I'm watching for two things when it comes to officiating in these playoffs. Thing One: How much beating will the whistles let Shaq take? Thing Two: Will they keep calling the perimeter contact close, like they've been doing all season. If so, we've got a show.

Hey, here's a fun foul fact before I get out: The Suns don't foul anybody. Lowest average in the league, something like 18 a game. Too busy playing ball, don't ya know ...

Scoop: D'Antoni's been a wizard in the Southwest. His reputation is made. So who's the coach most likely to damage his rep in these playoffs? I think of it like this: I don't know if Jeff Van Gundy has a rep, but it's going to be mad classic watching him go up against Avery Johnson. After it's all said and done, when Houston's "gone fishin'," no one is going to look at Van Gundy the same. Trust me on this one.

Eric: Sure, JVG's got a rep. He's got a rep for slowing it down and sucking the air out. He's got the Patrick-in-the-post rep. I talked to Doug Moe earlier this spring, about coaching, the sportcoats of old, the whole nine ... and he said coaches today get all crazy for defense because they believe it gives them control, and because they L-O-V-E control. He wasn't talking about JVG, but he was, right? Anyway, I hope you're right; I hope Avery keeps it loose and blows right on by him.

But JVG's not the marquee sort of coach I'm thinking of right now. I'm thinking of Larry Brown. Larry's thinking of a job in LA or New York, probably. But I'm focused, I'm thinking of nothing but him. His rep took a major hit last summer in Athens, just weeks after he'd reached his highest heights with the NBA title. So which Larry do we get this spring/summer? The genius of ball "the right way" or the out-of-touch disciplinarian? If the Pistons stumble ... If they go down, say, to the Pacers, Larry's moment in the sun is going to be Warholian, over in 15.

Scoop: Speaking of in and out of fashion, let's get serious. Let's get on the Craig Sager wardrobe watch. I can't lie. I have this feeling, since he's been on the low this year, that Sager is about to come full blast. Bishop Don Juan is going to lace him, he's going to get one of the Miami games, come straight off South Beach, into the locker room with a six-button linen fuchsia Pucci leisure suit on with salmon Stacey Adam gators. Shaq going to see him and lose it.

Eric: Dare to dream, Mr. Mizrahi. Aim high. Your sartorial musings have me thinking this way: Once upon a time we talked about the coaches' kits. Hair, suits, shoes, ties ... Riles, Chuck Daley, even Phil's suspenders and Nellie's silver mane. What's happened to all that? We're stuck in an era of bland, conservative looks now; guys are combing over and dressing down. It's sad. I blame Stern (take a look at the glasses ... need I say more?). I can't tell you what I'd give to see Larry Brown come out for one of these games in the old-time denim overalls and wide lapels ...

Scoop: Yeah, with the patchwork patterns. I was in his basketball camps back then. He told me I was his first Iverson. Head case. But I agree with you about LB and his rep. The way D-Wade, LBJ and Amer played this year and the fact that he really didn't use them in Athens ... I can't disagree with you on that one, Hef. Just as long as you don't show up to a game sporting one of Nellie's fish ties from the Milwaukee days.

Eric: Mr. Speaker:

Kirk Hinrich
Even though they're missing two key guys, the Bulls still have Kirk and BG.

I nominate ...

Kirk Hinrich as this year's Sleepy Floyd All-Star and Quentin Richardson as this year's Dennis Scott All-Star.

Continued...


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PLAYOFF PROSPECTUS