Links: NBA Friday

by April 18, 2008

by Lang Whitaker

Fri-Day! Yes! And the Playoffs start tomorrow!! I can’t tell you how great it is to be able to sit and watch basketball for about 12 hours straight, and then be able to tell Wifey it’s for “work.” Because it totally is. Or something.

Also, a warning: Throughout the Playoffs, even over the weekends, I’m going to try and write quick, short posts each night once the games end to give everyone on the night shift a place to talk about the various series. So be sure to check back on SLAMonline starting Saturday night.

Lots to talk about and link to today…

• I got a call yesterday afternoon from My Guy telling me that Knicks coach Isiah Thomas was totally and officially out as coach of the Knickerbockers.

Now, you may recall the post I wrote a few weeks ago about how there were some weird things going on in Knicks-land, things even stranger than usual. At the time, My Guy was certain that Isiah had lost his gig coaching the Knicks. I wrote then that I thought we were wrong.

Well, now it looks like we were right.

From what I’m hearing, that morning the Knicks had their shortened shootaround, the Knicks called in Isiah and told him he could leave then or at the end of the season. He chose the end of the season. Which explains why everyone in the world now says Isiah’s going to be let go maybe as soon as today. It also explains why I was hearing that even the players thought something strange was up the last few games.

I’m as tired of the Isiah rumor mill as everyone else. So until Isiah finally and officially does get shown the door, I’m not going to talk about it anymore. But it does look like the end is near. Finally.

• If Mark Jackson ends up coaching the Knicks, wouldn’t it be awesome if he made Stephon gain like 50 pounds this summer and then Steph came back next season only shooting teardrops and backing guys down over and over?

• Be sure to pick up the newest DVD from NBA Entertainment, it’s NBA Dance Teams Gone Wild! (Hosted by Jim Huber.)

• Oh, Sam says I’m supposed to write a Hawks/Celtics preview. How about this: The Celtics are going to win the series.

OK, moving on…

No, I’ll take this seriously. I think the Hawks could make this an entertaining series, but I don’t think they’ll be able to pull a Golden St. on the Celts. The reason Dallas lost last year was because they could never close out Golden State, and that’s the same problem that has plagued Atlanta in close games all season — whenever they get a lead, they let it slip away.

Boston doesn’t have that problem. They have a nice mix of veterans and young guys, and they know how to win games. When I say that, I don’t mean they know how to outscore teams (duh), but that they know how to close teams out. I also think Boston is going to be a good Playoff team, because they’re good in the halfcourt on offense, but even better defensively, maybe even the best team in the NBA at halfcourt defense. And the Playoffs, like it or not, is all about halfcourt basketball. (Also, Boston gets EVERY CALL. Go ahead and get used to it now. I’m predicting at least 4 or 5 of those fouls called after the shot already misses per game.)

When the Hawks were great this season — not good, great — was when they were running and gunning, pushing tempo, making things happen. Unfortunately, they were only to play like that for about one quarter each week. I think if the Hawks are able to get it going, they can cause some problems for Boston.

And there are some startling similarities to Golden State/Dallas. The Hawks are young and unproven and play best when they appear to be out of control. And Boston is led by a veteran power forward MVP candidate who’s never won big, coached by a former NBA point guard, heavy with expectations.

But can the Hawks beat Boston? Not so fast. I think Atlanta wins at least one game, but they won’t win the series.

Anyway, none of this matters because Mike Woodson says the Hawks are going to win the title this year.

(Woody shaved his head, by the way.)

• And for whatever it’s worth, I’m also picking Cleveland, Detroit, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Antonio, New Orleans and Utah. Just saying…

• And finally, since it’s Friday, it’s time for NBA Friday, our weekly visit from the official illustrator of The Links, Joel Kimmel. We ended up not having a drawing last week because Joel was busy drawing actual work stuff. But this week he’s back with a vengeance.

“I didn’t want to go two weeks in a row without drawing someone,” Joel says, “so I did this sketch of Dirk last night. I’ve been doing a lot of painting lately, so I thought it would be fun to do something loose and sketchy. I used ballpoint pen, pencil and ink for this one and didn’t have much of a concept other than to show Dirk looking like he wants revenge for last year’s playoff debacle.”

“Next week’s team is the Denver Nuggets. If things are a bit less crazy next week I’m going to try to do another Dallas illustration combined with a Nuggets piece in some way.”

Sounds great, Joel. Love the Dirk drawing — I’m going to have nightmares about those eyes.

And remember, if you guys have any suggestions for Joel’s Nuggets drawing, drop it in the comments below. Personally, I’d like to see a drawing of a lot of tattoos without any actual players. Kind of like the Denver defense.

Anyway, that’s it. Have fun this weekend. NBA Action, it’s faaaaaan-tastic!