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NOT MILWAUKEE, March 7, 2007 -- I'm looking for a friend. (Good lord, get your mind out of the gutter, not that kind of friend. What do you think this is Match.com? I'm married.)
Maybe I should be more precise. I'm looking to round out my Central Division rolodex. Of the Central's five teams, I have worked in the same office with fans of four of them. We have Joe Gabriele, the excellent beat writer for Cavs.com. I flip this guy, Jeff Dengate of Double Drivel fame, my day-old Far Side calendar pages from my cube. Dengate's a die-hard Detroit defender. He didn't show too much emotion last year when the Heat kicked the Pistons to the curb in the Eastern Conference Finals, but I know he went home, put his head in a pillow and probably sobbed for hours. Then there's John Hareas of Hareas on Hoops. JH loves the Bulls. I don't hold that against him.
As for the Bucks, well, that's me. I'm the one with 13-year old Bucks shorts, made by Champion no less, in the dresser drawer. I'm the one with the 12-year-old copy of the Milwaukee Journal — with the 48-point headline: $68 MILLION announcing Glenn Robinson's signing — hanging in my cube. I'm the one who buys any item with the Bucks old Bango logo on it. We definitely have the beer and brats crowd covered.
But wherefore art my Pacers partisans? (And I mean this as no disrespect to Pacers.com's Conrad Brunner, a good man who runs an excellent website. Ours, however, is more of a professional interaction. Though, Conrad thinks like most true fans. Believe, brother.)
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Pace-ist. (I'd like to thank my wife for that awesome line, by the way. Try finding that kind of wit on Match.com, gents.) As a matter of fact, I have some Pacers bona fides, weak though they may be. Check them out:
1. I don't hate the Pacers, which is always a good start.
2. I don't hate Reggie Miller. As a matter of fact, I loved watching him gun down the Bulls.
3. I rooted for the Pacers in the 2000 Finals.
4. The Pacers defeated the Bucks in Game 5 of the East First Round and, although my guys lost, it was one of the best games I have ever seen.
5. I've been to Indianapolis.
There ... my starting five, which is good enough to get me going. Still, I lack a Pacers friend. I need a Pacers friend. Sadly, I personally know of no one who bleeds Pacers dark blue and gold. I know of no one who can regale me with Pacers stories, not only of today, but also of the Pacers' great ABA days. I don't know anyone in despair about the Pacers' six-game slide. I have not heard any Nap Town diehard call for a change at the top.
I need to find that person.
So, here's what I'm going to do: We will hold open tryouts for someone to become the official Pacers friend of Central Intelligence. No purchase necessary. Just write us and let us know why CI should give you a spot on our Mt. Rushmore. I have no criteria other than you should love the Pacers and you should be able to write a coherent sentence with proper capitalization and punctuation. I'm old skool like that. None of this: "Pacers got skillz!!!!!!!!! i luv jermane o'neel." True fans wouldn't do that to a team they loved.
Anyway, the mailbox is open. Pacers fans, now it's time for you to open your hearts. Larry, Donny, Rick, Jermaine, Darnell Hillman, anyone in the front office. All of you are eligible.
Well, everyone except for you.
OFF THE RAILS
Well, so much for getting the bandwagon back together.
After stringing together three straight wins, I thought the Bucks may have an outside shot at the eighth seed. But then came the fourth quarter collapse against the Bulls this past Sunday. And then the drubbing in Orlando Monday.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Enlund said it well here: "After playing five of their worst quarters of basketball this season..." That pretty much sums it up. Ugh, the Bulls, a team that haunts me still: the six titles, the 70th win at the Bradley Center and now a season sweep? At least Milwaukee has better weather ... oh, wait.
The Bucks faithful (read: me) still have faith, but even I'm starting to question my faith. A nice caning of the struggling Lakers on Wednesday would be a good start to a seven-game homestand. It's always good to beat the Lakers, and with a win, the Bucks would sweep the season series.
Then again, maybe I've said too much already.
Despite their loss to a Wade-less Heat squad and their absolutely unconscionable 18-point loss at home to the Warriors, I still think the Pistons are the team to beat in the East. Though, like my faith in the Bucks, this too is waning.
I don't think it helps matters much when Chauncey Billups starts talking about offseason destinations, and I ain't talkin' Barbados for a vacation.
B-B-B-Billups mentioned the "M-word." Sorry Bucks fans, not Milwaukee. Memphis. Check out this gem from Monday:
"I would be lying if I said with 20-something games left until the playoffs that I wasn't thinking about my future," Billups said. "When the time comes, I've got to consider all of my options. I know this is one team with a lot of money that's looking to get a point guard. I'm going to have to consider this option when the time comes. But right now, my focus is trying to win a championship with my team."
Uh, you just contradicted your first sentence with your last. But fear not, Pistons fans. Reports have Joe D. pulling out all the stops this summer to retain one of the game's top five point guards.
Regardless of Billups' mindset, the Pistons have a schedule that will test their championship mettle. They host Cleveland on Wednesday, then go on a five-game, eight-day Western swing which features Phoenix as the cherry on that road sundae. They return home and get the Mavs, with road games in Houston and San Antonio later in the week.
Yeesh. In a couple of weeks, I may need to admit I was wrong.