The Miami Heat- Extended Break

Most people probably already know this, but if you haven't hear this yet, the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs has been everything anyone could have asked for. With 5 series going into the seventh game of the best of seven series, this years playoffs is already crazy. However, there was one series that was a sweep, and as expected, it was the Miami Heat. Now, people may think, well, they were playing the Bobcats; that's not all that spectacular. But the thing is, with all this rest, which is going to be nearing one whole week now, the Heat are going to be extremely strong in this next round.

Now their opponent will be decided in today's 1 o'clock eastern time game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors. Everyone knows that the Heat would rather play the Raptors as the Heat are 0-4 against the Nets this season, the only team the Heat have not beaten this season. But either way, in my opinion, that Heat are going to have another sweep or at most a 4-1 victory. Obviously, the Nets and the Raptors have been playing extremely hard in a physical match up, and after this game is over today, whoever wins will only have two days of rest before they begin the series against the Heat. And for a squad like the Nets, they need all the rest that they can get because their veterans need it.

Furthermore, this rest that the Heat are getting is much needed. Dwyane Wade looked sharp as it was in the first round against the Bobcats, and now with this elongated rest, his knee should have no problem. 

Lastly, I have noticed that since the Heat have finished off the sweep against the Bobcats, they haven't been in the spotlight nor the news ever (besides random teammates commenting on the Donald Sterling case). Although people may not be thinking about this, with the press off their back, the Heat have little to no pressure right now as they try to complete their quest for a 3-peat. 

The Case on Donald Sterling

As most of NBA Fans have heard, Donald Sterling, the owner of the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers is in a heap of trouble. TMZ released a video this past week involving Donald Sterling and his girlfriend V. Stiviano arguing. They were arguing about her Instagram and how Sterling wants Stiviano to stop posting pictures of minorities on her Instagram as well as for her to stop bringing minorities to Clipper's games. This is probably one of the most disgusting, and horrible things ANYONE could ever say, let alone an owner of a Playoff basketball team. 

Obviously, various members of the organization have voiced their opinions, mostly by Earvin Magic Johnson. Magic Johnson made his voice heard through Twitter, tweeting "I will never go to a Clippers game again as long as Donald Sterling is the owner", along with "I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African Americans."

Although Magic Johnson tweeted the most, Marc J. Spears, a Yahoo NBA Analyst, explains that JJ Redick was just as pissed as Chris Paul, according to Doc Rivers. To go along with that, DeAndre Jordan, another Clippers player, Instagrammed a picture of just the color black. Although Sterling will not be in attendance for today's game against the Warriors at 3:30 Easter Time, the news on Sterling definitely hit the team home. And in my opinion, this huge distraction will definitely interfere with the way that the Clippers play tonight.

Even current NBA players not associated with the LA Clippers showed their support. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant both illustrated their opinions toward the accusations of Sterling. Bryant tweeted simply, "I couldn't play for him", while LeBron said that there is "No room for Donald Sterling in our league." He also added that if Sterling was his owner, James would contemplate whether or not he would bench himself for the game.

Obviously, this is not an issue about just the NBA, but the growth of equality and our nation as a whole. After so many years of this league in existence and having STAR MINORITIES in Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan on your own team, how could a single person say this? It's appalling to hear that a man of such a status is saying this about a minority that has fought so hard to achieve equality.

Furthermore, according to the LA Times, this is not even the first time that Sterling has been caught saying something racist. In 2003, 19 Tenants accused Sterling of not renting to Latinos because "Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building". Also, he stated that "black tenants smell and attract vermin."

All in all, it's really awful to hear what has hit the news hard in these past two days. I hope for the nations sake that these recordings are indeed fake because it hurts to hear that someone would openly say that about minorities in America.

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All Star Weekend

Wow what an exciting weekend of the best players in the league showing their individual talents. But their were many changes in each of the events, so let's go through the top four: Three Point Contest, Dunk Contest, Skills Challenge and the All Star Game.

First, with the three point contest. The major change within this event was the fact that all the money balls were located at one specific shooting spot in addition to one money ball located at each spot. I, for one, admire this change tremendously. This adds a lot more excitement and strategy in the shooting of each player, depending on where they place all the money balls. For example, say a specific shooter is off in all of the earlier spots but shoots lights out in the money rack at the end, they are still in the showing. Similarly, a player could shoot lights out at the first spot, where they placed the money balls, and then cool off later, but they still get double the points for the one rack. This adds more competition in the rounds itself, creating more ties and excitement.

For those of you that didn't know, Marco Belinelli did indeed win the Three Point Contest for the West. This was a huge surprise because Steph Curry, the heavy favorite, just couldn't get it done. Then, the favorite out of the East, Joe Johnson, had a pretty terrible round, scoring a low 11 points. Bradley Beal scores a total of 21 to top the Eastern Conference. So the finals was Belinelli and Beal. Now, people are saying these two were major underdogs to make the finals, but Belinelli is second in the NBA in three point field goal percentage and Beal is sixth in the same category. The finals were surprisingly extremely fun to watch. Belinelli put up a strong 19 points. Then Beal comes right back and hits his last six shots after a slow start and TIES him with 19. They go into an overtime round where Belinelli shoots lights out and scores 24, which Beal cannot exceed, and Belinelli wins.

Second, let's examine the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. Okay, now this event also had major changes which did get a lot of hate. So, the format this year would be that three competitors from each conference would first have a 90 second 'freestyle' period, in which all three competitors from their respective conference would show what they have AS A TEAM. Then, the judges vote on which TEAM/CONFERENCE had the best dunks. Whichever conference wins gets to decide which conference would go first in the battle rounds, where one competitor from each conference would 'battle' another and the judges would determine who won the battle. 

Just a quick refresh on the contest. It was Paul George, John Wall and Terrence Ross for the East against Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Ben McLemore for the West. The East won EVERYTHING, winning all of the battle rounds and the freestyle round. John Wall won best dunker as he jumped over the Wizards mascot which led to a reverse dunk with a pump included. Now the reason the new format was getting a lot of disrespect and hate was because it was short and quick which isn't the formats' fault. The only reason for this was because the West was simply bad. In the freestyle, where the purpose was for the conference was to act LIKE A TEAM, the West didn't. The East had dunks that were linked by passes from all three players, where the West were trying to show off individually and ultimately failed. Now for the battle rounds. The way to 'win' the overall battle rounds for the conference, was to win 3 battles. Now, again, the only reason they didn't have more battles is because the dunks from the West didn't meet up with those of the East, which weren't too good either. That's why the contest didn't last long at all. Also, I don't think Harrison Barnes should have been in the dunk contest. He is a ferocious dunker in games because he can posterize anyone, which he can't do in the contest unfortunately. 

Thirdly, the Skills Challenge. I really admire this change as well, which was that two competitors acted together into coming up with a combined time. This was more fun to watch because one competitor couldn't let their teammate/other competitor down. So everyone competed at their highest level. 

So in the finals, it was Trey Burke and Damian Lillard against Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter Williams. Unfortunately for the East, they couldn't connect the pass on their first try which costed them time. The West, on the other hand, were fluent in the passes, but Burke couldn't hit a three on his first couple of attempts which hurt their time. This was the closest Skills Challenge as the West won by 1 tenth of a second. If Oladipo hadn't show-boated a dunk at the end, the East would've won.

And finally, the All Star game. As expected, it broke scoring records at the half and at the end. Also, Blake Griffin broke the record for most field goals in one All Star Game, making 19 on 23 attempts. The East won in a pretty fun game and specifically fourth quarter, 163-155. Kyrie Irving was absolutely phenomenal, scoring 31 and dishing out 14 assists. He was crossing up, ankle breaking and sinking shots on anyone, including Dwight Howard.

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OKC vs. Miami

The duel between the two best players in the NBA of this time period continues and is at its peak right now. Last week, Kevin Durant out-shined LeBron James in a blow out victory. Although both of them played great, Durant really showed his true ferociousness and his ability to shoot so smoothly from three with pressure. Durant is showing his true potential as he is excelling both on the offensive and defensive ends of the court and I think he will win the MVP award of this year. Now people are saying LeBron is having a bad season just because Durant is having a phenomenal season, which definitely isn't true. His field goal percentage is at a career high, nearing 60%, and his court vision and defense is still magnificent. Not to mention that he is averaging 26 ppg, about 7 rpg and 6 apg. In my opinion, if Russell Westbrook was playing, LBJ would be winning this award again. 

Which brings me to my next point. I really want to see another Heat Thunder Finals. These two teams are easily the most fun to watch when all their players are healthy and I think the games that come out between them are always close. Their rivalry is brewing and match-ups are always magnificent. With LeBron on KD, these two go at it, not only to show who is the best offensive player, but now for bragging rights as who is the best defensive player. Also, D Wade and Westbrook will probably match up as these two also are very equal and skilled players on offense and defense. The only advantage I would give to Thunder is their inside presence. With Ibaka manning the paint and really being a threat in his mid-court jumpshot, he spreads out the court which helps others get open.

Overall this match up is always fun to watch. With all the stars on the court giving everything they have to win, the Heat and Thunder never fail to provide a good game for fans across the globe.

The Miami Heat

The hype for the Miami Heat has definitely died down as the season has progressed because of the show the Indiana Pacers are putting on. But fans don't realize how close this race is going to be as the season continues. As of right now, the Pacers only hold a 3 game lead on the Heat, which is a much smaller margin than people realize. In my opinion, I think the Heat will go against the odds and reclaim the top seed in the East and win home court advantage. And if not, I think the Heat, as an underdog (for once) will go back to the NBA Finals and beat the Pacers in a nail-biting ECF.

First and foremost, with the addition and growth of Center Greg Oden, the Heat finally have a second big man that can guard and keep HIbbert steady. Even if Oden doesn't play much or doesn't score much, he still keeps Hibbert occupied and lets the other stars on the Heat drive without hitting a wall. Also, Oden can guard Hibbert (who has still not reached his offensive potential), and the back court of the Heat can keep George and Hill in check. Furthermore, with Oden as Center, Chris Bosh benefits the most. The biggest and most dangerous weapon of Oden, is that he brings Bosh to his natural position as a 4. Against teams like the Pacers, with Oden in, David West fills the roll to guard and faster and more versatile Chris Bosh, which is hard. To go along with that, Bosh is now spreading the court as he shoots 37% from three. This lets him open up the court for everyone and himself which adds his most crucial element: the pump fake. 

Secondly, LeBron is being overlooked by Durant this year for obvious reasons, but he is still having a spectacular season. He is shooting a career high 58% from the field. Not only that, he only attempts an average of 18 shots from the field, which will obviously increase exponentially in the playoffs against opponents like the Pacers. With Oden manning the paint with Hibbert, James can take an adequate defender in Paul George to the rack, and if Hibbert rotates, Oden is there for the cleanup. 

Overall, Oden is the main player that changes the Heat's chances against the Pacers. If he could get in once a quarter for a couple minutes here and there, the Heat have a really good chance against the Pacer. 

The only problem with the Heat as of now is staying healthy. Obviously for Oden, his knee is a huge question and he needs to stay healthy for the Heat to have any chance against the Pacers. But also, Dwyane Wade is a question with his knee. Doctors have reported that the soreness has come back. This effects his jumpshot and his normal routine game. Even today against the Spurs, he had one airball that was well short, from a shot from the paint. 

Los Angeles Clippers

Yesterday, The LA Clippers probably announced the worst possible news for Clippers fans: Chris Paul is going to miss 3-5 weeks due to a separated shoulder.

In my opinion, these three to five weeks are going to be extremely difficult for Doc Rivers and the whole Clippers organization. Chris Paul not only conducts this offense, but he ties the whole team together. Who throws up all the lobs to DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin? Chris Paul. Who has been in the talk for MVP throughout this year? Chris Paul. This team is going to deeply miss not only his offense, but his defense. He is their best defender and pretty much their only defender in their starting lineup. Averaging almost 2.5 steals per game, he knows how to guard point guards.

Also, he averages 20 ppg and 11 apg which obviously boosts their offensive performance. With him out, he doesn't hurt himself, but also all his teammates around him. His electrifying passing and handles boosts this team to succeed which is another thing they are going to miss. Not to mention he is basically their team captain.

Although Darren Collison is a solid backup, the Clippers are going to have to rely heavily on there bigs in Griffin and Jordan. The only problem is, both of them are 'dunkers' and they haven't transformed into play makers. Jordan is only in to look big in the paint and to play solid defense. Griffin has improved his offensive game and outside shot, but he still isn't a LaMarcus Aldridge type of player (which I think he strives to be). Also, without a guard who feeds them, this offense is going to look soft and easily vulnerable.

Not to mention that in the next month, this team faces San Antonio, Dallas, Chicago, Golden State and the LA Lakers. They do have a tough upcoming schedule which makes life THAT much more difficult. If they bomb these upcoming games without Paul, they may lose their four seed which would be hard to recover as Houston, Golden State, Phoenix and Dallas are all within 2 games of them. 

Biggest Surprise So Far: Phoenix Suns

As we reach the one-third mark for the 2013-2014 NBA season, my biggest surprise for this season is how well the Phoenix Suns are playing. To put things in perspective, every sports analyst and reporter believed that the Suns were going to be the team that was going to tank for the number one pick (Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker). Furthermore, the Suns basically showed their signs of tanking by trading away their only big in Marcin Gortat and taking in Eric Bledsoe. To go even more in depth on their signs of tanking, there was an anonymous general manager that even announced that they will be tanking this season. This 'anonymous' manager, in my opinion must have been GM Ryan McDonough.

So those are all the signs of them tanking to get a solid first round draft pick, but now if you look at them now, they are one of the top teams in the NBA! With a record of 17 wins and 10 losses, they are sitting at sixth in the West, and if they were playing in the East, they would hold the number 3 seed. With this record, you must be wondering that they probably have a solid starting five. There starting five contains of: Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Miles Plumlee, Channing Frye and PJ Tucker. I could bet that most of you have never even heard of PJ Tucker or Channing Frye for that matter. There starting five is extremely average, but very effective. They have a very strong backcourt with Bledsoe and Dragic, both averaging over 18 points per game and have a combined 10 assists per game. Bledsoe, who was primarily a role player on former teams, has now been developed into a superstar point guard as he and Dragic are both primary leaders of the team.

Then you look down low, at first glance, the Suns have a mediocre front court, with Frye Plumlee and Tucker. Then at second look, you realize they actually do have a mediocre front court. But with the help of Frye spreading the court with his ability to shoot the three as a big, Plumlee is free down low. Plumlee has developed into a complete player, averaging almost a double double a game, just a bit under 10 points and 10 boards.

The one thing that sets the Suns apart from most other teams, is there bench. The Morris brothers support the frontcourt as they both average around 11-12 points a game. Not only that, but if you look at it when the Morris brothers and Plumlee are on the court, that is three bigs, all over 6 foot ten inches manning the paint. Any team has difficulty defending that.

And lastly, the Suns have one of the brightest futures as a team in the NBA. With their draft picks last year, they retrieved a solid center coming off the bench in Alex Len (who is dealing with an injury right now) and a guard in Archie Goodwin. Not only that, but the Morris Brothers only have two years experience in the league and Mason Plumlee only has one. All their players are young and still developing, yet they are all having terrific seasons.

In my opinion, I think this Suns team is only going to get better as the season progresses forward and could possibly make the playoffs as a 5 or 6 seed. I don't see them advancing in any playoff rounds just because of the strength in the West, but they will continue to grow. Next year, though, they will be a true contender for spots in the West.

The Terrible Way of Making the Playoffs in the NBA

Check out the standings as of 12/26/13. Clearly, you see the power in the West and the lack of power in the East.

The NBA is different than most other sports in the sense that to make the playoffs, the team needs to be the top eight in their respective conference, east or west. This is different than the MLB and NFL because teams in these two sports need to win their division or get the Wild Card seed. I am totally against this method and I am all for the NBA's method, but there is one flaw that I still want fixed: it should NOT be about the best teams in the conferences, rather the best 16 teams OVERALL. This would even out the competition so much better.

First of all, if you look at the contenders for the east and west now, you obviously recognize that the west has many of the better teams with better records. But then you take a closer look and see that ALL THE TOP EIGHT TEAMS IN THE WEST COULD BE NUMBER 3 SEEDS in the East!! This is a ridiculous number. Why should teams in the East have the privilege of home court advantage and better seeding in the playoffs when they don't deserve it? 

Also, if you look at the standings, every team besides the Sacramento Kings and the Utah Jazz in the West could potentially make the playoffs right now in the Eastern bracket... yet they don't because of the stupid way that the NBA seeds teams.

The playoffs should not be determined based off of how you fair in your specific conference because when the conferences meet times like these (where one conference is obviously more skilled than the other), then teams in one conference make the playoffs even though they aren't the best in the league. The playoffs are supposed to be the most competitive, chippy and strong games, but if you have teams that don't rightfully deserve to be in the playoffs, then these games become regular games again. 

Why should Denver, New Orleans, Minnesota, LA Lakers and Memphis miss the playoffs when they deserve to be in it? The Playoffs are supposed to hold the top 16 teams in the league, yet, as of right now, these five teams listed above will miss it because of the conferences.

Now I am not saying that Conferences should be deleted, because they make it easier to schedule games, but I am not a fan of the way teams make the playoffs based off of Conferences. I hope this provides come insight for you to see the lopsidedness of this method.

Merry Christmas

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The Indiana Pacers

Wow. I, for one, did NOT see this coming at all. The Indiana Pacers have not lost a game this season. They are a perfect 9-0 on the season, facing teams like the Cavs, the new look New Orleans Pelicans, the Chicago Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets. The Indiana Pacers have surprised the world with the performance they are putting on against EVERYONE! For me, I think it is for two main reasons: defense and the bench.

First and foremost: of course, their defense. The Indiana Pacers are putting on a defensive clinic against every single team that they faced. Granted, the teams that they have played are not all very good, but this team can truly shut off an offense in minutes. With Roy Hibbert finally coming to know his true talent, he is manning the paint and handling all the other centers in the league. His ability to literally be a wall in the paint helps the team not only get turnovers, but then the other teams lose their aggressiveness and take jumpers. He goes straight up, not taking a foul which is the most important. Also, if he can continue this stat line: 11.4 ppg, 9 rpg, and 5 bpg, he can easily be defensive player of the year. The one thing that I want to see him work on is his ability to rebound. He is over seven foot and quite honestly, in this day and age, it is unacceptable to not have over 10 rpg if over seven feet tall. Furthermore, if he can score a little more, he will be one elite center. Besides him being the centerpiece of this defense, EVERYONE around him also helps the game. The one thing that I admire about this team is that they had to grow in to one another, not just start out excellent, and that is what sets them apart from each other. They are like the Heat in that sense, they mesh so perfectly with one another which helps them with their offense and defense. Frank Vogel did an excellent job instilling defense first, then offense, because like everyone says, 'defense leads to offense.' 

Secondly, the Indiana Pacers made key pick ups which leads to greater success. The three big ones that I saw were CJ Watson from the Nets last year, Chris Copeland from the Knicks and Luis Scola from the Suns. First CJ Watson. With this acquisition, he really spreads out the floor for the Pacers when he plays. As seen against his former team, Watson is capable of passing to his teammates as well as finding the open three to quiet down the opponents. Secondly, Chris Copeland. Although he is not getting much playing time, we saw what he can do offensively when he played for the Knicks last season. He succeeds in his mid range and has a presence from three point territory. The only reason I wouldn't play him is because he doesn't have any defense. If he could improve on that he would be a solid bench player. And lastly, the most important player is Luis Scola. Luis Scola is old and a veteran in the game, but nonetheless he has everything that the Pacers need. Coming off the bench, he can score, get boards and defend which is the most important. He has that ability to provide a spark for the offense and defense and light up the floor if the team is struggling. 

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Opening Day of the 2013-2014 NBA Season

I don't know how psyched you guys were as the NBA season kicks off, buy i was ecstatic. Even though the only game that comes in our area is the Bulls vs. Heat game, it is great. I am so happy the season has finally begun and it has started with a bang.

Some stats from the first half of this game:

LeBron James: With the complete stat line of 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists

Chris Bosh: Terrible shot which included an air ball (0 for 5 to begin game), but has 8 points and 3 boards

Mario Chalmers: 3 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds and 5 STEALS already which is incredible. He should be arrested for abusing Derrick Rose!

Carlos Boozer: 19 first half points, 5 rebounds

Derrick Rose: 7 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist

From what I have seen so far from the Bulls is that they are flat, and quite frankly they look like they haven't been practicing at all, all offseason. Some bright spots are that they showed their grit and toughness in the first half through their defense. Although they did get blown open, when they were actually scoring, their defense was stopping the Heat. But after the 12 turnovers the Bulls had, the Heat obviously do what they do best and kill their opponents on the fast break.

But so far tonight for the Heat, it isn't about the Big Three as they are playing as they usually do, but the three point shooting. Norris Cole and Shane Battier and Ray Allen are shooting lights out from three which spreads the floor not only regularly, but also during the fast breaks. Because of this, as soon as the defense rotates to TRIPLE team LeBron (yeah, not even double team anymore), the three point shooters are ready to fire away. 

To go along with this, although the Heat don't have a star full secondary, their secondary syncs together beautifully. With Chris Andersen manning the paint with 7 rebounds in 9 minutes and the three point shooters surrounding him, the opposing secondary gets worn down and then substitutions occur. And Norris Cole is playing like an All Star which makes the Heat that much more deadly.

With all this together, the Miami Heat are really showing just how good they are. It is not just LeBron or Dwayne or Chris, its the MIAMI HEAT team as a whole meshing together. They are looking deadly right now.

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