I actually think LA has the better team. However I so want Denver to win and plus they have been playing so well lately. I want to see Chauncey win another title.
Cleveland in 6 over Orlando
Most people are predicting Cleveland will destroy Orlando but I think Orlando is gaining confidence and will give Cleveland a good series. Here is a video of LeBron secretly farting. It’s pretty funny, LeBron seems like a great teammate.
This article, The Disposable Superstar, about Chauncey Billups is really great. I do think he’s getting a little too much credit for how well the Nuggets are playing. The Nuggets I believe only won five more games than last season. Nene has been one of the top centers, Birdman has been fantastic off the bench and Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have improved.
However the fact is what he has accomplished is quite impressive. I think my admiration for him might override my disgust for Kenyon Martin. Of course it figures my Toronto Raptors gave him up for nothing.
It is nice also to read about what an influence his father had on him, how he drove him to every game and played an important part in his life. Inspires me a bit to keep trying more with my children. Here is a photo of the championship ring Chauncey sent to his father.
No one is more appreciative of Ray than Chauncey, and he wants to do something for him. So, months later, a box arrives in the mail at Poplar Street. Inside the box is a ring, a Pistons championship ring, just for Ray.
He puts it on his finger … and then stops to read the engraved inscription, on the side, near the gold:
Billups: The Right Way.
Another interesting thing is how Kevin Garnett and Sam Mitchell were big influences in his life. Kevin Garnett, though I dislike some of his tactics against opponents, really has to be applauded for how he treats his teammates.
KG, his old buddy from the 1995 McDonald’s All-American high school game, is recruiting Chauncey, relentlessly. He wants Chauncey to sign in Minnesota, and to entice him, he invites him to his Minneapolis home. On the wall in the cellar is a poster. It reads: The Billups Suite…
Chauncey thanks McHale for being frank and accepts the Pistons deal, his sixth team in five years. Mitchell almost cries when he hears the news, but Chauncey thanks him and Brandon for making him a point guard. Then, in the Billups Suite, Chauncey and KG share a goodbye embrace.
Finally I think I am just drawn to Billups because of how much his teammates have loved him. Here is how his closest Pistons teammates reacted to the trade.
They keep talking about games, moments, shots. Hamilton has always told Chauncey he wants his toddler son to someday marry Chauncey’s toddler daughter, and he brings it up again… It goes on this way for three incredible hours that Chauncey says, “I’ll never forget. We were, ‘Wow, wow,’ in disbelief. Just coming to the realization it was over.'”
Eventually, Chauncey tells them he has a flight to catch, and he walks out the door. The three of them enter the elevator, and Chauncey pauses to give Hamilton a last hug.
Hamilton breaks down, sobbing. Absolutely sobbing.
I am not nearly as excited about the second round as I was for the first because:
Some of the most interesting players, Dwayne Wade, Brandon Roy and Chris Paul, are no longer playing.
Only one of the four series looks competitive.
No Cinderella’s left.
I think I watched too much basketball in the first round.
Orlando in 6 over Boston
Orlando had a much harder time putting away Philadelphia than I expected. On the other hand Boston had an evern harder time with Chicago. If Orlando is getting healthier, which it looked like they might have been based on how they played Game 6 without Dwight Howard, then I think they should be able to beat Boston.
Cleveland in 5 over Atlanta
Originally I was predicting this would be done in five games but when I look at the season series I see that though Cleveland won 3 – 1 three out of the four games were quite close. Atlanta has a very athletic team and hopefully they’ll make this round entertaining.
Los Angeles in 5 over Houston
I really want Houston to win. I want Los Angeles not to win more than I want any other team to win. But Los Angeles swept the season series and they are just a deeper, more talented team.
Denver in 5 over Dallas
I had made this prediction before Game 1 where Denver trounced Dallas. Denver is a very deep and talented team. I hate Kenyon Martin though, almost as much as I hate Kobe. This post is just full of negative feelings.
Here is a YouTube video of Yao blocking Michael Jordan. Maybe we’ll get some new ones of Yao blocking Kobe.
In the finals I was not nearly as concerned about my opponent as I was in the semi-finals. It turned out I underestimated my opponent somewhat. My strategy was to win FG%, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and be competitive in FT%.
I was winning most of the way but in the middle of the second week the Lewisville Rockets became incredibly hot and at one point was 7-1-0 against me. The only categories I was winning in was assists.
I tried to catch up to him in rebounds but I just couldn’t seem to do it. I also tried to catch him in steals and almost did it until Mike Conley got 7 steals.
But just when things started to look bleak my team got hot and I suddenly started catching up in rebounds.
On the last day of the season, Wednesday, I loaded up on rebounders hoping that:
The Lewisville Rockets wouldn’t counter by loading up on rebounders.
The Lewisville Rockets wouldn’t notice that at least their best player, Lebron James, wasn’t playing on Wednesday, and possibly Joe Johnson.
Fortunately the Lewisville Rockets didn’t do anything. On the last day of the season Lebron and Joe didn’t and Emeka Okafor only played six minutes.
I won this matchup because in the end my team played six more games. And the effective number is actually more since on the second last day of the season his three Atlanta Hawks barely played.
If Kwang had been managing the Lewisville Rockets he would have won.
I learned a few leassons from these head-to-head playoffs.
Make sure you have accurate predictions. I had a spreadsheet predicting how I would do against my opponent. In the first round I kept Matt Barnes thinking he was a .500 shooter. It turned out he was a .430 shooter and he ended up shooting .188 for me. In the second round I thought I would win rebounds until I realized after a week that I had not counted Chris Bosh’s statistics for his team.
Don’t let a player go to free agency if you really like him. In the first round I let Thabo Sefolosha go to free agency because I thought Kwang wouldn’t want him. Kwang ended up grabbing him in a few hours. Fortunately Sefolosha did poorly in the second week. In the second round I let Anthony Randolph go. Kwang picked him up in a few hours. That kid might be a stud next season if Nelson lets him play.
Don’t assume you’ll win a category. I assumed I’d win steals when I had a ten steal lead and that was gone in two days and I never got it back.
Dwyane Wade was my fantasy MVP, I owned him on both of my teams. I drafted Wade 9th and 6th and he ended up being the 2nd best player next to Chris Paul though one could argue Lebron had a better season than either of these two. Also Dwyane seems like a good guy though a little strange so obviously my heart wants to pick Miami.
On the other hand I owed three different Atlanta Hawks, Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Joe Johnson. All three of them disappointed me at different times so I am not feeling a lot of love for the Hawks.
But the Hawks look like a better team. I guess there are several factors.
Can the Hawks continue to contain Wade like they did during the regular season. I’m inclined to say no but Horford and Smith do a good job of clogging the lane.
Who will do the better coaching job? I don’t know but Spoelstra is supposed to be the better coach.
Will Michael Beasley continue his late season progress. I think he will which make things tougher for the Hawks and free up Wade a little more.
Will O’Neal do anything? I think the answer is not much but the Heat never had much of a center all season.
I am going to predict Heat in 6 but I admit it’s more wishful thinking.
One final note. I think Dwyane Wade is the only divorced athlete I like. I’m not sure why I’m being so forgiving with him, maybe cause of that cheesy commercial where he gives the coach an SUV or those funny T-Mobile commercials.
Boston in 5 over Chicago
Chicago is athletic but any faith I had in them I lost after seeing them get blown out by the Raptors in the last game of the season that the Bulls should have wanted to win. Derrick Rose is awesome and Joakim Noah is pure energy but Tyrus Thomas, Ben Gordon and John Salmons seem a little too streaky. I’d rather put my faith in Pierce, Allen and Rondo.
Orlando in 4 over Philadelphia
Maybe because I’m such a Dwight Howard fan but I think Orlando is going to romp. I want to see a nice guy finish first so I’m rooting for Orlando. Philadelphia has played horribly and they don’t have any three point shooting. If Orlando shoots poorly Philadelphia might be able to get a lot of fast break points. But besides that I don’t see Philadelphia doing much.
And here are two of my favorite players in one of my favorite commercials.
Cleveland in 4 over Detroit
Who will want to sign Iverson after seeing him give up on his team right before the playoffs?
Los Angeles in 4 over Utah
Something is not right in Utah. They win 11 in a row and then fall apart. Boozer, Okur and Millsap don’t seem healthy, Deron Williams can only do so much. Kobe is going to kill them and Pau Gasol is going to shoot like 75%.
New Orleans in 6 over Denver
Denver has a more talented team with more depth and a great bench. Billups is good but not a superstar, Nene will dominate the paint, Chris Andersen will also when he’s on the floor, Kenyon Martin is hurting and annoying, J.R. Smith is streaky but incredible when he’s on. Maybe George Karl will implode and bench Carmelo.
But I love Chris Paul. I think I might love him as much as Dwight Howard. I watch him interact with people and I just think “He’s a really good guy.” New Orleans depends too much on iffy players like Tyson Chandler, Peja, Posey and Butler. Anyway it’s wishful thinking but I am hoping New Orleans can pull it off. I’m going to enjoy watching these games, unless New Orleans is being blown out.
Dallas in 6 over San Antonio
I owned Jason Kidd on both my fantasy teams and I really started to appreciate what he can do which is everything except shoot. I really think he’s superb at making his teammates better and that they enjoy playing with him. San Antonio is hurting and Dallas is starting to feel confident so I think they can pull off this upset. I feel bad for Tim Duncan and his achy knees but the guy has more rings than 99.9% of all NBA players, past and present.
Houston in 6 over Portland
This is a tough one to predict. Brandon Roy was on one of my fantasy teams and he was amazing. Tracy McGrady was on another and he sucked. So you could imagine where my heart might be leaning. The Blazers are athletic, long, young, and fast. On the other hand I really like Yao and I just want him to get the monkey off his back. I can’t believe they lost that final game to Dallas and I do question how much they want to win. Why in the world would you not give the ball to Yao in the last quarter?
I think though Houston finally wins a first round series. They have more experience, though so far the losing kind, and they’ve played very well against Portland this season. Just give the ball to Yao!
There were a lot of holes that I suddenly had to fill as the playoffs commenced. In the first round, the semi-finals, I was matched up against Kwang’s team, which was the strongest team because of his shrewd late season pickup of Lamar Odom and his earlier fantastic pickup of Rajon Rondo. Kwang grabbed Lamar Odom before I had a chance but in the case of Rajon Rondo I was being lazy, I should have gotten him off waivers.
I looked at the statistics and realized there was almost no way I could win. Since he owned Dwight Howard I figured I could win free throw percentage (FT%) and with Calderon, Kidd and Wade I was confident I could win assists. Normally I do well in field goal percentage (FG%) and rebounds but against his team I knew it would be almost impossible to beat him in those categories. Therefore I tried to picked up a lot of guards to win three pointers and steals. I was also hoping to win blocks by adding Ronny Turiaf and Chris Andersen, two block masters.
Just a few days in I realized I had to abandon blocks because Ronny and Chris weren’t doing it for me while Odom and Howard were blocking everything. The funny thing was the day after I dropped Chris he got six blocks. I decided to go after three points completely.
However it turned out that Kwang was better at picking guys who can shoot three pointers. His big pickup was J.R. Smith who had burned me several times but was on fire throughout the playoffs. I picked up O.J. Mayo whom Kwang dropped but he sucked for me. Of course after I dropped O.J. Mayo he played great in the finals against me.
By the last weekend of the semi-finals I was behind Kwang by so many three pointers that I was resigned to defeat. Then on Friday at midnight I suddenly had an eureka moment. When I saw Kwang drop Jermaine O’Neal and pick up the last good three point shooter I realized he had no rebounders left except Lamar Odom and Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard, fortunately for me, had no games scheduled for the weekend and Lamar Odom had only one. Kwang was ahead of me by about 70 rebounds so I am sure he wasn’t concerned that I could catch him. But I realized that if I completely turned over my lineup Saturday just before lineups were to be locked that I could gain significant ground on him.
For the next few hours I figured out who the best rebounders were that were available. Then I sent a long email to Paul Kahn with instructions about what to do because I was going to be on the road on the way to Legoland.
At 1:40 PM Paul completely revamped my lineup, changing it from three point shooters to rebounders. The first game was at 2 PM and I did this at the last minute hoping that Kwang wouldn’t notice and change his lineup. At 2:01 PM I had Paul then change my lineup, grabbing all the good rebounders available for Sunday and even putting a couple of good ones on my bench so Kwang couldn’t get them.
I expected at the end of Saturday’s games to be still down by 20 rebounds but I ended up passing Kwang and almost catching him in FG% (thank you Jeff Foster for grabbing 18 rebounds). Saturday night Kwang changed his lineup to have only rebounders but it was too late because the guys he picked up weren’t as good. Sunday I continued to beat him and even passed him in FG%.
Kwang’s team really was better than mine. It was quite a chess match as we made moves back and forth throughout the week to try to beat the other person. In the end I had the last move, it was acutally like two moves, which is why I won.
I am both proud and relived to say I won both of my fantasy basketball leagues. The head-to-head league turned out to be very difficult to win and consumed a lot of time which is one of the reasons I have not blogged for so long.
Head-to-head leagues have playoffs at the end of the season and like real life if you have injuries during the playoffs then you’re out of luck. I had dominated my head-to-head league all season but when the playoffs came around my roster was somewhat decimated.
Andris Biedrins, one of the top centers in the league most of the season, twisted his ankle and was out most of the playoffs.
Jamal Crawford, who dominated especially during the early part of the season, ended up playing so badly near the end of the season that I dropped him before the playoffs. Ironically he ended up playing very well for my opponent in the finals before his back failed him.
Chris Duhon, a top ten point guard most of the season, began to fade badly and I dropped him before the playoffs. My opponent in the semi-finals, Kwang, picked him up for one game and he had one of his best games in several weeks for him. Kwang pushed his luck though by playing Duhon again and he failed him.
Paul Millsap played like a top twenty fantasy player most of the season but began to fade before Carlos Boozer came back. I dropped him after he lost his starting job though I played him a few times in the finals and he did have at least one grand game for me.
Dwayne Wade, my MVP, hurt his ankle at the beginning of the playoffs and missed a game at the beginning of the semi-finals causing me to panic. And in the finals he missed the last two games to rest for the real playoffs.
Caron Butler, my All-Star underachiever, was out the entire semi-finals until the last game but fortunately played well in the finals.
The Raptors season ended on an up note as they beat a Chicago Bulls team that should have been motivated to win. Doug Smith of the Toronto Star has an interesting blog article with his take on the three most significant wins and losses of the season. I remember all of them except for the loss to the Thunder. I especially remember that horrible loss to Vince Carter and wondering that night why Vince Carter seems to only try against the Raptors.
These are my thoughts as the Raptors season closes.
Jose Calderon can be a top point guard. In the middle of the season I was concerned about this but seeing how he flourished at the end I have to believe it was his hamstring that was hampering him (pun not intended). He needs to work on his strength and conditioning but considering this was his first season as a starter, I think next season could be an All-Star season for him. I think his work ethic is unquestionable considering how he improved his free throw percentage so dramatically over just a few seasons.
I think Chris Bosh is better than I would admit before when I blamed him for all the Raptor woes. Is he a franchise player though worth breaking the bank in 2010? I am not so sure. If the Raptors can get something good for him I think they should consider trading him.
Andrea Bargnani, Alan’s favorite player, really became a lot better. I wonder if his better position is power forward than center. He does need to learn to grab rebounds better but I think that will come.
Shawn Marion really played well at the end of the season. I am not sure if he did it because he knew he needed to make a good impression since he’s now a free agent. Sometimes he seems too moody and a bit selfish. But I think he’s quite talented and would love it if the Raptors brought him back for a good price. It is hard to find a small forward that rebounds, steals, blocks and plays defense against the other team’s best player.
One move the Raptors might consider is trading Bosh but I am not sure what we need. Amare Stoudemire would be nice but I still like the idea of Bargnani moving to power forward which won’t happen with Stoudemire. I think what would be ideal is trading for a shooting guard that can shoot three’s, create his own shot, drive to the hole, and get lots of free throws. You know, someone like Dwayne Wade. Of course we won’t be getting Dwayne Wade but interestingly enough Ben Gordon is a free agent. Unfortunately Ben Gordon has a reputation of being selfish.
If we did trade Bosh then getting a center that rebounds and plays defense would be a great move. I think the Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat, would be great but he’s a restricted free agent.
Looking at the list of free agents in 2009 I see Kwame Brown who I actually think is very good, great rebounder. Jarrett Jack is a restricted free agent and a shooting guard, maybe he could help the Raptors. Lamar Odom is an unrestricted free agent and I think he’s amazingly talented. He probably wants out of LA since he doesn’t start there. Charlie Villanueva is a restricted free agent with a lot of talent and he probably hates playing under Scott Skiles. Same for Ramon Sessions who could help the Raptors except he can’t shoot three’s. David Lee is awesome but he wants to stay in New York. Ike Diogu will probably make more money this offseason just because of his last two games. Paul Millsap is a beast but Utah will probably try to keep him.
Maybe we should keep Bosh, sign Marcin Gortat and Ben Gordon and Shawn Marion, and make a run. That’s still not a team that can win it all though and I am not sure the Raptors can afford Gordon.