We're nearing in on that magical time of year again - NBA playoff time - and the question on my mind is are there any real contenders other than San Antonio and Detroit? If anyone can topple either the Pistons or Spurs, I envision it will be one of the following three teams:
And in that order of likelihood. First Miami... recall that they were two minutes away from a W in Game 7 in the ECFs last year, a few blundered plays from being the team to lose to the Spurs in the Finals. And, had D. Wade not been injured during the series, forcing him out of Game 4 (if I recall correctly), the Heat may have been able to finish 'em off in 6.
After last year's defeat, the Heat did what rarely works - they retooled. Hard core. Goodbye Damon Jones; see you later Eddie Jones. Coach Van Gundy, why don't you go spend some time with your family? And hello White Chocolate, A. Walker, and an even more washed up Gary Payton. While the team has had their growing pains, and while Shaq continues in his atheletic decline, the Heat have stayed afloat with a very respectible 47-23 record thanks in large part to the emergence of Dwayne Wade, who, along with LeBron, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony, are all making the case that the 2002-2003 draft class.... ever? I just have a feeling that ten to fifteen years from now, looking back at these players' careers, that we'll all be amazed that they all entered the NBA at the same time. (And, Joe Dumars hopes, everyone will forget that the Pistons picked Darko that year over Anthony, Wade, and Bosh.)
So do the Heat have a chance at topling the Pistons? I think they do if fate favors them and there's an injurty to the Pistons starting five. Let's face it, the Pistons have a very thin lineup. Yes, their starting five lineup is incredible and consistent, but don't you suspect that they're one ankle turn away from disaster? Don't get me wrong, the Pistons sans Billups or sans Ben Wallace are still a great team, but I give the edge to the Heat in a seven game series (assuming they stay healthy).
In the Western Conference, the only real threats to the Spurs are the Suns and Mavs. The Mavs, actually, have the third best record in the L right now at 54-17 (although a loss last night to Detroit kind of shows why Detroit is considered a better team than the Mavs). But there's the concern that they're soft, that they don't have the veteran mettle to go toe-to-toe with a team like the Spurs in a 7-game series. I tend to agree, and think that the Mavs are still outmatched by the savvy Spurs, who have been no stranger to the late rounds of the playoffs since 1999 (and yes, I think that qualifies them as a “dynasty” - not nearly as dominant as the Bulls dynasty in the 90s, but an awe-inspiring one nevertheless).
However, I think the Suns - yes, the no-D Suns - have a better chance at prevailing over the Spurs and reaching the Finals than the Mavs. Why? Because of the playoff seeding. Since the Spurs and Mavs are in the same division, the top three Western Conference playoff spots will go to the winner of the Spurs/Mavs division, the Suns, and the Nuggets. (Of course the Suns/Nuggets spots aren't finalized, but barring any collapse, these two teams are locked into the #2 and #3 spots.) The jist of this is that the Suns will not face the Mavs or Spurs until the WCF, meaning that in all likelihood the Spurs and Mavs will beat up on one another in the WCSF. Assuming that the Mavs can exact a toll on the Spurs, and that the Suns stay healthy and fresh (and hopefully get Amare back, although that sounds unlikely), then I think they have an outside chance at making it to the Finals.
I'll soon make my 2006 Playoff Predictions, but for some entertainment value, feel free to review my 2005 Playoff Predictions, which predicted Phoenix losing to Detroit in the Finals. (My big gamble was picking the Nuggets to top the Spurs in Round 1 - whoops!)
There's a really cool shoe commercial making the rounds for the Michael Jordan shoe line. It's a 60 second spot with a variety of youngsters playing ball, doing some of the signature Jordan moves.
- There's the one hand dunk that's pulled down for the hook layup from the 1991 NBA Finals against the Lakers (the “Oh, a spectacular move!” play)
- There's Jordan's “I dunno what's up?“ shurg after hitting all those 3s in a row in the 1992 NBA Finals against Portland
- There's the free-throw line dunk from the All Star weekend dunk content
- There's the pushoff on Russell for hitting the game-winning shot in the 1998 Finals against the Jazz
- And more...
There's no talking, it's all set to some creschendoing electric piano/snare drums beats in the background. It's a great way to reminisce about some exciting Jordan moments from various stages in his career. For some MJ highlights, just search Google Videos for “Michael Jordan” - there are a number of highlight reels and assorted montages put together by fans, including:
- MJ's Top 10 Dunks (dunk #8's from the Jumpman XXI commercial, perhaps, although IIRC there was a dunk that looked a lot like that from a dunk contest; #2 has the most meaning for me of those dunks in the video, as it's one from the heated Bulls/Knicks playoff rivalry... probably the most intense playoff series I've ever watched... the highs and lows throughout were unbelievable...)
- The Be Like Mike Gatorade commercial circa 1992
- And more!
Check it out...