King James All Alone

I was just going to make this post about basketball and the ugly display from LeBron’s supporting cast. Let’s face it. The Heat are a one man show. It all rides on King James’ shoulders Monday. Unless Dwyane Wade suddenly has a pair of good knees and Chris Bosh ends his extended vacation, Miami might be in trouble. They got pulverized by the Pacers in Game Six. Roy Hibbert had his way and David West hit some big shots. Paul George was strong and George Hill bounced back as Team Try Hard forced a seventh game.

What’s it all mean? For the defending champs, it’s back to the drawing board. It can’t all be about LeBron. He has to dominate. His halftime speech fired up teammates en route to a Game Five rout. But it wasn’t his sidekicks. Rather old reliable Udonis Haslem, who was money. Tonight, he missed both shots he took while Wade and Bosh continued their vanishing act.

Indiana isn’t the most talented team. They hardly have a bench, relying on a strong starting five. In many aspects, their grinding physical style reminds me of those classic Knicks teams from the 90′s. The only major difference is our orange and blue boasted superstar Patrick Ewing. They had enforcer Charles Oakley and unpredictable two John Starks. Those teams were tough but never quite had enough to get past Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Air Jordan had Scottie Pippen. A legitimate second option. The Pacers don’t have a star though George is on the cusp. He’s only in Year Three. A scary prospect for the current Knicks, who were sent packing by those Pacemakers in the second round.

Most thought our Knickerbockers could pose the biggest threat to the Heat. How wrong we were. Here are the Pacers playing menacing defense while at times, putting us to sleep with some woeful offensive possessions. Their style will never be confused with Showtime. I didn’t think it would be such a close series. But as it’s played out, the bigger more physical upstarts match up. If either Wade or Bosh stepped up, there wouldn’t be a seventh game to decide who’s playing San Antonio. The Pacers aren’t in Miami’s class. The Heat haven’t been consistent. For a team that was the no-brain pick for a repeat, they’re flawed. The leaks are showing. Wade looks ready for a retirement home and Bosh has always been a fraud. As talented as he is, he can’t be the second option.

I don’t see the Pacers winning the series. Home court makes a difference. No way the Heat lose Game Seven in South Beach. However, if James’ suddenly struggling supporting cast doesn’t get their act together, he might need to get 40. He’s certainly capable of exploding. The virtuoso performance of a year ago at Boston along with taking over Game Five are proof. Regardless of the King Of Flop, he’s the best player on the planet. I have to admit I enjoyed the chant, “He’s A Flopp—ah!”

Since this post had some kickass music playing in the background, I give you the incomparable Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Baby” from New Rising Sun in 1970. The same year he died.

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HB: A Rebirth

It’s June 13th, 2011 and the world already ended. Or at least so we’d been told. If you believe that outlandish stuff like some nutball that of course resides out here in Staten Island, more power to you.

As far as I know, we’re still here. So, we may as well make the most of it. It’s been a fun year thus far. Kudos to Dirk and the Mavs getting the monkey off their back, exacting revenge on D Wade and the Heat five years later- coming from 0-2 down to win four straight for their first Larry O’Brien trophy. Tremendous will and heart were shown by a hungrier group of vets that included ex-Net Jason Kidd, Jason Terr and Shawn Marion.

Sometimes, sport truly is about T-E-A-M over TALENT. In this rare case, the Mavericks were the better team in coming back to defeat The Big Three (Wade, LeBron, Bosh). This was an excellent series without any blowouts. There were no double digit margins in any of the cool half dozen of the NBA Finals with most going down to the wire. Old fashioned basketball with two great defenses challenging every shot. There were plenty of tough makes. Perhaps none bigger than unsung hero Terry’s dagger that extended the Mavs’ lead to seven as they took the pivotal Game 5. LeBron was right up in his grill and it didn’t matter.

Sometimes, a team just has it. Like they’re destined to win. Perhaps Mark Cuban’s club was. They dismantled the Lakers a couple of rounds prior and were too much for a young Thunder squad featuring Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. If you really think about it, Dallas didn’t have one easy opponent, shwing resiliency against Portland back in Round One by not folding after a historic collapse that allowed the Blazers to tie the series at two. Instead, Rick Carlisle’s crew took the next two to advance.

Today’s not about analyzing LeBron and what went wrong for the Heat. Maybe they just weren’t good enough. Did that ever occur? Shhhh…don’t tell those guys at Bristol. They might take it personal. Maybe next time, they can show LeBron going all the way ithe locker room after falling short in his second Final appearance.

Sometimes, TV is just too damn predictable. We’re here to tell you it can be so much better if you just let it be. And with that:

Speaking words of wisdom

Let it be

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Random Thoughts: Nets BBall

Okay. So, it’s been a dreadful year for hoops in the metro area. Unless you’re an avid fan of some of the best HS basketball, there’s little to get amped over. If you frequent this space- meaning you probably got nothing else better to do- than you know how down I am on my alma mater St. John’s, who got predictably walloped by No.1 rated Syracuse last night 85-66. Can someone please wake me up when the Norm Roberts Era Error finally ends?

Then, you’ve got the Knicks who have come apart at the seams in Mike D’Antoni’s second season similar to last year. Monday, I was busy all day on Battle Of New York catching up on all the chaotic NHL hoopla leading into today’s 3 ET trade deadline. It cost me a chance to see a championship game I’d have liked to have caught. The BC Lady Lions fell at Martin Luther 51-44. Sounds like it was a really good game. Darn. Between that and former Berkeley standout Zoe Cohen’s New Paltz losing their league title by five (50-45) over the weekend, bad luck I guess.

At least those teams put out the effort. A foreign term for the Knicks, who are back to humiliating themselves. How else to explain their 30+ point loss to LeBron’s Cavs? A game so uncompetitive that a disgusted orange and blue fan tweeted about it, which made me check the score. When I saw 74 points for Cleveland and only halftime, my eyes almost popped out. They trailed 101-59 at the end of three quarters. C ‘mon!

While the Knicks have dropped 10 of 11 and 13 of their last 15, there aren’t even words to describe the ineptitude of the Nets, who amazingly with their 104-96 upset of the Celtics in Beantown have fared better. Yes. Remarkably, they’ve won two of their last seven. Break ‘em up! Too bad this sad bunch had just four more wins in 59 games, making the Jersey disgrace 6-53. Impossible. This is a pro sports franchise who boasts talented inside/outside duo Brook Lopez and Devin Harris. Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian and Chris Douglas-Roberts aren’t bad either. However, it hasn’t mattered with injuries and lackluster play costing Lawrence Frank his job. If only it was getting better under Kiki Vandeweghe.

Amazingly, when you look at some of the pieces along with the enormous opportunity to win the NBA Lottery and select Kentucky’s John Wall, they could be much improved this Fall. Given the franchise’s uncertainty surrounding Brooklyn with the club shifting from the Meadowlands to The Rock, would a July 1 big name consider them? A lineup featuring Wall, Harris and Lopez is intriguing.

While their closest rivals cleared plenty of space by acquiring Tracy McGrady, there appears to be more unknowns surrounding the Knicks. Outside of Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, there’s little else who will be back. Of the other moves Donnie Walsh made, Eddie House has been alright in his familiar role off the bench. With not many other options, D’Antoni is overusing him which has led to more misses from the outside. Speedy Spanish guard Sergio Rodriguez has proven he can get into the lane and dish but has a tendency to hold onto the ball too much. Spanish Chocolate needs to bulk up. As for Bill Walker, the jury’s out.

For all the positives David Lee brings, his defense is atrocious. Mr. Double Double can’t guard bigger centers and is exposed daily. Would you re-sign him and only target one max player? The Knicks are better off letting Lee walk while chasing Chris Bosh and either LeBron or D-Wade. They still need to address the lack of true point guard and a big man. Something they’ve lacked since that No.33 which hangs from the rafters.

Finally, just to exhibit how bad Net bball is, they’re so desperate to get people to come that they’re whoreing tix anyway they can. Ball Don’t Lie’s Trey Kerby had more on the bizarro marketing of the Nets:

This Friday, the Nets will unleash another in their long line of minor league-esque promos:

Their latest promotion will be unveiled Friday, when the Nets play the Orlando Magic. New Jersey residents 18 or older who attend the game will get a coupon that they can redeem at a Roni Deutch Tax Center to get their state income tax done free.

No one likes doing their taxes, but is it worth having to go to a Nets game? At just a $29 value, I’m not so sure.

Uh…this is a new low. If you’ve flipped to a Net game, the empties make it seem like nobody cares. Either that or huge blizzards every night which come to think of it, could’ve been possible given how the winter’s been. Perhaps it’s time for a new slogan.

CHASING HISTORY: Catch The Circus Before It’s Too Late

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Random Thoughts on NBA First Night

-If that’s what all the talk is about with Greg Oden a year finally back from micro fracture reconstructive knee surgery, then he should permanently change his name to Greg Olden. At least it would help explain the lack of production (no FGs, no Pts, 5 rebs, block, 2 fouls in 13 mins) before leaving a season opening 96-76 blowout loss to the Lakers with an ankle sprain with an MRI later today.

It looks like the Blazers former 2007 No.1overall pick is going to be rusty and more of a project than most expected. Especially with how poor his finishes were around the basket badly misfiring on four attempts while showing that his hands still need improvement.

For now, Portland might be more concerned with what the MRI reveals cause it’ll help determine how long the 20 year-old former Ohio State star will be out. They should heed on the side of caution based on what we saw.

As for the rest of his teammates who are expected to compete for a final playoff berth, they stunk it up against the defending Western Conference champs getting taken to school in both ends. Offensively, with the exception of promising Spanish rookie guard Rudy Fernandez (5-of-10 FG, 16 Pts, 4 assists), they were way too stagnant forcing up shots leading to the Lakers’ vastly improved transition attack which had good results.

Pau Gasol had some nice finishes in a strong first half netting all 15 while rating league MVP Kobe Bryant slowly picked apart the Blazers to the tune of a game high 23, 11 boards and five assists. With Metuchen, New Jersey’s own Andrew Bynum (8 pts, 3 BS) back healthy in the lineup, Christ The King product Lamar Odom came off the bench in a new Sixth Man role combining with ex-Knick Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar to help a strong Lakers second unit score 36 of their 96 total.

Not bad production from arguably the deepest bench in the league which is a big part of why they should go very far next Spring.

-In the other two league’s openers, the defending champion Celtics got past LeBron and the Cavs 90-85 on championship ring night in Boston. Paul Pierce made up for running mates’ KG and Ray Allen’s struggles by scoring 27 and got bench help from Leon Powe (13 big Pts including couple of jams) and Tony Allen (11 Pts).

LeBron paced the Cavs with 22, seven rebounds and eight assists with new teammate Mo Williams getting 12 including three treys.

-It was a much better debut for Derrick Rose, who helped lead the Bulls past former coach Scott Skiles’ Bucks 108-95. The 20 year-old former Memphis star who Chicago took No.1 overall finished with 11 points, nine assists, four boards and three steals in over 32 minutes leading a balanced attack which included Tyrus Thomas’ double double (15 and 10), Drew Gooden’s 13 and 8 (6 offensive) along with Ben Gordon’s 18 (three treys) and Kirk Hinrich’s 15 and 7 off the bench.

If they’re going to bring both Gordon and Hinrich off the bench, that’s going to be a huge edge for the Bulls because they could start on most teams. The move by new coach Vinnie Del Negro helped Chicago score  46 bench points. Not bad.

Michael Redd paced the Bucks with 30 on 10-of-19 shooting including four from downtown. In his Milwaukee debut, former Net Richard Jefferson was held to 5-of-17 from the floor for 15 points, four rebounds and two assists in 38-plus.

-We haven’t made any league predictions yet but here’s one tip for Knicks and Nets fans. Your teams aren’t as good as the Celts, 76ers and Raptors. Loose Translation: Enjoy fighting for the Atlantic cellar with non-playoff rosters.

We’ll have some picks later with seeds and teams contending for the lottery. Stay tuned.

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Celtics impressive to very end

Copyright Getty Images

The entire Celtics bench celebrate a 17th NBA title as Paul Pierce bear hugs winning coach Doc Rivers.

An emotional Paul Pierce looks to the heavens while holding the NBA Playoff MVP trophy.Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and P.J. Brown smile.

Alright. I’ll readily admit that I didn’t believe in this Boston Celtic team which sliced up opponents during the regular season to a league best 66 victories. When Danny Ainge who most Bostonians wanted as far away from Massachusetts as humanly possible made the blockbuster draft day trades a year ago for Kevin Garnett with an assist from former teammate Kevin McHale and Ray Allen, I openly pondered if adding two superstars to a lineup which featured Paul Pierce could work.

Would the vaunted “Big Three” put their differences aside for the betterment of delivering a 17th NBA title back to Beantown? Almost immediately, they gave a strong reply jumping out on the rest of the league blowing out opponents in embarrassing fashion. Just ask team Dumb and Dumber.

Sometimes, when you have three stars on a basketball court, it doesn’t work because there’s not enough touches for each and eventually, one tunes out and begins complaining. However, the three veterans proved to be the polar opposite sacrificing shots and more points to lead a once proud franchise rich in history and tradition back to the promised land.

It was back in Round One that you wondered whether to take this group of Celtics seriously when they couldn’t win in Atlanta being forced seven before blowing them out of the building. The second round wasn’t much better as LeBron and the Cavs put up a tremendous fight with each team again holding serve. Even with the man child scoring at will, Pierce who is the one holdover since entering the league a decade prior wouldn’t allow them to lose.

So, here they were having won the first couple of rounds without winning once away from TD Banknorth Garden with the experienced Pistons standing in the way. When Detroit bounced back to gain a split, suddenly the Celts knew they had to win on the road or it meant everything they worked for this special season. More determined in Game Three, they went out and took home court back without much of a push from the Pistons.

Ultimately, when push came to shove at 2-2, Boston was too tough taking the final two games including an amazing fourth quarter which helped them comeback to oust Detroit.

Now, they would be faced with an old familiar foe from the past bringing back images of those classic 1980′s battles between Magic and Bird. It was the 11th ever meeting between LA and Boston for all the marbles. Most including this space liked Kobe’s Lakers who had breezed through their conference including an impressive five games over the defending champion Spurs. The West had always been perceived to be tougher. But all year, the Celts had beaten up on it including sweeping the purple and gold during the regular season.

Still, I didn’t feel it was a good measure for what would take place in the NBA Finals as the Lakers were playing much better with key acquisition Pau Gasol playing well and Lamar Odom doing the job. With them owning the best player in the game and league MVP, it seemed like a no-brainer to take LA in six.

Maybe the Celts who were playing not just for pride and all those ghosts which still include Hall of Fame legend Bill Russell and his trademark white beard in the front row realized that they couldn’t allow that to happen under any circumstance. What would Red Auerbach think up above if Phil Jackson passed him with a record 10th NBA championship at his team’s expense?

Almost from the outset, you could tell which team wanted it more. The Celts spread the ball around working the pick n’ roll to perfection and finding wide open three-point shooters all series long. It was as if the Lakers had suddenly morphed into the Knicks on the defensive end. When it came to locating the open man from the perimeter, they didn’t seem to bother. Pierce, Allen and sharp shooters James Posey along with even Eddie House ripped up LA.

Whenever they needed a big bucket, someone stepped up. Conversely, the Lakers struggled offensively due to a ferocious Celtic D which played physical and forced an ineffective Kobe into tough shots. He never could get into rhythm due to all the double teams he saw which came high forcing him to give up the ball. Most of his shots were rushed and explained why he never shot well.

Still, I wonder how this series would’ve played out if Kobe and ‘mates had had more edge when they got out to that big 21-point first quarter lead which even extended to 24 in the first half of Game Four. What if LA had more of a killer instinct instead of letting a focused Celtic squad outscore them 57-33 in one of the most amazing turnaround in playoff history?

Think Michael Jordan would’ve allowed that to happen to one of his Bulls teams on their own home court?

For whatever reason, Boston wanted it more and played like a lion ready to do battle and claw their way to victory. As a frustrated Magic pointed out following Game Two, it was the players wearing the green and white jerseys who got to most of the loose balls, rebounded with vigor destroying the guys in purple and gold on the offensive glass for second and sometimes third chances. They were the aggressors going hard to the basket while their opponents played soft looking disinterested at times.

How disappointing was last night’s Celtic coronation where they did whatever they wanted hammering the Lakers 131-92 for the largest margin of victory in a clincher for the Larry O’Brien Trophy? There’s not enough words in the English dictionary to describe how overmatched LA looked.

This series disappointed. While it went six, you never really got the sense that the Lakers were ever in it and could win. They easily could’ve been swept. At least during the Stanley Cup Finals, the outmanned Penguins pushed the Red Wings before losing in a much closer and competitive six games.

The Lakers should be ashamed with how they played.

Kevin Garnett and the rest of his teammates are ecstatic on sidelines as the Celtics finish off the Lakers last night at TD Banknorth Garden.

Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Celtics celebrate.Bill Russell congratulates Doc Rivers.

Still, it was amusing watching an emotional KG kiss the Celtic floor and then basically be at a loss for words even flirting with ABC sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya screaming at the top of his lungs:

“Anything seems possible!!!!!”

The gatorade bath Pierce gave Doc Rivers -who has always been one of the classiest former players and now coaches who finally won one being haunted by a couple of those great Celts teams when he played point for the Hawks- was really cool stuff.

Why shouldn’t they have had fun after how badly they outplayed their opponents? It almost looked like a scene out of a video game.

Garnett had dreamed of this moment and you could tell how much it really meant. This was what he was brought over from Minnesota for. Though I did feel Tafoya stuck with him too long when it was obvious the former T-Wolve big man couldn’t contain himself acting like a kid in a candy store. Still, it was pretty cool. How often do you see professional athletes lose control from the joy of winning like that? There wasn’t anything fake about it a la a Terrell Owens press conference.

For a franchise which had become a laughingstock recently, this was what Ainge envisioned as they completed the greatest turnaround in NBA history. Their record 17th NBA championship and first since 1986 when Larry Legend, McHale and Parrish beat the Rockets was truly a special moment.

They never stopped playing either toying with the Lakers. Impressive to the very end.

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Mavs and Suns go home for summer

Maybe it was fitting that the same script was written for both the Mavericks and Suns last night. Each lost close Game Fives on the road to be eliminated in disappointing first round showings against better opponents.

Not long ago, they were two of the Western powers who could go deep into the NBA’s second season. Now, not even acquiring marquee stars such as Jason Kidd or Shaq could alter a downward spiral for each. It’s two straight years for the Mavs out in the first round. Though falling to Chris Paul and the Hornets wasn’t much of a stunner like last year’s bowing out to eighth seed Golden State.

In his third year, Paul is a legit MVP candidate along with Kobe and LeBron proving he’s legit ripping apart the older Kidd along with the rest of the Mavs. He only recorded his first career playoff triple double in closing out Dallas with 24 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists. David West added 25 points, seven boards and four assists. Tyson Chandler was a force underneath grabbing 14 rebounds (seven offensive) and blocking three shots. Reserve guard Jannero Pargo also came off the bench for 17 shooting seven for nine from the floor with a couple of triples.

It all added up to a five-game victory and first ever series win since the Hornets relocated to New Orleans.

On the losing side, Dirk Nowitzki’s double/double (22 and 13) along with six assists and a couple of blocks weren’t enough to save the Mavs’ season. Neither was Kidd’s best effort of the series in which he had 14 points, nine assists and four boards. Jason Terry also added 13 points and nine dishes. Still, Dallas didn’t have enough to offset their younger opponent who advanced to a Conference Semifinal meeting against the defending champion Spurs.

Who isn’t excited about that match-up? Old established guard against new kid on the block. The point guard match-up between Paul and 2007 Finals MVP Tony Parker should be one to enjoy for any hoop fan.

Parker just got done finishing off Steve Nash, Shaq and the Suns going for over 30 again with a team high 31 to go with eight dimes. I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. Parker is just The Truth. I love his game cause he never settles. Plus he’s lightning quick off the dribble making like the Road Runner.

Nash and the Suns won’t be rising as Shaq promised. Oh well. The Big Aristotle did try hard giving his all on the defensive end despite foul trouble. He had 13 points but was only two of eight from the field and misfired on 11 of 20 free throws. Yikes. Gregg Popovich’s hack-a-Shaq formula worked. O’Neal still pulled down nine rebounds, blocked three shots and had a couple of steals in over 29 minutes.

In crunch time, the Suns were right there fighting for their playoff lives. They nearly stole Game Five and got it back to Phoenix. And who would’ve bet against them forcing a seventh game? The reason they lost was because Nash had some costly turnovers. He was stripped once by freaking Robert Horry. Big Shot Bob is only supposed to be good for the occasional dagger from downtown. He shouldn’t be able to pick Nash’s pocket clean. Especially with Tim Duncan on the sidelines with Shaq out which should’ve been an edge for Phoenix on the offensive end. Wow.

Nash had a couple of other bad miscues as did teammate Boris Diaw jumping a crosscourt pass to nobody in the final minute. The Spurs didn’t screw up instead allowing Parker to do his thing and Manu Ginobili to do his from the free throw line even though he had an off night finishing with just eight. Half came from the charity stripe.

There also was a big make from Duncan where he went by Shaq off the dribble and beat the shot clock with an eight foot runner off the glass. Yeah. The Big Fundamental can still play as evidenced by his strong 29 and 17 with three blocks. He’s a gamer.

The Suns bricked 17 of 37 free throws. The worst total in 14 years. At least for them cause if I caught it right, the last time came against the Rockets. Isn’t that when they blew a 3-1 lead? Never mind.

I do have to wonder how Nash only wound up with three assists while turning the ball over five times. He also shot a pitiful four for 16. Against Parker and the physical Bruce Bowen, Nash looked old. He’s 34 and certainly not getting any younger. Maybe the pounding is finally taking its toll cause he looks like an Ewok from Star Wars out there.

So, will Mike D’Antoni get the axe for this? Should he really when new GM Steve Kerr decided to bring in Shaq and throw him into a system which wouldn’t work? No. They needed more time to jell. Ditto for J Kidd, Dirk and the rest of the Mavs coached by Avery “Squeaky” Johnson.

I concur with what TNT’s Charles “The Chuckster” Barkley said during the postgame. Both are good coaches who got thrown for a loop with big acquisitions. And it’s not that easy to just go and win with that much time left. It doesn’t account for team chemistry, etc. Did Shaq and Dwyane Wade win the first year down in Miami? Of course not.

For that reason, I wouldn’t fire either coach. They’ll be scooped up faster than Larry Brown can reach his next destination. Charlotte? Really? Is he kidding? They suck! I guess he must be really de$perate or hasn’t met Dan “Da Man” Wheeler (Wheel-ah) yet.  :lol:

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Random Thoughts

Chris Webber retired but Derek Felix never realized he was still playing. 

AP Photo Courtesy Getty Images

So isn’t about time I had one of these total randomness blog entries? I think so! Really. It’s about freaking time. There’s so much going on which is what makes it all worthwhile. So let’s get to it in no order:

1.Does anyone really care about the beginning of the baseball season in Japan? Find me one good reason two Major League teams should travel all that way to play. And no. Save me the whole Dice K argument or whatever. It just makes no sense and screws fans here in the process cause nobody in their right mind is getting up at 6 AM (3 Pacific) to watch the Red Sox take on the Athletics in two games. They split btw. I only know that cause my buddy Steve Lepore told me. People have lives. Baseball soldout big time here!

2.Are the Mets really delusional enough to let Ruben Gotay go through waivers for freaking Nelson Figueroa off one good Spring? Man. That’s just brutal. If Luis Castillo’s already day-to-day with his legs getting worse, what’s he going to be like in four years? Leave it to the game’s most overrated GM Omar Minaya to explain this one.

3.If Andy Pettite’s back continues to be an issue, that Yankee rotation sure is thin and unproven. And who thinks Moose can comeback from last year? Really. Anyone? 

4.I didn’t even know Chris Webber still played anyway.

5.When Roger Federer gets whipped by American underachiever Mardy Fish in any tournament, that’s cause for concern no matter what he says. I’d love to be a fly on Andy Roddick’s wall after that one. His best friend can get Roger but he hasn’t in nearly five years.

6.Who else thinks the two Serbs Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic will be No.1 on the WTA and ATP tours by the end of the summer?

7.LeBron gets my vote for MVP on that average Cleveland roster.

8.Remember when the AI trade to Denver was supposed to be the end for the 76ers? How’s that working out? Just for the record, I always was a huge fan of Andre Miller from the time he starred for Utah in college. The versatile point guard who runs the show for the now two over 76ers has been overlooked for a while.

9.Overlooked NBA rookies:

A.Thaddeus Young , 76ers

B.Daequan Cook, Heat 

C.Nick Young, Wizards

D.Jeff Green, Sonics

E.Luis Scola/Carl Landry, Rockets

F.Al Thornton, Clippers

10.Underrated NBA superstar has to be the Hornets’ David West. He could flat out ball at Xavier but somehow fell to New Orleans at No.18 overall in the 2003 Draft. The 27 year-old Teaneck New Jersey native averages better than 20 along with over nine boards, 2.3 assists and more than a block-per-night. West dropped 20 including the winner from 17 with 0.6 seconds left as the Hornets edged the Cavs 100-99.

So, who were a few of the players taken ahead of him five years prior you ask? Aside from the Big Four of LeBron, Carmelo, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade who were all givens, you had Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich and T.J. Ford all go in the top 10 and turn into solid players. Too bad Ford’s feet are a mess.

Here are some of the gems:

2.Pistons- Darko Milicic (with third NBA team if the Grizzlies count)

9.Knicks- Michael Sweetney (packaged for Eddy “Fat Albert” Curry)

10.Wizards- Jarvis Hayes (key reserve now for Pistons)

11.Warriors- Mickael Pietrus (still with team but can you say bust)

12.Sonics- Nick Collison (taken despite knowledge he’d miss rookie yr)

13.Grizzlies- Marcus Banks (explains a whole lot, on 4th team in Miami and answer to Shaq trivia question)

14.Sonics- Luke Ridnour (not a bad player but nothing special)

15.Magic- Reece Gaines (before they lucked into Dwight Howard, they actually took the former Louisville star guard that high. He’s out of the league)

16.Celtics- Troy Bell (remember when he was really good for BC? Well, he never panned out)

17.Suns- Zarko Cabarkapa (who???)

Steals from that draft include Josh Howard (29th-Mavs), Mo Williams (47th-Jazz), Travis Outlaw (23rd-Blazers), Boris Diaw (21st-Hawks), Carlos Delfino (25th-Pistons), Leandro Barbosa (28th-Spurs), Jason Kapono (31st-Cavs), Luke Walton (32nd-Lakers), Steve Blake (38th-Wizards), Kyle Korver (51st-Nets) and James Jones (49th-Pacers).

Some pretty good names there but it does make you ponder what the heck scouts were looking at. The NBA Draft is always fun but boy oh boy, can you find some absolute duds which is what this history lesson proves.

Fyi…the Knicks took Maciej Lampe. Remember when he was supposed to be some homerun? The next big Euro star? Try more like Euro trash! Well, at least they got Starbury for him. Funny sometimes how things turn out.

11.My good buddy and NY Hockey Report co-host Joe McDonald says the Rangers are coming out of the East. I just want to know how so unless that power play becomes more reliable than Con Edison. I agree with WFAN’s Steve Somers on this team. They’re baffling. Some nights, they look like world beaters and others like the other night, they leave you scratching your head. How can a diehard Blueshirt fan take this team seriously? They’re just too hot and cold for my liking. I’m sticking with Montreal.

12.If you didn’t catch tonight’s NYHR, do yourself a favor and do so because it happened to be one of the most random and funny shows we’ve done. The whole time, Joe and Lepore were picking me apart on my absurd theories which covered a variety of topics. Where the heck was Gary Harding anyway? Warming up the golf clubs for Rick DiPietro?!?!?!?!?!?!

13.There are some nights where you swear the Devils couldn’t score into a whorehouse if they tried.

14.Over/under on tonight’s Ranger/Devil total goals is at a gaudy one and a half. Just thought you’d like to know!

15.Alexander Ovechkin’s 61 is the most meaningful since Roger Maris.

16.Stat line of the night or not:

Player A- 17:26, 2-of-6 FG, 0-1 FT,  5 Pts, 4 Rebs, 2 A

Player B- 11:01, 2-of-4 FG, 1-3 FT, 5 Pts, 3 Rebs, 1 A

Dubious minds want to know what John “JPG” Giagnorio has to say about this one. ;-)

17.Maybe I’m in the minority on this one but I love all the drama that Jose Canseco’s new book is creating. Sure beats Spring Training. Did anyone else notice some similarities between Mr. Canseco’s former wife and Mrs. Alex Rodriguez?

18.In case anyone cared, Team Dumb and Dumber won a game last night and lost some ground in the lottery race.

19.That emotion on Adam Morrison’s face during Gonzaga’s first round loss at the hands of Stephen Curry and Davidson was the most passion he’s exhibited since his final game where he broke down on the court in that awful UCLA collapse.

20.Lepore says the Wild aren’t responding to Jacques Lemaire but they sure have a funny way of showing it posting a big win over Edmonton to jump back into first in that wacky Northwest. I still say that same Minny team could make some noise this Spring.

21.Maybe Erik Bedard wasn’t such a great investment for the Mariners. I guess we’ll find out when April hits.

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Random Thoughts

 Roger Federer's first round defeat to Andy Murray was one of many topics in the latest Random Thoughts.

Sometimes, it’s just easier to just jot down what’s on my mind quickly. Especially before bed. So, here goes:

1.Roger Federer was upset by Andy Murray in the first round at Dubai. The top ranked Swiss Maestro played his first match since bowing out to eventual Aussie Open champ Novak Djokovic in the semis five weeks ago. Anytime Federer loses, it’s a big story. That it came in the opening round makes it that much bigger. He admittedly said he wasn’t expecting a whole lot and Murray has beaten him before and certainly is a quality opponent.

Still, it’s noteworthy. It will be interesting to see how close Djokovic gets to Federer in the ranking points. Something tells me this might be a very intriguing year for men’s tennis.

2.Comment of the night came from one of the SC anchors on the Knicks imploding down the stretch against the Hornets:

 “Chris Paul to Tyson Chandler is better than the Knicks.”

Paul is awesome and finished with 27 points, eight assists, five boards and three steals while Chandler had a double double (15 and 18). Something former Bull buddy Eddy Curry isn’t too familiar with even if he did have a decent night notching 19 and eight rebounds.

3.Meanwhile, Paul’s close rival Deron Williams had 17 points and dropped 20 dimes in a six-point win over Jason Kidd and the Mavs last night. The former Illinois star has been putting up huge numbers and has the Jazz 17 over .500 looking primed for another playoff run in the ultra tough West. So, I ask it to you. Who would you rather have? Williams or Paul?

4.Kobe’s great. Everyone gets that but when it comes to who I’d rather have right now, it’s LeBron because he’s younger and has a lot more left in the tank. So even if Kobe wins league MVP, I’ll take No.23 on the Cavs.

5.I’m not big on Spring Training but that was a nice diving snag by Met phenom Fernando Martinez in right.

6.If you missed it, Alexander Ovechkin had a week in a 10-2 home rout of Boston last night in the nation’s capital. The electric Russian finisher notched a first period hat trick and two helpers for a five-point night surpassing Evgeni Malkin for the league lead in scoring with 90 points. He also became the first player to 50 goals this season matching a previous best with 52. Ovechkin is so much fun to watch. Between him and Malkin, it’s really close for that MVP race with Martin Brodeur sitting third.

7.Can anyone explain to me why Lord Isiah doesn’t give more minutes to Renaldo Balkman, Mardy Collins and rookie Wilson Chandler? What’s he saving them for? The season’s been over for three months.

8.I have plenty of respect for the New York Islander Stanley Cup Dynasty. Winning four straight Cups and all those series in a row is something which will never be accomplished ever again. And it’s cool to celebrate that special group of Islanders. But it’s 2008 now. Isn’t it about time to stop living in the past? Ditto for the Rangers and all the 1994 celebrations. That Jay Wells night will be announced anyday now!

9.So here we are with a little over a month left and five total points separates the top seed from the seventh seed in the East. It very well could be upside down by the time next month rolls around.

10.Is there a quieter superstar than Joe Thornton in the NHL?

11.I’ve been on the Habs for a while and still think they can go pretty far if the kid Carey Price can take them there but tell me which team is beating the defending champion Ducks in a seven-game series.

12.Dewayne Robertson. We hardly knew ye.

13.It’s ashame that Anthony Mason, Jr. plays in such obscurity cause he’s a heck of a baller. Just ask Seton Hall. Speaking of which, could Bobby Gonzalez just shut the hell up already?!?!?!?!?! Stop complaining about the game being at Carnesecca Arena instead of The Garden. Especially when St. John’s was honoring its seniors. That’s where the game belonged. Maybe the former Manhattan coach should wonder how his team choked down the stretch when they needed that game a lot worse than Norm Roberts’ Redmen did.

14.If I find tix for Santana at the Garden in April, I’m so there.

15.This Austin Jackson for the Yanks who made a nice catch the other day is the next big outfielder for the Bronx Bombers. Remember that name. He’ll start in Double A Trenton and could wind up with Scranton/Wilkes Barre by the time late August rolls around.

16.Thanks again to the kids at Berkeley Carroll for a fun basketball season. It was a nice ride and certainly enjoyable. Best of luck to all the seniors graduating and getting ready for college.

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