Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Big Question? Really?

-ESPN’s Chris Sheridan questions whether Lebron should have passed up his drive with less than ten seconds left in Cleveland’s 2 point loss last night (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/dailydime?page=dailydime-070522). Would it be impossible for Lebron to get and1 against three players? No, its happened before. But lets face it, Prince was forcing him left, right into the waiting arms of Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton. You HAVE to pass that ball, Detroit’s entire zone was on the left side of the court. Zone-busting 101 tells you that the pass to the right corner or wing is the BEST pass to make. Lebron made exactly the right decision, but on a night when the Pistons took the king off his game, his teammates often let him down.

-Another Lebron-related observation. Bron Bron started on Prince. The Pistons immediately isolated Prince on the wing, utilizing Davis and Wallace to set hard down screens on the week side to open up Billups and Hamilton. Unable to use his size to disrupt Prince, the Detroit Forward was able to either make the right pass or take it strong to the basket (9 asts, 6-6 from the line). Kobe would have stopped that, Jordan would have stopped that, hell, Sasha Pavlovic even helped stop that, the Cavs moved him onto Prince by the second quarter. Lebron is not a good defender, on or off the ball. This makes Mike Brown even more of a defensive genius, he is playing 1st class defense and his best player is a 3rd class defender.

-Who has been the best player in these playoffs? Baron Davis, Tim Duncan, and Steve Nash all make good cases. Davis and Duncan have elevated their games (Duncan does this EVERY YEAR and NOBODY talks about him like he’s a big time player. When they need to be, his shots are better and his passes are crisper.) Lebron? Mediocre for much of the playoffs. Bryant didn’t last long enough. Detroit survives because each of its five starters is an MVP in his own right. The best player, however, was Jason Kidd, who ended his playoff run averaging a triple double for two series. New Jersey, playing with out center Nenad Krstic is NOT a great team. Since his injuries, Richard Jefferson got scared and became a jump shooter. Vince Carter has stretches (seemingly at the worst time) where he suddenly loses motivation and composure (been an issue his whole career). Jason Kidd RUNS that team. Not only in the way that Nash does. Nash runs everything by virtue of having the ball in his hands. What Kidd does as a pg is similar to Nash, but he does even more on defense, when the ball isn’t in his hand. His size and defensive craftiness are what make the Nets a GREAT defensive team. Lawrence Frank is due credit for imbuing most of the roster with a defensive-minded toughness, but Kidd is the only one of Jersey’s guards who has not only the mentality but the skill to be a wonderful defender. Carter is working harder on defense than he ever has before, and Jefferson does his best with limited mobility, but neither is known as an absolute great defender. Outside of Mikki Moore, can you cite anyone on that roster who lives to play defense? Only Jason Kidd. Lebron James is a player blessed with Kidd-esque court vision, great handle, and an even better size-quickness combo. Still, he often comes up short when he’s not scoring (not last night though, see above), fails to defend consistently, and cannot run the break in the way that his skills allow (though this is mostly the fault of his coach and the Cavs’ system). After watching Lebron last night, my mind couldn’t help but return to the fact that Kidd’s performance this spring has been among the best of all time. Factor in that he is single handedly denying critics who call him too slow and old, and you have what could have been a GREAT story in rounds one and two. The NBA, ESPN, and other media outlets really dropped the ball in not covering Kidd more closely. I’m praying that New Jersey surrounds Kidd some more consistent shooters, a big man finisher (Krstic can fill this roll in a year or two), and some better perimeter defense, because Kidd deserves a legitimate shot at a title, and his time is running out.

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