Thursday, February 8, 2007


Photo caption: h2O

We're coming up on NBA All-Star Weekend, which is in Las Vegas this year, which, frankly, makes about as much sense as having an AA convention in Amsterdam, but at least Charles Barkley is happy. The wisdom of having a major professional sports league's all-star game in Sin City is for another blog. Besides the game usually falling on S.O.L.'s birthday week (that’s right, we use the whole week), it's also the traditional halfway point in the pro basketball season. Everybody else is giving their first-half thoughts and far be it for S.O.L. to miss out on another opportunity to give an unsolicited opinion on sports.

Let's play my favorite game, "if the season ended today ..."

So, if the season ended today, these would be the playoff match-ups:

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Detroit vs. No. 8 Miami
No. 2 Washington vs. No. 7 Orlando
No. 3 Chicago vs. No. 6. Indiana
No. 4 Toronto vs. No. 5. Cleveland

Western Conference

No. 1 Dallas vs. No. 8 Denver
No. 2 Phoenix vs. No. 7 L.A. Clippers
No. 3 San Antonio vs. No. 6. L.A. Lakers
No. 4 Utah vs. No. 5. Houston

Much to like about the East side of the draw, what with a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Finals in the first round and no rest for Lebron, with his Cleveland Cavs having to face the upstart Raptors right out of the gate (I like Toronto in an upset here). Lebron is the king, no doubt, but he just doesn't have enough of a supporting cast. I hope the Cavs ownership brings him some help soon -- he belongs on the NBA's biggest stage.

Out West, a lot of folks would say the Spurs/Lakers would be a pick ‘em, what with the Lakers and head coach Phil Jackson able to get in the Spurs’ heads in the past but not this year. Even L.A. at full strength and the “new-look” pass-happy Kobe, the Spurs are just too deep and too good.

I really don’t see a tough first-round series in the West. Utah is good and well-coached and Deron Williams is a star-in-the-making, but Houston is playing great. T-Mac is finally leaving up to his hype and if they ever get Yao back this season, they could be dangerous.

Sure, we're getting ahead of ourselves, what with all those games left to play, one of the “bubble” teams -- New Jersey and New York in the East; Minnesota, Golden State out West – could conceivably move in to the playoffs. I wouldn't bet on it, especially my hometown Knicks. What I wouldn't be surprised about is if shake up in the coming weeks in terms of who ends up ranked where.

Miami, especially, could advance to a higher seed and the motivation is there -- who wants to face a revitalized Pistons team in the opening round? (David Stern, TNT, ABC and ESPN sure don't.) DWade really is the best player in the NBA in S.O.L.’s oh so humble opinion and you can’t count out Shaq’s desire to continue to prove to You Know Who that he’s The Man. (Side note: did you see Dwayne in tears when they retired his college jersey the other night? S.O.L. was touched. Touched I tell you.)

The story all season (as it was last year) is that the West is so much better than the East. I can’t argue with that although the East has been decimated by injuries to impact players. I like the way Detroit is playing now. I think Webber (check out CWebb's graphically wondercool website)was a really excellent pick up. But I’m frankly underwhelmed by Flip Saunders, surprising for me because I always thought he was underrated when he was head coach in Minnesota. I may owe K.G. a really big apology there.

Every team in the East has a serious, serious weakness to be sure. Cleveland is soft and benchless, Miami is inconsistent, Toronto inexperienced, Washington isn’t very deep and Chicago and Orlando have trouble scoring during big stretches.

But I’d argue the West, beyond the top three or four teams, isn’t that hot either. The Lakers aren’t as good as people think (not as bad as S.O.L. thinks either) and even coach Jerry Sloan has said his Jazz are a work in progress. The Clippers are playing well below their talent – I haven’t seen enough of them to know why, but if I’m Elgin Baylor, I gotta be thinking about mixing it up either on the court or on the bench. If I’m Mike Dunleavy (Sr., that is) I’d worry about keeping my gig. Even San Antonio has looked downright mortal this season.

Dallas is the glamour pick of the moment but I’m absolutely convinced this club is for real. As much as I love the Suns (and I do love them), I think it’s stupid right now to pick against the Mavericks. For one, Avery Johnson might be the best coach in the league (take that, Phil), Dirk Nowitzki is a man on a serious mission and this is a better, smarter, more experienced team than the one that went to the finals last season. Even saying all that, the reason they go all the way this year is they’re playing at an extraordinarily high level every night, especially on defense.

No big surprise, then, that S.O.L. is picking Dallas vs. Detroit for all the marbles, with Dallas winning in seven. I reserve the right to change my mind later because this is my blog and I can do whatever the fuck I want, thank you very much, but as for now, I can’t see Dallas choking again.

Tune in next weekend when S.O.L. blogs live during All-Star festivities.

TNT Fucks Up

Speaking of the Detroit Pistons, if you didn’t catch their game against the Lakers earlier tonight on TNT (in beautiful HD – oh, how S.O.L. loves HD almost as much as she loves talking about herself in the third person), you missed one of Detroit’s best games of the year – and a major-league fuck up by TNT’s TV crew, led by the colorful-coat wearing sideline guy Craig Sager.

Just in time for Black History Month, TNT featured an interview with new Pistons forward Chris Webber’s “father," Mayce Webber, all about how Chris is making the transition to playing for his hometown team since signing with Detroit a couple weeks back. Nothing wrong with that, you say. Well, it is when the guy Sager interviewed wasn’t Webber’s father, but his (I believe) AAU coach. Oops, wrong black man. For anyone who wonders why so many African-Americans feel marginalized in this country, you might want to store this incident away for future reference.

I want to give Sager and TNT credit for coming back later, admitting the ginormous boo-boo and then actually (finally) interviewing Webber’s real father (one question and out), but I’m trying to figure out how they could make such a huge freaking mistake in the first place. I missed the TNT post-game show but I hope co-host Sir Charles had something to say about it and it involved serving up Sager & Company on a stick.

EDITED TO ADD: Right after I posted this last night and just before turning in, I surfed over to my friend's telling it real blog, Undercover Black Man, who was writing (almost at the same time) about similar identity mistakes. Doh! Apparently, ID-ing black people in America is hard. At least it is for many major media outlets. Read UBM's take here and here, and see for yourself.

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