Knicks, Celtics proving they don't belong

By Terry Brown
NBA Insider
Wednesday, April 21
Updated: April 21
1:13 PM ET

If the NBA is going to let the New York Knicks (39-43) and the Boston Celtics (36-46) into the playoffs, then the least it can do is match them up against each other, so they don't ruin it for the rest of us.

To be specific, I want Brandon Hunter guarding Kurt Thomas.

Kurt Thomas
New York Knicks

80 11.1 8.3 1.9 .473 .835

As it stands, both teams are a combined 0-4 against the Nets and Pacers, respectively, with an average margin of defeat of 17.7 points and are now the most dangerous teams in the NBA.

"If we can take one of their guys out of the game by being physical with them, then that's definitely an advantage for us," Thomas told the New York Times. "We were hitting hard. We were laying some wood out there."

Thomas said that before Tuesday night's Game 2, a 99-81 loss to the Nets and, of course, after the Nets' 107-83 rout in Game 1. But he could also have said it after the Nets beat New York 108-83 on April 2, their final meeting of the regular season. Or on March 28, 2003, when the Nets smashed the Knicks 122-101 in the final regular-season meeting of that season. How about the 105-76 thrashing on Feb. 26 of that year? Or the 115-93 whipping of Feb. 22, 2002?

In all, the Nets have beaten the Knicks 12 of the last 14 times they've met, the only two victories coming this year, when Nets all-stars Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin were both out injured, and last year, when Allan Houston hit a running jumper with 36 seconds left for a 101-99 victory.

Other than that, the Nets have beaten the Knicks by an average of 17.4 points per game over the last three years.

Regular season or playoffs. In New Jersey or at Madison Square Garden. It doesn't matter. The Knicks do not belong on the same floor with the Nets.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the underdog, and still remember Knick back-up center Dikembe Mutombo, then the starting center for the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets, clutching the ball on his back after his team upset the No. 1 seeded Seattle SuperSonics.

But this is different.

This is as different as Brandon Hunter and Jermaine O'Neal.

By now we know that in the first game of their matchup, Hunter grabbed O'Neal and tossed him to the floor, prompting Ron Artest to temporarily leave the bench and eventually get suspended for Game 2.

But even without Artest, the Pacers still beat the Celtics 103-90 Tuesday night, a nearly identical score to the 104-88 outcome of Game 1.

Brandon Hunter
Power Forward
Boston Celtics

36 3.5 3.3 0.5 .457 .442

"We knew he was sent in to shake it up. This is the NBA," said O'Neal. "Each team has a person that's supposed to do that. I just have to do a better job keeping myself focused. If I get thrown out, our loss is greater than theirs."

What you may not know is that Hunter scored 125 points this year and grabbed 118 rebounds. In the playoffs, he's totaled two points and one rebound.

On the other hand, O'Neal scored 1,566 points and grabbed 778 rebounds on his way to becoming an MVP candidate. In this year's playoffs, he's totaled 46 points and 22 rebounds in two games. Artest was recently crowned the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year and rang up 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks in that first game.

But that's not the only difference.

The Knicks and Hunter aren't the most dangerous entities in the NBA because they can beat the Nets or stop O'Neal and not because of what they can do to Jason Kidd or Richard Jefferson or O'Neal.

They are the most dangerous people because of what they can do to the NBA, since there are no longer any consequences.

Fine them, suspend them, kick them out of the playoffs for good. It's too late. The Knicks are going to lose no matter what, and Hunter is still the third-to-last player selected in the second round of the last draft, who didn't play a single minute in Game 2. They had little or no chance coming into these games, and the last four contests have only confirmed that.

But what happens if Kidd ends up injured? What do we do if Artest gets suspended again? How about Martin taking revenge on Chauncey Billups? All of a sudden we're a Tim Duncan knee injury away from proclaiming the Miami Heat the 2004 NBA Champs with a 42-40 regular season record.

Meanwhile, the 42-40 Utah Jazz are wondering why they have to sit home and watch the Knicks and Celtics.

* Big Talk, No Action as Knicks Go Quietly
Chris Broussard / New York Times

Peep Show

NBA Insider
Wednesday, April 21
Updated: April 21
8:35 AM ET

Miami Heat: Apparently, there will be no mercy from the Heat for Baron Davis and his sore ankle. "When he goes to the hole, foul him," Heat forward Lamar Odom said in the Palm Beach Post. "Use your fouls. Take charges on him. Just try to wear him down. Ball goes up, look for him. See a little point guard, you hit him. Just things like that throughout the game where you can wear him down. Anytime you have a dynamic player like that, you have to do that." No mercy at all. "I saw him fall, and I saw him tweak his ankle," Dwyane Wade said. "At the same time, I've seen him out there on the court hitting threes. I've got to continue to play and not worry about whether he's hurt."

Orlando Magic: It only hurts when Grant Hill laughs. "I can get through metal detectors (at airports) without getting stopped," Hill said of his ankle with five screws to Florida Today. "But we'll have to wait and see how it holds up running on it every day." So don't you start laughing, too, when he says he's coming back next year. "Grant is arguably the best he's been," Weisbrod said. "I know it's easy for people to roll their eyes or be cynical because we've been through this so many times, but he feels great. He doesn't have that pain and throbbing and need to ice immediately after working out. The doctors say his pictures look better than they ever have in the past. There are a lot of positive parts to that, but obviously a world-class athlete looking to put the impact on his body with all that hardware, surgeries and damage done, I'd guess it's still a 50-50 proposition."

Detroit Pistons: This love triangle at power forward seems to be working for Detroit. "He's a young guy," Pistons president Joe Dumars said in the Detroit News of Mehmet Okur. "He understands the circumstances here. He just happens to be playing behind two of the premier players in the league in Rasheed and Ben Wallace. Our feelings for him are as strong as they've ever been . . . The question of whether there's room and a place ... that's what this team is built on -- depth. Size, depth, talent. So there's always going to be a place for that here. We made that abundantly clear to Memo and all his people around him."

Utah Jazz: For all the Jazz care, the NBA can take its Coach of the Year award and shove it. "I can't rate this year above any of the others, to be honest," said assistant coach Phil Johnson in the Salt Lake Tribune. "He's been the same guy, doing the same job, for a long time. Whether you get recognized or not doesn't diminish your career, and his career speaks for itself." It would have been nice if Sloan was recognized instead of Hubie Brown "but it's just an award," Johnson continued. "It's a nice award, but you know what? I would exchange [my] trophy for his career. That's the important thing, and Jerry's career achievement says a lot more about what kind of coach he is."

New York Knicks: While the Knicks were getting their butts kicked on the basketball floor, Tim Thomas was still trying to recover from his. "He's sore," head coach Lenny Wilkins said in Newsday. "He's been in treatment three times a day, so I'm hoping he'll start to feel better. He walked a little better [Monday]. When you land on a tailbone, you're sore and you're tight in [the lower back]. He's a guy that is a jump shooter and goes to the basket. He would need that." And Wilkins can only pray that he can play in the third game. "I hope not, but I don't know," the coach said.

Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers power forward is hurt. No, not that power forward. "I would feel better if Slava (Medvedenko) hadn't hurt himself in the game last night," Phil Jackson told the Los Angeles Times of Medvedenko. "He's no better today. That's a concern for us. We hope the time he has to & recover is going to be adequate. We may have to watch him very closely Friday in that ballgame . . . It's obviously a very serious situation. The Achilles' is one of those injuries you really have to be careful with."

New Orleans Hornets: Jamal Mashburn has been banished from the Hornets' presence after making critical comments of the team. "It came at an inopportune time for us. It was somewhat of a distraction for us, so he won't be with the team or on the bench with us," general manager Bob Bass said in the Miami Herald. "He's not on the playoff roster anyway. So he won't be with the team the rest of the playoffs." Mashburn said the team had misdiagnosed his injuries and didn't have his best interest at heart. "All I am worried about is this basketball team and our opponent [tonight]," head coach Tim Floyd said. "This is unfortunate, but it happened and we've got to move on."

* Heat's plan targets Davis' sore ankle
Chris Perkins / Palm Beach Post
* Hill: No more visits to the doctor
John Denton / Florida Today
* Okur's lack of playing time isn't sign of his future
Rob Parker / Detroit News
* No award for Sloan
Phil Miller / Salt Lake Tribune
* Tim may also miss Game 3
Greg Logan / Newsday
* Latest Injury Is a Concern
Tim Brown / Los Angeles Times
* Mashburn banished for playoffs
Stephen F. Holder / Miami Herald