Tag Archives: Miami Heat

MJ Played Against and Beat Better Competition

The debate between Jordan & James continues to heat up. The focus now is on the competition they faced.

Almost since the moment the clock hit triple zeros in game seven of the 2016 NBA Finals, when the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, the LeBron James versus Michael Jordan conversations have only intensified. And it’s not going to change any time soon. So if you’re annoyed and tired of the topic, no matter whose side you’re on, get used to it. Unless you plan on avoiding the litany of debate shows on ESPN and Fox Sports.

The latest chapter is a hypothetical about how and when LeBron will take over as the Greatest Of All Time from MJ.

Case in point, last week Fox Sports One NBA Analyst Chris Broussard said on Fox Sports’ “Undisputed with Skip and Shannon”, that it will happen if James wins the next two NBA Championships, for a Cavs three-peat, giving him five total championship rings. The prevalent thought is that he would’ve beaten a better more talented team in the Golden State Warriors with four perennial all-stars. Assuming the Dubs make it to the Finals four consecutive season as well. Broussard, as well as Shannon Sharpe, said MJ “didn’t beat anyone” to win his titles, and that the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons and “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers were old and worn out by the time those Chicago Bulls teams reached their peak. I think that’s as ridiculous of a hot take as I’ve ever heard.

If I were on the show, I would’ve fired back… “were the Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed & Ben Wallace-led Pistons who had played in five consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, two NBA Finals, winning one (2004), before losing to the ’07 Cleveland Cavs old?”

The previous variable used to compare the two use to be that LBJ accomplished more at a younger age than MJ, which I always thought was dumb because one came straight out of high school, while the other played three years of college ball. The only fair comparison would be years of service which I did back in 2013. So now in order to prop James’ legacy up, people want to diminish the competition Jordan faced.

Not only did those 90’s Bulls beat very good teams in the Finals, they also beat top competition in the Eastern Conference playoffs to get to the championship round. Something LeBron hasn’t had to do in his six-year Eastern Conference title runs, aside from playing against the big four in Boston of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.

Here’s a look at the team’s, Jordan’s Bulls had to conquer on their title runs…

After sweeping the 39-43 Patrick Ewing-led New York Knicks in three games, The 1991 Bulls beat the Charles Barkley-led Philadelphia 76ers four games to one in the conference semifinals. Then they swept the 50-32 Isiah Thomas-led, two-time defending NBA World Champion Detroit Pistons to advance to the NBA Finals. Waiting for them was the 58-24 Magic Johnson-led and five-time NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers who just happened to beat the team with the best record in the Association that season, the 63-19 Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trailblazers in six games. Of course, we all remembered what happened in the Finals. Bulls over Lakers in five, and if it weren’t for a last second jumper by Jordan that rimmed out in game one, they would’ve swept the team of the ’80’s.

The 1992 Bulls team challenged the 70-win mark finishing the season at 67-15. After sweeping the young Miami Heat 3-0 in the first round, The Bulls went to a grueling seven games with Patrick Ewing’s 51-31 Knicks in the conference semifinals. Chicago lost home court advantage in game one, before coming back to win the series. In the conference finals they faced a 57-25 Cleveland Cavaliers team with All-Stars Mark Price and Brad Daugherty. The Bulls beat the Cavs in six.

In the Finals they faced the 57-25 Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trailblazers, who brought back their key nucleus from the same team that had the NBA’s best regular season record the year before and had lost in the 1990 NBA Finals. Some of those names; Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Danny Ainge who won two titles with Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics in the 1980’s. It took those Bulls six games and a 15-point 4th-quarter comeback to win the series.

In 1993 the Bulls went into the playoffs as the second seed. They swept their first two rounds 3-0 over the 43-39 Dominique Wilkins-led Atlanta Hawks, and 4-0 over the 54-28 Cleveland Cavaliers who had three All-Stars in Price, Daugherty and Larry Nance. In the Conference Finals they met up again with the Knicks who had the second best record in the NBA at 60-22 and the number one seed in the East. Chicago dropped the first two games in Madison Square Garden, you may remember the stories that Jordan had went over to gamble in New Jersey in between those first two games. However, the Bulls charged back from the 0-2 deficit to beat their nemesis in six games.

In the Finals they faced the 62-20 Phoenix Suns, with the League Most Valuable Player in Charles Barkley. Most say this is the best team the Bulls faced in their six Championship seasons. The Suns had three All-Stars in Barkley, Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle. They also had that Danny Ainge guy. Chicago never trailed in the series and was up 3-1 after four-games, it took them a John Paxson three-pointer with just over 3 seconds in the 4th-quarter to win the series 4-2 for their first three-peat.

Flash forward three years and the 1995-96 season and the Bulls set the single season record at 72-10. In the playoffs they swept the 42-20 Miami Heat of Alonzo Mourning and coached by their old foe from New York, Pat Riley. In the second round they faced another familiar foe in the Knicks who were 47-35 in the regular season. Chicago beat New York 4-1 in a physical series without Sixth Man of the Year Toni Kukoc for two games. In the Conference Finals they faced the 60-22 defending Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic, led by All-Stars Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, and won the series in four games.

In the Finals they defeated the 64-18 Seattle Supersonics with All-Stars Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf, coached by George Karl who is the fifth winningest coach in NBA history. The Bulls went up 3-0, and dropped games four and five at Key Arena, before winning the series in game six back in the United Center.

In the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals they faced the 64-18 and 62-20 Utah Jazz led by future Hall of Famers Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jerry Sloan. The Bulls won each series 4-2 to capture titles five and six for their second three-peat. But look at the teams they faced in the two playoffs before the finals.

In the ’97 playoffs they swept a young 44-38 Washington Bullets team with Chris Webber and Juwan Howard 3-0 in the first round, next the 56-26 Atlanta Hawks with Dikembe Mutombo, Christian Laettner and Steve Smith 4-1, before knocking off the 61-21 Miami Heat with Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn and Dan Majerle, 4-1.

In the ’98 playoffs they swept the 43-39 New Jersey Nets 3-0 in the first round, defeated the 51-31 Charlotte Hornets led by All-Star Game MVP Glen Rice 4-1, before winning an epic seven game series against Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin, Jalen Rose and the 58-24 Indiana Pacers coached by Larry Bird.

So as you can see, not only did Jordan’s teams beat historically great competition in the Finals, they also beat the other marquee teams in the league at that time.

It’s baffling to me that many are trying to diminish Jordan’s legend in an attempt to bolster James’ legacy. If you haven’t figured it out, I am on the Jordan side of these debates, but I can admit his “Airness'” legacy has grown “Paul Bunyon-like” in the nearly two decades since his last championship with the Bulls. But to say his competitors were far inferior than the ones LBJ faces is absurd. There are more teams in the Association now then when Jordan was in his prime, which means the talent is more spread out across the league. However you try to slice it, MJ played against better comp.

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NBA Trade Deadline: Winners & Losers

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The 2015 NBA trade deadline will be remembered for years to come.

The second half of the NBA season started with a monsoon, hurricane and thunder snow storm all mixed together. While there weren’t any big name all-stars on the move at the trade deadline, there were plenty of surprises that heated up the NBA on this biter cold February day.

It was a memorable race against the clock, one unlike any seen in the history of the league. Many of the moves will dramatically impact the race to the playoffs and championship. But there were a few trades that left me highly confused.

Here are the biggest trade deadline winners and losers.

WINNERS

Oklahoma City Thunder: General manger Sam Presti just rebuilt his entire bench with a slew of highly proven veterans and a star on the rise in getting Enes Kanter and Steve Novak from the Utah Jazz, as well as D.J. Augustine and Kyle Singler from Detroit. The most impressive part is he did it all with one trade.

Enes Kanter provides the inside scoring (13.8 ppg & 7.8 reb) the Thunder have NEVER had, even when they made it all the way to the 2012 NBA Finals, and he is only 22. Augustine has proven over the course of his career he is the dependable backup point guard that Reggie Jackson no longer wanted to be, while Singler and Novak are a pair of sharp shooters that will help space the floor even more for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to slice up defenses.

As Mike Dunleavy said on NBA TV’s trade deadline special, “they went from dangerous to lethal.”

The best part of the deal is that the Thunder traded away a guy in Reggie Jackson they knew they weren’t going to be able to resign in free agency, while also getting rid of Kendrick Perkins’ contract that handcuffed them the last three seasons.

No one in the West wanted to see OKC in the playoffs to begin with, now let’s see who starts actively jockeying for position to avoid them.

This also was Sam Presti’s checkmate move to let Kevin Durant see why he should stick around with in OKC when his free agency comes up.
Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Carter Williams, the reigning Rookie of the Year is more of the true point guard then the guy he’s replacing in Brandon Knight. MWC is the kind of talent future Hall of Fame point guard and Bucks coach Jason Kidd can mold into an elite PG, much like he was in his playing days.

At 6’6, you add MCW’s length to forwards Giannis Antetokounpo, John Henson, Jared Dudley and next season put them with Jabari Parker when he returns from his knee injury, the Bucks will be a team that will make an Atlanta Hawks like rise in the Eastern conference. Defensively their length will be a hassle for whoever they face in this coming playoffs as they currently sit in the six seed. They will be a tough out even with their inexperience.

Miami Heat: Let’s be real, when LeBron left the Heat, nobody thought they could find a way to put a strong playoff team on the court. In the wake of the “Decision Part II”, team President Pat Riley pieced together a roster that was barely holding on to the eighth seed in the East.

Now by getting Goran Dragic from Phoenix to pair with Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Loul Deng, Miami is a team that whoever they face in the first round of playoffs will lose a little sleep thinking about. I qualify that statement with, if they’re healthy.

Dragic is the reigning NBA Most Improved Player and 2013-14 third team all NBA member. That means he was a top 15 player when utilized properly. He’s a major upgrade over Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole–who was traded to New Orleans–neither of which has fulfilled their potential. Point guard was the biggest weakness on the Heat Big 3 championship teams and in the current albeit short LeBron-less era. Not anymore!

Kevin Garnett/Minnesota Timberwolves: Who says you can’t go home again? The Kid is now the Man, and if he is ready to call it a career, this is the best way to end it by bringing it full circle.

KG spent the first twelve years of his career in Minneapolis with the T-Wolves and has express interest in becoming apart of ownership with the team that selected him with the fifth pick in the 1995 Draft when his career is over. Now that he’s closer to that point, this move makes huge sense for him personally, but also the franchise.

The T-Wolves weren’t going anywhere this year or even next season for that matter, this is a strategic business/PR move.  After having their hand forced to move on from Kevin Love, bringing back the best player in franchise history in this manner, will show future players the class organization they have and why a guy like Andrew Wiggins and other rising young talent should want to be a part of it long term. Unlike Love.

Giving up a great young talent in Thaddeus Young will hurt in the short term, but a parting with him seemed to be inevitable. This move was a legacy move and should pay off huge in years to come.

LOSERS

Washington Wizards: The Wiz have quickly built a contender by blending a nice mix of accomplished veterans and young potential superstars. Why destroy that?

Trading away a key veteran in Andre Miller to the Sacramento Kings for Ramon Sessions threatens to ruin the chemistry that has them in the mix to possibly make an NBA finals run. I worry how this will affect the mind state of their young guns John Wall and Bradley Beal who are still very raw about the business side.

Detroit Pistons: After releasing Josh Smith and going on a nice winning streak before losing Brandon Jennings to an Achilles injury, D.J. Augustine filled in more than admirable. Augustine is a pros-pros who has done well in the emergency roles before, which he did for the Chicago Bulls when Derrick Rose went down last season. The Pistons were steadily moving closer to grabbing a playoff spot against all odds. Bringing in Reggie Jackson alone from OKC is not going to stabilize those efforts.

There’s no guarantee Jackson is going to re-sign with the Pistons when he hits free agency this summer, which is why OKC shipped him off. Looks like Detroit is trending down, just like they were when they had Josh Smith.

Utah Jazz: Giving up Enes Kanter, a 22 year old post player with double double potential to a conference foe is all ways a bad decision. Especially when you think about how hard it is to get any big men to play in the post these days. I understand they’re thrilled with center Rudy Gobert, and forward Derrick Favors has turned out to be a good player, but you NEVER trade a talent in conference.

Getting Kendrick Perkins isn’t so bad when you consider the plan is to buy him out, but that cap space isn’t worth the player Kanter can be.

Phoenix Suns: What are the Suns doing? First you trade away the 2013-2014 Most Improved Player of the Year and Third Team All-NBA member in Goran Dragic because he was unhappy playing in the log jam at point guard in the “Valley of the Sun.” Then you trade your 2014 first round pick, point guard Tyler Ennis to Milwaukee and Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics, who you just signed last summer creating the situation that made Dragic want out. What was once an embarrassment of riches at the point guard position, now is a weakness.

Just as baffling is what you got in return. Brandon Knight is an All-Star caliber player, but he is a restricted free agent this summer which puts you in the same bind you had last summer with Eric Bledsoe that essential helped create the problem you’re trying to eradicate. Receiving inconsistent forwards Shawne Williams, Danny Granger and little used center Justin Hamilton from Miami isn’t going to help them hold off OKC or New Orleans for the eight seed in the West.

The Suns were in good position to hold on to a playoff spot after coming surprisingly close last season. You’ve now risked ruining the chemistry and momentum you worked so hard to build over the last two seasons.

The only saving grace is that they picked up two first round picks in 2017 and 2019 from Miami. So instead of a potential first round exit, it appears they’re ready to blow it up and rebuild again.

Philadelphia 76ers: It’s not even worth going in depth on this organization. Michael Carter Williams is the reason anyone had hope that the tanking for top picks method was working. They just gave up their reigning rookie of the year with all-star potential and all they got were more unknowns in the form of draft picks and NBA on TNT’s “Shaqtin’ A Fool” star Javele McGee.

Trading a young piece with potential in K.J. McDaniels to Houston before really evaluating what he could become is just as bad as moving on from MCW. At this point the 76ers are like a farm team for the rest of the league. They keep drafting young talent and then send them to “real” NBA teams just as they’re ready to blossom into stars.

Time to Hoop: 2013-2014 NBA Story lines & Predictions

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Opening night of the new NBA Season is 20 Days away (as a struggling Pittsburgh Steeler fan, it can’t come soon enough) and there are immense story-lines to follow. The league is more drama filled than an episode of ABC’s “Mistresses”or “Scandal.” As Shaquille O’neal once said, NBA stands for Nothing But Actors. Here’s a glimpse of the ones you should follow.

The biggest dramatic star in this season will be Dwight Howard, somehow he has managed in 2 years to incite more rage then LeBron did when he left Cleveland. The good thing for D12, he will be healthy and this team is very similar to his 2009 Orlando Magic that went to the NBA Finals, except now he has a superstar in James Harden to alleviate the pressure on him.

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The Rockets have shooters surrounding D12, that will cause opposing teams to abandon double teaming him. D12s ability in the pick & roll will free up Jeremy Lin, to be “Linsanity” from his days in NY.

If Omer Asik can swallow his pride of being the second fiddle on the post, head coach Kevin Mchale will be able to play Asik and D12 together, creating a twin tower scenario similar to that of Pau Gasol & Andrew Bynum when they helped the LA Lakers win back to back titles in 09 & 10.

• Kobe Brant will play game one. Period.

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Courtesy: @kobebryant

No need for analysis, other then to say Kobe takes challenges where he is expected to fail, to prove his greatness. The average recovery for an Achilles injury is 8-10 months, it’s only been 7 since Kobe tore his. He’s a freak athlete out to prove he can defy the odds once again. Not to mention you throw in the fact that a certain sports publication ranked him as the league’s 12th best player. Mamba’s about to strike!

• Derrick Rose will prove he made the right decision to sit out all of last season and COMPLETELY heal.

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Many pointed to Iman Shumpert—he injured his knee the same day as Rose and returned to play—as to why Rose should’ve played. But for those who don’t remember, Shumpert had issues with his knee in the playoffs against Indiana. Rose did the right thing, long term and short term. The Bulls were so banged up, there was no way they were beating the Heat last season. So sitting out to avoid any wear and tear was the safe, but smart move. Long term; just think how fresh his legs are. At his age, he may find another gear because he didn’t take the pounding for full season.

• Memphis will regret letting Coach Lionel Hollins go. Chemistry is hard enough to obtain between players, but it’s even harder to find the right mix between players and a coach. The trade of Rudy Gay to Toronto actually helped Memphis, that won’t be the same with the loss of Hollins. This team was threatening to win a conference title, without a beloved coach, management has risked this team falling to the back of the Western Conference pack. All over analytics. This isn’t baseball.

• The Brooklyn Celtics….. I mean Nets will push the Miami Heat and drain them in a way similar to an “Ali vs. Frazier” fight. The Nets went all in by adding the aging Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to their young stars in an attempt to win now. Truth and KG are at the end of their Hall Of Fame careers and you can believe they’ll give all they have left, to knock off their bitter rivals. Even if that takes so much away from them they can’t win the title. Knocking off the Heat and old friend Ray Allen would be enough to make these prideful vets fade away.

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• This will be the last season of the big three in Miami. I’m not saying Lebron will leave, but Chris Bosh will be gone. If he doesn’t elect to use his player option, I believe Pat Riley will use him as trade bait to revamp the roster and keep their championship window open. That’s what it will take to keep LeBron around, although I don’t think he’s going anywhere. As far as the back to Cleveland hopes; if he ever goes back it will be at the end of his career, not the middle of his prime. But I’ve been wrong about him before, I never thought he’d leave home in the first place.

PREDICTIONS:
Eastern Conference Championship:
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers

• I could very easily change this to Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks/Brooklyn Nets. Point is the East is going to be a beast this season and I don’t see how the Heat could run another 20 plus game win streak or waltz through this gauntlet to the Finals. Indiana brings back an All Star in Danny Granger to a team that won ? Games last season and made the conference finals. With Granger back, their bench gets a boost from Lance Stephenson who emerged in place of Granger. Then you add veterans Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and sharp shooter Chris Copeland. The more I think about it I may want to change my picks.

Western Conference Championship:
LA Clippers vs. Houston Rockets

NBA Finals:
LA Clippers vs. Indiana Pacers

Champions:
LA Clippers
Chris Paul has the coach he wanted, and the stage is set for him to perform. He’s been called this generations Isaiah Thomas and now he needs to channel his inner Zeke.

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Many say the clips have underachieved the last two seasons, if they don’t exceed expectations this season, it falls on CP3. He has two three point specialist in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley to open up driving lanes to do what he does best. We all know, that right now in their careers, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can only help him carry the load so much. But they still can do what’s needed to truly take over the title as L.A.s team.

MVP:
Kevin Durant
Steph Curry (2nd)
KD35 said he’s tired of being second. He can only do so much about changing that for the OKC Thunder, but he can change that for his individual career. This is the year he REALLY challenges LBJ as the best in the L. Steph Curry was the darling of the NBA Playoffs, that will carry over this season as he pushes the Golden State Warriors into the top 3 team in the west. The hysteria over his blazing shooting had his coach Mark Jackson saying “most of you all are showing after the baby’s already been burped.” Basically y’all late, and Steph will use his playoff run to propel him into superstar status this season. He won’t be snubbed for the all star team again.It just won’t be enough to overtake KD for MVP. His time will come soon though.

Defensive Player of the Year:
Dwight Howard
D12 is finally 100%. When he’s right, he’s the best center in the league. Now that the free agent drama is finally behind him – after two years – he will reclaim his spot as the number one big.

Rookie of the Year:
Trey Burke
This is a point guard driver league, like the NFL is with quarterbacks. I didn’t understand why so many teams passed on a guy who proved in the most pressure filled moments, on the best level not called the NBA. Burke will shock many as he has his entire career, going back to his prep days at Northland High School in Columbus Ohio. He’s been overshadowed before—he played with Boston Celtics second year forward Jared Sullinger in high school—and still shined bright. His rookie campaign will be no different. He reminds me of a more versatile Allen Iverson.

• Lastly, I have a bone to pick with the NBA on scheduling. In a league that spans so many months, whose great idea was it to have several key teams play in the preseason?! The Heat played the Nets and will play again on 10/25. This is a big rivalry that carries over from when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry were in Boston. Why would the NBA allow this matchup to happen outside of the season and dilute the significance and hype of their 1st regular season meeting. Same thing goes for the first matchup between the New Nets vs Boston on 10/23. Truth and KGs first game back in Beantown SHOULDN’T be a preseason game. I’m disappointed and there are already few watchable regular season games to begin with, now those that I were looking forward to are now not must see TV.