The Least of our concerns
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.
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.
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.
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