NBA Playoffs 2011: Jerry Stackhouse Interview
With the NBA playoffs right around the corner, excitement is beginning to build around the league.
This year offers much more competition for the championship than in previous years with Boston, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Dallas all being legitimate title contenders.
I got the pleasure of talking with former Dallas Maverick player and current NBATV analyst Jerry Stackhouse about the upcoming playoffs. I got his thoughts and predictions on each of the playoff-bound teams.
Here is our interview:
To check out my other interviews, visit my website and blog here.
Is the Kendrick Perkins Deal a Major Reason for the Boston Celtics Recent Slide
Allen Levin: Boston has been slumping recently (5-5 in their last 10 games). How much do you think that’s due to the Kendrick Perkins deal?
Jerry Stackhouse: “I think a lot of it is due to the Kendrick Perkins deal and Rondo’s play has also been a key reason why they’ve kind of stumbled over the last couple weeks. I think overall, they may have gotten better in the long run with Jeff Green. I think he’s a guy that can play multiple positions for them.”
“But right now, it was an emotional blow for them. KG, Rondo and Pierce- all those guys- seemed a little dejected when that trade went through. The fact that they lost a guy who’s been in the trenches with them and won a championship- I still think they’re trying to get over it.”
The Chicago Bulls Title Chances This Season
AL: Chicago has sky rocketed to the 1st seed in the East and holds a two game lead over Boston
currently. Can they actually win it this year or are they still too inexperienced?
JS: “It’s hard to win it that first time around. They’ve taken a huge step this year. But at the same time, the thing about them is that they defend. Thibodeau brought the same philosophy from Boston over to Chicago. They’re going to defend and you’re going to have to beat them. I don’t think they’re going to beat themselves. So, it’s going to come down to them making shots and being able to execute down the stretch.”
“I don’t see why not. It’s hard to win it that first year, but I don’t see why not with this group.”
The Miami Heat's Improvement over the Course of the Year and Title Chances
AL: You played for the Heat earlier this year. How much of an improvement have you seen from them over the course of the year and do you think they have what it takes to win it all this year?
JS: “I think you can never count Miami out. You look at them and the run they had back in 06—nobody really even had them on the radar as far as a team that was going to be in the Finals. But, they found a way to pick it up at the right time, and I think they have a much more talented group than that team had.”
“If you have LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the mix with Wade, then they could beat anybody. You have players that could win a couple games for you by themselves.”
New York's Slump Since the Carmelo Anthony Deal
AL: New York is slumping since the Carmelo deal (9-12). Is it a matter of chemistry or are there deeper issues with this team?
JS: “I don’t think they understand or committed to the defensive end at all. I think all those guys—they’re mentality is to outscore you. Until Amar’e or Carmelo decide that they’re going to switch gears and focus more on the defensive end, they’re going to continue to struggle.”
“I think Carmelo brought along baggage with him from Denver from the standpoint that it was his team and he kind of could just flow defensively. They (Nuggets) would cover for him, because they were a better defensive team than this Knicks team is now. He’s really got to hold himself accountable because they’re not a solid defensive group.”
The Nuggets Success Since Departing with Carmelo
AL: On the flip side, Denver is 13-4 since the Melo deal. How are they continuing to succeed without their former best player?
JS: “They’re just moving the ball and playing with each other. There is not one person in particular—whoever’s the guy that’s going to score—they’re going to keep trying to milk him. I think we have guys like Carmelo- he’s a scorer and you have to put the ball in his hands. They don’t have that anymore. It’s a much more fun way to play- they get to move the ball and let the defense dictate what happens as far as who scores the ball.”
The Team to Beat in the Western Conference
AL: There are a lot of great teams in the West this year. Who do you see as the team to beat in the Western Conference right now?
JS: “I still think the Lakers are the team to beat. I think the way Bynum is playing right now and even without him, they’re finding a way to win. You got Gasol and Odom and the best player in basketball still until someone takes his ring. They’re always going to be right there.”
“I think San Antonio—it’s been a perfect world for them—they’ve been able to have the best record without exerting a lot of energy from Tim Duncan. Even though he’s banged up right now, I still think in the playoffs they’re going to play inside-out and Duncan is going to be a 20-10 guy that gives them a chance to win every night.”
“Dallas has been stumbling a little bit. But, I think one thing with them is if they find a way to get Tyson’s Chandler’s offensive rhythm back- that’s a big part what they were looking like early in the season when they looked like an elite team. A big part was because what he was doing.”
Oklahoma City's Title Chances
AL: Oklahoma City has improved dramatically this year. Are they the dark horse to win the NBA title?
JS: “That’s a team that I don’t think can win the NBA title. I just think that they’re too young in too many different areas. I know they made the move to get Kendrick Perkins to compete with some of the size of the Lakers. But, I think experience wise on their wings—I mean I love James Harden and his throwback approach to the game, but I just don’t think he’s ready to be a guy that will take over—they’re just not ready to up seed Kobe Bryant in a series.”
“Durant is Durant, but I still think he’s struggled some. Every night you look, he’s going to have 25 or 30 points. But if you look at the box scores over the last three to four weeks, his shooting percentage has been way down. So, he’s got to find a way to find his rhythm before the playoffs start up.”
The Unraveling Atlanta Hawks
AL: The Hawks seem to be on the verge of unraveling, losing 14 of their last 24. What’s been their biggest problem recently?
JS: “I think some of their unraveling began before Mike Bibby even left. They brought Kirk Hinrich into shore up some things, especially on the defensive side of the ball as far as defending point guards. But, it hasn’t really come into fruition yet.”
“At the same time, Joe Johnson has struggled mightily all season. He made the All-Star team, but in my mind, I think it was just more so for a lack of available candidates. He’s come out of the break the same way. He’s had a number of games where he’s had 12 or 13 points, and there is no way the Hawks are going to compete at a high level without him getting 25 a night.”
The Orlando Magic's Odds in the Playoffs
AL: The Magic are doing better lately, but have been inconsistent the entire year. They just don’t appear to have that swagger they’ve had the last two years when they made it to the East Finals. Are they still in the mix or are they heading for a second round exit?
JS: “They’re very much in the mix. I think they got one of the most dominant players in the league. Every night, he’s (Dwight Howard) capable of having a 30 point, 20 rebound game. It’s crazy to say, but it’s true. He’s capable of having those type of numbers.”
“I’ve started to see Gilbert Arenas turning the corner a little bit. He’s starting to look like himself. Like everybody, the Magic made a trade at the deadline, and they still got to adjust to personnel and understand what the coach wants from you. The thing about them is their team is going to play inside-out, so that makes it a little bit easier.”
MVP- Derrick Rose: “I still think LeBron James is the best all-around player in the game. But, I think as far as the most valuable player to his team and where they’re at right now is Derrick Rose. He’s having a phenomenal year and he’s got this team right at the top of the Eastern Conference. You got a lot of good pieces there, but he’s been the consistent one. I like him as my MVP.”
Defensive Play of the Year Prediction
Defensive Player of the Year- Dwight Howard: “Nobody holds the paint down like he does.”
Coach of the Year Prediction
Coach of the Year- Doug Collins: “He’s done a great job with that group, from how they started out and where they are now. They’re pushing and may even be the fifth seed. So, I think that’s great from where they were last year.”
Sixth Man Prediction
6th Man- Jason Terry:
“I thought Jamal Crawford and Terry were going to push each other a little more, but he’s been unraveling in Atlanta. So, I think Jason Terry wins that. He’s been consistently coming off the bench and giving them a scoring punch.”
Most Improved Player Prediction
Most Improved Player- Arron Afflalo: “I like what he’s done every year. I think he’s gotten better every year. I’d like to see him get some credit for the things he’s done. I think he’s a huge reason why Denver is still able to be successful after the trade for Carmelo and Chauncey.”
NBA Finals Prediction
East Representative: Chicago Bulls
West Representative: Los Angeles Lakers
Winner: “Three-peat for the Lakers.”