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I never expected that 3 games deep into the Eastern Conference Finals, I'd be reduced to writing about "what if" scenarios. I really do not want to, but with the Cavaliers being thoroughly outplayed by the Orlando Magic in each of the first 3 games, I don't think I have much choice.

The focus of my frustration today has to be about the missed opportunity the Cavaliers had in not trading Wally Sexyback this past February.

I know, looking back on it now(and given the Cavs' current state) would be too easy and way unfair to the Cavaliers front office. Heck, back then, I was in support of staying pat. Sure, being able to get a low-post threat (Amare Stoudemire, Brad Miller) or another wingman (John Salmons) would have been way better than Wally World. But what if it ruined the Cavs' chemistry? The Cavs were having a monster season, and bringing in a player expected to play a big role on the team could have been disastrous. After all, Wally wasn't exactly playing terribly; he was doing just enough to contribute at least something. Therefore, I must admit that I was perfectly happy back then.

But things change. As pointless as this may be - and you could even say this is nothing but a desperate attempt by a fan to make sense of Cleveland's struggles -, I still think it's somehow worth revisiting.

The Orlando Magic have exposed a glaring deficiency on the Cavaliers' part. The Cavs just can't defend the Magic very well. Orlando's stocked with plenty of bench help, capable bigs and good shooting. Cleveland, on the other hand, lack those three. It would be premature to label Mo Williams as a bust, but he has to walk the walk and step up. Delonte's struggling and Zydrunas has been reduced to a three-point shooter.

And worst of all, the Cavs' bench isn't doing its part at all. And this brings me to Wally Szczerbiak. Dude isn't even playing anymore! Not saying that he should get more time on the floor because he hasn't done much in the Playoffs, but this is the guy Danny Ferry decided not to trade for (maybe) a more valuable piece.

What if they were able to trade him? What if, instead of Wally, they're playing either Brad Miller or John Salmons (or both???) off the bench, bringing an offensive punch to counter Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat? Instead of watching Ben Wallace butterfinger the ball out of his hands, it could be Brad Miller knocking down open J's. Instead of cringing at the sight of Delonte West defending Turkey's Finest (to be fair though, Delonte does a good job bodying up), it could be John Salmons forcing Hedo to take tougher shots.

It's all pointless now because it's now late May and the Cavs are down 1-2, but I hope Danny Ferry uses this series as a warning. I hope that win or lose, he gains much from this experience and goes into the off-season looking to upgrade the Cavs' sore spots. Superman and his Super Friends have shown the King and his Witnesses they are not invincible. And while it's too early to count the guys in wine and gold out, the reality is that they need much more if they hope to make things easier for LeBron James.

Sucks that we didn't know this back in February, huh?

Photo Credit goes to NBA.com

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And just like that, they were gone.

I'm talking about the Detroit Pistons, once the gatekeepers of the Eastern Conference, now relegated to first-round fodder for the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers.

It's sad, really. I still remember clearly way back in 2004 when, with Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace still in tow, the Pistons surprisingly defeated the Hall-Of-Fame-laden Los Angeles Lakers in just 5 games. Being a big Laker Hater, that was a very good time for me, especially since nobody (not even me) would dare think that the Lakers would lose. Aaah, the joy of ignorance... While the Lakers imploded due to a certain feud - remember that? - the New School Bad Boys slowly picked off the unassuming Western power.

That's a really nice moment, one that I'll remember forever.

However, it's the 26th of April right now, and I just saw a flash of red completely consume some white. Turns out the Pistons have just been eliminated from the 2009 Playoffs. By the Cavaliers. In the First Round. As an 8th seed. On a 0-4 sweep.

Now, I don't want to be bold just for the sake of it, but it's pretty obvious that the Pistons are done. Their stars are aging, their coach is a rookie, and they have absolutely no depth. On top of that, they just traded their floor general for Allen Iverson.

Yes. Allen Iverson.

You see, the Pistons were supposed to put up a fight. Regardless of the early returns of the "Answer Experiment", they were still supposed to be better than the Heat, Bulls, and Sixers. Supposed to.

I must admit, I'm not the biggest A.I. fan out there, but there is no denying the man's talent. I mean, he led the Sixers all the way to the Finals in 2001, even stealing Game 1 in L.A.! I have tons of respect for this dude. This man is a baller, hands down.

There is one thing, however, that I just have to question about him: his decision to sulk if not made a starter. Really, A.I.??? You're pushing 30 now, your career on its downswing, and you still choose to focus on whether your name gets called out during player intros? I just don't get it. Guys your age would gladly take lesser money (Karl Malone, The Glove), come off the bench (Antonio McDyess) or just altogether ride the bench (Mitch Richmond) in exchange for a shot at the Championship. For real, you refusing to merely come off the bench was a bit too much. They were counting on you, man! They traded Chauncey Billups for you. The least you could've done was try harder... After all, you'd still be getting your playing time (let's face it, Walter Herrmann ain't taking your minutes) and your salary's still the same. Is coming off the bench really that bad that you'd forget how sweet you have it?

I know, the Pistons with Iverson would still lose to the Cavs, but they could have avoided the King if only Iverson accepted any role he had to play. Looking back is pretty pointless now that Detroit's season is done, but Iverson should have made a bigger difference. Had he played well, they probably would have drawn an easier opponent (they beat the Magic last year and the Celtics are the walking wounded).

It just sucks because what Allen did was something you'd expect a teenager to do. From a future Hall-of-Famer, however? He really should have known better.

I still love you, A.I. I'll never forget the way you played (and actually still do) with so much heart, courage, and passion. And I'm hoping your reluctance to give in is still due to that burning belief that you're still the man. But please, also face facts. Think deeply about it, balance and work it all out, and come back stronger next season. Just don't, under any circumstance, let this mess happen once more.

Photo Credits: Pistons-http://www.nba.com/pistons/history/champions_200304.html & A.I.-http://izuzquiza.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/alg_iverson-foulcall.jpg

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Man, did I really write my last post way back in August of 2008???

Anyways, it's good to be back! A lot has happened since then, but I just could not find enough time to write a meaningful post.

Now is no time for that.

So, I'm here in the Huntington Beach, California right now. Been here since Jan. 13, in fact, and the first thing I set out to do was look for tickets to an NBA game! I know they would not come cheap, but I also didn't expect nosebleed seats to be that unaffordable.
Remember, by that time, there was the Lakers-Cavs game coming up in a few short weeks, so I first looked for tickets to that match-up. Much to my dismay, the cheapest seat cost $ 250 bucks! The CHEAPEST! Damn... I didn't have money that time (though even if I did, I doubt I'd spend it on that), so the Lakers were just not an option for me right now.

With that, I set out to look for the woeful Clippers' tix. Goshdarnit, they'd have to be cheaper than the Lakers, right?!?! I stumbled upon the Clips' 3-Game Flex Plan, where you choose three games at a (slightly) discounted price. They had two sets with about 10 teams each, and you could only choose three from one group. It was slightly disappointing, as the Cavaliers and Celtics (a game the Clippers would surprisingly win) were grouped separately. I really wanted to see KG just completely lose it, but there was no way I wasn't "witnessing" a LeBron James game... Luckily, there were still a lot of good teams in the Cavs' group. We eventually decided on watching the Lakers (KOBE!!!), Spurs (EVA!!!), and the Cavs. I wanted to watch CP3 and his Hornets instead of the Spurs, but figured that the robot known as Tim Duncan would be retiring soon, and I owed it to myself as a basketball fan to watch him play his game one time.A week after buying our tix, we set out to watch the Clips get demolished by the Lakers. It was bound to be a sure Clippers loss, as they were missing Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Zach Randolph, and Marcus Camby at that time. Sure enough, the scores were as far apart as me and Kricket are, and Bynum totally dominated the paint, scoring a career-high 42 points! Kobe Bean was also fantastic, notching a trip-dub so effortlessly it almost made me a Laker fan.

Then, just last week, we watched the Spurs take on the doomed Clips, now fielding Baron Davis and Marcus Camby but missing Eric Gordon and the others. I mean, if you're playing Mike Taylor heavy minutes, you know something's up. It was too hard to get up and cheer for that game, as the Spurs easily killed all energy in the arena en route to a blowout victory.

Nice.

If the trend continues, then I can expect another Clippers loss against the Cavaliers. After all, if the Lakers and Spurs could beat the Clips, surely the Cavs will. Right?

So, me and my mom arrived late in L.A., about an hour and a half before tip-off. We immediately headed out to the ESPN Zone, a sports bar of some kind that serves the BEST burger I've ever tasted. This day, however, with the King playing his last game in L.A. this season, the place was packed! Most restaurants here have frontdesks to help you get seated, so we could easily see the lines formed outside. Great. After not eating all afternoon, I'd be entering the arena hungry.

Not only that, but since my bro had to go to school that night, we had an extra ticket worth $ 40. I tried scalping it just outside the Staples Center, which was crazy since there were two police officers a few steps from me (I didn't know if scalping is illegal here or not, but the scalpers all acted shady). I approached this dude who sold and bought tix, but he wouldn't buy mine 'cause they were nosebleeds.Inside, the place was crazy. The crowd was obviously not a Laker crowd, as LBJ jerseys were everywhere! I liked this, since I really planned on chearing for the Cavs all night long.

LeBRON!!!

I just love this dude. He seems reserved at times, but the way he acts around his teammates is just the opposite. As serious he is on the court, he is way playful off it. I see him dance around along with his teammates before the game. His youth is evident in these rare instances.

By halftime, the Clips had a huge lead. The Cavs came out flat tonight, passes not so crispy, and shots just not falling. The Clips also played good D on LeBron, always forcing him to go where there is help D, essentially taking him out of the game early on. LeBron seemed to be cruising up to that point, however.

Zach Randolph even manages to hit a three-pointer. I make a mental note of this.

Fast forward to the start of the 4th, with the Cavs down by a staggering 17 points. To the Clips (!). Just my luck, I thought... The one game that really mattered to me (and probably my last one watching live), and the Cavs would go on to lose... Badly.

However, my luck starts to change slowly but surely. First, the Cavs play some serious D and LeBron starts straight dominating, ninja-ing his way to the paint to score. Then, during a timeout, the video announce board announces a spectacular promo for upcoming Clipper home games. $ 18 bucks gets you one ticket (probably worth around $ 30), 1 hot dog ($ 4), 1 drink ($ 3), and even a $ 10 gas card (though it isn't Chevron)! Imagine??? This wouldn't have to be my last game, after all!

With the Clippers crashing HARD, the Cavs close the gap to the three with just over a minute left. The Clips displayed some admirable will to lose, favoring individual "heroics" over good team play and allowed the Cavs to get back in it.
BOOBIE GIBSON HITS THE 3!!! Tie game, and the place goes wild! There'a a Cavs fan two rows up from where I sat, and another one 3 seats to my right. However, there's two old(er) men just below me who are Clips fans. One even clapped in my face (it is ON!) when the Clips made a big shot. But the Cavs just won't quit, taking a 2-point lead with seconds left.

The Clips finally wake up and after swinging the ball around, Al Thornton nails a HUGE trey to put the Clips up one! Another dude gets up, turns around my way, and shouts in my face (in a playful but serious manner) and just straight looked intense. I LOVE THIS GAME!

Timeout Cavs, and LeBron dribbles around until the Cavs find a wide-open Mo Williams for the trey!!! YEAH!! Place goes wild! Curiously, the people below me were silent. I wonder why...

With 6.6 seconds left, and the Cavs up by two, Zach Randolph decides to throw up a 30-foot trey which he... AIRBALLS! Hahaha. Stupid. I knew hitting that trey earlier would bite the Clippers in the ass. I managed to shoot a video of that particular sequence, and that was me laughing toward the end. Trust me, I fully expected to get tackled by the men below after laughing out that loud.

video
The crowd goes silent as Mo Will ices the game. Clippers lose once again, but more importantly, Cavaliers win!

Just a great way to end the 3 games. Watching the NBA was just a pipe dream to me just a few short years ago, but now I just witnessed one of LeBron's finest performances. It's like LeBron knew I would be there, and him tallying a triple-double was a special gift for me. I love the PBA, but nothing beats watching the NBA live. From the die-hard fans cheering even the hopeless Clippers on, to the action on the floor, everything just works magically.I'm glad to have had the opportunity to do this not once, but three times in my life. I would've been perfectly happy just watching ANY game, but to witness an NBA game this exciting in a sold-out arena with some of the most passionate fans (I see you, Clipper Darrell and Dude-Who-Wears-Viking-Helmets-And-Dances-Wildly) in the whole world?

Priceless.

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