Take your pick. The NBA conference finals are lopsided duds for a multitude of reasons:
Vince Carter choked at the free-throw line; The Suns have no answer for the Lakers' size advantage; Rashard Lewis disappeared into witness protection; Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant; The clown suit Rajon Rondo is stitching for Jameer Nelson; Steve Nash suddenly looks 40; Stan Van Gundy can't coach.
I'm sure I missed a few of the reasons for Boston's and Los Angeles' commanding 2-0 leads. Whatever, we're headed for a throwback NBA Finals series. Celtics-Lakers will be must-see TV.
But before we move on to the inevitable, let me explain the No. 1 reason why the Magic and the Suns can't compete with the Lakers and the Celtics.
Dwight Howard and Amare' Stoudemire were raised on the AAU circuit and sent straight to the NBA. They've yet to learn how to compete at the professional level.
We're watching the "Child, Please!" conference finals.
Grown-ass men are spanking the (spit) out of little boys on national television. At some point, I expect Nancy Grace to call for criminal charges against David Stern for failing to intervene and properly protect Howard and Stoudemire.
This is child abuse. I'm uncomfortable watching it. I'm embarrassed for Howard and Stoudemire. Their underdeveloped basketball minds can't comprehend a mature response for the grown-up play Bryant, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo put forth at playoff time.
After getting routed in Game 1 in the West, Stoudemire childishly called the 19-point, 19-rebound ass-whipping delivered by Lamar Odom "lucky," and then Stoudemire bragged about how he used to beat up Pau Gasol back in the Spaniard's Memphis days.
After getting routed in Game 1 in the East, Howard childishly took the court for Game 2 by first performing his "comical" LeBron James, powder-throwing impersonation and then focusing all of his Superman-like powers on scoring more points than he did in Game 1.
These guys are clueless. They're the most talented and important players on their teams and they have the maturity level of 13-year-olds. They set a terrible tone for their teams.
Howard just wants to have fun. Stoudemire just wants to score points. Neither is interested in giving a playoff-level defensive effort.
You don't learn how to play great defense in summer/AAU basketball. You don't learn how to compete at a championship level in AAU basketball.
Before summer basketball replaced high school hoops as the most important training ground for a teenage baller, kids used to be taught how to compete, how to accept coaching and that important games pitting equally talented players are most often decided at the defensive end.
Howard and Stoudemire are full-blooded AAU Babies. They were raised in the era where the penalty for a high school phenom ignoring the teachings of his coach was a spot in the draft lottery and a shoe contract with Nike or Adidas.
They didn't join Michael Jordan's NBA. They joined Allen Iverson's league. There's a major difference.
When Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett became superstars, they were welcomed into the All-Star Game and the fraternity of superstars by Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, David Robinson, etc. When Howard and Stoudemire blossomed into major stars, the culture of the NBA had dramatically changed. Most of their straight-out-of-high skool peers (LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal) talked about their respect for Jordan, but they mimicked Iverson's style and attitude.
These guys have a difficult time with coaching. They have difficulty buying into a legitimate team concept.
It takes a team to play defense in the NBA. You can go one-on-one or pick-and-roll and score a boatload of points in the league. Defensive stops take five guys working together.
Stoudemire flat-out refuses to play defense in this series. And he's a reluctant rebounder (nine boards in two games). Pau Gasol has Stoudemire tied to his belt loop, and Gasol is walking Stoudemire around the yard offering the 6-10 power forward to Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom for a pack of cigarettes.
Howard is supposed to be the second coming of Bill Russell. What an insult to Russell. I regret ever making the comparison. To compete in this series, Orlando doesn't need Howard to score a point. The Magic need Howard to scare Rajon Rondo and Big Baby out of the lane, ignite a quicker offensive pace with crisp outlet passes and control the boards.
Howard had eight rebounds and zero blocks in Game 2. ESPN's Mark Jackson, the best NBA color analyst, labeled Howard's 30 points "fool's gold."
Bill Russell struck fear in his opponents. The refs are afraid of Howard's nonstop whining. Thanks to Howard, Orlando is looking for excuses rather than looking for a fight against grown men.
Howard and Stoudemire are two tricks getting treated.
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