I've never read any of his books, but he seems to be a very astute and interesting writer.

THE HUNK OF PLAY-DOH

15. New York Knicks
When I caught them in person Wednesday night, they played Anthony Carter, Shelden Williams and Jared Jeffries extended minutes. Let's just fold the D-League. If we can't come up with three D-Leaguers better than that, we need to start over.
Anyway, I stand by my stance when the Melo trade happened: You always trade coins for paper in the NBA. Besides, the Knicks had already made their panic move, spending $100 million on someone whose knees cannot be insured. He may as well have Charlie Sheen and Andy Dick as his left and right kneecaps. That was an "all-in" contract. They couldn't wait two or three years for young players to develop. They couldn't cross their fingers that a 2012 free agent will be there. They were on borrowed time. Even if nothing else about their roster makes sense right now (including the suddenly overmatched coach), a year from now, it might. When you have two stars, it's always easier to get a third. Right, KG, Paul and Ray?
Speaking of contracts, the league's biggest CBA priorities need to be (A) shortening contracts to four years or less, and (B) discouraging teams from overpaying middle-class players with a hard cap, a semi-hard cap, a conditionally hard cap, a flaccid cap or whatever other cap makes you think of a Cialis commercial. In Hollywood, you don't pay "character actors" like Mike Miller or Travis Outlaw $30-35 million to appear in your next five movies. Why? Because it's bad business!!! Because it would be irresponsible! We're headed toward a lockout because NBA "character actors" should be paid like what they are -- character actors -- and because the dopey owners need to be saved from themselves. It's a broken system. Luke Walton and Ron Artest should not be making half as much combined as Kobe Bryant. Brandon Bass, J.J. Redick and Chris Duhon should not be making as much combined as Dwight Howard. If NBA owners ran Hollywood, the creepy uncle from "Winter's Bone" would be enjoying Year 1 of a six-year, $58 million movie deal. Hearing them bitch about "lost revenue" is like hearing Brad and Angelina bitch about future college expenses for their kids. Shut up already.


THE SLEEPERS

9. Denver Nuggets
Four MAJOR karmic forces in their favor: George Karl's inspiring recovery (and "inspiring" is an understatement); the Ewing Theory (can never be discounted); a fan base that handled the Melo-Drama before/during/after with as much class/enthusiasm/devotion as you could ever expect (seriously, nobody came out of the Melo saga better than Denver fans); and Danilo Gallinari's defeating post-coital depression after spending the past three years hooking up with every hot model and actress in Manhattan.
They've also captured the attention of NBA fans for two other reasons ...
A. The Nuggets finally stumbled into the high-flying, up-tempo team they always should have had: an athletic, relentless buzz saw built to run opponents off the court and take advantage of Denver's high altitude. Every player in their top nine makes complete sense for that specific purpose, especially the Felton/Lawson combo at point. It's like watching the greatest Rucker League team ever assembled; I wish they could play outdoors without nets.
B. Because of their phenomenal collection of tattoos, no team has ever been more fascinating to watch in HD -- which makes it doubly funny that they play in Denver, the one city in which people would absolutely get stoned and watch a basketball game just to marvel at tattoos in HD for 150 minutes. I'm telling you, there is MAJOR karma going on here.
Now here's where it gets sad: Unless Dallas can keep collapsing, it looks like Denver will draw Oklahoma City in Round 1, an awful matchup because it won't be able to wear down the young Zombies, and also, OKC has two legitimate crunch-time scorers and Denver has a bullpen-by-committee of "We hope one of these guys gets hot" scorers (always dicey). They now need someone who can score in crunch-time as well as Carmelo Anthony did. That's either ironic or coincidental. Either way, what a shame that Denver couldn't have played San Antonio or Dallas in Round 1. And yes, I wrote that before George Karl came out and basically [Only registered and activated users can see links. ].


THE OLD GUARD

5. Boston
This could be 450 words or 45,000. I will spare you -- we'll go for 450. Just know that I can't remember another deadline deal knocking a team from "favorites" to "also-rans." There's no historical precedent. The trade undermined everything the Celtics were about: size, toughness, togetherness, chemistry, friendship, relationships ... it erased their identity Jason Bourne-style. Whether it was true or not, this particular Celtics team really did believe in the whole "nobody has ever beaten us in a series when we had our starting five" mantra, just like they believed in "ubuntu" and their ability to protect that aforementioned six feet at all times. Well, how do you preach "ubuntu" after you just blindsided one of your core guys in a trade that didn't totally need to happen? So it's conditional ubuntu?
The more I watch this Celtics team, the more I realized that they were overachieving those first 3 months because of chemistry and swagger. Watching Chicago rough them up Thursday was pretty depressing. Keith Bogans pushed Ray Allen around like a rag doll. Kurt Thomas and Glen Davis fell into a heap, then Thomas jumped up and stood over Davis like he had just tripped him in a prison cafeteria and wanted to send him a message before they both got sent to the hole. Joakim Noah pranced around and did Noah things knowing that everyone had his back. With 20 seconds left in a blowout, Carlos Boozer got tangled with Nenad Krstic and decided to shove him six feet, got called for a foul, then stared him down before sauntering back to his bench and being greeted by smiling teammates. Honestly, it was like watching a deleted Cobra Kai scene. The trade was bad enough -- watching my team get punked out on national TV was something else. That game made me ill. So does the trade. I don't know what the Celtics are anymore, and neither do they.
One more thing: Every Celtics fan is in "last year, we wrote them off and we made the Finals" mode. Which is fine. That's what you do when you're grieving. You make excuses. Just know that ...
A. The 2011 Bulls are better than any 2010 Eastern team. There's no comparison, actually. All season long I've been watching them with the same frightened look that Mickey had during Clubber Lang's fights in the beginning if "Rocky 3."
B. The odds of the 2011 Celtics getting a gift on the level of WTHHTLBJBG3G6 (Whatever The Hell Happened To LeBron James Between Game 3 and Game 6) are about 100-to-1. Miracles don't happen twice.