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NBA PLAYOFF PICKS (FIRST ROUND)

4/19/08

The NBA playoffs are here, and with the Final Four over and done with, the real basketball madness begins.

The great Laker-Celtic rivalry of the 1980’s has a chance to resurface should both 1 seeds take care of business, and with Kobe and KG leading the way, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if thats the match up we see come June.

The Western Conference playoffs offer 4 compelling first round match-ups, while that ‘other’ conference should end up remaining irrelevant until the Boston-Detroit conference finals match up everyone anticpates.

Lets break down those match-ups and pick some winners

What I like to refer to as the NBA’s minor leagues (a lower class of basketball than the NBDL), the Eastern Conference lacks depth and features only two real threats to whoever survives the Western Conference gauntlet. Boston and Detroit are the class of the conference, whlie Lebron lurks at the 4th spot, looking for a return to the Finals after last season’s disappointing sweep at the hands of the Spurs. There are some nice stories with Atlanta and Philly making surprising post season appearences, but expect to see an 80’s flashback with the Celtics and Piston’s making all the noise.
Eastern Conference

1 Boston Celtics vs. 8 Atlanta Hawks

The big three shouldn’t have much trouble with the young, up and coming Hawks who held off the Pacers and clinched their first playoff birth since 1999. Josh Smith and Joe Johnson are nice pieces and both have off the chart talent, but the lack of experience combined with the determination of the C’s will cause Atlanta’s run to end early.

Celtics in 4

2 Detoirt Pistons vs. 7 Philadelphia 76’ers

After embarassing themselves against Lebron in the conference finals last year, Detroit this season had stretches where they looked absolutely unbeatable. Their fab four remains as good as any, and this is another case where experience and talent just completely overmatches a young Sixer’s squad, led by Maurice Cheeks who deserves consideration for coach of the year. Andre Iguadala took a big step forward this past year, but needs more help before he’ll see the second round.

Pistons in 4

3 Orlando Magic vs. 6 Toronto Raptors

The Magic look to build off of their brief taste of playoff basketball from last season, and with Stan Van Gundy running the show and Rashard Lewis giving Dwight Howard some outside help, Orlando shouldn’t have too much trouble with a Raptors teams that outside of Chris Bosh, lacks a real offensive threat. This series will probably get back to Orlando, but won’t last much beyond that.

Magic in 5

4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5 Washington Wizards

The most compelling (probably the only compelling) first round match up in the East, Lebron James and the new look Cavs take on the Washington Wizards in what is turning into a war of words, at least from the boys from D.C. Washington’s big three of Arenas, Butler and Jamison can hold their own, but the health of the first two remain a big question mark. The Cav’s looked about as mediocre after the trade as they did before it, but as has been the case since he was drafted, as King James goes, so go the Cav’s. This series can easily go 6 or 7, as both teams are pretty evenly matched.

Wizards in 7

The Western conference playoffs actually started 2 weeks ago, with the 7th and 8th spots coming down to 3 potential 50 win teams. The Maverick’s and Nuggets got the job done, with the Warriors ending up on the outside looking in, despite a record of 48-34. The Lakers seemed primed for a return to glory for the first time since Shaq was around, but all 8 teams are very good and, anything can happen in a 7 game series, as Golden State showed us last year against Dallas.

1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. 8 Denver Nuggets

Those MVP chants are well deserved, and while Kobe Bryant should be hoisting his first ever Most Valuable Player award, his he has bigger plans with a new frontcourt and a deeper bench. The Lakers are back, and along with the best player on the planet, Pau Gasol and (if healthy) Andrew Bynum present matchup problems for a Denver team that couldn’t defend a JV high school team. Carmelo Anthony and his legal issues aisde will put up his points, along with AI, but this series, while intriguing on paper, won’t translate on the hardwood.

Lakers in 5

2 New Orleans Hornets vs 7 Dallas Mavericks

Was there a better story this season than the rise of Chris Paul and the Hornets? Byron Scott, who is no stranger to the post season with his short lived success in New Jersey a few years ago, has led a renaissance in New Orleans, led by do-it-all Paul who gave Kobe all he could can handle in the run for MVP. The Mavericks were flirting with one-upping the disppointment from their first round upset last season by nearly missing the playoffs, but a healthy Dirk Nowitzki can lead Dallas into a tough 6 or 7 game series against the trendy Hornets.

Mavericks in 7

3 San Antonio Spurs vs. 6 Pheonix Suns

Talk about storylines. The defending champs, who have never repeated as champs, will have a tall challenge ahead of them, as they get a rematch with the team they won a controversial conference finals from last year. By tall challenge, I am of course referring to the new man in the middle for the Suns, Shaquille O’neal, who returns to the western conference for the first time since breaking up his marriage with Kobe and winning a championship in Miami. The big fundamental, Tim Duncan, faces his former nemasis as the Big Aristotle looks to validate Suns GM Steve Kerr for acquiring him. This series will be fun to watch, and won’t be decided in less than 6 games.

Spurs in 7

4 Utah Jazz vs. 5 Houston Rockets

No Yao? No problem. The Rockets, who never seem to have both Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming playing well, and healthy, at the same time, will face a dangerous Jazz team that struggled away from home but with floor general Deron Williams leading the way, Utah can definitely handle a Yao-less Rockets team that went on to win 22 straight games, while entering the playoffs with homecourt advantage in the first round despite their lower seeding. McGrady continues his quest to reach the second round of the playoffs, but it will be difficult against a Jazz team that has become another trendy pick to make some noise late into the postseason.

Jazz in 6

To recap…

Celtics, Pistons, Magic and Wizards in the east

Lakers, Mavericks, Spurs and Jazz in the west

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April 19, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sarah Marshall: You Won’t Be Forgotten

4/18/08

I saw the preview for this movie a few months ago, and upon seeing that the cast and crew was a lot of the guys who gave us 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad and Knocked Up, I knew that I would make sure I had a seat when Forgetting Sarah Marshall hit theaters.

This afternoon, on a beautiful 75 degree afternoon when I easily could have been outside enjoying the warm weather (I actually was outside for 2 hours before seeing the movie), I was inside a nice air conditioned theater.

Judd Apatow, who gave us the aforementioned films, this time delivers Jason Segel (who also wrote the script) as Peter Bretter, an easy going song writer who is dating TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell).

Before the film is 10 minutes old, we learn two things:

1) Peter is being dumped by Sarah after 5+ years.

2) Jasen Segel isn’t shy about showing us his penis.

Yes, full frontal male nudity comes at you (wow…no pun intended) early several times throughout the film, so be warned if you’re thinking about seeing it.

Upon being dumped, and also finding out the Sarah is now dating flavor of the week British musician Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), Peter begins his period of mourning by taking the one-stand route, which he finds doesn’t help him with moving on.

He decided a trip to Hawaii would serve him some good, however his vacation hits an early bump in the road when his ex flame and new love are vacationing in the same hotel.

Peter meets a friendly receptionist (Mila Kunis, That 70’s Show, Family Guy), along with some of your favorite faces from past Apatow films, Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill, who play a surf instructor and hotel waiter, respectively.

Peter begins trying to get over Sarah while simultaneously dealing with having her around, constantly flaunting her newfound happiness while Peter seeks his own.

I’ll stop with the summary there, as I don’t want to spoil anything, although if you’ve seen any of Apatow’s other films, you can pretty much figure out how this one ends.

The movie wasn’t quite up to par with the other three films I mentioned, but still serves its purpose of entertaining.

Segel, who might be most recognizable as Marshal (coincidence) from the CBS show How I Met Your Mother, puts in a very worthy effort, both acting and writing.

Bell (Veronica Mars, and also serves as the narrator on Gossip Girl, my not-so-guilty pleasure), is absolutely gorgeous and dead sexy as Sarah, and does a nice job playing the ex-girlfriend with no heart, yet also captures being vulnerable at various points during the movie.

The scene stealer is Brand, a British actor I had honestly never heard of before seeing this movie. He sounds a lot like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribean, and had me laughing non-stop with his combination of being a sexually charged, sober free spirit.

The movie is as charming as it’s main character, but lacks the ‘umph’ (for lack of a better term) that Apatow’s other films were able to capture.

Mila Kunis, who is also far prettier than I remembered her being on That 70’s Show, wasn’t perfectly cast for the role of Rachel, but is sweet enough to pull it off.

This isn’t a movie I would suggest taking your parents too, as there is more sex and more male nudity than I could keep track of, but you kind of just go with the flow and laugh it off, as it only helps to hold onto the immature innocence Apatow has put into all of his films.

If you’re going to get your Jonah Hill fix, you might be disappointed, as his role, along with Rudd’s, is minor, but never the less funny. Also in the film is Bill Hader, who plays Peter’s brother in law, although his character in the movie falls way short of Officer Slater, his character from Superbad.

This movie is worthy of a 2 and half stars, and a respectable B-.

If you’re looking for some good laughs, a simple plot and some raw penis, go check out Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

And after seeing it, you’ll probably have a tough time doing so.

April 19, 2008 Posted by | Movies | , , | Leave a comment

FINALLY! Isiah Thomas Fired; Reassigned (but why?)

4/18/08

photo courtesy of The Daily News

Remember the day my fellow Knicks fans: April 18th, 2008, the day the Isiah Thomas era came to an end.

Or did it?

I can’t help but feel like i’m in a horror movie, right at the end where you think the bad guy is dead, but with one last gasp he gets up and tries one more time to kill you.

Isiah has done his best Scream impression in trying to take out the entire Knicks franchise, everything from its payroll to its employees (sorry Anucha) to respect.

He has slashed the hearts of fans by insulting it’s history, saying we haven’t had a team to be proud of since the last championship back in 1973.

And now, with Donnie Walsh having been brought in to clean up the mess Isiah leaves behind, we find out that Isiah himself will still be around in helping to clean it up.

Maybe it’s just me, but as a Knick fan, having Isiah still on the very payroll he has worked so hard to destroy doesn’t sit right.

He has been an inopperable tumor to this franchise, working with whatever the opposite of the midas touch would be, as everything he has touched has turned into absolute catastrophe.

You want to tell me that he drafted Nate Robinson and David Lee?

Well for every Nate Robinson you want to throw in, I’ll raise you a Jarred Jefferies AND a Jerome James.

Renaldo Balkman and Wilson Chanlder, both of whom have shown brief flashes of potential, got nothing on the trades for Steve Francis or Eddy Curry (and the unprotected draft picks we lost in the process).

I can’t think of much Isiah has done right since being named President of Basketball Operations back in 2003, and the last 4 years have been nothing more than a nightmare Knicks fans can finally wake up from.

So now what?

Walsh came out today and publicly announced the worst kept secret in sports, that Isiah’s days as coach are over.

What wasn’t as sure a thing was what would come of Thomas, and the 18 million he is still owed from this unbelievably undeserved extension he was given by owner James Dolan last year.

The word reassigned has never sounded so ugly, as Isiah was retained and will report directly to Walsh as what I would imagine would end up being an “advisor”.

Again, maybe its just me, but Michael Corleone didn’t make Fredo his new consigliere after finding out that he had betrayed the family.

He had him killed.

Now while ‘wacking’ Isiah would probably make a lot of Knicks fans happy, just having him part ways with the organization would suffice.

However that won’t be the case, not unless Isiah tells Dolan that he can keep his 18 million dollars.

Instead of being an advisor, Isiah should consult one, and find one who advised him to simply figure out a way to work out a sevrence package to bid the Big Apple the farewell it probably wishes he would have recieved.

With a new coach and GM on their way, Isiah needs to show himself the door, and make the first decision Knicks fans would apploud of his, by announcing he would be seeking other opportunities from anywhere that isn’t Madison Square Garden.

Regardless of the fact that he has had all his power taken away from him, just having him still call the Garden home in any capacity will prevent this organization from getting the fresh start it desperately needs.

Until that happens- if it happens at all- Knicks fans can embrace the fact that the Isiah Thomas ‘error’ (as the local media has been fittingly referring to it as) has ended, for all intents and purposes.

Now the search begins for the next coach, and the names I’ve heard most are Mark Jackson, Scott Skiles, Rick Carlisle and my dream choice, the return of Jeff Van Gundy.

Whoever it is, Knicks fans like myself can be rest assured that it won’t be Isiah Thomas, and that disingenuous smile he always had.

For the first time in 4 years, Knicks fans can smile now.

April 19, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , | Leave a comment