It's been too long since my last round of NNOs.
Hopefully I'll be able to get back on track during these Finals. Last year I did one after each of the six Finals' games. I plan on doing the same thing this time around.
On with the show...
Props to the Magic
Any time a team makes it through their conference and into the NBA Finals it deserves recognition. But when a team beats foes like the Celtics and Cavs without having home court advantage in either series...it deserves extra recognition.
That's precisely what the Magic did on their way to this year's Finals. Should the Magic beat the Lakers and win the title without home court in any of the final three rounds, than I would have to say that it's one of the most impressive title runs of the past 20 years.
"Shaq, would you like some fries with that ass?"
No matter what happens in these Finals, one of Shaquille O'Neal's previous employers will prove that they can win a championship without him. In the case of Orlando, they would prove that they could do something without Shaq that they couldn't do with him.
In fact, by just winning one game in the Finals, they will have accomplished more than they ever did with him.
Shaq used his Twitter page to make his NBA Finals prediction. "I'm a go wit the lake show" is all he wrote.
LeBron, LeBron, LeBron...
I have no problem with LeBron refusing to shake hands and congratulate the Magic immediately after getting eliminated from the playoffs. This isn't AYSO soccer where teams huddle up and give each other "Two, four, six, eight...who do we appreciate?" cheers.
Sometimes it's better to cool off before pretending to be happy about someone else's triumphs at your own expense.
So, I'm not going to knock him for that.
Although I will knock him for dodging the media.
That was purely an act of cowardice and something that he should be skewered for. The media made him. They are the ones who labeled him "The Chosen One" while he was still in high school. They are the ones that have reported on every move he's made.
If you don't have the decency to answer questions for five minutes after a loss then maybe you should find another line of work—especially when you make your teammates have to do it for you.
So Long Big Ben?
Ben Wallace hinted after the game that he would sit down and discuss retirement with his family over the summer.
Wallace is scheduled to make $14 million in the final year of a contract he signed with the Chicago Bulls back in 2005.
Wallace says he would want to be bought out of the contract if he decided to retire, and I doubt the Cavs would have a problem with that since his contract wouldn't count against their luxury tax bill for next season.
If I had to guess I would say that Wallace is much more valuable to the Cavs as a trade asset than he would be as a bought-out contract. The Cavs would be much better off trading Wallace's contract for it's full value and then having his new squad buy him out.
This could potentially be huge for a team like the Phoenix Suns who might be willing to part with either Amar'e Stoudemire or Shaq. The Cavs don't really have the young big guns that the Suns would covet that other teams (say Atlanta's Josh Smith or even Detroit's Jason Maxiell) have.
So, I would count out the Cavs being able to obtain Stoudemire.
Shaq is definitely a possibility though.
The Cavs could probably get Shaq for Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic if Wallace was willing to take a buy-out. Pavlovic can also be bought out of the final year of his contract for $1 million.
So the Suns could potentially save themselves around $5 million dollars next season in salary but could also get back under the luxury tax, saving them an additional $10 million or so.
One Last Thing About the Cavs
Including the playoffs, the Cavs finished 0-8 on the road this season against the Magic, Lakers, and Celtics. When you finish 66-16 during the regular season and 39-2 at home, it's easy to forget they weren't that great of a road team—especially against the league's best teams.
Another Sad Story
Former Bulls guard Randy Brown was forced by a judge to auction off his three championship rings following a bankruptcy filing last year.
Brown was able to sell the rings to an anonymous bidder for $53,833.
Among the listed bidders was Estee Portnoy, Michael Jordan's long-time publicist.
According to Kevin Allen's story in the Chicago Sun Times, "Portnoy declined to say whether she was bidding on Jordan's behalf. Her final bid came Tuesday, topping out at $40,000."
So now we know why Brown chose "0" as his jersey number. Partly because it symbolized the three rings he would later have to auction off, and partly because it represented how many rings he would be left with afterward.
On the bright side for Brown, now that Del Harris is retired, there's a chance Brown could take Harris' old seat on Vinny Del Negro's staff.
M.I.A. From MIA?
One story that didn't get a lot of attention during the first couple rounds of the playoffs was Pat Riley's comments about trying to sign Dwyane Wade to a contract extension this summer.
It's a bit of a catch-22 for Wade, but it's doubtful he'll sign it. If Wade signs the extension then he's stuck on a team that has nobody else under contract for 2010-11.
If he doesn't sign it then it'll be hard to attract a big name free agent who doesn't want to sign unless Wade is committed.
In my opinion, this is a p.r. ploy on the part of Riley. There's no denying he wants Wade locked up, but he also needs to save face with the franchise after their disappointing first round loss to the Hawks.
Wade has given no indication he plans on leaving but a lot can change and it can change in a hurry. Just watch how happy LeBron and the Cavs were just three weeks ago.
Now we're right back to "Will he stay or will he go?".
Riley's problem is that he has very little wiggle room to make the Heat any better next year than they were this year. The team has no first-round pick in this year's draft and will be hard-pressed to find anyone who wants Jermaine O'Neal's contract in a trade.
The Heat also have an owner who is unwilling to go over the luxury tax. So Riley needs to maintain the flexibility to spend big in 2010 while also proving that the team is going places to his franchise player.
Since Riley is adamant about hanging onto the team's young players, the only tradable asset on the team is Udonis Haslem, and he's the second-most popular guy on the team and the best role model for the younger players.
Should be a very interesting summer in Miami.
Another Blemish For the Game's Most Disgraceful Franchise
If you haven't heard about Flunkster Gate then this will really crack you up.
The Golden State Warriors, the team with less playoff success over the past 20 years than the Clippers, are now involved in a scandal where team employees were posing as fans and leaving comments on message boards in order to spin public opinion on personnel moves that may have originally been perceived as unpopular.
Raymond Ridder, the team's PR Director, was leaving comments using the name "Flunkster Dude."
Check out Tim Kawakami's piece about the incident if you want to read more about it.
WarriorsWorld.net has a story today on Paul "We Believe" Wong who has decided to no longer renew his season seats despite being the best fan any team could hope for.
Check out the letter Wong wrote to Warriors' president Robert Rowell at the conclusion of the season.
He's yet to receive a response.
Based on the Warriors' track record over the past twenty years, this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
Who Wants Tickets to Game One?
Derek Fisher is auctioning off two tickets for Game One and a chance to meet him at the game on eBay to help raise money for his alma mater, the University of Arkansas—Little Rock.
Bidding is currently at $2,025. The auction ends at 12pm (PST) on Tuesday.
I'll be at Thursday's Game One. I'll be posting updates on Twitter if anyone cares.
You can follow me here.
I'm not going to make a prediction on the Finals because I'm a lifelong Lakers fan, so it wouldn't mean anything anyway.
Although I will say that I wouldn't be surprised if either team won it all, but if the Lakers win the first two games then the series is over.
Only two teams in NBA Finals history with the middle three games at home have ever won all three games (2004 Detroit Pistons and 2006 Miami Heat).
In addition, since acquiring Pau Gasol in early February of 2008, the Lakers have yet to lose three consecutive games.
So, history says the Lakers will win one of the three middle games in Orlando.
But wait, there's more.
No team has ever won Games Six and Seven of the NBA Finals on the road.
So, I'm not saying the Lakers will win the series. I'm saying if they go up 2-0 then the Magic's chances are somewhere between slim and none.
Not only would they have to win four of the final five games to win the series, but if they lose either Game Three or Game Four then they'll not only be chasing the Lakers but chasing history as well.
They'll not only have to beat the Lakers three times in a row, but they'll also have to win Games Six and Seven on the road—two things which have never been done.
All I can hope for is that both teams stay healthy for the duration of the series.
I think it would also be great if Jameer Nelson came back since you never know if he'll ever get another chance to play in the NBA Finals.
It would suck if he missed his only shot.