It's the middle of the Conference Semifinals, so I thought I would give my thoughts on every team that's played. Also, I would like to update my playoff prediction based on what has happened.
Vinny Del Negro being fired pretty much shows me that Chicago's front office is trash. Is their any love lost between John Paxon and VDN? The answer to that is an overwhelming NO! A coach should be fired for performance, not for personal reasons.
The Bulls ended the season strong to make the playoffs. They are not a really good team and had no business playing in the post season.
This is not VDN's fault and another coach is not going to change things in Chicago.
The first thing Chicago needs to do to make this right is hire a coach that will improve the possibility of bringing quality free agents to Chicago. Hiring a rookie coach will not satisfy this. They need to recommitt to winning.
Chicago also needs to have a good offseason this summer. Make some positive trades, sign a top-free agent, and have a family sit down to get on the same page. This current roster of players is not a second round team.
This is a good young team but didn't quite reach their potential. Dwight Howard did not play a lot and they didn't capitalize. In fact, they got swept. To get swept 4-0 when the Magic didn't play all that impressively is not good.
Another question the Bobcats should be ask is, whether Michael Jordan will be effective as an owner. Remember what he did as president of the Wizards? That has to be in the back of everyone's mind in the organization. Kwame Brown anyone?
Luckily they have a nice group of young players that should keep them in the playoffs for some time to come.
However, adding a big man would definitely help, and I'm not talking about a Kwame Brown.
I'm going to guess MJ does a better job in the front office this time around.
I was very suprised the Bucks took Atlanta to a Game 7 in the first round. That is until I saw how the Hawks have performed in the second round. With a healthy Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd they would be playing the Magic right now.
Health is definitely an issue for this team. Hate to say it, but Redd has to go. He's doing no good on the bench in street clothes. The Bucks need to trade him and attempt to get some value in return. Not likely.
The Bucks will have to wait until his contract expires after next season or hope he opts of this summer.
On a brighter note, they have a trio of good players in Brandon Jennings, Bogut and John Salmons.
These three will keep this team competitive while they remain intact. I don't see the Bucks getting past the second round in the next few years.
Where to start with the heat; the talk of Pat Riley coming back to the bench or the upcoming offseason?
I don't see Riley coming back next season unless he feels the Heat can win a ring.
So, Pat Riley will not be coaching next season.
The talk of the summer obviously will be Dwayne Wade and his free agent status.
Miami has to resign him to if they want to bring in another big free agent.
No impact players will sign with Miami if Wade leaves. And, I don't think Wade will sign unless they bring in a big name.
The Heat won't have a busy summer. No one that will improve this team tremendously is going to sign, and Wade will end up resigning.
This means the Heat will only have a better season if Wade stays healthy.
Miami will continue to be a middle of the pack team in the East and I wouldn't be suprised if Eric Spoelstra is gone after next season or during if Pat Riley gets the itch.
Oklahoma City Thunder
This team will make the second round team next season. An addition of quality size up front will make these guys hard to gaurd.
They got the short end of the stick when they had to play the Lakers in the first round.
These guys are on the right track to be a force in the West; just hope they stay together.
People thought this team would be a threat to L.A. after the mid-season trade to aquire Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. More people thought they would beat San Antonio in the first round.
Did the pressure get to them?
I noticed Butler sat on the bench a lot down the strech. I wonder what Rick Carlisle was thinking with that move.
It reminded me of Avery Johnson sitting Jason Kidd down the strech when he first got to Dallas. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter now. They are on vacation.
The number one goal for Mark Cuban is to resign Dirk Nowitzki.
Without him they will be lost.
This is not a young team and I expect a lot of big changes in the next year or two. Cuban is not gun shy when it comes to making moves.
Portland Trail Blazers
I'm not a big fan of the Blazers, but they fought through injuries without falling apart. Kudos!
A core of younger players gives these guys the energy to stay competitive when hurt. If they are healthy, I wouldn't want to play them. Playing the red hot Suns didn't help their cause.
The Blazers are fairly young so if they stay together and healthy they'll continue to improve and gain the playoff experience needed to go further.
Maybe someday Greg Oden will be healthy and become a factor, but I won't hold my breath.
George Karl's health problems are, to me, the biggest factor in the Nuggets losing in the first round. He's a great coach and without him on the bench leaves a big hole. If Chauncey Billups wasn't great at coaching on the floor, this series might have been a sweep.
Before the series started I thought the key would be the match up between Billups and Deron Williams. If Billups could slow Williams down, Denver would take the series. Well, neither of those things happened.
Denver has a very small window to be successful with this current team. The first thing they need is for George Karl to come back healthy next season. J.R. Smith needs to come in to next season with a better attitude and play consistant basketball.
Soon To Be Losers
The Celtics good, but this team does not have another run in them.
Rajon Rondo has carried them this far, and is slowly becoming the leader. However, Rondo can't carry this Boston team past the Cavaliers, Magic and Lakers/Suns in three straight series.
The question is how are the Celtics going to handle the "Big 3?"
Paul Pierce is going to retire in Boston and rightfully so. But do they trade, dump or let Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen retire?
KG will retire in Boston and Ray will play for another team in the future.
The Hawks need to realize playoff basketball is not the same as the regular season. Watching their performances against the Magic is disgusting. They play well to start games, but give up when things get tough.
Josh Smith's attitude and lack of fight is unacceptable.
I think it's time for Atlanta to bring in a coach that will light a fire under the Hawks throughout the playoffs. Mike Woodson shares the same laid-back attitude as his players, and isn't being the motivator the Hawks need to lead them through the playoff gauntlet.
Joe Johnson will not be in Atlanta next year.
The Hawks need to fill that hole to not lose ground in the Eastern conference. They need to upgrade their frontline and start Joe Crawford.
I wasn't buying into the Utah hype at the end of the season and coming into the playoffs. I do believe that Deron Williams has established himself as, if he already wasn't, the best point gaurd in the league. The way he has played led the Jazz over the Nuggets and it has continued into the second round.
The Jazz aren't going to beat the Lakers, and haven't played all that well as a team. I don't thing the Jazz's fate would be different if Okur was on the floor, but it would have made the series interesting.
This team is possibly one piece away from reaching to the Finals.
San Antonio Spurs
I was impressed with the Spurs in the first round, what happened?
Tim Duncan is not playing well and the Suns are making them look like the old team they are. Makes you wonder how long this team will be intact. If the Spurs want to win another ring, changes need to be made.
The Richard Jefferson experiment didn't work, Duncan is starting to show his age and Manu Ginolbli can not stay healthy. How much longer will these guys be here?
The good news is they have good young players that can keep them competitive in Hill and Blair. Don't expect this team to make another run for awhile.
The Big Four
Is this the last chance for this orginazation to keep LeBron? I think so!
If they do not win the ring this year James is going to jet. He knows he needs a ring soon, and loyalty to his home is not going to stop him. Most people have them winning the championship, but they have not looked like it thus far.
It's not going to be good for this franchise if James walks.
Shaq will retire, Mike Brown will be coaching another team and the rest of this team is not all that great. I hope they have a contingency plan for James departure.
If they don't Danny Ferry will also be out of a job.
Undoubtedly the most impressive team in the playoffs. The Magic haven't lost yet and are becoming the favorites with every win they get. Arguably the deepest team in the league, and might have the best record if it wasn't for a mediocre January. Everyone is making a positive contribution for them in these playoffs.
Jameer Nelson was the best player in the first round and has shown he can be a great point guard in this league when healthy. Dwight Howard has not gotten in foul trouble in the second round that he did in the first round. Against the Hawks he has been the force he needs to be for them to win the championship.
The rest of this team is giving a great effort when called upon, showing their depth is something every team is going to have to deal with. The positive thing for the Magic is this is not going to be their last run at a ring.
Los Angeles Lakers
The defending champs have not played like they are in it to win it. The sad part is they haven't had to. If they don't turn it on against the Suns they may not make it back to the Finals.
The Lakers have the advantage of playing two 7-footers, an excellent defender, a great sixth man and obviously Kobe Bryant.
These threats will keep them in it and give them the chance to win the title.
There are questions surrounding whether or not Phil Jackson will return to the bench, so this might be their real shot at another ring for a while. I'm not saying they can't win it without Jackson, but seeing this team without him will be interesting.
Next to the Magic, the Suns are the most impressive team in the playoffs. The interesting part is Amare Stoudamire and Steve Nash could be playing better. If these two step up, the Suns are in the Finals with a good shot to win it.
The East will have home court advantage in the Finals (assuming Boston doesn't make it), which will not benefit the Suns. I believe the Suns best shot to win would be to play the Cavs in the Finals and hit their 3s.
To me the Magic are the best team in the league and are the favorites to win their first ring. Their lack of media attention has them flying somewhat under the radar and playing with no outside expectations.
Their offense is high scoring and their defense is underrated. The Magic have a lot of depth and not a lot of holes, making them the most complete team in the league.
Look for the Magic to beat the Lakers in the Finals in six.