Go JJ Barea, Eric Maynor and Z-Bo!

JJ Barea has a bright future with the Mavericks.

Written by

Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista

This year’s Western Conference Finals is the first time in 14 years which does not feature either the Lakers or Spurs. The defeat of those two teams especially of the Lakers means a lot of fresh new faces from teams NBA fans would hardly follow or hear about during the regular season. It doesn’t mean that these unsung heroes as they were work any less hard or are any less talented. In fact it’s quite the opposite, often they’ve had to battle harder to overcome even greater odds. If the Lakers weren’t swept, we may have to talk about Khloe (Kardashian) and Lamar’s (Odom) reality show affecting the Lakers’ performance.

JJ Barea

Number one on this list is J.J. Barea, the 5 feet 5 player from Puerto Rico has come up big for the Dallas Mavericks. Former Mavs coach Don Nelson and his staff are now praised for signing Barea after being undrafted in 2006. He was also part of the Puerto Rico National squad for the Central American and Caribbean Games that landed the silver medal. He has provided energy from his slashes to the basket and the timely treys enough to be a huge thorn on the side of the repeat champs during their series. And it wasn’t just the fact that the Mavs eliminated the Lakers, it was the manner with which they did it: a 4-0 sweep.

L.A.’s Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum were so frustrated they both took shots at Barea in different games. The hard fouls drew a lot of criticisms. Artest is 6’8, 260 lbs, he stretched out his arm that caught Barea on the neck and put him down. Gigantic Bynum (7 feet 285 lbs) elbowed Barea on the chest. A flagrant foul was called on Bynum and a suspension that will be imposed even up to next season. Bynum gave an apologetic tweet that Barea accepted. Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scotty Brooks laughed at the comparison Mavericks star Jason Kidd made with Barea and him as a player. Brooks conceded that Barea was a far better player than he was in his active years for the Houston Rockets.

Dwight Howard called James Harden ‘Baby Moses’ (in photo) during the Rookies game in this year’s All-Star Weekend.

Bench helps OKC even series 1-1

A lot was made by the media when starter Russell Westbrook sat out the entire 4th quarter. Westbrook tried to run a play at the end of the third quarter which resulted in a turnover. Almost no one gave credit to Eric Maynor who was played in his spot whom I thought did a better job passing. Brooks correctly believed that it was more important to maintain the ‘roll’ of keeping Mayor in the game. James Harden was white hot scoring off a four point play at the end of the 3rd and a fearless drive in lay up on Nowitzki in the 4th quarter.

OKC needs Collison's hustle and defense if they'll win against the Mavs.

The graphic showed the increased scoring from Harden, Cook, Maynor and Collision on game 2 as opposed to the loss from game one. Each of these four names is an unsung hero. James Harden benefited from the Jeff Green trade which allowed him to score more form that position. Who would’ve dreamed it would be Dallas vs OKC at the Western Conference Finals? Not me. Seeing vets like Nowitzki, Kidd and Marion go against a young, selfless team like the Thunder for me is really exciting. They’re SO hungry for a championship, neither team ever winning one. (For more on why I believe it’s better for the league click on this link)

OKC Bench from left, Eric Maynor, Daequan Cook and James Harden.

Zach Randolp, Z Bo for short has found a successful home in the Memphis Grizzlies.

Zach Radolph is Z-Bo

Zach Randolph has been around the block a few times now but was never really on a winning team, let alone a contender. His Memphis Grizzlies pushed OKC to a seven game series (the only one this year so far). His consistent scoring was always there but so was his immaturity and even brushes with the law. Ever since playing for the Grizzlies, he’s grown up and gotten his act together. But while Odom got a reality show with one of the Kardashians, Memphis games weren’t broadcast nationally until the playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs looked poised for another championship run. Z-Bo as Randolph is commonly known to fans and team mates was going up against Tim Duncan. Yes THAT Tim, with five championships and considered as one of the top power forwards of ALL TIME. The Spurs’ Tony Parker, a former all star was getting ready to dominate Michael Conley. The odds were stacked against them and yet the 8th seed Grizzlies eliminated the top seeded Spurs.

Udonis Haslem turned in an important game 2 conference finals game. He hadn’t scored since November because of his injury and difficulty in getting back to a talent laden line up.

Udonis Haslem

Don’t get me started with the Eastern Conference Finals, they too are rich with bench players making a difference for their teams. Udonis Haslem hasn’t scored since November of last year until inspiring his Heat teammates in a game 2 win against the Bulls. Greg Anthony said, “Haslem does all the dirty work that allows Le Bron be Le Bron and Bosh be Bosh.” What he means is that Haslem is able to rebound, defend and add that toughness that allows the big three to score because they’re not as tired doing everything else.

Miami Heat Owner Micky Arison gives Udonis Haslem a congratulatory hug after his comeback game 2 against the Bulls.

Bulls bench player Taj Gibson slams over super star Dwyane Wade. Usually it’s Wade who posterizes his opponents.

Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Omar Asik, CJ Watson and the whole Bulls bench 

Known as the Chicago bench mob these back ups give energy, scoring and defense in an otherwise one superstar show. The question is will they be enough to win against the Miami Heat?  Jordan had Pippen as another all star go to guy. Boozer has not exhibited the extra scoring that would alleviate the load from Derrick Rose. Again it’s going to be an exciting series. I love Kevin Garnett, The Truth, Rondo, Ray ray and even the Big Leprechaun: Shaquille  O’Neal.  I really don’t have anything against Kobe, Pau Gasol, Lamar and Fish. I just believe that it’s more exciting and better for the league if we see newer, fresher names holding the Larry O’Brien trophy in June. And maybe shine the limelight on other deserving players along the way.

Bulls bench player Taj Gibson slams over super star Dwyane Wade. Usually it’s Wade who posterizes his opponents.

Do you know an unsung player? Add his name by commenting and why you think he deserves more attention:

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