June 25, 2010

Wizards select John Wall with 1st pick of the Draft

The NBA Draft offered no surprises - as expected, the Washington Wizards selected John Wall from the Universty of Kentucky with the number one pick. Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson, and DeMarcus Cousins rounded up the top five.

Here is the entire list of the first round picks:

1. Washington Wizards: John Wall, PG
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Evan Turner, SG
3. New Jersey Nets: Derrick Favors, PF
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: Wesley Johnson, SG
5. Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins, PF
6. Golden State Warriors: Ekpe Udoh, PF
7. Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe, C
8. Los Angeles Clippers: Al-Farouq Aminu, SF
9. Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward, SF
10. Indiana Pacers: Paul George, SF
11. New Orleans Hornets: Cole Aldrich, C
12. Memphis Grizzlies: Xavier Henry, SG
13. Toronto Raptors: Ed Davis, PF
14. Houston Rockets: Patrick Patterson, PF
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Larry Sanders, PF
16. Minnesota Timberwolves: Luke Babbitt, SF
17. Chicago Bulls: Kevin Seraphin, PF
18. Oklahoma City Thunder: Eric Bledsoe, PG
19. Boston Celtics: Avery Bradley, SG
20. San Antonio Spurs: James Anderson, SG
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Craig Brackins, PF
22. Portland Portland: Elliot Williams, SG
23. Minnesota Timberwolves: Trevor Booker, PF
24. Atlanta Hawks: Damion James, SF
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Dominique Jones, SG
26. Oklahoma City Thunder: Quincy Pondexter, SF
27. New Jersey Nets: Jordan Crawford, SG
28. Memphis Grizzlies: Greivis Vasquez, PG
29. Orlando Magic: Daniel Orton, PF
30. Washington Wizards: Lazar Hayward, SF

Although the top two picks are guards, this has been a particularly good year for big men, and really, the league needs them more than ever before. The likes of Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, Ekpe Udoh, Greg Monroe, Cole Aldrich, Ed Davis, and Patrick Patterson were all chosen in the top 14.

The winners of the draft day were really the Bulls, who traded away their 17th pick and Kirk Hinrich to the Washington Wizards, and were thus able to clear enough cap enough for the available class of excellent free agents, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer, Amar'''e Stoudemire, etc, etc, etc...

With John Wall and Kirk Hinrich in the back court, now it seems more and more likely that the Wizards will trade away Gilbert Arenas.

June 24, 2010

Indian Coaches to be trained at GMU

With the recently announced IMG Reliance partnership with the BFI, India seems to be taking some positive strides in developing basketball facilities, infrastructure, and player development, but even the best players will be lost without the right direction. With this in mind, the BFI has also collaborated with jdBasketball and the George Mason University(GMU) to welcome 10 Indian coaches to Vermont, USA, for intense training courses, from July 2-12.

American basketball coaches JD Walsh, Craig Esherick, and Bob Baker have visited Indian in November 2009 and April 2010 to hold coaching clinics and camps for players and coaches. Now, Walsh (who has been at the forefront of promoting basketball training in India for over three years now), Esherick (former head coach of Georgetown University), and Baker (Head of Sports Management at GMU) are set to go through on and off court training that will include discussions of coaching philosophy, nutrition, strategy as well as marketing and organization.

The list of coaches, selected by the BFI, are some of the biggest names in Indian basketball, many of whom are past or present coaches of junior and senior national teams and have represented India as players in the past.

The coaches invited are:

Abdul Hamid Khan.
Aparna Ghosh
Bijender Hooda
Prasanna Jayasankar
Rajesh Patel
Rajinder Singh
Ram Kumar
Shiba. Maggon
Divya Singh
Gour Raghavendra Singh
Yuvika Sharma
Vinod Vacahni

June 23, 2010

To Mock a Draft

In less than 48 hours, the NBA is going to be officially injected with a boost of fresh blood - the NBA draft will be held at the Theatre in Madison Square Garden, New York, where NBA teams will pick amateur players from US college basketball and other eligible players, including international players. The Washington Wizards won the lottery, and thus the rights to make the draft's first pick.

With the help of many different sources, including Draftexpress, SLAMOnline, Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, and other sources, I've been able to draw my own picture and predict how the players will be picked on the evening of June 24th / the morning of June 25th, if you happen to be watching from IST.

So, without further ado, here is Hoopistani's Mock Draft 2010 of the top 14 (lottery) picks:

1. Washington Wizards - John Wall: Wall was the favourite months before the lottery, during the lottery, after the lottery, today, and tomorrow. By far the most explosive player in this draft, Wall will immediately become one of the best young point guards in the league, adding competition to the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, etc. Move over Gilbert Arenas, it's gonna get Wall-E over in Washington!

2. Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner: There has been some talk of the 76ers potentially ignoring Turner and picking a big man like Derrick Favors, but they should play it safe and pick the former national player of the year. He's bound to become the best answer to their woes since The Answer himself.

3. New Jersey Nets - Derrick Favors: This is a draft class heavy on talented big men, and I feel Favors is the best one of them all. He will make a dangerous tandem in New Jersey with Brook Lopez.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves - Wesley Johnson: Johnson's stock has increased a lot recently, and some even expecting him to go third. I feel the Timberwolves will be calling the services of this talented wingman.

5. Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins: Cousins' attitude may have caused a drop in stock for him, but I feel any team will be dumb to let him fall outside the top 5.

6. Golden State Warriors - Greg Monroe

7. Detroit Pistons - Ed Davis

8. Los Angeles Clippers - Al-Farouq Aminu

9. Utah Jazz - Ekpe Udoh

10. Indiana Pacers - Xavier Henry

11. New Orleans Hornets - Luke Babbit

12. Memphis Grizzlies - Cole Aldrich

13. Toronto Raptors - Paul George

14. Houston Rockets - Gordon Hayward

June 22, 2010

The RonDemption

"Everybody in LA expects a second ring. And if we don’t then yeah, they should point it right at me, throwing tomatoes and everything." Ron Artest, September 2009.

11 months ago, still hoarse smoking the victory cigar, the Los Angeles Lakers made the boldest of bold moves. Staring forward Trevor Ariza refused to agree and extend his contract with the Lakers, instead signing with the Houston Rockets. The Lakers immediately made a move, signing the then 29-year-old Ronald William "Ron" Artest from the Rockets. It was a move that raised a considerable amount of controversy for the defending champions, as if life for the Lakers wasn't already crazy enough.

The pros said that Artest would bring the neccessary toughness and defensive tenacity that the Lakers had been lacking - if Kobe was Jordan and Pau was Pippen, Artest was supposed to be the Dennis Rodman - unpredictable, efficient, tough.

But there were many cons, many questions about his character and his decision-making. Could Kobe and Phil Jackson tame the Ron Monster? Artest made the quote above in September last year, a couple of months before the season began, taking full blame if the Lakers weren't to repeat as champions. And he was right, too - on paper, his virtual trade-off for Ariza was the only difference that Lakers 2009-10 were going to have from Lakers 2008-09.

Fast forward to June 17, 2010. Less than a week ago. It is Game Seven of the NBA Finals, the biggest stage in the NBA, Artest's Lakers going against historic rivals Celtics, just one game to decide the fate of both teams. Blame me if we don't repeat, Artest had said. He had one shot at redemption, one game to turn around all the other crazy shit that he has gone through in his life.

This is my re-imagination of what went off in the head of Ron Artest, aka Ron Ron, aka Tru Warier, minutes before the biggest basketball game in his life.

- Childhood, in the ghettoes of Queensbridge, New York, where he was born on November 13, 1979.

- The murder of Lloyd Newton: Playing basketball in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in the world. During a YMCA Sanctioned Basketball tournament in 1991, Artest witnessed the on-court murder of 19-year-old Newton, who was stabbed in the back with a broken-off table leg during an altercation. "It was so competitive, they broke a leg from a table and they threw it, it went right through his heart and he died right on the court. So I'm accustomed to playing basketball really rough," Artest had said.

- Early success in basketball, in New York's Summer Tournaments, high-school basketball at La Salle Academy and college basketball at St. John's University.

- And with the 16th pick of the 1999 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select... Ron Artest!

- During his early years with the Bulls in the NBA, drinking Hennessey cognac during halftime of the games. "I [kept it] in my locker. I'd just walk to the liquor store [near the stadium] and get it."

- With the Indiana Pacers, getting suspended twice in 2003 - the first time for destroying a television camera during a Knicks game at the Madiscon Square Garden, and the second time for a confrontation with then-Heat coach Pat Riley.

- Having the best season of his professional career that same year, averaging over 18 points and nearly six rebounds for the Pacers, making the 2004 All Star Game, and named Defensive Player of the Year. The Pacers ended up with the best record in the NBA, but lost to the eventual champions Detroit Pistons in the Conference Finals.

- Once showing up to practice with the Pacers in his bath robe.

- Being suspended again, for requesting his coach for a month off because he was tired from promoting an R&B album for the group 'Allure' on his production label.

And at this point, halfway through the flashback, there is a glitch in Ron Artest's memory. There is something he can't remember, something big, something important. He looks up from the court and sees a fan holding on to a cup of beer. That's when he remembers.

- November 19, 2004, the Malice at the Palace, probably the worst brawl in NBA history: Still with the Pacers, with less than a minute left in their game against the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Artest got into a little confrontation with the other great defensive stalwart, Ben Wallace. During the argument, Artest laid down on the scorer's table. A spectator, John Green, then threw a cup of Diet Coke/beer/unidentifiable liquid at Artest while he was lying on the table. Artest responded by running into the stands and punching a man whom he mistakenly believed was responsible. Artest's teammate Stephen Jackson also ran into the stands shortly after and threw punches at fans, and eventually players from both teams entered the stands while many fans spilled out on to the court to escape the altercation. Another melee started when Artest was confronted on the court by two fans, both of whom Artest punched/knocked out. Jermaine O'Neal intervened by punching one of the fans in the jaw after a running start. The scene became chaotic and outnumbered arena security struggled to keep order. As the aftermath of this melee, Jackson, O'Neal, and Artest, and five others from both teams were suspended by the NBA. Artest's suspension was the longest, for the remainder of the season (73 regular season games and 13 playoff games). Artest lost approximately $7 million in salary due to the suspension.

- "Betraying" the Pacers in 2005, when he demanded a trade, and received it, to the Sacramento Kings for Peja Stojakovic.

- Succeeding with the struggling Kings team, and bringing them back to the playoffs.

- Releasing his first album 'My World' in October 2006, which was a mix of rap, R&B, and crazy.

- Spending 10 days in jail in 2007 after being arrested for domestic abuse, and subsequently, being suspended by the Kings.

- June 17, 2008 - AFter the Lakers had lost Game 6 of the NBA Finals (and the Championship) by an embarrasing 39 points to the Boston Celtics, he approached Kobe Bryant in the locker room after the game, while Kobe was taking a shower. "I want to come help you," Artest told Kobe. "If I can, I'm going to find a way to come to LA and give you the help you need to win a title."

- Being traded to the Houston Rockets in 2008, and helping them reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Also, making life hell for Kobe Bryant, who was on his way to the 2009 Championship.

- Becoming a Laker in July 2009.

- Changing his jersey number from 15 (in honour of his father) to 23 (in honour of Michael Jordan) to 91 (in honour of Dennis Rodman) to 93 (because it apparently looks like qB- Queensbridge) to 96 (same reason) to 37 (because that's how long Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' was on the top of the pop charts).

- Going crazy in LA, from releasing random work-out videos to showing up at a talk show in his boxers.

- Still defending harder than a mutha. Still taking stupid three-pointers.

- May 27, 2010: Game 5, Conference Finals, Phoenix Suns. The buzzer-beater that made him famous, again, that made him a hero, banking a shot in at the final second to give Lakers the win and a 3-2 lead against the Suns.

- Shutting down 2008 Finals MVP Paul Pierce for most of the NBA Finals.

- Running what is now being called The Worst Offensive Position in Finals History in Game 2 - Artest did a Benny Hill impression, where his foolishness helped give the game away to the Celtics.

- Still defending harder than a mutha. Still taking stupid three-pointers.

And then he blinks. And then he's back. Game 7. This was his chance at redemption. At burying the horrors of that YMCA tournament in New York, of that Chicago Bulls locker room, of the brawl at Detroit, of all those suspensions, and fines, and criticisms, of Trevor Ariza's shadow, of Game 2.

Here was his chance to show the 'good' Artest - that which won defensive player of the year, that which made every team he was ever a part of better, that which hit the game winner against the Suns.

And at the biggest stage of his life, here he was. Artest has a game-leading 12 points in the first half, and he finishes the game with 20, second highest for the Lakers. He also holds Paul Pierce to a 5-15 night, and has clutch play after clutch play, including a dagger three, and becoming the hero of the Game, as Lakers win the title.

After the game, Artest gave perhaps the second-greatest post-game interview ever (my favourite is still Garnett's in 2008). He thanked his hood, his family, and his psychiatrist, who helped him "relax a lot." He even manned-up for betraying the Pacers, saying that he felt like a coward after bailing on his teammates.

And then he stops, and he has a flashback again, and adds one more memory to his life.

- Ron Artest, NBA Champion.

June 21, 2010

India to have a professional basketball league

BREAKING NEWS!!! It's official - the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) has teamed up with the IMG Reliance venture to develop basketball in the country, and most importantly, develop a professional basketball league in India similar to the American NBA or the Chinese CBL.

I have been giddy with joy ever since I read this news! Three months ago, Reliance Industries, led by India's wealthiest Mukesh Ambani partnered with US-based sports marketing company IMG Worldwide in a joint venture to build sports facilities in India. The sports model that they set out to create was meant to "be similar to the one followed in mature sports and entertainment markets such as the US". IMG Worldwide is a sports management company and talent agency, who have been involved with sports promotion in the US for several years.

The agreement between BFI and IMG Reliance has been signed for 30 years.

From SportzPower:

The initiative is poised to significantly impact the competitive level of the sport and enhance the pool of talent in the country. The deal will see IMG Reliance assisting BFI on financial, promotional and technical aspects. As part of the agreement, the BFI has granted IMG Reliance commercial rights relating to basketball in India, including sponsorship, advertising, broadcasting, merchandising, film, video and data, intellectual property, franchising and new league rights. The highlight of the agreement is expected to be the development of a professional basketball league in India in which players from around the globe will compete alongside Indian players, similar to the CBL in China. A critical element of the new initiative will be the development of world class infrastructure in India to support the effort, including the construction of new arenas and training facilities.
In line with its focus on developing the game at the grassroots level, IMG Reliance will advise the BFI regarding the organization and management of school and college leagues throughout the country. This will create a platform to develop and augment the talent pool of young men and women, enhance their opportunities to compete internationally, and successfully represent India on the world stage.
Talking about the deal, BFI secretary general Harish Sharma said, “We cannot mention the finances of the deal but IMG reliance would be supporting all the programmes BFI would be conducting across the country.”

“IMG Reliance would be commercially supporting our school/college leagues, championships etc. They will also be helping in gradation of the players where in the top players will get financial support to play the game. International expertise will be brought in to India to promote the game. As a long term plan, they also plan to promote a professional league in future,” he added.
“This is a step to promote and popularise the game in India. IMG is a global company and will surely help us in making the sport the second most popular sport in a few years,” he added.
"We are working towards kicking off the leagues at the onset of the sporting calendar in the country," Sharma further added.

Commenting on the development, Andrew Wildblood, IMG Reliance said, "The game of basketball is one of the most popular spectator sports across the world. With the active support and participation from the Basketball Federation of India, we will work to take the sport to the next level. IMG Reliance will leverage IMG's unparalleled experience of developing sporting leagues and talent development to make basketball in India a commercially exciting sporting proposition with a large fan base.

IMG Reliance also plans to establish sporting academies in India, modeled on the world renowned IMG Academies at Bradenton, Florida, to provide athlete and coach training in the country.

The BFI's partnership with IMG Reliance will not be interfering with the grass-roots efforts of growing the game in the country, particularly that of Mahindra's partnership with the NBA for the Mahindra-NBA Challenge. I think it's great that we have two big companies competing in the basketball realm in the country: more competition = more money, and more money will be directly proportional to the rise of basketball in India.

Basketball is already one of the fastest growing sports in India - and as the interest grows, we now have to make sure that our coaches and management provide the right guidance to the future generation of ballers to make sure that there talent responds to the financial growth in the game.

The best way for things to improve is if several efforts continue to work parallel to each other, and I can see many things happening around the country now. The Mastan League in Mumbai made headlines for first introducing a short professional-type league in the city. The NBA has been increasing its interest in India over the past few years, promoting the game (and itself) via the Mahindra League, infrastructural growth, player development, commercial development, and others. American coaches like JD Walsh, Bob Baker, and Craig Esherick have been to the country to train coaches and players, and Walsh continues to train Indian coaches in achieving a high level of basketball knowledge.

And now, with IMG Reliance taking a positive step into the frame, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Indian basketball fans. Time to get the next generation of hoopsters ready, because before we know it, we're going to have full-time basketball professionals in India!

Thailand welcomes Indian under-18 women's team

In recent years, the Indian Women's team has shown considerable improvement in the quality of their basketball - led by Prashanti Singh, the team has discovered success with the injection of several younger players to boost the squad.

Now, here's a chance for the next generation of youngsters to shine on the international stage. Led by Kerala's Stephy Nixon, the Indian Under-18 team left for Suratthani in Thailand to take on Asia's best at FIBA Asia Under-18 Championships for Women. The championships will tip off on June 23rd, with the final schedule on June 30th.

The team has been training at the Indoor Basketball Complex in Indore for the last two months. Led by Head Coach Abdul Hamid Khan (Indian Railways), the 12-member Indian squad flew out to Thailand last night.

In the 2008 Championships, held at Medan, Indonesia, the Indian team was in Level I, and suffered as they lost all their games to end last in the group. This time around, the improved team has been placed in the Level II of the competition, and will face the hosts Thailand, Philippines, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Syria.

The winning team from this tournament will get a chance to play in the FIBA Under-19 World Championships for Women to face the best junior teams in the world at Toronto, Canada next year.

June 20, 2010

NBA Stars at the Basketball Without Borders in Singapore

Two years ago, the NBA organised a Basketball Without Borders (BWB) camp for under-19 Asian basketball stars in New Delhi. Under the eye of NBA players Kyle Korver, Ronny Turiaf, and others, one Indian youngster, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, stole the show, performing exceptionally in the four-day camp and coming out with the honours of the camp's All-Star Game MVP.

The BWB under-19 camp is now set to return to Asia, and this time, it will feature another set of NBA players. To be held in Singapore from June 28 - July 1, the camp will be headlined by NBA all-star Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks. Horford will be joined by Trevor Ariza (Houston Rockets), Taj Gibson (Chicago Bulls), Francisco Garcia (Sacramento Kings), and Corey Brewer (Minnesota Timberwolves).

TODAYonline reports:

The quintet will be part of the Basketball without Borders (BWB) Asia four-day camp at the Singapore Sports School, jointly organised by the NBA, the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) and Singapore Sports Council.
A total of 50 players aged 16 to 19 from 22 countries will get to train and play with the stars, who will also be accompanied four NBA coaches.
This is the first time the event is being held in Southeast Asia. Previously, the BWB was hosted by China and India.
Patrick Bauman, secretary-general of Fiba, said: "BWB enables young players to showcase their basketball talents and skills while learning from some of the best players and coaches."

Vishesh, the star of 2008, is now the captain of the Indian National Team, the Young Cagers. Will one of our youngsters shine at the BWB camp again, and impress the NBA stars?

June 19, 2010

Almost Michael... But Not Quite

I remember, back in 6th Grade, my English teacher Mrs. Bona forced a great many, supposedly simple pieces of poetry on the class. I've never been a huge fan of poetry, but one particular poem by Shel Silverstein always stuck in my head, as much for its content as for its rhythm.

The poem was called "Almost Perfect... But Not Quite", about a girl called Mary Hume who goes through life finding little problems with everything that came her way. From the tablecloth at her seventh birthday party, to her boyfriend, to even heaven... Everything for Mary was Almost perfect... but not quite.

And if there is one player in the basketball world who wouldn't even be satisfied with anything but perfection is Number 24 of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant. Perfection in basketball is symbolised by Michael Jordan, and as much as Kobe continues to succeed, he will have to be content with being almost Michael... but not quite.

The world watched as Kobe Bryant captured his fifth NBA title yesterday. We watched as he won his second successive Finals MVP award. We watched as, for the second year in a row, the NBA champions were his team, not Shaq's, who led the Lakers and Kobe in the first three title as the beginning of the last decade.

If there was any question about Kobe's legacy as a top-10 player of all time, they should all be buried six feet underground now. Kobe is the greatest player of the modern era. Forget that LeBron James has been overshadowing him in the MVP battle, the real reason for Kobe's NBA existence is Championships, and he collects them like few others. These were his seventh NBA Finals, including his third straight. No matter what happens in the regular season, it is (almost) always certain that Kobe Bryant will be in the spotlight when it matters the most.

But despite his successes, his brilliance, his ability to always find a way to win, Kobe Bryant will never be the player he wants to be, or rather, the player he wants to be better than... Michael Jordan.

You must have heard the comparisons all before. The wagging tongue, the sweet mid-range jumper, the height, the position, the scoring spurts, the clutch shots, the fourth-quarter takeovers, the mean streak, the cold-bloodedness, the anger with which he motivates his teammates, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat... Kobe has so many things common with Michael that it's eerie. The world still remembers Jordan as the one player that rose above the NBA, above basketball. Jordan was transcendent, he was so damn good that he became bigger than the game itself. He was, and remains, the Greatest of All Time.

And then there's Kobe, the hungriest player in the league today, the one player who really as a shot at being the Greatest, both in terms of talent and success. He is the only today who can seriously start thinking about being the same heavenly company as Jordan. And his own personal strive, his ego, his ambition is so lofty that he won't rest until he becomes better. Until he becomes the best ever.

The only problem is that he won't.

Kobe will always be almost Michael... but not quite. On the basketball court, Jordan could never take a bad step, never a wrong decision, or at least that is what the legends will have us believe. Kobe on the other hand seems to be incomplete version of the Jordan legend, a slightly faulty piece of the perfect which works (almost) as well as the original. The Lakers are again favourites to win the championship next season, and Kobe may soon be the proud owner of as many rings as Jordan, but that won't make them equal... far from it.

Jordan was the undisputed MVP for his 6 championships - Kobe was Shaq's sidekick for the first three, and in the most recent one, no intelligent basketball mind would've been surprised if the Finals MVP had been handed to Pau Gasol instead of Kobe. As a matter of fact, Kobe had one of the least overwhelming Finals MVP performances of all time in this series. This is not to take away from his brilliance - it is to say that there is no chance that Michael would've struggled like Kobe did in the Finals.

With his fifth ring, Kobe has surpassed the two other biggest winners active in the NBA today: Shaq and Tim Duncan. He even dropped a jewel of a quote reminding us about it after Game 7: "I just got one more than Shaq!" Bryant said happily. "You can take that to the bank … You guys know how I am. I don’t forget anything."

Indeed, you did overshadow Shaq, Kobe. And what more, the player known as Black Mamba was his cold-bloodedness in clutch still has three or four years left of all star level basketball. With the brilliant supporting cast of teammates working with him, Kobe could easily bag up a few more championship rings. He will be remembered for being the most historic player of this era, with his championship rings, his winning mentality, those scoring spurts (he once had nine games straight with over 40 points, and once had five with over 50), and that 62 points in three quarters game against the Mavericks, and those 61 he dropped at the Madison Square Garden, and his Finals MVPs, and All-Star MVPs, and Olympic Final Takeovers, and countless game winners and clutch performances, and even that Slam Dunk Championship, and how he almost became the best player of all time.

Oh ya, and he once scored 81 points in a basketball game. See it to believe it:

But he will never be Jordan. By the time he retires, Kobe's legacy will lie competing to become, or maybe even becoming, the greatest Laker of all time, challenging the likes of Jerry West, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, and Magic Johnson.

Being the second-best shooting guard of all time? If Kobe could live with it, then that would be a spectacular distinction for his career. Only that he won't. As I said, Kobe is too much like Mary Hume, and until he overtakes Jordan, his career will remain almost perfect... but not quite.

June 18, 2010

The LA Lakers are your 2010 Champions

No matter how much the colour commentators try to colour it, or the sensational writers tried to sensationalise it, or the hyped-up players themselves try to hype it up, the Game seven of the NBA Finals, the one game to decide it all, was an ugly, gritty, tough affair. No pretty basketball, just hustle and defense.

Just the way I like it!

And in the end, just four point separated the Champions from the Runners-Up. But as the rapper Nelly once said (and I'm sure he was quoting someone too, I just don't know who): "Two is not a winner and three nobody remembers."

And the winners this year were familiar - so familiar that we'd seen them do this same thing at this time last year. Los Angeles Lakers survived the Game 7 against the Boston Celtics to win the franchise's 16th NBA championship. Despite a horrible offensive game, Kobe Bryant shone brightly out of everyone else who offered a faint glimmer and won the Finals MVP.

And now that the NBA 2009-10 season has come to a close, I can't say that the Lakers didn't deserve it. The Lakers were the most talented team on paper when the season began, and ended up as the best in the West, perhaps an underwhelming end to their regular season. But then Kobe came to life, suddenly ignoring his finger and his knee and his so-called, "old age". Gasol became the best big player in the league, overshadowing the likes of Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, etc for good. Andrew Bynum played until his knee killed him, but he played. And Ron Artest... Oh, I'm going to have a lot more to say about Ron Artest in the coming days - a player who fought all kinds of demons, mostly from within himself, to become the hero. It was deserving that their biggest challenge came from their biggest rivals, the unlikely Celtics, who even took a 3-2 lead. But the Lakers stood tough, and played the Celtics way, and won the Celtics way.

The entire Finals were a tumultuous, up-and-down series, with favourites shifting nearly from game to game. The Lakers were brilliant in Game 1, winning by sharing the ball as a team, and from domination by Bryant, and particularly, the key match-up between Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett, which Gasol won emphatically.

Lakers had a similar game in Game 2, but there was one difference with the Celtics... Ray Allen! Ray aka Jesus Shuttlesworth broke an NBA Finals record when he made EIGHT 3-pointers in the game, leading the Celtics to a victory, with the help of some amazing clutch play by Rajon Rondo.

The series shifted to Boston, but the Lakers came out undeterred in Game 3. Kobe was brilliant, perhaps playing his best game of the series, as he scored 29 points to go with 7 rebounds. But the game's hero was Derek Fisher, who scored 11 of his 16 in the final quarter and rallied his team to victory. Although this game saw the reawakening of Kevin Garnett, it wasn't enough to stop the Lakers from taking a 2-1 lead.

Celtics came back strong in Games 4 and 5. Relatively quite so far, Paul Pierce began to play like the 2008 Finals MVP again as he led his team in both these games. More importantly, the Celtics found their defense against Kobe again, making him into a bad volume shooter, shutting down Gasol's influence, and forcing their bullying ways on to the Lakers. Game 4 was won by the brilliant Celtic bench efforts - Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, and Rasheed Wallace. Game 5 became the Paul Pierce show. Bryant had 38 points, including 23 straight for his team and 19 in the third quarter, but it wasn't enough to beat the hot-shooting Celtics.

The series returned to LA, and perhaps facing elimination, Kobe rallied his team together. But he had to back up his words with better team-play: the Celtics had managed to turn the Lakers into their worst fear, a selfish, Kobe-never-pass team. In Game 6, Kobe played much better, scoring 26 and 11, and his teammates Gasol, Odom, and Artest got involved, too. The most important thing was that the Lakers played defense, holding the Celtics to just 67 points, which is the second lowest finals point total of all time.

And so the stakes were set for an exciting, winner-takes-all Game 7 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Lakers trailed the game most of the way, thanks to excellent Celtic defense. But they found an unlikely hero in Ron Artest who came them alive. Also, they held a huge advantage in rebounds, led by Gasol, Bynum, Odom, and Kobe. Kobe had an awful shooting night, going 6-24, but made up for it by grabbing 15 rebounds. Gasol was brilliant, especially in the end, scoring 9 of his 19 points in the fourth and grabbing 18 rebounds total. Artest had 20 points, including clutch plays all game.

And when the dust settled, the NBA Champions were crowned Lakers again. They repeated, Kobe had five rings, one for each finger on his hand, and Derek Fisher did, too. Gasol won the key match-up against Garnett and got redemption for two years ago. And the rest of the squad did just enough to survive the Celtics.

The game followed by some classic quotes in Artest's post-game interview, and Kobe, who finally led his guard down and admitted how important this victory was to him.

"This one is by far the sweetest, because it’s [The Celtics],” Bryant said after the Lakers beat Boston for the first time in a Game 7. "This was the hardest one by far. I wanted it so bad, and sometimes when you want it so bad, it slips away from you. My guys picked me up."

And of course, he didn't forgive his old pal turned enemy Shaquille O'Neal for all those years of rivalry, for Shaq telling Kobe to "tell him how his ass taste" two years ago. "Just got one more than Shaq," Kobe said after the game, "You can take that to the bank. I don’t forget anything."

And so it's over. The Champions have been decided, the confetti fallen, the champagne spilled, the metaphoric ass tasted. The Celtics had an amazing run, but finally had their age catch up with them at the worst time possible - the fourth quarter of the game seven of the NBA Finals. They were four points away from glory, but there can only be one winner.

The Lakers are your 2010 NBA Champions. It's all about Number One. Cuz two is not a winner, and three nobody remembers.

June 17, 2010

2010 FIBA World Championship for Women to be held at Czech Republic

The cities of Ostrava and Bono in the Czech Republic have been picked by FIBA to host the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women, which will be held from September 23-October 3. Asia will be represented in this tournament by China, South Korea, and Japan, the teams who finished top three in last year's FIBA Asia Championship for Women, which was held in Chennai.

This will be the 16th edition of this tournament - the previous winners Australia and the women's Olympic champions the USA will also be competing amongst the 16 teams, along with hosts Czech Republic.

June 16, 2010

One Game

October 27th, 2009 was the first day of the 2009-10 NBA Season. June 17th, 2010 (or early morning of June 18th, if you're around my time zone) will be it's last. The Boston Celtics were involved in the first (against the Cavs) and will be involved in the last. For only the second time in the past decade, the NBA Finals will be decided in game seven. The Celtics and the Lakers are tied 3-3 in the best-of-seven series, and the Game Seven, the one game to rule them all, will be played in less than two days.

I had predicted earlier that this series would go down to the last game - and now, this Game Seven is going to be by far the single biggest basketball game of my NBA-watching life, maybe closely followed by the 1999 NBA Finals when my New York Knicks lost Game 5 against the Spurs by one point to lose the series 4-1. That was some depressing ish.

But here we are - two of the most succesful franchises in NBA history go head to head again. The Lakers and the Celtics ARE the NBA Finals. The two teams are the last two champions (Celtics in 08, Lakers in 09), they have met each other 11 times before in the NBA finals, and after Game 7, 33 out of 64 NBA Championships would've been won by either won of these two teams. There is a lot at stake on just this one game.

48 more minutes. (And maybe overtime)

If Celtics win, this would be their 18th championship. The 2nd one for their starting five, and Glen Davis, and Tony Allen, and Rasheed Wallace (who won his first won with the Pistons), and of course, Brian Scalabrine. It would be coach Doc Rivers' second victory over Phil Jackson and the Lakers. It would further solidify Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen as future Hall of Famers, and surely propel Rajon Rondo as unarguably the best point guard in the league.

If Lakers win, this would be their 16th championship, and they would become back to back winners. Kobe Bryant would equal Magic Johnson with five rings for the Lakers, and what more, would also join Magic as one of the few Lakers to lead their team in a Finals victory against the Celtics. Kobe and Derek Fisher would also become the active players with the most amount of rings - Tim Duncan and Shaq have four. What is scary is that Kobe is much younger than any of them, and still has fuel in him to go on for three or four more servicable seasons. And of course, he would only be one championship away from Michael Jordan's, although Jordan was the undeniable main man aka Finals MVP in all six, whereas Kobe was Shaq's sidekick in his first three. Still, a win here would cement Kobe's legacy into another stratosphere. The rest of Kobe's crew, in Gasol, Bynum (who skipped the 08 Finals), and Odom would double up their rings. Of course, legendary Lakers (and former Chicago Bulls) coach Phil Jackson would be the proud owner of an unprecedented 11 rings as head coach.

What is perhaps most intriguing that, after just one more game, either Nate Robinson or Ron Artest will be sitting pretty with a championship ring.

There are so many equations, statistics, stories that are going to add up to this one final game. All the history between these two franchises, Kobe's strive to become the greatest of all time, the 'old' Celtics proving to the world that their teamwork and chemistry is the key to success, the Big 3 of KG, Pierce, and Allen, and the future that is Rondo, and Pau Gasol becoming the best big man in the league, and Rasheed Wallace and Nate Robinson and Ron Artest sprinkling their bits of crazy. It would be Artest's redemption after the infamous 'Malice at the Palace' and all the questions that were raised when he was brought it to the Lakers after they lost Trevor Ariza. And Doc Rivers vs. Phil Jackson, and the beautiful Hollywood faces at Los Angeles vs. the passionate basketball fanatics at Boston.

Game Sevens are a myth of their own. They have caused broken hearts, cemented legends, caused embarrasment, caused exultation. Hell, there's even a book about it.

This had already been a classic series, going back and forth, and there still isn't a clear-cut favourite. Right now it's the Lakers because they blew out the Celtics with awesome defense in Game 6. A few days ago, it was the Celtics, as they took a 3-2 lead with great balanced play. A little more than a week ago, it was the Lakers, when they excelled on both sides of the court to win Game 1 in LA.

The Lakers, who hold home court, and momentum, and the greatest closer in the game - Kobe - are probably the favourites now. But the Celtics have shown time and again all postseason that they will never be discounted, never be down. Whether they ended fourth in the East to start the playoffs, or lost by 29 points to the Cavs at home, or destroyed a perfect Magic team in the Conference Finals, or shocked a Lakers squad with a 3-2 lead just a few days ago.

Less than two days to find out what happens. Just one game to make history.

One more game.

June 10, 2010

Punjab, Kerela win National Youth Championships

The future Indian basketball stars showed their talents when the 27th National Youth Championships (for Boys and Girls) were held at Tiruchirappalli (or Tiruchi for the lazy) in Tamil Nadu from June 1-8th. The teams from Punjab and Kerela won the competition in the boys' and girls' divisions respectively.

In the Girls' final on the 8th, the youngsters from Kerela destroyed the Uttar Pradesh team by 35 points, 84-49, to win the title. Star players Jeena (29 points) and Anjana (24 points) led the way for Kerela, while playing some stifling defense on UP starlet Dhriti Arora. UP were led by 24 points from Preeti Kumari.

In the boys final, a balanced Punjab side, led by 13 points from Harmandeep played some good defense against the surprising finalists from Chhatisgarh. Punjab beat Chhatisgarh 64-42 - Chhattisgarh's leading scorer in the final was Murali with 15 points.

Chhattisgarh had entered this stage of the tournament by beating the hosts Tamil Nadu in a close semi-final, 69-67. Punjab had earlier defeated Madhya Pradesh in their semi. In the girls' semi-finals, Kerela had defeated Maharahstra and hosts Tamil Nadu were beaten by Uttar Pradesh.

The competition is a showcase of the finest Indian youth who are of under-16 level as of January 2010.

June 8, 2010

The NBA-wallahs are here: Will India echo with the sound of bounce?

This article was first published on SLAMOnline on June 4, 2010.

Does India need basketball?

As an Indian would say, the NBA-wallahs are coming. The Basketball-wallahs are here. (wallah: Hindi & Urdu – a person who is associated with a particular work or who performs a specific duty or service -- usually used in combination [with another word]: Merriam-Webster) For the past few years, the NBA has accelerated its interest in promoting basketball in India – it seems a logical step at a huge Asian market after the NBA’s successes in China. I got a chance to interview NBA’s Director of Basketball Operations in India, Troy Justice, and as I sat down to write and share the NBA’s vision through him, this most basic of questions struck me.

Does India really need basketball?

India has long been a ‘one-sport’ nation, a nation where the majority of our money, talent, TV spots, sponsorships, results, superstars, loyal fans, crazed fans, media, scandals, congratulations, criticisms, successes, failures, hard work, corruption, headlines, breaking news, scoreboards, painted faces, flags, idols, Facebook status updates, Twitter Trending Topics, and heated conversations in chai-shops and in train compartments involve cricket and only cricket. Every other sport in the country has been overshadowed by cricket…

… And when it hasn’t, there still doesn’t seem to be space for basketball in our history. When an Indian sports magazine released a special list of 101 Milestones in Indian Sporting History, nowhere amongst the “good, bad, and ugly” of events in our history is there sign of basketball, amongst a list that included Cricket, Field Hockey, Football, Shooting, Chess, Billiards, Badminton, Tennis, Track & Field, Wrestling, Mountaineering, Swimming, Golf, Volleyball, Snooker, Cycling, Weightlifting, Boxing, Table-Tennis, and Formula One Racing.

Yes, Table friggin Tennis.

Not to say that basketball in India hasn’t had its own memorable milestones – they have just been insignificant when compared to other sports. Particularly cricket.

But the more I spoke to Troy Justice, the more I began to believe that this was about to change. In all my years as a basketball fan, player, and recently, as a writer, I have never felt more optimistic about the future of basketball in India. And this movement towards change is ready to take-off astronomically with the arrival of Justice and the NBA-wallahs. The time that basketball scores a major milestone in Indian sports history is not too far off…

Justice has been involved with bringing basketball to India in different capacities for nearly two decades. For 15 years, he worked for ‘Athletes in Action – Basketball’ in various capacities as a professional international player, head coach, and Director of Basketball. In the early 90s, he brought a team from the US to India to compete against the national team, clubs, and universities. He has been returning to India over the past 19 years with teams from the USA to play competitive games, run coaching clinics and basketball camps. When he began working with the NBA, it made perfect sense for the association to choose him to lead basketball operations in India.

“India has been giving signals of its development globally,” said Justice, “Not just in sport, but in terms of its expanding economy and infrastructure. The world understands the country’s growth, and it is a natural process for the NBA to come here as the league continues to develop a global platform.”

“India is a sport loving and passionate country – Basketball can and will be successful here.”

The biggest venture that the NBA is involved with in India is the Mahindra-NBA Challenge – a multi-city, community-based, recreational league. The league began in Mumbai on April 17th, and after seven weeks, will be concluding this weekend with its playoffs, an All-Star game, Shooting Competitions, and the Championship Games. It involves a youth and an adult division has and attracted more than 1000 basketball enthusiasts in Mumbai.

What is perhaps more important in the programme are the training through which Justice and others have been teaching basketball fundamentals to the participants. Justice will next be overseeing similar Mahindra-NBA challenge programmes in two more Indian cities in the coming months: Bangalore and Ludhiana.

Justice has been involved in holding coaching clinics throughout the country, through which he is looking to train and develop NBA coaches at the grassroots level. He was in the city of Nagpur most recently holding a clinic with around 50 coaches. Coaching development is an important issue that the NBA is hoping to engage with deeper – India has no shortage of basketball coaches, but a constant complaint has always been that the coaching styles, tactics, and philosophy hasn’t evolved positively over the years.

In terms of player development, the NBA is looking to be involved through clinics, camps, and via the country’s academic structure. “We will be working with all the age ranges and basketball ability,” said Justice, “From children in the grassroots to schools, colleges, and then working with the elite players in the national team.”

The above initiative is an important one – basketball’s stature may be dubious in India in terms of milestone events, but there is no shortage of opportunity. Most of the schools in the country have basketball courts and most communities have access to a court. If the will is there, a basketball court is never too far for the average Indian child.

“The current basketball community in India is very passionate about the sport and committed to seeing it grow,” Justice continues, “People are willing to engage and help us. The coaches, players, are all enthusiastic about learning and maximising their opportunities.”

But there are trials and tribulations to working with a country like India – a country which is so rich and yet so poor, so fat and yet so hungry, with the most modern of technological infrastructures but in many ways still living in the 18th century. India presents a bizarre gamut of variety every day, something that is as much a challenge as it is an opportunity.

Despite steady growth, Justice admits that the biggest challenge for the NBA in India right now is still the infrastructure. “There are hardly any good indoor basketball courts in the country, and because get so hot here, we can’t hold games or clinics in the afternoons in the outdoors,” he says. It is a simple yet important point – for the players to play and train more, they need to play in better, indoor, cooler facilities. The NBA has lent a hand in improving infrastructure in India over the past two years: four new courts have been refurbished through the NBA-Cares programme.

The other issue which Justice calls more “manageable” is of scale. A famous Indian saying to describe the country’s massive size as “From Kashmir to Kanyakumari”, alluding to the more than three thousand kilometres from the northernmost to the southernmost point of the nation. “The number of participants is large and we have a lot of ground to cover!”

Justice believes that to eventually cover this ground and to be able to truly make a difference, the NBA’s relationship with the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) will be extremely important. “We will need to work alongside them, and work alongside the coaches and managers in India. We are bringing our own information and expertise to the Indian coaches, and it will help if they continue to receive us with an open-mind.”

For the future, the NBA hope to continue the development of the Mahindra Challenge, which in 5-10 years, they see as an initiative that could grow drastically across the country. “We want to make this programme the best that it can be,” said Justice, “I want to see more and more coaching clinics and player training camps around India.”

Off the court, the NBA will be marketing itself, and thus, promoting the game of basketball in various ways. Keeping up with their reputation as being one of the forerunners in promotion through social media, the NBA introduced the NBA-India website several months ago along with the fast-growing NBA-India fan page on Facebook.

Justice knows that fan interest will follow if the NBA can send marquee players such as legends of the game and current all stars to India. Over the past few years, Baron Davis, Dominique Wilkins, Sam Perkins, Kyle Korver, Ronny Turiaf, Linton Johnson, Pat Garrity, AC Green, Dikembe Mutumbo, and Kevin Garnett have visited the country, and Justice hopes that the visits continue.

Another dream of any fan would be to actually see an NBA exhibition game in India. Asia is no stranger to NBA pre-season action. The NBA has played six games in Japan since the 1990s, and has held pre-season games in China since 2004, after Chinese star Yao Ming joined the Houston Rockets in 2002: the first game obviously featured the Yao-powered Rockets against the Kings. In 2009, when the Nuggets met the Pacers in Taipei, it became the eight Asian city to host either an NBA regular season or preseason game, along with Tokyo, Yokohama, and Saitama in Japan; Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in China; and Macau.

But what do these countries have that India doesn’t? You guessed it… Infrastructure! “We would love to hold an exhibition game here,” said Justice, “But these are big events, and they require proper venue and timing – infrastructure is a key component and is still a challenge in India.”

The NBA have a long-term plan in India, and as infrastructure grows, exposure, popularity, and participation increases, and the country has more coaches equipped to teach the game to players from elementary school to pros, Justice believes that basketball can truly become the #2 sport here. It will obviously be a fool’s ambition to even pretend that the game has any chance against the maniacal popularity of cricket, but if basketball is able to gain a small percentage niche following in the country, that small percentage of a country of 1.2 billion can make a huge difference.

“In the future, I see the Indian national team definitely improving in the FIBA rankings,” said Justice. Currently, the Indian Men’s team, dubbed ‘Young Cagers’, lie 52nd in the FIBA world rankings and the Women rank 43rd – nothing to shout out loud from Himalayan mountaintops, but Justice believes that the potential is there. “In the future, I can envision top level Indian players playing in foreign pro leagues.”

Ultimately, the question that all Indian fans want answered is how soon the country can have our own NBA-inspired all-India basketball league. When I interviewed BFI’s secretary general Harish Sharma, he told me that India could potentially have a full professional league in two-three years. Justice added that the NBA will be doing everything it can to support the BFI’s plans.

“I have been well received in India – I love the heart of the Indian people who have gracious, humble and hospitable,” said Justice, “Now that I’m living and working here, this country has been everything I expected and more. It is very rewarding to go to work daily and give to the basketball community in India.”

“I can’t wait to see the day when the sounds of bouncing basketballs echoes all over the country.”

As we ended our conversation, I remembered something – India, its people, its variety, its culture, and its passion are damn near impossible to replicate. I’m not going to pretend and ignore the corruption and the mismanagement and the passiveness that plagues the mentalities of many of my fellow Indians, but eventually, there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel. Just like Justice and NBA have discovered, the country can offer as much to the game as the game can offer the country. Basketball is the fastest-growing sport in the world, and India is perfect platform for the game’s next big spurt.

So does India need basketball? There may not be an easy response to that particular question, but I know one thing for sure - basketball needs India.

June 7, 2010

Lakers vs. Celtics - The Great Battle Begins

I wrote this article in collaboration with Jonathan Rego at iSport.in, and the article was published on iSport on June 3, 2010.

Jonathan Rego is a huge Celtics fan, and Karan Madhok favours them too. While Jonathan feels that the Lakers are a no-brainer to repeat this year, Karan does not agree.

So to settle they have have decided to go public with their spat. Once again for the record, Jonathan = Lakers, Karan = Celtics.

It's not every day you get to see a team cast off as washed up and done, steam roll their way into the NBA finals. And nothing makes me...make that us (Karan and me) happier than to see our beloved Boys in Green (read KG) in the Finals once again.

They shifted gears when it mattered and showed Dwight and his Magic a team game that kills you on all ends of the floor rather than from just beyond the arc and in the paint. The CELTICS ARE BACK BABY!!!


The Lakers did not have it easy this time. Kobe, Gasol and (shockingly) Fisher kept bailing them out of tight spots. Right from their surprisingly tough series against the OKC Thunder down to a resilient Suns team that almost took them to a Game 7 (damn you Artest!), the Lakers have been a bit unpredictable this playoffs. They were written off and exalted in the same sentence. From being cast as mediocre to being hailed as the eventual NBA Champs, the Lakers have seen it all this time.

So now that they are up against the resurgent Celtics, how will this Finals play out?

Will Kobe cave in under the responsibility and do a repeat of his 2008 debacle, or will he put on one of the greatest series of his career? (A second championship in a row will his etch his name in titanium and wipe all previous aberrations including the aforementioned 2008 Game 6 stink bomb).

Will the Celts stop showing up after 20 point leads and see off the final window for a shot at the Championship, or will they gather their best men and steal the O'Brien trophy from under the nose of the defending champions?

Without further ado, I am drawing first blood.

Jonathan R: A healthy rested Kobe + A consistent Gasol + A resurrected Fisher have delivered throughout the playoffs. What makes you think they cave in now? Also, the Lakers have home court advantage and are 28-3 in their last 31 home court games.

You may also want to consider that Phil Jackson is 47-0 when he wins the first game of a series.

And is thinking of quitting this year.

And will coach his backside off because of that.

You still picking the Celtics, my friend?

Karan Madhok: So here we are - at the biggest stage in the world of basketball, and who do we have in front of us? None other than two of the most storied franchises in the league, who have shared 32 titles between them and will add a 33rd by the time the dust settles on this series.

Taking care of business. One super star at a time.

Now, anyone following basketball all season would've probably agreed with your points about the Lakers - Kobe's playing well and healthy, Lakers have home-court advantage, Gasol's consistency, etc...etc. But as we know, the playoffs are a whole different game, and for the Lakers, the Celtics are going to be a matchup nightmare.

Yes, the Lakers DO have home court advantage, but guess what? The Celtics are the only team to ever reach the Finals after performing better on the road than at home! So to the Celtics, as you can see, home and away doesn't really matter.

Hell - they're probably happier to be on the road!

Kobe IS playing well and healthy, and no, there's no denying he will be the best player in the series. But so far, he has come across defences in the West that are more porous than chai-sifters! No one on the Thunder, Jazz, or Suns was equipped to stop him. The Celtics on the other hand, have stopped three All-Star starters in the last three rounds: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard. As the 2008 Finals showed us, if there's anyone that can stop Kobe, it's the Celtic defence.

And finally... Gasol. I love Gasol and love what he brings to the table, but the man has consistently suffered against Garnett. While he probably will average more points than him, KG will make his Gasol's miserable, forcing him to compromise on his efficiency. Gasol was bullied and made worthless in the '08 Finals. The winner of this match-up will win the series I feel, and I'm going to give KG the edge here.

I'm surprise you missed out one important point. How do you think the Lakers plan to deal with Rajon Rondo, who has arguably been the best player on the best team in the playoffs so far? Are you seriously suggesting Derek Fisher's old legs are going to keep up with the fastest player in the league?!

Jonathan R: I like where this going.

Firstly, my worthy adversary, we both know that the Celtics are not winning two games in a row against a healthy Lakers team. (Yes, I think this series goes 7) which means that even if they were to win Game 1 at LA and take home court advantage, the Lakers come back and beat them in Game 3 at Boston, where, as per your cited record, the Celtics aren't as good as they should be. LA is 34-7 at home (2nd best in the league) and on the road and 23-18 on the road (just three games short of Boston's home record). That Boston record you brandish? May not help.

Secondly, as much as I liked the chai-sifter comparison and want to admit the Celtics are a great defensive team, I'd like to take us moment to remember who shut Kobe down during the 2008 campaign. Yes, James Posey. The same Posey who was infamously let go by the Celtics the very next season! Considering their weakening knees the Celtics can play good team defence for a maximum of two games at a stretch. In Game 6 against the Magic they weren't half as good as they can be; they won that game only because the Magic kept missing wide open shots and shot an abysmal 27% from 3pt.

The Heat, Cavaliers and Magic are all one dimensional teams. Wade won one and Lebron won two games on their own and the Magic won two games because of Dwight and their dead-eye

3pt shooting.

Now the Celtics have to deal with two superstars in Kobe and Gasol a borderline star in Odom.

Thirdly, I think the following are key factors to the series.

1. Rondo-Fisher
2. Bench Strength
3. Garnett-Gasol

Rondo, if healthy, will take Fisher apart. But, if his (Rondo's) injury holds up, I think Rondo and Fisher will cross each other out. Also, Fisher hasn't really been a pushover in these playoffs. You don't want to leave him open.

Yes, the Celtics have a better bench. But expect Phil Jackson to get into the heads of Bynum, Brown and Farmar to deliver their backsides off. This has legacy potential for Phil Jackson, i.e. one of the few coaches who has won back to back titles with two different teams!

Also, the technicals on the Celtics are a huge factor. Phil Jackson is a sneaky customer. He will play Bynum on Perkins just to piss him off.

Karan Madhok: Good points all, Jonathan,

Yes, Phil Jackson being the master of all coaches, will be playing to piss off Perkins (and possibly Rasheed Wallace) and forcing a slew of technicals.

Yes, James Posey was the one that defended Kobe the best in 08,

Yes, the Celtics are an older, weak-in-the-knees squad,

But...with the Celtics, it has never been just one person - this Celtics team have defended as well as they did two years ago, this time without Posey.

Also, injury woes could crop up in the case of Andrew Bynum, who was supposed to be the X-factor for the Lakers - Bynum played minimal minutes against the Suns, a team that was supposed to let offenses thrive.

As the playoffs have shown, the Celtics have had no change in desire whether playing home or away, and especially after Game 3 against the Cavaliers, they went on to win six straight games, both at home and away. This is proof that they are more than capable of winning several games in a row.

Sure you may term the Heat a one-dimensional team, but the Cavaliers and Magic had two of the best three regular season records this year. Cavaliers actually had a better record than LA. You can't tell me they were a one-dimensional team all season?! The Celtics FORCED them to become one dimensional. I feel that Celtics will do the same against LA, i.e. force Kobe to make all the offense work thereby disrupting team chemistry.

Finally, I feel that the winner between the Gasol-Garnett match-up will decide who wins the series. If Gasol can hold his own and be productive, Lakers will have a chance. If KG steps up, he will negate Gasol both offensively and defensively.

I agree that this series goes seven games, but I feel that it will be Boston that will be left crowned champions at the end, ultimately due to KG's match-up against Gasol.

What do you feel?

Jonathan R: While it is true that the Celtics did win 6 games on the trot (both at home and away) I disagree with the observation that the Cavaliers and the Magic aren't one dimensional teams.

The Cavaliers did not progress only because the Celtics crowded Lebron and forced the rest of the team to beat them. Similarly with the Magic...stay tight on Dwight and force the team to beat you from the 3pt line (the Magic shot the lights out in the two games they won).

The Lakers are not one dimensional. They have three people who are legitimate threats to break the 30 pts barrier and keeping an eye on all three will be a task for the Celtics. Even if they lock down others and force Kobe to win this game on his own, we all know Kobe can deliver. Besides, as much as I love Allen, he is a defensive downgrade from Posey. His responsibility on Kobe will undoubtedly affect his own offensive game.

I agree with your Garnett-Gasol analysis. However, in my opinion, it is the Celtics bench that can win them this series. Everyone from Glen 'Big Baby' Davis to Nate Robinson have to deliver if the Celtics are serious about winning this series.

Karan Madhok: You make a good point about the Celts bench - during the regular season, they weren't much to count on, but they have definitely stepped up in the playoffs. When Nate Robinson and (gulp!) Rasheed Wallace are being productive, you KNOW the team's going to be hard to beat.

Lakers have fallen victim to their own complacency in the past, when they lost two games to the Thunder, and were one lucky-Ron-Artest-tip-in away from being down 3-2 to the Suns. The Celtics are a far more efficient team than those two, and what's more, they have improved as the playoffs have progressed. I feel the Celtics can mentally break the Lakers down.

For all the talent they have the Lakers are just not strong enough to keep on responding to Celtic attacks. Phil Jackson and Kobe maybe, but the rest of the team do not share the same consistent toughness.

When the dust settles, I say Celtics in 7!

Jonathan R: Are we really talking about complacency on the part of the Lakers when the Celtics are famed for giving up 25 point leads? They will need every ounce of will power to keep them going (no matter the lead) and that is something the Lakers understand.

Look for them to make the Celtics work. Work Hard.

Lakers in 7