(AP Photo/John Raoux)

ONE: Congratulations to the Orlando Magic on making the NBA Finals. I don’t care what anyone says, the Magic thoroughly deserved this and earned it the hard way. They were pushed by the Sixers after falling in an 0-1 hole, they knocked out the defending champs in Game 7 in Boston, they withstood Lebron in all his buzzer-beating 40-8-8 glory and in Game 6 whooped the Cavs worse than any team has all season. It’s not a fluke and you can’t blame the refs. The Orlando Magic will represent the East in the 2009 NBA Finals, and rightly so. Some links to get you started:

- Waiting for Next Year (a Cleveland Blog) comes to grips with another disappointing season
- Dwight Howard is ecstatic in his latest blog entry – “It was so cool in the fourth quarter when the crowd was chanting M-V-P for me and they were singing na-na-na-nah to the Cavs.” I love you Dwight
- The Bleacher Report talks about how the result of the Cavs-Magic series could change the face of the NBA
- Sports Illustrated is reminded of the Shaq days in Orlando
- TrueHoop breaks it down – it’s not Magic, it’s execution
- Ben Wallace hints at retirement – which if true, is a sad day because this guy was my hero for many years

Quick word on Dwight. Today was probably the best big-man playoff performance I’ve seen since Tim Duncan dominated the Nets in Game 6 of the 03 Finals. When you take into account his impact on both ends of the floor,  the fact he out-shone the MVP, and the huge stakes, this goes down as an historic performance. Much respect to Dwight. You continue to utterly surprise and amaze me.

TWO: I suppose you’ve heard by now that after the game Lebron stormed off the court, didn’t shake his opponent’s hands (Isiah Thomas anyone?) quickly got changed and jumped on the team bus – skipping the media press conference that I thought was compulsory (I’m told he might get fined for this). Some say it looked like he was fleeing the scene of a crime, some called it “crybaby stuff“. I’ll echo the comments I left on a message board a couple of hours ago: The fact he didn’t shake anyone’s hand or address the media is extremely lame, unprofessional and a little classless. I know he’s majorly pissed off and upset with his teammates, but he’s their leader. It’s important he sets the right tone and says the right things by the team after the game. At least to congratulate the Magic, and to thank all the Cleveland fans.

Face the music Lebron. All true superstars do. I remember Larry Bird, almost in tears after a Finals loss to LA, sighing heavily and admitting “Magic’s just the greatest”. I think it would be good for your education Lebron to add a little more humility to your game. A losing press conference is part of that process.

UPDATE: Lebron finally speaks. “If someone beats you up, you’re not going to congratulate them”. Wow. A true sportsman.

THREE: I don’t know if anyone has drawn parallels to this game and Kobe’s Game 7 against Phoenix in 2006, so maybe I’ll be the first. Obviously the stakes were different – first round vs the third round, Game 6 vs Game 7. But the main similarities are there: the two unstoppable superstars (Kobe and Lebron) curiously shrinking down the stretch of an elimination game, failing to carry their teams to the MJ-like levels we expected of them. In the second half of that Suns game, with the deficit at 20+ points, Kobe mysteriously decided to stop shooting, almost as if to prove the team could not win without his massive input. Lebron’s disappearance today wasn’t as obvious, but it’s hard to deny he served up his worst game of the playoffs when it mattered most. I was screaming for Lebron to take over this game – there was no reason he couldn’t have dropped 40-45 points if he forced it. Hell, that’s what he’d been averaging all series. But he didn’t. Even my dad, who follows the NBA distantly at best, was perplexed by Lebron when I spoke to him this afternoon. “He looked like he wasn’t even trying” he told me. It was hard to disagree. Lebron played so passively in this game, doing the credible thing early by trying to get his teammates off, but at some point he had to flick the switch. But as the game went on, he got worse. He missed free-throws, he clanked threes, and he finished with the second worst +/- differential on his team. How on earth does that happen to Lebron James? Once the dust has settled, I’ll have plenty more to say about Lebron, his legacy, his teammates and his future. But right now, I feel like he cheated on me.

Side note: My dad also spent five minutes raving about Dwight Howard (it was the first time he’d ever watched him play), pointing at the kitchen fridge and the ceiling making analogies about Dwight being bigger than any appliance in the house. He couldn’t believe it. That a guy could be that big, that sculpted, that athletic. He kept shaking his head and holding his hands up, as if he wanted some answers from me. “He’s a big unit… he’s a freak” was all I could say. But I think we lose sight of what a freak he truly is to the unfamiliar eye.

FOUR: While we’re on the topic of Cleveland bashing, here is a rather amusing YouTube clip I came across today, known as the “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video“. Kick them while they’re down, eh?

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

FIVE: So what are Nike going to do with those Kobe-Lebron puppet ads? Stop airing them? Do they have plenty more they haven’t yet shown? Do they get shelved for next season? My tip is we’ll get an Adidas spin-off ad with a Dwight puppet beating the shit out of Lebron sometime soon. For now, enjoy these.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Kobe and Lebron – Mrs Lewis

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Kobe and Lebron – Lil Dez

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Kobe and Lebron – Car Jump

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Kobe and Lebron – Do SportsCenter

SIX: On the NBA Draft front, JR On Fire put together this great post with news on Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, mixed in with some other local basketball news. Check it out.

UPDATE: “Australia’s Patrick Mills also turned some heads with his speed. It will be interesting to see who wins the three-quarter sprint drill on Friday. Mills, Collison and Lawson are the likeliest contenders for the fastest player in the draft — all three guys are a blur.” via ESPN (thanks to Chucko for the heads up)

UPDATE: Nice little piece on Joe Ingles, who has nice things to say about the Spurs (cheers to Furious O for the link)

As for the NBA Finals on Australian TV, I’m a little confused. According to Foxtel’s guide, it appears ESPN will be getting the games. But watching Ten One today, their commercials indicated they would be showing it. Maybe both are? The Ten One guide hasn’t been released yet, so as for now here are the Finals games being shown on ESPN on Foxtel:

Game 1 – Friday 5th June, 11:00am
Game 2  – Monday 8th June, 10:00am (thank you Queens Birthday!)
Game 3 – Wednesday 10th June, 11:00am
Game 4 – Friday 12th June, 11:00am

I’ll update the schedule in the sidebar as the times are released, and we’ll keep an eye on what Ten One are planning to show.

Coming to NBAMate in the next four days: NBA Finals Preview, a look at Opposite Day in the NBA, and another competition give-away. Stay tuned!

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