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NBA Finals: Game 6–A Survivor’s Tale

“I’m going to the gym. I’m all jacked up.”–MAMBINO Contributor El Mariachi, 12:17 am Eastern Time
We didn’t watch Game 6 everyone–we survived it.
It’s been echoed over and over again all night and all morning. It’s not hyperbole: this was one of the greatest Finals games ever. Off the top of my head, only a handful of games are in it’s company over the last 30 years: Mavericks-Heat Game 5 in 2006, Bulls-Jazz Game 6 in 1998, Pistons-Lakers Game 6 in 1988 and Lakers-Celtics Game 4 in 1987. There are others, of course, but there’s no doubt about it: last night’s epic Game 6 already ranks in the Top 10 of greatest Finals games ever, perhaps even penetrating the sacred sphere of greatest contests in American sports history. It was that good.
It’s not just the dramatic finish and the toe-curling proximity to which San Antonio was to a championship, but rather the ebbs and flows of such an excellently played contest that really makes this game stand out. Even the last two Game 7s (Boston/LA in 2010 and SA/Detroit in 2005) lacked the 48 minutes–make that 53 minutes–of artistry that last night’s bout had. Celtics-Lakers was a sloppy affair, with both teams shooting poorly, Kobe Bryant chucking away a 6-24 night and the final combined score ticking in at just over 160 combined points. Spurs/Pistons had the same feeling of inertia, slogging towards a 4th quarter that was largely out of reach for Detroit. Game 6 was dynamic from beginning to end, with each team playing crisply, trading blows and fighting to a standstill up until Bosh emphatically landed the controversial finishing blow. This game was so finely played, with so many featured players, that it’s hard to remember one seminal moment in a myriad of them. That’s what sets last night’s game apart–painting a masterpiece without muddling the colors. … Read more...

Thanks for everything, Jim – Thoughts on the UConn Coaching Legend’s Retirement

For a Long Island kid who fell in love with the game as a 9 year old on a Saturday night in March at Madison Square Garden way back in 1996, Jim Calhoun’s retirement hits home somewhere in that sentimental zone. You know, that “kick in the gut that you’re no longer a kid” zone, that “your youth is past” zone, when the actors who played such a huge part in your memories are moving on or even gone forever.

That first game of basketball I saw, an Iverson vs. Allen instant classic that went down to the last shot (“Junkyard Dog” Jerome Williams pulling a Charles Smith), was Calhoun’s second Big East Championship (despite Dickie V’s proclamation) and really my first dip into the mania of fandom. As an Iverson fan, I was devastated.

I’m not a kid anymore, no, but still and always since a diehard hoops fan, weaned on those Long Island Rail Road trips in the ’90s and ’00s to the Garden for an evening (or an afternoon!) of basketball under the bright lights of the Garden, the Mecca, the World’s Most Famous Arena.  Even when the Knicks fell off in the 00’s with the Layden years and the Isiah years, we (I use that word for all New Yorkers) still had the Big East Tourney come to town for that great week in March. Every year or so it seemed, the Huskies were a team to be reckoned with.

Like that ’96 game, the UCONN fans always have the strongest and most vocal presence at the Big East Tournament – take it from a guy who has been to at least a game in 9 of the last 12 Big East Tournaments, and 6 Championship games.  The UCONN folks always rallied for their team, lead by that stocky guy in the sweatshirt who would lead the crowd in the “U-C-O-N-N UCONN! UCONN! UCONN!” chants.

UCONN basketball and their fans were such a fixture in those tournaments, and of course Calhoun IS UCONN basketball.  Thus, the Big East Tourney being encoded in my basketball DNA, I for one am sad to see him go. Calhoun won five more Big East chips, made four Final Fours, and won the Big Dance three times. From that Rip Hamilton team (and my man Khalid El-Amin, giving hope to short, pudgy kids everywhere!) to the Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon years (Gordon was a true stone cold assassin back in the day, a guy whose hand I shook on Draft Night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden while hanging with his crew from Mount Vernon), to the truly amazing run through the Big East and NCAAs the Huskies took just two years ago with Kemba Walker, the UCONN Huskies have been, if not the preeminent, one of the premiere college basketball teams in the country.  

A long list of NBA players and classic college names from Yore (Taliek Brown, anyone?)  have passed through a tiny state school in Storrs, Connecticut for no reason other than the fact that Jim Calhoun was the head coach.  Facing health problems and a postseason ban, Calhoun announced today he was stepping down, closing a remarkably successful chapter of entertaining basketball that I grew up on.  I don’t know what is next for UCONN, but thank you for the great teams and the great memories, Jim.… Read more...

A Potential Dynasty? – Miami Heat Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Mario Chalmers, SG Dwayne Wade, SF LeBron James, PF Chris Bosh, C Joel Anthony

Key Bench Players:
SF Shane Battier, SF Mike Miller, PF Udonis Haslem, SF James Jones, SG Norris Cole, PF Dexter Pittman

Notable offseason additions: SF Ray “Judas Shuttleworth” Allen, SF Rashard Lewis,

Notable offseason subtractions:
PF Juwan Howard, PF Ronnie Turiaf

What better way to start off the 2012-2013 NBA season previews than with the reigning NBA champs? I’ll be honest, I am rooting against the Heat to the point where I’ve considered consulting a voodoo shaman, but they truly look like the class of the East and a threat to repeat. It’s hard to hate on LeBron right now, as he has been invincible and undone a lot of damage by tuning everyone out and just playing. Luckily, Dwayne Wade was a real punk last year and took the torch to new heights. I look forward to booing him in person this season.

In my opinion, this team SHOULD be hard to cheer for if you’re not in South Florida and last year’s Heat finally understood that. Their role in the NBA narrative is the villain, as the favorite should be, and their all-black uniforms only confirm a sinister intent. A Heat dynasty may usher in the apocalypse and end everything we’ve ever loved, which makes it even more fun to root against. Heat fans should embrace that they are relevant enough to be hated, which is a big step for them, and every team in the league would want that core. It’s good to be a Heat fan – but like Lakers fans know all too well – you can’t ever count on an impartial stranger to join your side ever again. You’re either with us or whatever underdog we’re playing against. People are far more likely to actively cheer against your team in your face. Welcome to the club, Miami.

Led by the power trio of a God-mode LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Heat have established the modern model for a contender with their overwhelming star power and slow upgrades of its supporting cast. Last year saw the Heat pick up Shane Battier and finally get some timely production out of Mike Miller, but this year they added some real shooters off the bench. As the NBA watched the rich get richer, the Heat gained the right to dish open threes to Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis for peanuts. Honestly, the Celtics are better for it, but where does Judas Shuttleworth’s signing in Miami for less money rank in the all-time free agent disses? It’s a lock for Top 10. And after this off-season, is there any doubt that the new CBA may improve long-term parity by making it harder to sustain winners but make the short-term worse? Teams are either building to the top or racing for lottery position, which will benefit the contenders as long as high salary players are shed to avoid payment.

Not 1, not 2, not 3…

While the Heat faithful were promised an unreasonable 7 titles, there’s no question they should be considered the favorite for a repeat. Although Boston and NY could put up a fight, Miami will have a smoother road to the Finals than whoever survives the imminent slugfest out West. The Heatles 1.0 were a formidable team, but the 2.0 version put the pieces together in a way that should have the rest of the league running scared. They figured out their hierarchy (give the ball to LeBron), got better role players, picked up the team defense, and even got the Wizard of Oz to give Chris Bosh a spine, who provided the gutty play and gritty post defense that the Heat desperately needed to win a title.

This year, they should be better. They’re deeper, LeBron looked All-Universe in the OlympRead more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Ray Allen to the Miami Heat

Miami Heat get: SG Ray Allen, 3 years, $9 million

In our pathetic attempts to make the NBA seem like a more important organism than it actually is, we’ve noticed here on MAMBINO that the L seems to resemble America in a lot of ways. Most notably, the rich are getting richer, while the poor are only going to the lottery again.

Let’s look at what’s happened in the past few days:

As you can see, the good teams are only getting better. The case of the 2012 Champion Miami Heat acquiring SG Ray Allen is just another example.

Let’s get down to business: the Evil Empire just got better. A lot better.

I’ve looked at this trade sideways ever since the news broke, and quite honestly, I can only see one avenue, besides freak injury, in which this signing goes wrong.

As for what’s right? Even on 37 year-old surgically repaired ankles, Ray Allen is still an unshakeably devastating shooter. Every complaint about his age or mobility has to be combated with sheer numbers: we’re looking at 47/40/90 shooting percentages over his Celtics career. For those of you that aren’t stat-savvy, those type of numbers put him up there with the Larry Birds and Steve Nashs of NBA history. In fact, over the past two seasons, a 36 and 37 year-old Allen has shot 48/45/89, while playing 80 games in 2010-2011. Yes, he just had surgery on ankles that severely limited his role down the stretch this year, but we’re talking about a world-class athlete who looks just as good now as he did 10 years ago.

In regards to the Miami Heat offensive system, I have little doubt that Jesus Shuttlesworth will be able to fit in. Most likely, he’ll come off the bench behind Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers. According to early reports, he’ll be spelling the Heat’s starting backcourt for extended periods of time, seeing as Wade will be coming off injury and the team from a prolonged season that ended in June. It’s no secret that coach Erik Spoelstra had to ride his talent into the dirt to get enough team production out of them. Going into 2012-2013, Miami knows they’ll have to get their guys more rest in order to compete deep into June. Enter, Jesus. The Heat now have a legitimate 8-man rotation that includes Wade, Chalmers, Shane Battier, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Norris Cole. The Heat will still be undersized, but looking at all the hardware in owner Mickey Arison’s office, it seemed to work out just fine. Ray will no doubt get big, big minutes, and the season-long clangers shot by Mike Miller and Shane Battier will belong to him.

The contract itself is extremely manageable. Even in the event that Allen gets hurt, or even unlikelier than he’s healthy and simply ineffective, the way over the cap Heat will only suffer a $3 million per year hit. Considering the Celtics offered him two years and $12 million, GM Pat Riley got even more of a bargain.

The only way I see Allen potentially hurting the Heat is if his ankles don’t hold up post-surgery. Ray has played terrific team defense his five years in Boston, fitting well into Doc Rivers’ schemes even though he’d been considered a subpar defender his entire career. He seemed to guard players like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade best, relishing the challenge of luring opposing superstars into defen… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Jason Terry to the Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics get: G Jason Terry, 3 years, $15 million

The already ancient Boston Celtics just got even older, but that might not even be a bad thing.

As the Boston media likes to say, the Celtics are approaching year six of a three-year plan. When a 31 year-old Kevin Garnett and a 32 year-old Ray Allen were traded to Boston in that week-long stretch in 2007, writers and talking heads alike proclaimed no more than  two or three year window for the new “Big Three” to win a title in New England. Here we are, not in 2009 or 2010, but rather in 2012 asking ourselves how much longer can they keep the panes of opportunity from closing shut.

Miraculously, the Celtics have remained relevant amidst massive changes in the East, from the Knicks resurgence to the formation of the eventual 2012 NBA Champion Miami Heat and the upstart Bulls from Chicago. At the ages of 36, 37 and 34 respectively, KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, the Celtics forced themselves to a Game 7 with LeBron, Wade and Bosh, narrowly missing another chance to play for their second title. While Rajon Rondo is undoubtedly the most talented of anyone in Beantown these days, there’s no doubt that it’s Garnett’s leadership and intensity, Piece’s four quarter bravado and Ray’s steadiness that keeps this team competing for titles.

Strangely, one of the oldest rosters in the league wasn’t slayed by the younger Sixers, Hawks or Heat with athleticism or toughness. To be frank, the Celtics just didn’t have enough bodies. Doc Rivers’ squad managed to lose rotation players G Avery Bradley, F Jeff Green, F Chris Wilcox and C Jermaine O’Neal to injury before the deciding Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. More importantly, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were both playing with injuries that would have kept them on the sidelines if it weren’t the postseason. Even when equipped with personnel whose myriad of disabilities became comical, the C’s still played their trademark defense and managed to put up enough points on the board behind Garnett’s resurgent play and Rondo’s otherwordly productiveness.
With Ray Allen possibly going to the Clippers, Thunder or Heat in free agency, the Celtics needed someone with three different qualifications: long-range shooting, health and offensive production. Since the beginning of free agency, the C’s had coveted ex-Memphis guard OJ Mayo. He’d be able to provide all of the above criteria, and as a bonus, the former 2nd overall draft pick was a full decade younger than his prospective teammates. However, his asking price was over what the capped-out Celtics had to offer. Enter Jason Terry.

JET, now 35, may be exactly what Boston GM Danny Ainge is looking for. Terry is coming of a eight-year stint with the Mavericks that involved two NBA Finals and one championship.  He amazingly ranks fourth on the all-time three-point buckets made, shooting no worse than 36% in any of his seasons in Dallas. Terry has been reliably averaged over 16 points per season as a Maverick, mostly off the bench, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2009. Perhaps most importantly, Jason Terry has missed 28 games…in his career. Unbelievable. JET has been the paragon of good health, which is incredibly important for a team that’s had a rash of injuries the past few years, and isn’t getting any easier with the progressing seasons under their belts and on their knees.

There’s not really a much more perfect match for the Celtics – he’

MAMBINO’s Eastern Conference Finals Preview

The Miami Heat versus the Boston Celtics. As soon as Derrick Rose got hurt five weeks ago, this is the matchup we all saw coming. And it is going to get messy.

Even in missing starting power forward Chris Bosh and no one on the Miami roster peaking right now save for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, essentially every person whose opinion you care about is picking the Heat to win this series. I suppose this more than anything is a testament to the greatness of South Beach’s best two players, who are playing at an otherwordly level right now.

Barring an unforseen injury to the Heat’s two remaining All-Stars, this series will be a romp. In our series preview, we’ll let you know why, but also, what the hell Boston would have to do to squeak out the massive upset. The King, our resident Celtics fan, will try to decode a method to the madness that would be a Boston series win. Here we go:

MIAMI in 5 games

Is this more a question of “how Miami will win this series” or “why Boston is at a serious disadvantage”? I think it’s a bit of both, to be honest.
Without Chris Bosh, the supporting cast on this Miami roster is not only worse than last year’s runnner-ups, but one of the worst in the entire playoffs. Wing players Shane Battier and Mike Miller are shooting 27% and 37% respectively from the field. Udonis Haslem has slipped to just 5 points and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes, down from 6 and 7 in the regular season. Joel Anthony, playing 23 minutes a game has watched his usually strong post defense slip a bit, while only putting in 4 points and 4 boards. Mario Chalmers is the only saving grace of the role players, playing confidently and throwing down a 11/4/3 line. Going forward, I find it hard to believe that these guys will give the Heat much more than this. I’d expect performances equal or slightly better than what they’ve been doing the first two rounds.

I bring all this up to illustrate how unbelievable Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are. Bron’s 29/9/6 nightly stat line, as well as Wade’s 24/4/3, are elevating an weak Miami team from D-League throwaways to potential Finalists. They are the crux to both the Heat defensive scheme and offensive attack, changing the game with their incredible energy and skill on both sides of the floor. Night in and night out, these two guys have to play like the two best players in the league to win ball games. Luckily for Miami, they’ve been just that in victories. Bad games, like Game 3 in Indiana, mean losses. It’s a very, very simple formula.

I cannot possibly overstate the importance towards LeBron and Wade having great games, every game for the Heat to win. Their supporting players are giving them next to nothing and I see no reason for that to change. For as much as everyone gets on both these guys for being such weak characters, they’ve risen to the challenge that the Heat’s roster has presented them with. Every coach knows that they have to stop these guys to win the game. It’s just that no one can do it. Amazing.
Thus, a game Boston Celtics team could actually have a decently easy time of beating up on a limited Heat squad that leans so much on trascendant performances from just two guys. However, Avery Bradley (their best perimeter defender) is out for the rest of the postseason with a shoulder injury and stars Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are playing with only one leg a piece. The C’s have suffered so many personnel losses over the season that even a win over an extremely limited Sixers team took seven games. This isn’t real… Read more...