Monday, May 31, 2010

U The Man! Rockies' Jimenez Dominates to Magnify Lifeless Landscape

He reminds us of an endless movie, the grandest baseball script of the season.

It’s stunning to see a pitcher bring enthralling scenes to a fragile game in an age when baseball is contaminated with performance-enhancers, horrified by all the steroid scandals and dirty crimes.

Such is difficulty to grasp America’s Pastime in an era known as the Steroid Era, disgusted and burnt out from all the continuous frauds betraying the positive images of integrity.

Because the majors are constantly dispraised for its shameful revelations that poisons the beauty of the game, we have been downplaying the values of baseball and have neglected applauding Ubaldo Jimenez, the one pitcher celebrated for becoming the majors’ first 10-game winner this season.

The most powerful and strongest pitcher in the game would be U’s the Man, a nickname given to Jimenez when he had a flawless outing in April by pitching a perfect game, the first no-hitter in the Rockies’ 18-year history.

Within a lifeless sport known for its stereotypes and depravity, Jimenez, a 26-year-old star pitcher, has emerged into an ace and has brought on a conversation with his dominance of late on the mound.

It’s unbelievable that he’s the best and hottest pitcher, a savior in the lamest sport with his craftiness and creativity, not allowing earned runs, normally finishing an outing hitless and scoreless.

He’s focused on chasing batters early, attacking aggressively and mixing up his pitches in the strike zone, fiercely pitching and attacking with vigor and visual perception, realizing his relentless pitching is needed amid a fraudulent era.

Years after the major leagues declined, we never acknowledged a pitching sensation with all the shams, transforming the way people viewed the game.

But now, it seems the fuss in sports is the growth of an emerging Jimenez, who suddenly has invited recognition, erasing any dreadful thoughts of corruption that has disparaged the features of a distressed sport.

If there weren't any regards that he’s the purest thrower, maybe there’s much assumption now that he’s the front-runner for the National League Cy Young award.

If there weren’t ever much promise after he has thrown 26 consecutive scoreless innings, a franchise record as a starting pitcher, maybe there’s an understanding that he could one day be enshrined in Cooperstown.

He seems like a 10-year veteran, calmed and focused earnestly, roughly symbolizing that the poisoning aspects of the game could be cured.

Once again, Jimenez verified that baseball is still relevant in many ways by popularizing the game and reducing the ill-awareness, regenerating purity among a competition bothered by an oblivious crisis.

When the buzz engendered over Memorial Day weekend, an event created a conversation involving two primary right-handed pitchers. In what was quickly divulged as a Memorial Day pitching duel, Jimenez was impeccable and unbeatable.

Not until he pitched a complete game four-hitter, as the Rockies shut out the San Francisco Giants in a 4-0 matinee at AT&T Park, fantasy owners and casual fans clearly had no clue they were witnessing the potential Cy Young award winner and idealistic right-hander who outshined pitching sensation Tim Lincecum at a premium in his domain.

It’s barely approaching June and still there’s plenty of baseball left in the regular-season, but it’s not too early to admit that Jimenez is a journeyman, suddenly turning into a high-profile ace with monstrous numbers.

And since the majors are obsessed with numbers more than wins, Jimenez is 10-1 with a 0.78 ERA.

If he wins one more, he would tie the franchise record of 11 wins by the All-Star break. For his foe, Lincecum, his throwing mechanics weren’t anywhere near a reigning Cy Young winner, horribly allowing four runs, three earned in 5 2/3 innings.

It’s incredible how a pitcher can magnetize the perception of an unsteady game, impelling all followers to embrace the gratifying development of a big-name pitcher.

Keen to succeed at the highest level, he’s resilient and durable, normally lasting longer than the average ace, pitching until the late innings or either for the entire contest.

What’s fascinating about baseball is that a spectacular outing by a pitcher magnifies one’s curiosity, just as does Jimenez, a phenomenal ace absorbing the thrills with his incomparable and overwhelming achievements.

It’s easy to assume that the staggering numbers place Jimenez as the favorable pitcher to be named for the momentous award.

The results speak for itself, such as a no-hitter and one-hitter, scoreless streaks of 25 and 17 innings, seven earned runs allowed in 71 1/3 innings. Also, it’s not every day you hear a pitcher yielding merely one home run.

Without argument, he’s a prolific starter with impressive pitches. Over the years, high altitude seemed burdensome for many pitchers, but has yet affected the excellence of Jimenez’s powerful arm.

Just recently, Rockies manager Jim Tracy insisted that he’s the greatest pitcher. “He’s the best pitcher in the game,” he said. “He is as quality a human being as you would ever want to be around. He is humble, soft-spoken and accountable. He has all the attributes to be a star in this game for years to come.”

Ahem, I believe he’s already a star?

Apparently, when you are unbeatable, you are a star.

Let’s anoint U’s the Man.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


{Hello, first of all let me introduce myself, I'm Cyrus 99 & this is my very first article on Sportsnation.}

Like all of you, I have been following the NBA playoffs religiously for the past three weeks or so and I admit I'm pretty pleased with the way things have turned out.

The funny thing is, I am neither a fan of the Lakers or Celtics, quite the opposite, as a lifelong Chicago Bulls fan I grew up hating both those teams, particularly those 'dreaded' Boston Celtics teams of the 70's & 80's, come to think of it, most people outside of New England felt that way.

The reason I am happy with the way the playoffs have turned out is that after what threatened to be one of the most predictable & boring offseasons in recent memory, form & predictions were turned upside down when the Celtics & to a lesser extent, the San Antonio Spurs decided they didn't give a damn about popular opinion or what 90 percent of media "experts" were predicting.

San Antonio went straight for the throats of the Dallas mavericks, the 'anointed' western conference finalists, hailed by most experts as the 'only team capable of challenging the mighty & all conquering armada that are the LA Lakers' for the western conference title.

Boy, did they ever get that one wrong.

Dallas were eliminated in a six game series, six games in which they failed to show any fight, grit or determination and instead displayed a consistent lack of imagination as well as a terminal inability to find a plan B when plan A was obviously not working.

This is the third time in four years that the Mavericks have been emphatically eliminated in the first round, twice against lower ranked opposition, when many expected them to appear in the NBA finals, or at the very least, the conference finals, in my opinion, Dallas's failures come down to the simple fact that this isn't Dirk Nowitki's team, sure he is their undisputed star & franchise player, however, to be a successful & dominating force in Basketball it's been proven time & time again that a team should play in the image of their leader, just as Chicago did with Jordan & Pippen, LA with Magic & Kareem, Boston with Russell & Cousy, I could go on & on.

The Dallas Mavericks biggest problem & the reason they continually fail at the highest level is because when their backs are to the wall & it's time to stand up & be counted as well as playing above & beyond their comfort zones & demanding nothing less than 110 percent of yourself & your teammates & refusing to lose as well as having the ability to win ugly, all prerequisites of postseason success, in any sport, never mind Basketball.

That said, the bottom line is that Dallas are not Nowitzki's team, not when it really matter's anyway, they are Jason Terry's team, they are Eric Dampier's team & DeShawn Stevenson's 'gang', before you call for the men in white coats to haul my sorry ass to the madhouse let me explain; The three players I have just mentioned all have something in common, they are the ultimate 'bandwagon' teammates, they always talk a good game, are usually very talented (in Eric's case I use the term talent very loosely indeed) & are great to have around when things are going great, particularly in the regular season when their team in the midst of an inspiring 10 game winning streak, however, put these guys on the wrong end of a raging 'blood & guts' playoff battle, or God forbid, the wrong end of a humiliating loss, and watch them wilt like a delicate flower in the middle of the Sahara desert, they disappear so effectively you would think they were never there in the first place, like a mirage.

That's why I say it's their team & not Dirk's, the Maverick's have played every career defining game in the image of those three underachieving players, they went missing in action & ultimately disappeared.

As far as the Boston Celtic's are concerned, they went after everybody's collective throats and are now licking their lips at the prospect of having another shot at the defending NBA champions the LA Lakers and more importantly, a second title in three years.

In stark contrast to the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers & the aforementioned Dallas Mavericks, these veteran Celtics played with pride, commitment, intelligence, skill and a ferocity we had not seen since their stunning triumph two years ago, they literally took all the negative headlines written about them this past season, all the taunts about them being banged up as well too old & past their sell by date and used it as motivation, and then unleashed all their pent up rage & frustrations on the unsuspecting Cavaliers & Orlando Magic, one thing the Cavs & Magic had in common at the end of their respective playoff runs was the looks on many off their players & coaches faces, they had the look of men who had been taken to the very edge & didn't enjoy it one bit.

That's what champions do, they will push you to the very limit both physically & mentally, daring you to try and beat them and then they will push you even further.

I really am looking forward to watching these two evenly matched teams go head to head, as opposed to last year's underwhelming finals matchup featuring the disappointing Orland Magic, these two legendary teams will go to war, in every sense of the word, they will fight to the bitter end and whoever ends up losing will go down fighting & cursing.

Lakers-Celtics Rivalry Renewed: You Wished Upon a Rivalry and Got It

The fiercest scorer in basketball wasn’t wearing a scowl on his face, one of the most formidable facial expressions in sports, but he was ultimately instrumental in a critical Game Six on the road.

He seemed much too earnest in a hostile environment, the atmosphere where inhospitable fans chanted unpleasantly at Kobe Bryant.

It wasn’t long ago when the Los Angeles Lakers were discombobulated and nearly delayed of returning to the NBA Finals for a rematch against the bitter rivals the Boston Celtics.

A few days ago, the defending champs were dysfunctional and portrayed as an elusive unit, gradually faltering against the competent Phoenix Suns.

In two games, the Suns embarrassingly sent a statement, smearing a reputation of the Lakers, a franchise wrapped in mystique and built with the most talent.

The second unit outplayed and outhustled Team Hollywood, the core with the greatest superstar in a modern generation since the Michael Jordan regime, were vulnerable of unsettlingly losing in an alarming upset to the Suns.

Even when the majority anointed the Lakers, putting pressure on the defending champs to repeat back-to-back resiliency, the optimist forgot and ignored the strength and heart of the Suns, never realizing that the hottest team in the desert had L.A. on the brink of elimination in a 2-2 tie.

Suddenly, the Lakers bring nothing but perseverance, energy and emotion, avoiding the ideas of futility and lapses in a moment the most admirable franchise in L.A., normally wins a championship to fortify eminence and mystique.

A town that prides itself on basketball is intrigued to witness a fascinating and intense rematch against its long-time rivals, the Boston Celtics, an antagonist the Lakers faithful loathes greatly.

So what we’re about to witness is exactly what the average basketball loyalist desired, a Lakers-Celtics rematch. All the celebrities are in for a dramatic and physical showdown between a two hostile rivals.

Life in California revolves around the glamorous lifestyle of Hollywood, but also revolves around the breathtaking finishes of Bryant’s clutch shots and the purple and gold topping the NBA in amazing feats.

It’s fair to suggest that we are glancing at a postseason of blood, massacres and mortals, so fittingly the Lakers vs. Celtics is the greatest rivalry in sports, publicizing an event once again in existence to magnetize a series that will likely be decided in seven games.

All the people wished for the dream series, and now are fortunate to relive a storied rivalry in sports. When the Lakers won 111-103 over the Suns Saturday night clinching the Western Conference championship and advanced to its 31st finals appearance, it’s also the 12th meeting against the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Once again, the Lakers are enduring a rematch to redeem a heartbreaker two seasons ago, woefully humiliated and dismantled in the formidable 39-point loss in Game Six of the finals in Boston.

That year, the Celtics earned its 17th banner. That year, the Lakers suffered an egregious letdown, departing a town disgusted and embarrassed.

For a long awaited Lakers-Celtics series, we can only expect it to be physical and vigorous, a ripple effect that advertises tradition and appealing basketball in the next couple weeks.

So now, the Lakers realizes much is at stake after winning to advance to the finals for the third consecutive season to meet the villains of the Eastern Conference and the most hated team in Southern California.

For weeks the Lakers have made adjustments and enhanced the level of performance by executing and upgrading the game plan, surviving on the heroics of Bryant’s ability to seize a game with his successive shot making and mental capacity.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to win the 16th championship in franchise history and move inches closer of tying the Celtics at 17 titles, but will need the essentials to unhinge Boston.

Even if The Big Three are older, aging and past the prime years, the Lakers will have to produce and raise the intensity level.

The blueprint is to avenge a disastrous loss, without having a sluggish mindset for apathy and very little soundness.

Throughout the postseason, the Lakers deteriorated on a numerous occasions before returning to normalcy late in the series, riddled by the younger and faster Oklahoma City Thunder and outplayed and outhustled convincingly against the Suns.

And it wasn’t long ago when Figueroa Avenue was hopeless and deprived of pouring the streets to celebrate a Lakers victory, distraught about an unfavorable letdown faltering against its assassin.

If you are willing to erase any agonizing afterthoughts of the awful ending to a momentous season two years ago, then you are probably wishes for the ultimate beat down.

It’s a team on the East Coast that die hard Lakers fans love to hate, realizing the home team has a shot at redemption and owns home court advantage in the 2-3-2 format.

The pressure is clearly on the Lakers, losers of nine of the 11 Finals during the 51-year rivalry. It’s amazing how they have been to 10 more finals, but the C’s have won two more titles, labeled as the winningest franchise in pro basketball.

Flirting with the possibility of winning it all over the most hated rivals, the Lakers refused to suffer, yet, another heartbreaker, more matured and prepared for the biggest series.

It’s impossible to predict a winner, but easy to admit that the Lakers seeks revenge, looking to take down their longtime foes. Of all the hype and hearsay on the upcoming series, the Lakers are faster and younger than the aging Celtics.

Unlike a year ago, they are hungrier and have strengthened the roster and style within the triangle offense.

The difference is that Bryant is still disappointed with the devastating loss that sabotaged spirit, and even greater, Pau Gasol isn’t as soft in the middle, now attacking with much stamina and heart.

And let’s not forget about Ron Artest, the defensive-minded forward who will make it miserable and difficult for Paul Pierce to score.

“We’ll see…we’ll see how much we matured,” Kobe Bryant said after scoring a mere 37 points to drive the Lakers to a win. “The Celtics challenged us two years ago…now it’s a test to see how much we’ve grown.”

Had he not taken over in the fourth quarter to stop the Lakers from blowing a comfortable lead, the Suns might have forced a Game Seven Monday at Staples Center.

But as usual, Bryant came close to a triple-double three times, and more importantly, knocked down a desperation jumper from the right side with 34.2 seconds.

Nonetheless, this is what each avid fan base expected, a Lakers-Celtics rematch, and a long-awaited match. The other night Boston fans chanted blatantly “Beat L.A.”

Feelings are mutual as the Lakers fans chanted friendlier “We want Boston” repeatedly.

“They’re physical,” Jackson said.

In short, Artest is physical too, and began surging on offense. Ever since going from goat to hero, he has scored by making mid-range jumpers and hitting the shots inside.

He made 10 of 16 shots, four of seven from three-point range and led all scorers in the first half. Remember, his miraculous game-winning put back on Bryant’s miss as the clock expired in Game 5 shifted the dynamic of the series.

Most importantly, the Lakers are as balanced as Boston and may even be slightly better. No longer are they soft or intimidated by the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett trotting in the line to collect rebounds or fire a shot.

No longer will they allow an unstoppable and older Paul Pierce to drive inside to draw fouls or score on the well-executed layup, not if he’s shut down by Artest.

It’s a defensive advantage, given that Artest is known for frustrating and getting in the face of his opponent. And no longer will Rajon Rondo undeniably speed by the Lakers defense, only if Bryant is assigned to guard the explosive guard.

He’s the one star player who may actually scowl and frown, becoming the Black Mamba, still anxious on seeking revenge.

Now is the time since Andrew Bynum’s defensive presence is factor and could stand as a tandem with Gasol, two seven-footers who match the size of Kendrick Perkins and Garnett.

He missed all the action two years ago, while struggling with a knee injury, but his oversized body could outweigh the Celtics if he doesn’t perform like a bust.

It’s interesting to see which team comprises of more willpower and heart. Expect it to be really bloody and physical, but expect the stronger team to win the series.

Maybe that’s the Lakers or even the Celtics. What we’re presumably witnessing is the most epic classics in sports of all time.

Lakers-Celtics relives.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ron Artest Salvages Must-Needed Win for Lakers, Overshadows Any Tumults

There are times, such as moments when someone needs a wondrous moment to avoid doubts and ongoing criticism, realizing that he was viewed as a narcissistic nutcase with problematic outbursts throughout his troubling seasons in the NBA.

Labeled as a miserable thug for initiating bizarre melees during games by losing it on the floor and throwing tantrums and provoking altercations with a blatant crowd, Ron Artest is no longer perceived as the problem-child. He’s no longer a psychotic goon for his stupidity and absurd madness in previous seasons, but a savior at the right time.

By the end of a disappointing and fluctuate Game Four loss, Kobe Bryant was asked during a postgame interview about his feelings while in despair over a disengaging defeat and he said sarcastically that he was “jovial.”

If he was filled with euphoria, he indeed was on a night a noiseless and a motionless Staples Center exploded when Artest put back Bryant’s miss as time expired to beat the buzzer in a breathtaking 103-101 win over the Phoenix Suns.

This was the portrait of an underachieving superstar salvaging a must-needed win, protecting home-court advantage and taking a commanding 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals, now one win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the third straight season to defend its title.

So now, before critics berate and ridicule a defensive-minded player with the resemblance of Dennis Rodman, understand that his heroics may have saved the Los Angeles Lakers in facing potential doom.

Before critics affirm any doubt in his disappointing and awful performances since signing with the Lakers, understand that his inconceivable game-winning shot will always be remembered in franchise history, especially if the Lakers win its second consecutive championship.

All the celebrities and season-ticket holders witness a jovial night and celebrated once Artest’s awkward layup dropped in. Then, at the end of a miraculous finish, Bryant pumped his fist and wrapped Artest in a bear hug as the nerve-racking crowd roared, relived of a potential relapse and meltdown in what may have extended into a thrilling overtime.

His teammates heckled the forward who seemed lost in the series and struggled to find the intended target from beyond the perimeter, celebrating a miracle to alleviate tense emotions and the notion of elimination.

Unwisely, he attempted an ill-advised three-pointer with 56.9 seconds remaining and possessed a fresh shot clock. He often committed foolish blunders, but none as fatuous as taking an execrable shot with much at stake.

Moments later, he walked slowly and embarrassingly to the bench when the Suns called a timeout. It’s apparent that he had to redeem himself of nearly costing the Lakers a loss at home for selfishly shooting, instead of burning time or finding his teammates, knowing his inconsistency in shot making lately.

Leading by three points, barely holding on against the vintage Suns, he ended up with the ball and foolishly fired. It nearly endangered the Lakers season after he missed woefully and gave the Suns a chance to steal a road game, before traveling back to Phoenix.

Long ago, Artest was the dumbest thug and migrated to Hollywood in hopes to win his first championship alongside Bryant, but he was scolded by Phil Jackson near the bench and described as the dumbest clown in the league for launching one as a prayer.

That almost doomed the Lakers when Suns sharpshooting guard Jason Richardson banked in a three-pointer. Over the years, Artest has mellowed, but no one has forgotten the Malice at the Palace, the most devastating brawl in NBA history, when he charged the stands and attacked a fan.

Never has it been easy to understand his mind, a peculiar and weird dude declared a psycho for all his poor judgments and anger outbursts, becoming a greater nuisance than Brett Favre begging to comeback, Terrell Owens weeping about fewer touches, or Manny Ramirez performing his ridiculous antics.

I guess critics or people in general will think wisely before insisting that he doesn’t shoot, but strictly implement in-your-face, physical defense to counterbalance an opposing superstar, such as nemesis Paul Pierce of the Celtics, if the Lakers and Celtics advances to the NBA Finals.

“Everyone was saying, ‘Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot.’ You know, there was a point in time when I shot 40 percent on threes,” said Artest. “I’ve hit a lot of shots before.”

With 3.5 seconds remaining, Artest was the player least expected to score the game-winning shot and alarm a tense and terrified environment, realizing the Lakers were in trouble if they failed to win at home before traveling to Phoenix in a sudden death situation.

Like always, the play was designed for Bryant to hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer, but he was trapped on the sideline and double-teamed tightly by Steve Nash and Grant Hill.

As a result, he forced an off-balance pump-fake jump shot, only to fall short for an air ball. And moments later, there was Artest bailing out the Lakers by grabbing the rebound and hurling his unbelievable put back that initiated the biggest celebration at Staples Center and outside on Figueroa Ave.

“He has an uncanny knack of doing this, and sometimes it just works out,” Jackson said.

The Lakers have won 11 straight postseason games at home. Artest’s heroics installed much hopefulness, but they’ll need assertiveness and awareness in Phoenix to avoid a Game Seven. It seemed that Bryant, who had 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists, isn’t the only clutch shooter with Artest capping redemption.

In an unhappy ending, the heartbreaking loss has the Suns in a must-win situation, needing two more wins to survive a compelling series. For whatever reason, Phoenix abandoned the 2-3 zone defense, a successful formation that has offset the Lakers, who were fortunate to win after blowing an 18-point lead.

Despite all the talent and depth within a solid bench, the Suns vanished in all levels of the game. By the stellar performance, Nash and the Suns bench keep hopes alive, and Phoenix almost pulled off the stunning upset on the road Thursday. For much of the game, Alvin Gentry, the head coach of the Suns, was bothered by a sour stomach and suffered an illness on the sideline, needing a trash can to vomit on the bench.

But seemingly from out of nowhere, Artest knocked down a game-winner in clutch moments, merely scoring four points on 2 for 9 shooting and had five rebounds, two assists and three steals.

“I don’t know why I left him in the game,” Jackson said. “I actually questioned it myself,” he said, smiling.

Maybe his amazing shot answers the question. He can practically shoot.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

There's No Mirage in Desert: Phoenix Suns Eclipse Lakers-Celtics Dream

It happened unexpectedly, amid a boring and dense postseason. When it seemed the Los Angeles Lakers were too talented, and would eventually sweep the Phoenix Suns.

But the defending champs are once again perceived as a lingering riddle, with the annoying up and down meltdowns at critical situations.

Perhaps we spoke too quickly, without acknowledging the hottest team in the Western Conference. All of a sudden, the Suns are seemingly the team to beat. They are a franchise filled with depth, tremendous size, awareness, and poise.

At some moments, the Lakers were categorized as the elite franchise of the postseason, bound to win back-to-back titles.

Now, the defending champs are on the brink of elimination. The Suns appear hungrier, potent, and more determined than Los Angeles.

The Lakers were beat down by the Suns, dismantled by an aggressive and solid bench. Phoenix's entire second unit made the Lakers seem inferior.

When Team Hollywood is outplayed, out-hustled, and out-rebounded, the first notion that comes to mind is that they are doomed at repeating glory. It seems impossible to sustain back-to-back chatter when the Suns 2-3 zone defense disintegrates the Lakers soft, baffled offense.

Notice the Lakers haven’t executed or attacked the rim, despite possessing a seven-foot tandem in an uninspiring front court.

Meanwhile, as the Lakers have suddenly crumbled, the Suns are blazing. Phoenix realizes they can beat the Lakers. They are now two wins away from immortality, and an NBA Finals appearance.

The Suns are clear evidence that a series isn’t over until a team wins four games in the best-of-seven series. Phoenix could be on the verge of capping a bizarre upset in the NBA postseason.

They could break the hearts of Lakers fans dreaming of a Lakers-Celtics rematch.

Game five could dictate the Lakers fate, and add further burdens to a franchise with mystique, and supporters believing it’s the year to win another trophy.

Suddenly, the entire diverse city comes together in support of the Lakers. These fans are scared of a disastrous meltdown in game five. There is a notion that the Suns aren’t a mirage, but rather a legitimate unit in pursuit of capturing a championship, dethroning the defending champs in the process.

Quite unveiling is that the Suns might have a deeper and more fervid unit than the Lakers. Their reserve are more earnest and vigorous than Kobe’s absent-minded bench mob.

It’s stunning how the Suns outscored and intimidated the Lakers in bench points. They also dominated in rebounding, 51-35, and had a staggering 54-20 separation in bench points Tuesday night.

It was humiliating night for the Lakers, but a massive night for the Suns. Phoenix made it clear that if the Lakers refuse to raise the intensity, and match the assertive performance of Amar’e Stoudemire (who may decide to leave the desert and sign with another franchise when he becomes a free agent this summer), L.A. can be beaten.

The truth is that the leader and maestro of the Suns is Steve Nash, an explosive point guard who was dispirited of the disappointing changes within the organization last year. They relapsed and fell out of contention under embattled coach Terry Porter, before coach Alvin Gentry took over and had the interim tag removed.

Since then, Nash has led as the floor general, putting together opportunities for his teammates to score with his indescribable assists. He finds teammates inside the paint or beyond the perimeter.

There’s no arguing that he’s the essential piece to the immediate impact of the Suns progress against a team defending its title.

Standing at six feet, he’s the true point guard every team wishes to possess, an ageless floor general with John Stockton's genetics. Nash has blistering speed and vision in the transition game. He’s very athletic, and a perfectionist at all levels of the game. He makes everyone around him better.

Keep in mind he is a former soccer player.

It’s difficult to ignore the Suns because of Channing Frye's emergence. Frye nailed four three-pointers after missing his previous 18 shots. Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa's perimeter shooting has sparked Phoenix. Goran Dragic's streaky mid-range and outside pedigree has been displayed. Dragic has beaten Derek Fisher on the dribble, driving to the line or measuring for a jumper.

With much at stake, the Lakers are in trouble, and might endanger their season if they fail to rebound in game five.

Otherwise, the Lakers are doomed and will possibly see the last of Phil Jackson if he decides to retire or coach elsewhere next season.

Given that owner Jerry Buss has insisted he’ll reduce the coach's salary, Jackson may call it quits. But for now, they are amid a title run, aiming to repeat and celebrate.

None of that seems logical. The Suns are currently the better team, beating the Lakers in every category and publicly humiliating a highly regarded franchise.

If anyone is furious, it’s Kobe Bryant, arguably the greatest guard of our generation. He sarcastically responded to questions following a 115-106 loss to the Suns in game four.

By the time the game was complete, he had posted 38 points as his teammates abnormally tried too many three point attempts, which cost the Lakers a chance at widening the gap in this series. Now, they're challenged by the unstoppable and uncontrollable Suns.

During post game interviews, Bryant was asked how he felt. “Jovial,” he said. I’m sure we all interpreted that as sarcasm.

Next time critics may actually think before classifying the Suns as “girlie.”

Did we really underestimate the Suns? Absolutely!

They aren’t girls, but the hottest and fiercest team in the league that everyone had forgotten.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If Phil Jackson Desires Coaching Please Ignore the Hearsay In Chicago

The entire world recognizes that Phil Jackson is one of the most decorated coaches in the history of the NBA by accomplishing more than the average coach. Aside from all the LeBron James melodrama that has captivated attention as he becomes a free agent this summer, the Chicago Bulls are pursuing an extreme makeover to revamp around a young and talented team.

It’s easy to forget that James, who is the biggest curiosity in sports, is the blockbuster name on the market this summer, when reportedly Phil Jackson, the greatest coach in sports history, is speculated to leave Los Angeles and return to Chicago.

While simultaneously applauding the hippie of the ‘70s era and perfectionist with 10 rings, he’s targeted by the Bulls if James signs with Chicago this summer. It’s understandable that his unique coaching trends are the genetics of a psychologist entertaining a mysterious patient with mind games.

There is rumor lingering that he’ll return to Chicago and rebuild a foundation among a turbulent franchise, operated by an embattled general manager, John Paxson. The maelstrom of an underachieving franchise is gently dismantling under Paxson’s poor personnel decisions.

And since the ending of the Michael Jordan reign in Chicago, the Bulls have collapsed and plunged, becoming inferior within the Eastern Conference and harmless in making a paramount playoff run, merely winning one playoff series in years.

The state of the Bulls, seemingly, illustrates a promising future when the franchise brings in a finesse head coach and a savvy superstar to join the growing tandem of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. However, if James was to sign with the Bulls, he’ll have a supporting cast with Rose, a priceless point guard who could dish the ball to LeBron as he levitates for one of his electrifying dunks.

It’s sensible to suggest that he’ll accept an offer sheet from the Bulls, despite playing in the shadows of the legendary guard of all-time Jordan. He realizes that he’ll have an easy task, sharing the ball with Noah, a flourishing post player energized to break out in conclusive moments.

It’s probably a mutual notion for Phil, the Zen Master as well, who has mettle that he could mold and develop a talented core in Chicago. As the President of the United States lobbies for James, some are persuading Jackson to come back and resuscitate the disoriented Bulls, with his well-respected coaching method.

Given his resume of amassing a total of 10 titles with two franchises, his name makes the most sense. But a reunion with Jackson isn’t such an ingenious conception and doesn’t seem realistic, simply for aiming closer towards retirement.

If he ever leaves the Lakers, Jackson would depart from coaching to hang up a miraculous career and avoid the unnecessary stress and burdens of rebuilding framework surrounding two top-tier players. The Lakers are amongst a back-to-back title run, but now are interrupted with all the hoopla and an ongoing saga of Jackson possibly eluding the Hollywood life to reside in a lively Chi-Town.

It was late Monday when ESPN reported that Jackson was inquired to return to an avid sports town, where most of his success was derived, winning six championships with Jordan amid NBA’s greatest dynasty. If anything, he remains the head coach of the Lakers and whistles from the sideline at Staples Center.

Even if he has a reputation in transforming a substandard team, owner Jerry Buss will encourage Jackson and do whatever it takes to retain the masterful mentor of staying a couple of years before leaving, though he has urged that he’ll reduce his salary from $12.5 million yearly to $5 million.

What this means for his future status is uncertain, but assuming that he’s in a relationship with Buss’ daughter, Jeanie, the Lakers’ executive president and the boss of Jackson, abandoning the fabulous celebrity life seems illogical. Last month, Jeanie admittedly informed her companion that Jerry wants Jackson to take an enormous pay cut and said she envisions him coaching elsewhere next season.

But if he does backtrack to the Bulls' turbulent organization, until owner Jerry Reinsdorf overcomes his stubborn ways or sell the franchise for the fans sake, he’ll run into unnecessary chaos and headaches, needless anxiety for a 64-year old attempting to reinforce aspiration within the mediocrity of the Bulls.

So this is suddenly what all the people are chatting about, Jackson’s next coaching position. I personally think he needs to retire after this season, especially if he surpasses Red Auerbach with the most championships all time.

There comes a point in life when he’ll venture off to other things, rather than coaching and amassing championships. In recent years, his health status has raised concerns after having hip replacement surgery and battling health complications away from the court.

For those who can recall, he strongly considered to coach the home games and avoid traveling with the team because of the wear and tear on his body a year ago. But he recently appeared on Fox Sports Radio and was asked to discuss retirement plans, acknowledging the significance of his health before addressing a possible return.

“Well, I think it’s pretty good. It’s really about how I feel about getting into another 82-game season. It’s a commitment,” he said.

This developing story stuck the news on the day the Cleveland Cavaliers canned Mike Brown after two consecutive 60-win seasons, but now Jackson is offered a deal to re-sign with a franchise he sustained much praise and won championships before coming to Los Angeles, where he won another three.

It’s more likely that he’ll retire and avoid the dire confusion, damaging a formerly winnable personality ever since Paxson stepped into the personnel role. Not long ago, he prompted a verbal altercation with Vinny Del Negro, who he recently fired after two inefficient seasons, even though he damn near led the Bulls pass the first round against the Boston Celtics last year.

Why accept a job offer with headaches? Phil’s best option is retiring as the greatest pro coach in sports history, accomplishing nearly the improbable as the crafty and winningest mastermind.

And if LeBron doesn’t sign with Chicago, maybe he’ll persuade the ownership to bring in good friend John Calipari, when he already told reporters that he’ll remain Kentucky’s head coach at the collegiate level. For the most part, Jackson departed on bad terms and had a bitter relationship with Reinsdorf, when his agent Todd Musburger lambasted the Bulls’ general manager Jerry Krause.

Realizing that he’s getting older, tired of traveling regularly, and earned his fair share of championships and wins, expect him to retire and call it quits for good. Of course, Obama wishes for a reunion, just as well as a LeBron welcoming, but as it turns out, none of this may actually come true.

At least, it’s not the Phil hearsay.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Magic's Weaknesses Unveil Anything But Magical Touch in Legitimate Test

In a postseason with dull routs and lopsided finishes, the Orlando Magic, once regarded as the emerging franchise with the next dominant big man in one of the largest cities, all of a sudden has been deprived of creating a magical sequence, similar to the one a year ago, when the Magic earned a bid to the NBA Finals.

In Orlando, a beautiful vacationing spot, the population believed in a magical shooting touch, a category the Magic is usually proficient in compiling points.

It’s no longer unfathomable to realize that Orlando was untested and slightly deeper than Charlotte and Atlanta.

What exactly symbolized fate of the Magic, a heartless and harmless match against the Boston, is a team completely lost on defense and bewildered in finding the weaknesses of the aging Celtics.

And really, it’s hard to imagine Orlando avoiding a humiliating sweep in a series in which they never demoralized the pesky nemesis, now one win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time in two years, setting up a potential rematch against their foes the Los Angeles Lakers.

In a raucous arena, the crowd shouted continuously as the Celtics overpowered the Magic embarrassingly as if they were little kids without a clear understanding of basic fundamentals.

From the start, they were done, they were doomed, and they were badly dismantled without even attempting a comeback. The nightmares were uninspiring, lacking heart and fortitude in a game the Magic needed to avoid a possible sweep.

There’s proof that Orlando is clearly no match against Boston, even if some Celtics are barely standing on wobbly legs and knees.

With the Magic untested in the first two rounds of the uncompetitive postseason, we finally found out the truth about a mystified Orlando, unlike a year ago when it rose to new heights and encountered a one-sided match with the Lakers to suffer the loss when a surreal playoff run ended sorely.

All of which we now know the Magic’s true identity in a series the Celtics defied logic and tested the wills.

Judging by the first two series, they were deemed as the invincible Magicians of the East, but were mistakenly favored to return to the finals with depth, size and athleticism.

What? If this team was supposed to transcend, grasped a clear sense of what it takes to sustain felicity and validate the franchise’s history by winning its first championship, then why isn’t Dwight Howard dominating like Superman vanquished the evildoers? Of course, he’s not the only one to blame.

Why isn’t Vince Carter...the Vinsanity we once were accustomed to playing like he’s a revived megastar, but instead playing like an aging guard with no swagger? Why isn’t Rashard Lewis firing in three-pointers, but instead misfiring on nearly each shot attempt.

Suddenly, what happened? The Magic never recovered and had no response Saturday, but suffered the flimsiest playoff defeat in NBA history.

Sure, the Celtics' sumptuous defense is making every team it has faced look awful. Before, Boston made LeBron James seem like the most inferior player ever in the year he won the NBA Most Valuable Player award.

And now it seems Howard isn’t a physique or gigantic center, but a whiny baby easily teased and frustrated underneath the basket.

The pounding of Orlando, summarized an ugly night and shocked the entire team when the scoreboard inside the Garden posted the final outcome, 94-71, in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals.

After an effortless performance in the first two rounds, totaling an 8-0 record, the Magic encountered the biggest test in the postseason.

The Celtics have quickly become archenemies, retaliating and bouncing back from an unimaginable letdown a year ago, of course, when the Magic wasn’t bemused and dominated the East without even fiercely bulldozing its opponents.

In the series, Orlando has unraveled completely, losing composure, heart and firepower it once had to win. In short, the Magic are incapable of beating Boston.

It’s that very obvious trailing 3-0 on the brink of elimination as the Celtics aims towards dispatching the Magic, when everyone predicted they’ll return to the finals.

And some even forecast that Orlando would win its first-ever championship. It’s impossible to even suggest that they’ll win one game in this series.

In each game, the lack of urgency and consciousness revealed the flukiest postseason competitors.

Throughout the series, the Magic were outplayed on defense, missed an array of shots and heard shouts from coach Stan Van Gundy that went through one ear and out the other.

By halftime, the night was over as the score extended to embarrass Orlando, inspiring an electrifying crowd that started chanting “Beat L.A.!” “Beat L.A.!”

Early on, the Magic never found its magic touch and trailed 7-0. Shortly after, the night turned uglier and the Celtics maintained control the rest of the way, ending Howard’s and his lifeless teammates’ probable season and mitigated probability.

As time runs out on the Magic's season, Howard wasted much valuable time weeping over pity fouls in the series. He’s a 24-year old who hasn’t fully developed into a dominant force, with his incredible size advantage and wingspan.

He’s not Superman after all, a name given to him when he became the tallest man to win the dunk contest during NBA All-Star weekend not long ago. Maybe Shaq is still the man of steel.

With championship hopes on the line, Howard wasn’t the toughest man on the floor, but the most vulnerable only scoring seven points with seven rebounds.

It’s disappointing that the Magic played with no intensity, no guts, not even a suitable game plan to cut down a large deficit.

Well, when a team falls apart, you cannot point the finger at one individual, which means Howard isn’t the only one to blame.

He wasn’t wearing his comical smile, but disappointing expressions after struggling mightily, at one point down 21-6. Because of a lousy defensive approach, all defenders were manhandled, allowing Boston to possess a double-digit lead.

“They just riddled us,” Van Gundy said, blaming himself for not having his team prepared in a must-needed win.

The difference in such a one-sided contest, the Celtics outhustled and had the most intensity as the aggressors, controlling the dynamics of the game, while the Magic struggled to find the nets and failed to hustle or match the aggressiveness of Boston. It’s obvious that Van Gundy takes most of the blame.

He’s didn’t have his team prepared in an onslaught that eventually turned brutal, which is why he admittedly blamed himself for Orlando’s poor performance.

“The most disappointing to me was that I didn’t have our team better ready to play,” Van Gundy said. “That was what was disappointing to me was my job.”

The Celtics were crafty on the floor, particularly on the breathtaking moment involving Boston’s explosive guard Rajon Rondo. He outran Jason Williams to a loose ball in the backcourt, diving on the floor and picked it up to score.

This night really brought out the true colors of the Magic, when there were no signs of toughness or awareness, but a confused and discouraged group.

Lewis scored four points on 2-for-8 shooting, missing all four three-point attempts. The two biggest non-factors were Carter and Jameer Nelson, who had 15 points apiece.

And maybe the only thing exciting about this game was Kevin Garnett getting pushed into the Orlando bench, knocking over Van Gundy, or the diving play by Rondo to score the layup.

Other than that, there was nothing else to see. There was no magic whatsoever.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Speak Prematurely: Lakers-Boston Celtics in an Epic Theater For the Ages

Before the NBA season comes to a closure, the people obsessed with sports are anxiously ready to see an epic showdown among two franchises with bad blood, and wishing to badmouth each other in a physical clash.

This has been an uninteresting postseason of ills and very little excitement, besieged with all the uncertainty and uncompetitive series that lasted fewer than six games.

So save the best for last in the NBA Finals, a contest that will last approximately seven games, based on all the talent and poise each team presents. The world gazes at Kobe Bryant, arguably the preeminent shooting guard of this age, despite that he was teased previously in a Los Angeles Times photo for wearing a headband, bow tie, and a top hat, becoming the latest model in humiliating photos.

The world also stares at the Boston Celtics, a reviving franchise with three aging star players finding ways to survive and outlast opponents by playing unstoppable defense and enduring the improbable pursuit.

As of recently, the tradition and mystique has gradually resounded Celtic Pride, and the Celtics has endured the probable thoughts of winning its second championship in three seasons, en route to capturing its 18th championship possibly against the archrivals.

It would be interesting to see if the Lakers can beat the Celtics, avenging and erasing the devastating loss in the Finals two years ago. To this day, the Lakers still have a bitter and ill-natured psyche after the series ended badly in a disheartening 131-92 loss in Game Six at Boston.

Now, two years later, the Lakers have a personal vendetta against its archenemies, dating back to the ‘60s era when Wilt Chamberlain feuded with Bill Russell, then the ‘80s era when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird engendered the spotlight on the hardwood with non-stop, thrilling masterpieces.

So now, in a modern generation, one of the greatest rivalries in sports lives on. Every now and then, the Lakers-Celtics battle ascends eternal rivalries, upon gazing at the physical bouts and feuds between a pair of franchises with much animosity. It’s fair to assume that the captivating scuffles and competitive series creates a dislikable sequence, and when the two encounter each other for an eye-popping matchup, the world stares at the Lakers-Celtics.

Either way, for some, it’s good versus evil or evil versus good, whichever team fans prefer.

But it’s clear evidence that the Lakers are resentful over the way it ended, after they were humiliated and finished the season miserably, seeking revenge to remove the misery of a dreadful ending amid a winnable series.

Two years ago, Boston, a long-time nemesis, dismantled Los Angeles in the entire series, winning in a lopsided fashion by out-playing, out-hustling, and out-coaching the Lakers. In a sluggish postseason, Bryant is verified as the toughest and greatest basketball player of a modern generation, enduring injuries and severe pain in all parts of his body.

From a bad knee to a fractured index finger to back spasms and tweaked ankle, he has withstood a variety of pain, but is portrayed as the sterling finisher in the game. He’s a rare athlete nowadays, compared to the legendary great Michael Jordan, becoming a facilitator and the fiercest scorer in the game. Even though he’s hampered with injuries, he still dazzles and scores 30 to 40 points, leading the Lakers to a 2-0 lead against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals.

As it stands, he’s aiming at a second consecutive NBA championship for his fifth ring and would ease closer towards validating a superlative legacy, one shy of Jordan in the rings category. Perhaps in this era he’ll become one of the most decorated players in the league, but will also transcend popularity as he currently has the top selling jersey among NBA stars. It’s always good to beat the archrivals, especially when it contributes to adding another championship banner and tie the Celtics for the most titles in league history and reach a peek by winning it all.

In what has the makings of an epic theater, the Lakers and Celtics are both top-level franchises, assembled with depth, willpower, firepower, and talent to ignite a heavyweight war. Truth is, this will only become bloodier in a few weeks, with one of these teams suffering mortals. But it’s unknown which team poses as the villainous and deadliness enemy, when all of us will finally see an infatuating rematch. It’s simple to predict that it will be the Lakers and Celtics in a collision course at the finals.

This brings us to believe that it will go down as one of the most compelling series in sports, all while watching if the aging Celtics can outlast and compete against the younger Lakers or if the invigorated Celtics can obstruct the Kobe Show with constant double-teaming or defending the four-time champ of facilitating.

But now, Boston is playing like an unbeatable force that can win another championship and toy with the minds of the Lakers, just as Phil Jackson mocks opponents with his physiological mind games.

This time, the Celtics may get the last laugh, especially if the Lakers enter the series sluggish and unalarmed, then the Big Three devours Team Hollywood like a JV high school team without enough talent or self-motivation. By now, they’ve learned their lesson after getting defaced and belittled by the fans and media for a casual and unconscious performance in the finals two years ago. With much doubt, the Celtics weren’t even considered to advance to the finals this year, based on Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen's aging bodies breaking down mentally and physically.

When skeptics dismissed the Celtics of returning back to championship form and were labeled as the oldest and slowest team, all people clearly forgot that they had depth, size, and experience, which is seen in the Eastern Conference Finals as Boston isn’t a match for the Orlando Magic. Months ago, the Celtics weren’t even in conversation of sustaining triumph, but there were speculations of early retirement for Garnett and Doc Rivers was considering on taking hiatus to spend time with his kids.

But make no mistake, if the Celtics win again, he’ll be given a long-term contract and Garnett will play for a few more years. We can argue about whether the Lakers can beat the Celtics, two teams overachieving and endeared for uplifting the souls within a spectacular sport. But the Lakers consist of the Kobe Show, airing nightly at Staples Center.

He’s admired as a finisher, clutch superstar, an unstoppable shooter, and as the greatest player since Jordan retired and left his throne. With the supporting cast and contributions of the eccentric and weirdo Ron Artest finally making shots, the size and athleticism of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum and the resurgence of Lamar Odom, the Lakers are unbeatable, but understand that Boston will not surrender without a fight.

My inclination is that the Lakers-Celtics is a final all basketball loyalist wishes to witness. Obviously, that’s the way it should turn out in the end. And if the Lakers win, it would be a shot of redemption, but if the Celtics win, it would be a proven theory that they weren’t so old after all.

Either way, prepare for a bloody skirmish.

It’s where amazing happens, remember.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Boston Celtics Have Ideal Weapons to Relive Green Pride: Boston Unbeatable?

These days, the masses gossip about LeBron James’ future, whether he’ll re-sign with Cleveland or depart emotionally to Chicago or even New York or wherever he decides to land come July 1, we are forced to neglect the undervalued franchise of the Eastern Conference.

It’s fascinating that basketball lords deems the Boston Celtics as an aging, old, unhealthy and washed-up franchise, without enough in the tank to win its second championship in three seasons and deepen mystique, a tradition symbolizing the Celtics winningest brand for nearly 50 years.

Based on shakiness and health issues in the regular season, the Celtics, once discredited as the oldest and most broken-down team both mentally and physically in the NBA, withstood anguish and despair between Kevin Garnett’s wobbly knees and Paul Pierce strained foot.

For that matter, any team would be doubted when it gradually begins to recede and age, lacking physical toughness and starts off sluggish nightly.

But this is not the case for the reviving Celtics, simply exposing the Orlando Magic weaknesses with a physical defense that has been unstoppable in the postseason.

All praise to the Celtics, an older team with a wise state of mind, showcasing its wisdom and experience in the Eastern Conference Finals to prove a dominant force. And we underestimated Boston.

It truly was an understatement to eclipse a tradition of shamrocks and victory cigars, a team that owned the limelight in the ‘80s era when Larry Bird anchored an irresistible dynasty.

We all know this team is old and sometimes debilitated with injuries, but coveted in adding an NBA-leading 18 banners in the rafters and smoke victory cigars, a ritual fulfilled when the Celtics rejoices after an accomplished conquest.

This, of course, is not the fully robust team we witnessed two years ago win on the grandest stage, but a team that knows how to survive and outlast a possible meltdown.

More than ever, the Celtics have neutralized every opponent it has faced in the postseason, bringing a similar counterattack to frustrate and pester Dwight Howard, the Magic’s seven-foot center who isn’t Kryptonite in a series he’s held to very little productivity.

Then, as usual, he cries and whines over cheap fouls handed to him, irritable of the refs' whistles sounding to charge the big man with a foul.

At 24, he lacks maturity and hasn’t fully developed into an elite center, unable to stay out of foul trouble and overpower the middle with his wingspan and height advantage.

But the Celtics were supposed to be too old to take away his energy and self-composure in a series much physicality wasn’t expected from the senior citizens of the postseason.

Even if this seems like a stunner, it really isn’t staggering, considering the Celtics' monstrous defense, which is emphasized by coach Doc Rivers, who never sits down and shouts from the sideline for his team to tighten up defensively.

As it appears, the overmatched Celtics are favored to win an unchallenged series with a 2-0 commanding lead in the Eastern Conference Finals and forced the Magic to lose home-court advantage in a 95-92 win, stunning all Orlando fans in attendance.

Now, in the series, the Celtics won their fourth straight postseason road game, and never lost a playoff series after advancing to a 2-0 lead. So fortunately, history is on their sides, traveling home to try and close out the series in a sweep on their home floor.

It’s possible to believe the Celtics won’t force a six game or allow the Magic to take it back home for a chance to regain momentum and slowly maneuver its way back in the series, unless the NBA seniors' legs give out and suddenly becomes fallen stars in a disastrous collapse.

But recently, the Celtics are dynamic in bombarding and clogging the inside by adding pressure on Howard. Despite the defenders he has drawn, he had 30 points on just 13 shots from the floor. He was even solid from the charity strike, and converted on 12 of his 17 free throws.

Without a doubt, he could have finished the night with a double-double, but the Celtics sent the center to the line instead of allowing him to grab an offensive rebound. In a game, he had eight rebounds and made the C’s deliberate before sending him to the line.

Nonetheless, the Celtics still managed to escape Orlando with two wins and leads the series, capable of returning to the NBA Finals and convincing the world that they’ll be crowned the champions in basketball, a familiar achievement for the Celtics.

It has become an alarming team, finally reviving and having all the instrumental pieces every team needs to win, such as defense, willpower, balance and firepower, good enough to slow down the invincible Magic.

Simply, the Magic have the younger and faster team, but cannot endure the physical balance of the well-experienced and well-rounded Celtics.

The difference clearly in the series and postseason is the strong effort of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, a pair of star players known as the Big Three alongside Garnett. In such a turnaround at a crucial point of the season, Pierce had 22 points in the Game Two, getting off to a fast start with 22 points in the first half.

He’s deeply reestablishing into a primary star, dating back to the days he carried the team with a chip on his shoulder as a lone superstar. And normally when he compiles huge numbers on the scoreboard, it results in a win.

But nowadays, the Celtics survives on the flourishing of Rajon Rondo, a floor general and versatile point guard with the ability to score and make pocket passes to teammates, credited for an assist on designing well-executed play inside.

He’s agile and explosive, respectively, becoming the top scorer and second leader behind Garnett. Before he even arrived at the pro level, he was criticized for his porous shooting and was doubted after departing his collegiate career prematurely, and wasn’t fully developed.

He silenced all skeptics by becoming a top-notch player and true point guard. There he was again on a night when his presence made it easier for the Celtics. He scored 25 points, had eight assists and five rebounds, all while dominating the second half and drove Boston to an insurance win.

In this particular game, Garnett had 10 points and Ray Allen posted four points in 39 minutes.

The Celtics, meanwhile, still managed to survive and beat the Magic to move inches closer to the NBA Finals for a potential rematch against the Los Angeles Lakers, archenemies who dismantled the Phoenix Suns in Game One of the Western Conference Finals.

In many ways, Orlando’s coach Stan Van Gundy understands it takes a team effort, but also knows his team is struggling to make adjustments, suddenly seeing his team lose twice at home in the quarterfinals to the Celtics, the same team the Magic knocked off a year ago.

Even the fans are frustrated, provoking an altercation with officials during games. Joe DeRosa was harassed by fans before leaving the court at halftime and snapped during the game.

He tossed the ball uncharacteristically across the scorer’s table at a petulant fan, who tossed it back and was thrown out of the game.

That says a lot about the series, a best-of-seven series suddenly unraveling for the Magic, who believed getting back to the NBA Finals was likely, but are faced with trouble having to capture a win on Boston’s home floor to stay alive.

For now, the Celtics are the best team in the playoffs, even though it’s the oldest team standing on wobbly knees and ailing feet, but have just enough to slow down any team crossing its path.

Monday, May 17, 2010

LeBron Owes Nothing to Cleveland, But Is Deserving of Title Elsewhere

Every time a big-name free agent is available to test the market or when his season ends woefully and agonizingly, he becomes the biggest curiosity in sports.

There has been much dialogue about Cleveland Cavaliers' star LeBron James, who becomes a free agent July 1. He'll test the market and negotiate with franchises willing to offer riches and more importantly a supporting cast.

If he leaves his hometown and departs to another city, it’s obvious that he desired a change of scenery, riches and/or fame. But understand that James doesn’t owe Cleveland or its fans anything, and has every right to leave his hometown for an opportunity to contend for a title.

By now, you’ve heard all the speculations and possibilities of James becoming a resident in South Beach or Chicago, a pair of high-market cities with flourishing star players.

When a superstar fails to win for a franchise where he posed as an endearing icon and savior, he’ll desperately flee to have an opportunity of winning a title in a town that is equipped to extend greatness. If he has played his final game with the Cavs, the LeBron sweepstakes draws all the attention as he becomes the blockbuster name in the free-agency watch. As the fans wonder where he’ll wind up in the future, Cleveland supporters are pleading for James to stay in a tribute video called “We Are LeBron,” a film produced by Mike Polk, a lifelong Cavs' fan.

Polk amazingly convinced Break Media to reach an agreement on a unique idea.

When the Cavs were eliminated from the postseason by Boston, the video featuring Cleveland celebrities and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland launched on websites.

It’s hard to imagine him returning to his native state this summer after such a collapse. The blow only adds to the devastating crisis that has dismantled a city devoid of celebrating a major championship for over 40 years.

The demise of the Cavaliers may have decided James’ future after the club's inabilities doomed a franchise that never endured triumph.

Because he’s from Akron, Ohio, a community near Cleveland, Lebron’s a hometown hero. Since he bypassed college for the NBA after graduating from high school, James dilated stardom.

In a fan-driven city, where supporters were keen to embrace a noble superstar, a supreme athlete who could excite and amuse a downcast city, LeBron was recognized and valuable in Cleveland. He brought the Cavs optimism, and erased the horrid memories of failures. But now, he could be departing to once again leave agony on the faces of devastated fans who have long-awaited a major championship.

His departure will expand the dismal, making the people weary and disgusted. He’s not only playing the game for the welfare of fans, but for the welfare of occupying a profession in pro sports and capturing multiple titles elsewhere. If he’s serious about winning, he’ll sign with either the Heat or Bulls, two teams that seem coherent. There are many superstars he can possibly unite with, become a local resident and win multiple titles.

It only makes sense if he lands in Miami and declares his citizenship in South Beach, where he’ll be noticed as the top superstar alongside Dwyane Wade, who is an explosive guard with the ability to create in transition and set up plays for James. For years, Heat president Pat Riley has been interested in big-name stars and rebuilding a dynamic team.

There’s no doubt that Riley will enter in the LeBron sweepstakes to negotiate a long-term deal and lure him in. It’s a potential building block by signing James and forms a forceful tandem, probably what would be the greatest guard-forward combination in a long time.

Earlier in the year, there was more speculation that he’ll sign with New York, a franchise in need of a valuable star player. The Knicks president of basketball operations, Donnie Walsh, cleared a large amount of salary cap space to sign a compelling free agent this summer. It’s a waste if the Knicks fail to please LeBron-lovers in New York without wooing or signing him to a huge contract. On Broadway, his legacy will elevate as the fans are excited to sell out Madison Square Garden.

More fittingly, the Bulls are surrounded with young and flourishing stars in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah—and if you believe in every headline developing in the news, John Calipari could be hired as the next coach to work under turbulent general manager John Paxson.

You cannot count out the New Jersey Nets, a team with emerging talent but very little structure and discipline. It’s a dysfunctional franchise, but his good-friend Jay-Z may toss out the big bucks and convince him to contribute in refurbishing his depleted franchise.

In his effulgent career, he has been compared to Michael Jordan. Yes, the man with six rings and all the expensive and stylish shoes, and the man who led a powerful dynasty by producing triumphant achievements, all with the Bulls during his memorable reign. It’s easy to grasp a sense that he’ll migrate to Chicago and play in the shadows of Jordan, a player he idolized while growing up and develop a unique brand. There’s no question that James is a talented superstar, but has yet ascended his legacy, still empty-handed of a title.

He has all the individual accolades, such as two NBA Most Valuable Player awards, triple-doubles and double-doubles, postseason wins, a lone Finals appearance, but no championships. He has a horrible postseason track record, which is hard to imagine. He’s 2-5 in elimination games, 0-4 on the road and lost in the conference semifinals, and has yet to capitalize on the NBA’s monumental platform with a decisive win.

If he does decide to turn down the Cavs and leave his hometown for the betterment of winning, much nod to James, who‘s more concerned and vehement about protecting his legacy and reputation with a stable franchise and win a long-awaited championship.

For all the significant upgrades, the Cavs still shied from the biggest win in franchise history. LeBron was the savior in a town that believed in the improbable, but was perceived as the probable, until the aging Celtics embarrassed the Cavs by thrashing James and his lethargic and absent-minded supporting cast. It’s quite agonizing that it ended badly, after general manager Danny Ferry assembled a talented unit and owner Dan Gilbert cashed the checks.

He paid Mo Williams, a good shooting guard, Antawn Jamison, who was acquired in a trade, and Shaquille O’Neal, but all stumbled at critical moments in the postseason, putting tremendous pressure on LeBron. For seven years, customers, markers, and fans have created ego and elevated James’ fame, from the brainwashing of Nike puppet ads to the shoes all fans endorses.

As measured and compared to the legendary Jordan, he’s a resemblance of his size, strength and emotional leadership. But he still doesn’t have a ring to relate to Jordan on what it tastes like to win a championship. Apparently, James has to find it elsewhere by emotionally leaving home.

He doesn’t owe the fans anything. He owes himself a championship.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Celtics Rejuvenates To Championship Form, Despite Aging Bodies

It’s all a familiar scene in a town that prides itself on basketball when the Boston Red Sox season has barely begun and when the New England Patriots are revamping a stagnant team to rebuild a top-notch franchise. Not long ago, the Boston Celtics were crowned champs, celebrated in a parade and smoked victory cigars.

Only one year prior to their NBA title the C’s were doubted and forgotten, given the hapless season, when it finished with a horrible record, but revamped incredibly to contend in the undermined Eastern Conference. Here we are again, underestimating a team with heart, self-belief and sizable weapons to win its league-leading 18th title. Two years ago, the Celtics won the NBA championship for the first time since Larry Bird buried threes and Kevin McHale trotted down the floor in his stylish short shorts, a faddish now outdated.

Earlier in the year the Celtics looked outdated, but even in a generation when competition is steeper and an influx of NBA stars have emerged on a perennial platform, Boston isn’t outmoded. Of all the drama, it was shocking that we’ve written off the C’s, and labeled the franchise that famously practices a proverbial tradition by smoking Red Auerbach cigars, piling championships and constituting dynasties as an aging and old roster of superstars. There’s an indicator that the Celtics are a rejuvenated core rising to championship form with unstoppable conquests, partly for the balance, experience and self-confidence.

Finally, this late in the season the Celtics escapes all the downcast struggles earlier in the season when Boston was hampered by injuries and lacked chemistry. But ever since winning its first title in nearly 21 years, the Celtics were driven to reach the biggest contest in sports. Inside the C’s locker room, there’s an inspirational leader and defensive specialist by the name of Kevin Garnett, reminding his teammates that “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!” He shouted those words to the heavens when he won his first championship and celebrated with an elite franchise, known for collecting wins and mustering fame.

As the postseason winds down, the Celtics will attempt to reestablish a potential dynasty in probable rematch against archenemies the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s no coincidence that in one season the Celtics can cast further humiliation in a town cursed with sporting failures, in what could have ended LeBron James’ tenure in Cleveland after coming so close, but faltering in the biggest moments. It almost feels as if Celtic Pride absorbs all the focus, verified as the hottest team in the postseason.

For much of the season, it has been about survival for the Celtics. Although the Big Three in Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are aging, the Celtics contain suitable ingredients to finish on top and attain all emphasis as NBA champions. What Boston epitomizes is an older unit surrounded by veteran experience and determination to persist in achieving splendor.

Two years later, the Celtics are renewing its pride with a privilege to add another banner in the rafters and revitalize mystique. So now, it’s possible that Boston can win the title being on the verge of winning its second Larry O’Brien Trophy in three seasons. As we’ve witnessed in prior weeks, the Celtics are impressive and appears unbeatable, built with a plethora of weapons led by Rajon Rondo, a flourishing floor general who is explosive and driven to design plays and take over if necessary.

During the postseason, Boston has been on the best stretch and possesses all the components it takes to win a championship. The Celtics are destined of hoisting the honors in a few weeks because of defense, firepower, depth, balance and poise, all elements contributing while aiming for eminence. Based on having three future Hall of Famers and coach Doc Rivers, the Celtics are back in usual form after pounding Miami, thrashing Cleveland and now beating the younger and faster Orlando 92-88 in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

No one has seen the ferocious or cohesive Celtics in the regular-season, but one that survived the near-loss. No one saw the superb Celtics, but a team hindered with flaws and unforeseen blemishes. Somehow the Celtics survives a dynamic series when winning is meaningful to walk away victorious and closer to a title.

“We got outplayed,” Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s as simple as that.”

That means Orlando was outplayed in all departments. They were bullied under the basket, they were defended tightly and they were beaten down as soon as the ball tipped off. The Celtics demolished the Magic before a silent crowd sitting in the stands helplessly. So, on the road, Boston managed to steal the most critical game of the series, now dictating the setting of the series.

In the game, of course, Dwight Howard drew bodies and suffered the physical contact inside, held to 13 points and 12 rebounds with seven turnovers. He wasn’t getting it done inside the paint, with Boston’s sturdy defense stopping and trapping the seven-footer inside and even River’s adjustments on defense contributed to Magic’s shooting deficiencies from the perimeter.

For much of the season, critics dragged down mystique of a franchise with aging players. But more than ever, the Celtics are healthier and robust, eager to sustain triumph in June. Even if Boston lost all three games in four days late in the year and lost twice in two days during the season, doesn't mean the Celtics will translate similar blemishes in the postseason when the mentality level suddenly becomes alarming.

At the right time, Allen has emerged as a lethal scorer and scored 25 points four times in 12 games, matching that total in Sunday’s showdown by attacking the rim early on and fired his customary three-pointers to break away from the Magic. There was Pierce executing to the rim and drew fouls to earn a myriad of points from the charity strike, finishing with 22 points on merely eight shots and grabbed nine rebounds and had five assists.

Allen and Pierce have combined to score nearly 41,000 points, and combined for 47 points Sunday. In fact, Pierce started off scorching with a three-pointer and Allen drove in for a layup at the end of the first quarter to set the tone. Rasheed Wallace and Garnett are aging as well, but are big men stepping up in big moments.

Garnett is older and has bad knees, but had eight points, 11 rebounds and five assists. In what was there most solid game in the postseason, the Celtics aren’t too old, able to still play together and outshine their opponents, telling doubters that they are still a dominant force to be reckoned with.

They are incredibly 9-3 in the postseason. That’s a victory cigar for you.

You still think they’re old. If so, think again.

Friday, May 14, 2010

After Dreary Letdown, LeBron James Must Relocate To a New Address

Ever seen a crowd in a petrified town nervous about the status of a gifted athlete, dignified for rejuvenating an insubstantial franchise in his hometown?

The enthusiastic fans are suddenly glancing at reality, with the possibility of LeBron James departing Ohio and signing his signature with a rebuilding team in a high-market city this summer in free agency.

A day doesn’t pass without speculation of James' future within an association of big-name superstars and traditional franchises having the upper advantage because of depth, size, heart, and experience.

The mental state of presumably a devastating ending for James’ regime in Cleveland dooms a beleaguered and embarrassed sports town after a long-lasting calamity absorbs a curse.

When an athlete brainwashes us with Nike ads and puppet commercials and is named NBA’s Most Valuable Player back-to-back, it creates an ego and elevates fame, including an uncertain legacy. Ever since he bypassed college hoops for the pros, he was pampered by his hometown and given the nickname "King”.

He has become the global icon and the worldwide figure, admired for his popularity and creativity in a game he has emerged as the biggest event. His enthralling dunks and distributions of making his teammates more effective symbolizes all things the league advertises.

All of which he’s worshipped more than the average athlete, and has even solidified fame by winning individual awards, but is still devoid of a championship, faltering in critical games and relinquishing at the worst possible time.

So now, the worried people in Cleveland are holding their collective breaths, uneasy and concerned about James’ future.

Suddenly, the global superstar of the Cleveland Cavaliers has become the biggest curiosity in sports. And to think we debated, with much conviction on his next destination, it’s unpredictable where he’ll land come July 1.

Any team can bid, but only a few seem sensible and worth negotiating with. To name a few: Maybe he’ll sign with the Knicks, Heat, Bulls, or even the hapless Nets and be a part of the rebuilding project.

That way he’ll be doing his good friend Jay-Z a favor by representing New Jersey and rejuvenating a franchise once again, even though that would be stepping backwards.

Sometimes we need a change of scenery and he definitely is ready for a change to reduce heart breakers, after falling short each year in the postseason. Once again, his facial expression revealed disappointment and disgust, but this time he hugged and congratulated the Celtics when the buzzer sounded.

He walked towards the tunnel and tossed his headband into the stands, a moment when the world pondered and admittedly were convinced that his future with the Cavs ended.

If there are believers who thinks he’ll leave, Boston fans are among many believing he’ll not return next season. Late in the fourth quarter as time dwindled, the crowd chanted “New York Knicks! New York Knicks!”

It’s only common to believe that James won’t re-sign with the Cavs this summer after an agonizing ending left him distraught in one of the biggest collapses, adding to the nightmarish droughts and deterioration in a town with downcast moments. That was The Shot, The Drive, The Fumble, and The Choke—and now the LeChoke.

Unfair as it seems to point the fingers at LeBron, the fingers must point directly at Mike Brown, whose coaching philosophy descended and failed emphasizing enough energy or urgency this postseason.

He’s definitely a name on the hot seat this offseason. But a week ago, his job security seemed unharmed when the Cavs had a commanding 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series against Boston. Aside from the temporary destruction of Boston, Cleveland dropped three consecutive games by a combined 51 points and abolished in a 94-85 elimination loss in Game Six to the Boston Celtics.

James, who scored 22 points on 36.8 percent shooting, walked out of the interview room reflecting back on a lousy, dreary performance.

From his unpleasant facial expressions, he revealed a furious stare and appeared burnt out of the meltdowns, willing to call it a career with the Cavs and try to surmount to triumph elsewhere. He exposed his own weaknesses when he attempted ill-advised jump shots and missed, but in the series he was forced to take outside and midrange jumpers as the Celtics shut down and trapped the interior with a deeper defensive mindset.

Pathetically, James' squad was horrible defensive-wise and never had an answer for a speedy Rajon Rondo, who harassed the Cavs and dictated the flow fundamentally. Forty-eight days away of becoming a free agent, his availability is valuable to numerous franchises.

He fittingly would be a good addition in Chicago, where he’ll be surrounded with a flowering supporting cast and the talent of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

He could even unite with Dwyane Wade and build a forceful nucleus in South Beach. Or magnetize the business lifestyle and urban cities of New York, becoming the biggest attraction on Broadway and titillate Madison Square Garden.

Better, the Knicks fans have falling in love with James each time he stepped onto the hardwood in the world’s most prestigious venue. Previously, he has awed the fans with his mesmerizing spectacles, while the fans implored that James sign when he’s available. Each time, he was welcomed with warm receptions, and endeared for his spectacular display.

Wherever James ends up, he’ll have to come with urgency and determination unlike his lackluster performance of late.

He rarely commits turnovers, but turned it over nine times for his reckless and mindless muffs with the ball, at times overly dribbling or making risky passes in traffic and near white jerseys. But more staggering was that he carelessly quit on his team and his native town.

He mentally stopped playing and hustling, an uncharacteristic result and relied on his shaky supporting cast instead of demanding the ball and seizing the spotlight in a pivotal game. And it cost the Cavs. Maybe he was really injured after all, feeling the soreness in his damaged elbow.

In Cleveland, the fans are mourning and moistened by the agonizing defeat to Boston.

So, does he leave?

“I’m going to approach this summer with the right mindset,” James said. “With me and my team, we’re going to figure out what’s the best possibility for me. I love the city of Cleveland of course—the city and the fans. It was a disappointing season to say the least, but at the same time we had a great time together. So we’ll see what happens.”

He missed 13 of his 21 field-goal attempts and almost made it a quadruple-double with nine turnovers. As for his legacy, James will solidify his reputation by leaving Cleveland.

There’s many with suspicion as to whether the elbow injury softened his capabilities of playing with energy and toughness in which he wasn’t nearly imposing, but instead left the world in a mystery.

The collapse may force a distraught owner Dan Gilbert to fire Brown and dismiss general manager Danny Ferry. In the offseason, the Cavs will probably upgrade its roster. But for now, the entire town is crestfallen and James may depart in an unhappy ending and leave a city in dismay.

Farewell to the King.

He’s leaving for good.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Canadiens Create Magic in a Year of Cultural Feats, Montreal Now Favorite

This has been a hockey postseason of the unprecedented and miraculous feats, with the audacity of Canada’s emergence in the NHL to renew a cultural event north of the border. The sport originated in Canada, a prominent atmosphere where the masses are entertained and embraces a thrilling game played on thick layers of ice.

There’s no doubt the homeland is worshipping an astounding moment, a showpiece accomplished brilliantly by the Montreal Canadiens. Who believed that a hockey franchise from the native country would stun the world with its surging dominance in the unfriendly confines at hostile venues, where the Canadiens forced two Game Sevens in two different series? Who would bet an eight-seeded team, raising its notability and declaring admiration for a star-studded performance in two series, while wooing us that winning the Stanley Cup is possible?

Upon glancing at the serious, cohesive, and tough-driven Canadiens, they are currently forging a radiant dream in Canada. Once again, an inexplicable dream transformed into legitimacy, and presented the parallels of Team Canada’s stunning gold medal win at the Vancouver Games over two months ago. That wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did. This wasn’t supposed to happen either, but it did.

The NHL playoffs were thrilled to intrigue the hearts of the casual fan and revive a defaced sport in a patriotic nation, overly obsessed with and fond of football and basketball. The cultural standpoints of hockey is an emotional and physical game, known for the high-intense drama and adrenaline rush, known for the physical knockouts and exchanged dukes whenever a player is irritated of the hard hits or high-sticking.

Basically, hockey is experiencing a Canadian dream, all emerging in a year Canada reclaims a sport the homeland originated and taught kids how to compete with cohesiveness, tenacity and physicality—a few elements the Canadiens brought to our attention when they faced off against Washington in the first round and then the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern semifinals. Their instincts were simply impressive, shocking all populace with an eye-opener of defeats. You grasped that Montreal’s psyche was underestimated with the massive size and experience of talented franchises it had to face.

But it turns out that the Canadiens were the unbeatable and challenging team in these playoffs after all, this time dethroning the defending champs with a 5-2 win in Pittsburgh of Game Seven on Wednesday and ultimately clinched a berth to the Eastern Conference Finals. How is this possible?

The Canadiens challenged the Penguins’ tactics with strategic mind games and were successful of minimizing reliance. As a result, it was the second time in their 100-year history that Montreal won consecutive seven-game series in the same postseason. This year alone, the Canadiens were vulnerable of futility and a first-round ouster, before their ultimate effort diverted much assumption that any other team could be honored with the Stanley Cup.

And ever since stunning the Capitals and now the Penguins, the Canadiens are suddenly the elite franchise to survive and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s normal to suggest that this is a wonderful tale being written in the recent chapter of the underdogs. As it stands, they’ve defied the logic of heavyweights by coming to life when it matters, understanding the importance of excelling against the top-of-the-line teams and surmounted to greatness.

In theory, a dynasty was anticipated by the Penguins after winning its first title since the ’92 season, with a world-class superstar and virtuous leader in Crosby, who has knowledge for the game and is exceptional in the sport he engaged in. He has accomplished individual achievements at a very young age, something rarely seen at the premature stages of a career. He was known for receiving the nod, but now it’s the Canadiens getting the praise, particularly goalie Jaroslav Halak, faced with the toughest assignment by protecting the net, stopped the pucks shot in his direction and accumulated a large total of saves.

It figured the Canadiens are very difficult to terminate from contention, as Halak continues his sheer dominance in front of the nets. It’s likely impossible to slide a shot by him, when he faces 40 shots or more. He’s a durable goalie at the right time, defending his domain better than any goaltender in the postseason after shutting down Alex Ovechkin and Crosby. Early on, he was near-perfect in saves and saw 21 shots in two periods, and unfortunately, the Penguins never had an answer to give the Canadians an unsympathetic fight.

Even though they cut into the deficit and scored twice in the second half, it wasn’t enough to rally back late in front of an ecstatic crowd that suddenly sat quietly when Montreal persistently fired shots and extended the lead. At times, Pittsburgh was as cold as a normal Penguin. And deep into the postseason, the Canadiens can beat any team after playing superb defense and firing shots against the defending champs. If you beat the defending champs, who else is there to beat?

The imagery here defines the best team in hockey. There was Brian Gionta setting the tone early with a shot to score on a critical goal, Dominic Moore scored minutes later for the second on crafty turnaround shot and Mike Cammalleri, who is the hottest player in the postseason, scored his seventh goal of the series and extended the lead to three when Chris Kunitz forced a turnover.

Best of all, he taunted and pulverized the Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. All of a sudden, he collapsed and played inconsistently allowing too many shots and reminded us of stumbles last postseason in the earlier rounds. Cammalleri was quicker than most defenders and attacked in an onslaught inside the Penguins zone, finishing for his playoff-leading 12th goal.

Ten seconds into the game, Crosby sat in the penalty box after he was whistled for boarding. And from there, watched hopes degenerate of emerging as NHL’s first back-to-back Stanley Cup champs in years, victimized of the Canadiens' pressure. They pressured the Penguins, and were able to shut down a ferocious franchise. Even a relentless comeback fell apart, when they fell behind four goals, not even was Evgeni Malkin or Crosby factors and weren’t valuable or active within a critical contest.

And amazingly, Halak was untested and effortlessly controlled the nets with his pivotal saves, a primary essential in the first series against Washington when he clearly agitated and halted Ovechkin. The lackluster performance killed Pittsburgh when it turned over the puck 14 times and had another six stripped.

There was no dynasty writing greatness, but a miracle writing a magical story in sports. All praise goes to Montreal, the newest and cutest hockey tale. We now can remove the underdog tag and realize this isn’t a mirage, but a team built for destruction and dramatic finishes, prevailing on the biggest stage of a best-of-seven series.

“We played Washington, we were supposed to get killed, we played these guys, we were supposed to get killed, it’s just nice to be part of a team that gets it done,” said defenseman Hal Gill.

While most of the world expected a duel between Crosby and Ovechkin, the Canadiens revealed defensive toughness, a well-known trademark and a useful element for prevailing in the spotlight.

“Nobody has given us a chance so it’s a lot of fun to be a part of this,” Cammalleri said. “There’s something pretty special going on here.”

It’s a wonderful Canadian story.