flying dunk or that sweet behind the back pass. Half time match reports and analysis from reporters feel just like the real thing too, a really nice touch. Flaws are few and far between, but for casual gamers looking to pick up and play with friends this may not be for them because of the intricate controls. The pace is quite slow at times too, with replays and cut scenes to benches a plenty, breaking up the flow, but this is very like how real basketball is played out so serious basketball gamers should not be put off by this. Passes can sometimes go astray too but really that would be clutching at straws to try and find problems with this game.

This game is never going to win the game of the year award, that title will most probably go to a Halo or a Call of Duty. It probably won’t even win anything in it’s own sports catagory with the FIFA and Madden games being seriously strong and popular this year, but it really should win something. It has taken a game that essentially will be similar every single year and just turned it into something completely different, adding on so many new features that will keep the gamer coming back long after they grow tired of playing just the game. 2K have done a great job here and firmly left EA Sports with a lot of catching up to do. For them, their main concern will be trying to top this effort next year. A must buy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIy9_558v3k 

(The trailer for the game NBA 2K11)

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