One big-time tank battle, and lots more

Get ready for an epic battle in Milwaukee tonight: Ersan Ilyasova and the Milwaukee Bucks battling Allan Ray and the Boston Celtics, in what Chris Harrison is calling "the greatest double-tank job yet!" Here are the tentative matchups:

Milwaukee starters: Brian Skinner, Ilyasova, Michael Redd (unless he's poisoned before the game), Charlie Bell, Mo Williams.

Boston starters: Kendrick Perkins, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Delonte West, Rajon Rondo.

Bench players who should see action: Bassy Telfair, Leon Powe, David Noel, Ruben Patterson, Dan Gadzuric, Allan Ray.

Coaches: Doc Rivers (career record: 272-294) vs. Larry Krystkowiak (career record: 2-7).

Sidelined stars with dubious injuries who might be in attendance: Paul Pierce, Al Jefferson, Andrew Bogut, Charlie Villaneuva.


Some follow-up e-mails about various topics covered in this space over the past two weeks:

1. Dre from Chicago agreed with every Rik Smits comment from Monday's blog except this part: "Smits was the all-time answer to the trivia question, 'Which NBA player looked the worst with a shaved head?'"

Dre's counter-argument: "Did you miss Scottie Pippen in '94 or '95 when his head looked like a bad oatmeal toupee? Find a pic, I dare you to post it, you may scare away readers."

(Excellent point. If anyone can find a picture of Scottie's oatmeal toupee, please send it along.)

2. Couldn't agree more with this rant from Jason R. in Michigan:

"Has any other year been as ruined as 2007 for fantasy basketball in the Oden/Durant sweepstakes? Leagues need to start the playoffs 3-4 weeks earlier … by that time you know who's going to be making the playoffs anyway, and teams aren't in full tank mode just yet. Take a look at all of the fantasy studs who WON'T be helping your team in the playoffs: Michael Redd, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Ray Allen, Zach Randolph … and then you've got other decent guys like Bogut, Charlie V and Mike Miller. If you have two or more of those guys on your team you can basically stick a fork in your season."

That reminds me, I made the semifinals of's Celebrity Fantasy League even after getting racked by injuries down the stretch: Dwyane Wade (that killed me obviously), Andrew Bogut (out for the year with tankasitis), Shaun Livingston (blown-out knee), Andrea Bargnani (knocked out for the season right when he was coming on) and Jermaine O'Neal (whose knee is so unreliable from game to game that I actually benched him this week because I couldn't take it anymore). My team has been thinned down to the point that I have Ersan Ilyasova AND Anderson Varejao starting against the Pam Anderson/Kid Rock juggernaut this week. Frustrating. But if …

(Hold on, here's a sentence I never, ever thought I'd write in my life.)

… But if I can just hold on against Pam Anderson and Kid Rock this week, and Wade can come back for the final few games, I truly believe my team could give Meat Loaf a run for his money in the finals.

(Let's just move on.)

3. Jeff from Mississippi passed along these thoughts before Greg Oden's monster game on Monday night, but they were still interesting:

"I saw every one of Shaq's TV games in college and many more in person (LSU had some great nonconference games with UNLV, Duke and Loyola Marymount). Shaq was infinitely more raw than Oden at this stage but you KNEW he was something special every time he laced them up. The pure power and quickness he displayed was otherworldly in a man that size. They had to keep extra goals on hand because he would break their hydraulic components. Shots weren't blocked so much as thrown into the stands (I grant it would have been nicer to see him tap them to himself like Russell, but it was intimidating as hell). My point is you aren't the only one watching Oden who fails to see the 'inevitability' to which his name is so often linked. The freshman year stats for O'Neal and Oden are pretty similar, but you've seen a lifetime of hoops and Oden apparently hasn't displayed 'it' in your eyes. Why is that?"

4. Intriguing argument from Kevin A. in Bristol, Tenn.: "Instead of a rich man's Varejao, I prefer to think of Joakim Noah as a multimillionaire's Renaldo Balkman. I saw them play each other in college a couple of times and they're very similar. Both hustle all over the floor, rebound and block shots despite being a little undersized. Both are quick and athletic. Both can handle the ball surprisingly well, bringing it up the court when the point guard is being denied the ball. Both have interesting hair. Noah can win his second NCAA title tonight; Balkman won two NIT titles. Noah blocked a Balkman shot at the buzzer of the SEC title game in 2006 that would've sent it to overtime. Noah's got a much better shot, better size and an overall more refined game, but they always remind me of each other."

(By the way, in case you haven't been following the Knicks, that's a compliment. The Balkman pick turned out to be Isiah's finest moment other than snagging David Lee.)

5. Loved this story from Little Swen in Newton, Mass.:

"The LeBron era was summarized on Sunday night in Boston (I went to the game): LeBron, who had inexplicably taken the night off, was suspiciously absent from the Cavs' bench for the first five minutes of the third quarter. After arguing with my friends as to whether or not he realized he was wearing a purple suit in the first half and decided to change, LBJ finally strolled in from the locker room, only there were no seats left on the bench. He wandered to where David Wesley was sitting, and stared at him for about seven seconds, before Wesley got up and more or less sat on Damon Jones' lap. Wesley and Jones remained in the same seat, looking extremely awkward, for about five minutes until the next timeout on the floor occurred. Priceless."

(See, this is why there need to be cameras on every NBA bench at all times.)

6. This e-mail cracked me up from Ryan in Herndon: "Multiple choice, which thug gangsta said this: 'We're gonna do it BIG tonight. We're gonna do it HUGE all day and all night. You guys have no idea what I'm talking about, but my boys know. Dem Gator boys know.'

"A. Vanilla Ice
"B. Kevin Federline
"C. Joakim Noah"

7. Lots of feedback on the "what NBA player does Corey Brewer most resemble?" question, with the two most common answers being Josh Howard and Tayshaun Prince. I like the Howard comparison, although Brewer is a more explosive scorer than Howard. Don't see the Tayshaun comparison as much -- I'd put Tayshaun on the Charles Barkley All-Stars for "unique players that we will probably never see again." He's just too original. But Howard definitely works. With a little Manu and a little Ricky Davis thrown in.

8. Maine reader Ben. H. sums up the thoughts of a few readers: "I don't think Billy Packer was making a slur against gays on the 'Charlie Rose' show. What he said was, 'You always fag out on that one for me.' I'm pretty sure he was using 'fag' as a verb. The OED entry reads: 'v. (fagged, fagging) 1. colloq. a. tr. (often toll. by out) tire out, exhaust.' They say it all the time in Britain (and New Zealand and Australia). 'I'm really fagged out.' Now Packer's usage might not quite make sense in that Charlie Rose isn't tired and is actually (to use the parlance of our time) 'flaking' or 'punking' out -- that is, not showing up -- rather than getting tired and not doing his job as a runner. It's the preposition 'out' that really gives it away, but I don't think there is any malevolent homosexual slur there at all. Probably Packer is just so old that he's still speaking the King's English, albeit imprecisely. The error here is one of diction and not of bigotry. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I see it."

Very fair point. As Tommy Heinsohn proves during every Celtics game (most recently with the Yao Ming/chopsticks joke), every public figure over the age of 65 should receive a little leeway when they're speaking in public -- they just don't know any better and there's always a chance they might make a joke or use a certain phrase without realizing that it's not acceptable anymore. I don't think Packer should be replaced by CBS for what he said; I think he should be replaced because they could find somebody who's more entertaining than him. Big difference. Besides, it looks like this story is already fagging out. Thank God.

Time to bang out some mid-week links:

• Reason No. 895 why I love my readers: After I ran the YouTube link of the ambulance in Madden '92, then asked for a montage of "late-hit" injuries from the year they allowed us post-whistle cheap shots as Pat Summerall said gravely, "Oh, no, there's a man down," Matt from Old Orchard Beach, Maine, sprang into action with this montage of injuries from Madden '96 (that was the year). He points out, "I like the classic scenario in the second clip of both guys going down and not getting up as you wait in anticipation of who actually got hurt."

• Jason from Westerville, Ohio, writes: "After growing up in Cincinnati, I'm embarrassed to send this clip, but this is the highest of unintentional comedy. The 'pitcher' is the mayor of Cincinnati and the 'catcher' is ex-Red Eric Davis. The look on Eric Davis' face is unbelievable. When you hit somebody standing 25 feet wide of your target on a 55-foot throw, I think you need to decline the offer to throw out the first pitch. Come up with something less embarrassing like, 'Sorry that's the day I spend with the transvestite hooker.'"

• From Simon T. in Washington: "Your Love-Mayo column was dead-on right about the philosophical differences in basketball today. And you're not alone. Check out this Time piece on Georgetown's 'Princeton' offense. As GU shows, it's not a race thing, but about playing the game the right way and to hell with stats and personal accomplishments."

• At last, a link to one of the greatest SNL skits of all time: Jackie Rogers' $100,000 Jackpot Wad. Thanks to a reader named Adam for sending it along. Any time Jim Belushi's career peaks in a sketch with Martin Short, Chris Guest and Billy Crystal, you know something magical has happened.

• From Sean L. in Santa Monica, Calif.: "Before you hop on the Kevin Love bandwagon, check out a potential piece of baggage: his dad. This guys makes Marv Marinovich seem like the dad from 'Family Ties.' Overbearing sports dads are always the hidden cause of can't-miss prospects flaming out."

• Ahmar from New York: "Check out the dunks that Michael Finley was talking about (in the article about James White being left out of the 2007 Dunk Contest) from last year's NCAA Dunk Contest. The nastiest one is the one he missed, mainly because he had the b*lls to try and land it."

• Curtis Granderson … my new favorite non-Red Sox player!

• From Joel B. in Sneads Ferry, N.C.: Here's the Web site for Tammy from the 'The Real World: L.A.' Go to the tab 'About Tami,' you'll find some great insight about her courtship, marriage, career management and divorce from Kenny Anderson.

(Note: There were a number of things that killed me about this site, especially the "Blockbuster" section where she posts the video boxes for all the movies she's "been in," but I think my favorite part is in "About Tami" when she pretends that she had no idea who Kenny Anderson was. Remember, she was a self-professed gold-digger on the show and even had an abortion during that season because the guy who knocked her up wasn't making enough money. Then they had a "Real World" reunion show a few years after the L.A. season and showed pictures from her wedding with Kenny … and Tami was about 6-7 months pregnant. Poor Kenny. She may have been the original loathsome reality-TV character. And now, the genre has been retired by Sean Stewart on "Sons of Hollywood." Which you need to watch. Immediately.)

• Hey, if you like voting on things, check out ESPN's Tribeca site for the "baseball movies" bracket. I was a little upset that "The Natural" was a No. 2-seed … and that "Fever Pitch" wasn't relegated to the NIT.

• Thoroughly enjoyed this conspiracy theory from Kevin F. in Boston: "I just figured out what nobody in the media has reported on yet: why the Patriots' exhibition game in China this August was canceled. On March 31, the U.S. hit China with a tariff on imported Chinese coated-paper. One day later, the Pats-Seahawks game was oddly and abruptly canceled. My theory is that Kraft's paper business was expanding its presence in China (hence, he lobbied for the China Bowl game so he could hob-nob with top Chinese officials which would be good for business) and the Chinese were pissed about the U.S. paper tariff news, so they abruptly canceled the NFL game and the Krafts have remained mum on the topic because they don't want to ruffle feathers. Notice how they keep refusing to comment on the situation? If you don't believe me, check out the Pravda-like NFL spin. How great is that?"

• Bernard from Chicago passes along an intriguing Chicago Tribune article about incoming Memphis point guard Derrick Rose that includes this quote: "Tell people that I'm humble and intelligent. I stand back from all the showy stuff and don't like all the attention on me." I have high hopes for this kid.

• I always thought my first friend to have a site like this would be the J-Bug. Nope.

• Just an outstanding clip from Jake in Denver: "The best of botched wrestling moves. After seven-plus minutes, you're quite impressed by the end. I now want to create a video montage of every lottery bust over the last 10 years." Anyone who ever liked wrestling at any point in their lives needs to watch this entire thing.

• From Mike K. in Toronto: "Here's an interesting link for you: The Toronto Star asked some Toronto-area pro athletes to provide playlists of their favorite songs. Pay special attention to Mo Pete's list -- I'm guessing it was 'Wonderwall' that got him fired up to hit that game-tying 3-pointer against the Wizards last week."

(That reminds me, I love the celebrity playlists on iTunes, if only because Jared Leto, a charter member of the Tony Potts Hall of Fame for Celebrity D-Bags, picked two of his own songs for his playlist. But wouldn't you love to read an ongoing feature where NBA players picked playlists? For instance, what would be on Sam Cassell's playlist? Josh Smith's? Gilbert Arenas'? Eddy Curry's? Brian Scalabrine's? You're telling me that, if I provided links to the playlists for every NBA player, you wouldn't click on it? I'm bringing this up at the next Page 2 ideas meeting.)

• Multiple readers sent along the clip of Alanis Morissette's parody of the Black Eyed Peas song "My Humps," which crushes Fergie and everything she stands for AND manages to be strangely hypnotic. You have to love Canadians. They always deliver the goods.

• Some great points from Nathan W. in New Brunswick, N.J.: "How is it possible that this story was not picked up by Fox and broadcast in prime time? The highlights: outdoor women's boxing … convicted meth dealer boxing for WBC women's flyweight title … match took place ON THE GROUNDS OF A BANGKOK PRISON … transvestite inmates were allowed out of their cells to carry round placards … because she won, she'll now be paroled to fight around the world.

"Maybe the fact that this would have received more PPV orders than Mayweather-De La Hoya would have been the final deathblow for legitimate boxing, but tell me Fox couldn't have ponied up the money to get Bert Sugar ringside and set an HD camera up to capture him eating his Fedora over this spectacle?"

• Finally, I have to pass along Amy Nelson's feature on Elijah Dukes, the feel-good member of my League of Dorks team. (We made him the 23rd pick of our 2006 minor league draft. Yes, the League of Dorks has a minor league draft.) After Elijah's umpteenth off-the-field incident last summer, co-owner Hench and I tried to trade him all summer … with no takers. So when we heard reports that he was turning heads in spring training, needless to say we were dubious. But Dukes kept crushing the ball and made Tampa as a fourth outfielder, and he homered on Opening Day against the Yankees, and today his inspiring story leads the main page of After going through roto hell and back with him, we can honestly say that we never imagined a day when Elijah Dukes would lead the main page of for any other reason than the headline, "TAMPA OUTFIELDER KILLS TEAMMATE IN BATTING CAGE DISPUTE." Good times all around.