TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on P.J. Carlesimo's fate in Brooklyn, the re-emergence of Andrew Bogut, the impact of MVP LeBron James as we all as his playoff predictions for the second round.
1. P.J. CARLESIMO (Nets): Not surprised that he wasn't given the job on a full-time basis. When they give you the 'interim' title, they want to take a good look at you and you've got lots to prove before they remove the label. I've known P.J. for close to 30 years and have a great deal of respect for him, both as a coach and a person. Bottom line, they absolutely needed to win the series against the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls and didn't. The Nets are a strange mix of players and when I watch them, the expectations don't fit what the final result is. They play with minimal passion and don't look like a together group whatsoever. P.J. did a very nice job righting the ship and pointing it in the right direction after taking over for Avery Johnson in the regular season but you've got to win a playoff series (maybe even two) to keep a job like this. All the big names will be mentioned for this job due to the dollars involved. In order to get the 'big name' type they want (Phil Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy or Stan Van Gundy), GM Billy King might have to be willing to take more of a 'back seat' in order to allow the vision of the coach they recruit to do his thing. None of those guys are showing up just to coach and I highly doubt Jackson comes as a coach anyway.
2. EASTERN CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS: Day late and a dollar short. My picks are the following: Miami vs. Chicago - Heat in 6 games. Really physical/intense series coming up. Bulls are a mess physically but they're as tough a team as you'll find. They'll find a way to steal two games in this series by 'mucking it up' yet don't have the weapons on the perimeter to keep up with the Elite Heat. Knicks vs. Pacers - Knicks in 7 games. Knicks haven't looked real good in the past few games vs. Celtics and Game #1 vs. Pacers. I feel both JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony will adjust to the physical style and defence of the Pacers and settle into a groove. I love the resiliency of Indiana, and Paul George is emerging day by day. They play as a team and every game will be a highly contested one. If the Knicks follow their proven formula of taking care of the ball and making 3-point shots, the game will open up and the talent level will win out.
3. WESTERN CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS: Here are my West picks. San Antonio vs. Golden State - Spurs in 6 games. Wonderful run by the Warriors vs. Denver. The injury to David Lee forced them to play small-ball and it worked out beautifully for them. The tempo/pace of this series will have to be monitored properly for the Spurs to play at the rate that makes them most effective. Love the Steph Curry vs. Tony Parker matchup. Experience, savvy and coaching win out in this one. Oklahoma City vs. Memphis - Grizzlies in 7 games. From what I saw Sunday and during the regular season (particularly now without Russell Westbrook), this is a 'pick em' series. Obviously, the best player between these teams is Kevin Durant and we saw why again Sunday; sensational. My gut tells me that the Grizzlies are in a good playoff mindset and their talented front court will wear down the overwhelmed Thunder front court as it progresses. The Grizzlies team defence will tighten and will find a way to make Durant work a little harder for his points. The Griz caught a break with Blake Griffin's injury and the issue with Westbrook will help them again.
4. ANDREW BOGUT (Warriors): When I've seen him play in person twice this season, I must admit, I had my doubts if he could get it back to his pre-injury days with the Bucks. I still have my reservations as to whether he can hold up and be consistently good over the long haul but I must say he was terrific in the final game vs. Denver with 14 points and 21 rebounds along with four blocks and three assists. He was moving well and had the second/third effort that seems to have abandoned him these past few years. Would like nothing more than to see a good front-court matchup in this series between him and Hall Of Famer Tim Duncan.
5. LEBRON JAMES (Heat): Congrats on the MVP award. In my mind, NO doubt. By far, the best player in the game today. Impacts the game in every category and does it at an improved level each year. When you talk about an athlete being in that ideal 'zone', their professional sweet spot, he's currently in it. You never know how long it lasts so you enjoy it while you get the lucky chance to witness it. He's playing at that level that the true great ones play at right now. A joy to watch.