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Playoffs '08

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  May 28, 2008 01:59 PM

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It's late May, we're still talking basketball in Boston, and that, by definition, means life is good.

A few playoff thoughts:

  • Few people of my acquaintance have proven to be more dramatically removed from his normal public persona than Jeff Van Gundy. When I first encountered him as the head coach of the Knicks, I thought he was a coaching lunatic, an utter madman. But by reading the New York papers I discovered that he has an essential honesty and a very wry sense of humor, even as he appeared to be one of those insane workaholic coaches bordering on caricature. And then there was his famous ankle grab of Alonzo Mourning, when the latter was involved in an on-court altercation with Larry Johnson back in 1998. That didn't exactly enhance his reputation, if you know what I mean.

    I began revising my opinion more thoroughly by spending my entire allotted hour sitting at his table while he was being interviewed in his capacity as coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars in 2000. He was very likable in that setting. I once ran into him on the street at a Final Four in New Orleans when he was in-between jobs, and we had a very nice conversation. My wife still talks about it to this day.

    Anyway, how great is he on TV?

    I love him. It's like sitting next to an extremely knowledgeable insider with a wicked sense of humor. He gets the entire TV commentary shtick completely. He doesn't overburden us with arcane coachspeak. He knows just how technical to get, and he loves the game the way so many of we laymen love the game, so he makes great references.

    I just wish all you basketball junkies, especially those of you for whom the terms PSAL and CHSAA have meaning, could have been with me at the Detroit airport Tuesday morning as I took part in a three-way hoop conversation with Van Gundy and his on-air partner Mark Jackson. They were going back and forth about great New York City high school players, among other things, and every time Van Gundy wanted to make a point he would direct the index and middle fingers of his right hand at his face and say, "I saw it with these eyes." In other words, "This isn't hearsay."

    He wants to coach again, which shouldn't surprise anyone. At 46, he's way too young to abandon a profession he truly enjoys. But I hope his return to the coaching biz can be postponed indefinitely. Don't worry; he ain't starving. In the meantime, he is supremely entertaining.

  • OK, here it comes. At the risk of going all Old School and Fuddy-Duddy on you, I must go on record as saying the time has come for David Stern to do more than express his public disapproval of the inane introduction ceremonies that are infesting and belittling his league. He needs to set down some serious guidelines.

    Number one. They're too long. The nonsense in Detroit in endless. The players almost need to go out and get warmed up again.

    Number two. No flames and no smoke. None.

    But I'll tell you what I do like about Detroit, and if it could be done in moderation I'd have no objections. I like the drummers. I forget what those drums are called, but I'm talking about the "Drumline" style drums they have for their intros. They're pretty cool. For a while.

    Stern told me 12 years ago he was determined there would be a balance between the old and the new with regard to so-called "Game Presentation." He lost that balance a long time ago. The league has given itself over to the marketers and in-house "Entertainment" geeks. You saw what happened in New Orleans earlier in the playoffs when their stupid flaming rings thing wound up causing a 20-minute delay when some overzealous maintenance people put the fire out with standard fire extinguishers. That was Stern's excuse to crack down on all the idiocy I speak of.

    Of course, the greatest fantasy of all is to find anthem singers who just sing the anthem without turning it into a torch song. If you can't sing it in a minute and a half, don't bother.

    That's it; I'm done preaching.

  • I remember someone telling me near the end of the regular season it would be a good idea to bring Sam Cassell back next year. I'm sure that person has reconsidered.

  • On a related note, the Celtics do believe they have something in Gabe Pruitt. He may not be ready to take his place in Springfield, as one persistent e-mailer keeps suggesting, but he does have talent and he does have a future with this team.

  • And then there's our friend Eddie (Have Jumper, Will Travel) House. Eddie has been with nine teams in the last nine years. Do I hear 10 in 10?

  • Finally, here is my recommendation for Rajon Rondo. His big thing next summer should be to work on a high-speed pull-up jumper. Right now, he is strictly a bail-out, take-a-deep-breath jump shooter. There are too many times he comes down in transition and fails to take an available jumper from the foul line, or closer, preferring instead to dribble into the basket and then come back out, thus killing any chances of a fast break bucket. He cannot shoot a reliable jumper off the dribble.

    Yet. No one has ever said this kid isn't willing to work.

    You mix that in with his great ambidextrous drives; his assortment of Tony Parker-like floaters, flyers and what-not; his superb defense and his creative passing, and you might have an All-Star point guard, not merely an adequate one.

    And his rebounding! He's the greatest 6-foot-1 rebounder this league has seen since Fat Lever was cranking out those triple-doubles for Doug Moe.

    All in all, he's pretty good for 22 years old; I'd say.

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    About bob ryan's blog Opinions, observations and anecdotes from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.
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