Weekly Countdown (cont.)
3 Topics with Dwyane Wade
On Heat president Pat Riley criticizing him for his conditioning early this season. "I had mixed emotions about it," Wade said. "I took it at one point as a cheap shot to me, and I took it at another one as a sign of respect as well, from a guy who would do anything in the organization to make sure that you have what you need. But I thought he was wrong. I thought they displayed my numbers up against last year, when they don't understand the focus of this season -- that it wasn't about me scoring 30 a night. So it was mixed emotions, but at the same time, [I have] a tremendous amount of respect for him. We have that kind of communication where we talked about it and we got through it and moved on."
Wade understands the importance of playing for a boss who will push him.
"I've always had it from Jack Fitzgerald, my high school coach, to Tom Crean at Marquette, to coming here -- I've always had that," he said. "Even when my father was my coach, I always had someone to push me and overpush me at times. [And I may] not like it at times, but I appreciate it when I leave. At the end of the day, I always appreciate it.
"The relationship here works in Miami. It's been a great relationship. It's not always going to be rosy, but if you can have many more good times than bad, that's good. That's what we've had here. ... We all respect each other, and that's a recipe for success."
On playmaking and scoring to max out his team's potential this year. "It has been an underrated achievement. I look back at three games -- the Lakers game when Kobe hit that shot [a banked-in, game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer], I look back at the Boston game when we were up with 0.4 [seconds left], I look at the Cleveland game we would've won but I turned it over ... that's [potentially] a 50-win season for us, and that's a great, great accomplishment.
"When I came in [for the 2003 draft] and I was doing my interviews for the teams, I said, 'I'm not a point guard, I'm a basketball player.' That means I can do whatever you ask me to do, and right now they ask me to make plays for my teammates, they ask me to score, to rebound, to defend -- they ask me to do all those things. And when I came in, that's one thing I said: 'You're going to get somebody who can play the game.' I'm not a typical '2,' a typical '1' -- I'm a basketball player.
"We knew it was going to be a struggle throughout the year because we're still a young team. On paper, we're not as talented as those other teams, but you know what? Just stay with it, stay with it, and there's a part of our schedule like everyone in the league has where we can put a run together, and we put a darn good run together [in winning 18 of their final 22 regular-season games]."
On looking forward to leading a contending team next year, whether Miami adds talent around him or he leaves for another franchise as a free agent this summer. "No question I'm excited about the possibilities of summer. I really am. Last year and this year has helped that even more, and I try not to think about it much because I have a season to focus on. But whenever I let my mind wander about my future and me wanting to win championships and what it takes to do that, I'm excited about it because I know the opportunities are a lot greater in the future even than in my past.''
2 Scouts' takes
Both of these came from an expert in the Western Conference on Thursday morning.
On the Lakers, who lead the Thunder 2-1 after losing at Oklahoma City on Thursday night. "The first thing I notice is how poor of a defender Derek Fisher has become, because they've had to switch and put other people on [Russell] Westbrook to keep him out of the paint. I think [Ron] Artest has a defensive edge on [Kevin] Durant, that he's gotten to Durant a bit, but I'm not convinced he could have the same effect on a veteran scorer like Paul Pierce. Then I look at Kobe, and how [Thabo] Sefolosha can't guard him all the time because the Lakers are refusing to guard Sefolosha at the other end. Until Sefolosha learns to knock down the three like Bruce Bowen did, other teams aren't going to guard him."
That's why the decision to put Durant on Bryant in the fourth quarter of Game 3 worked so well for Oklahoma City -- not only was Bryant troubled by Durant's length, but the Thunder were more complete offensively without Sefolosha on the floor. The problem is they can't afford to risk foul trouble for Durant by having him guard Bryant the entire game.
On the Jazz, who are 1-1 with the Nuggets going into Game 3 at Utah Friday. "Chauncey [Billups] cannot contain Deron Williams. He has no shot of guarding him, so Denver has to find other people to put on Williams -- [Arron] Afflalo maybe. Most people in the league would now say that Williams is the best point guard in the league, that right now he's moved ahead of Chris Paul, though they'll be going back and forth on that argument for the rest of their careers. But I also think it's a huge benefit to Williams and the Jazz that they've been running the same system and doing the same things over and over. All of those Utah players learn all of the wrinkles, and even though the system has grown and diversified, it's still the same playbook that has been there forever. As Williams has grown within that offense, he's learned the little details that make you better as a player. Look at how Peyton Manning has been with the same offensive coordinator his entire career. That kind of comfort helps in a big way.
"Having said that, my fear for Utah is that the Nuggets are going to just wear it out. Utah is down two starters [forward Andrei Kirilenko and center Mehmet Okur are injured] and that makes Denver substantially better. Over one game, I'd pick the Jazz to win in Utah. But over five games, I don't know how they'll continue to overachieve unless Denver faces an injury problem too."
1 Joe-the-Plumber opinion
From my brother. Glenn Thomsen is a Blazers season-ticket holder in Portland, and before the series -- like Joe giving the candidates a piece of his mind -- he predicted with uncommon accuracy that they would win Game 1 at Phoenix:
"I'm delighted we're playing Phoenix," he e-mailed before the series. "It's sad that BROY [Brandon Roy] is out, but he has not really played well since his bad hammy three months ago. In a few little ways we are a bit better in certain situations without BROY in my opinion.
"Plus, I love Phoenix and the way they play. This will be very entertaining even if we get whupped on.
"The BROY of 2009-10 is not the BROY of 2007-08 and 2008-09. The old BROY was Portland's version of Larry Bird/Mr. Clutch/Dr. J. I worshipped the old BROY. This year's BROY just has not been there since the hammy injury. I hope next year's BROY can recover and return to the old glory.
"We're a team that needs to make our shots more than most -- well documented I know. MVPs on this team are now Andre Miller, [Marcus] Camby and [LaMarcus] Aldridge -- if the other two aren't pulling.
"Rudy [Fernandez] is starting from now on -- now he can quit crying about not having started and show us how he does when he starts in the Spain First Division. We'll need an excellent game out of Rudy each time out -- if he hits his shots it'll open up a lot of other stuff.
"[Jerryd] Bayless must not be allowed to attempt any outside shots under any circumstances.
"I really like this team a lot. Yes we might lose in five -- but this will be an absolutely sensational series from a Joe Fan perspective. Even if we get slayed, which everyone expects, it'll be great.
"Final pick : BLAZERS IN SEVEN. It'll shock the world but not me. Please note -- I did not feel this way last year going into the Houston series.
I thought the one dimensional BROY show back then could be shut down in a playoff series. I like this team a lot more than last year's team.
"P.S.: Without Camby, we're a bad team -- as simple as that."
The Blazers have lost Games 2 and 3, but even after their 108-89 clobbering in Portland on Thursday -- the Suns led by 31 in the first half -- my brother believes adamantly in a Game 7 upset.
"Believe it or not, this is how we win this series," he e-mailed first thing Friday morning. "Let them slaughter us, lull the opponent into a sense of smug security and then we strike. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow ... it's all about tomorrow."
Forget Joe the Plumber; he's Scarlett O'Hara.
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