Tag:EC Playoffs
Posted on: May 14, 2011 1:03 am
Edited on: May 14, 2011 9:55 pm
 

What's At Stake: Carlos Boozer

What's at stake for Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer in the Eastern Conference finals? Posted by Ben Golliver.



The one good thing about having your reputation ruined when the world thinks you double-crossed a blind man during public contract negotiations is that you have nowhere to go but up. Sure, everyone looks at you sideways and cracks jokes at your expense, but the pressure to be perfect and the expectation that you’ll rise to the moment in big situations is lifted. That’s not a trade-off most people would make, but once it happens things could be worse.

That’s been the situation for Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer. For the past four years, Boozer put up solid playoff numbers for the Utah Jazz, teaming up with Deron Williams to advance out of the first round three times. Never really seen as the centerpiece, Boozer nevertheless averaged roughly a 20/12 over his playoff career in Utah, numbers that are mostly forgotten because they came with the help of an elite point guard and, frankly, because they took place for a small market team.    

Eastern Conference Finals: Heat vs. Bulls

After joining the Bulls this past summer, Boozer got a taste of the big-city spotlight and it hasn’t gone over perfectly. He broke his hand mysteriously before the season, forcing him to miss 20 games, and has battled turf toe during the playoffs. His playoff numbers scoring number is way down – he’s averaging just 11.8 points per game while playing roughly the same number of minutes as he did during the regular season. Despite the fact that he continues to keep his rebounding near double figures, he’s a running punch line and punching bag for Bulls fans, who obviously expected more from their $80 million man.

Whether he actually views it this way or not, Boozer should approach the Eastern Conference finals as if he has nothing to lose. If the Bulls are eliminated he will be at or near the top of the scapegoat list regardless of how he plays. That much has already been cemented. Should the Bulls win, however, he’s got a chance to soak in some of the Derrick Rose media glow sunshine and rehabilitate/recast himself as a hard-working veteran who hung around long enough and played his game long enough to get his shot at a ring. That’s not a bad trade-off.

Even better, Boozer isn’t enough the most highly-paid, disappointing and unreliable power forward in this series. That honor goes to Heat forward Chris Bosh, of course, who will be crucified and buried should Miami not advance. Boozer should have a physicality advantage and he certainly has a more physical frontline surrounding him. Bosh enters the series with a tougher personal assignment given Miami’s thin center rotation and the Chicago’s commitment to hard-nosed defense and rebounding.

So what’s at stake for Boozer here? Given that this is Chicago’s first playoff run together and doubts are already high, he just doesn’t have much to lose. If he throws together a big series, the United Center fans that were booing him earlier during the playoffs will surely rally around him. If not, he was the bad guy anyway.

Posted on: May 13, 2011 8:07 pm
Edited on: May 14, 2011 9:54 pm
 

What's At Stake: LeBron James

What's at stake for Miami Heat forward LeBron James in the Eastern Conference finals? Posted by Ben Golliver.




What’s at stake for LeBron James in the Eastern Conference finals? Only the world, Chico, and everything in it.

James played two of the best minutes the NBA has ever seen to eliminate the Boston Celtics, stopping only long enough to kneel on the court, to take a moment to appreciate all that he had accomplished in overcoming his bitter rivals. The only problem, of course, is that he is still just halfway to a title. Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls are capable of evaporating everything James has earned in the past 48 hours – confidence, peace of mind, a feeling of accomplishment, validation for his decision to leave Cleveland, a rush of popularity – by defeating the Heat. If James doesn’t emerge from this summer with a ring, he’ll be back at square one, hearing the same old boos and answering the same old questions he dealt with all season long.

This all-or-nothing conundrum probably isn’t fair to James but he should be used to it by now. He has demanded attention since he was in high school. He has ascended to the pinnacle of his sport, the undisputed best all-around player in the NBA. He’s even made it to the Finals before. None of that has mattered to his critics. And, we came to find out last summer, to him either.

Winning his first championship -- with others to follow -- was his stated goal. He’s reiterated multiple times over the past week that the Celtics helped inspire his decision to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He couldn’t beat Boston alone, he admitted. Securing the best shot to climb the mountain won out over hometown loyalty, the biggest paycheck and any other factors. That’s the narrative he’s crafted, that's the script he's reading from.

Eastern Conference Finals: Heat vs. Bulls

The Heat envision themselves as the future of the NBA, the axis that everyone else spins around, the epicenter of both cool and success, a dynasty in the making. In James' mind, he's the protagonist always.

A loss to the Bulls, then, would amount to an identity crisis. Being beaten by a team with just one All-Star? A team that had won one playoff series in the past 12 seasons combined? It would be not only an embarrassment but also worrisome. Chicago’s core is set in place for the foreseeable future. Their coach is one of the most widely respected in the game. They’re deep, disciplined and hard-working. They’ve got big city cachet and an instant likeability among both casual fans and basketball purists. The Heat would be set back, back to being the villains, back to being the foils. 

Wade already has a ring to console himself. Bosh has admitted to being in a bit over his head already during the playoffs, so he would be able to rationalize away such a loss. Coach Erik Spoelstra has demonstrated an ability to maintain a long-term perspective through adversity, so he’d be alright in the event of a loss too. He would beat himself up but then realize that there are plenty more opportunities ahead. Pat Riley has so much hardware and such a great tan nothing really matters at this point of his career, at least not comparatively.

But James? James would be out of excuses for another year. Left to walk off the court in defeat, his team’s roster-building ability in the hands of the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, his reputation as a player that can’t get it done extended for at least another 12 months. Self-doubt would be back in a big way, the team's top-heavy approach would be questioned, he would have to hit the recruiting trail hard, hoping that the league's elder statesmen could be convinced to sign up at the minimum salary to help him win his ring. Would James have the stomach for all that? The patience? The composure?

james-dunk-celtics 

He’s been the best player in this year’s playoffs, averaging 26.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals while playing more than 43 minutes a night. He’s been clutch. He’s been steady. He’s even been newly flexible, allowing Wade to carry the load when he has it going. He’s shown an admirable commitment to the boards. His level of focus this year is as laser-like as we’ve ever seen, his intensity the exact opposite of what it was a year ago. 

To imagine all of those things wiped away by four losses, just as the vast majority of his previous playoff heroics have been forgotten because he hasn’t secured a title, is a difficult proposition so soon after the triumph over Boston. But that’s what happens if the Bulls win. The pendulum swings that hard. It's happened before, and it’s inevitable.

This might not be his best shot and it certainly won't be his last shot. But, given the remaining teams left in the field, this is a very, very, very good shot. Once Game 1 tips, he, more than anyone else, will be expected to deliver. 

And that’s why the Eastern Conference finals – and the NBA Finals too -- mean more to James than anyone else. His career, reputation, personality and trajectory are subject to a total redefinition and reevaluation with eight more wins. That's why James has the most at stake. Nobody else is a close second.

Posted on: May 13, 2011 1:30 am
Edited on: May 13, 2011 8:41 pm
 

Heat-Bulls: The dream matchup is set

America gets its dream Eastern Conference finals matchup: The Miami Heat vs. the Chicago Bulls. Posted by Ben Golliver.



The 2011 Eastern Conference finals are about to be sliced and diced into pieces, broken down to the most minute detail, but as the Chicago Bulls blew out the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night to advance to face the Miami Heat, the instant take for any basketball fan should have been pure glee. This is the dream matchup. This is exactly who everyone -- especially those who have been watching over the past few months -- wanted to see.

Toss aside the "Good" vs. "Evil", "Humble" vs. "Egocentric" and "Balanced Team" vs. "Superstar Triad" dichotomies, if only for tonight. Take a second to realize that not only are arguably the three most exciting, dynamic, athletic players in the NBA sharing the court, but that two of the top five or so defenses will be out there too. 

In the regular season, Chicago sported the No. 1 defense and the No. 12 offense. In the playoffs, they've had the No. 2 defense and the No. 5 offense. In the regular season, Miami posted the No. 3 offense and the No. 5 defense. In the postseason, Miami has had the No. 3 offense and the No. 3 defense. In the regular season, Chicago led the league in rebounding while Miami was third; in the postseason, Chicago remains No. 1 and Miami has improved to No. 2. 

Chicago led the league in wins (62); Miami was third (58). This is a matchup of elite teams, groups that have played both sides of the ball well since the season started and are peaking at the right time. Consider: Chicago went 8-0 in April while Miami was 6-1. In the playoffs, Chicago is 8-3 while Miami is 8-2. In other words, over the past six weeks Chicago is 16-3 while Miami is 14-3. That's one loss per week -- combined -- for a month a half. 

One final plus: Both teams enter the series healthy, or as healthy as can be expected in mid-May. 

Each team has a guard the other has no answer for: Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade. Each team has an inconsistent power forward who is a national lightning rod: Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh. The Bulls' vaunted defense will surely be tested by LeBron James, but Miami's weak bench will be pushed to its limit by the Bench Mob. 

There's a fair argument to be made that these are the best two teams remaining in the playoffs and the difference between the two teams is razor thin. Hell, even their basketball operations departments tied in the Executive of the Year voting.

Upsets are nice, and it's great theater to watch crumbling dynasties and players melting down. But excellent basketball trumps all of that. It could get physical, it will likely be more defensive-minded and less highlight-driven than we might expect, but this series will deliver excellent basketball.

(And we need that after suffering through the Atlanta Hawks.)
Posted on: May 12, 2011 11:05 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 11:40 pm
 

Grading the series: Bulls top Hawks in six

Posted by Royce Young



The Bulls finished off the Hawks in six games with a 93-73 win in Game 6 in Atlanta. It was a Chicago clinic of defense, quality offensive execution, strong rebounding and really good stuff from Derrick Rose. Also, Carlos Boozer did something for once.

Let's hand out some grades.

Bulls:

Derrick Rose: In terms of shooting the ball, Rose wasn't great. He hovered around 40 percent took too many 3s. But he averaged 29.8 points per game in the series and provided the Bulls with just enough offense to get it done. I don't think anyone would say he was spectacular at any point, but he was most definitely always good. His 44-point, seven assist Game 3, though, was certainly something special. Grade: B+

Carlos Boozer: It was almost as if Boozer was trying to redeem himself with a great Game 6. At one point during the series in Game 1, Chicago fans actually had booed Boozer for his failing to produce. He finished the series averaging 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game on solid percentages, but the way he checked out in Games 2 and 3 were what concerned people. Maybe he's just now getting healthy, because he certainly looked good in Game 6, putting up 23 points and 10 rebounds. Grade: B-

Tom Thibodeau: The NBA's Coach of the Year gets a gold star for his brilliant move of letting Taj Gibson and Omer Asik finish out Game 5 for the Bulls. Most coaches would come back to their higher paid starters, but Thibodeau saw something in that second unit and rode them to the end. It paid off too, as Gibson put up 11 points in the quarter to squash the Hawks. The Bulls finally started showing consistent signs of being that feared 62-win defensive juggernaut in this series, and I think Thibodeau is getting them back into their style. Grade: A

The Chicago Bench: The role players always play a really key part for the Bulls because they have to spread things out a bit. When their bench is scoring and producing quality, productive minutes, they are really tough. Game 5 was a great example of how good the second unit can be, and they showed up again in Game 6. Somewhat inconsistent, but that's bench play in general. Grade: B+


Hawks:

Joe Johnson: The Hawks did an admirable job of pushing the Bulls in this series and took a surprising Game 1 because of a stellar performance from Johnson. And that's what it was going to take for the Hawks to pull this out. Johnson was going to have to rise to another level for at least four games and carry the Hawks. He wasn't able to. He was good in the series (19.7 ppg on almost 50 percent shooting), but he needed to be excellent. Grade: B

Jeff Teague: In terms of the future, the best thing that happened to the Hawks may have been Kirk Hinrich's injury. It gave Teague a chance to shine against the league's MVP and maybe prove he can be the Hawks point man of the future. In more than 229 minutes, he only turned the ball over seven times against the Bulls ball-hawking defense. He also had three games of scoring 21 points. Stepping up in such a big spot, he did a great job. Grade: A

Jamal Crawford: Much like Johnson, the Hawks needed something big from Crawford in at least four games. And he just never really showed up. He absolutely killed the Magic, but was a non-factor in five of the six games. It's is bad news when he's the team's X-factor. He averaged just 10.3 ppg on 35 percent shooting and never really got much going for Atlanta. Grade: D

Al Horford and Josh Smith: Matching up against Boozer and Joakim Noah, the interior battle had the feel of being where this series would be decided. Horford had just one good game, while Smith, despite being widely criticized for shot selection, turned a pretty solid series. Together, they needed to be better on the glass and defensively on the inside. Combined, they averaged under 25 points and 20 rebounds a game. That just didn't cut it: Grade: C+
Posted on: May 12, 2011 10:39 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 11:23 pm
 

Hawks go out with a whimper, but showed something

Posted by Royce Young



In a do-or-die Game 6, the Hawks bowed out rather humbly to the Bulls, 93-73, as Chicago moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls looked strong and their season series with the Heat, so the East should be tremendous.

But let's talk about the Hawks for just a second. A round of applause is in order, because that was quite a postseason effort.

Think back to just the end of the regular season. The Hawks lost their last six games and limped into the playoffs with a meager 44-38 record. Most everyone in the world didn't give them any sort of a shot against Dwight Howard and the Magic. And not only did the Hawks take down Orlando, but they did it convincingly in six games.

And once again, taking on the East's top seed, not many felt the Hawks had a legitimate chance to unseat the Bulls. But Game 1 went the way of the Hawks, and a message was sent quickly: Atlanta ain't messing around here. You may not think much of them, but those Hawks weren't going to lie down and just let things play out the way everyone thought.

It's a pretty important development too for this team because, up to this point, they were sort of the NBA's paradise lost. They were a movement built on talent and youth, but a group that never had tasted real success or really even seemed destined to do so. The Hawks were one big ball of quality basketball players, but lacking whatever it takes to go a bit further.

No, they didn't win a title, much less get to the finals in the East. But they did, at the very least, give a renewed sense of hope around this still young core. All hope isn't lost, the dream isn't dead. At the end of March, it was certainly appearing that was the case. The Hawks had started their annual checkout phase of the season and didn't seem to represent any chance of pushing the Magic, much less getting out of the first round. And, not only did they bounce Orlando, but they also gave the Bulls a pretty solid scare.

Is this a title core? Probably not. They still lack something, even if we all have trouble putting our fingers on it. It's probably the fact that everything they have is very good, but not quite great. Joe Johnson is a very good star, but not The Star. Josh Smith is a very gifted, athletic power forward, but something prevents him from being all that he could be. The one overachiever of the bunch seems to be Al Horford and, while very, very good, I don't think he's the type of reliable big man that can shoulder a load and win a playoff series on his own.

So, like I said, it's just not all put together for the Hawks. And it might not ever be. There's a case to be made that this playoff run could've done more harm than good because now management may invest even more in this core. But that's the question: Did they prove something here? Was this enough to say they still deserve a chance? I think that's what we've all got to ask about this Hawks team.

There are some decisions to be made in the offseason. What do you do with Jamal Crawford? Do you still hang on to Josh Smith or do you dangle him on the trade market and see what you can get? Is Jeff Teague going to be your point guard of the future now? What do you do with Marvin Williams? And what else can you add to try and take the next step? The Hawks have to fix things, but at least there is now a level of success to reach for. This group was capable of a solid six-game out against the Bulls in the second round. Now what do you do next to take another step?

I'm a firm believer of reasonable expectations and always keeping them in check. Think back to before the season where you had the Hawks pegged. Think back to the beginning of the postseason where you had the Hawks pegged. Now look at where they've finished. It's moderate progress. Not the overwhelming jump towards a title, but it's something.

Until this point, there hadn't been much of a taste. The Hawks appeared destined to be playoff also-ran and that was it. At least in this run, they showed that they could still be something more.
Posted on: May 12, 2011 9:40 am
 

Playoff Fix: Hawks try to keep the window ajar

Bulls look to close out the Hawks in Game 6.

Posted by Matt Moore





One Big Thing: If the Hawks want to stave off elimination and force a Game 7, Jamal Crawford is going to have to get loose. The Hawks' offense is about 25% ISO against the Bulls, and it's pretty high normally. The Hawks just love the feel of a crossover, step-back jumper. But in an elimination game, the Hawks can't afford to squander possessions. Every possession has to be valued, cherished. And that means getting Crawford involved, and it should be off-ball movement that does that. Getting Crawford open looks will cause the Bulls' defense to shift. That'll open up the inside for Horford and Smith, which will create more spacing for Joe Johnson when he goes into isolation, instead of dribbling into multiple defenders. Everything opens up. But it's got to start with Crawford. The Bulls have done a great job of keying in on Crawford as this series has gone on. If they contain him for one more game, it may be enough to make their way to meet the Heat.


The X-Factor: The Bench Mob for Chicago mixed with the starters at the end of Game 5, and they were the difference. The Bulls, surprisingly, have a very capable bench unit, and it's been doing damage in this series. If Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver can make an impact, the Hawks won't be able to counter, not with Teague having to start. It's a huge advantage for the Bulls. Can they keep up this kind of surprising play? With the defense anchoring them, it looks good for the Bench Mob to make an appearance in Game 6.


The Adjustment: The Hawks were making a comeback by putting the ball in Jeff Teague's hands. They stopped doing that. They stopped making a comeback. Teague needs to be the focal point of the offense with how he's playing right now. He doesn't have to take all the shots, but his drive and kick abilities force the Bulls' defense to react instead of just waiting for the Hawks to dribble into them. The Hawks need to trust the young point guard and let him get them opportunities. Trying to do it on their own won't fly.


The Sticking Point: Chicago is a much better team. It honestly should not have gone this many games, given how talented and capable Chicago is. It took a run from Omer Asik and Taj Gibson to close out Game 5 at home, for crying out loud. Credit the Hawks' effort. Had the coaching been better, this may have gone differently. But this is a close-out game the Bulls know they need with the Heat starting to get their rest. Derrick Rose will be in close-out mode. The Hawks have shown us a tougher version of themselves mentally than we're used to seeing this postseason. They're going to have to come out with an even more impressive to push this thing back to Chicago and give themselves another chance.  
Posted on: May 12, 2011 1:50 am
Edited on: May 12, 2011 2:42 am
 

Series Grades: Heat defeat Celtics 4-1

Grades for the Heat and Celtics after the Heat's 4-1 series win to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Posted by Matt Moore




The biggest series of the playoffs is over, and the juggernaut created by "The Decision" in free agency 2010 downed the UBUNTU machine. Grades seem like they don't do this series justice, but we've got to get some perspective. 


Miami Heat:

LeBron James: If the 2007 series against the Detroit Pistons was when LeBron James truly announced to the world that he had arrived, the 2011 series against the Celtics may have been the one where he showed how much he's learned. It wasn't the mos impressive series from a statistical standpoint, but the way James closed, especially Game 5, makes it feel like it. James didn't hog the ball, didn't go ISO too much, hit big shots, worked with his teammates, and became the emotional leader the Heat needed him to be. He had a rough Game 3, but responded to close out the Celtis. And, oh, yeah, this time no one will say he quit in a Game 5. 

Grade: A- 


Dwyane Wade: Wade struggled in the playoffs last year, and especially this regular season versus the Celtics. They were a plague on the game of his house. But in this series, Wade wiped it all away. Never scoring fewer than 23 points, Wade was a beast. He dominated Game 1 and Game 5. His Game 5 was particularly brilliant. For three quarters, LeBron James couldn't get his scoring on track. Wade kept the Heat in it with timely play and amazing score after amazing score. He blocked Kevin Garnett. He made a wild reverse over his head for the and-one. He did everything you need your franchise player to do and eventually contained Ray Allen. LeBron James may have won the game for the Heat, but Dwyane Wade put him in a position to do so. 

Grade: A+


Chris Bosh: Is this the series where Chris Bosh starts to make himself into a known player? Before the series, I was dangerously close to writing a post called Shark Bait: Chris Bosh and detailing all the ways Kevin Garnett would destroy him. After a surprisingly strong Game 4, Garnett came out swinging in Game 5. Bosh looked overrun, again. Bosh finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, one point less than Garnett and tied in boards. He made huge plays, kept the ball alive, and hit a few open looks. It wasn't a great series from Bosh, but he definitively wasn't the weakpoint. He was good enough to get the Heat a win.

Grade: B-


Heat supporting cast: This series proved that you really can beat the Celtics with three guys. Mario Chalmers didn't play consistently enough to get time, Mike Bibby continued his disappointing play, Mike Miller still couldn't hit a barn door with a shotgun, Joel Anthony had a few nice moments but also dropped passes and failed to capitalize on opportunities, James Jones had a hot start but then faded back into the background (though his 3-pointer in Game 5 was huge). There's a million ways we could call into question if the Heat can win with getting such little support from the rest of their players... but they just beat the Celtics.


Grade: C (passing only in that they did not prevent the Heat from winning)


Heat defeat Celtics 4-1
Erik Spoelstra: Spoelstra's insistence on giving minutes to Bibby over Chalmers, and Ilgauskas over Anthony continues to perplex. It's one thing for the starters, but post-half, the Heat kept getting out in sluggish starts and having to overcome them. Spoelstra does get credit for keeping the Heat's focus and getting them to stay together and play to the end, but with how much the Triad run things, it's hard to see him getting the majority of the credit. But beyond the offense, Spoelstra does get credit for the Heat's defense, and that's what was the backbone of the series win.

Grade: B-


Miami fans: In the name of all that chants "D-Fence," are you going to show up at any point, South Beach? You're embarrassing us as sports fans at this point. Go to the game, already!

Grade: F-


Boston Celtics


Rajon Rondo: Rondo played through the dislocated arm. Rondo wasn't playing terrific prior to that. Rondo made huge plays with that busted wing. Rondo was also such a defensive liability that he had to be benched at the end of games due to the injury. Rondo's no-show in the first two games helped put Boston in an inescapable hole. Rondo's effort in Games 3, 4, and 5 was good enough that if healthy, you could have seen the Celtics taking the series lead, let alone avoiding a gentleman's sweep. We'll never know what Rondo would have been like if he hadn't been injured. But based on what we saw, we got all sides of Rondo, the good and the bad. 

Grade: B


Kevin Garnett: Garnett was owned in three and a half games of this series. He had a brilliant Game 3, but never really established himself against Bosh as he should have. He came out gangbusters in Game 5, determined to make his mark. Then he completely vanished after the first quarter. Garnett had to take over in order to keep his legacy as an impact player alive. He didn't. And now he's headed home, with people struggling to understand how Chris Bosh outplayed the great Kevin Garnett. He probably yelled a lot, too.

Grade: D


Paul Pierce: If any player showed his age in this series, it was Pierce. Pierce continually tried to put the team on his back, and continually found himself being outdueled by James. He put the effort in, but the ability just wasn't there. Turnovers were a huge problem. He scored under 20 points three times in the series. The Celtics needed a hero. They got the Half-Truth. 

Grade: B-


Ray Allen: Allen clearly had significant problems with communicating with Rondo in the second half of this season, and the problems only increased in this series.  Allen would go long stretches getting no shots, then heat up, then disappear. Allen finally warmed up in Game 5. He was the one Celtic to really go down swinging, but Dwyane Wade's defense was just too much for him.

Grade: B+


Glen Davis: Glen Davis was a sixth man of the year candidate for much of the season. He was an outright disaster versus the Heat. He rarely drew charges, bobbled passes, too often settled for his jumper, failed to commit defensively, and didn't finish at the rim. All the Celtics lost on this series. Bug given Davis' free agency status, he may have lost more.

Grade: D-


Jeff Green: Hey, nine points and three rebounds in 23 minutes! That's pretty good! ... Okay, yeah, Green had two huge turnovers at the end of the game and was a huge reason the Celtics fell apart down the stretch. Green is destined to be ruined by the scrutiny of the Kendrick Perkins trade. Which is a shame, because he shouldn't have been asked to take on the responsibility of being the next great Celtics this early, at midseason. But them's the breaks. And it broke bad for Jeff Green. 

Grade: D-


Celtics supporting cast: The Celtics' supporting cast wasn't terrible. It really wasn't. It played fine. But no one stepped up enough to make an impact except Delonte West, who inevitably tried to to do too much eventually. 

Grade: C


Doc Rivers: You can't coach your players younger. Rivers made smart adjustments, tried different players, different rotations, the works. Rivers did his job. There just wasn't any way to coach this team up to where it needed to be. 

Grade: B


Danny Ainge: Sorry, Danny. Trading Perkins may have been right for the future financials of the Celtics. Green's future may be bright. But you traded Perkins, the heart and soul of the Celtics, and though he may not have helped at all versus the Heat, we'll never know. That's how history is judged, unfortunately. 

Grade: D-
Posted on: May 11, 2011 11:15 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 2:43 am
 

LeBron James apologizes for "The Decision"

LeBron James apologizes for the way "The Decision" went down.

Posted by Matt Moore




In his post-game comments following the Heat's 97-87 win over the Celtics to win their series 4-1, LeBron James apologized for the way "The Decision" want down.  James told reporters that he was sorry for how the one-hour special occurred, but felt that teaming up with Bosh and Wade in Miami was necessary to get past the Celtics. As CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports, James told reporters:
"I knew I had to go through Boston at some point. I went through a lot signing to be here and the way it panned out. I apologize for the way it happened, but I knew that this opportunity was once in a lifetime."
James will continue to receive condemnation over the event, for his attitude, approach, and behavior. But after the game, he spoke candidly to TNT's Craig Sager about how much of a demon the Celtics represented to him:
"First of all thanks to the Boston Celtics, coach Rivers, that coaching staff, those player, they make you fight for everything. You can never take a second off. "
James was tortured by the Celtics, who swooped in after his 2007 Finals run and took over the Eastern Conference. Their own version of the Big 3 raised the bar for rosters, leaving James frustrated with how his Cavaliers team compared. Right or wrong, James felt compelled to raise the talent around to him to a higher level. He did so, and on Tuesday night, that decision, "The Decision" proved to be the right one for his career agenda. 


How he did it was wrong. It was always wrong, and somewhere inside him, James knew that, despite refusing to apologize for it in Cleveland earlier this year. It may seem easy to apologize now that he's made the Conference Finals and gotten past the Celtics, but for someone who has made so many P.R. gaffes over the last year, it's a step in the right direction, this humilty. This is the LeBron James Reclamation Project now. It started with beating the Celitcs in Miami.  It will only truly end with a championship ring.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com