QUESTION 1: The Spurs are rolling, sans Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. How mad/bored would you be if San Antonio crashed the Finals party?
SANDY: I wouldn’t even be mad, and the Spurs are FAR from boring (you heard me). If you really look at the options that the Spurs utilize off of their sets, they attack in a myriad ways, but it’s not a KD crossover-to-dunk or a LeBron tomahawk, so they get criticized for their lack of new-school. Chances are, if the Miami Heat and the Spurs get a Finals series, the purity of the ballgame is gonna be just right.
KEVIN: Honestly, I would be a tad upset if the Spurs crashed the Finals party, but ironically it may be more competitive than Thunder/Heat part deux. The Spurs may not jump as high or run as fast as OKC, but they share the ball and shoot the three better than any team in the NBA. If the Spurs punch their ticket to the Finals, all I ask is that they bring their new alternate jersey to spice things up a bit!
MAURICE : The Spurs are indeed the NBA’s equivalent of watching paint dry, but if they make it to the Finals, I’m not hatin’ on that at all...I just won’t be as excited to watch. I will, however, tune in for Coach Pop’s sound bites. Dude is a real life cross between Al Bundy, Larry David and John Wooden. Now that’s entertainment.
VINNIE : I wouldn’t be, but I’m an NBA nut, not a fickle fan. If the Spurs make it, no one could ever invalidate the Heat’s greatness under the guise of their opponent being “too inexperienced” (Clippers) or “too friendly” (Thunder). The Spurs are respected as champions, and short of Big Shot Rob rescuing them in 2005, what champions have the Spurs beaten on the Big Stage? They won’t be outcoached, since Pop is at the top of his game, so there’d be no excuses for Bron’s biggest haters (who we’ll allow to remain nameless), if he comes on top again.
NUBYJAS: We have to stop with this Spurs are boring mess. Coach Pop is a fascinating figure who gives the middle finger to the league and more specifically David Stern like Al Davis in his heyday. Spurs push the ball and play solid defense. I’m not sure what more people want.
QUESTION 2: LeBron James is shooting over 68 percent from the field in February. Have we entered a stage where he’s so much more physically gifted than his opponents and, IQ-wise, is seeing the game unfold so far ahead of everyone that his few misses are merely due to physics and the whimsical ways balls sometime bounce on iron? Is there anything a human can do to keep him scoring?
SANDY DOVER: Empowerment starts in the mind, but mastery relates to the execution of actions. LeBron is becoming a master, or maybe he already is one. The experts and fans tend to gravitate toward the physical in vetting the abilities of players, but LeBron has been so long a great physical specimen, it was lost that he was a thinker from the jump, and now he’s empowered to master the floor game, not just the air game. No one can stop LBJ except LBJ.
KEVIN COTTRELL: This Just In: LeBron is great! It should come as no surprise that the most physically gifted athlete to grace the hardwood is on a tear. We knew he had the high IQ and the willingness to succeed his game just had to catch up to his god given abilities. The King is playing the game with a cheat code. Opponents are searching for the codes to stop him, but the book has yet to be released.
MAURICE BOBB : In a miracle of miracles, LeBron finally figured out that he can’t be stopped down low. I was wondering when he would take advantage of Hakeem Olajuwon’s “wax on, wax off” post-up tutelage. Plus, I think he’s making more of an effort to take better shots, which is always a sign of growth and maturity as a player. For a previous example of this, please see Michael Jordan circa ’94-’95, when he came back wearing the 4-5.
VINNIE GOODWILL : You often hear champions say “The Game” is the biggest challenge after conquering certain checkpoints and that’s what we’re seeing with LeBron. His only competition is history, himself and, truthfully, his body. He’s at his physical peak and it’s only matched by his mental approach, i.e. MJ in ‘93. The distance between LBJ and No. 2 is so wide that he can retire in October, say there’s no more challenges for him and be telling the whole truth.
NUBYJAS: In the words of M.C. Hammer “they gotta pray”. Divine intervention is the only way you can hope to stop LeBron. I hope people are able to enjoy him and quit trying to compare him to MJ. This is the King’s league and will be for the foreseeable future.
QUESTION 3: The Nuggets are really rolling. How serious are they and why?
SANDY: The Nuggets are as serious as a heart attack, and with George Karl, they can’t be anything less than that. The reality is that the Nuggets have two starting units, and if they keep their rotation as-is, every Western Conference playoff team is going to have to prepare to not get gassed. The reason for Denver’s success is that so many players are capable of scoring, but ALL are willing to D-up. That level of commitment is a force to be reckoned with.
KEVIN: The Nuggets are as serious as an intense game of NBA2K in a college dorm room. Sure, they can be exciting to watch, competitive and run with the best of them; but ultimately not much will be on the line when they play this postseason. They’re three tiers in this league: great, good and lottery. While the Nuggets are good, they’re closer to being in the lottery pool than the great one.
MAURICE : I spoke with Kenny Smith the other night and he said that his dark horse team to make noise this postseason is the Nuggets and, with the way they’ve been playing, I’m inclined to agree. The thing that really stands out with teams like Denver -- and another team making noise, Indiana -- is this: the team concept is alive and well. In the age of singular talents, it’s good to see that, sometimes, team chemistry can trump individual virtuosity.
VINNIE : Serious as a really good team? Indeed. But serious enough to knock off the Clippers, Thunder or Spurs in Round 2? I don’t see it. You need star power to KO those teams and these guys don’t have it. I give them a 25 percent, Buster Douglas-style shot and that’s all they need. My issue? You need someone making the tough plays with four minutes-or-less and if Gallo, author of this play, is that guy you gotta depend on, I have two words: “Check, please”
NUBYJAS: The Nuggets have some serious game. They’re a really good squad. However, who will they run to when they need their big shots at the end of playoff games? I can’t take them seriously as a championship team without a legit answer to that question.
QUESTION 4: Dwight Howard’s father got at Kobe and Mike D’Antoni for what’s going on with his son, right now. Let’s pretend you were Mr. Howard and a reporter put a mic in your face. Sound off...
SANDY: “Yo, I’m gonna say what my son hasn’t said and won’t ever say -- the problem ain’t Kobe. He’s an all-time champion, and Dwight needs some more fight in him. The problem is that we have a coach that is both unwilling and unable to coach up supreme talent. It’s easy to coach up players that don’t have everything, you can just mix-and-match the broken pieces, but how do you coach up players who have everything to succeed? Get off the baby food, D’anni! Start eating solid food! You’re a man!”
KEVIN: “The real problem is that Steve Nash was brought in to get my son easy buckets and he can’t even get the ball pass half court! Now, it’s Kobe offense and he only knows one way to play and it ain’t with Dwight. Don’t get me started on that one-track mind coach, who’s very confident in his philosophy despite never reaching the Finals. I’m sorry, but Dwight led a team to the Finals, did Mike? Did Nash? I thought so.”
MAURICE : “Who the hell is Mr. Pringles anyway? Why didn’t they bring Phil Jackson back? This coach can’t even find his own ass on a clipboard, much less figure out how to use my son on the court. Kobe was out of pocket putting my son on blast, but I’ll deal with his Black Mamba ass offline. Bottom line is this: my son is a beast and he will be doing beasty things again and I will see to it that he does; cuz unlike Kobe’s wife, I was with him shooting in the gym.”
VINNIE : “Who knows if my son listens to me? If I had my way, he never would’ve left the Magic Kingdom. Honestly, the stage in L.A. is too big for Junior. He can’t handle the pressure and championship expectations. Aging Alpha Male and Overmatched Coach is the wrong combo for him. You know what happens when he doesn’t get the ball to show off his “excellent” post skills! He needed Phil Jackson there, to push him; because ,otherwise, leaving Orlando was like leaving Zamunda to work at McDowell’s.”
NUBYJAS: The fact that you’re even interviewing me about my son says everything you need to know. I really tried to toughen him up but his mama wouldn’t let me. My son is a good man but he’s just a bit soft mentally. He’s still young so maybe one day he’ll get it.
QUESTION 5: See any legit pro players in college basketball, right now?
SANDY: Christian Watford of Indiana is a promising prospect. He goes about 6’9”, he’s a great shooter from the outside, and he’s got enough handle to slash to the basket when necessary. If he can show that he has more legitimate pivot in his game as a rebounder, dude is going to be on an NBA roster this September -- and I wouldn’t doubt that he gets first round status, either.
KEVIN: Kenny Kadji of “The U” is a 6’11 forward that can shoot the three (career 36 percet) and take defenders to the rack off the dribble. The NBA is dominated by long athletic forwards that can shoot the rock, so Kadji should make a seamless transition to the pro level. Kadji may not have taken the nation by storm, but he did put on a show recently wowing the likes of DWade and LeBron.
MAURICE : We really are “out of sight, out of mind” on this one because the best NBA prospect, before he went down with a season-ending foot injury, was/is CJ McCollum. Dude is a beast. He’s versatile, he’s wicked with the iso, he’s a great ball handler and his off-the-bounce shot is bananas. You can pick all the shinier cats getting all the press like Trey Burke and Shabazz Muhammad, but I’m rockin’ with the kid out of cool Lehigh. Honorable mention? Nerlens Noel’s high-top fade.
VINNIE : Talk about best of a bad bunch. I’d hate to have multiple picks this year in the first round. But I like what Nerlens Noel can do, despite this being a bad Kentucky team by Cal’s standards. Bigs that block shots and can run the floor are at a straight premium. Shabazz Muhammad has already had his bout with the NCAA, so I think he’ll be equipped to handle the rigors of the NBA. He’ll be solid..;but a star? Not sure on that, yet. Come back to me in April
NUBYJAS: Nerlens Noel is my favorite college basketball player right now. His defense is a step below Anthony Davis’ last year and his offensive game is growing. His size and strength would instantly play well in the NBA.