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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Magic Stayin Alive

Final Score: Orlando 113, Boston 92

Jameer Nelson scored 24 points and the Orlando Magic again staved off elimination with a 113-92 win over Boston in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, a contest in which the Celtics came away with a depleted roster.

The Magic, bidding to become the first NBA team to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series, went 13-for-25 from three-point range. Nelson led the way by going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, and Dwight Howard chipped in 21 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.

Boston can still advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years with a victory Friday night at home. If the Magic win, though, Game 7 will be back in Orlando on Sunday.

After being embarrassed in a 94-71 Game 3 loss, the Magic rallied and earned a 96-92 overtime win in Boston Monday night. Orlando is still believing despite the odds still stacked against the Magic. NBA teams are 93-0 in best-of-seven series when winning the first three games.

However, one Boston team has already blown a 3-0 lead this postseason as the Bruins fell in seven games to the Flyers in the NHL's Eastern Conference semifinals earlier this month. Now the Celtics are possibly two losses away from the biggest collapse in NBA history.

In what may have been the final game for the Magic at Amway Arena, last year's Eastern Conference champions made it known they weren't going down without a fight. Orlando also received 14 points from Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick.

Celtics starting center Kendrick Perkins was ejected in the final minute of the second quarter after picking up his second technical foul. Additionally, Celtics forward Glen Davis suffered a concussion in the closing seconds of the third quarter after receiving an elbow to the face from Howard. Boston swingman Marquis Daniels also came out with a concussion in the fourth.

Rasheed Wallace led the way for Boston with 21 points, but fouled out in the fourth quarter.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

NBA Mock Draft

The Great Wall of Washington: NBA Mock Draft v. 1.0

The NBA Draft Lottery would be a lot of fun if it wasn't so much work.

It's like the NBA's version of a cotillion. Everyone gets dressed in their Sunday best for a catered affair at the NBA Entertainment Studios in Secaucus, NJ.

The only disappointment to me was that the catering crew in no way resembled the cast of Starz' brilliant show, Party Down. If the NBA is looking for a way to improve things for next year, an Adam Scott or Lizy Caplan cameo might put the event over the top.

That said, it's a great place for scribes like yours truly to get some face time with the various NBA big-wigs in attendance. One minute you might be saying hello to the commish himself, David Stern, and the next Larry Legend comes walking by.

A number of teams in the lottery also bring current players. This year I got a few minutes with Indiana All-Star Danny Granger as well as a rising young talent in Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday.

But, the NBA Draft Lottery also means something else -- the annual exercise of futility that is known as the mock draft.

I was far too busy in Secaucus on Tuesday cozying up to the amazing spread to give the actual draft much thought, but a thrilling Wednesday night watching SAO Little League baseball gave me plenty of time to map things out.

Each draft has tiers, and this one is no different. Kentucky point guard John Wall and Ohio State swingman Evan Turner are the head and shoulders of this year's class.

The second grouping consists of three solid prospects, forwards Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech and Wesley Johnson of Syracuse, along with Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins.

Wall and Turner figure as no-brainers to go one-two, and then the fun starts as New Jersey and new owner Mikhail Prokhorov make the first real decision at No. 3.

So here we go -- The Sports Network's 2010 NBA Mock Draft, version 1.0:

1. - Washington Wizards - John Wall (Kentucky), Point Guard - Wall combines rare speed with the ball, along with the size and athleticism to be an elite player very early in his career. He needs to improve his jumper but could be a more-skilled Rajon Rondo.

Think: Rondo.

2. - Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner (Ohio State), Combo Guard - The Sixers jumped up from six to No. 2 in the lottery and lucked out with a virtually mistake-proof pick. Turner, the college player of the year, has a tremendous feel for the game and is an extremely efficient offensive player. He should team with Holiday to give the Sixers a top-tier backcourt for the next decade. I could see Ed Stefanski trading out for Cousins but let's assume soon- to-be new coach Doug Collins talks the embattled Sixers' basketball chief off the ledge.

Think: Brandon Roy

3. - New Jersey Nets - Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech), Power Forward - The Nets will have the first real decision in the draft. I think Cousins is the third- best player and has a bigger upside than either Favors or Johnson but New Jersey already has an All-Star type center in Brook Lopez so look for them to go with Favors, a prototypical four in the mold of Kenyon Martin.

Think: Martin

4. - Minnesota Timberwolves - DeMarcus Cousins (Kentucky), Center - The Wolves' annual hard luck in the lottery continued, as the team fell from the second spot to No. 4 and will have to make a decision between Cousins and Johnson. Both positions are needs, but it's always harder to find the competent big man and that is Cousins.

Think: Shawn Kemp

5. - Sacramento Kings - Wesley Johnson (Syracuse), Small Forward - Last year Sacramento fell from No. 1 to four in the lottery and managed to snare Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. This year, they fell from three to five and will settle for Johnson, a silky-smooth small forward with a big wingspan and a nice jumper.

Think: Alex English

6. - Golden State Warriors - Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest), Combo Forward - Since there is a significant drop after the top five players, Golden State was the biggest loser in the lottery, falling from four to six. Aminu has elite physical tools and a nice upside but he's raw and needs to add strength.

Think: Marvin Williams

7. - Detroit Pistons - Cole Aldrich (Kansas), Center - Since Ben Wallace and Kwame Brown were the big men in the Motor City last year, you have to think Joe Dumars goes with Aldrich, a legitimate center with top-tier rebounding and defensive skills. He is limited offensively, however.

Think: Joel Przybilla.

8. - Los Angeles Clippers - Patrick Patterson (Kentucky), Power Forward - The next grouping of players features more than a few power forwards and centers. Since the Clippers have Chris Kaman in the pivot and will have Blake Griffin coming back next year at the four, Patterson seems like a good choice. The Kentucky junior has the ability to move between the three and four, meaning he can play with Griffin and provide insurance at the same time.

Think: Antonio Davis

9. - Utah Jazz - Greg Monroe (Georgetown), Power Forward/Center - The rich get richer, as Utah uses the New York Knicks' pick to select the Hoyas big man as insurance for the injured Mehmet Okur and free agent power forward Carlos Boozer. The 6-foot-10 Monroe is a lefty with the skills of a much smaller player.

Think: Lamar Odom

10. - Indiana Pacers - Ed Davis (North Carolina), Power Forward - Granger represented the Pacers at the lottery and bowed his head in disgust when the team stayed at No. 10. Getting Granger a long, athletic running mate that can rebound like Davis might make up for some of that disappointment.

Think: Dale Davis

11. - New Orleans Hornets - Ekpe Udoh (Baylor), Power Forward - Udoh has the wingspan of a 7-foot-4 player and should develop into an elite shot-blocker early in his career as well as an exceptional offensive rebounder, two attributes the Hornets desperately need.

Think: Theo Ratliff

12. - Memphis Grizzlies - Donatas Motiejunas (Benetton Treviso), Power Forward/Center - The top international player in this year's draft, Motiejunas is your typical European finesse big man with outstanding offensive skills facing the basket. He should be able to complement Marc Gasol on Beale Street rather early in his career.

Think: Mehmet Okur

13. - Toronto Raptors - Daniel Orton (Kentucky), Power Forward - The Raptors figure to lose Chris Bosh in the offseason so they will need a big man and Orton has a significant upside. He's already got the NBA body and has impressive length but his offensive game needs a lot of work despite a very soft touch that is rare among young bigs today.

Think: Marreese Speights

14. - Houston Rockets - Hassan Whiteside (Marshall), Center - Houston has the final lottery pick and takes some insurance for the oft-injured Yao Ming. Whiteside is coming out after his freshman season so he needs some seasoning but will be an imposing physical presence once he grows into his body.

Think: Kwame Brown

15. - Milwaukee Bucks - Xavier Henry (Kansas), Shooting Guard - The Bucks added an impressive quarterback last year in Brandon Jennings and now get his running mate to replace the injured Michael Redd and free agent-to-be John Salmons. Henry, the Kansas freshman, is a physical specimen and is tailor-made for the NBA game.

Think: Dahntay Jones

16. - Minnesota Timberwolves - James Anderson (Oklahoma State), Shooting Guard - Anderson is slight but tough and could be the best shooter in this year's draft, making him a nice complement to Jonny Flynn in the Twin Cities.

Think: Stephen Curry

17. - Chicago Bulls - Damion James (Texas), Small Forward - The Bulls want to win now and may make the big push for LeBron James. I see them going the "best available" route and that might be James, the rare senior that figures as a first-round pick. James excels in transition and is an exceptional rebounder for his size.

Think: Derek Smith

18. - Miami Heat - Gordon Hayward (Butler), Small Forward - Dwyane Wade is the first order of business in South Beach. If Miami gets its superstar back, they could use a weak-side shooter like Hayward to take advantage of the double- teams Wade often gets.

Think: Mike Dunleavy Jr.

19. - Boston Celtics - Avery Bradley (Texas), Shooting Guard - This is a pretty high pick for a team making a serious run at the NBA title. Since Ray Allen will likely move on in the offseason, the C's can take a flyer on Bradley, an undersized freshman that is a pure shooter and scorer.

Think: Jeff Hornacek

20. - San Antonio Spurs - Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky), Combo Guard - The tread is wearing thin on both Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. George Hill could be a difference-maker down the line but the Spurs could use another active body in the backcourt and Bledsoe, while not quite ready, can play both positions and has a solid upside.

Think: Rafer Alston

21. - Oklahoma City Thunder - Larry Sanders (VCU), Power Forward - The Thunder are very skilled on the wings and in the backcourt so they will be looking for another big body. Sanders has the length to be a help on the defensive end and the boards.

Think: Marcus Camby

22. - Portland Trail Blazers - Stanley Robinson (UConn), Combo Forward - Robinson is the type of athlete that will fit right in to what the Blazers are trying to accomplish. He can run the floor and finish, but lacks a top-tier jumper.

Think: Shawn Marion

23. - Minnesota Timberwolves - Paul George (Fresno State), Combo Forward - George is a rangy guy that can handle the ball very well for a wing player and run the floor. Anybody who can put the ball in the basket should be considered by the Wolves.

Think: Trevor Ariza

24. - Atlanta Hawks - Gani Lawal (Georgia Tech), Power Forward - Lawal, a big guy with great length that can play minutes at both center and power forward, stays in Dixie.

Think: Joakim Noah

25. - Memphis Grizzlies - Luke Babbitt (Nevada), Strong Forward - Babbitt is not going to be a star at the NBA level but his energy level will be a great fit for a young team like Memphis.

Think: A more-skilled Louis Amundson.

26. - Oklahoma City Thunder - Armon Johnson (Nevada), Point Guard - Johnson has good size for a point guard and is a lefty, which tends to create problems for opposing defenses. Should be a nice 10-15 minute guy to give Russell Westbrook a blow.

Think: A bigger Damon Stoudamire

27. - New Jersey Nets - Lance Stephenson (Cincinnati), Shooting Guard - A tough, athletic freshman with an NBA-ready body. His power and quickness could cause a lot of trouble on the blocks in a few years.

Think: Aaron McKie

28. - Memphis Grizzlies - Solomon Alabi (Florida State), Center - The Grizzlies probably don't want to pay three No. 1 picks so they will likely move at some point but if they stick why not take the raw Nigerian big man with a defensive upside?

Think: Dikembe Mutombo

29. - Orlando Magic - Devin Ebanks (West Virginia), Small Forward - Normally, I would expect the Magic to take a European player and leave him overseas but a poor performance against Boston means they will take a talent. Ebanks is an active wing player that can get after people defensively and has a nice touch around the basket.

Think: Tony Allen

30. - Washington Wizards - Dominique Jones (South Florida), Shooting Guard - The Wizards finish the first round by getting Wall a running mate in Jones. a powerfully-built combo guard with a nice offensive game.

Think: Vinnie Johnson


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