Summer Cramp – NBA Finals 2014

Story Stuff

Imagine there’s a sixth grade kid running 4:59 mile times at the middle school track meets. Let’s call him James. The newspaper is all over him, says this is the next great runner, he’s going to be an Olympian, maybe someday the best runner of all time.

Most people in town are skeptical of all this early praise. Especially when the headlines start saying: KING JAMES. The kid will burn out. Way too much hype. And how can you even project that far in the future?

In the same town there is a junior in college who is clocking in at 4:05. Let’s call him Duncan. Duncan’s been running this pace for the last three years, which is great, consistent, but never passing that elusive 4 minute barrier. He’s an extremely quiet guy that needs his own category of introvert. The town doesn’t really notice him and often forgets they even have a university. 

Well, turns out the hype was warranted. In high school, James runs a 4:01 as a junior, 3:55 his senior year. He decides not to go to college, instead trains solely for the Olympics. Signs a monster contract with Nike, legend continues to grow before he even runs his first big race. 

By age 25, James is widely considered the best mile runner in the world. The problem? At the national championship he came in third. After the race he decides to get a new coach, head down to Miami and train with two of his best friends. The Olympics are the following summer and James is tired of watching other guys get gold medals. 

The Olympics end up being a bigger disaster. A guy from Germany wins and James runs a shocking 4:02. He’s the laughing stock of the running world, the internet is a buzz with James choking jokes. 

The next summer James wins gold at the world championship. The summer after he does it again. His mile time is down to 3:48, five seconds away from the best time ever recorded. 

Shortly after his second world championship, James goes to a charity event down in San Antonio and runs a 3:47. The media goes crazy starts asking the question, “Is James going to be the best mile runner of all time?” 

Hidden behind the James story is a human interest piece about Duncan who quietly ran a 4:05 at the same charity race. “This guy’s 37-years-old and he ran a 4:05! Has anyone ever been this good, this late in their running career?”

A year later Duncan and James show up again at the San Antonio charity race. It’s absolute miserable conditions outside. Temperature is around 100 degrees. It’s muggy, the sweat just lingers in the air. At the end of lap one, James starts having severe leg cramps. 

The 38-year-old Duncan passes him by. Three laps to go. 

NBA Stuff

The NBA has a pretty tidy history book. Since 1980, only nine franchises have won an NBA title. 

The NFL has had 11 since ’99. MLB – nine since ’01. That European soccer league somehow crowns six different champions every year. 

Sticking with the 1980 – 2014 window, here is who I would consider the top 10 NBA players in that span:

1. Michael Jordan

2. Kareem Abdul Jabbar* (a lot of his legacy was built in the ’70’s)

3. Magic Johnson 

4. LeBron James

5. Larry Bird

6. Tim Duncan

7. Kobe Bryant

8. Shaquille O’Neal

9. Hakeem Olajuwon 

10. Dr. J

Of the 34 NBA Finals in that time span, only five times has a team won the Larry O’Brien trophy without a player on the list above – Pistons (’89, ’90 and ’04), Celtics (’08) and Mavericks (’11) and only once has there been a matchup that didn’t involve someone on this list (1990 finals between the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trailblazers). 

In other sports the GM can say we don’t need the best player, we can build a great team, build the best defense and win it all. In the NBA you really just need the league’s best player. Pretty simple formula. 

Show the above list to any basketball fan and 95 percent will say the greatest rivalry is Bird vs. Magic. The other five percent might say Shaq vs. Kobe. 

What isn’t a likely answer – Tim Duncan vs. LeBron James. Yet here we are with the third installment of their NBA Finals matchup, the same amount of times Bird and Magic met. 

I think it’s the weirdest “rivalry” in NBA history. Duncan is almost 10 years older than LeBron. LeBron is in the middle of his prime, Duncan is at the end of his career, likely retiring if the Spurs win it all. Both are frontrunners for Finals MVP.

 

Neither one hates the other. But it’s not a playful rivalry either. Both are established champions and NBA legends. Duncan is the best power forward of all time. LeBron is the best small forward or, at the very least, second behind Larry Bird. 

So what’s at stake? Does Tim Duncan’s legacy diminish at all with back-to-back finals losses? For LeBron, besides the inevitable Twitter explosion, does a third finals loss officially kill the LeBron vs. Jordan debate?

For Tim Duncan 

Best Case Scenario – Wins Title and Finals MVP

Would put Duncan at five championships and four Finals MVPs. In Finals MVPs he’d only be trailing Michael Jordan (6) for most ever. Going into the finals he only needed three double doubles to have the most in NBA Playoffs history, a top five that includes Magic Johnson, Shaq, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. 

How many times can Duncan show up at the top of these lists without moving up to the top of the ultimate list? He may lose out in the who had the best prime or “he was the best player I’ve ever seen” debate, but in terms of most impressive total career, five rings and four finals MVPs I believe puts him fourth on the all-time list behind MJ, Bill Russell and Kareem. 

Worst Case – Loses title

Doesn’t diminish his legacy, but instead of, “Is Tim Duncan in the top five of all time?” I think the debate becomes more, “Who was better in the post-Jordan, pre-LeBron era; Kobe, Shaq or Duncan?”

For LeBron James

Best Case Scenario – Wins Title and Finals MVP

His first three-peat is complete. Three finals MVPs before his 30th birthday. Has at least four years left in his prime to keep adding to the total. 

A third ring and LeBron will have secured his spot above Larry Bird, Kobe, Shaq and Duncan. He will be on pace to pass Wilt, Kareem and Magic. And yes, as much as Chicago will hate this, his legacy could still catch up to Michael Jordan’s.

Worst Case – Loses title

This would hurt, but is not the end all. If you look at the Eastern Conference, I don’t think it’s out of question to project four or five more trips to the NBA Finals for LeBron. Maybe more because with LeBron (barring injury) his career is not going to end at age 34. He is going to be on more of a Tim Duncan timeline, playing up to age 38-40.

Pat Riley will continue to shape the roster to fit LeBron’s evolution or the King can go back to Cleveland and team up with Kyrie Irving and Joel Embiid. 

Magic Johnson lost in four NBA Finals. Larry Bird and Kobe lost in two. The, “Well, Michael never lost an NBA Finals series” is already over for LeBron, so whether he’s 3-for-5 or 2-for-5 doesn’t really matter. The only way to damage his legacy in this series is if he has some sort of repeat performance of 2011. 

So the Stage is Set

All of the stuff above is subjective. Any time you get into legacies there are so many factors to consider and enough evidence for both sides to make a compelling case. Toss all of that aside, this is Duncan vs. LeBron round three, the rubber match, likely the final installment of this not-really-a-rivalry-rivalry. Time to turn off the air conditioning and settle this on the court.

Miami Heat On and Off Switch Theory

To win their second straight NBA Championship, LeBron James and the Miami Heat need to go on a two-game winning streak.

Two wins and LeBron James has ring number two. Two wins and he will be 2-2 in his trips to the NBA Finals. Two wins and he will have taken down Tim Duncan in attempt number two.

The road to two begins Tuesday.

To avoid getting too weird with the twos, I’ll go ahead and stop there.

There is so much on the line in these game(s)! We could be 48 minutes away from the history books looking like this:

NBA Finals MVPs

2013 Danny Green

2012 LeBron James

2011 Dirk Nowitzki

2010 Kobe Bryant

2009 Kobe Bryant

2008 Paul Pierce

2007 Tony Parker

2006 Dwyane Wade

2005 Tim Duncan

One of these names is not like the other…

But the Miami Heat should be fine. At least for Tuesday night.

Right?

The Heat haven’t lost two games in a row since January. Every time they have lost in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, they not only win the next game, they humiliate the opponent and make you wonder how this team ever lost in the first place.

“We like playing with our backs against the wall.”

Eric Spoelstra says it. LeBron says it. Wade says it. From every example we have seen (minus the 2011 NBA Finals), the Heat have proven this mentality works.

The question, then, why wait for all of the drama? Why raise the stakes so high and drop the margin for error so low?  Why the on/off switch? Why not just always on?

First of all, I don’t believe the Miami Heat have an on/off switch. More on that in a second. But let’s say for a second this idea were true. Why are we so surprised by it?

There’s a reason I didn’t start going to the gym until bottom gut roll was jiggling and the scale said 220 lbs of not so muscle. There’s a reason we don’t start the assignment until 11 p.m. the night before it’s due and there’s a reason if a marriage is falling apart, the couple might spend thousands of dollars on therapy sessions to keep it together, but not $40 dollars on a dinner-date two months earlier.

In all of us, we have our dreams, our drive and our destination. The dream: where we want to go, the job, the family, the house, the money. The drive: how hard we’re willing to work to get there. The destination: peace on the inside, the beach scene in the Corona commercials, the sail boat on a postcard, the overall cool of the Dos Equis guy.

The reason an on/off switch happens is because we either forget that dreams can unravel, forget someone else has the same dream and is willing to work harder, and/or forget that destination living requires an expensive airline ticket.

An easy jump to make, then,  is saying, “Well the Miami Heat feel entitled to winning multiple championships but get lazy until they feel the opponent’s drive threatening them. That’s when they flip the switch on, and bam, dreams are in tact, destination celebration on South Beach, trophy in hand, cigars being passed around.”

The flaw in all of this on/off switch logic is that no one magically lands in the NBA, or the top of any profession for that matter, with an on/off lifestyle. The CEO of a company is always on. Usain Bolt doesn’t lounge around for days on a couch. Rick Perry is one of the most successful governors in the United States, but one minute of oops and he will probably never be able to reach the Presidency.

It’s hard to land an entry-level job out of college now, imagine applying for your boss’s job, her boss’s job, so on and so forth. Every step up the ladder the batting average gets higher and higher. The 16-year-old worker at a fast food restaurant can accidentally put mayonnaise on a burger, no big deal, life moves on, but the CEO of that same company better have a minimum of 30 people proofreading every public statement he makes to avoid losing millions of dollars.

When Chris Bosh does something goofy, Tiago Splitter plays like he did in Game 4, or Boris Diaw comes in and you swear his ‘pecs’ are jiggling behind the jersey, the reaction is more “he’s awful” “what a joke” “he sucks” than “wow these guys are still part of the top 0.0000001% of their profession. If LeBron James is the Mark Zuckerberg of basketball, then T-Mac is a guy who sold an App for $50 million ten years ago and is now enjoying his destination life on the beach with enough money to last him five lifetimes.

The Heat and the Spurs are both teams at the absolute top who make very few mistakes. The mistake that neither team makes is going into these games with their drive/desire off. Game 1, San Antonio committed four turnovers. Game 3, they hit 16 threes. Game 5, they shot sixty percent. For the Heat, Game 2 they went on a 33-6 run. Game 4, Wade, LeBron, Bosh combined for 85 points. Cream rises to the top.

The Heat may like playing with their backs against the wall, but they don’t intentionally put themselves into these positions just for the thrill of it all.

The next game, or next two games, is not about ‘who wants it more.’ Everyone wants it. The on/off switch won’t be a mental thing, it will be basketball factors like shooting percentage-can San Antonio go 60 percent again? Can Danny Green continue this unbelievable 3-pt shooting performance? Will role players on either team step up? Turnovers. Rebounding. Free throws. Which coach can make the right adjustment to the other coach’s right adjustment to the other coach’s right adjustment.

These are the two best teams with potentially two games left to decide who will be on top when the stadium lights at the American Airlines Arena finally turn off.

Let the battles begin.

Derrick Rose and the Raging Bulls

I have never broken a bone. Well, once in the tip of my finger, but that was the type of minor break that you keep to yourself for fear of losing street cred. The most “hurt” I’ve ever played with was a migraine headache, at a practice, and there were only a few game days when I had to take a shot of Dayquil in the morning to get over a runny nose.

Given my personal play-through-pain basketball history, you can understand that I have the right amount of authority to tell Derrick Rose to get back on the court.

A torn ACL has a different weight in my life. I wake up, eat breakfast, walk out to the hallway and step in an elevator. The elevator takes me down to the first floor, I walk a block outside and hop on a bus. On some of the tough days, when the bus is crowded, I will have to stand for the entire 25-minute commute! Bus drops me off at work, I hop in an elevator, sit in an office chair until 5 p.m.

With a torn ACL, I would miss out on months of lunchtime hoops, but I’ve missed that before from an injury called laziness. Honestly, the hardest part of an ACL injury, in my life, would be figuring out the healthcare paperwork. Does the employer pay for this? Do I pay for this? Obama?

In three months, I am marrying a dancer. A torn ACL means a completely different thing in her world. A career-ending type of thing. The fear of such an injury keeps her away from skiing in the winter or any other potentially risky activity to her legs. In Ashley’s world, a torn ACL is not the adversity in the story that the hero will eventually overcome; it is the tragic ending. The laws of science are undefeated in the world of dance.

Then came Adrian Peterson. The man who somehow became even better the very next season after his ACL injury. The man who has given sports fans everywhere reason to believe their superstar can not only come back sooner, but come back stronger. The man who can be partially blamed for Derrick Rose’s slow descent in Chicago from savior to selfish superstar.

For Derrick Rose, this year has been a perfect storm of outside factors all ganging up on him, increasing the pressure to hurry up and help his team.

Partially Adrian Peterson, partially Iman Shumpert, partially the mystery guy in Germany who can turn back 10 years on any knee. Pair that with Derrick’s brother who has been vocal about the Bulls needing more parts for Rose, then those “not enough” parts getting banged up but still willing themselves past the Nets and somehow taking game one against the Heat.

Kirk Hinrich played 60 minutes on a calf that can now only support shoot arounds. Luol Deng has God knows what, with serious words like ‘spinal tap’ and ‘meningitis’ floating around. Joakim Noah apparently forced his plantar fasciitis out of his foot and Nate Robinson has offensive explosions in between vomiting on the bench and 250 pound men landing on his head.

Oh, and then you got that whole Michael Jordan legend in the background. I live in Chicago now. The man is treated as a god here. If you didn’t know better, you would think MJ’s epic flu game took place every single night.

In Chicago, Derrick Rose plays an interesting role for the fans. He is not so much the second coming of Michael, but the protector, the man who can stop LeBron James from collecting all those MVPs and NBA rings. Rose is not asked to be Michael, he is asked to keep LeBron from being Michael. All year long the belief here, rational or not, was that the Bulls could weather the regular season, get back a healthy Derrick Rose and then take down the Heat when it mattered most.

The question I am interested in is not whether or not Rose should play. This subject has been debated ad nauseam and at this point, I say just find the internet opinion that matches your own and roll with it. Personally, I think Rose should do a David Lee in Game Three. Go out for a minute or two, get the crowd fired up, prove that he will go to battle for his guys. In this series, every point matters and that potential 7-0 run of Rose hitting a shot, crowd going wild, Nate Robinson getting a steal-layup, then Marco Belinelli hitting a three, that could change a game. In a Bulls-Heat game, seven points is the equivalent of 30 in Warriors-Nuggets.

The question I am fascinated with is whether or not the Bulls, at full strength, could even beat the Heat in a seven game series. Not just this year, but any time in the next three. Short answer: Yes. Let me explain.

Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer

The Miami Heat’s glaring weakness is rebounding. They are most vulnerable to teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers who have traditional big men that get on the glass. Noah and Boozer aren’t the same offensive threats as Randolph/Gasol or West/Hibbert, but from a rebounding perspective they absolutely devour Chris Bosh and any other Heat big.

Jimmy Butler Solution for Luol Deng

Salary cap wise, it will be hard to keep Luol Deng past next season. In 2014-15, the Bulls will have Derrick Rose ($18.8), Carlos Boozer ($16.8), Joakim Noah ($13.1) and Taj Gibson ($8) all on the books. That’s $56.7 million, add Deng and that’s probably $70 million. For five guys. A team needs 12 and the Bulls have not been big luxury tax spenders. There’s a reason Omer Asik got away.

Pre-Jimmy Butler’s development into a legitimate starter, the only options to keep Deng would have been take the luxury tax hit or amnesty Boozer to make room. Neither plan helps their chances against Miami. The new, emerging Butler gives the Bulls a young replacement and a much cheaper alternative if worst comes to worst and Deng leaves for a team that can offer him more money.

Keep them both, and you can have Butler on Wade, Deng on LeBron, Hinrich coming in for backup minutes either guarding Wade or guarding Chalmers. You need 96 combined minutes from your shooting guard and small forward. Butler, Deng and Hinrich are all 40 minute a game type of players.

Coach Thibs

Toughness. Defense. Instills the belief in his players that they always have enough to win. What ultimately gives the Bulls a chance against the Heat is their ability to ugly up the game. Keep the score low. Any coach who can win game one, on the road, without his franchise point guard, starting shooting guard and starting small forward, against a Miami Heat team that was on a historic tear through the league, put that coach on the sideline and your team will always be prepared for battle.

Dwyane Wade’s Age

Dwyane Wade quietly turns 32 next season. Gradually, the “Big Three” will turn into the “Massive One and his still-better-than-Cleveland-days supporting cast.” Maybe that’s the greatness of LeBron; he makes Wade and Bosh look like role players rather than NBA All-Stars. Keep an eye on Wade’s stat line against the Bulls for the next three seasons. At 34, I think he will struggle to average 16 ppg against the combination of Bulls guards. Of course this means he will probably go off for 30 in Game 2.

Is Derrick Rose the Right Missing Piece?

I watched Nate Robinson’s Game 1 performance then tuned into Stephon Curry afterwards and realized, that’s the style of point guard that can hurt Miami. You need to have a guy who has no fear launching from deep and can beat the defender with their quickness. A Russell Westbrook/Derrick Rose, muscle his way to the basket point guard is not the right solution.

Oddly enough, the problem with Rose against Miami is that he plays like a mini-LeBron. Power dribble, power dribble, barrels into the lane and gets to the rim. This is what makes Rose such a dangerous player, but also a danger to his own body. Against Miami, it’s not the right strategy. There is no room in the paint for that type of 1 on 5 offense.

When Rose drives in against Miami, he quickly runs out of space and can either a) try to muscle past, hoping for a foul or b) have the “oh crap” moment, get caught in the air, look to make a pass behind him, which LeBron or Wade quickly sniffs out and turns the other way for a dunk.

With Nate Robinson, his panic button is the floater. This at least gives Noah and Boozer a chance to grab an offensive rebound. As crazy and out of control as he gets, the ball is always going forward. The teammates are also ready for a pass because who knows, it could come at any point. With Rose, the other guys tended to stand and watch, let Derrick carry the offensive load.

The belief that Derrick Rose is the instant solution to push the Bulls past the Heat is misguided. Here are all the things that need to happen for the Bulls to win a series against the Heat, if the two teams were to match up at full health:

1. Dwyane Wade, either by age or matchups, becomes a 15-16 ppg player not 22-25 ppg

2. Derrick Rose adjusts his game, becomes more facilitating, better outside shot

3. Jimmy Butler has to stay at the Jimmy Butler of the last three games level

4. Same with Joakim Noah

5. Mike Miler, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, or Ray Allen can only have one shoot-the-lights out game

6. LeBron James can’t become Game 6 and Game 7 of 2012 vs. Boston Celtics LeBron James

Pretty easy list, right? My point is, even if Derrick Rose does come back in this series, the Chicago Bulls have to play their A+ game every night and hope Miami has four B-/C+ games to push six games let alone seven or the unthinkable upset.

One game at a time. Don’t get too high or low on either the Bulls or the Heat. There is a whole lot of basketball left to be played.

Miami Heat Preview

By: Rob Surbrook

They signed Ray Allen, the best shooter of their nemesis, and possibly the best shooter in the world. They signed Rashard Lewis, who is largely garbage, but again, he can shoot and stretch the floor for the new-new-look small ball Heat. As Bill Simmons likes to say, the scariest thing about the Heat is their willingness to stray away from the traditional basketball positional setup of two big men, two wings, and a point. Instead, they find themselves unstoppable when Chris Bosh is their biggest player on the floor, and they have shooters spacing the floor and giving Dwyane Wade and LeBron room to do their thing. And it’s all held together by the positionless wonder himself, LBJ. Defensively, he’ll guard any player at any position, and offensively he’s found a way to play point guard from the post.

But with the improvements of nearly every Western Conference championship contender, the Heat need to figure a way to sustain the play they achieved in the playoffs, and in my opinion, that starts with keeping the starting lineup from last spring:

Mario Chalmers: Chalmers hasn’t exactly developed like the Heat hoped he would have coming out of college, but he is overall a stable player for his position. He improved his dribble-drive game against the highest competition in the playoffs and doesn’t hurt the team with his shooting and decision making, although refinement of both should continue to happen.

Dwayne Wade: Still one of the best players in the game, Wade really started to accept his role as second-banana in terms of offensive usage and it really helped the flow of the team and its offensive efficiency. He’s lost a step to age and injury, but he’s still one of the game’s best difference-makers on defense as well. His ability to stay healthy in the wake of surgery is probably the team’s biggest question mark, and honestly, it isn’t that questionable.

LeBron James: What can I say that hasn’t been said before? It becomes harder and harder to figure out the holes in Bron’s game as the years go on. I guess the biggest thing he needs to do is make sure he doesn’t revert back to the days before he perfected his inside-outside game. I’m a little scared to see what we’ll see out of him this year.

Shane Battier: When Erik Spoelstra slotted him in to start at “power forward” during the playoffs last year, the Heat really found their identity as a small-ball club. His defense against bigger post players was something that I didn’t personally see coming, but hey, if it works, it works. As long as he can keep defying age and hitting open threes to go with that defense, the Detroit Country Day grad should find himself a starting gig once again.

Chris Bosh: The unsung hero of this team, the half in the Two-and-a-half men joke proved his worth to every doubter last year when he came back from injury just in time to save the Heat from another early playoff exit. He plays better than advertised defense, and can hit a jumper like KG in his prime. He definitely should have shut up the trade talks by now.

Bench: Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and Mike Miller’s reanimated corpse (is this joke still funny?) can all hit threes, although Allen gives you no defense or rebounding, and Lewis gives you no defense. Norris Cole showed signs of being able to thrive in the type of offense the Heat would like to run, but he can get a little out of control at times. He’ll mature. Dexter Pittman will be gone soon if he doesn’t start giving some positive minutes, and Mickell Gladness is another non-factor, but he has a new deal, so they must see something in him. Joel Anthony is undersized and athletic, but doesn’t add much to the Heat’s scheme. He’s a good paint defender. Udonis Haslem is like the cool uncle of the team. He is usually awesome and adds positivity when he’s around, but occasionally he shows up drunk. Not literally, sometimes he just plays like he is.

USA Oh-Babay Basketball Team

By: Christopher O’Brien

Here’s the most up to date list of the USA Oh-Babay basketball team roster:

If you can’t see the image above very well, take a look here.

How in the world do you narrow this down? So much talent to choose from.

With the exception of Lamar Odom, who I’m not really sure how he got on this list in the first place, each cut from here on out is a major challenge.

Here is how I would construct the 12 man roster.

*Note: I’m assuming Dwyane Wade is going to miss the Oh-Babay due to surgery.

1. LeBron James – Easiest selection by far. In the international game, LeBron can play all five positions.

2. Chris Paul – Team needs a point guard, Chris Paul is the best in basketball.

3. Kevin Durant – Durant carried the USA team on his back in the 2010 FIBA World Cup. Not sure if it’s called World Cup yet, but I’m sticking with it.

I can’t wait to see LeBron and Durant play together. It’s like the Miami Heat, but with Durant playing the role of Mike Miller. Good luck defending against this.

4. Kobe Bryant – This will be his last run at another Olympic gold medal. The team needs him especially with Wade’s injury. Plus, I’d love to see Coach K put Kobe against LeBron’s team in practice and recreate the ’92 MJ vs. Magic alpha dog battle.

5. Carmelo Anthony – In the international game, Carmelo Anthony has actually had the most success offensively of any player on this list. His mix of size, strength, and shooting ability has made him the team’s leading scorer in the past.

Could Coach K use this as his starting five? Possibly, but against some of the bigger teams he’ll need to utilize a true defensive minded center, which brings me to:

6. Tyson Chandler – He’s not Dwight Howard, but NBA Defensive Player of the Year Chandler will be crucial when battling the Gasol brothers of Spain.

7. Chris Bosh – Good guy to have on the court hitting midrange jumpers. Bosh’s more finesse style bodes well for the international game and he’ll need to put the same effort into rebounding that he did in the NBA Finals to help fill in the potential rebounding weakness of this team.

8. Deron Williams – I like Rajon Rondo better, but he’s not on the list. I’m assuming too much bad blood between him and the Heat guys. I could see Rondo never giving the ball to LeBron. With Deron Williams you have a solid backup for Chris Paul.

9. Russell Westbrook – Versatile pick. He can play a little point guard, but will often come in as the backup shooting guard to Kobe Bryant. His speed and effort will provide a huge boost off the bench.

10. Kevin Love – Can step out and hit the three and rebounds like crazy. Better value with Love than going with Blake Griffin.

11. Anthony Davis – Not a bad year for the Unibrow. Kentucky National Championship, No. 1 draft pick, and now the potential to win a gold medal. Once again, not Dwight Howard, but the combination of Chandler and Davis should give USA all the shot blocking power they need down low.

12. Blake Griffin – Imagine the dunking potential of Griffin going up against some of the lesser international squads in the first few games. Way too many Youtube moments and poster opportunities to pass this up.

Who I cut:

James Harden – This is hard because my roster only has one true shooting guard in Kobe Bryant. I think they can recover from this with Westbrook or maybe playing Chris Paul and Deron Williams at the same time. If necessary, they can always have Kevin Durant, LeBron James, or Carmelo Anthony slide over to the shooting guard.

The biggest concern for this team will be the Spanish frontline of Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, and Serge Ibaka (not sure how he ended up in Spain). It will be more important to have depth with the bigs (Griffin, Love, Bosh, Davis, and Chandler) than bringing in Harden.

Eric Gordon – Health concerns.

Andre Iguodala – Just too much depth at the small forward position. His defense was crucial for the 2010 FIBA team, but hard to steal minutes in 2012 from LeBron/Durant/Carmelo. If Carmelo were to opt out, Iguodala would be my first choice to fill the spot.

Rudy Gay – Same reasoning as Iguodala, too much ahead of him at the position.

Starting Lineup/Rotation: 

An even harder decision. I’ll go with this look: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Tyson Chandler. 

Off the bench I bring in Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams and Kevin Love as my main three  reserves.

After that, depending on certain matchups, then I can utilize Chris Bosh and Russell Westbrook.

Expect Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis to be the 11th and 12th men on this team.

Let me know what your lineup looks like and go USA!

LeBron James on Late Show Dave Letterman

By: Christopher O’Brien

A few weeks ago I wrote that the secret to LeBron James’s succes was that he had finally found himself again and was truly happy.

Well, look at him now:

And…

Watch the video of LeBron on Letterman here.

Couple notes:

-It’s good to see the man this happy

-Olympics are going to be awesome!

-He handled the Cleveland questions well. He handled everything in this interview well. This was not a gloating LeBron, there was no malice, no, “See, haters, I’m the man now!” vendetta.

-His hairline is higher than David Letterman’s.

ALL VIDEO AND STILLS BELONG TO THE “LATE SHOW WITH DAVE LETTERMAN” AND CBS. 

Miami Heat NBA Champions: LeBron’s MVP Ranking

By: Christopher O’Brien

A lot of weird things happen in the 24 hours following a championship victory.

Sometimes you have a guy like LeBron James who rolls into the club wearing a shirt with a picture of his own face as a vampire.

Sometimes you have Dwyane Wade enjoying a $70,000 bottle of why-the-hell-am-I-not-getting-in-the-business-of-selling-these-types-of-drinks?!?

Sometimes you have a guy like Chris Bosh who takes the champagne celebration to a whole new level.

There’s, “Will this be a dynasty?” claims, there’s Skip Bayless getting owned by Mark Cuban, there’s the back and forth of:

“where does LeBron rank all time/

it’s too soon come on now/

well, but can we at least talk about it though/

no, that’s ridiculous/

but please?”

I don’t really have anything new to be said. LeBron played amazing. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook also played well in this series. Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers came up huge in Game 5. Neither one of these teams is going away any time soon.

What I wanted to do was find out where LeBron’s NBA Finals MVP performance ranked against the all time greats. Maybe someday I’ll tabulate every NBA Finals MVP and do a complete ranking, but for now, I’m taking a little easier path.

Here are the top 12 players of all time according to Bill Simmons:

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Bill Russell
  3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  4. Magic Johnson
  5. Larry Bird
  6. Wilt Chamberlain
  7. Tim Duncan
  8. Jerry West
  9. Oscar Robertson
  10. Hakeem Olajuwan
  11. Shaquille O’Neal
  12. Moses Malone
Since this list consists of seven big men, a couple of shooting guards, a few small forwards, and the game’s greatest point-forward, it’s really hard to compare any of them against each other. This is why I have the CPR.

I have fallen in love with my own “CPR statistic.” I add the minutes, points, assists, rebounds, blocks, steals together. I then subtract missed shots, missed free throws, and turnovers. A missed field goal, 2-pt or 3-pt, is (-1) and a missed free throw is (-0.5). The number at the end of this is a player’s Complete Player Rating.

LeBron James’s 2012 NBA Finals CPR was 76.2. Here are the instances from those 12 players listed above who went above 76.2

Magic Johnson – In 1987 he had a 77.52.

Larry Bird – In 1984 he had a 77.95, in 1986 he had a 78.67

Tim Duncan – In 1999 he had a 79.7, in 2003 he had an 82.2

Hakeem – Had a 79.85 in 1995.

Kareem – Had a 82.18 in 1971.

Wilt  Chamberlain – Had the second highest CPR I could find with an 86.74 in 1972.

Shaquille O’Neal – In 2001 he had an 85.3. In 2000 he set the record for best CPR with an incredible 89.12.

Michael Jordan – The moment you probably have all been waiting for. How did the new king stack up against the old king?

Michael Jordan has the edge in 1991 and 1993 with an 83.3 then a 83.65, but I found it interesting that LeBron’s 2012 performance ranked higher than MJ’s 1992, and ’96-98.

I was also interested to see how LeBron compared against the 2006 Dwyane Wade.

2012 LeBron CPR: 76.2

2006 Wade: 75.67

Then, finally, I wanted to see ’12 LeBron vs. ’07 LeBron and ’11 LeBron

2012 LeBron CPR: 76.2

2011 LeBron: 65.62

2007 LeBron: 58.41

In conclusion, LeBron James put together by far his best NBA Finals performance. It’s not the best in history, not a top 5, but it’s right in the mix rubbing shoulders with the legends’ bests. LeBron’s 2012 Finals, according to the CPR, was better than four of Michael Jordan’s NBA Finals performances. He’s hushed tons of his critics and has secured his spot as the greatest player on the planet.

But now the real climb begins. Each NBA title/Finals MVP after this point moves him another notch higher on the all-time list. How high can he get? Not sure, but I’m ready to witness.