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Personal :: Can I object? How about strenuously object?
  submitted on Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 6:51:17 PM


I just finished up my job as a juror on a 2-day civil trial, and I have to say, the more I think about it, the more surreal of an experience it feels like. The whole concept of being on a jury is just such a unique situation, I think it has to feel a little surreal, because I canít think of another situation where you might encounter it in everyday life. A collection of people, sorry, strangers that have absolutely nothing in common with each other aside from the fact that they all live in the same county, are grouped together and forced to spend the next however many number of days in each others company for 8 hours a day, either sitting next to each other taking notes, or confined to a small jury room during breaks. This group of strangers is then charged with intaking all the facts and circumstances surrounding some kind of situation, and then the group of strangers are supposed to go back to their little jury room, and all reach a consensus agreement on what they think about the happenings of the entire trial. And then, just like that, the strangers pack up their stuff, put on their coats, and leave the courthouse, never to see each other again. How bizarre.

The strangeness of it all didnít really hit me until I left the courthouse. I was making small talk with one of the other jurors in the elevator, discussing how the verdict went, etc. Then she headed out the South exit of the building, while I headed towards the East exit. We both said good-bye, nice to meet you, because really, what else can you say to someone you just met yesterday and are never going to see again? Then we headed our separate ways, with memories of an experience that was shared with only 10 other complete strangers.

Iím not going to get too much into the details of the case (It wasnít a terribly exciting case to be honest), but I did want to talk about my experience as a whole, as I felt like that was the interesting part of it all. This was my first time reporting for jury duty, and therefore my first time being selected as a juror. Looking back I think the circumstances for myself were pretty ideal. I had to report to the Daley Center downtown in the Loop as it was a civil case, instead of the courthouse at 26th and California for a criminal case, which Iíve heard is not a very nice neighborhood. Itís very close to where I live so I was able to walk (In contrast someone had come up from 203rd St or something ridiculous like that, basically as far South into Cook County as you can go). The case I was selected for was only a two day trial, instead of something that could have lasted weeks. And the stakes in the case were relatively low (Which I know is a matter of perspective, the total damages that the plaintiffs were seeking was around $15-20,000 which to me is a lot of money, but it could be much, much worse), so I felt like it was a lower pressure situation than it could have been, at least from a jurorís perspective.

I showed up at 9:30am, and in contrast to many of the waiting horror stories I had heard, I was only waiting for an hour until my group number was called and we were marched up to our courtroom. There were 28 of us, and the judge explained that this was just a two day trial and that 14 of us would be selected. Once I realized half of us were getting picked I just had this feeling in my gut that I was going to be one of the jurors. There were clearly a couple of characters in the group based on their answers to the questions, but overall it seemed like a relatively normal group of people. After a couple hours the questions were done, the lawyers had picked their 14, and those who were not picked were free to go about their day while the rest of us set up shop in the jury room to eat free Cook County sandwiches before getting around to opening statements. I emailed my boss and texted my wife to let them know my next couple of days were going to be occupied.

The actual trial went about as one would expect, we as a culture have been so inundated with courtroom drama on TV that watching it all play out in real life is pretty standard fare. Sure the courtrooms arenít quite as flashy, the lawyers arenít quite as well spoken and there wasnít much of a crowd to spectate, but youíve got your opening statements, your witnesses, your court reporters, your cross examinations, your objections, everything youíd come to expect. I didnít care much for the lead plaintiffís attorney, he was a little slimy and would continue to try and hammer away at the same question or area even after the defense attorney successfully objected to the questions. Several times this led to a sidebar with the judge, one time even pushing us into a recess so the judge could get things straightened out. It got a little tiresome. The defendantís attorney was pretty aggressive, she loved nothing more than to object to everything the plaintiffís attorney had to say whether she had a chance or not, and she definitely gave it to a couple of witnesses during cross-examination. It was kind of cool to see the clashing personalities.

Day one was mostly without incident, although the toughest part was when the plaintiffís kids came in to testify. Most of the jurors were just uncomfortable about the whole thing, because you hate to see kids put in a serious situation like this, and their testimony isnít likely to be too useful since theyíre kids (8 and 10 at that, itís not like theyíre teenagers). It was quite difficult going home at the end of the day knowing you canít talk about the details of the case. Especially since generally conversations at home tend to be about, you know, how your day went.

So today rolled around, I got to the courthouse and headed straight to the confines of our cozy Jury Room. Apparently our friend way down on 203rd St. was unable to join us for day two for some reason, but I also learned that that wasnít the end of the world, because we only needed 12 people here to get started (I learned why later on). Day two went by relatively incident-free, and I was actually surprised because the defenseís case actually only involved one witness, the defendant herself, and then that was it.

And oh my gosh, the closing arguments. Wow. I actually thought the lawyers handled themselves pretty well for the most part during the trial, but that all went out the window for the closing arguments. I felt like I was watching a political debate it was so ridiculous. Each sideís closing argument could basically be summed up by saying ďCLEARLY my client is at no fault here and I donít see how you could see it any other way and you should find in favor of my client for all these million reasons some of which arenít even remotely true but Iíll say them anyway even though you can just fact check them with your notes and know theyíre lies also my client didnít do anything obviously so find in favor with my client. Seriously though, they didnít do anything. AT ALL.Ē Only it was much less funny and lasted about a half hour. KILL ME NOW. I did my best to try and look as bored as possible for both of them in the hopes that they would get the hint and shut up. It was so completely useless and boring. After that the judge out of nowhere called out one of the jurorís names seemingly at random and told them to pack up their stuff and go. As I said before we only had 13 jurors today, and the whole time I thought it was odd that we had 14 jurors selected as I thought a jury was 12 people. Well, turns out two are alternates and when it comes down to it only 12 of us got to decide on the verdict. I have no idea if the 13th juror was selected at random or if he was always an alternate. Anyway, then the judge gave us our instructions and sent us on our merry way to decide on a verdict.

I ended up being elected foreman of the jury. Okay, well maybe I volunteered and no one else volunteered, and maybe I kind of wanted to because Iím a bit of a control freak (Stop nodding your head knowingly) and deep in my brain I think things will run more smoothly if Iím in charge of things. I donít remember how long we ended up deliberating, it was probably a couple of hours. Itís actually funny, the quickest part of the process was deciding to find in favor of the plaintiff. The hard part was assigning percentages of negligence to both sides and agreeing on monetary damages to pay out. It was during this process that you really notice the flaws in both the plaintiffís and the defendantís cases. There was definitely key information that was inexplicably missing, which did nothing but make our jobs harder as we had to try and piece together what had happened as best we could.

Oh, and also, the lying. I know Iím probably just naive, but I figured all the lying you saw under oath on TV was just for dramatic effect. I can tell you that no it is not. Both the plaintiff and the defendant pretty clearly lied about their story of events, which wasnít even that hard to figure out based on the other evidence that came to light. So not only do you not have important information that would help you shape the case, but you have lies on both sides and have to try and wade through that and figure out whatís real and whatís not. Like I said, this is why I was glad to have a relatively low profile case and not someone whoís on trial for murder or anything like that.

We had one guy on the jury who had pretty differing views from us on how things should play out from a monetary standpoint, and that ended up being the biggest roadblock for us. It was a discussion surrounding a monetary award for pain and suffering, and in my opinion he was trying to bring aspects in that really werenít part of what we should be talking about. I think ultimately he felt bad that the plaintiff was primarily a victim in all of this but she was still going to be at a loss when it was all said and done as she was partially at fault and also having to pay out lawyerís fees, stuff like that. I could certainly sympathize with where he was coming from but as the jury we had to focus on what weíre supposed to think about, and stuff like lawyerís fees donít come into play.

Eventually we all got on the same page, I donít think the other guy was totally happy with how things played out, but he agreed with everyone else and signed the verdict. Iím not gonna lie, when the judge read out the verdict, I didnít make eye contact with either side of the case. I knew it was a situation where neither party would be very happy (The plaintiff wouldnít be happy because she wasnít getting her full reward, and the defendant wouldnít be happy because she was found mostly negligible and had to pay out a good amount of money), and I didnít really feel like seeing eitherís reaction. Once we were excused, we went back to our room, collected our $34.20 ($17.20 a day baby, BIG BUCKS), put on our coats and said bye to everyone. The judge told us if we wanted to we could stick around afterwards as the lawyers wanted to ask us a bit about the process, so I stuck around and another juror did as well. They didnít ask us anything too hard hitting, and I was a little bummed out that I didnít get to tell them how poorly they handled certain parts of their case, but whatever.

And just like that, itís back to work tomorrow. While I didnít enjoy the work piling up while I was out of the office for two days, I will say Iím thankful for the experience. It was such a neat look into an area of life that you rarely encounter, and the prospect of being a juror is something I may never get to experience again. I am very glad that at the end of the day it was a relatively painless process, and frankly the whole thing was fascinating. At least fascinating enough that I spent the entire walk home thinking about how I was going to approach the blog post that I was going to write about it that night. Well, that and which movie I was going to reference for the title of the blog post. Fortunately for A Few Good Men it was on TV when I went to bed last night, so they won the honors. No offense to Joe Pesci or Henry Fonda of course.


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Personal :: How much is that in Internet money?
  submitted on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 5:53:01 PM


Hi there blog. Iíve missed you. Did you miss me? As much as I love using Twitter, I do feel like itís one of the primary culprits in sucking my will to write things of any significant length. I have been writing my weekly NFL picks (And in hindsight probably should have been posting them here), but any other ideas Iíve had for posts, I feel like I roll them around in my head for a while, but ultimately due to Twitter, or texting, or some other kind of short thought-oriented medium, the idea either ends up there or my brain just doesnít want to make the effort to put forth such long-winded thoughts. That, or Iím just finding new ways to excuse my procrastination and laziness.

-----

I had kind of an interesting morning today. Well, interesting to me, at least, probably not as interesting to some of you. Generally when I wake up in the morning, I do a quick check of my phone to see what emails I received overnight and check my Twitter feed. This morning there was an email from someone letting me know that my Chronologically LOST site had been featured in a popular Reddit post. For those of you who may not know, Chronologically LOST was a project I put together a couple years ago where I took the entirety of the show LOST and rearranged it in chronological order. It was an alternative way of looking at the show, kind of provided a different perspective on things.

Anyway, as I said, I did this a couple years ago when LOST ended, and since then Iíve maintained a torrent of all the episodes for people to download. The sender of the email was a Reddit user asking me to help seed the torrent since there were a lot of people expressing interest. If youíre unfamiliar with Reddit, itís sort of a social bookmarking site. Someone finds an interesting site, they post it to Reddit under a certain subsection (called a subreddit), other users see it, and can upvote it if they, too, find it interesting. Enough people vote for it, it becomes a popular post and eventually can find its way onto the front page where all Redditors will see it. Iíve seen some traffic spikes before from a Redditor posting about the site in the LOST subreddit, but since there arenít a ton of people reading that section, the traffic spikes arenít anything too significant. Well, this time the post was made in a popular subreddit that had over 2 million followers. So yeah...thatís a lot of people.

The first thing I did after I read the email was go and hop on the computer to check my Google Analytics page. I can go on there and get all sorts of details about my site traffic, how much, where itís from, what sites people were referred by, things like that. At around 7 in the morning, my site already had over 20,000 hits. Now, I know that 20,000 hits isnít really that big of a number in the grand scheme of things (Iíd say itís only 0.002% of the traffic of Psyís Gangnam Style video, but I wonít because then it just seems sad), but in my world, thatís a hell of a lot of traffic. The biggest single day of traffic Chronologically LOST had ever had was the summer after I finished the project, Jezebel wrote an article about it. It got me about 6,000 hits. Now itís first thing in the morning and Iím watching the traffic double to 45,000 hits in about a half an hour. Then I go look at the Reddit front page:



My site is now the top post on the front page on Reddit. Iím not a huge Reddit user, but I am on there occasionally and I certainly appreciate what a popular site itís become. So yeah, that was kind of cool. I spent a good part of my morning in that Reddit post, thanking everyone for deciding my LOST project was something of interest, and responding to some peopleís comments or questions they had about the project. Naturally I was also refreshing my Google Analytics page frequently during all of this to watch my page hits go up.

Eventually as the morning went on, my site dropped down to number two on the front page. Then number four. Then when I checked again it had dropped off completely. And shockingly my site traffic also died down right around that time. Twelve hours later as I look at my Analytics page Iíve had 105,000 hits today. To put that into perspective, my site as a whole before today had 89,000 hits total. My busiest month gave me 21,000 hits. I had 24,000 hits between 7:00 and 8:00 this morning. So for me, this was just a crazy amount of traffic. And as quickly as it had showed up it left, which is generally how those things tend to work. But it was fun to see something that I had worked on receive a brief moment of popularity in some corner of the internet. And mostly I was happy that a whole bunch of people that I hadnít been able to reach the last couple of years know about the project and can watch it if they want. I even had a soldier thatís currently deployed in Afghanistan email me and ask if I could mail him the series on a flash drive since he doesnít have the bandwidth there to download the whole thing.

The whole time I couldnít help but think of the South Park episode ďCanada on StrikeĒ (This was poking fun at the 2008 Writerís Guild Strike). Canada felt that no one took them seriously, so they went on strike for more money. Since no one wanted to pay them any money, they kept going on about how they should get some Internet money that people get from all those popular sites and videos.

Iíve been trying to find the address or phone number for the Illinois Department of Internet Money, as Iíve been doing the calculations and I figure todayís events should be worth at least two hundred theoretical dollars. Iíll be rolling in the dough soon enough!

-----

One more thing, after writing this post I will say that I miss my Wordpress template that Iíve installed over on the Oratory. While Iíve always enjoyed having my own blog that works with my own code, I do really like posting from Wordpress. I think I may have to look into moving my content over into WP. Maybe weíll set that as a 2013 goal.

Thanks for reading.


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Sports :: 2011 NBA Playoffs Preview (Eastern Conference)
  submitted on Friday, April 15, 2011 at 9:49:29 PM


Originally posted on The Sports Oratory

Welcome to Part 2 of our NBA Playoff Preview, where we'll be looking at the Eastern Conference matchups. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Chicago  Indiana
(1) Chicago vs. (8) Indiana


There isn't too much to say about this matchup. The Pacers could pose some problems for the Bulls as they're a smaller, more athletic team which can be tough for the Bulls to handle at times. That being said, the Pacers are 37-45 and allow over 100 points per game. Plus, there's this gem from Danny Granger when discussing the prospect of facing either the Celtics or the Bulls:

"Boston's a different monster," he said. "They don't have the best record in the East, but they won championships; they know how to do it. They have four, five guys you have to worry about.

"Chicago, they go as Derrick Rose goes. If you make a concerted effort to stop Derrick Rose, you have a better chance of beating them."

Now, Derrick Rose is no Michael Jordan. He's not going to spend all series shutting down Granger single-handedly or dropping 50 points in Game 1 to prove a point. However, he does bear a resemblance to Jordan in that he remembers slights like that. It doesn't take much, but you want to throw out any disrespect in his direction, he'll take it in, and use it as motivation to beat you the next time you play. The Pacers don't need any help to lose this series, so it was a somewhat foolish comment on Granger's part.

By now everyone knows the story of the Bulls. After winning 42 games last year, the team brought in a new head coach (Tom Thibodeau), a new All-Star caliber forward (Carlos Boozer), and a bunch of role players (Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans, CJ Watson) to complement the existing core of players (Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson). 62 wins later, they have the best record in the NBA, the probable NBA MVP (Rose), potential Coach of the Year (Thibodeau), and lead the league in defensive efficiency and are second in rebounding per game (44.2) behind Minnesota while leading in rebounding differential (+5.8). While Rose is the clear leader of the team, scoring 25.0ppg, they also have secondary scorers in Deng and Boozer scoring 17.5ppg, and Noah also averaging double digits at 11.7ppg. They are also a deep team, with eight players averaging over 20 minutes a game, and another three playing at least 12 a game. It should be interesting to see how this plays out in the postseason, as teams generally stick to a seven or eight man rotation and put more minutes on their starters.

One of the big criticisms of the Bulls right now is their lack of playoff success. In the past two years Rose's Bulls have gone out in the first round, although they took the Celtics to seven games in a memorable series in 2009 and falling to the top seeded Cavs in five games last year, so the odds were stacked against them in both years. They should be able to overcome that issue this year with an easy matchup against the worst team in the playoffs, getting them some confidence heading into the second round, as well as some more time for Joakim Noah to fully recover from his sprained ankle. The Pacers may be able to sneak in a win in Indiana, but don't be surprised to see a flat out sweep either.

Bulls in 4

Miami  Philadelphia
(2) Miami vs. (7) Philadelphia


The Heat went through a rough stretch in late February/early March where they lost six of seven games to the Bulls (twice), the Knicks, the Magic, the Spurs, and the Blazers. Since then, they've gone 15-3 including a big win over Boston to take over the #2 seed in the playoffs. Watching them the last few weeks, it looks like they might be figuring it out. However, their success could also be a little over-inflated considering their last ten games, only two (Boston and Atlanta) were against actual playoff teams. But watching them, it seems as though Wade and James might be getting it a little bit better. At the very least they should have it together enough to dispatch the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Sixers are a bit of a feel good story, overachieving their way to a .500 record with new coach Doug Collins and a relatively unheralded cast of characters. Elton Brand (15.0ppg, 8.3rpg) and Andre Iguodala (14.1ppg, 5.8rpg, 6.3apg) are the two main talents on this team, and they're surrounded by role players like Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday. However, unfortunately for the Sixers, the Heat's main weakness (size in the frontcourt) is not something the Sixers are able to take advantage of, with the plodding Spencer Hawes starting at center (Sharing time with Marreese Speights and Tony Battie), and an effective but not overly big Elton Brand in the frontcourt.

Miami's defense will also wreak havoc on the Sixers, as the Heat come into the series fifth in defensive efficiency while Philadelphia is only seventeenth in offensive efficiency. Miami is sixth in the league in points allowed per game (94.6) and second in field goal % allowed (43.0%). With Lebron James on Iguodala the Sixers will be very dependent on Elton Brand to put up big numbers, as he's their main offensive threat that will have a favorable defensive matchup against Chris Bosh. The Heat won the season series 3-0 and each game was won by at least 9 points. Look for Miami to have similar success in the playoffs and Philly would be fortunate to even win a game.

Heat in 4

Boston  New York
(3) Boston vs. (6) New York


Well, this is certainly one of the more intriguing first round matchups. There are quite a few different storylines to look at in this series. There is the sharp contrast in styles, with New York's high-flying offense (while little-to-no defense being played) compared to Boston's commitment to being a defense-first team, while struggling at times on the offensive end. There's the question mark surrounding Boston's struggles lately, specifically Rajon Rondo. There's Amare & Carmelo on a team that is on paper inferior to the Celtics, but at the same time are true bonafide superstars capable of winning games for the Knicks. The expected result is that Boston will end up defeating the Knicks, but there are enough question marks to at least make it interesting.

Now, there's not much too the Knicks. They score a conference best 106.5ppg. They also give up a conference worst 105.7ppg. Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups, Shawne Williams, these guys are not really leading candidates for the All-Defense Team. Their best defender might be Ronny Turiaf, and he plays 18 minutes a game. That being said, they have Amare averaging 25.3ppg and 8.2rpg while shooting 50.2% from the field. Carmelo Anthony is averaging 26.3ppg with 6.7rpg and shooting 46.1% from the field and an impressive 42.4% from three. Anthony is also arguably the most dangerous shooter in end of game situations, so if the Knicks can keep it close with the Celtics he could be a huge asset for them in a game.

Then there's the Celtics. Some analysts are trying to cling to the idea that the Celtics struggled down the stretch in 2010, the turned it on in the playoffs and never looked back. But that was a different team. They struggled to find cohesiveness down the stretch and they had the characteristics of a veteran team that struggles to play at its peak in the regular season. This year? The team looked fine, they looked cohesive. They can't blame injuries, as Paul Pierce and Ray Allen both played 80 games, Kevin Garnett played 71, Rondo played 68. The problem? Kendrick Perkins. Yes, he only played in 12 games for them this season after tearing his ACL in the NBA Finals last season. But, as has been discussed in the media ad nauseum, he was an integral part to the team's chemistry. Perkins, Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, that was their starting five, that was their strength. That was the lineup that Doc Rivers proclaimed never lost a playoff series. Then he was traded to the Thunder. And what changed in the Celtics was anything specific on the court. Again, he only played in 12 games. It was deeper than that. It affected the other Celtics players personally. And none more than Rondo. Perkins was Rondo's one good friend on the team. It can't be sheer coincidence that the noticeable decline in his numbers coincides with Perkins' trade. His April stats are terrible, shooting 40.3% from the field, 9.5apg, 1.8spg, and he hasn't made a three pointer since February (0-7 in March, 0-5 in April). Compare this to his pre-All-Star break numbers, he was shooting 50.2% from the field, averaging 12.2apg, 2.4spg, and was at least shooting 30.0% from behind the arc.

It's clear from watching him that his game is a complete mess, his head is totally out of it, and his issues have plagued the rest of the team. Rondo doesn't get enough credit for helping the Celtics win the title in 2008, and he has been the team's best player the last two years. He is the point guard, he sets the tempo and flow for that team. Whatever he was doing earlier this season, it's completely gone right now, and it shows when watching the Celtics' offense. Their defense is still very effective, and because of that they should be able to stop the Knicks enough to win the series. However, it's not out of the realm of possibility for the Knicks to cause trouble for the Celtics, especially if Rondo continues to struggle.

Boston in 6

Orlando  Atlanta
(4) Orlando vs. (5) Atlanta


There is this fantasy world where some of us would like to live in, where the Atlanta Hawks can utilize the immense talents of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Jamal Crawford, and put together a scary team that can compete in the Eastern Conference. However, in the real world, instead there is the dysfunctional Hawks that have all the talent in the world, and not a single clue on how to actually take that talent and put it into a team. They don't try hard, they don't listen to their coach, they don't play with an identity. It's possibly one of the most frustrating things to watch in the NBA, because everyone is so blatantly aware of their underachieving, and yet no one on the Hawks seems to care or want to do anything about it. Josh Smith puts up 16.5ppg and 8.5rpg, but settles too much for long jump shots instead of using his power to take the ball to the rim. Joe Johnson averages 18.2ppg with 4.0rpg and 4.7apg, but seems to be somewhat lethargic now that the Hawks are paying him $120 million. Al Horford scores 15.3ppg to go along with 9.3rpg and is one of the most dynamic big men in the league, but should really be playing power forward and doesn't always get to play his true position. Jamal Crawford is a great burst of energy off the bench but can be inconsistent and takes ridiculous shots at times and needs to be reined in. Kirk Hinrich is a solid defender but is not a great scorer. And so on. The team is an unfortunate mess, and instead of being one of the top teams in the conference, they stumbled to a 44-38 record. There is Jason Collins to think about, who had a lot of success guarding Dwight Howard this year and helped the Hawks take the season series 3-1, but they need more than that if they're going to win a best-of-seven series.

Now, the Magic are not without their dysfunction. They had an aging Vince Carter starting for them, and an overpaid Marcin Gortat rotting away on their bench, along with a struggling Rashard Lewis really hurting the team offensively. They traded these pieces away, and added a solid scorer in Jason Richardson, a backup point guard in Gilbert Arenas, and the return of Hedo Turkoglu after walking when the Magic wouldn't give him the contract he wanted. But after bombing in Toronto and Phoenix, he's back with Orlando. Dwight Howard is still the center of the team, putting up ridiculous numbers, 22.9ppg, 14.1rpg, 2.38bpg. Jason Richardson gives them a nice second scoring option, averaging 13.9ppg and shooting 38.4% from three. Hedo Turkoglu has filled in the void Rashard Lewis left, averaging 11.4ppg and shooting 40.4% from three. Jameer Nelson averages 13.1ppg and shoots 40.1% from three. Off the bench Ryan Anderson shoots 39.3% from three. JJ Redick shoots 39.7% from three. See a trend developing here? Orlando lives, and dies, by the three point shot. They can absolutely murder teams with a barrage of three point shooting. But on the flip side, if the shot's not there, they are a very vulnerable team.

Again, in theory it would be nice to see Atlanta show up with a chip on their shoulder, some kind of attitude or edge, or really any kind of anything that would make you believe they have a shot in this series. But instead they'll probably treat us all with their usual messy inconsistent play while Orlando moves on to the next round.

Orlando in 5

No big surprises in Round 1, all the favorites should win with relative ease. Round 2 would give us Chicago/Orlando and the much anticipated Boston/Miami matchup. With Orlando's perimeter shooting prowess, they have the ability to beat anyone, but Chicago's ability to throw big men onto Dwight Howard without having to focus too much attention on double teaming him should be able to limit their offensive ability enough to win that series, probably in six games. Boston might be able to struggle their way past the Knicks, but Miami will present too great of a challenge, especially with home court advantage. Miami steals one in Boston and takes all their momentum to close out the Celtics in five. Miami/Chicago is an appropriate conference final matchup, as those two teams have clearly been the top two teams in the East. Chicago has history going against it as teams that didn't win a playoff series the year before generally do not make it to the NBA Finals. However, the Bulls have the best defense in the NBA, they have the league's MVP, they have a deeper team than the Heat, and they have more focus and determination to win, and do it as a team, than anyone else in the conference. Either team could win this series, but ultimately the Bulls will win in seven.

So, to recap:

Bulls over Pacers in 4
Heat over 76ers in 4
Celtics over Knicks in 6
Orlando over Altanta in 5

Bulls over Magic in 6
Heat over Celtics in 5

Bulls over Heat in 7

And, for the NBA Finals, I think the Bulls' determination only takes them so far. The Boozer vs. Bynum/Odom matchup will be the downfall of the Bulls, and their lack of experience will definitely play more of a factor against a veteran, polished team like the Lakers. Lakers win another three peat in six games.

Lakers over Bulls in 6

That's all, thanks for reading.


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Sports :: 2011 NBA Playoffs Preview (Western Conference)
  submitted on Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 9:02:44 PM


Originally posted on The Sports Oratory


Hello everyone, with an incredibly anticipated set of playoffs this year, Iím here with a preview of each matchup. This will be a two-parter, and the first part will take a look at the Western Conference, with part two covering, you guessed it, the Eastern Conference. Iíve added in my predictions for each series, and then at the end Iíve got my predictions for how the rest of the bracket will play out. Letís get started...

San Antonio  Memphis
(1) San Antonio vs. (8) Memphis


Well, the Spurs have once again had another ho hum 60-win season. Tim Duncan, who is now approaching 50 years of age, has his team ready to go as the number one seed in the Western Conference. Well, itís not quite as much Tim Duncanís team as in years past, with The Big Fundamental only averaging 28 minutes a game to go along with 13.4ppg and 8.9rpg, all easily career lows for him. But, in his fourteenth season, he canít go all out and play the 35+ minutes a game that he was playing a few years ago. And so the Spurs have adapted. Gregg Popovich has the team putting up an obscene 103.7ppg, by far their highest average in the past 10 years. The only year that comes close is last year when they averaged 101.4ppg. However, theyíve also taken on a different identity on defense, as well. Gone are the days of giving up an average of 85ppg. Instead theyíre giving up 98ppg, and are 11th in defensive efficiency.

While their defense may not draw many comparisons to the other top seed, the Chicago Bulls, there is some similarity in how their team plays as a unit. There are nine players on the roster that have averaged at least 19 minutes a game, and none play more than Tony Parker at 32.4mpg (The bulls have eight players that average over 20 minutes a game and Keith Bogans averages 17.8mpg). This has led to five players averaging between 11 and 17.5ppg, and the team pulling down 41.9rpg while no one player grabs more than 9 rebounds on average. There is a ton of balance on the Spurs, but that also means there is no real superstar. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Tim Duncan, all three are clearly the class of the team, and it will be interesting to see how that synergy plays out as the playoffs progress when they might be missing that alpha dog presence in key situations.

That being said, the makeup of their team shouldnít affect them too much against the Memphis Grizzlies. They are powered behind the post presence of Zach Randolph and the ball distribution of Mike Conley. They can be a stingy team on defense with the help of Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, Shane Battier, Leon Powe, and OJ Mayo. But, theyíre missing their number two scorer and primary perimeter threat, Rudy Gay. Gay was averaging 19.8ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.7spg while shooting 47.1% from the field and 39.6% from beyond the arc. That is key production, and the Grizzlies canít just put OJ Mayo into that spot and pretend itís business as usual. If Gay was healthy, this would be a very dangerous Grizzlies team; but as they stand now, they just donít have the personnel to match up with the Spurs.

Spurs in 5

Los Angeles  New Orleans
(2) Los Angeles vs. (7) New Orleans


Last year the Boston Celtics went 3-7 in their last 10 games of the regular season and 10-11 in their last 21 games. There was talk of the Celtics struggling, or perhaps coasting through the regular season, just waiting to get to the playoffs, as can happen to veteran teams at times. Once again this season, the Celtics finished the season with a mediocre record, leading to comparisons to last yearís team. Last year they ďturned it onĒ in the playoffs and advanced to the NBA Finals. However, I feel that comparisons to last yearís team is misplaced, and actually if any team reminds me of the 2009-10 Celtics itís this yearís Los Angeles Lakers (You thought I forgot which matchup I was supposed to be talking about here, didnít you?). After winning 17 of 18 games, the Lakers then dropped five in a row before winning their last two to clinch the #2 seed. There seems to be a certain complacency, with even head coach Phil Jackson admitting the team isnít trying very hard. And yet, this is a team rife with talent. The teamís Big Four, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum, average 69.8ppg. Gasol and Bynum combine to pull down 19.6rpg, with Odom adding an additional 8.7rpg. All three of them shoot at least 53% from the field, with Bryant shooting a respectable 45.1%.

Despite their struggles, this is a team built for the playoffs. Bryant has only averaged 33.9mpg this year, but there is little doubt that his minutes will increase in the postseason. A front line of Gasol, Bynum and Odom with a little Ron Artest thrown in for defensive purposes along with Bryant in the back court is devastating. Ultimately, the Lakers fate in the playoffs will probably rest with the health and effectiveness of Andrew Bynum. When heís playing as well as heís capable of playing, the Lakers are all but unstoppable. But durability is an issue with him, and after only playing in 54 games this season, and suffering a bruised knee in the regular season finale, there are concerns that he may not be able to stay healthy, in which case the Lakers do become vulnerable.

Unfortunately for the Hornets, Bynum is expected to be fine for the first round, which is going to present serious issues, particularly in the frontcourt. The Hornets are not a great rebounding team, ranking 24th in the league in rebounds at 40.1 per game, compared to the Lakers who are 3rd with 44.0 per game. Emeka Okafor and David West are both undersized and are not a good matchup for Gasol and Bynum, and West will struggle to cover Odom when he is playing power forward. Trevor Ariza will be an effective defender on Bryant, but that large lineup will create solid opportunities for the Lakers at every frontcourt position. The Hornets only true advantage in this series is Chris Paul, who should be able to have his way with the ancient Derek Fisher covering him. However, Paul seems to be a step slower this season with knee problems, and just doesnít have the team around him to be able to take a game over, let alone four. The Lakers could drop a game as they might not yet be totally motivated in this first round, but other than that they shouldnít really be threatened by New Orleans at all.

Lakers in 5

Dallas  Portland
(3) Dallas vs. (6) Portland


Quick, name the Mavericks fourth-leading scorer (excluding Caron Butler). How about their fifth? If you said Tyson Chandler and Jose Barea, congrats, you must watch a lot of Mavs basketball. In other words, the Dallas Mavericks have Dirk Nowitzki, and not a whole lot else. He leads the team in points per game (23.0) and is second in rebounds per game (7.0). Dallas managed to win 57 games despite Jason Terry being the number two scorer for the team and Caron Butler, their number three scorer, missing two thirds of the season due to injury. They donít rebound particularly well, (14th in the league, 41.4rpg), have a one dimensional point guard (In 33.2mpg Jason Kidd averages 7.9 points on 36.1% shooting, but does provide 8.2apg), and a center who is an above average rebounder (9.4 per game) but canít create his own shot.

But, here they are. The #3 seed, itís tough to know what to make of the Mavericks. They lost 5 of 8 games, only to win 5 in a row, followed by a 4 game losing streak, then a 4 game winning streak to finish the season. Who knows which Mavericks team weíll see up against Portland.

The Trailblazers are almost the opposite of the Mavericks, with a number of quality players, and depth all around, compared to Dallas who has to rely on Nowitzki for much of its success. Led by LaMarcus Aldridge (21.8ppg, 8.8rpg), Portland also gets production from Wesley Matthews (15.9ppg), Gerald Wallace (15.8ppg, 7.6rpg), Andre Miller (12.7ppg, 7.0apg), and also get double digit points from Nicolas Batum and Brandon Roy, along with 10.3rpg from the ageless wonder Marcus Camby. Thatís a solid seven man rotation, most notably Gerald Wallace, the mid-season acquisition who provides excellent production at the 2/3 spot and takes a lot of pressure off of Brandon Roy, whose knee problems could have derailed the Blazersí season were it not for the trade for Wallace. Now, Roy can limit his minutes to around 20 per game and the Blazers donít really suffer because of it.

The general consensus seems to be to anoint the Blazers as the spoilers and give them the upset win over the Mavericks right off the bat. The two teams split the season series, with the Mavs winning the first two, and the Blazers winning the last two. However, a couple of stats point to the idea of an upset being more difficult than expected. First, thereís Dallasí home court advantage. The Mavs were good, not great at home at 29-12, however Portland was a paltry 18-23 on the road. Portland is going to have to win on the road at least once to win this series. Second, despite Dallasí mediocre rebounding numbers, Portland is decidedly worse, tied with Atlanta for 27th in the league with 39.3 per game. So despite Marcus Camby averaging over 10 rebounds per game in 26 minutes of duty, this is a weak area for them and could be a place for Dallas to get an advantage. Portland will probably end up taking this series, as they just have more talent and a better team than Dallas, but it will by no means be an easy victory, especially if they happen to slip up and lose a game at home.

Portland in 7

Oklahoma City  Denver
(4) Oklahoma City vs. (5) Denver


So, the Denver Nuggets lose their top two leading scorers, top assist guy, and leading rebounder, and then proceed to go on a tear the rest of the season and finish up as the #5 seed in the Western Conference. Instead of struggling when Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups were traded to the New York Knicks, they took the pieces they already had, added in Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton, and didnít skip a beat with all three averaging double figures over the last 20 games of the season. The Nuggets truly are an ensemble cast, with no standout star, but a number of role players. Aside from Gallinari, Chandler, and Felton, thereís Nene, Arron Afflalo, JR Smith, Ty Lawson, Al Harrington, Kenyon Martin, and of course, Chris Andersen. Andersenís averaging 16.3mpg, everyone else is playing at least 22.8mpg. Itís a diverse cast that can give you a lot of different looks on the court, and George Karl seems to have rallied the team around the absence of Carmelo and his drama to allow them to play at this high level.

Itís certainly a great story, but in the NBA itís tough for a Cinderella story to make it too far into the playoffs. Especially when Cinderellaís first round opponent is Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder are a team reborn with the addition of Kendrick Perkins to start at center and play the role of enforcer in the paint he once occupied in Boston. Perkins and Serge Ibaka make for a dangerous duo in the frontcourt, in addition to Durantís length and ability to score. Thabo Seflosha provides solid defense, and Russell Westbrook might be the most underrated point guard in the league. Westbrookís game can best be compared to that of Derrick Roseís, but Rose is the better all-around player, so Westbrookís ability tends to fly under the radar. But make no mistake, Westbrookís ability to score as well as distribute the ball in addition to Durantís scoring talents are a large part of why the Thunder averaged 104.8ppg. Now, with Seflosha, Ibaka and now Perkins stepping up defensively on the other end, this has become a very dangerous team. Denver is outmatched here and the series wonít be as close as the seeding numbers would otherwise indicate.

Thunder in 5

With the predictions above, we would be looking at second round matchups of San Antonio vs. Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles vs. Portland. The Spurs/Thunder matchup is a tough one to call. The Thunder are probably the more talented team, but the Spurs are more experienced and better coached, plus they have home court advantage. The Thunder can win the series, but it would probably take six or seven games to do it. With the Lakers/Blazers, Portland is the more athletic team by far, but there is some definite concern that the Lakers will crush Portland on the boards and overpower them with their superior frontcourt. Assuming the Lakers get it into gear for the playoffs, they should dispatch the Blazers. A Lakers/Thunder conference finals matchup would be a fantastic series. Gasol vs. Perkins, Ibaka vs. Bynum, Durant vs. Artest, Bryant vs. Seflosha, Westbrook vs. Fisher. That being said, a full strength duo of Bynum and Gasol will be the difference and will send the Lakers to the NBA Finals once again.

So, to recap:

Spurs over Grizzlies in 5
Lakers over Hornets in 5
Blazers over Mavs in 7
Thunder over Nuggets in 5

Thunder over Spurs in 7
Lakers over Blazers in 6

Lakers over Thunder in 6

Thanks for reading, and make sure to check out my Eastern Conference preview too!


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Site Update :: Comments are back!
  submitted on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 6:20:07 AM


When I switched up how my blog post URLs show up, I didn't realize this affected everyone's ability to comment on the posts. The functionality has been restored, so feel free to comment it up. Unless you're a bot. In which case you suck, and I'd ask that you go elsewhere.


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