Saturday, April 19, 2003

Ashley McGeachy Fox gives her rendition of "master of the obvious" today by saying Van Horn "could be the key" to this series. Phil Jasner offers his preview of Game 1. Marty Burns reminds us that DC has never won a playoff series, going 0-7 in that category. Jimmy Smith gets former teammate George Lynch to say AI, listd at 6 ft, 165 lbs, is "probably about 140." Michael Wilbon has the Pacers and Sixers pencilled in for the ECF, and says this might be the year the Lakers go down. Kenny Thomas logs in to with the first entry in his playoff diary (the postseason being a first for him as well).

Dr. Jack offers his previews of the Eastern and Western conferences, picking the Lakers as the only "upset." Peter May also offers his preview of the east and west, predictably picking the Hornets and Lakers as the only "surprises." This roundtable discussion had 3 out of 4 participants picking Larry Brown as their "playoff coach." Chris Isidore says the NBA now stands for "No Broadcasts Available," making reference to the fact that only 1 of the 8 games on the opening weekend of the playoffs is on ABC, relegating the rest to cable giants ESPN and TNT (he's also got ratings charts for the playoffs and Finals in there for the past decade). Eric Neel gives 21 reasons why he prefers the NBA playoffs to the NHL, offering this great one mocking Mark Cuban: "Digital Cable service, $44.95 a month. New TV, $529. Pizza and beer, $22. Chance to watch one of the richest men in the world lose his ever-lovin' mind, pointing, strutting and shouting like Tina Turner on a 'roid binge ? priceless."

Bob Ryan says "he's seen enough" of the Celtics this year, a sentiment shared by many longtime C's fans who don't care for O'Brien's style of play which focuses on the perimeter game. Ryan predicts that their "season should be over very soon."

C. Jemal Horton imagines the Nets-Pacers series went 7 games last year. Larry Stewart has an (always entertaining) interview with Charles Barkley. Fred Kerber has Geore Karl admitting he's "scared" of Dikembe, since "I've never beat Mutombo in the playoffs. He has beaten me ever time." Tom Enlund has Mutombo "flaming" these fires by teasing that Karl "has to go through me one more time." Steve Hummer believes Atlanta Hawks season ticket holders might need to get their heads examined.

Did you know Shaq makes $33.88 a second? Larry Stewart gives us this little insight, while breaking down the broadcast schedule (in general terms), based on the new agreement.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Even though this is only the 2nd day back, today is a special NBA Playoff Preview, so it'll be a little longer than normal. On with the links...

Mark Narducci says the Hornets are going to be a tough matchup for the Sixers, and reminds us that Stacey Augmon contained Iverson defensively on Sunday, holding him to 0-6 from the field in the 4th quarter. Stephen A. Smith has a chat with former NBA "chief of police" Rod Thorn, who says "don't tease me" in response to a hypothetical question about a Shaq-less NBA Finals. Ron Reid discusses more highlights of ESPN's coverage of Jordan's swan song, particularly Brad Nessler's remark, "Every time he touches the ball, the place lights up like a giant strobe!" Larry Eichel opens up the accounting books and gives us a glimpse of just how profitable a prolonged playoff run can be for a team. Bill Walton isn't folllowing the majority party line that whoever comes out of the West will romp over the counterpart in the East. Bill Fleischman left Walton speechless when he needlessly asked him whether "Iverson should know by now that he shouldn't be hanging out anywhere at 2 a.m." Phil Jasner has Larry Brown claiming the Hornets as the "best team" in the East. Another disturbing quote by Larry Brown in the Daily News (and just watch for the ensuing controversy if the media asks for AI's reaction to this one): "Maybe he shouldn't be out late at night in a position like he was in, and then he wouldn't have to feel like he did in Chicago." John Smallwood says the first round being changed to best-of-seven this year "might be the best thing for" the Sixers. Why? He reminds us that they are 2-4 in their last six Game 1s. The theory is that shorter series tend to produce more upsets, and the "better team" eventually wins in a 7-game series.

As far as predictions are concerned, Jasner, Smallwood, and Dick Jerardi all pick the Sixers winning in 7, while dissenting Rich Hoffman picks the Hornets in 6. Off the bench for the Daily News, Paul Vigna recaps the season series between the Hornets and Sixers, but incorrectly writes that when the Sixers lost to the Hornets on Sunday, they "could do no better than a No. 3 seed," which is wrong. Had the Sixers only won one more game, against the Bulls on Tuesday, the would have tied Jersey and shared the division championship, but by virtue of winning the season series, would actually have had the 2 seed and would have faced the Bucks instead. So as I mentioned yesterday, with the way the Nets and Pacers finished, it was virtually impossible for a first-round rematch against the Celtics. Jasner backs up his prediction by breaking down the series in more detail. Bob Cooney previews both the eastern and western conferences, and has the Hornets over the Sixers as the only upset. Interesting side story if it develops: do you think Coleman is out to prove to Paul Silas that he isn't the reason the Hornets lost a playoff series to the Bucks back in 2001?

The Times-Picayune's (try typing that fast) John Reid gives his New Orleans audience a "primer" on the NBA playoffs (this being their first one and all). Apparently he's new to the playoffs too, as he seems to think the Nets actually won a game against the Lakers in the Finals last year. Jimmy Smith talks about the solid performance by the bench for the Hornets.

As for the Flyers, Tim Panaccio says the Flyers got a second wind, despite playing the equivalent of more than 3 games in 3 days. Phil Sheridan says the flyers still need to win the series, but that they have already won respect (which, truth be told, isn't as shiny as Lord Stanley's Cup). Ray Parrillo catches Toronto coach Pat Quinn whining about the Flyers taking "cheap shots" at Belfour. Rich Hofmann says if the Flyers go down, "it will be swinging with both fists." He also finds Ken Hitchock predicting "another overtime, I can feel it." Switching to the NFL briefly, Andy Reid provides little insight over which direction the Eagles will head in the draft. Feel free to make up your own punchline or caption to the photo in the article. Only one rule: it can't include the word "cheesesteak." I've already trademarked that one.

Mark Murphy catches a little bit of Jermaine O'Neal's "mind games" (while missing one of the good taunts quoted here yesterday), and Pierce's reply: "I don't remember that." Yesterday, Murphy was wrong when he said the Celtics "took it on the chin from the Pacers this year", stating the Pacers won the season series 2-1. He quietly corrected that in today's article. Bob Kravitz throws Jeff Van Gundy's name out there as a rumor that might surface if Isiah Thomas can't break his 0-2 spell in the playoffs as a head coach. Dave Lewandowski believes the east's top 3 seeds might be primed for a fall, sicne they are a combined 47-54 since the All-Star break (yikes). Sekou Smith has a more detailed analysis of the eastern teams records since the All-Star break, with the Sixers and Hornets at the top of the list (too bad one of them won't advance past the first round. What I found most striking was the point differential in those games, where the Sixers were an astounding +191, which was nearly double the second closest (Detroit). By the way, looks like the Bucks chances of upsetting the Nets might be greatly diminished if the "Tim Thomas controversy" continues to rear its ugly head ("there was a lot of B.S. with the coach and things of that nature"). Just what a team needs as it preps for the playoffs.

The LA Times' Mark Heisler offers his eastern and western conference previews, and has the Lakers over the T-Wolves as the lone upset. Interesting statistic: Byron Scott (11-9) and Jim O'Brien (9-7) are the only coaches (out of the eastern conference playoff teams) with a winning playoff record. Of course, they might be removed from that list by the time this post-season is over. Belittling the east as the "little conference that couldn't," Heisler points out the dire statistic that the Pistons' 50 wins is the fewest for the #1 seed in a conference in 19 years. He goes on to say thank heavens the regular season (or in Lakers-speak, the "second preseason"), is over and concludes that the defending champs are "either the mightiest fifth-seeded team in NBA history, or have just staged one of the worst title defenses in NBA history, or both." Speaking of the "poor" T-Wolves, J.A. Adande attempts to intimidate KG and his crew with this gloom and doom intro: "A franchise without a playoff series victory finally gets to begin postseason play at home. Against the Lakers. The three-time NBA champion Lakers. Who have won 16 of their last 18 playoff road games." He quotes TNT analyst Kenny Smith, "I just feed bad for Minnesota." You think Adande was the bully back in school? Tim Brown has another lame excuse from Shaq about being late for practice (next week: the dog ate my homework!)

Phil Mushnick hates everybody, especially Fox shows hosted by Monica Lewinsky. Peter Vecsey offers up a useless piece of drivel, reminding us that Philly fans booed Santa Claus and Kobe Bryant (he's a day late and a dollar short for this tired rant). He makes light of the situation in which one of Iverson's close associates was shot. Nice. Not too peeved that your NBC gig is up, and that TNT didn't want you back, are you Peter?

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Dave's Sporting News is back! And just in time to recap MJ's last performance ever. No, really this time. For real. No joking (and no, his fingers aren't cross behind his back). Bill Lyon captures all the magic of the moment. Stephen A. Smith rains a bit on his Airness' parade. Ashley McGeachy Fox notes the "We want Mike! We want Mike!" chant of the 21,000+ plus in attendance at the First Union Center. For all the bad rap that Philly fans get, I can't think of a more fitting sendoff to the best to have ever played the game (and those that know me know how difficult that was for me to type!) I had to admit, while observing the festivities from the comfort of my home, that I had somehow missed out on "the moment" by cancelling my season tickets prior to this season. As much as I might have disliked the dominance of his Bulls, I think it would have been a nice memory to have been there, to see the "brotherly love" that was shown there. Major kudos to Sixers VP Dave Coskey, responsible for arranging all of the pre- and in-game festivities, including the very nice touch of flying in former Bulls PA announcer Ray Clay for one last call of his patented "at guard...6-6...from North...Carolina...No. 23...Michael...Jordan!" as nicely recapped by Rich Hoffman. Ironic that the last time I had heard reference to Ray was last year around this time, when I mentioned that the Bulls canned him for wanting to do a fitting introduction for Jordan at the United Center.

Tim Panaccio recaps last night's thrilling triple-OT win by the Flyers. I can now claim to have stayed up to see the two longest games in Flyers history (last night's being #2, the first being that 5-OT affair against Pittsburgh back in 2000, that ended, oh, say about 2 days after it started). Interesting thing about those games, they were both on the road, the Flyers won them both (and as a sign if good things to come, Flyers fans hope, they won that series against the Penguins). Phil Sheridan calls the game an instant "classic." (if the Flyers win the series, that is). Sam Donnellon says the Flyers have caught their share of breaks this series, so they won't have any excuses if they blow it.

Peter May demonstrates his ignorance by mailing it in while "covering" Jordan's last game, lamenting the "oft-diabolical Philly fans," reminding us how those boorish "fans booed native son Kobe Bryant during the 2002 All-Star game" (must I revisit that whole topic again?) Then again, May authored (and I use the term loosely) this awful piece to (who might consider calling the bank and putting a stop payment on that check). PTI co-host Michael Wilbon (who last year also castigated Philly fans for booing Sir Kobe ala Peter May) submitted a fairly balanced column, noting that the Philly fans showed MJ "nothing but brotherly love." Wilbon still had to bring up the tired booing of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny though. Isn't there a statute of limitations on these incidents?

Around the league, Fred Kerber notes that Byron Scott rested his key players during their last regular season "practice." You have to wonder if he would have taken the same non-chalant attitude had the Sixers beaten the Bulls the previous night and the Atlantic Division was still at stake. Incidentally, in retrospect, the Sixers had no chance of playing the Celtics in the first round based on how the Nets and Pacers finished. Had they won one more game and beaten the Bulls, they would have moved up to the #2 spot (holding the tie-breaker over New Jersey), and the Celts would have faced the Nets. For Byron Scott's lack of integrity, here's to a Milwaukee Bucks upset over the Nets in the first round (and believe me, it's a stretch to root for George Karl any day of the year). Boston Celtics fans should find sufficient reason to despise Jermaine O'Neal over the next couple of weeks. O'Neal recalls an alleged conversation between himself and Paul Pierce in which the latter supposedly said "he didn't want to plus us." O'Neal went on to say, "Boston's a good matchup for us. They shoot a lot of 3s. With the playoffs the way they are, with a slow pace, and the bodies grinding, I don't think they can make those 3s." The Indy Star's C. Jemal Horton also previews the "favorable first-round matchup with Boston." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details the Atlanta Hawks' refunding $125 to each of their 4,000 season ticket holders, to the tune of half a million dollars.

Finally, hoping that it's not crossing the line of good taste, some web sites just speak for themselves: