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Stein Archive: Chats | Columns
SportsNation Marc Stein: Hello, all. I chat with you today from Phoenix on the morning of Game 1 of Suns-Clips before moving on to Spurs-Mavs later this week. Let's dive in . . .
James (Dallas): Every time Dirk is guarded by a tough defender and doesn't go for 30, people say the defender is in his head. Bowen is a good defender and played a great game against Dirk. But it seems that people forget that Dirk has also gone for 30 twice against Bowen this season. If we're going to exaggerate and say Bowen is in Dirk's head because only went for 20 and 14, then maybe we should start calling Dirk the best player in basketball and give him the MVP. How many guys can go for that in a game against the world champs with guys draped all over him and still have that considered a bad game? It's not like Dallas was blown out, they should have won the game.
SportsNation Marc Stein: I guess I'm not "people" because I wouldn't say that. Dirk, frankly, is the last Mav that I worry about. Over the course of seven games, I know he'll find ways to score. He has always maintained that his problems with Bowen are as much the two big guys behind Bowen as Bowen himself. Bowen guards Dirk better than anyone, but he also has better help than anyone.
SportsNation Marc Stein: However . . . one of my main doubts about these Mavs in this San Antonio series has always been the reality that this group, for all the improvements they've made in various areas, don't consistently have someone else creating easy opportunities for Dirk. No other Mav consistently occupies the Spurs' defense to loosen things up. Is Devin Harris healthy and confident enough to do that like he did a couple times in the regular season? We'll see.
dave(ny): how many games do you think the suns -clippers series will go?
SportsNation Marc Stein: On paper, after what we witnessed in the last round, Phoenix has no hope of stopping the Clips inside. So . . . Suns in six. I am ignoring the Clips' obvious ability to abuse Phoenix at the rim because I think the Suns have momentum and a good deal of their confidence back. Also because the Clips were put under zero pressure by a Nuggets team that didn't even show up for the first round. It's almost like the Clips got a bye into Round 2. We don't know how they'll respond yet to some playoff adversity.
Mark H (Lafayette, LA): Do you think Cleveland wins a game in this series?
SportsNation Marc Stein: Yes, but it doesn't even matter. LeBron has already answered all of his skeptics with the way Cleveland finished the regular season and what he did in the first round. Jordan comparisons aren't normally my thing but it's instructive to remember that MJ needed four trips to the playoffs to win his first series. What LeBron did to the Wiz, at least to me, makes up for the fact that Cleveland didn't get to the playoffs in his first two seasons.
Eddie (Hoboken, NJ): What the heck was up with Kobe? Was he reverting back to the "successful gameplan" of getting the team more involved or was he just trying to show the world that he doesn't need to shoot every shot? I was baffled.
SportsNation Marc Stein: I think Kobe thinks that he was sonmehow going to get even more blame for L.A.'s Game 7 rout if he scored another 23 points (or more) in the second half and the Suns still won in a laugher.
SportsNation Marc Stein: What I don't understand is how he came to the conclusion that going silent in the second half was going to result in less scrutiny. That's where I'm baffled.
SportsNation Marc Stein: There is also a story going around that Kobe loudly encouraged his teammates not to shake hands with Suns players after Game 7. If that's true, well, let's just say Game 7 wasn't The Ocho's finest hour.
Adam,NY: marc, Will are you hearing Kurt Thomas will be back for any part of this series or the playoffs?
SportsNation Marc Stein: I asked D'Antoni yesterday if the odds were good that we'd see Kurt at some point during the Clipper series. He said that it's highly unlikely.
Rick(Memphis): I think the Grizz need to blow up the team. Which direction would you take if you were the GM, and what direction have heard they will be going in?
SportsNation Marc Stein: There are two directions Memphis can go. No. 1 is the conservative direction where they go after Milwaukee's Jamaal Magloire, as we touched on in a Dime last week. Magloire is a virtual lock to be moved by the Bucks and the Grizz are high on the list of interested parties. The aggressive course would be going after Iverson, although that makes more business sense to me than basketball sense. Iverson could certainly sell tickets in Memphis, which continues to be a problem for the Grizz, but is AI really the scorer Jerry West was talking about when he spoke of getting Pau some dangerous help?
Reggie(DC): You think Kiki goes to Portland?
SportsNation Marc Stein: I really don't. It's so unstable there. If it's really cheaper for Paul Allen to walk away from the franchise than wait for a buyer, that suggests he's not going to be spending any significant money on the ballclub in the short term. So unless there's an ownership transfer, why would anyone want to go to Portland?
Jim (At Your Local Coffee House): About the Clippers, Marc, what did you think the odds were for them to make it past the 1st round?
SportsNation Marc Stein: Pretty good. But in my worst prediction for some time, I went for Denver in an upset. Even the great ones miss occasionally. And, yes, Sam I Am did have a chuckle at my expense when I saw him before Game 5 of that Denver series. I hope, for the sake of Clipper Nation, that they can hang onto Sam this summer. It doesn't matter if he's hobbling around. He IS the Clips' confidence.
Robbi, WI: What has been up with tim thomas, is he back or is this just short term?
SportsNation Marc Stein: Phoenix was a great fit for him, pure and simple. He has the total freedom to hoist from anywhere on the floor, which he's probably never had before. The best part, of course, is that he's so willing to take big shots and so apt to the make them. T-Squared isn't getting as much credit as he should for his willingness to step in crunch time.
Lowell (Cousin, Pa): Do you really think the rift between Payton and Wade is over?
SportsNation Marc Stein: Yes. Because it's not a rift. You put Gary on your team and you get moments like that. And I like GP on this team. For all the Heat tweaking I've criticized, adding GP for minimum wage is one of the moves I liked. My only problem with the initial Wade-GP tiff is that Riley didn't really step in to break it up, but maybe he knew what he was doing, It was the first real fight we've seen from the Heat all year. You saw how they responded in the next two games. Two of their best games all season.
Kyle(Hickory, NC): Where does this year's Detroit rank on your greatest all-time teams?
SportsNation Marc Stein: Can we see if they win it all first?
Phil (Cleveland): What did you think about LeBron tapping Arenas on the shoulder in between free throws? Great showmanship? Or over the line?
SportsNation Marc Stein: Great gamesmanship. I can't say it's over the line because that stuff happens a fair bit. If Jordan had done something similar, all the pundits would be waxing poetic about the great psych job from His Airness. Most of all, I just thought the whole LeBron-Arenas exchange underscored how much confidence LBJ had by the time Game 6 rolled around. Everyone was questioning what this kid would do on the big stage in his first trip to the playoffs. By the end of the series he's telling one of the best scorers in the modern game how he's going to go down to the other end and win the game. Pretty large.
Bruce (Montpelier, VT): I still can't come to grips with the concept of 2 Nash MVPs compared to 1 for Shaq. Should we pencil in number 3 for Nash given that he will have Amare back?
SportsNation Marc Stein: I hear that one a lot. Nash shouldn't have been MVP because someone like Shaq hasn't won more than one. Or that Nash can't go back-to-back because he isn't as legendary as the other eight back-to-backers. As a voter, I'm not comparing Nash's season to a Magic season or Jordan season from the past. I'm assessing where he falls based on the competition of the current season.
SportsNation Marc Stein: As for your first question, no, I wouldn't worry about Nash winning three in a row.
Saleem (Philly): Why are people still questioning Nash's legitimacy as the MVP? They lost Amare and picked up 7 new guys and they didn't miss a beat. I even hear some people saying he won again because he's small and white. It's ridiculous!
SportsNation Marc Stein: People are questioning it because this is the NBA, where the MVP award dominates discussion like no other league. But the factors you state are big reasons why Nash got my vote and many others. At 3-1 down, lots of folks were writing in to say that Nash was unworthy. Wrong. The series against the Lakers actually showed just how vulnerable the Suns were after losing Amare and Kurt. Lots of folks, remember, came into this season saying Nash's production would crater without Stoudemire. Instead Phoenix won 54 games with a totally new team comprised of guards and small forwards. Nash really was even better this season that last.
SportsNation Marc Stein: Time to go. We'll do this again next week. Thanks for all the questions. Here's hoping this round is (somehow) as good as the first round.
The Laker series shows not just how much they needed Amare, but just how far the Suns had fallen from a potential NBA contender to a high scoring circus show that would've been eliminated if it were not generously given the number 2 seed. They can thank playing in a weak division.
It's not that the great Steve Nash made them contenders, even w/out Amare, its that the Suns became a non-contender (pretender) b/c they don't have Amare. They have no chance of beating the team that comes out of the other western bracket minus series injuries and they would get smoked by Detroit as well. This team was overrated this year playing in a weak division.
Not having Amare was noticably in their record and how poorly they played against a pathetic Laker team. What the Suns showed is that they had enough talent (don't forget Matrix-who had as good a season as Nash) to keep competitive in a weak division. Nash didn't compensate for the loss of Amare, their weak division and the luck of a crappy NBA seeding system made up for Amare.
Northwest, now THAT'S weak. Denver? Minnesota? The dreaded dual threat of the northwest that is Portland and Seattle. And of course let's not forget Utah.
Granted, Phoenix and the Clippers don't exactly evoke the same amount of deserved respect and fear as San Antonio and Dallas do, but top to bottom I wouldn't exactly say that the Southwest is much stronger, especially when its lack of parity was so painfully exhibited in that affront to drama known as the Dallas-Memphis series.
I still agree with your point, though.
Phoenix is a shell of its 2005 self without Amare and Lakers-Suns made that painfully obvious even through the purplest and orangest of lenses. However, they posted a great record without him and can only be accused of being seroiusly exploited for their lack of playoff savvy in comparison to their first round opponents, the tried and tested Bryant and Zenmaster Phil. The series was all but won for the Lakers by way of the Zenmaster and Bryant understanding that the road to round 2 went through Odom and D'Antoni being gullible enough not to plan for it until their backs were against the wall for three consecutive games.
Coaching and morale-deflating tactics, however, will only get you so far. The Suns rose to the task and are arguably the most deserving of a second round birth. Credit Steve Nash and the clutch play of Tim Thomas.
I am not a Suns fan even in the most loose interpretation of the word 'fan', however, I would be up in arms if people were so quick to write off the Spurs if they had acheived in the regular season what Phoenix did and did so under the same circumstances that Phoenix had. That's the same mentality that (some) writers (and many of us Spurs fans) adpoted when they chose to undermine Detroit's legitmacy before the 2005 Finals on a basis that they had barely squeaked by Miami in 7.
Winning a series in 7 games as opposed to sweeping does not make a team any less legitimate or any less deserving of the next round. In fact, winning a game 7 is indicative of resilience and an ability to wisely mobilize resources for long-term success as opposed to exhausting them in games three or four with the hope of overwhelming the opposition.
No one can argue that Phoenix is a MUCH better team than the Lakers. That's just absurd. However, to argue that the Clippers will run roughshod on Phoenix because of Phoenix's questionable-at-best second round legitimacy is unduly insulting to Phoenix and their fans.
The best take you can give against Phoenix in round 2 is that their interior defense is woeful and can be exploited by the Clippers as Phil, Kobe and Odom did nearly well-enough to knock out Phoenix.
However, the Lakers have a superior perimeter defender in Kobe Bryant wheras the Clippers do not have much to offer. Since Phoenix's offense is largely guard-oriented, the Clippers' less impressive perimeter defense will provide less of a threat to Phoenix than the Lakers' did for them in Round 1.
Phoenix can do what they do better against the Clippers, while the Clippers can exploit what Phoenix does poorly even more effectively than the Lakers did.
So, if you consider that less incendiary argument that the Clippers will win, it is still ambiguous as to whether Phoenix's interior inabilities will or will not be offset by their offensive firepower, which was effectively cooled in the Lakers series and will likely be more successful against the Clippers' less imposing perimeter D.
I don't really care if the Clippers or the Suns win, they are both playoff fodder to whoever wins between Mavs and Spurs. I just resent that Steve Nash is handed an MVP trophy for making his team good despite the loss of Amare. This rationale stinks. He had a talented cast, but they were clearly not as good w/out Amare. So what did he really do, did he really exceed expectations? I don't think so. SI still picked them to be in the top three in the west. He may have done a good job, but he was no MVP.
I just think that he is way overrated and if he is the MVP, then the MVP doesn't mean anything anymore. There is no way that he is in the class of Jordan, Bird, Duncan, etc. If you say that is not part of the equation, and he is simply measured by this year and his competition, then that really means that his competition was weak. I think there were plenty of challengers and guys that were better, but they gave it to him b/c he is a white point guard and b/c his team was supposedly great considering the absence of Amare. Truth be told, they had a better supporting cast and were deeper this year and the Pacific is weak.
And the Pacific is weak. It is very weak. I know the Grizzlies looked like crap, but hey, they were playing the second best team in the West. If they were playing the Suns, they'd have won some games and maybe even the series. They were clearly better than the Lakers and the Kings didn't get good until the season was basically over. The rest of the pacific wasn't even competitive for a seed. We had three teams make the playoffs, two of which had the best records in the west. We had a Hornets team that barely missed the playoffs. Houston, although they truly were sorry, were at least competitive some of the time when they had TMac and Yao. Would you rather play the Lakers and the Kings 4x or would you rather play the Mavs and the Spurs 4X?
I agree with you on the Steve Nash thing. He's supremely overrated and people will look badly upon this era in history because of it. I can already see it now:
"Yeah, the Spurs won 15 titles, but I mean come on, the best player in the league was STEVE NASH. After that, all the good players flocked to SA for the low taxes, hot women, and great Popovich/AJ coaching."
Ask any sportswriter who voted for Nash if they would trade Nash for Kobe straight up. They'll say no unless they hate Kobe the person so much that they errantly disregard the talent of Kobe the player, but they'll be sure to tell you that MVP and Best Player aren't the same thing.
Perhaps they honestly believe that MVP is not the same thing as Best Player, but until the NBA hands out Best Player hardware, history will invariably consider them to be one in the same. And that is the sad part and the part that sportswriters are perhaps too proud to own up to when they cast their ballots.
What's so shocking is that there would be little of this collective agreement on Steve Nash being MVP among the writers if Kobe wasn't such a polarizing public figure. LeBron is great, too, but he is not as accomplished or subject to the same day-in/day-out challeges as Kobe faces out west. The race should have been Kobe vs. LeBron vs. Dirk vs. Parker. Parker, like Billups, is a victim of being on a team that dilutes public perception of individual talent.
The Jim Rome argument for Nash was that of Kobe, LeBron and Nash, Nash was the only one on a team that has a chance to win it all. Well, it certainly doesn't seem that is the case anymore. Does that mean it should go to Dirk? Well, if you look only at regular season performance, its hard for anyone in the press to say Dallas doesn't have a shot. Anyone who says that about a 60+ team should be shot.
So, in that regard, Dirk was the most qualified for MVP from the get-go.
Ah, but his candidacy is, like Tim's, diluted by the depth and talent of his teammates.
Then there's the whole "Steve Nash makes his teammates better" which is basically a jab at Kobe and LeBron as if those two somehow don't make their players better (for Kobe that's arguable, for LeBron to a much lesser extent, for Tim it's outright laughable). I find that take pretty weak. Nash doesn't make Bell a better defender or Marion a better scorer. Nash just dishes assists and handles the ball very well. Honestly, Jason Kidd was much better at those things in his prime than Steve Nash is now and while he got equitable respect, he didn't get the kind of hardware Nash is getting.
Last time I checked, New Jersey, with a weaker inside presence than Amare in K-Mart, gave SA a much tougher series than Phoenix, blessed with Amare down low, ever did.
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