The First Word on the NBA Playoffs - NFL Draft Offensive Tackles

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THE NBA REPORT - THE FIRST WORD ON WHAT'S STRAIGHT AHEAD IN THIS YEAR'S HOOP PLAYOFFS ...

EXTRA, EXTRA: MORE NFL DRAFT NEWS AS WE TAKE A MOMENT TO EXAMINE THE TOP OTs

By Jim Hurley:

It's that time of the year again - time to begin the two-month (or so) search to find out who's the best in the NBA and this year it's a real "anything goes" scenario.

Hey, the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers have not exactly lit the world on fire these past couple of weeks while there's major concerns with just how much gas is in the tank of the veteran-laden Boston Celtics - so don't necessarily think these two legendary NBA teams will be squaring off for a third time in four years come the NBA Finals in June.

Lots to say from this point forward regarding the pro hoopsters from coast-to-coast and we'll get in the "first word" with playoff previews and analyses in the days and weeks ahead ... got it?

And now hear this:  Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA and Major-League Baseball Winners each and every day when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here: Check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for weekday afternoon Baseball; after 1 p.m. ET for all weeknight NBA & MLB games; and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays. Extra, extra: The NBA Playoffs will swing into action this Saturday afternoon - please make sure you're all signed up for the whole hoops post-season with our NBA PLAYOFF PACKAGE. Just talk to Jim or one of his service representatives today!

 

THE NBA PLAYOFF REPORT

Okay, so here's the skinny from this l'il corner of the world: Our next Jim Sez column will preview all the NBA Playoff series that begin this Saturday and than the ensuing Jim Sez column will preview the remaining playoff series that get kick-started on Sunday, so make sure you're getting your daily dose of pro hoops right here and right throughout mid-to-late June.

Now, let's touch on some key topics/subjects as we draw nearer to the post-season:

GAME #1 ITSELF - Folks, don't let the so-called "experts" tell you that winning Game #1 in this first-round playoff series is so uber-important: The fact of the matter is last year NBA Playoff teams that won Game #1 of their opening-round series wound up going just 5-3 SU (straightup) in these series with Utah, San Antonio and Phoenix all dropping their playoff openers and yet still roaring back to win the series.

In short, the message out there for NBA Playoff teams is this:

The world doesn't come to an end if you lose Game #1 and - on many occasions - losing a playoff opener winds up being a "wake-up call" of sorts especially if you get squashed in that opener (see Utah's 126-113 loss in Denver and than the Jazz copped the best-of-seven series in six games ... so there!)

SOMETHING TO PROVE - One fascinating aspect of the NBA Playoffs is that many teams have a "chip on their shoulder" following playoff flame-outs a year ago and among the teams we're eyeballing here are the Eastern Conference regular-season champion Chicago Bulls and the Dallas Mavericks:

Chicago lost its first-round series a year ago to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers but what really irked those Bulls is that they lost 121-98 in Game 4 at home when looking to knot up that series at two games apiece;

Dallas, meanwhile, was a -175-to-$100 betting favorite to dispose of its archrivals from San Antonio a year ago but instead the Mavericks lost the series in six games and that included a 14-point home loss in Game 2 and a humbling 10-point series-ending road loss in Game 6.

Now, wouldn't it be something if we wound up with a Bulls-Mavs showdown in the NBA Finals ... could happen!

THE HEAD COACHES FEELING THE HEAT - Hey, let's start out with the Miami Heat coach who's feeling the heat as Erik Spoelstra has been hearing the rumblings all year long that his club needs "better leadership" at the top and now the time is here for Spoelstra to prove he belongs as the boss-man of folks like the aforementioned James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh ... anything less than an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals will be considered a major flop, trust us!

Then there's Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle who is generally considered one of the best bench coaches in the league but if the Mavs don't make a mighty run for all the marbles this year you can bet your bottom dollar than Dallas owner Mark Cuban will be considering a change.

No doubt there is pressure on every head coach in this year's NBA Playoffs - just a little bit more pressure than usual has been heaped on Spoelstra and Carlisle.
 

THE NFL DRAFT: THE TOP OFFENSIVE TACKLES

Editor's Note: We will continue with our complete and daily Position-by-Position coverage of the NFL Draft (April 28-29-30) right here and it's all capped off by our annual Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft which will be posted on this website on Wednesday, April 27th: Now, here's a look at the draft's top Offensive Tackles:

TYRON SMITH, OT, USC - No question that this 6-foot-5, 307-pounder wowed pro scouts at USC's pro day earlier this month and that's now set up the Trojans' blocker as a potential top 10 pick in the upcoming draft. Smith started the past two seasons at right tackle and he sports great size and agility and so it's expected the transition to LT won't be so tough. P.S., note that USC quarterbacks were sacked just 18 times all year, thus ranking 'em among the top 30 in the country. The 20-year-old Smith could get nabbed at #9 by the Dallas Cowboys.

ANTHONY CASTONZO, OT, Boston College - This monstrous blocker (see 6-foot-7, 311 pounds) was a three-year starter at left tackle at BC and he helped the Eagles' always-strong ground game crank out big rushing totals the past few seasons. If Castonzo has any critics it's that he may not be athletic enough to play LT in the NFL although he's a quick study and figures to grow even stronger in the weight room. He could be an ideal fit with the New York Giants with the 19th overall choice.

GABE CARIMI, OT, Wisconsin - This Big 10 school cranks out mammoth O-linemen like a proverbial assembly line and this 6-foot-7, 315-pounder is the latest to come from cheese country. The word is Carimi - who copped the Outland Trophy in 2010 -- doesn't at all lack for confidence (he firmly believes he's the best blocker in this draft) and his ability to hold off quicker/smaller defensive ends in college has NFL folks believing he's athletic enough to step in right away and land a left tackle starting spot. The down side for Carimi is that he suffered a knee injury that kayoed him for three games back in 2008 and he may have been aided/abetted by a rock-solid Wisky offensive line that made everyone look like All-Americans. The Indianapolis Colts (pick #22) could be keen on Carimi.

NATE SOLDER, OT, Colorado - This Buena Vista (CA) kid is a giant at 6-foot-8, 320 pounds and most NFL scouts will describe him as being sleek and athletic and no doubt he's an iron-man too after playing all 847 offensive snaps for the 2010 Buffaloes. Solder - and it rhymes with Boulder - was selected as the team's Most Valuable Player last year and he was one of three finalists for the aforementioned Outland Trophy awarded to Wisconsin's Carimi. Generally considered a late first-round prospect, both the Colts at #22 and the New Orleans Saints at #24 could have major interest.

DEREK SHERROD, OT, Mississippi State - A three-year starter at left tackle for the M-State Bulldogs, the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Sherrod has played in 50 college games and has shown big-time improvement along the way and figures to be a late first-round pick with Chicago at #29 and the New York Jets at #30 both said to be eyeballing the former SEC star. Note that Sherrod last year helped Miss State finish first in the SEC in rushing (and ninth nationally) with a spiffy 227.6 yards-per-game rushing average.

NOTE: Our NBA Playoff First-Round coverage begins with the next edition of Jim Sez.

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