NBA Playoffs Celtics Magic Game 3: Rashard Lewis and the last, best hope for the Magic

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Lewis_Celtics.jpgFans, the media, your local bartender, pretty much everybody is shoveling dirt on the Orlando Magic. They are not only down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, they lost their first two games at home. Orlando has to go into Boston and win, and the Celtics don’t have all those banners hanging overhead because they lose a lot at home in the playoffs.

But the Magic can win, it is not an impossibility. It’s a longshot, a crazy longshot, but Boston sports teams have blown plenty of sure
things over the years.. It’s just that a few things need to happen.

That starts with Rashard Lewis. And if he doesn’t start with him it will end with him.

His role in this series was to pull Kevin Garnett and his amazing help defense away from the paint — hit threes and force Garnett to come out and get him. Lewis is 1 of 9 from three in two games. By the second game, Garnett was willing to lose him in the half court and let the rotations — a couple times the not fleet-of-foot Big Baby — make the run-out at Lewis. Garnett is leaving him; the Celtics do not fear him.

It is a favorite point of Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie and he is dead-on — if Rashard Lewis isn’t hitting shots, he hurts the Magic because he doesn’t do much else. He’s not a good rebounder for a four (something you sacrifice because he wants to be on the perimeter) and he is not a great defender. (To be fair, Garnett is just 9 of 30 shooting through two games, on that end Lewis is holding up his end of the bargain,)

Lewis needs some confidence — maybe he needs to get going by putting the ball on the floor and getting a couple layups. He needs a bucket, he needs to get going. Because if the Magic are to have any hope, Lewis has to drain the three — he is a stretch four for a reason. If he does, things open up for Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter driving the lane. If not, Game 3 will look a lot like the first two.

The other thing the Magic need to do — what they have been working on in practice — is taking away the easy transition buckets for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo loves to push the pace and probe after turnovers and misses, and the Celtics have picked up some easy buckets that way. It has been a decider in close games.

At the same time, the Magic and Nelson need to turn the tables — create some turnovers of their own and get a few easy baskets. Buckets are hard to come by against these Celtics in the halfcourt, but they struggled this season against teams like the Hawks that could create turnovers and finish in transition. The Magic need a little of that.

Do all that and the Magic can make a comeback this series. They can. Really. Thing is, the Magic need to do it today in Game 3.

If they lose this one, we can all pick up a shovel and start throwing dirt on them.

Brandon Jennings no fan of the NBA’s new Awards Ceremony event

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Come June 26, Drake will be on stage in New York City, handing out the NBA’s awards — Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and so on. (We need to set an under/over on the number of players Drake hugs that night.)

The NFL does it. The NHL does it. And the NBA has decided to follow suit with a broadcast awards ceremony where everything — except the All-NBA Team — will be announced that night. It’s happening because the broadcast partners want it.

Brandon Jennings is not a fan. Here is what the Wizards’ point guard Tweeted:

Jennings took down a Tweet that said if he had won the award he would have wanted to get it with the organization and his teammates around him. (And no, he knows he’s not winning the award. If you were going to put that in the comments be more creative.)

There’s something to what Jennings is saying. The NBA award roll out was awkward at times in previous years, but it gave the fans a chance to celebrate the awards with their favorite player. Now, everyone will watch it unfold on television from a ballroom in NYC. That feels a little colder. Also, we will get to see the reaction of those who don’t win (particularly this season, where several players can make a strong case for MVP).

It will be interesting to see how this first year goes, and how the league tweaks it going forward. The more than two month gap between the end of the regular season and the awards could feel a bit awkward. But we’re not going to knock the idea until we’ve seen it in action.

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

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This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Gordon Hayward will play for Jazz in Game 5 without minutes restriction

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Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.

They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.

After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.

So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.

Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.

When NBA switches to Nike uniforms next season, Hornets will move to Jordan Brand

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There are not going to be dramatic changes to the look of the NBA when Nike takes over the apparel contract for next season, replacing Adidas. Instead of the Adidas logo, there will be a swoosh, sleeved jerseys will fade away, and some teams will modify their alternate jerseys, but the league is not getting a total uniform makeover next season. Things will look basically the same.

Except in Charlotte — they will not have a swoosh, they will have the Jordan Jumpman logo.

The why is obvious — Michael Jordan is the primary owner of the Hornets and, obviously, the guy the Jordan brand was named after. The Jordan Brand is part of Nike. The Hornets made the announcement this week buried in a press release about moving the fan shop at the arena, hat tip to Sole Collector for finding this. Here is what the release says:

The re-opening of the Hornets Fan Shop will coincide with the launch of the team’s new Jordan Brand uniforms as Nike becomes the NBA’s uniform provider beginning this season.  The Hornets will be the only team in the NBA wearing Jordan Brand uniforms, and with the agreement taking effect, the Hornets Fan Shop will have even more of the popular Jordan Brand Hornets merchandise than it has had previously.

While it’s not like the Lakers or Celtics are going to be changing up their traditional uniforms, even teams like the Hornets will keep a similar look under Nike.

What should be interesting to see is what the Christmas Day and All-Star uniforms look like under a Nike touch.