Out of Bounds with Jason Riley

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.

  • http://yahoo.com markco2

    i somehow thought of that, that kg is just resting..
    but even with him healthy, this is not the same celtics team that won last year.. cavs now are better than them..
    but a hungrier Lakers will win this year.. Laker – Cavs in the finals, with L.A. taking it in 5 or even a sweep

  • Jake

    Great post. I think we’re in for an exciting second season!

  • k1on

    The D-Wade over Lebronze thing intrigues me. In my opinion, D-Wade should win the MVP because without him we know that the Heat are a 15-win team. If Michael Beasley develops into a solid second or third scoring option for D-Wade and plays somewhat average defense on Queen James, me thinks the heat can take the series. And most people don’t give him enough credit for what he does, so look for him to go on destructive scoring binges a-la kobe’s 81 pts at least two or three times in a series.

    As for Orlando having somewhat of an advantage against cleveland, i think its because Lebronze is actually hesistant at driving towards Dwight Howard, idk i’m probably wrong but when theres a big man (in this case, one hell of an athletic one) standing between you and the rim, i’m pretty sure even those “no regard for human life” dunks (kind of wimpy if u ask me, kobe’s dagger threes literally make you lose hope in life, like u go into depression when he hits one of those) he thrives off of are hard to get.

    and i actually think Houston might win their series against portland before game 7, their loss in portland came after blowing a fourth quarter lead (i may be mistaken but i’m pretty sure they were leading by more than 10) so if their defense holds up a couple of times in Rose Garden their gonna have a pretty short series.

  • Mitch4Pres

    great post i hope ur right about d wade beating the cavs

  • Sam

    This Celtics team with a healthy Garnett is actually better than last year’s team. That doesn’t mean they would beat the Cavs anyway since Cleveland matches up as well with Boston as Boston does with LA.

  • lakers4life

    U GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!!!D WADE OVER LEBRON??????
    LEBRON BEAT THE PISTONS SINGLEHANDEDLY AND LED HIS MEDIOCRE TEAM TO THE FINALS in ’07
    KOBE IS THE BEST TODAY BUT LEBRON WILL BE BETTER.
    no offense, im a huge lakers fan too

    P.S. LEBRON SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME.

  • WifelovesLuke

    “lakers4life
    Apr 17th, 2009 at 3:11 am
    U GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!!!D WADE OVER LEBRON??????
    LEBRON BEAT THE PISTONS SINGLEHANDEDLY AND LED HIS MEDIOCRE TEAM TO THE FINALS in ‘07
    KOBE IS THE BEST TODAY BUT LEBRON WILL BE BETTER.
    no offense, im a huge lakers fan too

    P.S. LEBRON SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME.”

    How does a Laker4life drink LBJ cool aid? Secondly, D Wade is the future in the NBA. It’s just that BSPN owns stock in LBJ and has to crown him so they can collect on their investment. Is LBJ a beast? Of course! Best over Kobe and D Wade? No f ing way. Too many holes in his offense. He’s fun to watch, but let Kobe and D Wade have the ball in the closing minutes. Let’s all wait and see where D Wade ends up in 2010. And guys, Kobe is only 30! Stop talking like he is ready to retire. He can be solid for at least another 3-4 years with the right supporting cast. Pau is still yound and Bynum is only going to get better. Kobe has a legit shot at 3 more titles (including June of 09′)

  • http://www.j-ri.com Jason Riley

    Markco – A sweep over Cleveland, huh? I sure hope you’re right!

    K1on – I think you’re right. In that blowout win for Orlando a couple weeks ago, the Queen wasn’t getting anything at the rim. Dwight Howard forces him outside, which is exactly where you want him.

    Lakers4Life – Not that I can say it better than WifelovesLuke, but I do think Bron gets a pass with the media. For example, did Sportscenter even cover Wade’s 55 on the Knicks the same night LBJ & the Cavs smoked Boston? I agree that Lebron is a beast, and will become a great player, but based on what Wade has accomplished in the same amount of time, I’d take Wade, and would continue to, every time.

    WifeLovesLuke – Agree with you on Kobe being only ’30’. He’s got a-lot of wear on those legs. It’ll be interesting to see how many gears he’s got left during this playoff run. That will say alot.

  • Diehardfan

    WOW! I never thought about that. But Wade has accomplished more than Lebron at this point in both of their careers. Freakin Media!

  • Toon

    LBJ is a beast, gotta admit. But…….. what is so annoying about the NBA is how the officials make players’ lives so hard on defense more than on offense. Look at all the calls Bron gets. I’m not so sure that “almost” every athlete in the NBA is too scared to keep in front of him. They are more scared of the risk of foul calls than his beast body. It’s all a plan to promote his fame, that’s all. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to drive in at will against little resistance.

  • Dracul

    [Comment ID #68199 Will Be Quoted Here]

    k1on makes a very enlightened point here –

    The exasperation and demoralizing factor in the 3 point shot is how it compares to even the biggest, most thunderous-from-the-free-throw-line-in-your-face-posterization-ever –

    A dunk can be thought of as this –

    A- Physically getting to the basket must be achieved.
    B- A succesful lob or dribble drive to the basket must be achieved.
    C- A succesful dunk attempt must be achieved.
    D- It’s still only 2 points, no matter how spectacular.
    E- It requires athleticism and some skill – not all basketball players can dunk.

    Now, compare that to the 3-point shot:

    A- You must release the ball beyond the 3 point line.
    B- A succesful 3-point-line-and beyond attempt must be achieved.
    C- Any basketball player (regardless of 3 point shooting ability) can camp outside the 3 point line and shoot it. No athleticism required, just skill to make it consistently.
    D- It’s 3 points, which is more than 2.

    As you can see, in order to defend a successful 3 point shot, you don’t have as many options, such as placing multiple bodies in front of the person driving, or tipping the ball away on the lob. The 3 point shot is more demoralizing, because you know there’s nothing you can legally do about it once the ball has achieved full flight status. So in a way it feels ‘lucky’ to see a 3 point shot, and thus more demoralizing when you see it happen, because with the dunk, not only know you that lots of things can be done about it (including the person from whose perspective you are talking about), but also it still doesn’t cancel out a 3 point shot. So you slump your shoulders if Kobe hits a 3 pointer on you because its almost like you’re playing ‘flip the coin’ to see who wins, and you just lost. Not much control over the outcome there. Most of it lies with the shooter.

    -Dracul