Finals Freestyle

By Justin Cherot

By this time tomorrow, I’ll be waiting to board a plane headed to Disney World (which reminds me: I should shave just to avoid “random” searches).  That basically means I’ll be far too absorbed in the whole Mickey experience to break down the finals anytime in the next six days. 

So, in essence, even though the game is a day and a half away from tip, it’s officially crunch time for PnP.

I was trying to think of an interesting way to preview the finals, because you can go literally ANYWHERE to read a finals preview.  As a matter of fact, you can go here, here, or here for your typical NBA Finals preview and probably be pretty happy.  Incidentally, I got the idea for this post from following Minnesota Timberwolves’ point guard Jonny Flynn on Twitter, who a couple days ago was comparing players relative skill levels to rappers.  Actually, if I recall, Colin kind of planted the idea in my head last year when he did those NFL divisional previews and related them to song lyrics.  In other words, I’m swagger-jackin’.

Whether conservative fans like it or not, hip-hop is a big part of basketball for better or worse.  So why not breakdown the individual match-ups, comparing each player to an MC and matching them up against each other?  As Fabolous would say, “Niiiiiice.”

POINT GUARD

Rajon Rondo (Lupe Fiasco)

Rajon Rondo

vs.

Derek Fisher (Fat Joe)

Derek Fisher

It’s been quite a ride for Rondo since the 2008 championship.  If you remember during that title run, Doc Rivers would essentially flip a coin before the beginning of each fourth quarter: heads, Rondo plays; tails, go with Eddie House or Sam Cassell.  Because of his horrible shooting, it was a weighted coin that saw Rondo sitting during many crunch time possessions.  Now?  It doesn’t even matter how hot Nate Robinson gets (and he was NUCLEAR in Game 6 against the Magic): Rondo isn’t sitting, because you can’t keep your best player on the bench in crucial moments.  Not if you want to stay employed as an NBA coach.  The reason I compare Rondo to Lupe is because they should both at least be in the conversation as the best at their crafts: Rondo as one of the top five point guards in the league, and Fiasco as one of the top five MCs.  Easy.  And, in all honesty, some people could argue them as the best.  Period.

The parallel between Fisher and Fat Joe is that at times they leave a lot to be desired with their respective fan bases, but in reality you can do much worse, and at times they’ll even surprise you.  While it’s true that Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and Steve Nash have gotten the best of Fisher during the postseason, they haven’t exactly dominated.  He’s held his own by being an absolute pest defensively and making timely clutch shots.  Fat Joe doesn’t have a stellar, five-mic album under his belt, but you’d be lying if you said you’ve never at least nodded your head rhythmically to “Lean Back.”

Edge: Rondo, big   

SHOOTING GUARD

Ray Allen (Busta Rhymes)

Ray Allen

vs.

Kobe Bryant (Jay-Z)

Kobe Bryant

First off, I don’t want people to take this the wrong way.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Allen or Busta.  Allen, in my opinion, is the best pure shooter in NBA history.  The numbers back this up: despite the degree of difficulty and the VOLUME of shots over the years, he’s shooting just a shade under 40% for his career.  As for Busta, rarely has he made an album that didn’t have at least one banger on it that made you want to crank the bass up until your windows crack.  Plus, like Allen, he’s re-invented himself, going from a spastic rhymer who would be loud just to get your attention to a rapper with the versatility to play with timbres and tone.  Genius.

"Show me what you got, Black Mamba!" gossiponthis.com

But let’s be real.  Even people who absolutely hate on Kobe or Jay have to admit that nobody really comes close in their respective industries.  It’s gotten to the point where they’re mentioned in the same breath as the legends.  Kobe, Jordan.  Jay, Rakim.  Amazing parallels there.  People absolutely bring it against them, on the court or lyrically, but neither one can be bodied.  I mean, did you SEE some of those shots in Game 6? 

(shout to Liorikz)

Edge: Bryant, big

SMALL FORWARD

Paul Pierce (Common)

Paul Pierce

vs.

Ron Artest (Cam’Ron)   

Ron Artest 

Pierce has been one of the most under-appreciated stars of this generation, but much like Common, thanks to recent success, people are finally starting to appreciate him.  Maybe the reason why people were so slow to buy in to Pierce is because of his unorthodox style of play.  It never really looks pretty and it always seems like he’s off-balance (he wouldn’t last a day as a waiter), but Pierce gets it done.  A baller’s baller, much like Common is a rapper’s rapper.  “Be” is probably one of my top five favorite albums of all-time, and many critics don’t even think that’s his best work.

Artest probably wanted me to say Nas or Nature or somebody from QUEENSBRIDGE (!!!), but really I think his style mimics Cam.  Why?  Because both of them can loaf through the majority of a track or a game, and then, out of nowhere, they say or do something amazing that will basically trump everything you’ve seen or heard.  Artest is basically the wild card in this series because he can win or lose a game or two by himself. 

Edge: Pierce, surprisingly close

POWER FORWARD

Kevin Garnett (Eminem)

Kevin Garnett

vs.

Pau Gasol (Fabolous)

Pau Gasol

By the way, shame on anyone who scoffs at the thought of KG as Eminem and Pau as Fabolous simply because KG is black and Pau is a Spaniard.  How dare you!

Seriously though, am I the only one who thought KG was way past his prime?  He might still be, but while he hasn’t dominated these playoffs in 25-12-5 fashion, he’s been that defensive anchor that the Celts have needed.  Plus, every now and then he’s good for a lift offensively.  Eminem might not be as lyrically motivated as he was while recording the Slim Shady LP, and Encore might have been, um, forced, but he came back with strong enough with Relapse to make people realize that Em is still a force to be reckoned with.

Now, why do I compare Pau to Fab, hip-hop heads and basketball junkies ask?  Simple: Fab comes HARD on every mixtape track he puts out.  Kills it.  Just listen to The Wake.  However, I always tell my friends that I can never buy or listen to a whole album of his.  It ends up being more about the ladies than us fellas.  While it’s true Gasol helped the Lakers to a title last season, he hasn’t put that “I”m the best interior player in the league” stamp on any crucial postseason games yet.  On talent alone, Gasol should win this match-up, and if he does it will go a long way in determining a title.  But, for now, when the chips are down, I’ll take Garnett anyday.

Edge: Garnett, close

CENTER

Kendrick Perkins (Young Jeezy)

Kendrick Perkins

vs.

Andrew Bynum (Juelz Santana)

Let me start off by saying I’m not a huge Jeezy fan, but I do admit that he has a place in hip-hop.  He won’t dazzle you lyrically, but he’s not a track killer either… as in, if I see his name as a featured artist on a track, I won’t skip it (except for his cameo on Jay’s album, I’ve never gotten into it).  He just gets it in, kind of like Perkins.  He’s a big reason why the Lakers aren’t matched up against Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic for the next two weeks.  The NBA is a better place with Perkins in it.

I don’t know what it is about Bynum.  Maybe he can’t catch a break with his injuries.  Maybe he doesn’t want it bad enough.  15 and eight is better than any center not named Dwight, Brook or Yao (assuming he plays again).  I just feel that he should be better at this point in his career, which may be harsh considering that Bynum is only 22.  When I first heard Santana, I thought, “Sure, this kid is raw right now, but I can’t wait to hear him in four years.”  Obviously, it’s been more time than that for Santana, but after two decent but not earth-shattering albums, he’s basically still the same guy.  Especially considering that Bynum is hurt, I have to give the edge to Perkins… despite my soft spot for anything Santana related.

Edge: Perkins, close.

Andrew Bynum   

*********************************************************************************************************

That’s five positions, four edges going to the Celtics.  And honestly, if I was going to do a full-blown bench on bench preview, the Celts bench is like the Wu (deeper than the 36 chambers) and the Lakers bench is like Dipset (top-heavy and overrated, even without Cam)  So, why are the Lakers going to win in six games? 

Legacy.  Phil Jackson, although his is clearly established, can add another chip to make his critics completely shut up.  And then there’s Kobe.

As if the best player in the world needed anymore fuel added to the fire, the Celtics have a chance to send him home from the finals empty-handed for the second time in three years.  Oh, and if Boston wins, they can also say, “We haven’t lost a series with a healthy KG.”

In other words, it’s like Jay-Z: “Ether” made him hungry, and he’s been a different rapper ever since.    

For the exact same reason no one can touch Jay right now.

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