The 2008-09 NBA Playoffs' Redeem Team
The 2008-2009 playoffs are coming to an end in six games or less. Plenty of drama and intrigue has emerged in this exciting journey with some players cementing their reputations and others not living up to it.
In this article, we will look at the players who redeemed their reputations in the playoffs and debunked long-standing myths regarding their abilities or mental strength.
Point Guard—Rajon Rondo
He was considered to be a terrible jump shooter who rode the Celtics' Big Three to the title last season.
For most of this season, the Big Three became the Fantastic Four, with Rondo really stepping up his game.
The playoffs was when Rondo went from a complementary player to bona fide star.
If Mo Williams takes an All-Star spot over Rajon Rondo again next season, it would be a travesty.
The injury-riddled Boston Celtics struggled to get past the Bulls and eventually collapsed against the hot Orlando Magic, but none of the blame can be laid at his hands.
No one shone more for the Celtics than Rajon Rondo who averaged a near triple-double with 16.9 PPG, 9.7 RPG, and 9.8 APG. The kid may be skinny, but he may well be the toughest pound-for-pound player since Allen Iverson. Just ask Brad Miller and Kirk Heinrich.
This postseason is the breaking out party for Rondo, who went from a bit player with the Big Three to one of the Boston stars.
Boston may well have their next franchise player if he continues to improve.
Shooting Guard—Kobe Bryant
It is amazing that a top-two talent in the league needs redemption, but that is the polarizing effect Kobe has. For all he has done, his legacy will always be incomplete until he leads his team to the title—until he gets it done without Shaq.
He has suffered much criticism for being a ball hog and a selfish ego-maniac.
This postseason, Kobe is putting his ego on the side, sometimes acting as a decoy, like in Game Five against Denver, and freely passing to the open teammate.
In the past three games, Kobe has averaged nearly nine assists per game and teammates like Luke Walton have been made to look like absolute beasts. When Kobe does not force his shot and finds the open man, the Lakers are nearly unstoppable.
The Kobe snarl is representative of his immense desire to win, and with his improving leadership, few will bet against him getting his first post-Shaq ring now.
Caveat: If the Lakers don't win the title, I am kicking him off this team. He wouldn't have it any differently.
Small Forward—Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony came into the league with a purported rivalry with Lebron James. A couple of seasons later, when James led his team to an Eastern Conference Title, Melo still couldn't get his team out of the first round. The comparisons look increasingly ludicrous.
Accentuating the problem was Melo's immaturity and off the court issues. 'Melo looked destined to be a scorer and nothing more.
2008 was a watershed year for Melo, going to the Olympics and working with veterans like Jason Kidd and Kobe rubbed off on 'Melo. Then, Denver, after giving away Marcus Camby, did an about turn and traded for Chauncey Billups, the veteran point guard who would give the Nuggets the leadership that they desperately needed.
Still, 'Melo had a somewhat disappointing regular season, statistically, at least by his standards. In the playoffs, he exploded with his PPG increasing from 22.8 to 27.2 and his APG improving from 3.6 to 4.1.
More importantly, he got through the first round for the first time in his career. In fact, for five games, he and the Nuggets gave the Lakers a real fight for Western Conference supremacy.
Credit Mr. Big Shot, but 'Melo definitely boosted his credence this postseason.
Power Forward—Dirk Nowitzki
No former MVP has been more criticized than Dirk, except for perhaps Steve Nash.
Not clutch, a choker, no heart—these are tags that have followed Dirk since the infamous 2006 Finals collapse.
Say what you want about Dirk, but you have to call him a bona fide star after this postseason. In spite of being overmatched at every position except his own against the Denver Nuggets, Dirk posted an otherworldly 34.4 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 11.6 RPG in this series. All the while, he had his personal struggles hanging over his head.
The Mavericks may have gone out in five games, but no one can say that Dirk was not the most impressive player in that series.
Like 'Melo, Yao Ming received more than his fair share of criticism for not getting out of the first round.
Despite his silky skills and formidable height, Yao was not considered a winner. To add to that, he has injury prone written all over him, playing no more than 57 regular season games since the 2005-2006 season.
This season, Yao only missed five regular season games and was instrumental in getting the T-Mac-less Rockets into the playoffs, averaging 19.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG, and 1.9 BPG.
Without T-Mac, Yao and the Rockets finally got the monkey off their backs, getting past the young and talented Trail Blazers in six games.
Even though Yao Ming finally went down to a season-ending injury after the third game, Yao has proven that the Rockets are not a chump team and that he is a winner.