Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday's Starting Five

1. Lebron James. Is he Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan? Is Delonte West playing the part of Steve Kerr or Donyell Marshall? Last night it looked like the jury is still out on LBJ and that West is more Kerr than Marshall. The Lebronaliers took a commanding 3 games to 1 lead over the Wizards after West hit a tie-breaking three-pointer with less than six seconds remaining. Lebron, drew the defense to him by looking like he was going to pull up for a potential-game-winner, but then swung the ball to West in the corner. He had daylight in Lebron's shadow and canned the shot. Had he not it would have been LBJ's fault and not his own. After all, what kind of best-ever-superstar doesn't take that shot himself? Apparently, Lebron does. It worked last night. Will it next time?

2. Boris Diaw and Raja Bell. Although their performances and those of their teammates may fall into the too little, too late category after they've dug themselves a 0-3 hole, it was still one heck of a game that Diaw and Bell played last night. The 6-foot-8 power point forward from France was unguardable last night and was two assists short of triple-double while Bell was flat-out dominant in the first half, scoring 21. Diaw got the starting nod in place of an (gasp) injured Grant Hill and scored twenty points, hauled in ten boards and dished out ten dimes and revitalized a team that seemed crestfallen after squandering Game 1. Meanwhile, Bell epitomized the potential in the Suns lineup. When they're are on they can't be guarded.

3. Matt Ryan. This time last week many experts and website commenters were forecasting the Aaron-Rodgers-like fall of Ryan in this past weekend's NFL draft. Now, they're just talking about the bust he'll be as such a high pick. So, I guess he wins Round 1. The former Boston College QB was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the #3 overall pick. It's a mess that he's heading into. Frankly, I had talked myself into him falling to the Jets. It would have worked out for both of us. He could have learned in the wings for at least a season and likely two before being thrown into the fray. I could have gone out and bought myself a nice green Ryan jersey. But, who knows what will happen to him in Atlanta. I do think he's got the right stuff for the gig but do any of those offensive lineman? Does that coaching staff have the patience to play Joey Harrington while Ryan gets his sea legs? Does that fan base have anything left to embrace a new "franchise" quarterback while the dog blood over at Vick's place is barely dry?

4. Gilbert Arenas. I know that the story was Delonte West's three-pointer from the corner or the fact that Lebron passed the ball with the game on the line. I know that those were the important takeaways. But, I can't stop thinking about what Agent Zero did just to get his team to that point. He hit two free throws and made one acrobatic circus-bank shot to put his team in a position to play an overtime period if they got one stop. And, since they didn't get the stop none of this mattered. Gilbert is clearly still hurt. That brace on his leg looks like it is just slightly more mobile than a full-on cast. But he has also displayed a willingness to play through pain and still take the big shot that made me take notice. He played the fewest minutes of any starter last night and had only scored 6 points heading into the endgame but he came through for his team (well, except on the very last shot that he tried to squeeze off after West hit his 3) when they needed someone to step up to give them a chance.

5. David West. Alas Chris Paul has been usurped from The Starting Five by the seventeen-foot assassin. West was the one who took this game over in the third quarter just the way that CP3 took over Game 1. He scored six points in the stretch that saw the Hornets push their advantage to 14 and push Avery Johnson one step closer to play-by-play commentary.

Benched. Jason Kidd. If not for the preternatural balance and strength of Jannero Pargo, Kidd would be in a heap of trouble right now. If the Hornets back-up point guard hadn't miraculously gotten his hand underneath him before he got the hardwood imbedded then Jason Kidd would undoubtedly be suspended for Tuesday's Game 5 and his reputation would be even further sullied. He was ejected from the game for his head-grab and shove to the ground on an airborn Pargo but he most certainly got off lucky. It was a bush-league frustration foul by someone who clearly has no concern for any player (or coach) that isn't working on his behalf. And, I like hard fouls and a no-layups ethos. Many of my fondest basketball memories involve Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason. However, this was no heat of the moment situation that Kidd got caught up in. His team was trailing by 16 with less than eight minutes to play.