Thinking about the NBA playoffs while web surfing

All right, we're pulling out all the stops today: NBA playoff thoughts, reader e-mails, follow-ups to last Friday's mailbag, some weekly links ... it's like the garage sale of basketball blogs. But before we get to that, I need to show you something:

AL EAST STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB
Boston 28-12 .700 --
New York 18-21 .462 9.5
Tampa Bay 18-22 .450 10
Toronto 18-22 .450 10
Baltimore 18-23 .439 10.5

Isn't that great?

God, I just love looking at that.

Hold on, let's blow that up and run it again.

AL EAST STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB
Boston 28-12 .700 --
New York 18-21 .462 9.5
Tampa Bay 18-22 .450 10
Toronto 18-22 .450 10
Baltimore 18-23 .439 10.5

Good times! This never would have happened if George Steinbrenner was still alive.

All right, 10 thoughts about the NBA playoffs that need to be mentioned:

1. Mike D'Antoni is one of the best coaches alive, but he choked in Game 5 by riding his big guns (47 minutes for Raja Bell, 46 for Shawn Marion, 46 for Steve Nash) even though it wasn't a must-win game. As Mike Francesa would say, that was a yoooo-ge mistake -- not only did it kill the Suns down the stretch in Game 5, but it could end up affecting them in Game 6. At the very least, don't you have to throw your bench guys out there in the second quarter and see if the crowd can carry them for a few minutes? And why wouldn't you have Pat Burke knock Duncan around, whack him a few times and keep sending him to the line? That's been D'Antoni's biggest tactical error of the series: Because Duncan goes into free-throw swoons from time to time, it's the only way you can get him to self-destruct during a basketball game. The Suns haven't explored this at all. Not sure why.

Anyway, here's my prediction for Friday night: The Spurs should win. They should. But I'm not willing to discount another officiating performance like they one from Game 4, in which Phoenix received a 29-14 FT advantage -- ON THE ROAD!!!! -- and Duncan was whistled for his fifth foul with nine minutes left in the game. Remember, we're potentially headed for a final four of San Antonio-Utah and Cleveland-Detroit ... not exactly a marquee group of teams, although it's not quite the same apocalyptic affect of this scenario: Ottawa vs. Anaheim in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals (which actually might happen). So I don't trust anything that might happen tonight. Not a thing.

2. I dare anyone to come up with a "Top 10 Moments from the 2007 Eastern Conference Playoffs" list. Go ahead. I dare you.

RECENT STUFF

In case you missed the last three weeks of Sports Guy columns and posts ...

May 16: Common Sense vs. the NBA

May 14: KG for Amare?

May 11: The Mailbag

May 10: Shelf Life for NellieBall

May 9: Duncan Rules

May 7: A Weekend with Floyd, Oscar & Roger

May 4: Nowitzki's career on the Clock

May 2: The Roar of the Crowd

3. In Wednesday's column about the Boris Diaw-Amare Stoudemire suspensions, I forgot to mention a solution I came up with during Game 4 for the whole "players leaving the bench" problem: They can't put seatbelts on the bench because players are constantly jumping up and down, and they couldn't put a rope around the players on the bench because a player could go flying into the rope during play and get practically decapitated ... but what about an electric fence-type device where they'd get shocked if they ventured onto the court, like what people use with their dogs in the backyard?

(Can you imagine if David Stern adopted this for the 2007-08 season? First the dress code, then the new ball, then the ruination of the Spurs-Suns series, then the Dan Patrick radio skewering ... and now, the electric fence! On the Power Breathalyzer, he's blowing a 0.32 right now. I don't care, I'd still vote for him in the 2008 presidential election. He could pull it together in time.)

4. If LeBron James is the future of the NBA, sign me up for a different professional basketball league, please. Did you see him lick that giant stamperoo and stick it on Game 5? I kept expecting to see him break out his BlackBerry while other players were shooting free throws and start texting his friends things like, "What time is the Guts game in my hotel room tonight?" and "Are we hitting Atlantic City before Game 6?" If he doesn't slap up a 42-12-13 tonight in New Jersey, I give up. Show us you care, Bron Bron. Give us a little taste.

(FOLLOW-UP NOTE: I never heard about LeBron's pregnant girlfriend fainting at halftime of Game 5 before writing the previous paragraph, which explains his seemingly curious performance in the second half ... although it doesn't cover the first half, or the way he played in Game 3. She turned out to be fine, but still, I would have written the previous paragraph differently before we posted it had I known. With that said, I still think he needs to slap up a 42-12-13.)

5. My apologies: Upon further review, John Paxson and the Bulls did the right thing by overpaying for Ben Wallace last summer and turning Tyson Chandler into P.J. Brown. If they didn't sacrifice Chandler and spend an extra $15 million this season on the Wallace/Brown combo, they would have lost to Detroit in five games instead of six, and they wouldn't have a washed-up center with a bad back locked up through his mid-30s for $14 million a season. My bad. When I'm wrong, I'm wrong.

6. Some lingering questions/comments about the never-ending barrage of TNT commercials ...

A. Alonzo Mourning had a kidney transplant, not a heart transplant. So why is he plugging "Heartland"? More important, can you really have an entire show about heart transplants? "Next week, somebody needs a heart transplant and time is ticking! And in a very special episode two weeks from now, you're not gonna believe this ... but somebody might die if they don't get a heart transplant!"

B. Also, you know how TNT splices trailers for Hollywood movies with NBA action? Why couldn't they splice the "Heartland" commercial so Treat Williams is talking to Lawrence Frank about Vince Carter? I just want you to know, if any heart becomes available tonight, I'll make it work for Vince. I promise you.

C. Which decision demonstrated a bigger lack of understanding for the NBA studio audience: David Blaine or the Pussycat Dolls? And was Clay Aiken "Plan B" for both choices?

D. Is Tyler Perry to black people what Dane Cook is to white people? In other words, they're both hugely successful but nobody can quite figure out why? I watch those "House of Payne" commercials and feel constantly confused. What about the part when he's trying to work the remote and his gigantic wife asks what he's doing and he says angrily, "I'm trying to turn you into Beyonce." That was the funniest clip they could pull for the commercial? I don't get it. That seems like an angry, unhappy show to me. And can anyone figure out the whole "comic dressing up in drag as multiple characters" thing? Why is this funny? I'm so confused by "House of Payne." It makes me feel sad every time they show the ad. Which is every three minutes.

7. I miss Stephen Jackson. I'm a mess without him. I miss him so damn much. I miss being with him, I miss being near him. I miss his laugh and his crazy smile. I miss his scent; I miss his musk. When this all gets sorted out, I think me and him should get an apartment together.

8. Regardless of what happens in San Antonio, I love what happened to Steve Nash this season; his competitive spirit, toughness and leadership reminds me of Bird, Magic, MJ and Isiah back in the day. That's the highest praise I can give. At the very least, you know the Suns won't get blown out -- they'll be in the game and fighting until the very end. You can count on that from them. He's the reason.

9. Um ... why doesn't anyone seem to think that Utah has a chance in the next round? You weren't impressed by those two impressive road wins (Game 7 in Houston, Game 4 in Oakland), the way the Jazz are dominating the glass or their various scoring options in crunch time? What am I missing? I will never understand why so many people underestimated them in Round 2 ... you'd think a lesson would have been learned. That's a good freaking basketball team.

(Follow-up note on this: If Utah wins the title, I think former Portland GM John Nash should get a ring for being dumb enough to trade them the No. 3 pick in 2005 for the No. 6 pick, the No. 27 pick and a 2006 No. 1 pick from Detroit because he made the talent evaluation that Martell Webster was a better fit for his team than Deron Williams or Chris Paul. Utah had NO BUSINESS getting Deron Williams. None. This should be mentioned every 20 minutes during the Western Conference finals.)

10. Speaking of trades, if the Celtics get the No. 2 pick and take Kevin Durant, here's the deal I want them to offer G-State: Paul Pierce, Bassy Telfair, Bassy Telfair's gun collection and the No. 32 pick for Jason Richardson, Monta Ellis, the No. 18 pick and Sarunas Jasikevicius' expiring contract. And while I'm doing requests for the Celtics, here's another one ...

Wyc, Danny, Doc ... you guys all need to shut your traps. Seriously. Stop giving interviews. Stop telling your disgruntled fan base that you could have made the playoffs if not for so many injuries. Stop raving about your fantastic young nucleus of players and how they're in such high demand. Stop talking about Doc's great coaching when he won 56 games in two seasons. Stop sounding so freaking smug about everything. Just stop. Don't say another word until May 23. And if you don't start showing some humility and urgency about what happened the past two seasons, and you don't start recognizing that your fans are legitimately concerned that none of you have any idea what you're doing, here's what will happen: you're going to get written off by the majority of your entire fan base (basically, everyone with an IQ better than 80) until all three of you are gone.

It happened to Jeremy Jacobs, Harry Sinden and the Bruins; it's going to happen to you. You've reached that do-or-die point with your fans and season-ticket holders -- trust me, I'm getting the e-mails every day -- and the fact that none of you realize it is more disturbing than anything. So stop talking. Wait to see what happens with the Ping-Pong balls next Tuesday. You have to believe me, I'm speaking for just about everyone who loves your team. The lack of humility and urgency after two straight crappy seasons has been appalling. I can't emphasize that strongly enough.

Time for some e-mails and links ...

• From Rob C. in Phoenix: "Why is Steve Kerr calling every Suns-Spurs game? He has a minority ownership interest in the Phoenix Suns. Besides the excellent basketball IQ, wouldn't that be like Jay-Z calling all of the Nets-Cavs games?"

Or like Michael Vick calling the National Dogfight Championships on Versus! Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week. Meanwhile, the Versus execs are like, "Um ... there's a National Dogfight Championships? How much room do we have left in our budget? Could somebody get Brian Engblom's agent on the phone and lock him up to be safe?"

• From Alex in Puyallup, Wash.: "I was reading the comments of some of the other NBA experts on ESPN and one of them mentioned the fact that people would see the NBA as a bunch of 'thugs' if they allowed bench-clearing fights. Don't you think it's odd that baseball players aren't referred to as 'thugs' when they engage in a bench-clearing brawl, yet NBA players are often seen in this manner? Often times, a brawl in baseball is looked upon as a positive by the fans of the team. They see it something that gets the team fired up or it 'shows that they care.' So why are NBA players considered 'thugs' for doing something that's almost celebrated (in some circles) when it occurs in baseball? I have a suspicion as to why this is, and it has little to do with one sport wearing shorts and the other wearing pants. Just some food for thought."

My response: One of David Stern's biggest concerns has always been marketing a mostly black league to a mostly white fan base. The NBA has always battled covert racism to some degree -- if Kyle Farnsworth charges out of the bullpen and decks nine Red Sox players during a brawl, he's a bad-ass and it's all in good fun, but if Stephen Jackson does it, the black/white thing hangs over everything, right? My Page 2 buddy Jemele Hill and I exchanged some e-mails about that on Wednesday -- Jemele believes that the Horry/Nash incident wouldn't have received as much play if Barbosa had been sprawled below the press table instead of Nash. And you know what? I agree. Nash's involvement reminded me of the O.J. trial for this reason -- if Nicole looked like Regina King and Ronald Goldman looked like Usher, that wouldn't have been the most famous American trial of the 20th century. Same for the Nash/Horry play. It's still a big deal if Barbosa is involved ... but not as big of a deal as seeing America's favorite white point guard lying there, right?

• Andy S. in Sactown writes, "You finally got the Tuck Game right. After defending the call for all these years, you have seen the light. The call is not important; the rule is. The unbiased perspective (I'm not a Raider fan at all) is to blame the stupid, idiotic, foolish, moronic, brainless, unwise unintelligent, foolhardy, imprudent, thoughtless, obtuse and thickheaded tuck rule. Congrats, you finally came around. Now I can almost die in peace."

(Just to clarify, my stance has remained the same since the 2001 playoffs -- it was a dumb rule that was interpreted correctly, but the fact remains, Charles Woodson clubbed Tom Brady in the head when he nailed him, making that hit a penalty on Woodson that wasn't called. For whatever reason, this never gets mentioned when people discuss that play. Everything evened out. It's a fact. And besides, the Raiders lost that game because they had second-and-3 to clinch the game and couldn't run for three measly yards. So there.)

• I loved this e-mail from Dean S. in Cleveland: "I don't know how you could say the NBA playoffs would be the same without sideline reporters. For instance, at the beginning of the second quarter of Game 5 of the Cavs-Nets series, TNT's sideline reporter observed that the Cavs had already committed five turnovers. 'At that pace,' she noted, 'they would finish the game with 20.' And you know what? She's right! I checked! Hollinger better watch his back -- this woman is like some kind of human abacus. How could I hope to understand the game without real-time statistical analysis like that? Please apologize."

• Chris M. from NYC alerts us that he "received this week's Sporting News and on the cover is Duncan in a beautiful green Celts uniform. A giant single digit salute to the sadists at Sporting News. Of course, I immediately read the article. Duncan and McGrady and Nash. Why not throw in the Hall of Fame career that Bias was wrapping up? Heartless bastards. I hope that cover is some outstanding photoshop work, otherwise Duncan is as heartless as a 'Death Wish' era Charles Bronson. Oh, to dream the impossible dream ... I trust your father's health insurance will cover the consequences."

(My response to Chris: You still subscribe to the Sporting News? Do you read it after an especially inspiring game of Intellivision football, followed by the soothing sounds of your latest 8-track?)

• Bradley from Dallas has a funny follow-up to the section about tipping in last week's mailbag: "As a former Starbucks barista, I have to agree and disagree with you about the tipping. You are right about tipping if all you get is a cup of coffee. They push a button and the cup is full. However, if you are one of those people who orders an Iced-Decaf-Venti-Sugar-Free-Vanilla-Nonfat-2 Splenda-Extra Hot-Almond Latte. ... then we deserve $5 just for not spitting in your drink or throwing the boiling milk in your face for making us realize that our life sucks. Other than that, tipping is optional."

Also in last week's mailbag ...

1. I included a reader's story about Jack Nicholson's testicles, followed by me trying to come up with a porn movie title for his celebrity sex tape if it ever happened (my favorite was, "As Droopy As It Gets"). Well, suggestions came pouring in from the readers, including these goodies: "Terms of Engorgement," "The Two Jakes," "Terms of Endowment," "As Big as it Gets," "Ginatown," "You Can't Handle The Truth," "Sperms of Endearment" and "The Departed."

2. Eddy in Delaware had a correction: "Dude, you seriously missed the boat on today's mailbag question about potential Sugar Mamas. Julia Louis-Dreyfus fits the bill perfectly -- hot, talented, famous, mature and a ridiculously rich heiress. Check out this link from Forbes."

• Tony in Miami was very upset with me after Monday's column, explaining, "You wrote that 'Ginobili is at the point in his life where he could rear-end someone at a stoplight, then hop out of his car with his hands raised blaming the other driver for being in his way.' Did you just steal a Dane Cook joke for your column? Come on now, Bill, you're better than that!"

(Note: I did some research on this and yes, Dane Cook DOES have a routine about this, although I wasn't aware because I'm not a Dane Cook fan ever since the famous Crank Yankers story about him wearing a Yankees cap to a taping even though he grew up in Arlington, then telling one of the curious writers, "Don't worry about it." Trust me, the red light thing was a coincidence -- the equivalent of Jemele inadvertently writing a similar joke in August to something that happened in episode three of "House of Payne." You have to believe me.)

• An anonymous reader asks, "You are criticizing Bowen for his dirty play? Last season, you wrote an article on how Quinton Ross was a Bruce Bowen 2.0 and as to how softies like Vince Carter check out mentally when defended like that. You had made it seem like everybody should be trying like Bruce."

Look, I don't begrudge Bowen for doing whatever it takes to remain in the league. He's the equivalent of one of those Ken Linseman/Claude Lemieux types from back when I was still watching hockey -- an instigator who bends the rules, gets in his opponent's heads and ultimately makes his team better. Sure, he's a cheap player who's going to seriously hurt someone some day, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a valuable piece for a team that's probably winning the 2007 title.

Anyway, Ross has reached the point of his career that Bowen reached after the Celtics and Sixers dumped him -- he's a great defensive player but gets pushed around, struggles with his shot and lacks confidence because Mike Dunleavy pulled a Rick Pitino on him. He needs to realize what Bowen did: namely, that he needs to improve his 3-point shooting, escalate his chippiness and start doing some of the same "accidentally" dirty stuff that Bowen does ... that's his best chance to make an impact and earn a good contract. We'll see what happens. But he's a classic example of a potential starter for a 50-win team who's sitting there for a discount price, only just about everyone in the NBA is too dumb to realize it. I'd trade for him in a cocaine heartbeat.

• Speaking of Bowen, Mike in New York passed this story along: "I was in Vegas for a bachelor party last August during the week of the U.S. vs. Puerto Rico exhibition game. We all stayed at the Wynn where almost every basketball player was staying and learned three things: Dwyane Wade really takes care of his dad financially; Clyde Drexler is the coolest guy to play the minimum at the $25 blackjack table; nobody likes Bruce Bowen. Late one night, almost every blackjack table had multiple current or retired NBA players at them and huge crowds to go along with them. That is, except for the table with Bruce Bowen and only Bruce Bowen playing at it. All Bruce's teammates on the USA team were his regular NBA opponents and it was clear that none of them wanted anything to do with him."

• Nick from Minneapolis writes, "I'd like to nominate 'chippy' as the official buzzword of the 2007 NBA playoffs." Done and done.

• Matt from Phoenix writes: "I was watching T.V. the other day and happened upon 'Caddyshack' on HBO. Obviously, I had to watch it; it's a man rule. It was the boat scene where Rodney Dangerfield sees his 'buddy,' and decides to raise all hell and ultimately 'scratch his anchor.' Halfway through the scene, Rodney destroys a small fisherman's dingy (1:50 in the YouTube clip). The expression on the fisherman's face is priceless when he notices Al's giant boat bearing down on him. He bug eyes, and for a second, I thought it was a Tim Duncan making his film debut. The resemblance is uncanny."

• Eugene in San Antonio wonders, "Is it possible to get Ronald Jenkees from YouTube to do the opening track for the 'Eye of the Sports Guy' podcast?"

You know what? I'd be honored. I know the Jenk has become an Internet sensation, but maybe he can find time to come up with a 30-second synth riff for me. And while we're on the subject, I'm not even remotely tied to the "Eye of the Sports Guy" title, so if you can think of a better suggestion, definitely e-mail it to me. Please. I'm begging you.

• Some enjoyable links that my readers passed along from the past 10 days:

1. Daniel in Minny: "Here's Joe Posnanski's annual column on the end of the Royals' baseball season. You mentioned it a while back as one of your favorite rites of spring, so I thought I'd pass it along. Enjoy."

2. Robert L. from St. Louis: "Thought you would like this video of Baron Davis' dunk, Rocky Balboa style."

3. Shannon in Maine: "I was surfing YouTube for the 'Bohemian Rhapsody' scene from 'Wayne's World' and stumbled across an excellent video of a live tribute performance for Freddy Mercury with Elton John and Axl Rose singing 'Bohemian Rhapsody'."

4. A number of people sent this along: The U.S. Social Security Administration released its list of top 10 baby names from 2006. Always a riveting list. And speaking of riveting, Pacino and DeNiro are signed on for another movie! Let's hope it doesn't suck. Also, if you never read my "DeNiro vs. Pacino" breakdown from 2002, click here.

5. On the heels of ESPN's confusing "It's as loud in here as an orchestra" chart during the Jazz-Warriors game last week, Dan in Boston sends along "an article that presents the following chart about the relative decibel level of different noises. Sustained noise over 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss, according to the article. Shouting: 90 decibels. A subway train: 100 decibels. Jet flying 1,000 feet overhead: 103 decibels. Honking horns, jackhammers, loud music: 100-120 decibels. Jet takeoff at close range: 120 decibels." And then there's a playoff crowd for a Nets game: 10 decibles.

6. Sam L. in Maryland: "Per your mailbag on May 11 about the laptop stand for the toilet: Check this out, it's called the Lapinator. Seriously, my wife got me this and it is the best gift I have ever gotten from her. You can put your laptop on your lap without fear of getting singed."

7. JP in New York: "Check out Andrew Rostan, a student from Emerson University, who has won 5-6 times in a row now on 'Jeopardy.' Bill, this is high comedy. I urge you to fast forward to 50 secs and then 3:30. He's like Jim Carrey in 'Cable Guy' and gives a patented thumbs up and spaz-out every time he wins. He is absolutely out of control. I DVR this show now every night, fast forward to the interview and final jeopardy to see his antics. This is fantastic!"

8. Billy in Patchogue, N.Y.: "Zach vs. Slater, quite possibly, the most memorable fight of my generation. The less said, the better." Agreed. I have to say, this was a wildly impressive fake fight. I'd love to have Harold Lederman score it.

9. Jems in France: "Since you love linking to the Christmas Kid, I'm very proud to introduce you to the Exorcist kid."

• One last note: Sunday marks the 10-year anniversary of the launch of my old "Boston Sports Guy" site on Digital City Boston (an AOL "digital newspaper" that doesn't exist anymore). My first column (May 20, 1997) was about the hopeless Celtics and their plans for the 1997 draft. It wasn't very good. A few columns later, I watched the draft at my father's house, kept a running diary of it, wrote all of our jokes down, honed it into something coherent, then posted it 90 minutes after the draft ended. It was the first time when I felt like I had tapped into the vast potential of the column -- not only was it different than everything people were getting in newspapers and magazines at the time, it was an immediate reaction to a major sports event that had just happened.

Within an hour, they were promoting the draft diary on the main page of Digital City, as well as the AOL welcome screen for Boston users, and almost immediately, I started getting e-mails from readers about what I had written, even though it was midnight and it seemed improbable that anyone would be online reading a sports column. And I specifically remember thinking to myself, "Holy s---, this whole Internet thing might work!"

Does it seem like 10 years ago? Absolutely. Sometimes it feels like 50. But it's been an incredible ride and I wanted to take a second to acknowledge everyone who hopped on board at some point along the way. Thanks for reading and thanks for spreading the word for me.