NBA Season Awards

17 04 2009

Well it’s the end of the NBA regular season so it’s time for my awards:

MVP: LeBron James

Runner up: Dwayne Wade

Most commentators are seeing this as a no contest – LeBron James has been the best player on the best team and at the same time has been utterly dominant. But to me this disguises the fact that he had a pretty good supporting cast. While none are exactly stellar (and yes I know Mo Williams was an All Star) they are all skilled role players and love playing with LeBron. Whether it’s the energetic pesky defence of Anderson Varejao and Delonte West or the spot up shooting of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Wally Szczerbiak this is a team built to complement LeBron. What also can’t be underestimated is having virtually the entire team together for a season and a half. They know how to play together and the results have shown.

But for me what Dwayne Wade has done with the Miami Heat, leading them to the fifth spot in the East is just as astounding. Who else on the Heat is comparable to LeBron’s supporting cast?  Udonis Haslem is capable of accomplishing a Varejao kind of role and Michael Beasley has the potential to be an All Star but there is little else other than those two. You stick LeBron with Wade’s crew and I expect you’d see roughly the same record.

There are other notable candidates, especially Chris Paul with New Orleans who has almost as bad a supporting cast as Wade, Dwight Howard with Orlando, Paul Pierce with Boston (how Boston have been able to claim the second seed in the East with so many injuries is astounding) and of course the perennial Kobe Bryant with the Lakers.

But in the end LeBron wins it. He’s the best player, playing for the best team and doing it in such a dominating fashion – both defensively and offensively.

Coach of the Year: Mike Brown

Runner up: Stan Van Gundy

A few weeks back this award was going to go to Jerry Sloan for the way he got his team to compete despite all the awful injury luck they had. Then they limped their way to the playoffs, losing 7 of their last 10 games. So that forced a rethink and that means, Mike Brown, step on down. He coached the Cavs to 66 wins and a fearsome 39 – 2 record at home. This award should almost be as slam dunk as LeBron for MVP. His runner up: Stan Van Gundy for getting the Magic to 59 wins, about 9 wins more than what many expected.

Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose

Runner up: Brooke Lopez

Derrick Rose had the pressure of being the number 1 pick AND playing in his home city and he didn’t disappoint. He managed to lead a flawed Chicago team to the playoffs in only his first year. He gave a tantalising preview of what should be a stupendous talent in years to come. In a deep draft Brooke Lopez showed that being drafted 10th was several positions too low. Lopez proved to be the centre the Nets were looking for both the present and the future.

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard

Runner up: Dwayne Wade

With Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan limited with injuries and the catching up of time, Dwight Howard stands out as the obvious candidate in this category. He lead the league in rebounds and blocks and while no one will mistake him for Bill Russell (would it hurt Howard once in a while to block the ball to a team mate?) he was the lynchpin on which the Orlando Magic defence relied. Dwayne Wade had a spectacular season (see the MVP runner up above) on offence AND defence. He was second in the league in steals and an astonishing (for a guard) 16th in blocks.

Most Improved Player: Kevin Durant

Runners up: Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris, Paul Millsap

I don’t know how much of Kevin Durant’s development this season can be attributed to his natural evolution or the firing of PJ Carlisemo. Whatever the case Durant has developed into a stud who will be making All Star games in the very near future. I had a hard time choosing between Rajan Rondo, Devin Harris and Paul Millsap for my runner up so I’ve decided to stick em all in. They all became critical players for their teams.

Sixth Man of the Year: Jason Terry

Runner up: Nate Robinson

Just as much as a foregone conclusion as the MVP. He averaged 19.6 points off the bench for the Mavs, good for 23rd in the NBA. He is the Mavs second best player and a game changer every time he comes on the court. Nate Robinson is a worthy runner up, a spark plug who can change how the game is played. He just wasn’t quite as good as Terry.  

And for interest here are my picks from the beginning of the season. I got one right. Ouch.


double ouch

30 03 2009

Ouch! That result hurt, more so for losing Brent Tate for the season than for the 26 – 10 scoreline. It was apparent early on that the Warriors weren’t in it. They were flat and seemingly without inspiration. It seems that last weeks thriller against Manly in 30 degrees heat wiped them out. Next weeks game is on Sunday so they should be refreshed. The main question is who will play in the centres with Jerome Ropati? The most logical player is Simon Mannering but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Lance Hohaia there when he comes back from injury. Sure he’s undersized but they need to fit him into the team somewhere.

As for the Blues, for the second week in a row they were dreadful. No direction and no true playmaker. they concede too many tries – for a team with two premium All Blacks in Ali Williams and Kevin Mealamu that’s shocking. They were looking promising for a while there but I doubt they’re going to make the playoffs.

2009 = Year of the Warriors

23 03 2009

I have been telling people for months that this year is the Warriors year. Of course I have been secretly hoping that for the last decade and a half but other than a couple of notable exceptions (especially 2002 when they made the Grand Final), I never really absolutely believed they had a legitimate chance to win the title. This year I absolutely believe.

We have pace, power, skill and flair with a perfect blend of youth, (Russell Packer, Joel Moon, Manu Vatuvei etc) and experience (most notably the incomparable Steve Price and Stacey Jones). The Warriors also have arguably the best backline in the NRL: the back three of Wade MacKinnon, Vatuvei and Denan Kemp are a match for anyone, both our centres are world class while in Joel Moon we have one of the best offseason buys – especially when he is paired beside Jones and the ever steady Nathan Fien.  The forward pack is direct and strong with some solid defensive stars in Jacob Lillyman, Michael Luck and Simon Mannering. The one thing the forwards lack is a true ball player like Sonny Bill Williams or Ali Lautiti but they compensate in other ways.

The first two games of the season proved the Warriors are going to be a true force this year. They steam rolled the Parramatta Eels last week, only letting the Eels back into it when the first game of the year style mistakes crept in, while yesterday they outlasted the Manly Sea Eagles (the defending champions no less!) in Brookvale. The Manly victory was especially sweet as they beat us 4 times last year.

Despite the fact that it was riddled with mistakes (it seems that the two referee system is meaning a superfast game that all teams are struggling to adjust to – as evidenced by the numerous mistakes on both sides) the game was a true classic. It was only decided when the greatest Warrior of them all, Stacey Jones, took over the game in the final 10 minutes. Until that point he had been drifting, not making any mistakes but when he flicked the switch and set up Brent Tate with a chip and regather it was like the Stacey of old had returned. It was hard to believe he hadn’t played for the Warriors in over three years, even harder to believe that he hadn’t even played in 18 months! And then he provided the perfect bomb for the match winning try.

With Stacey Jones back and able to drift in and out of games until needed (as illustrated yesterday) the Warriors are truly dangerous. In the NBA players like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Dwayne Wade are regarded as clutch because they take over games when they’re on the line. Jones is the Warriors clutch player and they’re going to be hard to stop as a result.

The one problem I see is the effect he will have on two other integral Warriors. It was noticeable to me that when Jones came on Nathan Fien became skittish. It’s understandable really, Jones has returned to take his spot and while Fien is a more than able hooker he had made the halfback jersey his own. It almost seemed that Fien tried too hard to replicate what Jones was doing when it is not his game. I hope he settles down. The other player is the super sub Lance Hohaia. Hohaia is the perfect game changer off the bench but with Jones back is there room for him, Fien and Hohaia? Or does Ian Henderson, the regular hooker, drop out? Hohaia is injured for another couple of weeks but it will be interesting to see what happens.

Bring on the Broncos next week!

time to panic?

19 03 2009

Well it looks like the Boston Celtics are stumbling their way to the end of the season. They’re still going to end up with one of the best records in the NBA, they currently have a 50 – 18 record and they can probably manage 60 wins and the 2nd or 3rd seed in the East but not too long ago this team looked like they were going to easily win 65+ games. The reason is pretty obvious for the slump: injuries. They’ve got way too many injuries to key players.

The most notable of course is Kevin Garnett. I remember a few weeks back when he first got injured and the team won a few games the PTI crew posed the question that the Celtics were better without him. Uh, I guess you can see the answer now. Without KG the Celtics are not the same – his stats might be down but he is the emotional centre and lynchpin of the defence. Also he gets you about 18 ppg. Without KG too much pressure falls on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to score.

For today’s game against the Miami Heat, Celtics Blog listed the Celtics injuries as:

Tony Allen (thumb) out
Kevin Garnett (knee) out
Brian Scalabrine (head) out
Glen Davis (ankle) day to day
Eddie House (ankle/heel) probable
Ray Allen (elbow) questionable
Rajon Rondo (ankle) questionable
Leon Powe (knee) questionable
Paul Pierce (flu-like symptoms)  probable

That’s pretty much your defending champions right there. Ouch. The only starter not on that list is Kendrick Perkins.

I’ve been reading stuff about how they wouldn’t mind losing a few games now if everyone is fit for the playoffs. It kinda suggests that Celtics fans shouldn’t panic. That’s all well and good but other than KG, which of the players is being kept out to rest up? Rajan Rondo is playing with a sprained ankle, Scalabrine is possibly out for the season and worse, Paul Pierce is having to play extended minutes. My point is, there is no guarantee any of those guys are going to be 100% fit for the playoffs and with the way the season is going they’re more than likely going to suffer more injuries.

Maybe it is a time to get worried. I know the Celtics are good enough but are they healthy enough?

new season Blues

13 02 2009

The Super 14 kicks off tonight and I’m feeling a wee bit meh about it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Blues and I’ll always support them, but its frikkin cricket season. Hell when the game kicks off tonight in Perth the Black Caps will be playing the Aussies in Brisbane! We’ve still got the Indians to play over here in a few weeks as well. Besides its summer not autumn or winter and yesterday was the equal hottest day ever for Auckland! It’s not rugby time.

There’s another reason for feeling a bit meh about the Blues. I’m just not confident about their chances. I think they’ll be good, just not champion calibre good. The Blues won the competition in 1996, 1997 and 2003. But the thing that makes those good Blues teams stand out is their first five. Carlos Spencer dominated for years and then Isa Nacewa and last year Nick Evans. This year we have the pu-pu-platter of Jimmy Gopperth and Tasesa Lavea. Neither inspire me with great confidence.

We have an awesome forward pack chock full of All Blacks (with Ali Williams back! Yay!), some slippery quick backs (hello Joe Rokocoko!) plus a powerful midfielder who looks like the second coming of Umaga (that’s you Isaia Toeava) but we have some average playmakers. I don’t know why the Blues haven’t gone out and recruited someone. With all the talent at other positions it seems a real weakness.

Whatever the case the Blues have provided me with many of my happiest memories over the years. I remember waiting at the airport to pick up my mum watching the Blues obliterate a South African team with sublime running rugby. In the ten minutes I was there they scored three tries. It was awesome. Then there were the Carlos Spencer moments. Too many to list but the favourite would have to be the try to beat the Crusaders where he crossed the line then deliberately walked out to the touch line to touch it down. Bliss.

If only they can translate that to this year!

Rain rain go away

14 01 2009

I love cricket. Always have. When I was a wee nipper I played soccer and cricket at school and then as I got older the games I used to play with my mates were invariably cricket and basketball. Even today the holy four sports for me are: rugby, league, basketball and cricket.

There was a point where the results of games mattered more than anything to me. If my team lost then it was disastrous which of course is an awful thing when you follow the NZ cricket team. They have times where they threaten to rise to the top such as nearly winning a series in Australia in 2001 (when Australia were arguably one of the greatest teams of all time) or regularly making the semi finals of the World Cup. I suppose it’s a result of this that has led me to savour a keen contest more than the actual result.

Which makes this season of freaking washouts and no contests so frustrating. We drew the test series with two draws, we drew the Twenty 20 series 1 each (with the first game decided in an eliminator over after the scores were tied at the end) and then the one day series was ruined by the frikkin weather. It feels like every game has been spoiled by the weather in some way. In the only game that wasn’t affected by the weather, the 3rd one dayer in Wellington, the Black Caps obliterated the West Indies so no contest there.

Last night was the worst. I knew I would miss most of the game because I was working till 7. I was still able to follow it on the net. The game looked gripping, a fantastic century by Chris Gayle, the coolest cricketer on the planet, set up the Windies 293/9 which was followed by a rollicking start by the Black Caps who reached 97 after 10 overs. The Black Caps then stumbled and the game got tighter and tighter. I left work thinking I would be in for an exciting finish only to get home and find that the contest was washed out one over after I left. Argh!!!!  

It’s driving me mental. I just want to see a good tight even contest that comes down to a thrilling finish. Is that too much to ask?

title? what title? who needs a title to their post?

24 11 2008

Whoah, haven’t blogged in a wee bit. Been busy with work and sorting a few other things out, but I’m back now 😉 (famous last words, right?)

So what have I been up to? Last week I flew down to Christchurch for a work conference which was cool. I’d never been down there before and it kinda felt like entering enemy territory. (for those of you who have no idea what I’m on about, I’m an Aucklander born and bred and Christchurch is our arch nemesis in everything). But Christchurch was cool, very pretty and I found myself wishing K was with me so we could go exploring.

What wasn’t so cool was the flight home and the toddler in the seat behind me who only wanted to smash his hands on the window and kick my seat. That was until he went to the bathroom after stinking out the rear of the plane. I know we’re going to have kids within a couple of years but that almost puts you off them.

I managed to do more work on the novel. I’ve been getting twitchy with it, partly because I’m not “really” writing and also because I just haven’t had the time to spend on it.

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve sat down and written something substantial for the novel. I’m still ploughing my way through my revisions and they’re taking a lot longer than I expected. Saying that, I am really enjoying rereading and working on the draft. I’ve got it almost right – I can feel it. I think every second chapter or so is good, or pretty close to something I am really happy with. Most of the work needs to happen at the front end of the novel and that’s what I’ll be looking at when I finally finish.

I mentioned earlier that I was thinking about splitting the book but I’m thinking I’ll wait to see what the reaction to it is first. The story as it stands seems compelling and I’d hate to mess that up unless I absolutely have to.

Then there was the awesome Rugby League World Cup Final in the weekend. For those who haven’t heard (or didn’t hear me screaming with joy at midnight on Saturday) the Kiwis defeated the Kangaroos to win our first ever world cup. I can see why the Aussies are upset – some of the decisions definitely went against them (notably the strip on Benji Marshall) but on the night they just weren’t good enough. In many ways it was like what happened to the All Blacks in the World Cup last year against the French but no one felt sorry for us then.