By Brandon â€˜Scoop Bâ€™ Robinson
There is about a quarter left in the NBA season, and I have felt the need to give my 1st annual â€˜Playoff Push Soap Box’ for you faithful readers. After the All-Star break, I was impressed with the will to win that the Houston Rockets exhibited. Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were a cohesive unit just like Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder in the classic song â€˜Ebony and Ivory.â€™ Unfortunately, Yao Ming suffered a stress fracture that will sideline him for the rest of the season. However, I think that a resilient Tracy McGrady, and a tough big-man-by-committee core of Carl Landry, Dikembe Mutombo and Argentinian up-and-comer Luis Scola, could at least help them get out of the first round. One of the other reasons I have a good feeling about the Rockets is the acquisition of Bobby Jackson. He is a solid veteran that knows his role and is familiar with the Princeton offense that Coach Rick Adelman runs out in Houston. Jackson, was a former back-up to then-Kings point guard Mike Bibby in the years that they scared Laker fans in the NBA Playoffs. Please do not sleep on the Rockets.
In addition, I would also like to comment on those who believe that the San Antonio Spurs have â€˜fallen off.â€™ Be Afraid! Be very very afraid! Just because they are not creating a buzz on television, doesnâ€™t mean that their potency as contenders has changed. They are still the reigning champions. While everyone has marveled at the Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks trade, and the blockbuster deal between the Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns to acquire Shaq, Tony Parker has gotten time to heal his injury, and Mr. Barry has had time to clear waivers in Seattle and resign with his team. The Los Angeles Lakers are still a very potent team with the acquisition of Pau Gasol from Memphis, but they are about a season away from being NBA Finals bound. I am not a cynic, but they need a total year of seasoning to make it to the Finals.
In the East, I am sold on three teams: the Boston Celtics, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics, I find intriguing for obvious reasonsâ€”the Big 3. But itâ€™s not just their Core 3 guys, their supporting cast of point guard Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Eddie House and the defensive prowess of eight year veteran James Posey. I am even more fascinated now that they have recently acquired 14 year veteran and rebound specialist P.J. Brown. This team has really found a way to exhibit team chemistry throughout the season and remain poised. I am anxious to see whether Sam Cassell will be acquired via the buyout from the Clippers. He will add a dimension to the team that makes it a bona-fide Finals contender. Red Auerbach would be pleased. Stay tuned for that.
My second pick, the Cavaliers are a team that one should never sleep on. Donâ€™t count on King James leaving his throne anytime soon. We learned this first hand when we all witnessed his domination of the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the Conference Finals. LeBronâ€™s heroics at the end of that game made us all notice his killer instinct. The acquisitions of Ben Wallace, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak were something that gave them instant credibility in the East. Getting rid of Larry Hughes freed the Cavaliers of a swingman who was forced to play point guard and whom never really found his fit in Cavaliersâ€™ coach Mike Jamesâ€™ continuity offense. The trade benefits them by giving them a young and somewhat experienced point guard in Delonte West, and another gunner in Szcerbiak, not to mention the possibility of Ben Wallace having some unleaded defensive gas left in his shot blocking tank. We shall see if the Cavaliers and King James can rise to the occasion once again and take their team to a new level.
Lastly, the Detroit Pistons are just a team that contends every year. Chauncey Billups is a consummate professional and a team player that can take over games when he needs to. Rip Hamilton never runs out of energy, and is annoying to guard. and just like the Pistons public address announcer says â€˜Itâ€™s time for the world to see Rasheed.â€™ Rasheed Wallace that is, whoÂ never disappoints. Jason Maxiell is a Godsend, and last but certainly not least, Tayshaun Prince is one of the most underrated players on that team. This team reminds me a lot of the 2004 Pistons that took the championship crown. Joe Dumars has put together a great team.
Ladies and gentleman, we have some very exciting playoffs ahead of us. In the mean time, letâ€™s send Tony Parker some ice and a cup of lemonade, as it is time for he and the rest of the Spurs to start pushing for a sizzling hot spring and summer!
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