Five Eastern Conference playoff questions you were afraid to ask

Updated: April 18, 2003, 1:44 PM ET
By Terry Brown
1. Is Ben Wallace really the boogie man?
Have we already forgotten that with Ben Wallace as the starting center, the favored team lost to Argentina, Yugoslavia and Spain, finishing sixth behind New Zealand just ahead of Puerto Rico. And since when has 15.4 or 30.8 or 61.6 rebounds per game ever been more than 15.4 or 30.8 or 61.6 rebounds per game and zero points? Great, so the best defender in the game today holds Andrew Declerq to minus 4.7 points per game. So what. Who's guarding Tracy McGrady? Is it the same guy who held him to 46 points on Christmas Day on 14 of 26 shooting with 21 trips to the foul line? Please tell me that the No. 1 seed in any conference, including the Patriot, Horizon and Ivy League, isn't really led by a 6-foot-9 center who almost blew out his knee last week while averaging 6.9 points per game on the season, up from his 5.5 career average but down from his season-best of 7.6 last year. And exactly how playoff games has Richard Hamilton been the leading scorer in? I tucked my daughter in last night by telling her that if she didn't practice her free throws, she'd shoot 45 percent from the line just like that guy with the funny hair from the team that barely scores more points than the Nuggets, Heat and Raptors, and that if she didn't eat her vegetables I'd make her watch re-runs of last year's playoff series between Detroit and Toronto until she did. She's outside right now drilling 15 footers with a celery stalk hanging out of her mouth.

2. Does Gary Payton need to take a paternity test?
The New Jersey Nets made it to the NBA Finals last year because Jason Kidd opened up the playoffs against Jamaal Tinsley and finished off the Eastern Conference against Kenny Anderson. A bucket here or there and Baron Davis would have beaten him but now he gets Gary Payton. You know, daddy. The guy who taught him everything he knows. The guy who already had his name scrawled across Oakland blacktop before Kidd ever made a game for himself. The guy who would have won Jason's assist title this year if he wasn't too busy pushing his new team over the finish line with an 8-1 record down the stretch while the Nets went 4-5. Look, Kidd would have been fine without Payton, but you can't say the same about the Nets without Kidd, who is too good not be great in this series but still might not be enough against someone who is too great not to be good at the same time.

3. Why is Derrick Coleman wearing a wig?
The Hornets may have changed cities but there's more than a few fans who still have it out for their former power forward who left his car in a ditch along with a cotton-mouthed call to his lawyer on speed dial and a teammate with a punctured lung. Who needs enemies when you've got teammates like Derrick Coleman? Which leaves the Sixers with a frontline of Dikembe Muto . . . oops, I mean Todd MacCul . . . oops, I mean Keith Van Horn and Kenny Thomas. Yeah, that's what I mean. And before I forget, there isn't a team in the playoffs on either end of the continent with a worse home record than the usually tough as nails Sixers. The point is, if DC's driving to the game or to the bucket, he's going to come down hard again with the likes of P.J. Brown and Jamaal Magloire waiting for him. Jamaal Mashburn is drooling already. Voodoo dolls go on sale tomorrow. Look, the Hornets have beaten Detroit, Philadelphia and New Jersey all in the last six days and it isn't so important that Baron Davis be better than Allen Iverson but that he simply think he is. Bourbon Street will take care of the rest.

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