The 2009 NBA Draft Debate – A Magic 2009 Draft

June 26, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan’s opinions.

Most analysts are saying that this was a weak NBA draft. I think Bleacher Fan, Sports Geek, and I all concur with that assessment. I strongly agree it was a weak draft. In fact, I strongly believe it so much that I am not even going to touch the draft. I am not convinced there are real winners in the draft. Or as Sports Geek basically said, there are no sure things.

I am saying the real winner of ‘Draft Day 2009’ is the Orlando Magic because of the acquisition of Vince Carter.

Orlando, coming off a very successful season that ended with a loss in the 2009 NBA Finals, is not standing still. Not long after it was announced that new rival Cleveland acquired center Shaquille O’Neal, Orlando made the trade for the eight-time All-Star.

Orlando had to give up Rafer Alston and promising rookie Courtney Lee, but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Alston was certainly to lose playing time now that Jameer Nelson has returned from injury. The Magic lose a solid young player in Lee, but gain Carter who gives them another scoring presence.

It looks as if Hedo Turkoglu won’t play for the Magic next year. But, with Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis, the Magic have three dynamic players. Carter also brings something else to the table – he can create his own shot. That’s something the Magic were missing, and it’s something that makes Orlando a serious threat once again next year.

No one had as good a day as Orlando yesterday. It’s not even close. And if the Magic win the NBA Finals next June, they will look back on yesterday as the day that put them over the top.

The NBA Replay Debate – To Err is Human… Unless You’re a Ref

June 9, 2009

Please read the site note at the bottom of the page.

The proposal seems simple… amend Rule #13 so a potentially game-deciding play at the conclusion of time is automatically reviewed. On the surface, this seems like a great idea. But, when you consider the scope of how this seemingly simple change would impact the league, it becomes much less appealing.

I’m going to start off by giving some long overdue credit… the officials in the NBA (or any sport) have some of the most challenging jobs out there. They must monitor the game in real time and make snap decisions based only on what they see, knowing full well that an arena of 40,000+ will let them know of every perceived mistake made.

I say ‘perceived’ mistake because, let’s be honest, the refs USUALLY get it right. In the heat of a game it’s easy to criticize officials, but when you remove your personal interests and observe the officiating objectively, you usually find that they are very good at what they do. That’s not to say they are perfect, but NOBODY IS PERFECT! So before we begin a “trash the refs” campaign, let’s acknowledge that this problem is not some grand flaw in professional sports. While this proposed rule change would evaluate every potentially game-deciding last-second shot, it realistically would only affect a very small percentage. There just isn’t a big enough need to warrant such a change.

This is a game played and monitored by human beings. Therefore issues such as interpretation and subjectivity come into play. Not every foul committed is a clear offense. That means that someone has to make a determination as to who the offender was. What one person sees as a charge, the other may see as a blocking foul. All the rules in the world will not change the fact that there are times when, even on replay, you won’t be able to get it 100% right.

Consider the example at the conclusion of regulation in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. There can be no dispute after viewing the replay that Pau Gasol’s hand clearly made contact with the rim. After review, this should have been called a goaltending violation, and the points should have been awarded accordingly, giving the Orlando Magic 2 points more and the win, right? I don’t think so.

The rulebook states that a player must vibrate the rim or backboard in such a way as to make the ball take an unnatural bounce in order to be deemed as goaltending. So did Gasol’s hand create a vibration? If so, was it enough to affect Courtney Lee’s shot? If you ask fans of the Los Angeles Lakers, they will tell you with 100% certainty that it did not. Yet, if you ask fans of the Orlando Magic, they will tell you with 100% certainty that it was a violation. Despite looking at the replay, you will never convince everyone that the correct call was made.

What makes the last shot of a game so important? I argue that EACH shot could change the outcome of a game, and to single out the final play of the game gives unfair weight to the final few seconds. Earlier in Game 2, there was a very clear goaltending violation committed by Dwight Howard that was not called. Had the refs gotten that call correct, Orlando actually would have trailed by 2 points at the end of regulation, and Lee’s miss would have instantly awarded the game to the Lakers. Hypothetically, had Orlando gone on to win in overtime, THAT blown call would have had more impact on the conclusion of the game than the final shot of regulation would have. Just because a shot takes place at the end of the game, it does not mean the shot is worth more than any other shot taken. It is worth the same points, and should be treated with the same allowance for error. If you want to review that shot, then you must review EVERY shot, which is far too ridiculous to maintain.

If you truly wish to eliminate human error from the game, allow the game to be played without any real-time interruption. At the conclusion of the game, officials then review the entire game and record each foul they observed in replay. Once those fouls are totaled up, each team would THEN shoot their foul shots, to add to the final score of regulation.

Otherwise, don’t play the game anymore. Humans will just screw it up anyway!

Read the intro and opening argument from Loyal Homer.

The NBA Replay Debate – Should Replay Be To Avoid Controversial Endings?

June 9, 2009

Please read the site note at the bottom of the page.

As I have moved my record to a robust 2-0 in Court Room style debates, I have also earned the right to introduce and judge yet another timely topic involving the 2009 NBA Finals (side note – how are Laker fans getting out-voted by Magic fans?).

As I see it, NBA Commissioner David Stern may find himself in an off-season conundrum. Should the NBA change their famous Rule #13 (instant replay) to include a number of traditionally non-reviewable aspects, solely to ensure fairness for any last second shot that takes place as time expires?

Here’s the scenario. The Orlando Magic, their fans, and their media (including our friends at the Orlando Sentinel) have contested that there is a chance Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol committed goaltending on Magic shooting guard Courtney Lee’s attempt to hammer home a lob pass as time expired in regulation during Game 2 of the 2009 NBA Finals.

Let’s not worry about whether the refs cheated the Magic. Instead, the compelling question for me is the following: How involved should the NBA get in controversial, potentially game-changing plays as time expires in regulation or overtime?

Consider the end of Game 2 of this year’s Finals as the key example. The game clock expired as Lee’s shot missed. However, there is some controversy surrounding whether Gasol caused the rim to move, or hit the ball after it had already touched the backboard. In situations like this, regardless of the normal process governing when a play can or cannot be replayed, should the NBA mandate that a close play at the end of a game – a play that could change the game’s outcome – be reviewed to ensure fairness and accuracy, not just time-remaining when the ball was released.

Currently, the rules surrounding what constitutes a reviewable play – and what doesn’t – are clear. Replays may occur only when issues involving time remaining on the clock, the severity of a flagrant foul, or the players involved in an altercation are in question. (You can read the entire rule book online. It’s a real page turner. Rule #13 is on page 50, if you’re curious.).

Here’s the debate. The NBA must use replay to review a close play at the end of regulation that may change the game’s outcome, including potential foul calls (only shooting fouls), goaltending, traveling, charging, and all ‘player control fouls.’

Loyal Homer will argue that the NBA must amend the rule book and expand the definition of replay at the end of a game to ensure the utmost fairness and accuracy of its referees.

Bleacher Fan will argue that the NBA should in no way amend their Rule #13, and that instant replay should remain intact after the slight alterations made to it last off-season.

I think there are several interesting points to be made in this debate, including how much oversight NBA referees should have when making big judgments (on the court, not in the casinos, Tim Donaghy). Let the debate commence!

Read the opening arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

The 2009 NBA Finals Debate – The Verdict Is In

June 9, 2009

Will the defendants please rise?

Loyal Homer has reached a decision. After much deliberation, Loyal Homer has decided to rule in favor of…


(Minor applause)

Folks, this isn’t a slam dunk case. Many across the nation think this is in the bag. Let me tell you, it’s not. Judging by the results of the poll, you don’t necessarily think it’s over either. As of this writing, 42% of you think the Magic still have a shot! (Some of you just want to see Stan Van Gundy wearing his Sunday best.) Remember the shooting display that Orlando Magic forwards Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Mickael Peitrus (where has he been for the NBA Finals?) put on against the Cleveland Cavaliers. That could still happen against the favored Lakers.

We at the Sports Debates have been giving Stan Van Gundy a lot of grief (well, one of us has… you figure out who). But, Loyal Homer likes Stan better than his brother Jeff, not only because he has more hair than his brother, but because he has quietly turned this team around in a short amount of time. Remember two years ago when Florida Gator men’s basketball head coach Billy Donavan took the job and then had a change of heart in the span of two days? ‘Stan the Man’ was the fall back guy and he wasn’t exactly Stan the Man in the eyes of Magic fans. While I don’t think he is the best coach in the league or even this series like Bleacher Fan suggests, I still think he is underrated and doesn’t get the league-wide respect that he deserves. The fact that Orlando has the next three games, as Bleacher Fan touches on, gives them a shot.

However, let’s not kid ourselves. Though the Magic are a Courtney Lee layup from being tied in this series, the Lakers are still the overwhelming favorite at this point. The Lakers won Game 2 of the NBA Finals with an admittedly mediocre performance from star Kobe Bryant. They got clutch shots late in the game from center Pau Gasol, guard Derek Fisher, and forward Lamar Odom.

What separates the Lakers from the Magic in this series is the frontcourt, as Sports Geek says. The Magic matched up well with Cleveland but they really don’t with the Lakers. Then again, who does match up well with the Lakers? Especially with the monsters down low in center Andrew Bynum, Gasol, and Odom. After losing his last two shots at a record tenth NBA championship, you have to figure Lakers coach Phil Jackson isn’t going to lose three Finals in a row.

Good debate! Like I said, this series isn’t over yet (at least ABC hopes it isn’t). That said, the Lakers would really have to lay an egg to let the Magic back in the series at this point.

Read Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan’s opinions!

The 2009 NBA Finals Debate – Lakers Drown Orlando in 5

June 8, 2009

Please read the site note at the bottom of this post.

Before I even get into the commentary about potential adjustments in the series by the Orlando Magic, or what the Los Angeles Lakers must do to achieve yet another NBA Finals championship, let’s quickly look at raw numbers regarding a team’s ability to come back in a series after building a two game deficit early in an NBA Finals series.

Since the NBA Finals began in 1947 (when the winner got the rather snazzy looking Walter A. Brown trophy), only three teams have surmounted an 0-2 hole. The Boston Celtics did it in 1969, the Portland Trailblazers in 1977, and the Miami Heat three short years ago in 2006. It appears history is wearing yellow and blue to the games, doesn’t it?

In this year’s version of the finals, the Magic have dug themselves a hole by suffering at the hands of the same approach that helped them beat the Cleveland Cavaliers – the 3-point shot. After shooting a lights-out 41% from long range in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Magic are shooting just 33% as a team now. The Magic’s overall shooting percentage has plummeted, too. After shooting 48% from the field in the Conference Finals, they’re shooting just 36% now. Why the sudden drop in numbers?

It wasn’t the layoff between series that cooled the Magic off – it’s simply better defense from the Lakers that’s doing the trick.

The Lakers have decided they have the interior defense to beat Magic center Dwight Howard. Andrew Bynum (7’0”), Pau Gasol (7’0”) and Lamar Odom (6’10”) have combined to play excellent defense on Howard. After averaging over 25 points a game against the Cavs, Howard is down to under 15 versus the Lakers. When the Laker guards come down to double team Howard, they all rotate intelligently to prevent many open 3-point shots, and do a good job at swiping at the ball. Howard is offensively gifted, but he is also offensively immature at times, too. One way the immaturity manifests itself is in how he holds the ball down below his waist when starting his move to the basket. That’s an easy target for quick defenders like guards Trevor Ariza, Derek Fisher who disrupt Howard’s move without completely abandoning their perimeter defensive assignment (like the Cavs recklessly did, time and again).

The Magic’s best offense options all come through Howard, especially when he gets the ball in the low-post and passes back to the perimeter for an open 3-pointer. The Lakers do not always have to double-team Howard, so the passing options aren’t as plentiful for the big center. The Laker big men have also done an excellent job of denying the Howard the ball inside. The Magic can adjust by running the high pick ‘n roll, but the Laker centers are all athletic enough to run with Howard and deny the entry pass, while the Cavs relied on low-post defensive rotation to get in front of Howard (even though it seems like no one told Anderson Varejao that idea).

The Magic have no shot at this series because the Lakers are a more athletic, more consistent team on offense and defense. If you look at the same Conference Finals to NBA Finals statistical comparison I highlighted for the Magic, it’s easy to see the Lakers are consistent. The Lakers have made 46% of their shots in both series, are actually shooting three percentage points worse from long range in the NBA Finals, but are grabbing roughly 45 rebounds a game, nearly an exact match between series.

The Lakers are more experienced, they have a better coach (with shirtsleeves), and they have a superstar who knows how to play in a big series. They have poise. But, most importantly, they have celebrity fans who actually care and also still rock the midriff shirts (if you clicked on that… my apologies). How could a team have more signs that they were set to win it all?

I don’t mean to gloss over the coach thing. If the Lakers win, it’s Phil Jackson’s 10th NBA championship – more than anyone else in the history of the league. So, when comparing coaches, I’ll take the best NBA coach ever over a guy who couldn’t even win the coach of the year award over Mike Brown, who coached the team the Magic smashed in the Conference Finals.

And, Bleacher Fan – there’s a reason Courtney Lee was open for that shot.

I am in no way anointing the Lakers champions right now. But, it’s clear to me that the Magic have dug themselves a hole they aren’t equipped to get out of for a very simple reason: the Lakers are better than they are.

The Lakers win this in 5 games.

Site Note: Don’t forget to read Bleacher Fan’s opening statement, and this debate’s intro.

2009 NBA Finals Debate – There’s Still Some Magic in Orlando

June 8, 2009

Please read the site note at the bottom of this post.

Attention NBA Fans: The Los Angeles Lakers are about to make history! After winning only 2 games in the NBA Finals, it appears that the rest of the world has decided to appoint them as the 2008-2009 Champions. Therefore, we will forget the rest of the Finals, and hand them the Larry O’Brien Trophy over today… right?

Sounds kind of stupid when you hear it put in words like that, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what Sports Geek will try to sell you. In essence, this series is over, and his message to the Orlando Magic is “Thanks for playing; here’s your participation trophy.”

Well, it’s a good thing for the Lakers that the Magic know how to take a hint, isn’t it? Just ask the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, both of whom had written off the Magic before their series began.

Here are two key reasons why the Magic, and their fans, are still in this series:

Reason #1 – Three games in a row in Orlando

Only fantasy sports are played on paper. Real sports are played on a court (at least in this case), where multiple factors come into play that you cannot quantify. The first of which is the task of winning on the road. While they were not successful in winning, Orlando proved last night that the Lakers are at least vulnerable at home. How vulnerable do the Lakers have to be? Only vulnerable enough to give up one game in LA. That was all it took for the Magic to beat the Cavs, and that’s all it will take for them to beat the Lakers.

Conversely, the Lakers have not yet tested their mettle in Orlando this post-season. The city of Orlando, whose citizens want nothing more than to show their support of a team making its first Finals appearance since 1995, can’t wait to show the Lakers what REAL fans are like. This series will likely end up heading back to Los Angeles with the Lakers trailing 3-2.

Reason #2 – Stan Van Gundy

There is no better coach in the NBA than Stan Van Gundy. His ability to anticipate and adapt is uncanny! I’ve never seen a coach make so many right decisions with the game on the line. Whether it’s trailing by 16 at the half, or taking a last-second shot at the buzzer. Van Gundy can read his game-time counterpart like an open book.

Beyond that ability to anticipate and react accordingly, Van Gundy trusts his entire team, not just one player, like the Cavs do in LeBron James, or the Lakers in Kobe Bryant. That makes them even more dangerous. When the game is on the line, Van Gundy has the utmost faith that his TEAM, regardless of who is on the court, will perform. That’s why, in this post-season of many nail-biter finishes, the Magic have come back with plays where Hedo Turkoglu takes the last-second shot, Rashard Lewis takes the shot, or Courtney Lee takes the shot.

If you are playing the Cavaliers in that situation, you know that LeBron’s getting the ball. For the Lakers, it’s Kobe. When it’s Orlando, though, you have to cover EVERYONE! Courtney Lee was uncontested in what should have been a game winning shot last night. The ball just didn’t fall right. However, no one could have predicted that as the play to end the game. Van Gundy knew his options, and implicitly knew which would give him the best opportunity to win.

Make no mistake, I am not predicting a Magic championship. They have a very steep uphill climb. They are down 0-2 against a very tough opponent. Nothing in this Finals series will be easy. That is no reason to write them off, though. The series is far from over, especially when you have a 3-game home stand with the best coach in basketball!

Site Note: Don’t forget to read the intro andSport Geek’s first rebuttal.