Monday, June 23, 2008

Can I Kick It?: Obama, 21, Swat Kats, and the NBA Finals Preview

I used to always knock people who would use the creative space of the Facebook "blog" to proclaim one of the most annoying phrases ever:


That is, until my birthday came and went last Monday, May 26th. Yup, I've become one of those people. It's just easier to use the "note" space to thank everyone, especially with my tagging technique, than to write on everyone's wall like I did last year. (My internship had started by then, lol).

Thanks to everyone that flooded my inbox, called me, and straight up usurped my wall to wish me the best 21st year ever! I really appreciate the love pushed my way, and I hope that God blesses each and every one of you!

On to business...

As most of you already know, I've been slacking on my Facebook "note" writing as of late. Why? Initially, I was burned out from the painfully long Junior year. I'd been writing a ton of papers, getting last-minute assignments, and taking finals...pretty much like most of you. Plus, I was gearing up for my trip to Cancun with my uncle, and I was making sure to bring plenty of sunscreen. (By the way, the sunscreen backfired. Oh well, as Tupac says, "The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.")

Don't worry, I heard about the Knicks getting shafted by David Stern (probably pissed because of the Ewing speculation from '85) and getting the #6 pick in this year's NBA Draft. Yup, like an idiot, I immediately turned around and punched the concrete column in our hotel room, thinking it was hollow. It wasn't. Ouch.

On cue, all of the folks from Chicago got hyped up and sent me messages celebrating Derrick Rose and mocking the five true Knick fans that still exist on Facebook. Of course, I pointed to the fact that they could have had Kobe for 80 cents on the dollar at the beginning of this season. In the meantime, all of you Bulls fans can watch Kobe lead his team to the NBA Finals while your squad wallows in mediocrity. Just make sure to toss me Kirk Hinrich after you draft D-Rose. Thanks.

After the embarrassment of the draft lottery coupled with the Yankees deciding to take a seat in the cellar of the AL East, I decided to lay low. I played my self-created "Mutual Friends" game on Facebook (I'll explain in another Facebook "note"), watched reruns of Swat Kats and Justice League on Boomerang, and ate party leftovers for about a week. Plus, with the NBA Conference Finals being downright atrocious, it bought me some time and hopefully allowed everyone to forget about how bad the Knicks truly were this season. (Yup, if you're wincing while reading, please forgive me. I'm a little rusty at this writing thing.)

Yes, I just said that the Conference Finals were terrible. Why? Well, with Obama finally securing the nomination, let's check out the Conference a political style.

To me, the Lakers/Spurs series was similar to the Obama/Clinton fight for the Democratic nomination. Just like Hilary, the Spurs are the least favorite team to watch due to their incessant crying and wining (Parker), underhanded maneuvers and dirty play (Bruce Bowen), and flopping to generate an unfair advantage (Ginobili). Similarly to Hilary, the Spurs are a team that refuses to lay down, and is honestly a great team that doesn't get enough credit for being such a dominant force in the NBA for the last decade. NBA fans and media personnel hate the Spurs so much that the referee's no-call on Fisher's no-brainer foul on Brent Barry - who was a member of the HOME TEAM in San Antonio no less - drew praise from the basketball world. We all wanted to see Celtics vs. Lakers, and the refs made sure that it would happen that way. Granted, I believe that the Lake Show would have taken out the Spurs regardless (just as Obama eventually ended up beating Hilary out for the nomination), but it would have just taken longer.

(Side Note: I'm convinced that David Stern rigs the NBA Finals for the team that will get the highest ratings. Joey Crawford was officiating Game 4! What?! To explain, Joey Crawford has a personal vendetta against the Spurs, stemming from a Tim Duncan ejection in a Dallas/San Antonio game last season. How the heck does this guy get the chance to ref a game involving the EXACT SAME TEAM HE HATES in the conference finals! Has anyone even pointed this out yet! WHAT!!! I'm not trying to say that I wanted the Spurs to win this series, but come on can't be rigging games with crooked refs.)

Tomorrow night, the 2008 NBA Finals will begin, featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Let's take a closer look at each team as they fight for the Larry O'Brien trophy to add to their respective illustrious rosters.

Los Angeles Lakers (#1 seed in West, 57-25 record in reg. sesason)

Best Player: Kobe Bryant.
After watching the highlights (skipped Game 5) of Kobe's romp in the Staples Center last week, I firmly believe that Kobe is ready to snatch his first title during the post-Shaq Laker era and cement his status as one of the greatest NBA players ever. Right now, Kobe is playing at a clip similar to (gulp) M.J., showcasing his ability to defer to his teammates when the team is on all cylinders and proving that he can single-handedly win a game or two when required (See: Games 1,5 of Conference Finals). It's hard to fathom Paul Pierce/James Posey stopping Kobe right now, and it looks like he's got a legit shot at the 'ship right now.

Secondary Scorer: Pau Gasol.In one of the biggest one-sided robberies that this league has even seen, the Lakers received an young, athletic big man with a innate ability to score - IN HIS PRIME - for the scraps on the end of their bench (Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittendon, late-round picks). Pau is the perfect compliment to Kobe for two main reasons - he plays a totally different position than Kobe (PF/C), and Pau can create his own baskets without needing Kobe to feed him the basketball in a prime scoring position. Why can't the Knicks ever get sweet deals like that? Oh yeah, Isiah was running the team last year. Damn.

Key Role Players: Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic, Ronny Turiaf. L.A. received a gift during the last offseason when Derek Fisher was forced to return to the Lake Show due to his daughter's ongoing battle with a rare form of eye cancer. With Fish, Kobe now had a guy who he could depend on in the clutch to knock down shots and play a tough PG position. Vujacic has emerged as the two-guard down the stretch due to his outside shooting prowess. This allows Kobe to play SF, which is a terrible matchup for most teams. Since the glaring deficiency for the Lakers resides in the low-post, Turiaf will be counted on to bring a wealth of hustle, grit, and determination during those times when it will become necessary to rest the starting big men (Odom, Gasol).

The Guy That We'll See Cheering From the Bench Before ABC Goes to a Commercial Break: Luke Walton.

Here's my "Towel Waving Guy" checklist:
Is the player a white guy? Check.
Is said player possibly nerd of team? Check.
Is the player easy for fans to remember quickly and point at derisively? Check.

I mean, who else could it be in a Lakers/Celtics NBA Finals?

X-Factor: Lamar Odom. In the Lakers' second round series against the Jazz, Odom's play was the major reason why the Lakers were able to handle the onslaught of the Jazz in six games. Odom's ability to get to the basket around Carlos Boozer proved important during that stretch because of the fact that Andrei Kirilenko was stuck guarding Kobe for most of the series. If Odom can give the Lakers another proven scorer during this series, the Celtics will be hard-pressed to stop the Lakers from snatching another NBA title.

Boston Celtics (#1 seed in East, 66-16 reg.season record)

Best Player: Kevin Garnett. KG has always been an interesting player to watch during the course of his career. He openly scowls at opposing players and fan bases, grabs shots off the rim once a foul is called, and even hits himself with the ball when angry with himself. Though we have countless hours of footage to prove that KG is certifiably insane, I have never seen KG completely place his stamp on a series and dominate it from start-to-finish. Over the years, KG has shied away from the big moment. While in Minnesota during their run to the Conference Finals, KG constantly deferred to second-tier guys like Cassell and Sprewell. What?! Even this year, KG has allowed Ray Allen to continue chucking up bricks throughout the postseason without calling for the ball and making his presence known on the offensive end. If the Celtics even have a chance of carrying the trophy back to the Boston Garden T.D. Waterhouse Center, KG better bring his A game.

Secondary Scorer: Paul Pierce. During this playoff run for the Celtics, Paul Pierce has been the defining member of this team. Pierce has played defense on the other team's best player (even though James Posey is chilling on the bench) in every series this postseason while also scoring 20ppg. It's hard to believe that KG is being outshined by a guy whose team couldn't even win 35 games last season.

Key Role Players: James Posey, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins.
Simply put, these young guys can't get nervous now that they find themselves playing on the world's biggest stage for the NBA title. Plus, Doc Rivers can't be an idiot and leave James Posey on the bench AGAIN.

The "Towel Waving Guy" for the ABC Cameras: Brian Scalabrine.
It's funny that a town that has a bad history of hatred towards black people (Boston) has a championship-caliber team that lacks a significant amount of white players. Especially since Boston's championship teams have always had a huge amount of white talent (McHale, Bird, Ainge, Cousy, Walton). Actually, I think that Jordan Farmar might be the closest white guy we'll see on the floor for any extension of time during the entire NBA Finals. Yeah, I know that Brian Scalabrine is currently non-active and almost always in street clothes, but can Doc play him just once? Please?

The X-Factor: Ray Allen. If Jesus Shuttlesworth can come alive in the Finals, these games will be a lot more entertaining. Plus, Ray Allen and Kobe have always hated each other. Why? I don't know...probably over a girl or something. Anyway, look for Ray to find his jimmy during the games in Boston...or we'll see a quick end to this series.

The Pick: Lakers in 5. Kobe's worth two games by himself in any playoff series, and I don't see the Celts' showing up at all in the Staples Center once the Lakers steal one up in Boston this weekend. Phil Jackson completely dominates the coaching matchup. (Honestly, does Doc Rivers really deserve to be here?) Plus, the Lake Show just looks too strong right now coming off of a solid week of rest after their brutal ride through the West. As long as no Clipper fans jump onto the bandwagon during the Finals (cough, Marley!), Laker victory is all but assured.

The NBA audience is ready for a change, and the Los Angeles Lakers, as champions of the NBA, will bring just that.

Man, that sounds similar to that Obama fellow, doesn't it?
Mike Benjamin, II

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