NBA.com hosted a roundtable discussion (hosted by NBA TV's Bruce Beck) with four members of the National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA) -- the Knicks' Don Chaney, the Warriors' Eric Musselman, the Cavaliers' Keith Smart, and ex-Clippers coach Alvin Gentry -- on Thursday to break down NBA Playoffs 2003. Here's what they had to say about all eight series, who will win the NBA Finals, and a few other things as well.
San Antonio (1) vs. Phoenix (8)
San Antonio will win this series, because they're on a mission. You talk about team chemistry and continuity, and they have it. Phoenix is excited to be in the playoffs, but they may just be excited to be there. The Spurs' size is going to be a big factor. How do you deal with Tim Duncan? And Tony Parker is pushing the ball very well. Plus, the three-point shooting of players like Stephen Jackson and Bruce Bowen is also a big plus. I think it's going to be a short series. Phoenix doesn't have enough to deal with the way the Spurs can score, which is both inside and out.
Opinions and Predictions
If you were GM, who's your playoffs coach? Paul Silas. He has the demeanor, he's been there as a player and a coach, and he can adjust to a series. He doesn't get any credit whatsoever, and he's done a great job the last couple of years.
MVP of the regular season? Kevin Garnett. He's done a great job of carrying that team.
Intangibles for winning a title? Solid halfcourt defense, a great bench, and player that demands a double-team.
Finals predictions? New Jersey in the East, the Lakers in the West, and the Lakers to win it all.
If you were GM, who's your playoffs coach? Larry Brown. There's never any panic in Brown's actions, and that relaxes players.
MVP of the regular season? Shaq until someone defeats the Lakers. It's like MJ with the Bulls; we know what kind of team the Lakers are without him.
Intangibles for winning a title? The bench becomes huge. Adjust to what happens in the first few games.
Finals predictions? Detroit in the East, if Ben Wallace is healthy. The Lakers will win the West, and win it all.
If you were GM, who's your playoffs coach? Larry Brown, because of his experience, his demeanor, he's a great teacher and he makes adjustments during a series as well as anyone.
MVP of the regular season? Kevin Garnett. They have nice role players, but for them to win 50 games, he's the MVP.
Intangibles for winning a title? No injuries, good chemistry, and still believing when you get behind.
Finals predictions? Indiana in the East, the Lakers in the West, Lakers to win it all. It won't be a decent Finals. You could take the fourth seed in the West and they could go over to the East and win it.
If you were GM, who's your playoffs coach? Larry Brown. He preaches defense, and gets his players to buy into it.
MVP of the regular season? Shaq. Kobe played well, but they didn't make a huge jump until Shaq arrived.
Intangibles for winning a title? The "unknown" players have to show up.
Finals predictions? Philly will come out of the East. Defense will carry them. The Lakers will win the West, and the Finals.
Sacramento (2) vs. Utah (7)
Obviously, you love Utah. They're the epitome of the way the game should be played. But they don't quite have enough firepower to deal with the Kings. Chris Webber is an extremely tough matchup, even for a guy like Karl Malone, and having Mike Bibby back means they'll really get out and run. I think it'll be an interesting series -- don't underestimate Utah -- but I just don't think the Jazz have enough to beat Sacramento.
Don Chaney: The Kings tasted what it feels like to come close last year. I think they're determined to get to the Finals this year. You can't beat experience, and they know what it takes to play in a big game.
Dallas (3) vs. Portland (6)
I like Portland to win this series. They're a deep team, and they've got toughness. Look at a player like Zach Randolph, who will give them added lift. His development has been quicker than most people expected. Plus, Scottie Pippen is back. His ability to shut people down at the two or the three is a huge plus. They can probably create post-up situations with Pippen against Steve Nash.
Gentry: Dallas has kind of lost some of their offensive explosiveness. Steve Nash has seemed to slow down a little bit. I think they need Michael Finley back to make any kind of run at it. But, ultimately, defense is the key for them. At their practice facility, they have something up that says they gave up 217 layups in the Kings series last year as a reminder to what's vital for their success.
Minnesota (4) vs. L.A. Lakers (5)
I think this will be a long series. When you're talking about the Lakers, you have to start with all of that experience and momentum. Plus, Shaq and Kobe have a lot to prove. They won't allow L.A. to lose that series. Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak are very good players, but when you combine the two -- Kobe and Shaq -- they're not going to allow themselves to lose.
Detroit (1) vs. Orlando (8)
Ben Wallace controls their future. If he plays, then Detroit will control the game. If he doesn't play, then Orlando has a shot at winning the series. I also think Corliss Williamson is a bigger factor than given credit for. He's a huge problem for most teams. You can't put a small on him, and you can't put a big on him.
New Jersey (2) vs. Milwaukee (7)
I think Rodney Rogers could play a bigger part in the Nets' first-round series than Dikembe Mutombo. Rogers creates mismatch problems, because he can post up and shoot from the perimeter. Controlling the glass is also very important in this series. If the Nets dominate the glass, then they have a great shot. This means guys like Kenyon Martin become vital.
Chaney: This could be a dangerous series for the Nets. It depends on two things: if Milwaukee scores in a manner they're capable of, and if the Nets get back on track. Kidd will play his game, but the other players need to get on track. But, I pick New Jersey to win this series. They're due to get back on track.
Indiana (3) vs. Boston (6)
I think Indiana will pull this out. It won't be a long series. I think Indy will put it together. They had a lot of things going on this season, but I think they're refocused now and playing with a full team. Ron Artest has been solid as of late, which is key because he'll be guarding one of the Celtics' big two -- Paul Pierce or Antoine Walker.
Musselman: The one thing is that Indiana is so good at home. On the road, it's a different story. That comes with having a lot of young players. It'll be interesting to see how their young nucleus reacts now that the stakes are higher.
Gentry: I think the problems for Indiana have come at point guard. Timmy (Hardaway) had a phenomenal first game, but I'm not sure he has enough in the tank to get them over the hump. Jamaal Tinsley has to be the guy. Tinsley is a point guard who can't shoot the outside shot, so teams drop off him so much that they take away his penetration. Without Tinsley playing well, I see them struggling. Boston will give them all kinds of trouble in that series.
Philadelphia (4) vs. New Orleans (5)
I'm neutral on this series. Either team could win; it's too tough to call.
Musselman: New Orleans in seven.
Gentry: This is the most compelling series. The Hornets have been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team, but now they're back to playing well. But I'm not sure if anyone in the league can match up with Allen Iverson. He's the biggest competitor in the league. The toughest matchup for Philly is Jamal Mashburn. Who's going to slow him down? I think it's the one series in the first round that could go seven games.