I love this time of year. The smell of spring, 'madness' and playoffs in the air. It's beautiful, really. A player hoping to enjoy the playoffs and this time of year is LeBron James. He is making his top bracket picks known but trying not to rustle any feathers at the same time. LeBron James says he still wants longtime favourite school Ohio State to win the 2011 NCAA title. He has a vested interest in declaring this publicly since this team wears the LeBron line of shoes and clothing. But if you go on his website, you'll see he picks Duke to win the final crown. Fan or not, this could also be considered another vested interest pick since Duke Head Coach Mike Kryzewski is also heading up USA Basketball's Men's National Team through to 2012. If LeBron James is looking to have an integral role on Team USA, this may be at least in the back of his mind inching forward. I do agree with LeBron when he says, "It's all fun. I love March Madness". So Happy St. Patrick's / March Madness Day to you and let the fun begin.
Last Thursday, I told you we would be continuing our playoff discussion the following Tuesday. It got bumped to today since there is just so much going on in the NBA right now and I am endeavouring to bring you the best of everything. In addition to our playoff discussion, we'll talk about Grant Hill taking on Jalen Rose and the Sacramento Kings moving in on Clippers and Laker territory.
"It's sad and pathetic"
Here we go. As we discussed Tuesday in "NBAz in 7 Dayz", there are many NBA players with special attachments to NCAA clubs. Grant Hill and Jalen Rose are no exception. So when an NBA colleague makes disparaging comments about your Alma mater, of course you are going to feel the need to respond. Grant Hill (former Duke Blue Devil) is criticizing Jalen Rose (former Michigan star) for saying Hill's old college team "only recruited black players that were 'Uncle Toms". Now, this is a pretty strong statement to make. In a recent documentary about Michigan's Fab Five, Jalen Rose made these comments saying he hated Duke back then and said the ACC program would never recruit someone like him. Grant Hill collects his thoughts and warns his colleagues and Michigan alumni in a New York Times column Wednesday: "fabulous five friends [should] avoid stereotyping me and others they do not know in much the same way so many people stereotyped them back then for their appearance and swagger". A little tension among the ranks, perhaps? Maybe Jalen Rose is hanging on to the 1992 national title game when Duke beat Michigan? In any case, when you make emotionally-charged statements like that, you better be prepared to stand against the fire. I might not have used the words "sad" or "pathetic" to describe what Rose said but I can see why Grant Hill used them.
'We are but we aren't. Oh and no comment'
The Sacramento Kings are packing their bags and moving to Southern California - maybe. With the Kings contemplating a move to Anaheim, an attorney representing the team's owners filed for at least four federal trademark registrations this month. The names are not very eye- popping either: Anaheim Royals, Anaheim Royals of Southern California, Orange County Royals and Los Angeles Royals. This filing was made on March 3rd and attorney Scott Hervey (representing the owners of the Sacramento Kings) has not yet made any comments as of Thursday morning. This is where things go south for me. Not just because we already have a Clippers and a Lakers in Los Angeles but because the deadline has already passed for move applications. NBA Teams have until March 1st to apply to move their club the following season. The Kings now have an extension until April 18th to make their formal move application as per the NBA. So what is the league trying to say? For years, Sacramento has been against a publicly financed facility but the Sacramento Kings' owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, think public funding crucial. Even Sacramento Mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson, thinks they are on their way out after having met with them last month, but says it is not yet a done deal. Although Major Johnson seems to be supporting the move, he also said the City of Sacramento will work to build a new arena for an NBA franchise "with or without the Kings". (Hmm. Representing the interests of his constituency or his personal connection to professional basketball?)
So if Sacramento has long said no to aiding in the construction of a new arena and now Major Johnson is open to the idea and that is what the Kings' owners wanted in the first place, why move now? It's the voting public in Sacramento. In 2006, voters turned down the idea to increase a sales tax to fund a new arena. The NBA stepped in and tried to help the city and the team find another solution to stay. But come the 2011 NBA All-Star weekend, David Stern said enough is enough and the league would no longer being investing any more time or energy on the matter - the Sacramento Kings were free to go. This is where it gets interesting. The city of Anaheim has been shopping around for an NBA club to share the Honda Center with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks since 1993. The Clippers almost considered teaming up with the Ducks but instead chose the Staples Center in 1999. So why are the Sacramento Kings and the NBA humming and hawing over this? I know there are board approvals, possible relocation fees and legalities to think about but if the city of Anaheim can embrace hockey, surely they can make room for the NBA.
Off to the playoffs
Here's a recap of my playoff picture as stated last week:
Boston Celtics over Indiana Pacers
Orlando Magic over Atlanta Hawks
New York Knicks over Miami Heat
Chicago Bulls over Philadephia 76ers
San Antonio Spurs over Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder over Denver Nuggets
Los Angeles Lakers over Portland Trail Blazers
Dallas Mavericks over New Orleans Hornets
I am confident in my picks except for two points: Miami and San Antonio. While I don't think based on their track record the inconsistent Heat can go the distance against teams in their playoff division, the inconsistent teams are sometimes the hardest to predict. Ask any defender and most will tell you it is easier to guard a stronger team or player because you almost always know what they are going to do next. The problem with this is making sure your conditioning and skill level can meet the standards needed to defeat said team. The Miami Heat have shown they can be strong but have also shown serious deficiencies, including metal toughness. While I chose the Lakers to be the NBA's Western Conference Champions this year, I hate to say it but the Spurs are ruffling the feathers a little. They are quietly doing all the little things to win games, not the most exciting (which is why they have remained under the radar) but all the right things. If the Lakers fall apart somehow (as they have shown this season - against the Cavaliers - case in point), the San Antonio Spurs are the only team in the West with the experience (and season record to back it up) to go the distance. This is as far as I go - you can debate the rest.
Thanks for joining me this week. As always, keep your comments and suggestions coming by following me on Facebook (Danielle de Graauw) and Twitter (@ddegraauw). Next Thursday, why don't we discuss MVP, Rookie of the year and all such accolades? Think about it over the weekend and in the meantime, I will see you on Tuesday for more NBA news coverage in "NBAz in 7 Dayz".