Monday, May 30, 2011

Finals Thoughts

Questions and notes about this year’s finals. Here we go…

Home court: the Heat have home court advantage. Unlike every other series, the Final’s format is 2-3-2 meaning the Mavs will get to play 3 straight home games. This could be huge if Dallas can steal a game in Miami before coming home. Miami will have problems playing in front the loud, energized Dallas crowd.

Only reason the Heat have home court is because they have a better record by one game. In the final game of the season, the Heat benched their big 3 and still beat the Raptors by 18. HUGE!

Matchups: Who guards who is going to make or break the series.

Will LeBron guard Dirk towards the end of the game? How aggressive will both of them be on the other? Can LeBron afford the fouls? Will James be too tired to close games?

Can Haslem repeat his defense from 2006 on this year’s Dirk? Is Haslem in good enough shape after his injury.

Who checks Wade – Barera, Kidd, Terry, Peja, Stevenson?

Coaching: The coaching edge probably goes to Rick Carlisle and the Mavs. He has consistently coached or been on a coaching staff of winning teams. In addition, the Mavs have an on court coach in Jason Kidd and a very veteran team.

Carlisle’s main coaching focus will be on defense. How do they defend the big 3? In the 2 (early) season victories over the Heat, they went to the zone quite a few times. Since the last win in December, Miami is clearly a different team. Passing beats a zone and good passing requires trust and chemistry which the Heat have developed over the year.

At what point does Erik Spoelstra begin to receive his coaching credit? He just coached a team that beat the Celtics and the Bulls. That’s no easy task even if you have the world of talent. Everyone thought the Heat would not gel quickly enough and not make it to this point, only to have Pat Riley take over. However, Spoelstra has managed the stars and it appears him and James are working fine together. When things are going great, the players are applauded. When things are not going well, fans want Spoelstra's head off. It will be interesting to see how the players talk about Spoelstra if the Heat win.

Spoelstra will have to deal with keeping the Heat players focused and making sure they play their game. They can’t get caught up in the hype, pressure, 2006 and the other non-basketball related talk.

Officiating: Mark Cuban’s mouth will stay closed until LeBron’s traveling gets too much to handle. After the 2006 finals, Dirk told Cuban to keep his mouth shut because it is distracting. Cuban has been pretty quiet this year because he knows his team actually has a chance. But if the refs are making the series unfair, don’t bet against Cuban to start talking. He wants this team to win real bad.

Dirk’s post game press conference: Why does Dirk always hold the mic to answer his questions? Is he too tall to lean forward? He should just leave it on the table like everybody else, it just looks awkward.

American Airlines: both teams play in an arena sponsored by American Airlines. Aside from overexposed commercials, what can we expect from AA? Each game is worth about 10-11 million dollars in advertising for the airline. They only paid $42 million to name the Miami’s arena for 20 years. How will the fans/consumers be rewarded? Some suggestions – bags fly free for the summer, give fans free flight + ticket packages so they can attend every game or discounted ticket prices for everybody to Miami.

Bold Statement: If the Heat win, LeBron’s Finals MVP trophy speech will be “Look at me now”

Prediction: Miami in 7
Game 1 - Miami
Game 2 -Dallas
Game 3 - Dallas
Game 4 – Miami
Game 5 - Dallas
Game 6 - Miami
Game 7- Miami

National Pride

Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment in the US Constitution and allows for an individual to voice, through various mediums, their thoughts on a wide range of issues from public policy to judging a famed actress’ dress.

One of those mediums is Twitter, the social networking and micro blogging service.

With the recent news about the death of Osama Bin Laden, Rashard Mendenhall took to Twitter to tell us how he really feels. Late Monday evening, Mendenhall tweeted: "What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side..." In addition, he added, "We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style."

I’m not necessarily agreeing with his comments but I also don’t think it requires the Pittsburgh Steelers organization to release a statement as a response. This shouldn’t be a story at all but here I am writing about it. There are thousands of people out in Twitter world who had similar feelings.

Mendenhall is a star running back in the NFL and what he does is publicized more than the average person. So because of this he has to be more careful when he tweets than me? At the risk of misrepresenting his sport, employer and coworkers, he has to limit what he says?

The 1st Amendment gives him the right to say pretty much what he wants to. Granted not everything that can be said is always safe to say but Mendenhall gave his opinion on a recent news story. His views are shared by a minority but still expressed by others in a public forum such as CNN, FOX News and other TV networks as well as printed media. They voice similar opinions without the ridicule because it’s part of their job.

As a society do we expect Mendenhall’s comments not to have any value or depth because he is just a football player? Mendenhall is a person with a unique perspective on the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Of all organizations, the first class Steelers, owned by Dan Rooney (US Ambassador to Ireland and the driving force behind the “Rooney Rule”) should understand the diversity within its team. Those players share the same ideas when on the gridiron but outside the stadium they are individuals.

Let’s be real about this, Mendenhall is in the minority but his thoughts cause a healthy debate. I follow a few athletes on Twitter and I’ve read much worse. If people were really offended by Mendenhall’s comments they should look at other athletes who would have various race, political and gay rights groups calling the league.