Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Final Conference

The NBA Playoffs are still moving onwards, and since I last waffled on about it a lot of things have changed!

I’ll start with the Western Conference, and last time I looked the San Antonio Spurs were about to be dropped out of the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies. Well the Spurs are usually a solid team and one that would perform well in the post-season; however they did fall by the wayside and were dropped out of the playoffs in spectacular fashion! Another team that I thought would do the business and make their way into the finals were the Los Angeles Lakers. However that idea couldn’t have been more wrong, as they were unceremoniously swept aside in 4 games by the Dallas Mavericks in the Conference Semi Finals!

Of course that put the Mavericks through to the Western Conference Finals, and their opponents are the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have gone past the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies in their playoff run. The series is currently tied at 1 game each, with the 3rd game taking place tonight in Oklahoma.

Over to the East and my Chicago Bulls have pounded their way through into the Conference Finals, where they are currently taking on the Miami Heat. Chicago didn’t have it easy during the semi finals against the Hawks, as Atlanta took it to 6 games with a couple of tough victories. Thankfully though the better team won through in the end, with the Bulls continuing to have their best season since the last championship in 1998. Miami made the Conference finals by getting past the Philadelphia 76ers and then the Boston Celtics.

This series is also tied at 1 game a piece, with the 3rd game due to take place on Sunday night in Miami (as Chicago had home court advantage being the number 1 seed). There is a bit of history between these two teams, especially going back to last summer when the free agency period was going on. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were three of the biggest free agents available in what was arguably the best free agent class in history, and Chicago had created salary cap room to sign one, if not two, of these guys and build a team around Derrick Rose. However “King” James chose to go to Miami, so Wade decided to remain there and Bosh went along for the ride. With that decision made, Chicago brought in Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and a couple of other guys to fill the team alongside mainstays Rose, Noah and Deng, and it has proved to be the right move so far.

To many Bulls fans a victory in this series against the Heat would be a bit of justice served, and personally I would love to see the Chicago Bulls make the NBA Finals at the expense of the Miami Heat! Plenty of basketball to be played yet, hopefully next time I bring it up we’ll be seeing the Bulls in their first finals since 1998!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Down In The Dumps

So that’s it, my beloved West Ham United have been condemned to at least a season in the Championship after being relegated from the Premiership this past weekend. It’s not as though we didn’t see it coming though, results this season have been shockingly poor, and most of the team have played poorly throughout the year. But no matter how predictable the end result was, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

It has been a disaster from start to finish, with the team giving us false hope at times with decent cup runs and some huge victories against teams like Tottenham and Liverpool. However it was the way the team repeatedly collapsed midway through games that led to our downfall, the sheer stupidity and bloody-mindedness of the tactics and player selection didn’t help either. The fans of this wonderful club had high hopes when the ownership hassle was finally resolved over a season ago, but since then mistakes have been made on many counts, no more so than with the appointment, and resultant backing of Avram Grant.

Grant managed a Portsmouth side that he kept rooted to the bottom of the table last season, and this year kept up the trend by keeping us down there. There was slim hope right up until yesterday, where a win would take it down to the final day of the season, however Grant must have put in one of his outstanding (by that I mean shit) team talks at half time and after being 2-0 up, we lost 3-2 which ended our season then and there.

With that, just over an hour after the final whistle Avram Grant was finally sacked as West Ham manager, a decision that has come far too late in the day. Fans were calling for his head back in December/January, at least then a new guy would have had time to do something about the situation, however nothing was done and we are now in the predicament we’re in. The players that did well for us this season will undoubtedly leave the club to greener pastures, guys like Scott Parker, Demba Ba and Thomas Hitzlsperger. And although some of the crap are now out of contract, we’ll surely be left with a few that we’ll be unable to offload no matter how we try.

Of course a lot of work lies ahead, a new manager has to be found, one that has a proven record and one that can do the job of getting us back into the top flight, and players need to be brought in who have the desire and passion to play for the club and get the job done. Names are already being thrown around as to who should take over, and already us fans are mostly voicing our displeasure at the favourites of McLaren and Warnock, neither of whom are held in especially high regard by us. Fan choices range from Chris Hughton, through Paulo Di Canio and Julian Dicks. Personally I think Hughton would do a great job, even more so with someone like Dicks or Di Canio alongside him.

I can’t deny that this feeling hurts like hell. I’ve been through relegation before following the Hammers, and it’s not gotten any easier. I had resigned myself to going down, but it was being given false hope that really twisted the knife in. I could have taken it if we had been soundly beaten yesterday, but by going 2-0 up and coming so close to taking it to the last day of the season, the Hammers continued to do as they have all season and put the fans emotions through the ringer. I hate it, I feel down and absolutely gutted by the whole thing. Summer won’t be easy, and honestly I am dreading next season.

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