Dear ESPN, there are still 2 rounds of playoffs left

Well, the unbeaten record through round 1 took a hit in round 2. I’m glad the Magic crushed the Hawks and I got the Lakers-Jazz series right, but missed the other two series. I’m surprised how little resistance the Spurs were able to put up after the emergence of George Hill and all the problems they’ve caused Phoenix. I guess it had to come to an end at some point.

I’m also really happy the Celtics beat the overrated Lebrons, but before I get to the picks I have to say something about the coverage after Game 6. Come on ESPN, the playoffs don’t end with Lebron. In case you haven’t noticed, there are two very good Conference matchups and whoever wins, it will sure to be a competitive Finals. Free agency doesn’t begin until July. Focus on what’s happening now. In fact, after the last few playoff exits, I’m not sure if I want Lebron on my team. He hasn’t just lost, he’s lost badly (sweep by Spurs, fizzling down the stretch against Magic and Celtics). So without giving him any more attention, here are my thoughts on the Conference Finals as I try to improve my 10-2 record.

Orlando Magic v. Boston Celtics: Obviously with any Magic series, you know I’m going to be biased. I’m coming into this one with more apprehension than you’d think. Yes we’ve swept our way through so far but that was against weak competition. The Celtics are also riding the momentum from the Cavs series so they will be sharp and Rajon Rondo looks downright scary. In fact, my worst nightmare is Dwight gets in foul trouble and the series ends up playing out the same way last year’s Cleveland-Orlando series played out, except this time the Magic are the Cavs. However, I have faith in Jameer Nelson. Orlando in 7.

LA Lakers v. Phoenix Suns: I would love to see the Suns upset the Lakers despite the fact I’m not the greatest fan of Amare Stoudemire. The Suns have several players I do like (Nash, Hill, Dudley) and there’s no team I dislike more in the NBA than the Lakers. Plus since the Suns play no interior defense Jameer and Dwight would have a field day in the Finals. However, I just don’t see it happening if Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol play with any effort. Unless Kobe pulls a Lebron, Lakers will return to the Finals. LA in 6.

Enjoy the games, and Let’s Go Magic!

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Playoffs Round 2

Well, I’m a little late on this one, but I already had a reasonable idea of who I was going to go with in each series. So far, an 8-0 record in the first round. Here are my picks for the second round (not using knowledge of the Game 1’s that have already been played):

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Boston Celtics: I have nothing against the Boston Celtics. In fact, I went to their championship parade in 2008 and I would love for the Big Three to send Lebron home early again. However, unless Lebron can’t play because of his arm, I don’t think Boston can stop him. Plain and simple. Cleveland in 7.

Orlando Magic v. Atlanta Hawks: I might be a little biased again, but I think this one is pretty clear cut. Orlando blew out the Hawks the first three games of the season before losing the last one at the end of the season. Atlanta has no one that can match up with Howard. They can’t even harass him like Charlotte did because they just don’t have enough big men. Their 7 game series against a Bogut-less didn’t do anything to convince me otherwise. Orlando in 5.

LA Lakers v. Utah Jazz: The Lakers are probably my least favorite team in basketball and much like Cleveland above, I would love to see the Jazz beat them. This match-up is intriguing because of Utah’s Deron Williams. However, Utah’s injuries worry me. Kobe will be much tougher to guard than Carmelo Anthony and unfortunately for the Jazz they traded away Ronnie Brewer and AK-47 is hurt. Utah is also too thin to compete up front against the twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum with Okur out. While Williams can carry them to a few wins, don’t expect an upset. LA in 6.

Phoenix Suns v. San Antonio Spurs: I’m having deja vus about this series. Although Phoenix has looked pretty good late in the season and in the first round, I can’t look past the history between these two teams. Will the Spurs be able to upset another one of their perennial rivals? Can they stay healthy and get Richard Jefferson to contribute something? I’m going to same the same thing as I said about the Dallas series: Never count the Spurs out and never take the Suns for granted. San Antonio in 7.

Enjoy the games and Let’s Go Magic!

2010 Playoffs: Round 1

Well it’s time for the NBA playoffs again and that means its time for me to predict each series round by round. As with this year’s college tournament, I’m going to put up a disclaimer that I haven’t watched many games at all, save for a dreadful stretch of Magic games when I was home over Christmas break. That means don’t expect me to go 13-2 like in years past, but since NBA teams have more continuity than college basketball, I also don’t expect to completely blow it like with March Madness. So without further ado, here are my picks for the first round:

Eastern Conference

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls barely eked into the playoffs. While I’ve seen some great Derrick Rose highlights and I think he will torch the Cavs, there’s no chance of an upset here. Cleveland in 4.

Orlando Magic v. Charlotte Bobcats: I’m not sure why a lot of people are saying Charlotte’s going to cause trouble for the Magic (looking at you Tim Legler). I simply don’t see Tyson Chandler and Gerald Wallace slowing down the best team from the second half of the season. Orlando in 5.

Atlanta Hawks v. Milwaukee Bucks: This series would be a lot more interesting with Andrew Bogut, but without him, there’s nothing to Fear about the Deer. Atlanta’s way too deep and athletic. Atlanta in 5.

Boston Celtics v. Miami Heat: While I think the “death of the Celtics” talk is a little premature, it is telling that they fell to 4th in the East. That said, I think the Big 3 (Pierce + Rondo + what’s left of Ray and KG) is enough to beat Team Wade (because let’s be honest without him they’re a D-League team). Boston in 6.

Western Conference (this is where it gets more interesting)

LA Lakers v. Oklahoma City Thunder: I have to say I really like the Thunder! A good young team that rebuilt the right way with a freakish star in Kevin Durant that has a legit chance of being better than Lebron in my opinion. However, they’re not ready for the Lakers yet, not without some size in the post. Still, it will be closer than people think because I think the Lakers will come out sluggish. LA in 6.

Dallas Mavericks v. San Antonio Spurs: Yes, the Spurs are old and yes, the Mavs have Haywood to guard Duncan and Marion to guard Ginobili, but I can’t help but like the Spurs here. They’re not as weak as last year and given the past track records of the Spurs (never count them out) and the Mavs (never take them for granted) I’m inclined to go for the upset (although in this year’s Western conference, can anything really be an upset?) San Antonio in 7.

Phoenix Suns v. Portland Trailblazers: I’ve never liked the Suns since the D’Antoni days (even though Jared Dudley is making BC proud) but this is a no brainer. Without Roy, the Trailblazers may make some inspiring runs, but in the end they’re outgunned. Phoenix in 5.

Utah Jazz v. Denver Nuggets: For a while I thought Denver was the second best team in the West, but apparently they’ve slipped a bit. The big question is which team can stay healthy and right now it looks like Utah is coming up with the short end since Boozer is questionable. However, the Jazz are deeper in my opinion and they have more momentum and fewer distractions headed into the postseason. Utah in 6.

Enjoy the games! I’ll try to catch a few myself. Go Magic!

Ignorance is Bliss

Well the NCAA Basketball tournament sort of passed me by this year. Not only did I miss most of the games because a lot of the later games started at awkward hours for me, I was in Spain for much of the Sweet 16/Elite 8 rounds. Perhaps it was best because it wasn’t as painful for me to see my bracket disintegrate and I at least have an excuse for getting so many picks wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I have been following some of the story lines and it would’ve been a great story if Butler had won (sorry, rooting for Duke in the championship game is like supporting the beating of puppies and baby seals). However one out of the Final Four is just pathetic. At least I didn’t end up like President Obama, who got all his picks wrong.

As a BC basketball fan, the one story I have been following more closely is the firing of Al Skinner and the subsequent coaching search. It looks like Cornell coach Steve Donahue is going to be our man. Personally I always thought we should’ve played more up tempo with the players we have, and most of our guys didn’t really fit into Skinner’s flex offense. Let ‘s hope this guy can connect with the players especially emerging star Reggie Jackson, who ESPN hinted at in the last line of this article, was a transfer possibility. I don’t know too much about Donahue, but if he can effectively pick up the pace of our offense, draw up a reliable inbounds play, and not kill our future recruiting prospects (wait, what recruiting prospects), I’m a fan. And oh yeah, since you’re coming from the Ivy League I expect you finally have a plan to beat Harvard next season.

Bittersweet 16

Wow what a tournament. So many close games. So many upsets already. And we’re just in the Sweet 16. My bracket has definitely taken a beating due to all this craziness. One of my Final Four, Georgetown is out. Three more Elite 8 teams (Kansas, Pittsburgh and Villanova) are also out, not to mention countless earlier round teams. A couple of story lines I’ve noticed: the failure of the higher seeded Catholic schools (Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame, and Marquette) shows that God clearly isn’t on their side this year. The Big East has been disappointing and I think that could mean trouble for me because I picked Syracuse to win it all (stupid move in retrospect). And the Ivy League may finally be known for something other than academics as Cornell continues its run. At this point, I’m rooting for them to go to the Final Four.

The only bright side to all this is that no one else saw any of these story lines coming, so I’m actually doing relatively well especially since I’ve watched very little college basketball this year. Here’s what I picked the rest of the way:

March Madness ’10: Brits Can’t Ball

Well I may be an ocean away, but this time of year still means one thing: March Madness! I haven’t kept up with college basketball very well this year since basketball isn’t big here at all. Try naming one good British basketball player (and no, Ben Gordon doesn’t count even though he’s playing for the English National Team). Yeah, didn’t think so. As a result, I don’t know too much about what’s been going on other than BC’s disappointing finish, John Wall being the next great point guard, and the Big East dominating with its depth. However, I still have to fill out a bracket and go with what I remember from the ESPN.com front page over the past 3 months. So here is my 2010 March Madness bracket, aptly named “Brits Can’t Ball”

Sports 2.0

With the way the current economy is going, the prevalence of web 2.0 technologies, and fantasy football under way, it’s got me thinking: isn’t it time professional sports joined the bandwagon? I’m not talking about just making a Facebook or Twitter page (get on it Eagles), I’m talking about going all out and truly harnessing the power of the community to optimize every aspect of a team’s operation. Yes, I’m saying crowdsource a team’s front office.

Think about it, there are many excellent ways teams can leverage their fan base. First and foremost, teams can do a much more thorough and comprehensive job of scouting new players. If each team sets up a wiki, fans can upload their own scouting reports on potential draft picks and free agents. It would also be a great marketing asset. Who better to tell team officials what fans want than the fans themselves? What promotions should the team give out during the holidays? Should the team have theme nights? Let the fans decide. You can even involve fans in personnel and operations decisions. Let fans choose whether they want to fork over a couple of million for a star free agent or build a new training facility. It’s a great move for team owners. This way fans can’t complain when their team loses or they have to pay more for tickets because they, not Isaiah Thomas, approved of the decision.

Of course, there are obvious problems with opening things up too much. Small market teams run the risk of having their larger rivals overrunning their voting and feedback systems and screw up their decisions. Teams should probably limit participation to a core group of fans like season ticket holders. I’m also not saying teams should give up professional staff completely. You’ll still need professionals to verify scouting reports, negotiate deals, and veto bad decisions if necessary.

However, it would work great in an advisory or supplemental role. I know the fans would love it. How many times have you played Dynasty Mode in a video game and thought to yourself, “I could do so much better if I was in charge of the (insert team)?” Plus with the way some professional franchises are doing lately (Lions, Clippers come to mind) I don’t think trying something different would hurt them anymore than the current way of doing things. Now if only someone out there was crazy and daring enough to try this. Mark Cuban, get on it.