Let's get to the mailbag   

Updated: February 20, 2006, 12:44 PM ET

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Quick follow-up to yesterday's interview with David Stern: A number of readers wondered how I could have forgotten to bring up H-O-R-S-E for All-Star Weekend, since I have been pushing that idea for four years on ESPN.com (ever since my February 2002 column). Unbelievably, I forgot to ask him about it. That was the only thing on my list that I missed. Oh well.

In the meantime, let's delve into a long-overdue edition of the mailbag. As always, these are actual questions from actual readers:

Q: Yesterday, I was stoned. Today I got an e-mail saying that I bought your book from Amazon last night. There should be stoner tests on all Internet purchases. It better be good. Side note: I'm a Met fan, but I wear this Red Sox cap at the deli I work at to tick off all the Yankee fans who come in, and like 300 people told me today about Coco Crisp. I think they're jealous. Anyway, I plan sobriety while I read your book. Lata.
-- John, Massapequa, N.Y.

SG: (Shhhhhhhhh ... )

Q: I just read on ESPN.com that Kobe scored 81 tonight, and I'm not that surprised. The reason is, because I'm high. When Kobe scored 62, I was high that night too. Everytime I get high, Kobe scores big and when I see it posted on the Internet, I think I'm hallucinating. The Mamba is really freaking me out.
-- Brad, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

SG: (Don't say anything ... )

Q: As someone who firmly believes the Patriots were one Brady-Tara Reid relationship away from being the four-time defending champs, I was wondering why pro teams don't put clauses in contracts that say you can't date some people, ever. They have dangerous activity clauses against skiing, motorcycling, etc. -- how much more dangerous can that be than dating Lindsay Lohan?
-- Matt, Washington, D.C.

SG: Damn! We were only 25 more e-mails away from the first-ever All-Stoner Mailbag!

(And by the way, I love the idea of a Tara Reid Clause in contracts. If I ever owned a team, I would prohibit my players from dating the following people: Reid, Lohan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, the Olsen twins, the Hilton sisters, the Duff sisters, Alyssa Milano, Pam Anderson, Nicole Richie, Brittany Murphy, Mariah Carey, Jake Gyllenhaal, Whitney Houston, Chyna, any former porn star, any former child star and, last but not least, Tawny Kitaen.)

Q: Who is the sports equivalent of Mariah Carey? Don't forget the fact that she's only 36 and could crank out a couple more platinum albums before completely fading out. Is there anyone from the sports world that even comes close? I would hesitate to call anyone "The Michael Jordan of" their respective profession, but Mariah creates some interesting parallels. From Jordan's game-winner for UNC in '82 to the six titles with the Bulls to his "I'm going to play minor league baseball" phase to the most recent comeback, you could make a case for Jordan. Except for two things: One, he doesn't have much chance of impacting sports now that he's retired for good (we think); and two, Mariah's early success far [exceeded] what she did later in her career, which is inverse to Jordan's career arc. The 1985-1990 "Great Dunker, Great Scorer, No Titles" Jordan would compare a lot more favorably to the 1995-2000 "Fantasy"/"Butterfly" Mariah. I think I've spent enough time on this, it's your turn now.
-- Gavin, Waverly, Iowa

SG: I wouldn't compare Mariah to MJ because there was never a time when everyone agreed, "Wow, we're watching the greatest singer of all time, I'm going to be telling my grandkids about this." Roger Clemens is a much better comparison. Think about it.

1. They both exploded onto the scene: Mariah with the "Vision of Love" single on her self-titled album in 1990, Clemens with the 20K game and the 24-4 season in 1986. But in those early years, Mariah was always overshadowed by Whitney Houston, and Clemens was always overshadowed by Doc Gooden ... both of whom ended up destroying their careers because of drugs.

2. Mariah has won five Grammys, Roger has won seven Cy Young Awards, but there was never a time in either of their primes when you thought you were watching the most successful pitcher/female singer of the past 50 years ... it just kind of happened.

3. They both looked completely different at the start of their careers than they do now, to the point where it almost feels like they were two different people -- like how "1970s Al Pacino" was replaced by "'Sea of Love'/'Scent of a Woman' Al Pacino" in 1989.

4. Both of them fluctuated in weight over the years, to the point that my Dad has made the "They look like you when you came back from San Francisco" joke about both of them (obscure reference for anyone who has read my book).

5. Both have dodged rumors for the past 10 years that they've had some, um, enhancements.

6. If you call Mariah "hot," any self-respecting female within earshot goes crazy. If you call Clemens "clutch," just about every self-respecting baseball fan goes crazy.

7. They both hit rock bottom in a sense. For Roger, it happened when he mailed it in with the Red Sox from 1993 to 1996, made a contract push at the tail end of the '96 season, then signed with a team in Canada and never thanked the Boston fans on his way out. For Mariah, it happened after the "Rainbow" album in 1999, leading to the legendary "Cribs" episode (a Hall of Famer on the Unintentional Comedy Scale), two dreadful movies and everyone writing her off as fat and crazy.

8. They both slept with Derek Jeter.

(All right, I made that last one up.)

Q: Give us a mailbag you ass ... and put this in it.
-- John, Des Moines, Iowa

SG: Would you like fries with that?

Q: I think that any team who gets Sammy Sosa can be equated to dating a chick just because she has big boobs. The dates are terrible because all the while you're thinking, "Man, this girl is really unattractive and is about as interesting as staring at cardboard, but if I could just see her boobs, it would all be worth it." If the Nationals or whoever get Sammy, they would be thinking, "Man this guy's batting average and salary are killing us, but if we could just get those home runs, and possibly even number 600, it would all be worth it."
-- Matt F., St. Louis

SG: Here's what I would do if I were running one of those crummy small-market teams like the Royals: Why not sign Palmeiro and Sosa as your lefty-right DH, then quietly sign Canseco as the 25th man, just for the soap opera appeal? What would be more exciting than all three of those guys sitting in the same dugout every game? How many B-12/Viagra/giant head jokes could be made over the span of six months? What about every home run, followed by the requisite, "Uh-oh, somebody get out a cup and make him pee in it!" joke. I don't understand why teams don't just do this stuff in lieu of pretending to be competitive. Would you ever be interested in the 2006 Kansas City Royals under any other circumstances?

Q: Don't you think it is selfish of John Holmes to deprive us of the hilarity of golf announcers having to say "John Holmes" by going with the initials JB??? Come on John Holmes, I thought you were bigger than that.
-- Jack, Drexel Hill PA

SG: Bah dum CHA!

Q: On the "Take one for the team" shows we have to watch with our significant others -- I get stuck with every one of the ones you mentioned. I swear my girlfriend and I have made all five of your points about "The Bachelor" to each other. I actually started enjoying "How I Met Your Mother," too, because I had to watch it before taking over the TV for three hours for "MNF" (plus Robin is really hot). Any chance of ranking the best "Take one for the team" shows that guys surprisingly wind up enjoying?
-- Denis Egilmez, West Palm Beach, Fla.

SG: I'm going to do one better and unveil the "Take One for the Team" TV Show Hall of Fame.

Five ground rules here:

A. They have to be shows that, back in the day, you never would have never watched with a group of male friends under any circumstances.

B. They have to be shows you secretly enjoy.

C. Your spouse or girlfriend has to like the show at least twice as much as you.

D. The show needs to feature at least one smoking-hot female, which was the real reason you were putting up with the show (only your lady didn't realize it).

E. You have to feel like you're gaining some sort of "Now she can't give me crap about watching football for the last 11 hours" leverage from the whole thing.

Also, the George Costanza Corollary applies here. Remember the "Seinfeld" episode when George proposed to his girlfriend because he thought Jerry was going to get engaged, only Jerry called his relationship off, so poor George was stuck with a new fiancée, and the show ended with them watching the despicable "Mad About You" episode, with her smiling happily and George looking like he wanted to hang himself? In those situations, you're not taking one for the team ... you're just plain whipped. For instance, if you watch "Will and Grace" under any circumstance other than, "I cheated on my lady a few weeks ago and this is how far I will go to get her back," you need to seriously reevaluate your life.

Here's the "Take One For the Team" Hall of Fame (in no particular order):

"Party of Five" -- The Babe Ruth of this list with Neve Campbell and Jennifer Love Hewitt in their primes, as well as the pantheon-level "Bailey's drinking" story line (which featured the intervention episode by which all other intervention episodes should be measured); the fun-to-mock Charlie character ("I have cancer, Bailey! I have cancer! OK? I'm sorry if I can't drive you to the airport! I have cancer!"); little Claudia's disturbing emergence into an attractive teenager with boobs; and the never-ending comedy of little Owen (who had the Dom Capers face going 24/7). This was a great show. And I would never, ever have watched it in a room full of guys.

"My So-Called Life" -- Claire Danes made it watchable. Plus, it was always fun to make short jokes about Jared Leto just to get reactions during the show.

"Friends" -- I'm not including the first two seasons here, when the show was actually funny and featured a beefier Jennifer Aniston at her absolute apex (yes, she had one). I'm talking about the stretch starting with the excruciating episode in which Ross confessed to Rachel that he cheated on her -- after that, there was no going back, culminating in the writers' neutering Chandler and turning Ross into a walking apocalypse. I will never understand why they chose to declaw the males on this show instead of making them like real guys. Even worse, since the females watching thought these were real guys, they invariably expected us to act like Ross and Chandler. This show makes me angry. Let's move on.

"Grey's Anatomy" -- Just a superb show from top to bottom. But it is what it is: A one-hour chick flick every week. There isn't a single male character on this show that I would ever hang out with. At least "ER" had Clooney's character.

"The Gilmore Girls"/"Felicity"/"Dawson's Creek" -- Ladies, if you thought we were watching these shows for any reason other than Lauren Graham/Keri Russell/Katie Holmes, you're kidding yourselves. Come on. These shows all sucked.

"The OC" (third season) -- Just a rough season all the way around. On the other hand, you could stick Mischa Barton and Rachel Bilson on a drama in which they play gift shop clerks in a Lowell, Mass., Holiday Inn and I would probably watch it every week.

"The Bachelor" -- When it's working correctly (and that's not often), the ultimate blend of sex appeal, craziness, cattiness and unintentional comedy. And now it's been taken to another level by the Flavor Flav show on VH1, in which my dream for "Black Bachelor" (mentioned many times in this space) has finally been realized.

(By the way, couldn't HBO do an R-rated version of "The Bachelor"? Is everyone at HBO asleep at the wheel? How have we not had an R-rated "Bachelor" and an R-rated "Real World" yet? Where is Showtime in all of this? Or Cinemax? Is it that hard to give guys what they want to see?)

The Winter Olympics -- The cutoff line here is male figure skating. If you're watching male figure skaters this week, and you didn't either (A) cheat on your lady recently or (B) mistakenly dump her and now you're trying to get her back, I'm not sure what to tell you. You should never watch a sport in which you wouldn't wear the clothes of the competitors. This is one of my rules in life.

"How I Met Your Mother" -- Has a chance to supplant "Party of Five" as the Babe Ruth of this list because it's genuinely funny at times, it's always well-structured, and it disguises itself perfectly as "a show for men and women" when it's really a show exclusively for women. For instance, what guy do you know would meet a beautiful girl at a wedding, agree not to make a move on her for the entire night, then stick to that agreement and allow her to walk away? Has this ever happened before? Ever? On the other hand, the TV broadcaster and Ted's new girlfriend rank alongside the Barton/Bilson combo. Outstanding work by this show. We'll see whether they end up neutering the guys like "Friends" did. I remain skeptical.

Q: What's it going to take for Edgar from "24" to get his own spin-off? Am I the only person who would watch "7:00 AM to 8:00 AM; Edgar squirts donut jelly on his XXXL Polo," or "3:00 PM to 4:00 PM; Edgar looks down Chloe's blouse as he arrogantly remarks that she should use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer"?
-- Nathan Wilson, New Brunswick

SG: I'm glad you brought up "24" ...


First of all, we're six weeks into the season, and Rudy is still refusing to wear his Notre Dame football jacket. Which is bothersome. But during the scene in which Rudy implores Jack to allow the terrorists to release the nerve gas on the unsuspecting California mall (so they can keep following the terrorists), then Jack's old girlfriend gives him the Adrian Balboa-esque "Look at the TV, look at the kids you wanted to kill today, what's happened to you?" guilt trip, couldn't they have had Rudy thinking about quitting before Charles S. Dutton (as the CTU janitor) talked him out of it? Then the scene could have unfolded like this:

-- Rudy (heading to his car): "Hey."

-- Charles S: "Hey hey hey, whatcha doin' here, don't you have to run CTU?"

-- Rudy: "Not anymore, I quit."

-- Charles S: "Well, since when are you the quitting kind?"

-- Rudy: "I just wanted to prove to everyone --"

-- Charles S: "Prove what?"

-- Rudy: "That I could run CTU. That I was somebody."

-- Charles S: "Aw, you are so full of crap. Look at you, you're 5-foot-nothing, you've gained 100 pounds since "Lord of the Rings," and you have nearly a speck of athletic ability, but you hung in with the most important counterterrorist unit in the land for six episodes! In this lifetime, you don't have to prove nothin' to nobody except yourself! And after what you've gone through, if you haven't done that by now, it ain't gonna never happen! Now go on back there and run CTU!"

Q: Watching Kobe's 81-point performance was both breathtaking and depressing. The only thing I can relate it to is an adult film (then again, I relate just about everything to the porn industry). Watching Kobe put up 81 was like watching the girl who is going for some sort of porn record; there's no joy to it, she's just going through the motions with the only enjoyment being the completion of a goal. Which is kinda depressing, no?
-- Paul, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Q: Watching Kobe is getting better by the night, isn't it? I find it hilarious when he tries to let his teammates run the offense for a few possessions, then inevitably gets impatient and starts firing up shots again. It's almost like a guy making out with his girlfriend and waiting for her to initiate sex. Deep down, he knows it's not going to happen, but he waits a few minutes anyway. Then he gets frustrated and ends up taking charge on his own.
-- Brian Young, Syracuse, N.Y.

SG: Read these e-mails and more in my upcoming book, "The 100 Most Depressing Sexual Comparisons To Kobe's 2005-06 Season," hitting bookstores everywhere on April 10.

Q: What would you give to direct an ABC "After School Special" based on Chris Andersen's suspension? Whatever drugs he allegedly took would of course determine the soundtrack, but either way, the ending would have to be the Dunk Contest, the last lines of "Time for the Birdman to Fly" echoing into the credits.
-- Dave, Brockton, Mass.

SG: The Dunk Contest scene would definitely have to be one of those '70s drug montages, with the distorted camera angles and creepy synth music, followed by the obligatory shot of everyone in the crowd pointing and laughing at him. But I don't think that's the ending -- that should be the scene that drove him to drugs, right? Couldn't the guys who did the life-altering "Yacht Rock" series on Channel101.com come up with something here? Is that too much to ask?

(By the way, I don't care about directing it, I just hope Maciej Lampe gets to play himself, so it could say "And introducing Maciej Lampe as Maciej" in the opening credits. That would be worth the price of admission.)

Q: Come on, we're all waiting. Where do you stand on this whole J.J. Redick thing? -- Frank, Charlotte, N.C.

SG: Glad you asked. I have a few thoughts on this one ...

1. If his name was "Joe Redick" or "Jimmy Redick," he wouldn't take nearly as much crap from anyone. Nobody wants to like a white kid named "J.J." It's one of those "I'm sorry, I have to hate you just out of principle" white sports names along the lines of "Chipper," "B.J." and "Christian."

2. If he went anywhere else but Duke, he wouldn't take 9/10th's as much crap from anyone. Switch him with Mike Nardi and stick Redick on the bombs-away Villanova team and you know what would happen? Everyone would be raving about how much fun Redick is to watch. Unfortunately for J.J., everyone hates Duke and he's the quintessential Zabka-like kid Coach K always recruits, so we're already biased against him. We want him to blow out an ACL or break something crashing into a scorer's table. This isn't his fault.

3. I don't care whether it's a lousy college hoops season or whether he's playing for a stacked Duke team: He's such a deadly shooter that (A) it's shocking when he misses a wide-open 3, and (B) he's one of those rare guys who can sink open 3s in any situation (even a 1-on-2 fast break), from any angle, anywhere on the court. There aren't five NBA players who have more confidence than Redick from 25 feet. I know it's practically sacrilegious to say, but I think he's immensely entertaining to watch. How often do you see a college kid with Cassell-like balls?

4. Anyone who thinks that Redick -- on the right team, in the right offense, with shot blockers to protect him on defense -- cannot end up being an asset in the NBA is insane. Repeat: Insane. He's a better shooter than Steve Kerr, John Paxson, Jerry Sichting, Trent Tucker or Craig Hodges, all of whom had similar games and played roles for championship teams. I would actually compare his ceiling to Rip Hamilton's ceiling (who is almost as bad defensively, by the way); you could craft a decent offense from running Redick off multiple picks and getting him open shots.

I look at it this way: If you're an A-plus in any category, you're going to crack a 9-man rotation in the NBA, regardless of whether you have any other skills or not. Desagana Diop blocks shots, and that's all he does; Eddie House makes jumpers, and that's all he does; Carlos Delfino plays defense, and that's all he does; and all of those guys are contributing to 60-win teams right now. Redick is going to find the right team (maybe not right away), and he's going to make open 3s, and even if that's all he does, he'll be one of the best eight guys on the team. It's going to happen. The funny thing is, NBA scouts are always more enamored with multi-tool guys like Dunleavy and Darko who end up not being able to do anything that well. So those guys get drafted above guys like Redick, and then everyone is amazed when Redick turns out to be a better pro.

Q: You watch "Lost." Do you think they have run out of tampons yet? How could they not devote an entire episode to this? I can't think of an event that could affect island morale more than the "Hey, I think Kate just used the last of the Tampax" situation. I need to stop watching this show.

SG: The best part of the Tampax show would be the flashbacks ... how would they pull that off? But you bring up a great point that I mention pretty much every time I watch this show: What happened to the people with contact lenses? What happens when they run out of deodorant and toothpaste? How does Jack maintain his short haircut, even though they've been on the island for two months? Why hasn't everyone lost a staggering amount of weight like the people on "Survivor"? How has Hurley not dropped like 60 pounds by now? What is the mom using for baby wipes and diapers? Where do they go to the bathroom? Is there anyone going through cigarette withdrawal? Why doesn't anyone on the island have serious allergies? I could go on all day.

Q: What's the earliest in the day that it's OK to start drinking?
-- Jack Pierce, Concord, Mass.

SG: Back when we were living in Boston (Charlestown, actually), the Bug and I would trek down to Foxwoods at night, gamble until the wee hours, then drive back to Boston at around 5:30 a.m. (the latest you could go back without hitting rush hour traffic in the morning). We would get home around 7:30-7:45, and then Bug would always want to get a bagel and coffee, so we would go to Sorelle's Bakery and get something -- which was funny in itself, because we reeked of casino smell (cigarette smoke and booze) and looked like death warmed over -- and wait in line with all of these horrified yuppies on their way to work.

Anyway, the great Sully's Pub (a Charlestown institution right up there with the Bunker Hill Monument, the 99 and Joe the Alcoholic Counter Guy) was only a couple doors down from Sorelle's ... and since Boston bars aren't allowed to open until 8 a.m., there would always be a line of degenerate drinkers waiting to get in. Believe me, it wasn't the kind of line you would ever want to peruse and suddenly say the words, "Hey, Dad!" So we would walk out of Sorelle's, see these poor alkies waiting to get in to Sully's, then I'd make the requisite "Should we go in for one last beer?" joke just to see the gleam in the Bug's eyes before he realized I was kidding.

Here's the point: 8 a.m. is too early to say, "I think I'll head down to my local bar by myself and have a drink" or even "Screw coffee, I think I'll make myself a Jack and coke." If you're drinking before 10 a.m., you might as well just put on a Vin Baker jersey and start stumbling around in a layup line. I'm sorry. Even after 10 a.m., the only acceptable drinks are Bloody Marys and Mimosas until 11:15-11:30 a.m. ... and Lord help you if you're ordering a Mimosa in front of other guys.

Of course, there are three exceptions to the 10 a.m. rule: Football tailgates, Vegas and college reunions. For tailgates, you need to drink to make up for the fact that you're standing in a semi-circle for five hours in 30-degree weather for no real reason. In Vegas, there's no clock, so anything goes and time doesn't really matter. And college reunions are pretty much intolerable unless you're three sheets to the wind, because you're going to spend most of your time talking to people that you didn't even like when you were in college. So those are the three exceptions. I feel very strongly about this.

Q: Why are you now calling your buddy J-Bug just "the Bug"? Did you think we wouldn't notice this?
-- J. Murphy, Stoneham, Mass.

SG: It's like when P-Diddy dropped the "P" and just became Diddy.

Q: I caught part of the fourth quarter of the Pro Bowl last night and noticed that STEVE MCNAIR was taking snaps for the AFC. Was Brooks Bollinger already booked at the Brick Tamland Celebrity Golf Tournament? Has there ever been a more meaningless sporting event than the Pro Bowl?
-- Kevin, Kansas City

SG: No. Never. Even the Michael Douglas & Friends celebrity golf tournament is higher on the food chain than the Pro Bowl. They need to cancel it. Even my buddy Sal won't gamble on the Pro Bowl, and that's saying something.

More important, I was blown away by the McNair thing as well; it was one of the under-the-radar incredible moments in sports history. When I first saw him taking snaps, I thought the game had been rained out and they were showing a replay of the 1999 Pro Bowl. Then I realized the game was live, which made me wonder whether this was the first time that a QB who didn't start for a single fantasy team during an entire season started in the Pro Bowl. Then I spent the next two to three minutes in complete shock, which probably gave me something in common with his AFC teammates. Then I became disappointed that they didn't figure out a way to videotape McNair's reaction to the "Can you come to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl?" phone call, as he probably spent a good three days wondering whether he was being "Punk'd." And finally, the more I thought about it, the more I became furious that Keanu Reeves or James Van Der Beek didn't get the call. That's where I am now. Still smoldering. This could have been Keanu's one chance.

Q: What do you think of the Darko deal? Speaking from a Pistons fan perspective, I love it. If you look at Darko for what he is (NOTHING), then we're basically getting a (Top 5 protected) draft pick for 2007, which will be one of the deepest drafts in a decade, and clearing a bunch of cap space to re-sign Ben and Chauncey for Carlos Arroyo. Hmm, an erratic, pouting, showboating backup point guard for a first rounder and cap space?
-- Tad Dixon, Kalamazoo, Mich.

SG: What did I think? I think you could have had Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh three summers ago. Maybe Joe Dumars is an excellent GM, and maybe this current Pistons team was one of the most thoughtfully put-together teams of the last 25 years. But I'm tired of reading how the Darko pick was defensible. There's no way to predict how an under-20 foreign player from a small country will adapt socially, mentally or physically to riding an NBA bench for a couple of years. It's an enormous risk -- like taking a baby on a cross-country flight. You just don't know. So why take that risk in a loaded draft when you don't need to do so?

Here's the crazy thing: People are still defending the pick. For instance, Mitch Albom wrote on Wednesday, "As for those who say the Pistons blew it with Darko -- they could have drafted Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade instead? Well, factually, that's true. But had that happened, these Pistons wouldn't be these Pistons, because somebody else would be gone. And these Pistons, during Darko's stay, have one championship and one near-championship."

No offense to Mitch, but what the hell does that mean? Who would be gone? Why couldn't they have kept everyone and the No. 2 pick? You're telling me the last three Pistons teams wouldn't have been better off with Carmelo as a sixth man, Wade as a third guard or Bosh as the backup big guy ... especially last year's team, that was forced to play six guys in Game 7 of the NBA Finals? Really? You're making that argument with a straight face? Having a better player would have held the team back?

Another Darko defense, this time from our own Chad Ford, who was Darko's biggest advocate in the summer of 2003 and now admits that "hindsight being 20-20, it's impossible to say the Pistons made the right decision when they chose the 18-year-old 7-footer from Serbia." I'm glad he came to that conclusion. But here's the part that got me:

"Darko sat. And stewed. He lived alone, one of his first mistakes. He got homesick. Started listening to the hecklers. Lost his passion for the game. By midseason of his rookie year, he spent more energy living the life of an NBA player off the court than playing the game that an NBA player is paid to play. When he did get into the game, typically only seconds before everyone went home, he looked out of place. 'Awkward' barely captures how lost the big kid looked. He tried to do too much, with too little time. Then, after a while, he just quit trying. He was awful and he knew it. The shame and embarrassment of it all, for a kid as proud as Darko, was too much to bear."

Precisely! Precisely! This is why you don't pass up blue-chip players in a loaded draft to roll the dice with a talented foreigner who could possibly have adjustment issues playing in a new country on a good team! Why not take a sure thing? Especially when you have an immediate chance to become a title contender? That's what never made sense. Plus, Dumars waited a year too late to trade Darko -- if he was moved for bench help last year, the 2005 Pistons probably would have won the title. If he was moved for bench help this summer, the 2006 Pistons probably would have won 70-plus. Instead, he was moved for cap space and a future first-rounder in 2007. In other words, through 2007, this current Pistons team will have had a four-year window in which it's been (A) exceptionally healthy, and (B) one of the best two or three teams in basketball each year, and somehow, it didn't get any help from the No. 2 selection of the most loaded draft of the decade (which happened at the start of that four-year window). I would say that's a complete disaster.

The bottom line: They could have won four or five straight titles with this current nucleus if Dumars didn't pass up three of the top-eight young assets in the league with that pick. As it stands, they're going to struggle to win two. That's why I believe that, other than Bowie-over-MJ, that was the most damaging draft-day decision of the last 20 years. And anyone who says otherwise is crazy.

(By the way, contrary to public belief, I'm more depressed about the Darko saga than anything. I like watching this current Pistons team; the Fab Five deserves to have a decent bench. Right now, it's Antonio McDyess and the pu pu platter. There isn't a quality team less equipped to handle a serious injury. I just think it's a shame. Rarely does a team get this close to becoming transcendent. So be it.)

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, and his Sports Guy's World site is updated every day, Monday through Friday. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace" is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.