Since all of you guys were slacking with respect to creating a fanpost for this (shame on you - you know who you are), I have taken it upon myself to create this thread for us to make our predictions. I will use the same format that was brilliantly constructed by a person of great ken and perspicuity, and actually plagiarize portions of his inimitable work by method of cut and paste.
Here's how to play: Choose the winner of each series and the number of games each series will last. You will be awarded 2 points for each correct series winner and 1 point for correctly guessing the number of games. For example (these are my picks):
OKC over Houston, 4-0
Lakers over Spurs, 4-2
Denver over Golden St., 4-2
Memphis over Clippers, 4-2
Denver over Lakers, 4-2
OKC over Memphis, 4-1
OKC over Denver, 4-2
Miami over Milwaukee, 4-0
Knicks over Boston, 4-1
Indiana over Atlanta, 4-1
Chicago over Brooklyn, 4-2
Miami over Chicago, 4-2
Knicks over Pacers, 4-3
Miami over Knicks, 4-2
OKC over Miami, 4-2
Point totals will be displayed after each round and the story will be front paged as the results are updated. Please omit the spaces between your picks in order to truncate the comments section. Make sure to be pellucid with your picks. Ambiguous entries may be disqualified. No entries will be accepted after tip off of the first game tomorrow (Saturday 4/20).
Good luck everybody. You'll need it to depose last year's victor. Me.
On the day that other coaches were fired, including Lawrence Frank and Byron Scott (as well as Doug Collins already being out), the Suns coach was still taking questions and waiting for answers.
The mood was tentative and somber. The usually affable but sometimes combative coach was open and honest about his situation, giving media the sense that he knew this could be his last media session. At one point about ten minutes into the session, PR director Julie Fie tried to steer media away from asking Hunter question after question on his job status, but he answered every question anyway.
"I enjoyed it. I learned a lot," he said of the experience this season. "Very valuable to me getting the experience. Although we didn't win as much as I would have liked, I think there are a lot of positives that happened during my tenure here.
"And I'm just looking for the next step now."
He was asked further about that next step, and offered a candid response.
"Well, I'm going to relax a little bit," he said. "Go watch some AAU basketball, coach my kids and wait and see."
Has heard anything from Lon or Lance yet on his future? "None at all."
Then he put on the tougher facade you have to put on when your future is at someone else's mercy.
"I'm not even really pressed to think about that," he said. "I'll be constantly putting things together, my thoughts and things on paper. Just the typical basketball summer. I don't feel any urgency at all. I trust that they know what they're doing upstairs. They'll make the decision when they feel they need to."
Hunter does not know what criteria will be used when considering his performance, but he hopes it's not just wins and losses. Alvin Gentry was fired for going 13-28 with this club. Hunter was 12-29.
"It better be a lot of it!" he said, to a lot of chuckles. "If it's just wins and losses, I don't have a chance."
Then, as is Hunter's way, he followed the quip with a more complete, yet less complete, answer.
"I'm really not worried about that part of it," he said. "Whatever is supposed to happen, will happen. It's a hard question for me to answer. I'm not the guy making the decision."
Hunter has come to the point where it's okay to admit how far he had to come as a coach, from the first game where he didn't even call a single offensive play.
"I went from not holding the clipboard at all to totally taking over at the end, so that's a big jump," he admitted. "I think throughout the losing, that made my stomach sick at night but I enjoyed the coaching. That's what I do."
Point guard Goran Dragic said Hunter still has a lot further to go in the play calling area.
"We only had two, three actions," Dragic said of the difference between Hunter and Alvin Gentry. "Teams would scout us and make it difficult to run those actions. Alvin always had a play he could draw up to get a good shot."
As far as positives go, Hunter cited the development of three of the younger rotation players.
"Hopefully for the future this will be a step forward in their careers," he said. "Wes Johnson, and Kendall [Marshall] and Markieff [Morris]. Those guys really got a chance to play some meaningful minutes. Those are the small victories."
Hunter's biggest problem may have been not having strong-minded veterans on the team to keep the young guys focused. As a rookie head coach, you're already behind the 8-ball when it comes to respect. If none of the vets are the type to influence the young guys, then you've got nothing.
Marcin Gortat talked of this deficiency (not leaving himself out), and Hunter mentioned that's an area Dragic could develop further.
"That's something he realizes he needs to work on," Hunter said. "He's such a fiery natured tough kid that he often exploded instead of talking through things, and that's part of maturing."
Hunter talked of needing balance on the team, in terms of personality as well as talent. The Suns had none of that this year.
"I've learned to be careful with that," he said. "In the beginning as a young guy, I would always want guys like myself. But you can't have a whole team of rowdy, defensive rough necks. They wouldn't score but 60 points a game, but they'd be good defensively.
"You can't have a bunch of guys out there that's ready to fight every night. It a mix and match. I've learned that. Somebody has to put the ball in the hole."
He also realizes that a set rotation is the real need for a team to be successful, but that you can't just name a rotation for the sake of it.
"You always want a definitive rotation so guys know what is going on," he said. "In the situation we were in, it was tough because we weren't consistently playing well. And when you're not consistently playing well you try to find combinations of guys that can. And unfortunately we were doing that quite a bit. It kind of goes hand in hand. If you think you've got five guys who can consistently get a win, you go with that. We were searching."
At the end of the conference, Lindsey said goodbye.
"Thanks ladies and gentlemen," he said. "Maybe I'll see you, maybe I won't."
He started simply enough, like everyone else has done.
"I think we need some changes," he said regarding what's missing from the team. "We need some serious conversations. First of all, I'm going to look at myself. Hopefully the management and personnel guys will do the right thing."
And then Marcin got on a roll and let it all out.
"We are missing character," he said. "We are missing strong minds in the team. We are just weak mentally. I would say that we need more talent, more athletic energetic guys, people who want to compete and fight. That's the most important thing."
Asked more about the origin of character, whether the coaches can bring it out of guys, he agreed only slightly.
"It has to come out of the players," he replied. "The coach is someone who can pull that out of the player in certain situations, but it all comes from the players. If you don't feel that you've got to work, if you feel comfortable that someone's coming into your house and punking your ass by 30 points every night it's just not right. It's just not right.
"I've been in the league 6 years and it's never been like that," he continued. "I've seen people acting tough in the locker room, acting tough going to the club, and when they were going to the court they were ripping peoples' head off. We got a different situation here. We just got to be tougher with everything we do, including me. Starting with me. I got to be tougher, do everything 100% better.
"I never want to be in a situation like that the rest of my life. It was just so uncomfortable, crazy season. Nobody wants to have a season like that again."
Asked whether Lindsey Hunter was part of the problem or the solution, Marcin Gortat came to the defense of his rookie coach.
"I think he did a pretty good job," Gortat said of Hunter. "He got put in a difficult situation, an uncomfortable situation. The team lost a lot of games and all of a sudden he's the head coach. I don't think he was expecting that and then all of a sudden the whole pressure fall on his shoulders. He tried to keep the discipline better than Alvin."
Gortat put even more color into his description of the season with an example.
"We had this one situation in a game where players were saying they were confused," Gortat said. "The one thing that coach was asking was to play hard. And people say they were confused. I don't understand what's confusing about playing hard."
Several veteran players this season made reference to others not playing hard in a game, and we saw a handful of timeout huddles where players and coaches were going after each other. It could be they were discussing how confused they were, or it could be guys getting on one another about effort.
"I learned from a great great coach, Stan Van Gundy," Gortat said. "I learned one thing it doesn't matter what going on around, you got to come out every single night. If you don't do that, there's a 1000 kids behind you ready to get your spot.
"I think we had this little bond, me and Lindsey, we understood each other on a lot of different levels. Unfortunately we had a lot of young guys that didn't understand."
One more dig...
"These young guys, they just think they're better than they really are."
Stay you, Marcin. I had forgotten how much I appreciated Gortat's interviews. He is refreshingly honest about his thoughts and feelings, unburdened by filters. He may be wrong sometimes. He may be wrong a lot. But he's not passive when it comes to the media.
You could say it was Gortat's job to be the veteran who got in the kids' faces and required them to stop fooling around and pay attention, and you'd be right. I'm not sure Gortat sees himself in that role. He was asked if he or any other veterans acted as an enforcer.
"We did," he said, after a rare moment of hesitation. "I try, at least, to approach guys during the season. I don't think I have that impact yet, only 6 years in the league."
He talked of Jermaine O'Neal's influence, but that the guys just weren't listening.
"I don't know. I checked out 6 weeks ago," he answered when asked if Hunter was getting guys to listen more by the end of the year. "I didn't even travel with the team the last two trips. A lot of meetings and talking happens on the road."
So, Gortat wasn't the problem but neither was he the solution.
"The whole season wasn't pretty," he concluded. "No one wants that situation any more. There's a lot of different issues."