April 16, 2004
Apprentice Bill:
Who else would have taken the life of L.A. luxury, running the golf course, over the life of Chicago weather, building the eyesore?
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Michael Jordan would agree with me: The NBA playoffs road is brutal and demands mental toughness. Any team looking for a "breakout" playoff run needs to experience the punishment.

That's why I can't buy into the T'wolves: They might get out of the first round -- (finally) -- but will go no further. And their No. 1 seed in the West is worthless in the playoffs.

Kevin Garnett, the NBA's regular-season MVP, may have the skills it takes, but he hasn't experienced what it takes to make it out of the second round.

The only reason Minnesota will stave off the Nuggets in the first round is because they have two players -- Sprewell and Cassell -- who have already earned playoff cred.

But then KG will watch the playoff-scarred Kings show him the door -- and show him what it takes to make a deeper run in the playoffs in the future. Just not this year.

Playoff Picks
Coming off my worst NCAA picks ever, here's a crack at the NBA playoff bracket:

First round: Going with chalk.
Sweeping in 4: Pacers
Winning in 5: Spurs, Pistons
In 6: Lakers, Nets, Heat
In 7: Terrified T'wolves

Second round: East holds form with Pacers, Pistons advancing; West goes topsy-turvy: Lakers, Kings each winning in 7.

East finals: Larry Brown too savvy; Rick Carlisle too chokey; Pistons lock up Pacers in 6.

West finals: It's as dramatic as two years ago, with similar result: Lakers over Kings in 7

NBA Finals: L.A. dynasty ends with a title. Lakers in 6.

Yanks at BoSox
Return of the reigning "Best Rivalry in Sports." There is a single, must-see moment of this weekend's series that will crystallize the raging frustration that Red Sox fans have been internalizing since last October:

Marlins: Forget HR pop; pitchers have 30-inn shutout going
Emeka Okafor: No. 1 or 2 NBA draft prospect to declare Fri.
Phillies: Snap 5-game L streak with first W in new ballpark
NBA's revenue: Or is cash flow just a cap-managing tactic?
Expos: Where's Vladimir? 10 runs scored in nine games!
Kwame: Apprentice runner-up screwed over by Omarosa
When Boston's coulda-woulda-shoulda acquisition A-Rod steps in to take his first at-bat. He wanted the pressure? Wow, is he going to get it.

NHL Playoffs
What happened, Predators? Look for my favorite NHL bandwagon to win Game 6 and force a Game 7 back in Detroit, where they don't seem to be able to get it done.

Meanwhile: If Nashville is bounced, I'm already eyeing the Flames (haven't won a playoff series since winning the '89 Cup). Took a 3-2 lead over Vancouver with Game 6 back in Calgary, which will be rocking.

MLB in Vegas?
Moving the Expos to Las Vegas is the second-best thing that could happen to baseball this season, right behind a Cubs-BoSox World Series.

Don't hold your breath: DC/Northern Virginia still has the inside track. (Which league really needs a Vegas team? The NBA, but only if the Maloofs are the owners.)

Suns Sold
Two questions for the ownership consortium reportedly buying the Phoenix Suns next week:

(1) What's your plan to woo Kobe Bryant?

(2) Michael Jordan, are you in there?

WNBA Draft
Is Taurasi the femaLeBron?
On the one hand, she's a better women's player than he is a men's player; on the other, she'll be mired in Phoenix Mediocrity.

If the WNBA had its older brother's feel for conspiracy, they would broker a deal to get her on the New York Liberty or Connecticut Sun. (Saturday, Noon, ESPN)

Pedro Martinez:
Got shelled Thursday (100+ pitches in only 5 IP, 7 ER, 2 HR). Could cry "Done!" but won't: Rain delays eroded normal routine.
Today on ESPN.com
Page 2: Simmons on NBA playoffs
NBA: How valuable is playoff experience?
Gammons: Baseball notes
Best Rivalries
April 2004 Edition
Yankees-Red Sox
Offseason made it even better
Guess who's the 'dog?
NFL Draft WRs
Everyone has their favorite
Uma vs. "Bill"
Death and mayhem, Vol. 2
This one is over

Only problem with the NBA playoffs? The interminable days (and days) of wait between games in a series. Talk about mo-killing ...

If it's true that a big sports slate for New York is good for the entire country, then we're all in for a good weekend: Yanks-Sox, Nets-Knicks and even Freddy Adu in town ...

WUSA will come back with two mini-tournaments: hmm, where have we heard that great idea before? ...

Definition of "Too little, too late": Court rules that Martha Burk and Co. were illegally kept from protesting at Augusta last year ...

Quickest Week Ever: Phil rules, Bonds 660, Bonds 661, Kobe bitterness, Kobe buzzer-beater(s), Marlins kingfish, Bill tops Kwame ...

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