Sunday, March 20, 2011

Playoff Predicting Penguin (...I wanted an alliteration)

As the NBA playoffs get nearer every day, only one thing is on my mind: Will the Utah Jazz be in or out? At only 1.5 games behind 8th place Memphis, it is certainly possible. Every night I find myself rooting for the Grizzlies, Rockets, Suns, and Hornets to lose while desparately inhaling every Jazz win I can get. In an effort to see if this is plausible, I present my playoff predictions.

These prediction are not at all based on emotion or hope but solely on statisics (although very rough ones). As of 4:30 pm (MDT), I took every NBA team's record and calculated their estimated win/loss record after playing all 82 games. There is only one rule to my calculations: if your record is better than your opponent's, you win. Homecourt advantage is not taken into account as I have no hard statistics proving what it does for a team's performance (an even record goes to the home team, however). Also, each team is likely to have roughly the same number of home and away games the remainder of the season, thus somewhat nullifying any calculated advantage. And, yes, this was probably a waste of time, but at least it gives me some indication whether or not to get my hopes up.

Not so fast, Lakers and Celtics...
First, the East:
1. Chicago
2. Boston
3. Miami
4. Orlando
5. Atlanta
6. New York
7. Philadelphia
8. Indiana

And the West...
1. San Antonio
2. LA Lakers
3. Dallas
4. Oklahoma City
5. Denver
5. New Orleans (tie)
7. Portland
and 8..........................................Memphis. Crap.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I'm Obsessed With Jerseys

While vacationing in Hawaii in January, I visited the Aloha Stadium Swapmeet. It is a collection of tents/booths set-up around the outside perimeter of a football stadium (the same stadium where the NFL Pro Bowl was played), and located about 1 mile from Pearl Harbor. Most of the tents are full of t-shirts, necklaces and other Hawaiian knick-knacks. There was one tent, however, off the beaten path, that I contained not one traditional Hawaiian souvenir. I don't think it had a name but if it did, it would be, "T-Wah's NBA Emporium." It was a mini heaven in already-heaven (Hawaii). There were basketball jerseys hanging from every bar and pole holding up the tent. It had a special gravitational pull and I somehow ended up separated from my wife who was busy finding a plastic hibiscus to put in her hair.

As I walked in, a young fellow was transacting the purchase of an authentic vintage Pete Maravich blue and green Atlanta Hawks jersey. Cool! My eyes then glanced over at the salesman; he was wearing a Pete Maravich LSU jersey (where he played college ball). Lining the walls were the jerseys of many of today's NBA All-Stars: KG, Lebron, Kobe, Wade, Durrant, etc. Other than jerseys, there were a couple of pieces of memorabilia: Steve Nash and Jason Kidd action figures, a book about Wilt the Stilt, and a few baseball caps. I purchased a jersey, but not before considering 3 others: an authentic Atlanta Hawks Spud Webb home jersey, a Phoenix Suns Yuta Tabuse (the only Japanese to play in the NBA) away jersey, and a Steve Nash team Canada jersey. The grand prize...a green and yellow "Pistol" Pete Maravich Utah Jazz away jersey.

This was a hard decision. The jersey, itself, is a piece of crap. It looks like it was made in a high school sewing class and the #7 on the front is so frayed it will probably fall off soon. The shape of it even sucks. The neck hole is too small and I'm pretty sure that Grimace was the model for the shape. I decided that if I bought a jersey that it should probably be from my favorite team. The Pistol is the favorite player of one of my brothers. He introduced a new style of ball to the league and although I never saw him play in my lifetime he remains one of the greatest, if not the greatest, ball handler of all time. It was time for me to bring a part of my team's history into my home for only $15.

Which brings me to my obsession with collecting NBA jerseys. With my most recent acquisition, I felt it appropriate to discuss my entire collection:

1. Karl Malone, purple, Utah Jazz away - My 1st and favorite jersey. Can't beat it. It was my first prized NBA possession and purchased when the Jazz were at the top of the world (almost). My cousin, who lived in Utah, bought it for me and brought it to me when he came to visit.

Don't mind the background...those are
the kinds of bedspreads they give you
in Hawaiian condos.
2. Vince Carter, purple/black, Toronto Raptors away - I hope everyone remembers Vinsanity in his heyday. There was no one better. My life was better when I watched him play.
3. Donyell Marshall, white, Utah Jazz home - By far the crappiest jersey I own. It brings the most laughs (both from myself and anyone who knows the league very well). Bought it for $10 on a clearance rack at the Delta Center.
4. Jason Williams, black, Sacramento Kings away - I love(d) this jersey. The colors are wicked. I think Snakes has it. I want it back.
5. Shaquile O'Neal, purple, Phoenix Suns away - Another good laugh. My wife bought it for me at Walmart while we lived, and worked, in Phoenix.
6. Carlos Boozer, baby blue, Utah Jazz away - What can I say? He was the next Karl Malone.
7. LeBron James, maroon, Cleveland Cavaliers away - People used to like him, you know. Bought this at an outdoor mall in Orlando....clearance.
8. Deron Williams, dark blue, Utah Jazz away - Remember when he played for the Jazz? Me too...
9. Kevin Durrant, blue, OKC Thunder away - My least favorite-looking jersey. Refer to my previous post a few months ago to see what I recommend instead. I bought this jersey in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho before people had mancrushes on KD.
10. Al Jefferson, blue/gold/green, Utah Jazz away - This one is brand new and autographed. I love it. I love "Big Al" (also how he signs his name). My brother bought me this jersey on a vacation to Utah before the season started. I needed this jersey from the moment I found out about his trade to Utah.

Jerseys are an extension of my passion. Each one tells a story and although I don't get to wear them often, they put a smile on my face every time I look at the bottom rack of my closet.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why the Mavs will finally win the NBA title

I know I know. You're all laughing at me right now and many of you really want to bring up the meltdown against Dwayne Wade and the Heat in 2006 and then the ugly first round upset by Golden State the next year. Some of you would point out that the Lakers have won the last two titles and there is really nothing stopping them from making it a three-peat, other than the Celtics, Heat, Magic, Bulls, Thunder or Spurs that is. Then those of you who really know what you are talking about will look at what has happened to the Mavs this year, losing Caron Butler, their second best player, for the whole season, and say that there is no way they can make up for that loss. Well screw you all is what I would say to that! Although all the teams mentioned above had a legitimate shot at winning it all this year, I am going to argue that it will end up being the Mavs who will be hoisting the awkwardly shaped NBA trophy this June.

It all starts with Dirk. He's having an incredible year and is a strong candidate for MVP. Just look at what happened when he was injured, and the team sputtered to a terrible record. Then take a look at his stats this year. Although his rebounds are down from his '06-'07 MVP season, his points are close (22.8 vs. 24.6), and both his field goal and three point shooting percentages are actually better than his MVP year (they're actually career highs of 52.5% and 42.4% respectively), meaning he has become more efficient at what he is doing. He's still one of the best clutch shooters, making teams double team him, which frees up many of the other shooters on the team.

Jason Kidd is showing his age (his career low points per game is at 8.4, the same as his assist per game number, which is quite respectable), but in the playoffs, when teams slow it down much more, he is still great at making the right pass and setting up his teammates. His back ups, Jose Barea and Rodrique Beaubois, are both strong players and can either take over for Kidd or play alongside them. Then bring in Jason Terry, who is still one of the best sixth men in the league, and the guard position is well looked after.

Anchoring the newly defensive minded team is center Tyson Chandler, who seems to get a lot of the credit for bringing the Mavs back into title contention. Apparently he can do a lot more than just catch lobs, like he did with Chris Paul in New Orleans. Then you have back up center Brendan Haywood, who can still be a strong presence in the post, despite some regression this year. I also think the Mav's bench is one of the deepest in the league, with former All-Stars Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic and soon to be picked up Corey Brewer, the former number 7 pick in the 2007 draft. Marion and Brewer bring intensity and great defense, while Peja, along with Terry, Beaubois and DeShawn Stevenson, can space the floor and knock down the long ball.

All this adds up to a team that I think is one of the most dangerous teams in the league, and one that most other teams will not want to face come playoff time. They have size, speed, deep threats, defense and an MVP candidate, all of which can add up to a championship. I am a little hesitant to give them the title right now, as they have had some problems in the past, but this team feels different. The '06 team still felt a bit shakey, and the Golden State upset, when looked at closely, could be seen quite easily. I just feel that this team has the experience and toughness needed to make the full run. I do think it will be a tough road to the championship (San Antonio is always a tough opponent, the Lakers will wake up come playoff time, and I think Boston, who made some great trades at the deadline, is the best in the East and a really deep team as well), but I have confidence in my team. I look forward to boasting this June and all summer long on the Pads about my team and their first ever NBA championship! I hope you're all as excited as I am!