Ibaka’s Injury Not Only Problem For Thunder

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The Oklahoma City Thunder are the epitome of a growing and promising sports franchise. Moving to Oklahoma City in 2008, the Thunder have drafted extremely well, been coached even better and have quickly become one of the best teams in the NBA.

In 2007 came Kevin Durant and a rookie of the year campaign.

In 2008, the Thunder welcomed Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.

In 2009, James Harden joined the team.

Since coming to Oklahoma City 6 years ago, the Thunder have been to the playoffs 5 times, including a 2012 finals run against the Heat. They have the MVP, one of the best point guards in the NBA and arguably the best rim protector in the league as well. Because of the firepower of mainly Westbrook and Durant, the Thunder’s flaws have often been masked, thrown to the side and forgotten. Why shouldn’t they? They have an MVP and when your top two players are combining for 56 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists per game, its easy to neglect the bad. Especially when you’re winning, and winning consistently. However, it’s clear, especially clear in this year’s playoffs that the Thunder will never win a championship with their current roster.

In the 1st round against the Grizzlies, the Thunder won in 7 games. In all those 7 games, everybody not named Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook scored an average of 46.7 points per game. The Thunder consistently play 8 other guys besides their superstars so if you break it down even further the Thunder were getting an average of 5.8 points per game.

In round 2 against the Clippers, everybody not named KD or Russell Westbrook scored an average of 44.5 points per game, giving their role players an average of 5.5 points each.

In both of those series, the Thunder won out. The first reason was because Serge Ibaka was in the middle protecting the rim and stopping easy baskets. On the other hand, the explosive superstar duo averaged 51 points per game combined against the Clippers and 55 against the Grizzlies.

But now, against the Spurs, the most fundamentally sound and smooth offense in the league, the Thunder cannot match the offensive production. Sure, losing Serge’s 15 points per game hurts, but this meltdown has been one in the making. The Thunder lack two-way players. It’d be ok if their roster had a moderate blend of both shooters and defensive minded players like the Heat (see Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole) but the Thunder don’t. The Thunder’s role players are defensive minded big men like Kendrick Perkins who has become a liability in the area he’s supposed to excel in, Steven Adams and Nick Collison. The latter two are solid defensively and rebound well but offensively have little to offer besides moving the ball, and getting putbacks around the rim. Their role players are also guys like Caron Butler who has become more inconsistent and unpredictable then Dwyane Wade’s clothing choices and then there’s Derrick Fisher and Reggie Jackson, the only guys who really can produce offensively consistently, and if Fisher isn’t hitting open threes than all the Thunder have to rely on is Reggie Jackson. This is an issue. It’s a big issue. The Thunder cannot rely so heavily on Durant and Westbrook. It works, it sure as hell works, but there is a limit to how far they can go with this current team. There is a ceiling, while teams like the Heat and Spurs both rely on a system that has no limit to their success and that’s all attributed to their well roundedness. Durant and Westbrook are two of the most explosive offensive players in the league and probably the best scoring duo in the NBA but like LeBron and Wade need shooters and other guys who can help carry the load, so do they.

Right now against the Spurs, the Thunder are being embarrassed for two reasons. The first is the gaping hole in the middle of the paint usually occupied by Serge Ibaka. Without his length and athleticism guarding the rim, the Spurs are getting easy buckets whenever they want. The Spurs scored 54 points in the paint in Game 2 and 66 in Game 1. Meaning in Game 1 54% of the Spurs points were scored in the paint, followed by 48% in Game 2. So yes, a lot of the Thunder’s struggles DEFENSIVELY are clearly a result of not having Ibaka.

Offensively, however is a whole different issue. Ibaka does make things easier, yes, but only marginally with 12-15 points per game. The Thunder are getting nothing from anybody offensively and as a result the Spurs are able to focus solely on Durant and Westbrook. They each scored 15 points in Game 2. The Spurs don’t have to worry about anybody killing them from beyond the arc because the Thunder simply don’t have the type of players that are legitimate threats from long range. But on the other side of the court, the Thunder are having to guard everyone because everybody is a threat and unlike the often stagnant offense of the Thunder the Spurs are constantly moving, setting screens, cutting to the basket and moving the ball. Everybody on the court is a threat offensively. The Thunder don’t have that. In Game 1, the Thunder had 5 points from the other three starters combined! Why do the Spurs have to pay attention on defense to a Nick Collison or a Thabo Sefolosha if they’re not doing anything offensively? The answer is they don’t. The Spurs can stand around and stare at Westbrook and Durant, crowd them, pack the paint on them and if Durant or Westbrook want to kick the ball out, it’s to a player who is either not an offensive minded player (Sefolosha, Perkins, Collison) or someone who isn’t a consistent shooter (Butler, Lamb, Fisher) That in itself is causing Westbrook and Durant to keep the ball in their hands more. They don’t trust their teammates offensively, thus their offense gets more stagnant and defense becomes a lot easier for the Spurs. It’s a vicious cycle all stemming from the fact that the Thunder’s roster is constructed in a way that puts too much pressure on Durant and Westbrook. What happens on the off chance that one of those guys doesn’t play well like in Game 2? Well then they’re absolutely screwed.

I won’t say the door is closing on the Thunder because Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka are so young but very soon the Thunder could find themselves 5 years down the road, still without a championship even though each year they are among the best teams in the league. The roster needs to be tweaked. They need more shooting threats – more guys to help them spread the floor, more options for Durant and Westbrook to kick to. They need players who actually attract consistent attention from defenses. The Heat are the model that they should try to emulate. LeBron and Wade are surrounded by shooters and defenders not just defenders.

The Thunder won’t win this series, meaning Kevin Durant will once again fall short of a championship. Next year could be different or it could be the same, but the formula the Thunder have right now isn’t working and waiting longer and longer, and resting on the fact that they are consistently a top 2 seed in the West isn’t going to work. Oklahoma City has become, because of Durant and Westbrook an appealing place to play, Sam Presti needs to figure out a way to move this roster around, and add some pieces that aren’t one dimensional, but players who can play both ends and help out offensively. If not, who knows, but maybe in a few years when Durant’s contract is up he might look at his age and not like the situation he’s in and I’d hate for the Thunder to lose him because they couldn’t surround him with the right sort of team.

Russell Westbrook Down And Out: What Now?

***UPDATE***

Russell Westbrook is out for the remainder of the postseason. The Thunder will have to fight through without him. It’s truly a shame for the Thunder and Westbrook who had  a real shot at winning a championship. He and Durant will have to get it next year. #WinforWestbrook. 

Superstar point guard Russell Westbrook will get surgery to repair a torn meniscus he suffered during the 2nd quarter in game 2 of the Thunder’s series against the Houston Rockets. Here’s the play…

Now what’s happening above is Patrick Beverly desperately trying to get Kevin McHale to notice him. He doesn’t play much, he’d been playing hard all game and this was one of those things players do to get their coach to say, “He never stopped playing hard, I like that. He’s getting some more minutes next game.” Usually playing hard is a good thing, but not if you’re doing it recklessly. I’ve honestly gone through a thousand scenarios in my head and there is no way that Beverley would’ve gotten that steal anyway. Westbrook is clearly calling a timeout, just watch his leisurely gallop to Scott Brooks and the rest of the bench. If anything he should’ve been called for a foul, as Beverley clearly reached across Westbrook’s body. But hey, let’s not get mad at Beverley. It wasn’t a dirty play, just unnecessary. He’s a youngster trying to make an impact on the biggest stage. He’s overzealous and that can lead to things like… I don’t know ruining the Thunder’s chances of reaching the Finals… No biggie.

Where does this leave the Thunder? That is the big question right now. He’s out indefinitely but that really doesn’t eliminate him completely from post-season play. If you remember clearly, Chris Bosh was ruled out indefinitely last year due to an abdominal strain he suffered in Game 1 of the Heat’s series against the Pacers in the 2nd round of the playoffs. He came back in Game 5 of the Heat’s series against the Celtics in the Conference Finals. Ultimately, he was only out a total of 22 days. Now I’m not comparing a torn meniscus to an abdominal strain at all, because they’re not similar in the slightest. Bosh didn’t get surgery, Bosh’s injury didn’t prohibit him from running. I’m just saying the diagnosis – “out indefinitely” – sounds a lot scarier than it is. Kind of like hearing you’re going to face the Lakers in the playoffs and then… playing them. His timetable is unknown, although the expected time of return for someone with a torn meniscus is 6 weeks after surgery. There is some hope for Thunder fans in terms of a return though. Just a few weeks ago, Metta World Peace suffered the same injury and underwent surgery. He was seen 12 days later at Staples Center playing against the New Orleans Pelicans. His return was an unbelievably fast return so don’t think Russell can pull it off as well. It’s like saying school isn’t necessary because Mark Zuckerberg dropped out and became a billionaire – he’s the ultimate exception. However, Russell Westbrook is as crazy and may be crazier than MWP and if there’s any guy to come back from an injury like this quickly, it’s going to be him.

I think the Thunder will be fine in their current series against the Rockets. They have a commanding 2-0 lead and the Rockets haven’t shown any signs of a desire to play defense. They may give the Rockets some more room to grab a game, maybe two if god’s feeling good but ultimately they’ll come out on top. The real problem will come in the next round when the Thunder play either the Grizzlies or the Clippers. I predicted the Grizzlies but it could go either way at this point. Both of those teams are true contenders in the West and both boast very well rounded and talented teams with experience. If it were up to me right now, I would take the Thunder out of contention for the NBA championship. Westbrook and Durant are the best duo in the NBA and without Westbrook I don’t think they can compete with teams like the Clippers, Grizzlies and especially the Spurs. The Thunder have never been without Russell Westbrook before as he has never missed a game in his 5 years of professional basketball. So there are no stats nor parameters by which we can judge the Thunder’s future success. Westbrook had been averaging 24 points, 7 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 3 steals a contest in the Thunder’s two games against Houston. So obviously, losing him is a big hit to what they do as a team.

I think, however blunt it may sound, the Thunder’s hopes of a title are over. However, if we want to look on the bright-side of things, and I’m doing this specifically for Thunder fans, we can look at five things:

The Brightside!

#1. Kevin Durant is probably the best offensive specimen in the NBA and was partially held back by Westbrook’s 18.8 shot attempts per game this season. Without Westbrook, Kevin Durant really gets all the shots he could possibly want to potentially score 40 points a game throughout the rest of the playoffs. It’s damn hard to beat a Thunder team with KD scoring 40-50 a game.

#2. Through the month of April, Reggie Jackson was averaging 9.5 points and 2.6 assists on 45% shooting in 21.6 minutes a game. Throughout the playoffs so far, he has averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 assists a game. He’s been playing superbly given the minutes and you can bet he’ll get a spike in that department now. The Thunder fans can find salvation in the fact that Reggie Jackson will be a reliable source at point guard in the place of Westbrook.

#3. The Thunder have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The fans have the power to control the series for OKC. If they are behind them, they can push their team further than expected.

#4. Russell Westbrook is a psychopath. You can tell from the way he plays on the court and the way he dresses off the court. If there’s any player in the league who has the ability to come back from an injury in the blink of an eye, it’s Russell Westbrook.

#5. Thunder fans now have their own version of #prayforware… It’s called #WinforWestbrook

So with all that in mind, good luck to the Thunder and let’s #WinforWestbrook.

More To Come

Don’t think because the Thunder have gotten to the next level and the next tier of excellence that they’re going to stop there. They’re not done. Actually, far from it. They’re on their way to winning an NBA championship. 5 years ago Kevin Durant joined the Oklahoma City Thunder or Seattle Supersonics as they were known and won 20 games. 20 games. The next year they picked up Russell Westbrook in the draft. They won 23 that year. In 2009, they picked up James Harden and Serge Ibaka and won 50 games, while suffering a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Lakers in the first round. The next year, they were the 4th seed in the NBA and won 55 games. They advanced to the conference finals but lost in 6 games to the Dallas Mavericks who went on to win the NBA championship. This year they clinched the 2nd seed in the West by winning 47 out of 66 games. That was just to highlight the growth and development of this team as a unit. They worked their way up through hard work and patience and they progressed every single year. Kevin Durant is now a 3 time scoring champion, James Harden the 6th man of the year, and Russell Westbrook a top 5 point guard in the NBA. Now they’re in the NBA finals. It wasn’t easy though, they were down 2-0 to a team who had won 20 games in a row and looked unstoppable. However, they won 4 in a row and finished the aging Spurs and are now bound to win an NBA championship, with their three best players all under the age of 24. So, if they don’t win it this year, which they most likely will, they will certainly win it in the years to come.

What’s so good about the Thunder? How did this small market team come out of nowhere in the past 5 years and take over the NBA? Well, one thing is for certain they have every piece to the puzzle in place. They all know their roles and there is not a hole in this roster that needs filling. They have the unstoppable scorer, the best 6th man in the NBA, and a top 5 point guard. They have the runner up for defensive player of the year playing alongside Kendrick Perkins one of the grittiest, and toughest players in the NBA. They have Thabo Sefolosha, one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. On the bench, Derrick Fisher a 5 time NBA champion who brings the wisdom and experience to the young team. They have Nick Collinson a terrific post defender and pick and roll defender. Daquon Cook even gave the Thunder a boost beyond the arc in this series. Everybody knows their role and everybody is so damn good at it. They are so good defensively, because they are constantly helping each other out. Offensively, they are often too quick for most teams in the league. Besides the Heat, no team gets up and down the floor as quickly as the Thunder do. Then of course, it’s nearly impossible to stop Kevin Durant from scoring, and if you focus too much on him then Westbrook puts you on a poster while Harden gets another and 1.

The reason they are destined for an NBA championship is because neither team in the Eastern Conference finals can beat the Thunder in a best of 7 series. The Celtics first off are too slow and I don’t think they can compete with the youth and quickness of the Thunder. Sure, we all said that about them vs the Heat but it’s different. The Heat can’t beat the Celtics because of the lack of depth, the Celtics make up for their lack of athleticism with their overwhelming depth. The Thunder however, are the better version of the Heat. They have their own big 3 but they have so many premier role players that there is no area in which they lack. The other thing is that the Heat are having troubles because the Big 2 are finding it extremely hard to get to the basket because of the stifling Celtic defense and because of Garnett in the middle. James and Wade aren’t great shooters however, Durant, Harden and Westbrook don’t need to get to the basket to score. They can all shoot the ball from everywhere on the floor, especially Durant. They shouldn’t have a problem settling for jumpers, because they do that naturally already. Perkins or Ibaka can also outmuscle and outplay Brandon Bass down low, another minor advantage that could prove invaluable if these two teams meet up. And one of the most important things is the Celtics have yet to face a team in the playoffs with a defender who can really bother Garnett. Al Horford was the closest thing to Ibaka and Perkins yet and Garnett averaged 18 and 10 against him. Garnett has yet to play against a really good and tough post defender and a tough big man in the playoffs. He won’t be playing against a Spencer Hawes or Joel Anthony. He’ll get takes from Ibaka and Perkins and that will completely alter his production making it much harder for the Celtics to score. If the Thunder play the Heat, well it should be even easier. The Thunder are just a better version of the Heat and a younger version. Instead of a Big 2, and an inconsistent 3, they have a really big young 3. Instead of no big men, they have Perkins and Ibaka, with Collison for support. Instead of aging veterans surrounding them, they have young talented players like Sefolosha, and Harden. The Thunder would pound the Heat inside. Ibaka and Perkins would absolutely have their way down low and would outrebound everybody on the Heat, making it a lot harder for the Heat to get out and run, which is what they love to do. Additionally, the depth of the Thunder would prove lethal like the depth of the Celtics is proving to be against Miami. Durant and Lebron will cancel out, Westbrook and Wade will cancel out and we know Harden will produce more then Bosh so there goes their big three. And when the stars in Miami are out the Heat can’t handle Harden and Derrick Fisher on the perimeter. They’re outnumbered and outmatched as they say.

The Thunder may have improved this season and gotten to the next level, but i assure you they’re not finished. In fact, there is tons more to come.

Finals: Game 3

Texas. Known for it’s persistent droughts, it’s southern accents and most of all it’s crazy fans.

It’s those fans who will seal this game for Dallas. We all know that the bench plays better when they are surrounded by a stadium of people right behind them. J.J Barea, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic have yet to play their games in this series. Dallas will be praying that their fans can bring the benches esteem up and make them play Maverick basketball.

No matter what happens now, the series is 0-0. Nothing has happened before this game. Any feuds, mistakes, highs, lows made in the past two games are history. This game is the thing that counts. If Dallas wins this game then they send Miami back to the locker room down for another game in a row. They also carry more momentum for the next two games in Dallas. As well as getting the fans more involved for the rest of the series, which will be vital for their success.

If Miami wins this game then they’ve almost accomplished what they have to do. Win 2 out of 3 in Dallas. They know that to win this series they have to win at least 2 out of 3 in Dallas. Otherwise it’s byebye to the Larry O’Brian trophy.

How are they going to win though? Game 3, I call the step up game. It’s the game where the players who haven’t yet reached their full potential in this series will come out.

Take Chris Bosh for instance.

He had two 30 point games in the Chicago series. He scored 12 in game 2 of this series. This isn’t the time to back away. He is a vital part of this team. The most important part as well. With all the attention on Wade and Lebron in this game, he will have to be very aggressive and send a message to everybody saying,

” Hey, forget about me, I’m also an all-star.”

For Dallas it’s Jason Terry who I’m looking to step it up.

His whole Dallas career he has played his best games in Dallas. He gets in a groove, he rides off the crowd’s energy, his three point shooting touch starts working and the jet leaves the run-way, flies off onto a whole other level and doesn’t come down until the buzzer has sounded. Just look at this postseason. 9 three pointers in game 4 against L.A. 24 points in game 1 in the conference finals. 23 points in game 3 of the conference finals. 22 in game 1 against Portland, 20 in game 5 and 22 in game 6. Notice he scored 20 points in all of those games in Dallas.When he is feeling it, then he stretches the defence, making them have to rotate more, something the Heat don’t like doing.

Then in general, this is a redemption game for Miami. Many people including myself have been doubting Miami’s maturity and desire for the championship after their 7 minute meltdown in the 4th quarter of game 2. They stepped on the gas, went 100 miles an hour, then slowed down to 10 miles an hour and stayed like that for 7 minutes. While Dallas was on the verge of a speeding ticket in the last 7 minutes. They have to focus their minds on taking one game at a time, they have to grab this game from the beginning, take Dirk and the fans out of it and never let up.

For Dallas, they have to show that their 7 minutes of heaven last game wasn’t a goof. That it wasn’t just a veteran run, but that it was proof of desire and heart to win a finals game. They’re coming home with the energy, the momentum and the confidence. Miami will most likely start the game on their heels, the Mavs have to trip them up and show them that desire beats talent.

Game 3, see you in 2 hours.

Game 1: NBA Finals

Tonight we begin the finals. We begin what could be one of the most fun match-ups in NBA history. A high octane offense against a slow half-court offense. Two lockdown defenses, 4 hall of famers, and one NBA championship.

This game will start it all. It will set the tone for the series. It will set the pace. It will show the world who’s boss. It will prove to everyone that these guys are for real.  This game is more than just an NBA finals game. This is the first impression we’re going to get of how this NBA finals will taste.

What am I looking for in this game?

For the Heat i’m looking for them to set the tone. They need to come out on to the court with more swagger then Dwyane Wade’s clothing choices. They need to be confident and they need to play like they have throughout the postseason. If they can come out and dump on the Mavs as soon as the ball is tossed then they can win this game. The Heat are very good when they are in the lead. After their shaky few games with losing leads in the middle of the regular season they focused more on the 4th quarter and closing out games. Lebron took all the criticism to heart and became a clutch player, that his team can depend on when they need him.

In a few small words. The Heat need to put their foot on the gas, go 100 miles an hour and don’t stop the whole game. If they can get an early lead then they can get the crowd into it which will be extremely important considering the Mavericks are one of the best road teams in the NBA.

Then they need to show the Mavericks that they can defend Dirk. They can’t play defense like the Thunder and let him score 48 points in game 1. His confidence hasn’t been higher in his whole career and from that game on it made it hard for the Thunder to slow him down. He played the rest of the series with a certain confidence and looseness about him that brought his teammates and the crowd up with him. The Heat need, need to shut down Dirk. It’s the most crucial thing in this series. We all know what Dirk can do if he isn’t guarded properly, and the Heat can’t let that happen. Especially not in the finals where Dirk is hungrier then ever before. It might be hard to double team him, due to the skilled three point shooters that the Mavericks have. Like Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry. They have to try and force him to give the ball up. He loves the spot on the wing between the free throw line extended and the restricted area. He has so much room there. All his teammates move to the other side of the court and give him all the space he needs to sink a jumper. I would try, first of all to double him on the entry pass and not the actual possession. If he can’t get the ball then it’s harder for him to score. Then whoever is guarding him, whether it be Bosh or Haslem, they call for a double. It’s a safer way to guard him, Jason Terry and the other three point shooters won’t make the open shots consistently plus I think Lebron is fast enough or Wade is fast enough to rotate over.

You can’t stop Dirk Nowitzki, I know that. I’m just suggesting ways to limit him.

For Lebron, it’s his big moment. The whole basketball world is watching him, waiting for every tiny mistake to critique on. He can’t mess up. He has to show the world that he doesn’t give up in big playoff moments which wasn’t true in the first place. He has to show everyone that in this series he is the best player on the floor. That he is the one who deserves the ring, and that he wants it more than Dirk. It’s his chance to silence everybody and play his game. He has to use up 100% of his energy and try get Miami into a transition game. Every time he grabs a rebound it should be up the floor, the Mavs defense is too good for them to stay in the half-court.

For the Mavericks it’s a chance to silence the Heat crowd. If they can win the first game in Miami, well it’s a gift. They would easily silence the crowd. They would cause the media to pick on Lebron more and I know he says he absorbs the criticism but with all the pressure mounting, I doubt he can stay so composed for much longer. They would pick up a 1-0 lead and force the Heat on their heels. It would also give Dirk a taste of the 2006 series where the same thing happened in 2006. Where Dallas picked up the first at home but lost in 6, it will give him sickening memories and remind him how bad he wants this and make him try harder. If that’s possible. It’s their chance to spit on any memory of playoff chokes and win this series for Dallas, for Dirk, for Jason Kidd, and for the loud-mouthed Mark Cuban. The Mavericks are the underdogs in this series and they know that if they don’t come out strong that they will lose this series quicker than it takes D-Rose to run up the court.

For the defense, it’s their time to step up. They have played stellar defense up till now but this is no time to let loose. The Heat have mismatches at the small forward spot and the shooting guard spot. That’s going to take some team defense overall to stop them. They have to remember their rotations, and shift constantly to guard the open man. If Lebron and Wade dominate their man like I predict they will then it’s basically like playing 4 on 5 in favour of the Heat.

For Dirk personally. He knows what must be done. He knows how close he is, to greatness, to glory, to champagne, to the hall of fame and to an NBA championship. He is hungrier than ever before and that has clearly showed off in his play. He has shouted with adrenaline 10 times in the playoffs as a sign of a tougher, meaner player and a more confident and proud one. He has said that this is the best team he’s played on his whole career but he knows that this is his time. It’s his stage. He knows that a ring on the resumé will let him retire in peace. Lebron said it, if you want to be remembered as an all time great you win a ring. Dirk must. He has to come out of this game not unselfishly but confidently and aggressively. He has to take over as soon as the whistle blows. He hasn’t quite realized that he is unstoppable and is shooting the 2nd most unstoppable shot ever seen in the NBA. He has to take Chris Bosh into the post, take jump shot after jump shot. Jason Kidd is smart enough to know that Dirk needs to get into a rythm early for the Mavericks to have a good chance at winning this game.

Game 1 we’ll see you in 2 hours.

The Finals

In July the BIG 3 were formed in Miami. Lebron, Wade, and Bosh joined forces with a mission to get themselves a title, the easy way. There were the celebrations, the interviews, the arrogant dancing around on stage. They all said that they were going to win many championships with this team.

.

No matter how much the NBA fans hated Lebron and the Heat, we all knew deep down inside that they would make it to the finals. I mean how couldn’t they. Lebron, Wade and Bosh.

It seems like a fantasy team on a video game.

Then there is the modest, and somewhat soft Dallas team. They’ve had an injury riddled season. They really hoped this season would be different than all of the

other early playoff exits. Losing in the first or second round had become a habit for this Mavs team, and frankly Dirk was sick of it. He has done too much in this league to go down without a ring. 2006 was supposed to be the year, but after D-Wade’s amazing playoff series, they were cut short.

This year seemed like the year for them. After a bit of a struggle in the first round of the playoff, they went on to sweep the Lakers with defense, and beat up on the Thunder with effort and hustle. Definitely things you’d like to see from a championship hungry team.

Will they be able to get past the Heat though?

It’s certainly going to be a heated series. With one of the most respected players in the league playing one of the most hated around the league, tempers seem like they’re going to flare. They have to, the immense  pressure mounting on Lebron’s back must be too hard to handle. He has the whole country watching, either waiting for him to fail, or waiting for him to become one of the best players in history.

This series means a lot of things. If Miami wins, it will give Lebron a chance to become one of the greatest players to ever play. And silence the year long critics. Of course him winning, might start some out of control riots in Cleveland and other cities across America. But hey, that’s basketball.

For Dirk, this could be his last legit chance of winning a championship. His age is clearly not effecting his game in a negative way. In fact the best games of his career have been played throughout these playoffs. He’ll turn 33 next year, his team may break up. Younger teams are getting better and more respected. If Dirk were to win this ring, then his career could finally be complete. He has successfully changed the power forward position, won MVP, and carried his team to an NBA Championship. Never mind the same team he was drafted by.

The Finals this year are about much more than the game of basketball. For Dirk Nowitzki- one of the greatest players of his era- he could seal his legacy by winning the ring he rightfully deserves. For Lebron James- who’s still inking his elite status- a win could open the door to establishing him as possibly one of the greatest players of all time.

Nowitzki or Durant?

It’s an interesting comparison, they’re both playing some of the best  basketball of their careers. Dirk at 32, Durant at 22. Both have strengths and flaws. Who would I take to have on my team? Let’s see.

Strengths are still developing for this young superstar. He has aspects of his game that are unbelievable. Such as his shooting. His unorthodox release is as effective as any shot in the NBA. His quick flick of the wrist, the perfect rotation through the air and the beautiful swish through the net. From any where on the court. Off the dribble and from a pass. His three point shot has evolved every year in the NBA. This year it was as good as it has been his whole career. He drains shots from there like it’s a daily routine. He can come off curls and pop the shot. Come of V-cuts and pop it. He can take one dribble and pop it right over the defenders head. He can pretty much pop the J whenever he wants to. Then there is his shot off the dribble. He takes one powerful gather dribble and a mix between a floater and a smooth jumper. It goes in every time though so who really cares. Then his maturity and leadership. He’s a modest age of 22 and is more modest than any superstar i’ve ever watched. He’s always crediting teammates for their success and always calling himself out whenever he deserves it. He’s living the dream in the NBA and nothing can stop him from enjoying it. Every time he steps on that floor it looks like he’s a boy in a candy shop. His passing skills are underrated as well. He is one of the best passers on the fast break in the league. Whether it’s a baseball pass down the length of the court or if it’s a sneaky dish inside for a teammate to dunk it in.

His flaws are noticeable. At a young age like his it’s normal for an NBA player to have weak aspects of his game. One is being soft. He is not aggressive enough for his team to win a championship. That’s my bold statement. It may be how he was raised or how modest he is but he has to get mad and charge at the basket. Something good happens every time he goes to the hoop. He goes to the line or finishes with a dunk. He’s a 7 foot small forward with hops like a pogo stick. He has to be aggressive. Then he has to be able to pass off to teammates when he’s penetrating the inside. Kevin Durant being the superstar that he is, attracts a lot of attention from the defense. When he drives from the left or right side the big men will come out to get him which leaves players wide open in the corners for three pointers. He has to learn to look for them even while he’s driving in. Look up KD! It’s frustrating to watch these wide open players not get the ball because their superstar can’t find them. Another flaw is his inability to be effective in other ways when he’s struggling. Just like Derrick Rose he has trouble flushing his mistakes because their so modest. They take some time to swirl around in his mind before being flushed. In that period of time, Kevin has to do other things besides scoring to help his team win. Don’t be idle on the court. He should be setting screens or making distracting cuts, not running into a wall again and again.

Then there is the 7 foot German they call Dirk Nowitzki. Ya, I know you’ve heard of him.

Strengths are very strong with Dirk. If you haven’t noticed his jumpshot is the most unstoppable shot since Kareem Abdul Jabar’s sky hook. It’s actually unstoppable though. Sure he may miss it once every 10 attempts but that’s not stopping it that’s missing it. He holds the ball so far above his 7 foot head that’s it’s physically unreachable for any human defender to get a hand in front of. Then there is his extreme talent of balance that he maintains while leaning back. He doesn’t wobble but keeps complete stillness while leaning back. Then there is his flexibility to take off of one foot to lift him upwards. It’s my favorite shot in the whole game, it never gets old. After watching him take that shot for 10 years now I still am dumbfounded at how he manages to do it. Another strength is his leadership. If you watch Maverick games he is always shouting things out. Usually directing the defense, calling out screens or cutters. He is the voice of the Mavs defense and he is always there to remind the Mavericks of their goal and what they have to do to reach it. Then their is his amazing IQ for the game. He is so smart at reading the defense when he is in the post. He can tell where the perimeter players are. He can tell how the post player is going to defend him. He can anticipate where his teammates are going to cut to. He is also a master at getting fouled on the shot. When defenders guard Nowitzki, they’re always on their heels. How can they tell what’s going to happen, is he going to drive in, will he take the unstoppable jump shot? If he fakes the shot, the defenders jump right up because they’re scared he’s going to take it. Then he adjusts takes the contact and flips up a shot to get fouled. After Jamal Crawford he is the best at 4 point plays.

Then there are his flaws. He doesn’t use his size enough for a 7 footer. I understand completely that his game is primarily on the three point line and from mid range but he is a 7 footer. He should try post up more and bully his way inside. He hasn’t done this his whole career. He may want to start now if he wants a championship. He’d be unstoppable if he used his size and strength to get closer to the basket. It would also spread the defense out more because they wouldn’t know if he was going to step back for a jump-shot or post up for an easy layup. His other flaw is that he’s ringless. He’s played 11 years and he still has no ring. He’s one time MVP and 1st ballot future hall of famer but he’s ringless. He needs the elite status of a ring to really ink his name in peoples minds as one of the best power forwards ever. I hope he can succeed in the finals if he gets there.

I would take Nowitzki. His size, leadership, jump shot, and IQ for the game make him invaluable to have on a team.