Links: Accountability and Playoff Predictions

by Lang Whitaker

First, a few business things to take care of today.

SLAM continues running the takeover on the world media.

–> MARCA — The coolest newspaper in Spain just did a story about SLAM doing a feature on Ricky Rubio. Gave it an entire page, too. Thanks for the shoutout, Marca. Here’s an excerpt from their story.

–> GQ — In the newest issue of Ryan Jones’ favorite magazine (with Stephen Colbert on the cover), they did a long story about Allen Iverson and quoted me (and shouted out SLAM) twice.

–> Fox Sports — Finally, today on, Peter Schrager writes about how the NBA doesn’t seem to have a lot of buzz as the Playoffs near. Sam and I are both quoted in that story. And I like that Will from Deadspin and I are somehow cast as the voices of reason.

There you have it. Our publicist gets a raise. (By the way, that issue of GQ is totally worth buying for the photo shoot with Ivanka Trump. Er, that’s what I heard, at least.)

• The Jordan Classic is going down this weekend at Madison Square Garden. A while back we sat down with the people from Jordan to figure out how to cover the game in SLAM, and we realized that the game was happening three days after our latest issue was going to printer, so by the time the game was played it would be pretty much impossible to get anything timely in the mag.

But they made sure to point out that they also wanted to get down with the best basketball site on the internets. So we cooked up having a player from the game do a diary. Patrick Patterson became that player, and his very entertaining diaries are here.

What we didn’t anticipate was that since Patterson is probably the highest profile recruit who has yet to commit to a college, all those recruiting websites would point people toward his diaries, and now the comments sections on Patrick’s posts are filled with Florida, Kentucky and UVA fans urging Patrick to attend their school of choice. It’s pretty funny stuff to read.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to convince Patrick to attend UGA and play football.

• The Slammys are coming!

• The Playoffs start this weekend. THE PLAYOFFS START THIS WEEKEND! I’m pretty excited and ready to go. Sam spent the morning delegating, and we’ve got a writer assigned to cover each first-round series. Their series previews will start dropping soon. I’m going to play the omniscient voice, covering all the various series.

How did I do on my preseason predictions? Back in September, in SLAM 103, I went division by division and tried to guess how things would end up.

What I had…
1) New Jersey Nets
2) Boston Celtics
3) Toronto Raptors
4) New York Knicks
5) Philadephia 76ers

How it ended…
1) Toronto
2) New Jersey
3) Philly
4) New York
5) Boston
I obviously whiffed on Toronto and Philly, although I wrote that Philly probably wouldn’t win 40 games (they finished with 35). And I missed on T-Dot, although that’s one I’m glad I missed. I love Sam Mitchell, and I’m glad he got the Raps playing team ball. As for Boston, I figured they’d finally put it all together this season. They didn’t.

What I had…
1) Miami Heat
2) Washington Wizards
3) Orlando Magic
4) Atlanta Hawks
5) Charlotte BETcats

How it ended…
1) Miami
2) Washington
3) Orlando
4) Charlotte
5) Atlanta
I almost ran the table here. Just missed Atlanta/Charlotte — Hawks finished 3 games behind the BETcats — mainly because I didn’t know Speedy Claxton was going to report to training camp in The A but forget to bring his knees along with him.

What I had…
1) Detroit Pistons
2) Chicago Bulls
3) Cleveland Cavaliers
4) Indiana Pacers
5) Milwaukee Bucks

How it ended…
1) Detroit
2) Cleveland
3) Chicago
4) Indiana
5) Milwaukee
Again, just one game from nailing this division. This actually came down to last night’s games, and the Bulls choked. Thanks, Scott Skiles.

What I had…
1) Denver Nuggets
2) Utah Jazz
3) Minnesota Timberwolves
4) Portland Trailblazers
5) Seattle Sonics

How it ended…
1) Utah
2) Denver
3) Portland
4) Minnesota
5) Seattle
Actually, Minnesota and Portland finished with identical records, so I barely missed their placement. But sleeping on Utah was probably my most egregious error in the entire preview. I knew they were going to be pretty good, but I didn’t think Jerry Sloan would be able to turn them into a juggernaut. And he did.

What I had…
1) Dallas Mavericks
2) San Antonio Spurs
3) New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
4) Houston Rockets
5) Memphis Grizzlies

How it ended…
1) Dallas
2) San Antonio
3) Houston
4) New Orleans
5) Memphis
My other big error was sleeping on the Rockets. They had so many issues in training camp, from Yao getting injured to Bonzi not showing up, and I didn’t expect T-Mac to turn in the season he had. I also thought that N’awlins was going to have Peja Stojakovic. They didn’t.

What I had…
1) Phoenix Suns
2) Los Angeles Lakers
3) Los Angeles Clippers
4) Golden State Warriors
5) Sacramento Kings

How it ended…
1) Phoenix
2) LA Lakers
3) Golden State
4) LA Clippers
5) Sacramento Kings
Again, I just missed this division, thanks to the Clippers sucking. But as I wrote about Golden State: “Golden State is one of the teams I called a Wild Card Squad in the magazine: There’s no telling what they’ll do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they win 45 games, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they win 25 and Nelly quits by the end of the year. I’m putting them fourth to play it safe.” They actually won 42.

All in all, not bad, I think. I’ll be perfect next season, promise.

• On to the Playoffs. Since all of our writers are going to be dropping more detailed previews in the coming days, I’m just going to zip through these…

–> Detroit/Orlando: Pistons, easy. Maybe in 4.

–> Cleveland/Washington: Sorry Wizards. Your two best players will be watching from the bench. Cavs in 5.

–> Jersey/Toronto: I’m going with Toronto, although I think this might go 7 games. If Jersey can play the way they played last night — relentlessly forcing the tempo — I think they have a shot at taking this series. But if it turns into a halfcourt series, that Bosh/Mikki Moore matchup could be a little scary for Jersey.

–> Miami/Chicago: Here we go again. I’m staying with the Heat, although there are times when the Heat appear to be an old, creaky team, and you’d think the Bulls should be able to run them off the floor. More than Shaq/Wade, the Heat need big games from Toine, Posey and Udonis. Miami in 6.

–> Dallas/Golden State: The Warriors swept the Mavs in the regular season, 3-0, but I’m sticking with the Mavs here. Remember, Playoff basketball is always slower and more deliberate than you’d think it would be, which will take away some of the bite of the Warriors. Golden State will probably get loose for a game or two, but I’m saying Dallas in 6, which is more energy than they’re going to want to spend in a first-round series against the last seed.

–> Phoenix/Lakers: This should be a great series. Think Kobe will elbow Raja in the face on a jumper? Think Raja will put Kobe in a headlock? I don’t even know that kid! Phoenix in 6.

–> Denver/San Antonio: My favorite first-round series. The Nuggets have been en fuego of late, but the Spurs will not be stopped. Figure Bowen gives Carmelo fits, Tony Parker does his best to stick Iverson, and then Duncan takes over. We could call this series The Ballad of Francisco Elson. Spurs in 6.

–> Utah/Houston: Here’s your lowest-rated series of the first round. Both teams are going to grind it out, but I think Utah’s a little too young and Houston is too powerful for them. Could be the best-played series in the first round. Houston in 7.