Czar’s Playoff Review


#5 Chicago Bulls vs. #1 Miami Heat

With no Hinrich, Deng or Rose, Chicago took Game 1 from Miami in the biggest surprise of the playoffs thus far. The Heat’s reaction in Game 2 was a 115-78 destruction of the Bulls, led by LeBron of course. The undermanned Bulls must deliver the energy, effort and tenacity they displayed in Game 1 to protect their home court against the defending champs in Game 3.

Chicago Bulls vs Miami Heat - Game Two

#3 Indiana Pacers vs. #2 New York Knicks

Behind incredible defense that helped limit Carmelo and J.R. to 14-43 from the field, Indiana won at MSG in Game 1. In Game 2, Smith still couldn’t shoot straight, but New York used a 30-2 run to even the series. Knicks could get a boost from the anxiously awaited return of Amar’e Stoudemire in Game 3, which should be a very physical battle.

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks  - Game One


#5 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #1 Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder escaped with a W in Game 1, barely. In Game 2 the Grizzlies’ front line dominated, and Mike Conley helped the Griz take over the fourth quarter to knot the Westbrook-less series at 1-1. Oklahoma will face a very difficult assignment in Game 3 at the Grind House, where the Griz have played outstanding basketball the entire season.

Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Two

#6 Golden State Warriors vs. #2 San Antonio Spurs

After an 18-2 run to tie the game in regulation, Manu hit a 3 with 1.2 seconds left in the second OT to win a classic Game 1, despite 44 from Steph Curry. In Game 2, second banana Klay Thompson went for 34 points and 14 boards, and Golden State came out on top in SA for the first time since 1997. Spurs must establish themselves on D and control the tempo to slow down the Warriors’ freewheeling offense and contain their outstanding backcourt duo.

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two

Fratello’s Fantasy Picks: 2010 Fantasy Draft

Statistics may not lie, but they cannot predict the future. They merely enable us to make our best educated guesses. Even with the most exacting analysis of player stats from years past there is no way to guarantee the assembly of a winning team – anything can happen. That’s what keeps both real and fantasy sports so exciting.

Think about grabbing these guys a little earlier than you may have planned because they look to be underrated in some leagues and on the rise.

Devin Harris (Nets – PG)

With all the recent changes to the Nets organization from ownership on down, the team is hardly recognizable – which is exactly the look they’re going for. But there are still some familiar faces on the revamped roster who will be integral to the new-found success they seek.

Former All-Star Devin Harris is back in action. Devin has the speed and quickness to create transition opportunities on offense. If he can stay healthy this season he will log a lot of minutes and score points. And All-Star-to-be Brook Lopez will help out Harris in the assists column.

It will be interesting to see the relationship that Harris develops with new head coach Avery Johnson and whether he buys into Avery’s defensive philosophy. Ranked as low as 62, Devin is undervalued in some leagues so look to grab him in the 4th Round. When playing his best ball Devin ranks among the top point guards around.

Brandon Jennings (Bucks – PG)

Coming off a phenomenal rookie campaign in which he led the Bucks to the playoffs, Brandon Jennings is arguably more valuable than a 20th ranked point guard. Jennings started in all 82 games and proved he can get numbers.

In fact his first night out on the court as an NBA pro, Jennings wound up just one rebound and one assist shy of a triple double. Not to mention Jennings had a 55-point game against Golden State in November, setting the franchise rookie record.

The Bucks hope Jennings will come back more mature and physically stronger than in his rookie year. He appears to take a very serious approach to his game, which should spell good things for him down the road. The Bucks are a better team this year so they have more weapons to brandish. Joining forces with a healthy Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, Jennings will add tremendous value in Round 5.

Joakim Noah (Bulls – C)

After signing a contract extension with the Bulls earlier this month, Joakim Noah can finally charge full steam ahead. He is a steadily improving player who has just scratched the surface of his potential.

Noah plays with an energy and passion you have to love. His offensive game is continuing to develop. He is complimented by power forward Carlos Boozer, and once Boozer is healthy it will free up easy buckets for Noah. Noah is also an excellent rebounder, and he can block shots.

If Noah’s plantar fasciitis does not affect him the way it did last year, I think his numbers will go up significantly. He is ranked 15th in the center pool but if he makes it to Round 4, consider it a steal.

Luis Scola (Rockets – PF, C)

A ferocious rebounder and defender, Luis Scola is now the best player on the court for Houston. Filling in for Yao last season he was able to gain experience and showcase his talent, putting up 44 points against the Nets. His scoring has improved over the last few seasons and he’s versatile enough to face up and get the 18-20 foot jumper.

Though Yao Ming has returned he will be playing reduced minutes so Scola will continue to put up points and grab rebounds in his fourth year with the Rockets. And with his workload lightened, Scola’s minutes should have more impact.

The Rockets will have to play well to make the playoffs in the competitive West this season, and I expect Scola to lead the charge – perhaps earning his first All-Star appearance along the way. Ranked anywhere from 60-80 overall in most leagues, I value him as an early third-round pick.

Blake Griffin (Clippers – PF)

Returning from a lost rookie year, Blake Griffin looks healthy and raring to go. He is as athletic as they come and has much to prove to the NBA.

Griffin is still considered a rookie, but he has no doubt learned a lot and gained valuable experience on the sidelines while recovering from his broken left kneecap. He has played very well in the exhibition season and has a legitimate shot at being a big-time contributor for the Clippers. Griffin will be their go-to guy and, as always, will rebound with the best of them.

You can probably get Griffin as a late pickup in many leagues because he is an unproven entity and you still have to worry about whether his knee will hold up under the rigors of the NBA schedule. So pick him in the 6th Round.

On the Road with Mike: A Meeting of the Minds

Years ago, back when Frankie Sullivan, Ed Hockenberry, Mitch Buonaguro and I were assistants with Rollie Massimino at Villanova, our staff would go away for two or three days every year to strategize for the upcoming season.

Some of us returned to that tradition when Rollie, now the head coach at Northwood University, invited a panel down to Florida for a Coaching Strategy Session earlier this month. It was great to see so many familiar faces from all parts of the country who are part of the basketball community at various levels.

Back row: Mark Sanford, John Olive and Dwayne McClain Middle row: Dom Savino, Jonathan Tsipis, Ken Gabelman, Don Mackay, Ken Sullivan, Christopher Walker, Tommy Percora, Chris Champeau Front row: Mitch Buonaguro, Mike Fratello, Rollie Massimino, Dick Versace

We had high school and college coaches from both women’s and men’s teams as well as former NBA coaches including Dick Versace, who used to be Chuck Daly’s assistant with Detroit and the one-time head coach of the Indiana Pacers. The majority of us were head coaches and there were also some assistants and a couple former players who played for Rollie at Villanova and went on to coaching. John Olive played some pro ball for a couple of years and was Rollie’s assistant when Villanova won the 1985 NCAA Championship. Now he coaches at a high school in San Diego.

Rollie’s current assistant coach Dwayne McClain played in Europe for a number of years and was on the Villanova National Championship basketball team along with Ed Pinckney, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the historic win over Georgetown. Ed planned to attend, but he was named as a new assistant coach with the Bulls so he had to reroute to Chicago. Joining Thibodeau’s coaching staff is a great opportunity for him.

When we arrived in West Palm Beach we went over to the Northwood University campus and saw some of Rollie’s players working out on their own in the gym and playing pickup games. But the clinic was held at the Comfort Inn hotel five minutes from campus. We spent two complete days covering a variety of topics that Rollie had outlined before we came in.

Rollie assigned each of us a particular topic to present, though anybody could chip in. He had asked me to be ready to talk on trapping in the post and rotations that come out of it. They had a big room set up for us with video monitors so some guys illustrated their presentations with videos, which was very helpful. There was also a camera running the entire time while guys were talking, demonstrating or drawing on the board.

We went from about 11 in the morning until 10pm on the first night. Because we wanted to keep going we had lunch and dinner brought in – big trays of meatballs, sausage, pasta and salad. There were so many funny comments made during the course of the clinic – that’s part of the camaraderie that has developed over the years. Rollie and I are each other’s families. I’ve known Dick Versace for years. John Olive played for the Wildcats back when I was Rollie’s assistant so I got a chance to coach John back then. A shared history makes the group what it is.

It turned out to be a great basketball forum that hopefully will help those of us coaching this year win a couple extra games along the way.