Well, well, well, the NBA Playoffs have led us to this point, where the favorites in each Conference are now only 3 wins each away from facing one another in the NBA Finals. On Tuesday the Golden State Warriors had to withstand a significant blast off by the Houston Rockets in the first quarter, but came back to take control before halftime and ended up winning a close game 110-106. Then last night, Wednesday for you heathens on the other side of the international date line, the Cleveland Cavaliers walked into the Atlanta Hawks ' home, and walked out of there with a 97-89 win, stealing home court in the process. For the Dubs and Rox, these are two teams with good benches, but are still pretty much powered by their star players (Stephen Curry, James Harden, Andrew Bogut, Dwight Howard, Klay Thompson, Trevor Ariza, etc). Out East we Utah Jazz fans are really rooting hard for the Atlanta Hawks. Our head coach, Quin Snyder, last worked there as an Assistant Coach. Three of their starters are former Jazzmen: Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, and DeMarre Carrol. And even one of their color guys for their broadcast is our former 1982 first round draft pick: Dominique Wilkins. Moreover, they are a team of players attempting -- as a team -- to beat the evil empire that surrounds the best player in the game, LeBron James.
James is the star of stars right now, and Jazz fans really don't have any chance of getting a player like that to play here. It's oh so easy to fall for a scrappy underdog team like the starless Hawks (even if they are the higher seed). Of course, there's a reason why you want a once-in-a-generation star on your team. He can just kill it when it counts, and you end up getting things like this happening.
Yikes. There's not really much ANYONE can do in that position. So I'm not faulting you at all Kyle. You have come a pretty long way, baby. Of course, there was more to the game than just that play, or the final score. Last night DeMarre Carroll sprained his knee, and the junkyard dog (Jerome Williams, what?) will no longer be there to get up in LeBron's grill on defense. We don't know how bad the injury is, however he's going to miss at least one game. Bereft of the talents of Thabo Sefolosha, thanks New York's finest, these high flying Hawks now find themselves really quite wingless. The Cavaliers did lose Kevin Love last round to a season ending injury, and while this does even the score a bit, it's not fun to see anyone get hurt.
Get well soon DeMarre. And I guess this means it's going to be Cavs / Dubs in the NBA Finals.
In not-at-all-surprising news, the Utah Jazz really aren't getting a lot of end of season award love. The NBA's All-Rookie team was selected, and the 1st team is Andrew Wiggins (MIN), Nikola Mirotic (CHI), Nerlens Noel (PHI), Elfrid Payton (ORL), and Jordan Clarkson (LAL). The 2nd team is a little more upsetting, Marcus Smart (BOS), Zach LaVine (MIN), Bojan Bogdanovic (BKN), Jusuf Nurkic (DEN), and Langston Galloway (NYK). Getting pretty shut out is normal for a normal Utah Jazz team -- one coached by Jerry Sloan that wins at least 8 playoff games, and their best rookie was picked like #29 or something last June. This was not a normal rookie year for the Jazz though, as there were nine different rookies suiting up this season: (from most to least minutes) Dante Exum, Joe INgles, Rodney Hood, Elijah Millsap, Bryce Cotton, Jack Cooley, Patrick Christopher, Grant Jerrett, and Jerrelle Benimon.
In the minds of the voters quantity was not quality, though I think most honest people believe that Hood had a great shot at making one of these two teams if he had been healthier, and played in more games. The voters indicated that he was at least on the radar. The Knicks Galloway had 58 2nd team votes and 7 1st team votes Hood finished with only 43 2nd team votes, and 1 1st team vote. So close, but no cigar. While Rodney finished 11th, Dante Exum finished 14th, with 17 2nd team votes, and 3 1st team votes. Joe Ingles, two 2nd team votes, was tied for 23rd. And no one else from our squad got a vote. That's fine though, I don't really think that Elijah considers himself a rookie, nor did he think he would make this list in the first place. Hood will probably use this as motivation to work hard all summer long, he has already made it known ("it is known.") that he's not taking this summer off.
Utah's Rodney Hood isn't taking time off. He's already doing two-a-days at @IMGAcademy because he wants to stay in game shape all summer.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) May 8, 2015
As for Dante, well, he's not really taking this summer off either with all of his responsibilities with his National Team. As for how will he react to this apparent snub? I don't know. He's a pretty cool and collected cat, and I have the sneaking suspicion that Dante isn't competing against other guys from his class, point guards like Smart or Payton. I think he's actually competing against himself. He has that high drive without either becoming a narcissist or a psychopath.
A shut out of Jazz players at for the All-Rookie teams was expected (Rookie stat comparison here, Jazz rookie specific breakdown here); but many people are up and arms at the results of the All-Defensive team.
The first team was (most votes to least): Kawhi Leonard (SAS), Draymond Green (GSW), Tony Allen (MEM), DeAndre Jordan (LAC), Chris Paul (LAC). And the second team was: Anthony Davis (NOP), Jimmy Butler (CHI), Andrew Bogut (GSW), John Wall (WAS), and Tim Duncan (SAS). Okay, so how to unpack this? Two Spurs, I am okay with that, even if one got in under some grandfather clause. Tim has earned that as the 7th best center of All-Time. But I am now living in a world where there are two Clippers and two Warriors who made the All-Defensive teams. And I don't know if me, a guy raised on how bad those two teams have historically been on defense, wants to live in this world any longer.
The most notable, and obvious, snub was Rudy Gobert. For the bigmen the voting went as follows:
- Jordan: 84 1st team votes, 19 2nd team votes
- Davis: 47 / 61
- Bogut: 33 / 36
- Duncan: 5 / 54
- Gobert: 5 / 49
I can forgive the Duncan thing, even though the younger version of myself would be so upset. I think the majority of the ire is with Andrew Bogut. He was the defensive anchor for the best team in the league this year; a team that actually played defense. So I can easily see the voting arguments there. The actual "who was the better player" argument is easily in Gobert's side of the equation.
So how do you react to this? While we assume Hood will use his voting results as motivation, and Dante will continue along without showing emotion . . . it's clear that Rudy Gobert is approaching that Michael Douglas in "Falling Down" level of having had enough, and I love it.
Gobert has this to tweet.
Congrats to the 10 Best defensive players in the league— rudy gobert (@rudygobert27) May 20, 2015
And people had his back, which is a normal inverse of his defensive role and capability.
Maybe next year— Derrick Favors (@dfavors14) May 20, 2015
I don't buy the minutes played excuse for awards. Rudy played 2158. Bogut-1583 Kawhi-2033 Duncan-2227 Tony Allen-1648— Jeff Heaton (@UJTixJeff) May 20, 2015
I love that video on the Jazz site, it's just so startlingly long, and all it is is blocked shots. It's almost the perfect representation of Rudy in a way. Gobert will take this to heart and try to rip the hearts out of his opponents even more next season. Dude is going to straight up murder people . . . hopefully only on the court.
NBA Draft is nigh! I don't actually know what nigh means. Podcasts! Okay, no, that's not what I mean. Well, it is, but we all know that the NBA Draft is where the happy endings to 60 sports movies happen all on one night. But before we get there we have to figure out who goes where. Danny collected a bunch of beat writers, bloggers, and whatever strange mix exists between those two poles, and single-handedly held a smart, and hilarious live draft. You can catch it all here at the Happy Hour Network, on BlogTalk radio. Danny, the host of NBA Full Court Press, had reps for each team and one of them was me.
And it was a horrible trainwreck on my part because obviously it would happen the day I have to drive 13+ hours straight to get home. But I always have fun with Danny, and we do digress into talking about Rudy Gobert for a bit. But when it comes to the draft, you have to trust what the Utah Jazz are going to do. They scout really well, and while the obvious idea is that they gun for the best player on the NCAA Championship runner up team (Deron Williams - Illinois, Gordon Hayward - Butler, Trey Burke - Michigan); thus, the joke is that we'll go for Frank Kaminski - Wisconsin. I believe that his overt abilities, and the Jazz need for a stretch big who is better than Trevor Booker make this an ideal match. But more than that, it's an ideal smoke screen for what our team really is going to look for.
The other thing lots of people ask is about point guard, and Danny does. Listen to the whole show, it's hilarious. The Jazz pick 12th, so if you are lazy you can fast forward to that part. But with the draft coming up soon, I know that all of you are really hungry for content.
Also, the last time the Jazz picked a really good player from the Championship team? Back in the 1983 draft when they got Thurl Bailey from NC State. (And we all remember that team for Sidney Lowe Head Coach Jim Valvano.)
Mehmet Okur . All-NBA Dad 1st team.