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NBA Final Four

May 23, 2013

Two rounds of the NBA Playoffs are behind us and we are left with a few surprises. It is not surprising that the Miami Heat out of the East or San Antonio out of the West have advanced. It is somewhat surprising that the Indiana Pacers and the Memphis Grizzlies have advanced.

Let me digress for a quick second. Are there really any grizzly bears in Memphis, TN?

Okay, back to basketball. Indiana’s second round success over the New York Knicks sets up a postseason rematch with the defending NBA champ Heat. Miami is the team that eliminated them last May after the Pacers had taken a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven semifinals. The Heat wound up winning Game 4 at Indiana and followed that with two more wins after Danny Granger of the Pacers went down with a knee injury. It appears that Indiana used the lessons from that series as motivation to improve this season.

They wound up beating the Heat twice at home before losing the third game of the season series at Miami. The Pacers put an even greater emphasis on playing defense, and it showed. Indiana led the league in rebounding, defensive field goal percentage and defensive 3-point percentage while finishing second in points allowed per game during the regular season. Teams that thrive defensively are teams that have historically given the Heat problems.

Though Memphis was the number-five seed coming out to the West, many have them favored to upset San Antonio. The Griz are almost mirror images of the Pacers which has led many pundits to state that they are the lone team remaining left that could possibly beat Miami. Memphis does seem like a team of destiny as it has advanced in 2013 with playoff victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the two teams that have eliminated them in past playoff action. And the experts may be right as the Grizzlies have a better record then San Antonio since they obtained Tayshaun Prince joined the team in a trade late in the season.

Personally, I am going to stick with Miami and San Antonio to advance. I do see both series going at least six games but I like the experience factor the Heat and Spurs have on their rosters. And my regular readers know I usually pick teams that have the best player on the court. That would be LeBron James for Miami and Tony Parker/Tim Duncan of San Antonio.

Remember Greg Oden

Surely you remember Greg Oden. The guy who was drafted before Kevin Durant back in 2007. Yes, it has been six years ago when Oden, out of Ohio State, was the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft. Yes, the same guy who has been out of basketball after being released by the Portland Trail Blazers.

Anyway, Oden is now an unrestricted free agent and he is working on another comeback after a series of knee injuries. He is currently rehabilitating from multiple knee surgeries in February 2012, including a second microfracture surgery on his left knee and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Prior to that round of surgeries, Oden also had left knee surgery in 2009 after fracturing his patella, microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2010 to address a “defect” that occurred during non-contact rehabilitation work, and a microfracture surgery on his right knee in 2007.

Oden has been working out back at Ohio State and there have been several Buckeyes’ players who have commented that Oden looks “unbelievable.” Word out of Columbus is that Oden may be ready to play by the start of the next NBA season. And as is usually the case when you are talking about talented seven-footers, there is some interest out there from NBA teams.

Greg Oden, 2007

The last time I heard Oden’s name was back in February when the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers expressed some interest. Now there are reports out there that mention San Antonio, New Orleans, Indiana, Dallas, Miami, and last but not least, Charlotte.

I hope the Bobcats look elsewhere for help. Oden last stepped foot on an NBA court in December 2009 and he never reached the point during his multiple rehabilitations with the Blazers where he was cleared for five-on-five, full-contact play, as significant swelling and pain prevented him from advancing in his rehabilitation work. He also developed blood clots in his left ankle that were considered serious enough to delay his February 2012 surgery. Given that it will be well over 1,300 days since he last played in the NBA, I think this is a player I would spend money on.

Oden holds career averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in 82 appearances. Not what the Bobcats need. Portland has yet to recover from its decision to take Oden over Durant. The last thing Charlotte needs is a similar fate.

Will Charlotte Motor Speedway Lose A Race?

Bruton Smith has never been one to shy away from controversy. And he is making more noise this week.

Smith, the chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc. is so determined to get a second Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that he might be willing to give up a date at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Smith has made some comments about moving the October Charlotte race to Las Vegas. He actually went as far as saying there is a 70 percent chance he will move the October Charlotte race to Las Vegas.

For those of you who wonder if such a move can just happen, the answer is no. Such a move would require permission from NASCAR, which owns all race dates. Thus far, NASCAR has not received a formal request from Smith to make the move.

Bruton Smith has a plan

Smith, who owns eight tracks that host Cup events, has let it be known the last few years that he covets a second Vegas race date. Las Vegas began hosting a Cup event in 1998 with the event typically in early March.

Historically speaking, it just does not seem right to move a race from Charlotte. Smith must know this and one has to wonder how his local relationships are faring. He began his NASCAR empire with CMS in 1960, making it the first track of 1.5-mile or bigger with lights.

I believe losing a race would be devastating to the Charlotte area and to the South. The South has lost race dates in recent years from North Wilkesboro Speedway, Darlington Speedway, Atlanta and Rockingham Speedway. I have to think that NASCAR will take that into consideration when they make the final decision.


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