It would be really easy to sit here and regurgitate the Lakers vs. Cleveland, Lebron vs. Kobe, The Now vs. The Future predictions and plot-lines like every other sports columnist in America. And, if I were a betting man, I’d confidently be placing my money on the Lakers to beat Cleveland in six games in the NBA Finals.
Instead, I decided to step out on a limb and present to you five bold predictions, err… possibilities, for the 2009 NBA Playoffs. In other words, here are five stories nobody is talking about that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see during this postseason. As always, your feedback is certainly welcome.
Dwayne Wade tops Lebron James, Advances to Conference Finals.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a column boldly declaring that I would take Dwayne Wade over Lebron James. Blame it on my best friend being a Heat fan, or my slight dislike for Lebronze, or my fancy for Mr. Wade, or a combination of them all, but I still stand by that. Dwayne Wade is the second best player in the NBA, and in a year or two, I think he trumps an aging Kobe Bryant and becomes the best player in the world.
Have we forgotten how dominate D-Wade was in ’06? His Championship Ring? His Finals MVP? His raping of the Mavs? His out-performance of Lebron during the Olympics? What about how he took an undersized, in-experienced, less talented Heat squad to the #5 seed in the East? Or that he dropped 29, 21, 41 and 25 in his four matchups with Cleveland, splitting the series 2-2? What about the motivation that comes with Lebron having replaced him as the darling of the NBA? Or that nobody is giving him any chance to win?
Aside from Kobe, if there’s one guy who can single-handedly win a playoff series for you, it’s Dwayne Wade. Unfortunately, with such a young and un-tested Miami Heat team, you never know who else is going to show up and play hard. If Wade plays like the Wade we remember from ’06, I give him as good a chance as anybody to dethrone the self-proclaimed King James. And if it happens, you heard it here first.
Howard, Magic to face Kobe, Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Let’s say the following happens:
Miami (or Atlanta) upsets Cleveland.
KG really doesn’t end up playing for the Celtics.
Logical choice? The Orlando Magic. Even if Cleveland ends up in the Conference Finals, Orlando matches up extremely well with them. Superman and company took two of three from them in blowout fashion, and their one loss in Cleveland came after a couple of questionable calls down the stretch, not to mention Orlando blowing a fourth quarter lead.
I’d go as far as to say this: The Cleveland Cavaliers would much rather see the KG-Less Boston Celtics in the Conference Finals than Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. Based on the way the Lakers played against Orlando this season, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t prefer Cleveland or Boston either.
Half of the 1st Round Matchups are decided by a 7th Game.
Out of all my daring possibilities, I think this is the most likely to happen. Honestly, I wouldn’t be all that shocked if five of the eight first round matchups went to a seventh game.
New Orleans & Denver.
Are either of these teams good enough to win on the road?
Dallas & San Antonio.
Can the Mavs repeat the Game 7 performance against the Spurs in 2006?
Houston & Portland.
Does anyone think Portland can win away from the Rose Garden?
Miami & Atlanta.
Or, better yet, D-Wade over Atlanta with the series on the line?
Chicago & Boston.
Did anybody see how tough the Bulls played Boston this year? Take KG out of the equation…
A mostly healthy KG shows up for the Conference Finals.
Have we not seen this before? How about Paul Pierce riding a wheelchair to the locker room during the first game of last years’ Finals? I have no doubt that KG is hurt. I also wouldn’t put anything past the Boston Celtics organization.
If Boston were to survive Chicago and Orlando, would KG not be ready to go in the next 4-5 weeks? Can you imagine the energy he would bring to that team? The injured captain uniting the troops in the biggest battle of their lives? If you’re a Boston Celtics fan, is there anything more riveting than a title defense culminating with a fresh KG showing up just in time?
By all indications, KG is severely hurt. I mean, for someone who plays as tough as he does, it’s hard to imagine him not suiting up if he was able to go. But what if he is hurt, only not as bad as they’re making it out to be? What if he could play if he absolutely had to? Maybe at 60-70%? Would it be better to hold him out, tell everyone you’re shutting him down for the season only to bring him back for a big moment; say a game seven in Cleveland?
Chances are, my conspiracy theory is nothing more than that. But if he does emerge out of the shadows, I wouldn’t be shocked at all.
The Dallas Mavericks get their shot at the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
On paper, the Dallas Mavericks are a really good team.
J-Kidd (Future HOF)
Dirk Nowitzki (Former MVP)
Josh Howard (All-Star caliber)
Jason Terry (6th Man of the Year)
Somehow, the Mavs managed to win 50 games this year. They also ended the season strong, taking 7 of their last 9 games. I happened to watch that Dallas, Houston game earlier this week and American Airlines Center was as loud as I’ve ever heard it. This team will be a tough out no matter who they play, and if you ask me, they got a pretty good draw in the San Antonio Spurs.
Duncan looks banged up. We know Manu will be wearing a suit for the playoffs. Michael Finley has been inconsistent. This is the most vulnerable Spurs team we’ve seen in a decade, and I give a streaking Mavericks team a good chance at getting one in San Antonio and winning this series.
If Dallas can beat San Antonio, they can certainly beat an inexperienced Nuggets team or the underachieving New Orleans Chris Pauls’. Either way, the Mavs will make things interesting.
Jason Riley is a columnist for the Lakers Nation. In addition to this column, he writes on an array of topics that you can check out by visiting J-Ri.com. You can email him by clicking here, or look him up on Facebook.