It's a tough call. Which do you prefer: Cutting a check to Uncle Sam or trying to figure out a way to stomach the Eastern Conference playoffs?
I can only imagine what the NBA's TV guys are doing now that the pairings are out and the suspense is over. They must be wondering if there's some loophole in the TV contracts that allows them not to have to televise any series that doesn't have Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter or the rowdy Atlanta Hawks' fans. Or one that prohibits them from televising any series that has Tim Floyd or Lenny Wilkens.
Is there a public access station somewhere that might bid on Boston-Indiana? Or Miami-New Orleans? It's a tough call. But, as Jim O'Brien liked to say, "It is what it is."
And what it is, hoopheads, is uninspiring. At least for now. There's certainly the possibility for intrigue and mayhem in the next round and the round after that. But, right now, we have four playoff series starting up this weekend in the East and one of them, maybe, measures as compelling drama. But the problem with the New York-New Jersey matchup is that no one on the West side of the Hudson really cares about the Nets and no one on the East side of the Hudson honestly thinks the Knicks are any good anyway.
Generally at this time of year, you want to see the stars. You should see the stars; their teams are usually in the playoffs. McGrady led the league in scoring and nearly single-handedly carried the Magic to a first-round upset of the Pistons last season. He's a spectator this time around. So, too, is the seat-filling Iverson, whose team imploded while he sat out games that had some of his teammates wondering just how much The Answer really wants to stick around Philadelphia.
The Raptors didn't make it last year, either, but Carter is an annual fan favorite (as we see in the All-Star balloting) who is capable of putting on a show. Those three -- Olympic qualifying team teammates last summer -- are arguably the three most dynamic players in the conference -- and they're on the outside looking in.
What do we have instead? We have the Metro New York championship and three series with the following tease: Where's the remote?
It's too bad, because the Western Conference playoffs -- where men are men -- all look to be pretty exciting. The No. 8 seed in the West, the Nuggets, has a rookie who has more star power than just about anyone in the East. You have some very intriguing matchups, starting with the newly crowned regular-season champion Timberwolves against those darlings from Denver.
Most of the big names in the West are playing, not watching. Shaq, Kobe, Tim Duncan, KG, C-Webb, Peja, 'Melo, Dirk, and Yao are all in the playoffs. (Apologies to whomever I may have left out.) Who's a big name who's not playing? Andrei Kirilenko, maybe? Zach Randolph? Elton Brand? You get the picture? If you want to see the stars and the compelling games, go West, young man.
But back to our favorite target, the East. Yes, Paul Pierce and Ricky Davis are around, although probably not for more than 10 days. You'll have to get used to seeing a lot of Jermaine O'Neal, Ron Artest, Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Jason Kidd if you're going to try to do the Job thing and stick with the East throughout.
Let's look at the first-round matchups and see if the blood rises.
No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 8 Boston. This was a 3-6 matchup last year and the Pacers' pathetic play eventually sealed Isiah Thomas' doom. Indy also lost Brad Miller and still never lost a step (sorry, but Scot Pollard just hasn't done it.) The Pacers remember the humiliation of losing to a team that basically did little else but shoot threes. OK, does that do it for you? Didn't think so. The Celtics, by the way, go into this series with the worst home record of a playoff team since the league went to an 82-game schedule in 1967.
No. 2 New Jersey vs. No. 7 New York. Again, outside of a 50-mile radius of New York, who really cares about this one? The Nets stumbled into the playoffs -- stumbled pretty badly -- but still are the No. 2 seed and should take care of the Knicks. Isiah rebuilt the Knicks with the specific purpose of getting to the playoffs and, on paper, he has a decent team. But no one seriously thinks this team has any chance of making a big run; there have been too many questionable losses and the Knicks need Allan Houston in a big way. This would be a fun series if either team were playing with any kind of flair or verve.
No. 3 Detroit vs. No. 6 Milwaukee. The Pistons are the hottest team in the conference -- and stultifying to watch. They don't just defend. They swarm. Even the Bad Boys under Chuck Daly scored regularly in triple figures. These guys won't hit triple figures -- total -- until the second quarter of the second game. But they win. So get used to them. And get used to it. The Bucks slid all the way to No. 6 by losing their last three, including a home loss on Wednesday to Toronto. (What were they thinking?) Yup, they're ready for the Pistons. The only way this series has any redeeming value is if the Pistons do the right thing and sweep.
No. 4 Miami vs. No. 5 New Orleans. Tim Floyd is fending off another rebellion as he goes into the postseason for the first time. The Hornets always seem to look to be better than they actually are. For them to finish at .500 is almost criminal -- and to think they won 45 games last year and Paul Silas got fired for that. New Orleans is in trouble, especially if Jamal Mashburn can't go. They're in trouble even if Mashburn can go. As for the Heat, they're everyone's favorite to be the team no one wants to play because they're playing pretty good (17-4 over the last 21.) But, really, outside of the locales involved -- and south Florida isn't exactly hoop heaven -- who has any passing interest in this one?
So, there you have it. A playoffs without stars. A playoff without points (or, at least, not a lot of them.) You want action, adventure, and marquee names? Stick with the West. Then again, that's where the action has been for the last six years and it doesn't look like anything is going to change in the next two months.
Peter May, who covers the NBA for the Boston Globe, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
Sure, the Western Conference playoffs may have more literal starpower than the East playoffs. But that's primarily due to the fact that Iverson, Carter and McGrady are stuck on crappy teams, while LeBron couldn't quite lead the Cavs in this year.
But starpower isn't everything. The East has some good matchups with teams that actually play team basketball, a concept that seems to have been lost recently on teams like the Kings and Mavericks, who are playing fantasy-league basketball. And even though the Rockets have my favorite non-Pacer, Yao Ming, playing for them, there's not enough team there to get past the Lakers. Oh, they'll give it their all, and they'll be pissed about the Game 2 blowout loss, but there's no suspense there.
The likely Spurs/Lakers second-round matchup, now that'll be interesting. And if the Kings and Timberwolves can both advance, that'll be fun to watch, too.
But who expected the Milwaukee Bucks, for example, to even sniff the playoffs this year? I think they've got a reasonably good chance of upsetting the Pistons-- heck, they beat us three times. Who expected Miami to get here? New York? Who expected the Pacers to win the regular-season championship? Not the Timberwolves, thank you very much, but the Pacers.
No one-- not the guys on ESPN, not the columnists, not the guys who put together the TV schedules, not the majority of NBA fans-- respects the Pacers. We won 13 more games than last year, and sewed up the best record in the NBA, after losing an All-Star center! Yet Coach Carlisle gets so little respect from the media, and the Pacers aren't respected, either.
But you know what? I'm actually OK with that. Because the '93-'94 Rockets weren't respected, either, and certainly no one expected them to win the NBA Championship. But they did. The following year they were the #6 seed, fell behind 2-0 in the first round and came back to win. They fell behind 3-1 in the second round and came back to win, and then stormed past the Spurs and Magic with a vengeance to win their second consecutive title. They shocked the world twice, and I think we can do the same thing. I'm channeling the '94-'95 Rockets for my inspiration this year.
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Eke I'll tell you the same thing I told my fellow Bucs fans before we won the Super Bowl. Dont worry about "respect." Just win, if your boys win thats all the respect you have to worry about. And the Media doesnt respect anyone but the Lakers. I swear they could come into the playoffs and 8th seed with a 10 game losing streak, with Shaq and Kobe on the DL and people would still pick them. It makes me want to throw up.
Im pulling for your Pacers too, I really want Reggie Miller to have his title. I became a fan after THE Game Five. You know the one Im sure
And dont forget the 93-94 Rockets started that season 22-1.
"I want what you want. Yes, that's it Mr. Anderson. Look past the flesh, look through the soft gelatin of these dull cow eyes and see your enemy."
Originally posted by ekedolphinthe best record in the NBA, after losing an All-Star center!
Because the '93-'94 Rockets weren't respected, either, and certainly no one expected them to win the NBA Championship.
Why did the 93-94 Rockets win? They KEPT their All-Star centre. Not saying the Pacers can't win, but it's damn hard without someone to match up Shaq or Tim or KG.
I'm pretty sure Jermaine O'Neal can match up with KG decently, they both have similar games. It's the other two, more classic, big men I'd worry about.
(Not Bob Kohm)
In the context of baseball, the use of drugs hurts only the player. In the context of baseball, the use of alcohol hurts only the player. In the context of baseball, womanizing hurts whom? Maybe the wife of the player? In the context of baseball, felonies are crimes against society, not against baseball. In the context of baseball, gambling is the only crime against baseball.
Gambling, in the context of baseball, is a capital offense and Rose has richly earned-- hell, he agreed to-- his death sentence. Let him hang.
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