My NBA watching this season was a complete disaster.
After the wife and I decided to get rid of our cable, I decided the only things I'd really miss, and couldn't get online free somewhere, were the NBA and NCAA football.
Turns out there wasn't anything I could do about the football side of my sports withdrawal, but the NBA does offer a League Pass option for broadband users. After researching my options within the program, I chose a package that let me pick eight teams to watch (all home and away games, unless televised).
I chose Golden State, the Clippers, Miami, the Knicks, Portland, Oklahoma City, Chicago and Boston.
In retrospect, I think I picked well from an entertainment perspective.
Anyway, this plan cost around $100, which I felt was a reasonable price for an entire season of watching Blake Griffin and LeBron James do their thing. For the first few weeks, everything was great. The picture quality was good, and I could stream the games to my TV if I didn't feel like sitting at my desk to watch Kevin Durrant score 43.
Then we changed ISP's to a cheaper, wireless option. It saved us around $25 a month, and the initial download speeds we were getting were great. For about a day.
Then everything went to pot.
From the 3.2 megabit download speed I was enjoying, it dropped to around 40 to 50kb/sec, utterly unsuitable for streaming media like Youtube, Netflix and... the NBA League Pass.
I figured it was just a temporary problem, but after two days of this, I called my ISP and was told they were throttling my connection because we used streaming media.
Yeah, apparently this cheap, 3.2 megabit package was only for people who check their e-mail and play Sudoku online. Stream anything for a period of time and they throttle you. Go over your 5GB monthly download cap, they throttle you.
I actually spoke with the tech who signed us up for the service initially, and he had the gall to tell me he asked what we use the internet for, and I said nothing about streaming. Dude, ever since we got rid of cable, internet streaming is 70% of what we do with our connection! You never asked me that question, and if you had, I would have told you we use Netflix and Hulu almost every day.
Anyway, Netflix and Hulu are generally able to work okay with extensive and time consuming buffering, but the NBA League Pass just can't do it, seeing as to how it's a live stream and all.
Bottom line, I watched almost no NBA over the last few months of the season. I faithfully read the blogs, which is nice, but I haven't seen anyone play an entire game, and that stinks.
But since when has a lack of knowledge and insight stopped me from offering my opinions before?
The good news is that I'll be watching a ton of playoff basketball over the next six weeks, thanks to making some arrangements. Expect a lot of blogging on the National Basketball Association through early June.
Without further ado I give you my 2011 NBA Playoff Predictions, Eastern Conference Style!
Remember waaay back in 2008 when I wrote David Stern had rigged the draft to get Chicago the #1 pick and thereby restore the Bulls to their rightful place as NBA Royalty alongside Boston and L.A.?
That plan certainly worked.
Anyway, the Bulls are a great team, mostly defensively. Second best squad in the league at giving up points, at just over 91 a game. As we've learned, this trait is hugely important in the playoffs, when things slow down and getting that one stop at the end of the game can be the difference between winning a championship and going home a loser.
It's weird to think Boozer is on this defensive juggernaut, but as I've argued extensively in the past, put him next to a defensive center/team and his defensive liabilities, which are many, aren't as much of a problem anymore. The Jazz playing him with Okur was a disaster of epic proportions. The Bulls playing him with Noah, a defensive player if there ever was one, equals success.
The Pacers are an interesting bunch. Danny Granger is a poor man's Kobe, Roy Hibbert was tearing it up for a while there and then cooled off a whole bunch and they have two identical moderately useful white forwards in Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts.
I can see the Pacers keeping it close in two or three games, but overall they just don't have the talent or coaching to beat Chicago.
Bulls in 5. Derrick Rose gets more ammo for his (mostly deserving) MVP campaign.
Ah, the Heat. Target of billions of pounds of internet vitriol over the last nine months. Were Wade, James and Bosh overly cocky last summer? Definitely. Was expecting the team to win 70 games unreasonable? Maybe, maybe not. Losing Haslem was a giant blow, and the same goes for Mike Miller. Give them a defensive specialist down low and a guy who can hit wide-open 3's and the LeChyane Washames group can win a lot.
But even if these three have to do it all themselves, there's no better place to make it work than the playoffs. Grind it out games, where one guy who can get to the hoop at will is invaluable... and Miami has two.
The Sixers had a roller coaster of a year. Started terribly, worked their tails off to get into a decent playoff spot, then tanked the last few games to earn a date with Miami. I guess when Andre Iguodala is your best player, that's about the best you can do. Sorry, Philadelphia.
Heat in 5.
Hooray for Dwight Howard! He is finally showing post moves, and as a result, scoring more than he ever has before.
That said, an improvement from 20.7 ppg to 23 ppg is not exactly mind blowing.
There's still a lot of room to grow with Dwight, but I honestly just don't see it ever happening. He doesn't have a tenth of a percent of the "I will step on your throat until you die" attitude Jordan had, and in the NBA, that's what makes the supremely talented legends. Dwight's abilities + a killer attitude = at least 30 points per. Maybe more. The dearth of talent at center around the league means he has tens of games a year where he just needs to dominate Jamaal Magloire and Hasheem Thabeet in order to own the league, and he just doesn't want to do it.
Regardless, he is still a force of nature and even all by himself I think he could beat Atlanta. This is not to malign the rest of Orlando's roster; Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, J.J. Redick and Hedo Turkoglu are not bad pieces. This team won't make it to the Finals, but it will be enough to get past the Hawks.
Meanwhile, Atlanta is relying on max contract guy Joe Johnson to get it done. Yes, the same Joe Johnson who scored 18 ppg on 44% shooting from the field and 29% shooting from deep this season. $16.3 million this season. And over the next FIVE seasons? He'll earn 19, 21, 23 and 24 million. Per season.
Thank the Hawks and this contract if this NBA lockout extends too far.
On the plus side, Josh Smith is always fun to watch, and the Horford/Pachulia combo may be enough to throw Dwight off his game. Who knows, maybe Jamal Crawford might get hot one game and bury the Magic in 3's.
But in the end, Orlando comes out on top.
Magic in 6.
Two good teams, both with major flaws. Let me break them down for you.
The Celtics are old and injured and need to rely on good playoff minutes from Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal to be a contender.
The Knicks can't play defense worth a lick and D'Antoni only uses 6 guys a night, leading to fatigue in the long run.
Bill Simmons has been complaining for weeks about the February trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Yes, Perkins was somehow a defensive presence down low despite being 6'4" and having no vertical. But he wasn't exactly all-world or anything.
That said, when your backup options are a 39-year-old (THIRTY NINE) Shaq and a guy who scored 5 ppg for you in 24 games, I think I might be upset, too.
Sure, Shaq was surprisingly halfway decent for the Cavs last year in the playoffs, recording 11 points and 5 boards a game on 51% shooting while banging around on defense. I'm just not sure he can do it again.
Add in the reports that apparently Perkins and Rondo were BFF's and Rajon's been moping around for the last two months and you see the problems.
The opposing argument (from GM Danny Ainge) is that the trade set the Celtics up to be more prepared for the future, but it seems they sacrificed the 2010-2011 season to do it. We'll see how it works in the long run.
The Knicks are greatly rejuvenated (Stern rejoices) thanks to signing Amar'''''e Stoudamire last summer and acquiring Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony at the trade deadline. Much like the Heat, these three players are capable of winning a bunch of games on their own, or they would if Chauncey hadn't started declining and Stoudamire could guard anyone/rebound in the playoffs.
I expect some entertaining games in this series as D'Antoni tries to solve the riddle of Boston's defense (lessened with the departure of coach Tom Thibodeau to Chicago). The Celtics don't have anyone who can guard Carmelo, and if Amar'''''e can have his way with Garnett, New York might actually win this series.
But in the end, Playoffs Rajon Rondo is Playoffs Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen can still shoot lights out and Garnett is always able to motivate through insanity, so expect the Celtics to prevail. This round, at least.
Celtics in 7.
I'll throw up a Western Conference prediction list later tonight.