Each week, Dan Rubenstein, Ty Hildenbrandt and Jacob Osterhout will jump on e-mail and riff about various subjects in the news offered up by SI.com's Jimmy Traina.
Traina: Gentlemen, I won't start by asking you if Joba Chamberlain's catch Monday night was the greatest ever by a pitcher. Instead, let me get your NBA Finals predictions.
Osterhout: I believe that there is a God and this God will not let Kobe Bryant win another NBA championship. Then again, this is the same God that allowed Joba Chamberlain to make a diving catch last night, so stranger things have happened. I didn't think the Magic would beat the short-handed Celtics, and I didn't think they could beat King James and the Cavs. I will not underestimate this team again. Stan Van Gundy is obviously sacrificing goats to the right gods. I'm going with the Magic in 7, even though I don't really believe it.
Rubenstein: As a Lakers fan, I'm scared to death of Orlando, but I think ultimately, the Lakers probably win in 6 or 7 games. First, the issue of who guards Kobe seems pretty big. Courtney Lee? Rashard Lewis? The Lakers, more so than the Cavs, have enough big bodies to throw at Dwight Howard that maybe he gets in a little foul trouble early and sits for extended minutes. I think it comes down to the Lakers playing with a bigger chip on their collective shoulders and the fact that you should never ever pick a Stan Van Gundy team over a Phil Jackson team in a seven-game series.
Hildenbrandt: I am still shell-shocked that the Cavs went down Saturday night. Even when they were down by double digits in the fourth quarter, I was still expecting a miracle. So, with them out of the picture, sigh, I guess I'll go with the Lakers in 6. I'm not happy about it, but if this is going to be published, I want rights to say, "I told you so." Can we move on before Lakers Homer Extraordinaire Dan Rubenstein waxes poetic about the Lake Show? Please?
Osterhout: The Magic don't have to shut down Kobe, just as they didn't have to shut down LeBron. They just have to shut down everyone else, which is pretty much Pau Gasol, and that is not impossible. And you are crazy if you think that Andrew Bynum can bang with Howard on the boards.
Rubenstein: Of course they don't have to shut down Kobe, but unfortunately for the Magic, the Lakers run an offense beyond their star driving down the lane and choosing between scoring and kicking out to Delonte West or Mo Williams. Cleveland basically was playing college basketball against Orlando, only with a guy steamrolling through everyone. I don't think Bynum can bang with Howard, but I think the combination of Gasol, Bynum, and Lamar Odom going at Howard is infinitely better than the Anderson Varejao/Zydrunas Ilgauskas/Ben Wallace one. And Ty, I'm not sure how much of a homer I am; you'd be saying the same things if we were breaking down the chances of the fabled Mountain Hawks of Lehigh. Yeah, that's right, Patriot League humor.
Hildenbrandt: Lehigh? You really dropping a Lehigh Mountain Hawks reference? Back off, man. This is Eastern PA. We'll take what we can get in college sports.
Osterhout: Odom eats too much candy to guard Howard. Bynum parties too hard with Playboy Bunnies. And Gasol is too worried that his buddy Ricky Rubio won't have enough money to buy out his contract and play in the NBA. I will say this, I don't think there are a lot of Kobe fans in New York City. It's hard to get an honest opinion around here that isn't just someone shooting off at the mouth about how much they hate the Lakers. Not the actual Lakers, but the idea that a team in L.A. is and has been sooooo much better than our beloved New York Knickerbockers.
Rubenstein: I think the Yankees' decline is what's most to blame for the national anti-Lakers vitriol. The Lakers could fly under the radar and only be hated during the spring, but it's just so much easier since the Kevin Brown and Carl Pavano signings. If I had never seen an NBA game and went with what most people thought about Kobe and Lakers, I'd just assume they were terrible. It's pretty amazing how much a 65-win team has been discounted. That said, I've seen too many Lakers collapses to think this is even close to a four- or five-game series.
Hildenbrandt: I love how there is a roundabout way to blame every major problem on the "decline" of the New York Yankees. Hey, let's blame the Yankees for global warming and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, too!
Rubenstein: It's not too roundabout. Everyone hated the Yankees for paying top dollar for free agents and winning everything in sight. They stopped winning, so there had to be a new team to collectively despise. Kobe is great but polarizing, Phil Jackson is smug and condescending, and movie stars show up to an arena that prices out the common fan. All the pieces are there.
Osterhout: Well, if money can't buy success, then this whole capitalism idea is way overrated. The very foundation of America is then destabilized when the Tampa Bay Rays are better than the Yankees. Fortunately, the Yankees are back in first as we write, so that soothes some of the sting of the Lakers' success for New Yorkers and will keep the universe from slipping into some sort of black hole.
Hildenbrandt: The Lakers are a storied NBA franchise, and by mere association, they're hated by a large swath of the population. If you want to blame the Yankees for any anti-Laker sentiment, be my guest, but the Yankees aren't competing for the same free agents as the Lakers, and we're talking about two different sports. Must be a West Coast thing ...
Traina: The Yankees were/are hated? I had no idea. Anyway, everyone seems all hot and bothered because LeBron didn't shake hands with players from the Magic after Game 6. Thoughts?
Osterhout: It's not often that LeBron James acts his age. The "Chosen One" had the body of a grown man at age 13, and has acted like a seasoned veteran since he arrived in the NBA. He handles the media with aplomb and rarely makes a fool of himself in front of cameras, on the court or in the clubs. But LeBron finally lost his poise Saturday night. Now, when LeBron loses his cool, it's not exactly Artestian, or should I say Sprewellian. Nobody got punched. No beers were spilled. No cops were involved. When LeBron acts like a child, he simply storms off the court without shaking hands with the players who just beat him. The critics call King James a poor sport, a sore loser, a baby, and they are partly right. A mature player realizes when the competition is over and offers a hand to his opponents after a hard-fought series. But how refreshing is it to see LeBron act human? I mean, after all, he is just 24 years old. Granted, a 24-year-old man-child prodigy, but he deserves to be judged and seen as human sometimes instead of a basketball god. And in the end, if we all just shut up and walked to the locker room when we got frustrated ,the world would be a much better place.
Hildenbrandt: I'm willing to cut LeBron a break for the exact reason Jacob described: LeBron James is a normal human being, and he's only 24. We tend to hold these athletes to such standards that we sometimes forget they have the same emotions as the 5-foot-9 IT guy in your corporate office. For LeBron, this was his Jon & Kate Plus 8 moment, when the facade temporarily washed off and you saw glimpses of a less-than-perfect individual. If this is the worst he does over his career, I think we can grant him a mulligan.
Rubenstein: It's an entertaining story, and I agree that it at least gives LeBron a personality that isn't choreographed or rehearsed, but it really came off looking pretty poor. Sure, he's young, but this came at the end of his sixth year in the NBA. He's been here before. He's somebody who wants to be seen as a leader and a "global icon," but I'm not sure the best way for a global icon to convey humanoid characteristics is to storm off and sulk after a loss. If hockey players and boxers can hug after repeatedly beating the crap out of each other, LeBron can hang around and slap a few hands. Essentially, it's a moment that says, "I'm not there yet," which I guess we now know anyway.
Hildenbrandt: I agree that he should've shown better judgment, and I'm on board with the whole "he's not there yet" point, but I guess I'm just saying that we should wait and see if this turns into a trend or if it's a one-time deal. At this point, LeBron isn't stealing Claude Lemieux's thunder in terms of sportsmanship, so I'm willing to look past it. If it continues throughout his career, then I'm cool with all the scrutiny.
Rubenstein: I agree, this is probably a low point, and it really isn't all that low. I think a lot of the supposed outrage comes from the fact that he was probably the most likable player in the NBA from both a basketball and personality standpoint, and this sort of went against that. After six years in the league, it's pretty hard to play the "he's 24" card. If he's old enough to be a five-time All-Star, a gold medal winner and an MVP, then he's old enough to be held to high professional standards. I hold even myself to such a standard and vow to never walk off the court after a clinching NBA conference finals loss. There's no way it happens again. If you thought the reaction was bad now, wait until Knicks fans and writers are done with him.
Hildenbrandt: Dan, I won't mention your recent spree of technical fouls in your rec league, as described on your Twitter feed.
Rubenstein: It was ONE warning, although this week I got into foul trouble, flopped a little and then accidentally elbowed somebody in the jaw while fighting through a screen. I'm basically Anthony Mason, minus the shaving things into my head.
Osterhout: We say it is just a game, and it is for us, but for LeBron it is his profession and pretty much his life. I would rather see him take the game too seriously than not seriously enough. I've got to imagine that it is hard for him to just shrug off a season-ending loss in a second. I also think that handshakes are overrated. The Japanese don't really do it, so why should LeBron? Then again, in Europe they do the double, even triple, kiss, so maybe a handshake is the way to go because that would be weird, seeing LeBron and Dwight Howard pecking each other on the cheeks.
Hildenbrandt: Not that there's anything wrong with that ...
Traina: I just think when someone is THAT good, people have to try their hardest to find something to criticize and with LeBron, it's the stupid handshake nonsense. Moving on, Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy will call the Finals. NBA games aren't the same for me when Marv Albert isn't behind the mike. Breen is very good, but Marv is the best. Anyway, do you enjoy the trio that will be calling the games? Will you be looking out for cases of Jeff not being objective about Stan? Do you wish Marv (or someone else) did the Finals?
Hildenbrandt: In general, as long as the announcers aren't downright terrible, I'm OK with them. Neither Breen nor Jackson bother me, and I've always been a fan of Van Gundy's backhanded comments. The dream ticket, of course, would be for Jeff to take his snarkiness to the next level and to be overly critical of Stan -- you know, like a scene of out Step Brothers -- but I suspect that won't be happening in the Finals.
Rubenstein: In a perfect world, the NBA Finals would always be called by Marv Albert. I think the only thing I miss more than Marv is the John Tesh intro music. I'm fine with the Breen/Van Gundy/Jackson trio, so long as the Stan Van Gundy thing doesn't get out of hand. I imagine Jeff will throw out an embarrassing Stan story or two during one of his tangents, which is acceptable.
Osterhout: I agree that it is a shame that Marv Albert won't be calling the Finals this year. He has such a sonorous voice that we're willing to forget about his past indiscretions (see "bite marks"). But the bigger issue here is having Jeff Van Gundy call his brother's games. That's just awkward all around, the same way it's awkward with Bill Walton calls Lakers games. Sure, he's going to say he's impartial, but that's his bro. Jeff won't ever be overly snarky about his big brother like he is about pretty much everyone else in the league. But do you really want to hear embarrassing Stan stories from Jeff? I certainly do not. The NBA is the only professional sport that I know of that plays music while play is ongoing. They should do the same for the announcers. How much better would it be to hear Kanye West instead of some talking heads?
Hildenbrandt: I'm sure Kanye would tell you it'd be a lot better. Just ask him.
Traina: If the only problem with the Kanye plan is that if they played Gold Digger, every player would stop playing basketball and start singing the lyrics since that's probably the anthem of every NBA player. Last topic: Sasha Baron Cohen generated even more buzz for Bruno thanks to his stunt with Eminem at the MTV Movie Awards over the weekend. What summer movie are you most looking forward to?
Rubenstein: I saw a screening of Bruno a few weeks ago, and it's literally the hardest "R" that the world will ever see. Other than that, Funny People should be really good comedy-wise, Public Enemies should be excellent (Christian Bale was thrilled with the lighting), and GI Joe should make Transformers look like Citizen Kane. It looks almost impressively-awful. It'll probably make a lot of money, and will thus be the final nail in the American cinematic coffin. Oh, and I don't think there's any way that Inglorious Basterds will disappoint. Brad Pitt + Hitler + cast members of Freaks and Geeks and The Office = winning combination.
Osterhout: I know that this is going to hurt my credibility with the young, male demographic, but I was pretty psyched for the release of Up last Friday. Nothing is better than a Pixar movie with a fat kid and a talking dog and an old man. Wall-E pretty much rocked my world and Up did not disappoint. To appease those looking for a little more action, I am also really looking forward to Inglorious Basterds, which comes out in August. It's a Quentin Tarantino blood bath, which has Brad Pitt and Eli Roth killing hundreds of Nazis. It's basically one step above porn. Plus, Mike Myers and B.J. Novak are in it, which is intriguing indeed.
Rubenstein: I agree, Up looks fantastic. Hopefully, though, there won't be nearly as much dust in the theater as there was when I saw Wall-E. Man, that really affected my eyes.
Hildenbrandt: This conversation should start and end with anything involving Megan Fox, especially in a conversation conducted by Jimmy Traina. I'm also fairly excited for the "Overhyped Movie Award" to be presented to a Will Ferrell movie for like the fourth straight year. No movie of his will ever stack up to Old School -- and the only reason to care about Land of the Lost is the fact that his promotional appearance on Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls will air Tuesday night on the Discovery Channel. You can color me unexcited for Bruno and just about mostly everything else. I'll just wait for the kids to drop spoilers on Twitter.
Rubenstein: The only turnoff about Megan Fox is that she's a robot. Of all the Maxim 100 girls, she'd be the least surprising one that turns out to have been made in a Honda lab in Japan.
Traina: "Unexcited for Bruno" is a signal to end this. There's no reason to continue while one of the panelists has clearly lost their minds. Thanks for the time and we'll see you next week.
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