IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BOOOZE

Wow! Quite the first two days of the NBA playoffs. Every “underdog” or lower seeded team was in position with less than two minutes to play to win game one on the opposing team’s floor. Atlanta, New Orleans, and Memphis (congrats to the Grizz on their first franchise playoff win!) sealed the deal at the end and stole home court advantage. Surprising first two days?? For sure. Shocking?? We say no. Nothing comes easy in the playoffs anymore, not even in the first round. It’s easy to forget that a 37 win Atlanta Hawks team forced seven games against the eventual champion Celtics in 2008. Last year’s championship Lakers team was one rebound away from facing game seven against the eighth seeded Oklahoma Thunder in the first round last year. Those crazy dominant Laker/Celtic teams of the eighties are long gone friends! People worry about all the superstar players uniting on a few teams like the Heat pulled off this summer (won’t happen by the way).  Back in the day, it wasn’t because of any player collusion.  But every time LA and Boston met, we usually had 7 future Hall of Famers on the floor at crunch time. Can you think of any NBA finals matchup this year that could possibly provide the same amount of star power? Nope. The P word (parity) is used way too often these days in sports, but by round two of these playoffs we say anything goes! We like the Bulls and Lakers to reach the NBA finals, but we think any of the top four seeds in either conference are capable of winning it all this year.

Certainly one of the bigger surprises this weekend was how close the Pacers were to winning game one against the Bulls. The Bulls were not at their best, but let’s give credit where credit is due. For forty five minutes the Pacers were the better team. Hansbrough and Granger were lights out from the perimeter. Collison, at least initially, matched Rose’s offense with long jumpers and crafty drives to the basket. The Pacers were not intimidated and their solid play and scrappiness had them up 10 with 3:29 left in the game. Now we have to give credit to the Bulls for their response. The Pacers did not give away this game – Rose and his teammates took it from them at the end as great players and great teams do. Was this a wakeup call for Chicago? Maybe. Or maybe this was just a reminder of the small margin between one team’s “greatness” and one team’s “mediocrity.”

We loved last year’s NBA finals between two evenly matched teams in the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics. Predictably, this great series was decided in the final minutes of the final game. While two of the greatest shooters in NBA history, Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant, were doing their best John Starks imitation, it was Ron Artest hitting clutch shots at the end to clinch the title for the Lakers. Whoda thunk it? Nobody. In these days with the best teams being so close in talent, the difference between winning and losing is certain to be an unlikely player filling an unlikely role. We believe if the Chicago Bulls are going to win it all, they need power forward Carlos Boozer to do things he has never done before. Probably not who you were thinking as the x-factor for the Bulls, but hear us out.

Who is Carlos Boozer?  Olympic gold medalist, NCAA champion, 2 time NBA All Star, and a 20/10 guy when healthy…blah, blah ,blah. Yeah we know that, but to us he is a lollygagger. That’s right…LOLLYGAGGER!!  We recognize the man’s skills. Besides Rose, he is undoubtedly the most talented cat on the roster. Boozer has always been an exceptional rebounder, effective jump shooter up to 20 feet, solid passer, and can finish at the rim effortlessly with either hand. Dude is still a LOLLYGAGGER! Boozer’s motor always runs on one speed (6.5/10 on the effort level). He is just so damn good, nobody ever busted his ass about it. Boozer is like a bird, migrating with the flock, right in the middle. If the flock is all good…so is he. If the flock is in trouble, so is Carlos. Boozer ain’t the bird swooping down to save the flock when it has just been pelted by a hail storm is what we are saying here. Boozer is the one Bull that has yet to drink the Coach Thibodeau Kool-Aid. His lack of intensity (we particularly hate his fake annoying primal screams after a pertinent play), failure to rotate defensively and reluctance to take a charge often undermines the Bulls team defensively.

The good news for Boozer and Bulls fans is apparently there is a cure out there for lollygag-ism. Two other lollygaggers figured it out and were rewarded with back to back championship rings. The supremely talented Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were publicly exposed of their lollygagging during the 2008 NBA finals. The Lakers entered nearly a 2-1 Vegas favorite in ‘08, but were overwhelmed by a more ferocious, hungrier Celtic team. The boys learned their lesson:  they know to be a champion in the NBA it takes a different type of effort.  Bulls’ fans, we suggest keeping an eye on Boozer as your team advances to the conference finals. If you see the man take a charge, or perhaps dive on the floor for a loose ball, feel free to start making plans to catch that parade on Michigan Avenue!

P.S.  Big Hi-Five to Chris Paul and his Hornets! We humbly apologize for your premature playoff burial. More importantly, it was great to see the old Chris Paul! It was a weird year for one of our favorite NBA players to suddenly drop dramatically in scoring (as his team REALLY needed it most nights).  In fact, he was shut completely in a regular season game two weeks ago. Welcome back Chris and hope you got a few more games like the one we saw Sunday.

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