Stan Should Still Be the Man

Coaches are expendable. Players are not. That’s the traditional wisdom.

It’s hard to disagree with it. Someone try convincing the city of Cleveland that Mike Brown was worth more than Lebron James. Yeah, that would be impossible.

However, it’s time to do away with traditional wisdom in Orlando.

Sure, franchise players are incredibly hard to come by. These guys are your rare, one of a kind, Koh-i-Noor kind of diamonds only found in the British Crown Jewels collection. You don’t simply pick Dwight Howard’s up at the local corner store. That’s why you have to do whatever you can to keep the gem, no matter what the cost may be. Well, supposedly.

The Orlando Magic have been patient enough now. Their patience was partially rewarded when Superman rescinded his trade demand, for now, and picked up his player option for the 2012-13 season. They had been given a reprieve.

Then Stan Van Gundy went to the media to inform them that Howard wanted a new coach, leading to one of the most awkward moments in sports interviewing history. Most people assumed that was Stan’s swan song. All that was left was for the fat man to sing.

Apparently, a fat man doesn’t do the trick.

In a series where just about every man, woman, child and alien gave the Orlando Magic Hell freezing over odds, Stan Van Gundy’s boys went out and took home court away from the Pacers with an ugly, yet impressive 81-77 victory. An opening game win versus the sexy dark horse team of the 2011-12 playoffs with a generously listed 6-9 Big Baby Davis starting at center in place of Dwight Howard was shocking to say the least.

The victory, as shocking as it was, should also be very telling to the Orlando Magic front office.

Whatever the outcome of this series, Stan Van Gundy has to stay on as coach of the Orlando Magic. This game 1 victory wasn’t a result of some hot shooting as you would probably expect. The Magic didn’t even shoot 40% for the game. The victory was a result of them scratching and clawing their way to a typical grind it out, playoff victory.

It’s not the win that should impress you, it’s the way the Magic team have responded to Van Gundy in Dwight Howard’s absence. It is clear that there is only one person that isn’t buying what Stan Van Gundy is selling. Right now, that certain someone is out with a back injury. This performance speaks volumes about Stan’s ability as a coach. How he has been able to keep an entire locker room on his side despite the face of the franchise mailing it in is beyond me.

A coach like that doesn’t come around every day.

I didn’t have a problem with the Magic telling Dwight Howard that he could choose his own coach a while ago. It seemed like the right thing at the time. Do whatever you got to do to keep Superman around. The Magic have spent every year since Dwight Howard was drafted building a team around him. I felt that they had no choice because of that reason alone.

I don’t see it that way now.

Dwight Howard should be the one to go. For the past year he has caused nothing but problems for the city of Orlando and the fact that he is the one guy on the team unwilling to open his mind to Van Gundy is more than a little concerning.

Screw him. Let the baby have his bottle. Send him to Brooklyn, Los Angeles or wherever someone will take him on. Orlando doesn’t need that head case for another wasted year.

Related: Indecision Does Not Compare to The Decision

It is almost inevitable that Dwight Howard will be on his way out of Orlando in a year. Picking up his option was just a desperate attempt to regain some public support and prove that he is a loyal person. Sorry Dwight, it’s too late.

Stan Van Gundy is the more valuable commodity for the Magic. The Magic are going to be left without Dwight Howard soon enough. They don’t want to be left without Stan Van Gundy as well. No need to delay, they can start their rebuilding project a year earlier. Everyone knows they aren’t going to win a championship next season anyways.

Cleveland was left for dead after Lebron spurned them. Orlando GM Otis Smith has the opportunity to begin his rebuild with some real assets instead of starting completely from scratch. Some real assets and, of course, one of the best coaches in the National Basketball Association.

It takes a special man to take a Mike Tyson, in his prime, style beating and come out of it smelling of roses.

The Magic ownership and front office cannot see this situation any other way.

Stan Van Gundy must remain in Orlando.

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Shaq’s Health Holds Series in the Balance

Shaquille O'Neal is likely to be dressed sharply again for game 2

If you want to talk x-factor’s, there probably isn’t more of an x-factor than Shaquille O’Neal. They might as well put his picture beside the definition on Urban Dictionary. Then the kids will understand.

Shaq has been struggling with calf problems the past three months and his missed all five Celtic playoff games so far. Even though Shaq scrimmaged on Monday he is considered doubtful for game 2 against the Heat.

There’s an awful lot of fuss over a 39-year-old guy who averaged just over 20 minutes a game this season in 37 games. Too bad for the Celtics there is a good reason behind all the worry.

With all the intriguing position matchups the return of a healthy Shaq could represent a shift in the balance of power. Advantage Boston.

For 20 minutes a game the Heat will have no one that can stand up to the Big Diesel.

The lesser of the two O’Neal’s, Jermaine, has done a decent enough job for a guy who was supposed to be, at best, the third string center on the Celtics. Like Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal could probably also pass off as 39 year’s old out on the court. However, various health issues have taken the explosiveness out of the former perennial all-star.

The extended minutes that Jermaine has been getting are not ideal yet with Nenad Kristic only seeing 5:41 of floor time in game 1, the Celtics are going to need another solid performance from big baby-faced O’Neal.

Solid might not be enough for the Celtics though.

This is where Shaq comes in. His benefit goes far beyond the lane presence he provides. With Ilgauskas or Anthony “clogging” the lane for the Heat, Shaq forces the defence to pay attention to him. He might not have the scoring prowess that he did just two years ago but he still has the ability to take some of the pressure off of his teammates. That ability could be the difference in a game.

No matter which way you spin it, the relief his teammates receive is greater than whatever Jermaine O’Neal can offer.

Shaq even put up 18 points early in the year against the vertically endowed Memphis Grizzlies.

The mind-boggling trade of Kendrick Perkins has put the Celtics in a tough spot. Part of the reasoning behind that trade must have been the confidence in Danny Ainge that they would only face scoring challenged big men. No Dwight Howard, no problem.

I guess that plan hinged on the insurance of a healthy Shaquille O’Neal.

Maybe Danny Ainge was also thinking the lack of quality size in the Eastern Conference should allow Shaquille O’Neal to be enough of a difference maker. That plan still holds water as there is nothing to suggest that Shaq isn’t the man who holds the final key to the series.

Boston’s closing line-up may not feature a true center but if they are constantly having to claw their way back from double-digit deficits it really isn’t too important that their 4th quarter line-up features Big Baby instead of the Big Aristotle.

Doc Rivers says Shaq may be “likely” to play in game 3 at Boston. With the window of opportunity closing in on the original big three they had better hope that the 4-time champion is ready to go by Saturday.

Related: Shaq to the Celtics. Sure, why not?

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No Perkins, Big Problem

The Big 3: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. Sorry, I meant to say Big 4, add to the mix the supposed question mark of the Boston Celtics’ 2008 title run, point guard Rajon Rondo. The player people most often fail to be mention however among this elite group of players Kendrick Perkins is the unsung 5 among the star-studded Big 4.

6:30 into game 6 of the NBA Finals, Kendrick Perkins landed awkwardly on his left knee and was forced to leave the game. He did not return. Boston went on to lose the game 89-67. One of the big questions after game 6 was the health of Kendrick Perkins. Unfortunately for the Celtics, Perkins was ruled out of game 7 yesterday, which is cause for concern in bean town.

Kendrick Perkins may not be the most flashy player out there. In fact, he is a very limited player. Well, at least on the offensive end. Perkins is consistently left open for short jumpers by opposing teams and time after time he passes up exceptionally good looks. He knows his place on the Celtics, and his place is not a scorer.

Perkins is known around the NBA for his intensity and most notably the look of anger that doesn’t seem to ever go away. Throughout the 2010 NBA playoffs Kendrick Perkins has been asked to face some enourmous challenges. In the Eastern Conference Finals he was asked to guard the taller, longer, more athletic Dwight Howard and for much of that series held him in check. In the NBA Finals he has been asked to guard the also longer, taller Andrew Bynum Bynum has been ineffective through much of the series. Although that is partly due to his injured knee.

Now the Boston Celtics have to deal with life without Kendrick Perkins. People may say that Kevin Garnett is the glue that holds everything together. That may be partially true, but Kendrick Perkins is no slouch. Perkins does not get the recognition that the other stars on the Celtics do, but he still goes out every night and plays his behind off. Without the Celtics 5th man, they will have to rely mostly on Rasheed Wallace and Glen “Big Baby/Shrek” Davis to carry the load at center.

Glen Davis has had his moments during these playoffs but since he and Nate Robinson broke out in Game 4 he has been virtually invisible. Despite having 9 rebounds in game 6, Big Baby didn’t have a single point in 27 minutes. Rasheed Wallace was also held off the scoresheet in game 6 going 0-6 from 3 and 0-7 from the field in 17 minutes.

You wonder if the added minutes for Big Baby are just too much for him to handle. I don’t think that he is mentally bothered by the pressure, but physically it could take a major toll on him. Coming out of LSU Glen Davis has had weight issues, but in the NBA he has gotten it all together. But for a guy like that can you be confident that he can play added minutes? Glen Davis relies on pure energy and hustle to make up for his lack of athletic ability and size compared to other big men. Added minutes means less just a smidgen less energy per play, which means that he probably can’t make up for his physical disadvantages to as great an extent.

Rasheed Wallace on the other hand has been an enigma this entire season for the Celtics. For him, it’s not lack of physical strength or athletic ability it’s more an intensity issue. Wallace is a proven winner but also a guy who decides for himself when he wants to play. Wallace is a guy I would have put money on to have a big game for my team in his younger days. However, now that he is 36 he is not the player he once was. The Boston Celtics obviously can’t rely on him like the Detroit Pistons could in big games.

Almost everyone had counted out the Boston Celtics during the regular season, and almost everyone is now. To me I can’t find a real reason to pick the Celtics to win tonight. Defence is a big part of what defines the Boston Celtics, and Kendrick Perkins is a big part of that defence. It showed last game. The Celtics have shown that never say die attitude throughout the playoffs and it will be there tonight. In the end, I just don’t think it will be enough to handle Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers.

Boston Celtics’ Nate Robinson Securing a Job

Distraction, immature, selfish, attention hog, circus act,. These are just a few of the things that supposedly describe Nate Robinson. However, in the 2010 NBA playoffs, 5 foot 9 Nate Robinson is doing everything within his power to prove his critics wrong.

The Boston Celtics tied up their series with the Lakers at 2 a piece last night after a 96-89 victory. Powered by their bench, most notably Glen “Big Baby” Davis, the Celtics were able to use a 36 point fourth quarter to lock up the win. The big time play from “Big Baby” is not something new to NBA fans. Through the absence of Kevin Garnett last year, Glen Davis stepped up to play a key role in the Celtics attempts at back-to-back championships.

However, Nate Robinson, an even more unlikely candidate, has also emerged in these playoffs to give the Boston Celtics a major lift. Last night Nate Robinson came off the bench going 4-8 from the field for 12 points as well as 2-4 from beyond the arc. Doc Rivers had enough confidence to keep Robinson on the floor late in the fourth quarter. Robinson hit a floater in the lane with 4:16 to go in the final frame.

Nate Robinson was constantly in and out of coach Mike D’Antoni’s dog house while in New York for his sparkling yet selfish and attention grabbing play. It was thought that Robinson cared more about the attention rather than the team winning. It culminated with D’Antoni taking Robinson out of the rotation for 14 straight games. During this period Nate Robinson and his agent had requested a trade out of New York. Never one to shy away from the spotlight, after being on the bench for almost a month, Robinson came back against the Atlanta Hawks with an astounding 41 points of the bench.

Finally, Nate was granted a trade to the Boston Celtics on February 18th. Robinson wasn’t given full opportunity in Boston either though as Rajon Rondo had already emerged as one of the league’s premier point guards. During the season, Robinson was limited to 14.3 minutes a game.

Before game 6 of the Eastern conference finals Nate Robinson had been all but forgotten. But that all changed as Doc Rivers put him in to deliver a spark to the tail-spinning Celtics. Robinson did not fail to deliver. He finished the game with 13 points, all during the second quarter, allowing the Celtics to once again reach the NBA finals.

Right now the basketball world is focused on two things: The NBA finals and where Lebron James is going to land. Not Nate Robinson. There is no way that the only thing on Nate Robinson’s mind right now is the NBA finals. Even though Nate Robinson has been quiet throughout his tenure with the Boston Celtics he has to have wondered if anyone will give him a legitimate shot to play regularly next season. Nate Robinson knows that, right now, he is playing for another contract and doing a darn good job of it.

Nate Robinson has proved to general managers around the league that he can be put the team’s needs before his own. Everyone knows that Robinson doesn’t mind the spotlight and will jack up shots at will. Performing during the regular season is one thing, performing at key points during the NBA finals is a whole other beast. It’s a fact of life that some people just don’t perform well when the pressure is on, but obviously Nate Robinson is not one of those guys. Nate Robinson should feel so grateful that he got this opportunity to play in the NBA playoffs because if not he might have been unemployed next season.

However, all that has changed now. Despite his past problems, I think it is very likely that someone offers him some sort of multi-year deal that will give him the chance to show he can potentially be a starter or at least a solid 6th man in the NBA.

Personally, I love Nate Robinson as a player. He is just so much fun to watch because he has absolutely no conscious, which means he could go off at anytime. Like JR Smith, Nate Robinson is one of those high risk, high reward guys. You just never know what you’re going to get. The bottom line though is that he is going to have his games where he lights up the score sheet, as long as he is given adequate minutes, which is why I would take the risk of signing him. Even during the 14 game benching this past year, he said all the right things. Then, when he wasn’t getting an opportunity in Boston, you didn’t hear a peep out of him. He is not going to be a distraction anymore. On a less important note, if you are more of a bottom feeder team having trouble getting fans out to games, he is going to bring in a certain amount of fans.

How can you not take a chance on a guy who 2 years ago averaged 17 points a game coming off the bench on a bad team? Now that he’s proved he can compete with elite competition in crunch time all I see is a tremendous amount of upside to a truly electric player.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

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