Friday, May 17, 2002

Dr. Jack provides his previews on both conference finals matchups, both Celtics vs. Nets and Lakers vs. Kings. In addition, Dr. Jack attempts to provide the Kings with some advice on how to go about dethroning the current 2-time champs... Frank Hughes discusses Sacramento's obsession with beating LA... Mitch Lawrence pits the tradition-rich Celtics against the swamp-dwelling Nets, contrasting the 16 championship titles of the C's hanging in the FleetCenter rafters to the 16 total playoff wins in their franchise history in the NBA... The Boston Herald's Gerry Callahan attempts a similar franchise comparison, and delivers enough shots at the Nets to make one think they ended up on the wrong end of a dispute with Tony Soprano. Consider a few examples: "At the moment, their most famous player is out on bail after allegedly shooting a limo driver in the chest with a shotgun and then trying to make it look like suicide." Ouch. "There is a reason the NBA holds its annual draft lottery in Secaucus: Nets executives can walk." Gerry describes Kenyon Martin's habit of committing flagrant fouls during the regular season and offers this commentary: "But if you're the Nets these days, you're looking at the bright side of life: At least he didn't shoot anyone." And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Paul Pierce lights the first verbal-war match of the series by claiming, "I just don't think they have anyone that can really defend me." Having torched the Nets for an average of 37 points per game in the regular season, I suppose he has a point. When told about Pierce's comments, Kenyon Martin replied "That just gets people in trouble when they run their mouth. But if that's the way he feels, whatever. I'm not going to get into going back and forth with the words. I'm not getting into that." With these kinds of jabs starting already, Jeffrey Denberg wonders whether he and Antoine Walker will be able to keep their cool. Recall these two teams already had some minor skirmishes during their last regular season contest, which concluded with Walker and Byron Scott going at it. Looks like this could be an interesting series indeed.

Jim O'Brien dismisses the C's regular-season success over the Nets, reminding everyone that the playoffs are a whole new ball game. The 76ers were 3-1 against Gang Green during the regular season this year, and they're home for the summer (the only time Larry Brown or Allen Iverson have visited the First Union Center in the past few weeks is to hold dueling press conferences). O'Brien also remarked, "If we were to ever play the Lakers again, because we beat them 2-0, would that make us the favorites? I don't think so." Good point. Peter Vescey says "all that stands in the way of a trip to the Finals [for the Nets] are the Celtics...and the objections of NBC." Vescey also mentions that Tubby Smith allegedly met with Larry Brown and Billy King at the FleetCenter during their playoff series, and delivers this parting shot at the 76ers: "In the end, Iverson was correct, the 76ers were the team to beat; everybody did."

Steve Bulpett butchers a Bible verse in the opening of his column today: "When the Celts were a regular-season team, they thought as a regular-season team, they spoke as a regular-season team. But now that they are in the playoffs, they have put away such relatively childish things." Bill Simmons cracks open another NBA Six-Pack in which he decries the Jumbotron era, while marveling at the power of Gino (I've actually got pictures of Bob Ryan and Jackie MacMullan absolutely cracking up over this one...when I finally host this site on my own web server, I'll be sure to post them). Shira Springer discusses Chris Wallace's "Winning Number 17: A Plan to Place the Celtics in Title Contention." Guess that little "plan" is ahead of schedule.

With the release of Episode II: Attack of the Clones, George Lucas reminds everybody there will be no episodes 7-9 (we knew that already). Episode II is great in this writer's opinion (forget the unimpressive reviews by the wannabe Siskel and Eberts out there), and sets the stage for the concluding Episode III, due in 2005.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Ashley McGeachy Fox went up to the Meadowlands to cover Game 5 of the Nets-Hornets series... Check out the schedule for the Conference Finals on NBA.com... After being defeated by the Nets, Paul Silas picked them to take out the Celtics in 7 games... New York Post's Fred Kerber says Paul Pierce "has been a plague of Biblical proportions to the Nets" this year... Joe Burris notes that this marks the first time New Jersey and Boston have ever met in the NBA playoffs... Jim Baker says TBS' Hubie Brown was just a bit "pro-Piston" in his call of Game 5. Rick Pitino is still a Celtic fan these days, and he's rooting for Jim O'Brien. Talking about their defense, Pitino said "I think maybe they understand the zone principles as well as anyone in professional basketball. They zone out the best and take advantage of the zone rules as anyone I've seen." Jackie MacMullan, are you paying attention?

Bill Conlin has a few choice words for (and demands an apology that will not be forthcoming from) Charles Barkley, and gets a few jabs in at the "ring-less" ex-Sixer. "Barkley in the past has called Hochman and me racists on his caddie's WIP radio show, conveniently forgetting that the home office for [ex-Eagle Randall] Cunnhingham bashing was carrying his golf clubs," writes Conlin. I can't wait to see what Eskin has to say about that comment this afternoon.

SI's Jack McCallum says Byron Scott's "egotism has taken a Gore-like turn; next thing you know, Scott will claim he invented the Internet." McCallum then named the players on his "12-man playoff All-Star roster", inexplicably leaving off Allen Iverson and including John Stockton (you gotta be kidding me)... David Aldridge hosted a chat on ESPN.com last night, and had this to say about the C's: "They are playing the 'best' basketball of any of the remaining four teams, in my opinion, in terms of their offense/defense blend."

Shira Springer says that tickets for Game G (Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 at the FleetCenter) sold out in seven minutes. Following the Nets' series-clinching win over the Hornets last night, tickets for the conference finals immediately went on sale on the Nets web site. Good tickets (lower bowl) were available online, but they went fairly quickly. As of early this morning, only singles were still available for a potential Game 7, and as of this afternoon, even those were gone. A couple of Celtics fans called in to WIP yesterday afternoon (who were quickly brushed off by the hosts, unsurprisingly) reported that the 2 regular season contests between the Nets and Celtics were heavily attended (reportedly a 50-50 mix) by Boston fans. Let's hope those same fans were among those with "quick trigger" fingers last night when tickets went on sale.

You know times are rough in Chicago when the Bulls resort to canning their PA announcer. Say, does anyone else wonder what it would be like for long-time Boston Garden PA announcer Andy Jick to call games for the current team? "Threeeee point field goal...for Paul...Pierce...Tiiiiime...out...New...Jerseeeee." One more parting shot at Detroit: they must have the absolute worst player introductions in the NBA. They turn the lights out to introduce the visitors, and turn them back on when it's time to introduce the home team (talk about backwards). And the PA announcer is just plain awful (perhaps they can go out and get Ray Clay now, he's looking for work). Those annoying "work whistles" whenever the Pistons scored a basket have to go too.

Finally, the latest installment of the Star Wars saga, Attack of the Clones has become a victim of "cloning" itself (there's a strange irony in that). I know copyright laws prohibit this sort of thing, but as one person put it, "people who are going to download it are going to see it" at the theater too. Trust me, this one has to be watched on the big screen, and its well worth the 8 bucks (or whatever your local theater charges). Good stuff, especially if you're a Star Wars enthusiast. Samuel Jackson, who plays Jedi Master Mace Windu, was asked what he knew of the final installment of the saga, Episode III: "They kill all the Jedi, so I know I'm dead. Other than that I don't have a clue about the story. George just says, 'It's dark.' Dark is cool." Jackson definitely kicks some major butt in Clones; watching him in action is almost worth the price of admission alone.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Getting a bit lean on the links locally, what with early first round exits, and no 76ers press conferences scheduled for this week. So this writer has no choice but to live vicariously through his childhood team, which will make its first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since he was a sophomore in high school. Now if only they could make their first NBA Finals appearance since he was a freshman. Onto the links...

Tim Pinaccio reports on the hiring of the Flyers' new head coach, Ken Hitchcock... Bill Lyon also writes about the new coach's contract, which is slated for 4 years ("or in Flyers terms, four coaches")... Claire Smith says the new coach reminds her of Captain Kangaroo... Rich Hofmann says that with the hiring of Hitchcock, "the hammering should commence immediately."

Shira Springer is the only one who noted that this is the first time the C's have won a series in which they did not have homecourt advantage in nearly three decades. The last time they did so was in the '74 NBA Finals, when they beat the Milwaukee Bucks (who were Western Conference occupants at the time)... Bob Ryan runs down a quick checklist of the C's post-season accomplishments... Peter May reviews the next likely opponent for the C's in the Eastern Conference Finals... Jackie MacMullan wants to shout about Gang Green's march through the playoffs... One post on the Indiana Pacers message board (of all places) summed things up this way: "Pats win the Super Bowl, Celts going to the ECF, Red Sox with the best record in MLB. Hell has officially frozen over!"

In a way, you can say that the C's series victory over the Pistons is payback for the '91 season. That was the last year the C's had homecourt against the Pistons, yet they still lost the series. I managed to land an "obstructed view" floor seat for Game 2 of that series, which was strangely scheduled as a rare weekday matinee (which forced yours truly to, er, "miss" a few classes that day at Northeastern) at the Boston Garden due to a scheduling conflict with the B's, who played later that night... After the C's toasted my Sixers in Game 5, I told a few of the Boston faithful who would listen that they should look forward to beating the Pistons, since Jerry Turnover-Machine Stackhouse would come up small in that series. There's a reason the 76ers traded him years ago, and no, him "not blending with Iverson" isn't the Answer. Maybe Carlisle deserved Coach of the Year, since anyone who could get that sorry bunch to win 50 games and win their division had to be doing something right, at least during the regular season.

Dr. Jack so far has gone 1.5/4 with his second round predictions. He predicted the Celtics would in in 6 (they clinched in 5, so we'll give him half a point), and he was dead-on with the Lakers in 5. The Mavs are home for the summer, so he was wrong on that one, and he picked the Hornets in 6 (an impossibility, and their odds at overcoming their 3-1 deficit are slightly above that). When Jim O'Brien learned of his father-in-law's pick for his team to advance to the conference finals, he called it the "kiss of death," since he was wrong when he picked the 76ers to advance past the C's... Paul Silas is upset over comments made by NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik over the weekend, saying that the league might feel "uncomfortable" should the Hornets advance to the Finals. Half-empty arenas apparently do not look good to national prime-time audiences. Ric Boucher talks about the verbal sparks that are already starting to fly between the Kings and Lakers... Finally, Boston Sports MediaWatch reports on speculation that Larry Bird might make a FleetCenter appearance should the C's advance to the NBA Finals.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Bill Lyon with a truly personal story to share, which certainly puts sports, the games people play, in perspective... Stephen A. Smith says Iverson's teammates "to stand up and be counted" and be sure Allen does what he says he's gonna do. Smith also spoke to free-agent Charles Oakley, who said he and Allen are "cool" and that he 'loves AI.' Perhaps Billy King should be getting on the phone with Mr. Oakley's agent this summer... John Smallwood speaks out against the NCAA's recent policy to allow college kids to "test" the NBA draft waters, and thinks its unfair to the true "student athletes" who actually care about academics too... Rich Hofmann says the Flyers players might regret getting what they wished for in Ken Hitchcock, who was named the new Flyers head coach this morning, as earlier reported in this space yesterday...

Michael Gee says the C's might be playing a dangerous game of playing down to the level of their competition as they move deeper into the playoffs... Michael Holley says the Pistons are finished and that "part of the problem is that the Pistons are watching TV and reading papers when they should be watching film and reading scouting reports." Peter May asks the rhetorical question "has there ever been a worse No. 2 seed than Detroit?" Peter also caught Joseph Forte and Kedrick Brown committing fashion faux pas by wearing Magic Johnson Lakers jerseys... Speaking of the Lakers, the Cooz says of the streaking C's, ''We're peaking. It's great stuff. Why not bring on the Lakers?" Jackie MacMullan incredulously states "that people often mistake their schemes for a zone defense, even though the Celtics haven't played zone all season." Jackie is apparently the only member of the media who doesn't realize the C's play a zone. Perhaps Bob Ryan can draw it up for her on a chalk board so she can understand... Jim Baker says that "an NBA title confrontation against the two-year champion Lakers very much on course." George Kimball thinks that "signs forecasting the imminence of a 17th Celtics NBA title, [would be] entertaining expectations that are not only unrealistic but unfair." Cliff Robinson believes "it's time for us to make a little history," since only 6 teams have ever overcome a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs, and the Celtics have never lost a series in which they took such a commanding lead...

The Sacramento Kings are the first team to clinch a berth in the conference finals brackets. Arco was just ridiculously loud throughout the game, especially in the 4th quarter, as the fans chanted 'Beat LA...Beat LA.' Peter Vescey previews the (likely) conference finals matchups, and bids adieu to the team formerly known as the Charlotte Hornets... Speaking of the Hornets, P.J. Brown no doubt inspired his teammates' confidence (not) by saying that the Nets have more weapons than the C's and were his favorites for getting to the Finals...

Finally, Bill Simmons with the riveting Part 2 conclusion to his recent site visit to the Inside the NBA set. There's a great exchange recorded there, in which Charles Barkley gets a cell phone call from "a media friend who wants to talk about the Allen Iverson saga." Talk about beating a dead horse, huh Howard? Eskin is known to be Barkley's caddy whenever he is in town. "Little Larry" (as his radio partner Mike Missanelli likes to refer to him when he calls out sick) just loves any controversy involving AI. After heated exchanges, Barkley ended the conversation by saying "Hey, Howard, you ever heard what it sounds like when someone slams the phone down on you? Here's what it sounds like." Kind of fitting that Barkley ended the call in much the same manner that Eskin does whenever one of his "nitwit" callers dares to disagree with him. Way to go Charles!

Monday, May 13, 2002

Well, Dave had to take about a week "vacation" to recover from the painful memories of a Game 5 loss at the FleetCenter last Friday. It's one thing to see your team lose the deciding game on the road in person, it's another to see them get demolished by 33 points... To be honest, I wasn't so much disappointed at the loss (when the other team shoots 19-29 from behind the arc, you might as well start dusting off the golf clubs for your squad), it was a pretty fitting end for this season. And last week's Brown/Iverson feud is a continuation of a soap opera that this writer, quite frankly, has had enough of. So now that the 76ers have gone home for the summer, I have taken up rooting for the old hometown team, who took a commanding 3-1 lead in their series yesterday against the Pistons. The Pistons don't look like they can win another game in this series, let alone 3 in a row. Squandering a 2-0 lead in the first round will probably come in handy now for the young C's, as they know exactly how hard it is to close a team out. It's looking very much like a Nets-Celtics Eastern Conference Finals matchup. The Lakers continue to dominate the Spurs, who failed to capitalize on their chances to make a series out of it. And the Kings-Mavs matchup continues to entertain (remember when 120-115 final scores were the norm?), though it looks like it won't be going the full 7 games. Anyways, that's the current playoff picture, onto the links I've collected in the past week...

Phil Jasner apparently spoke to Cedric Maxwell at some point during the Celtics-76ers series. Maxwell despised his bitter rivals back in the day, and had this choice quote: "Back then, I wouldn't have said two words to them. If their car was on fire and I had the water, I would have let the car burn." Nice. In the spirit of Frank Fitzpatrick: Paging Dikembe Mutombo! Please report immediately to the FleetCenter... Stephen A. Smith says that Paul Pierce has heart after all. Bob Ryan calls Smith "a Philly writer...who should hope someone burns all the appropriate microfilm...[since he] declared...Pierce and Walker lacked heart," while Jackie MacMullan simply called Smith a "dim-witted Philadelphia columnist." (It seems as though the sports writers of the two cities engaged in more trashing talk than their on-court counterparts).

Rich Hofmann says the 76ers "will be taunting history if they try to move Allen Iverson. Make no mistake about that." Andy Schwartz of Comcast Sportsnet talks about the changes the 76ers really should make in the offseason (and they don't involve trading #3)... Rich Hofmann says that Iverson's rambling press conference, while at times confusing, at least reveals a passionate athelete who isn't afraid to reveal how he really feels. He certainly didn't attend Andy Reid's How to Provide Bland Answers to the Media Using Tired Cliches class... Roshown McLeod provided an interesting perspective on the Iverson drama of the week. Having witnessed firsthand the interaction between Iverson and his teammates last year, he summed it up succintly, "You can't argue with what he gives you." Peter Vescey also weighs in, rejecting the ridiculous notion that the media has created this controversy (they sure help stir the pot though)... Comcast Sportsnet enjoyed the ratings of Iverson's press conference, though network executives cringed a bit at the live coverage when the F-word bomb was dropped. More common was the expletive that begins with the letter S and rhymes with hit... Sam Donnellon says the whole feud is just a smokescreen from the real problems facing the 76ers: they're too old and too slow to play the defense they were supposedly built to play. I have to agree there. At times, Mutombo appeared to be 50 years old in that Celtics series. Rich Hofmann says the Philly teams are all suffering from the curse of Hollander's creek, which began with the construction of the new Eagles' stadium...Stephen A. thinks that cynics believe the 76ers organization thought Iverson's press conference would bolster their position. It doesn't appear to have turned out that way though, since public sentiment appears to be in AI's favor (which shouldn't be surprsing).

"Self-proclaimed basketball expert" (to borrow his partner's expression) Howard Eskin weasled out of showing up for work last Monday, coincidentally his first WIP appearance following the 76ers early exit. He had proclaimed Friday would be "Fright Night" for the Celtics, saying they would be scared and would lose. He gave yet another (yawn) "open letter to Allen Iverson" on his "Sports Extra" late Sunday night, and then mysteriously came down with some 24-hour bug that forced him to face the music Monday afternoon. Rumor has it he called in sick so he could take care of Allen Iverson's son Deuce... Meanwhile, Eskin labelled the "dueling" press conferences of Brown and Iverson "a joke". Gee, that wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that Brown wouldn't take the bait on your incessant questions related to practice, would it Howard? Several times, Brown indicated he was "not going to get into that," and Howard repeatedly tried to get him to talk about it. Guess you'll have to try another day, eh genius? Meanwhile, Eskin's afternoon sidekick Mike Missanelli paints this rather morbid picture of the future. Is it just me, or does the conversation level go up a few points on the intelligence scale when Mike is the lone host on the show?

Bob Ryan likens the Pierce-Walker duo with the Bird-McHale tandem back in the day, but also contributes this opinion on the Iverson/Brown feud, which reminds us all that he's not exactly "in touch with" today's stars ("Code of the 'Hood" Bob? C'mon)... Jackie MacMullan extols the virtues of "Everybody Else," and refuses to mention by name "the guy who wears a number that rhymes with dirty floor." Antoine Walker still harbors resentment toward the Sixers: "I think Philly was a little different. I felt like they didn't have any respect for us. I felt like Philly tanked the last part of their season to get us. I just felt like they felt like the easiest route was going through Boston, and they'd dominated us over my career." Apparently Antoine hasn't paid much attention to Larry Brown the past couple years. He has always rested his key players going into the playoffs, even when doing so has cost him home court advantage later on down the line. Jackie MacMullan says Boston still hasn't gotten over Bill Laimbeer.

Bill Simmons wrote this before Game 5 of the Celtics-76ers series. After reading it, I swear he must have gotten a leaked copy of the game's manuscript from the league office before it happened... I read this interesting anecdote that makes me think the New Jersey Nets stole a page out of the Red Auerbach Rules of Home Court Advantage Handbook... Peter May reports that many officials (Joe Crawford and Bob Delaney for instance) are in favor of instituting instant replay for last-second shots... Peter Vescey reveals his MVP ballot, minus the hanging chads, while George Willis says that the "snubbing" of Jason Kidd in the MVP vote was "a spit in the face". I guess as opposed to a "slap in the face," which his wife would know all about... Wallace Matthews says Duncan deserved the MVP nod, while also adding this interesting tidbit: "For my money, Iverson is still the Most Valuable Player in the league, and I have the numbers to prove it." This notion was based on a salary per pound analysis that he did, and since Iverson is "bony as hell" (as he admitted in his press conference last week), he wins by a landslide... Phil Mushnick hates everybody (and thankfully is off for the rest of the week)... Bill Simmons with Part 1 of his visit to the Inside the NBA studios at TNT.

BREAKING NEWS: WIP's Al Morganti reports that the Flyers will be naming Ken Hitchcock as their new coach. A press conference is supposed to be held sometime this evening between 5 and 7PM for the announcement.

THIS DATE IN 76ERS HISTORY: Allen Iverson picked Orlando's pockets, and set the NBA playoff record for 10 steals in a game, as the Sixers cruised to a 3-1 series victory over the Magic.

This week, the Darth Virus is sure to hit corporate America this coming Thursday. Yours truly will, of course, not be calling out, as I will have already seen the 12:01am showing late Wednesday.