2011 NBA Playoff Musings: Second Round Edition

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The winner of the Miami Heat-Boston Celtics series will win it all.
 This series of heavyweights is “must see TV” for the following reasons.  It features the two best teams in the Eastern Conference (no offense to the Chicago Bulls).  These two teams obviously hate each other.  Finally, either of those teams can win a series with the remaining Western Conference combatants.  Both Miami and Boston have the firepower to do so.  On the other hand, Chicago is a one-man band.  Speaking of which…

Derrick Rose needs help.  It’s never a good thing when a team’s leading scorer and best player is the point guard.  The newly minted MVP needs his other teammates to step up and consistently score (Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng I am talking to you).  Lucky for Chicago it is playing Atlanta.  The only reason the Bulls will beat Atlanta is because the Hawks are too inconsistent and knuckle-headed to beat a higher-seeded team.

The Dallas Mavericks are praying that the Oklahoma City Thunder eliminates Memphis.  Memphis is a hellacious match-up for any team remaining in the playoffs – let alone the Mavs.  The Grizzlies are two-deep at EVERY position, and boast a vicious one-two punch down low with stud Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.  As tough a team as Dallas is, they do not have the front-court depth to deal with Memphis’ bruising big men.  Believe it or not, it’s possible for Memphis to rep the West in the NBA Finals!

The Los Angeles Lakers are done.  This is not to say that the Lakers are going to become also-rans and be down and out for good.  I’m just saying that we can forget about the Lakers as title contenders for a while.  There are some mitigating circumstances working against L.A.  First of all, the Lakers are old and slow.  Anyone who watched them against the Hornets and Mavs knows that the Lakers do not have to foot speed to keep up with the game’s top point guards.  Chris Paul broke the Lakers down with his penetration in the first round.  The Mavs’ back-up PG JJ Barea ran circles around them in the second round.  GM Mitch “what’s-his-face” might want to infuse some youth and speed on that roster.

Second, the Lakers cannot count on the wrong Gasol (Pau) and Andrew Bynum.  Pau had been soft throughout the playoffs, which is a big reason why the Lakers underperformed against the Hornets and swept by the Mavs.  Too bad the Lakers might have a hard time moving Gasol and his $19 million/yr contract.  He’s a #2 who is paid like a #1.  As for Bynum, he is just a straight up knuckle-head.  Why he decided to go street ball and knock Barea out of the air is beyond me.  His jersey removal screamed of immaturity (side note: if you are gonna take of your jersey, at least be tight and in shape.  You can’t be just “aiight” as Bynum was).

Third, the new salary cap will make it hard for them to acquire star power.  The upcoming lockout (thanks to the greedy players and the fiscally-retarded owners, there will be one) will enforce a stricter salary cap which probably be lower than what it is right now.  That means the Lakers cannot just go out and trade for Orlando’s Dwight Howard as they did for Gasol a few years back.  Before they can even entertain that thought, the Lakers have to get beneath the salary cap, which they are not at the moment (a payroll at a whopping $88 million dollars).  They cannot have Kobe Bryant, Gasol and Howard on the same team.

One more question: who in the hell is going to coach those guys?  If it’s the inexperienced Brian Shaw, good luck to L.A. (and to him).  A coach with a championship experience and some swag can lead this bunch.  If it got old for Phil Jackson, then Shaw doesn’t have a chance.

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