Everyone watches the playoffs differently and for different reasons. Me? I pretend I'm Isiah Thomas.
And if I'm Isiah, I look at every team still alive in the Eastern Conference playoffs and realize that I need one more player to beat them. And when you consider all the players who might be available, one stands out. His initials are KG, and there is ample proof, as far as I'm concerned, that his days in Minnesota could be over.
First, the stuff we know: Kevin Garnett would give the Knicks everything they are lacking - a proven scorer and ferocious defender at power forward to complement Eddy Curry. Though Curry exceeded all reasonable expectations this season with the team on his shoulders, this wouldn't have to be his team to carry if he were sharing the low block with someone as gifted and dynamic as Garnett.
Garnett has produced one trip to the Western Conference finals in 11 seasons in Minnesota. He's tired of waiting and would bring an intense hunger. He has played with Stephon Marbury before, and both would like to hook up again.
Garnett will be 33 by the time he can opt out of his contract in the summer of 2008, already will have made $200 million in his career, and would have his pick of ready-made contenders as a free agent. But why wait? His value is never going to be higher, nor his ability to win a championship greater, than right now.
Garnett's agent, Andy Miller, dumped cold water all over my scenario, calling speculation about Garnett's future "media driven."
"I speak to Kevin McHale frequently, and there's been no discussion about what they would do because he hasn't told me that they're going to do something," Miller said.
Don't worry, the time will come. It would be irresponsible for Minnesota not to at least listen to offers, and Thomas should be first in line.
In fact, the Knicks already are monitoring Garnett's situation closely, as well they should. Despite saying he's not looking to make major changes, Thomas also is focusing on Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal, perhaps even more so than Garnett.
Thomas coached O'Neal with the Pacers, and assistant coach George Glymph was O'Neal's high school coach in South Carolina. O'Neal, who also has an opt-out after next season, would be a fine complement to Curry, but Garnett should be option No. 1 and O'Neal 1a.
Why? O'Neal would get the Knicks to the playoffs. Garnett would get them somewhere once they're in.
Here is how it would work: The Timberwolves need first-round picks, because they still owe one to the Clippers (top-10 protected) and another to the Celtics from previous deals. The Knicks could make the argument that they've already signed their No. 1 pick, Randolph Morris, and thus include their 23rd selection in a package for Garnett.
The Knicks then could offer a scoring big man (Channing Frye, $2.49 million), a clutch-shooting guard (Jamal Crawford, $7.92 million), a 6-11 forward who can defend three positions (Jared Jeffries, $5.6 million) and a veteran whose contract expires after the 2008-09 season (Malik Rose, $7.1 million). The salaries would just about match up, give or take a throw-in going back to the Knicks.
Even if Minnesota demanded David Lee as part of the deal for Garnett, it apparently wouldn't be a deal-breaker for Thomas - nor should it be.
One sticking point would be the Knicks' desire to pawn off Steve Francis' contract, which has two years and $33.6 million left. Francis would balk at going to either Minnesota or Indiana.
Either way, if the Knicks could land Garnett, we would be talking about how they match up with Cleveland, New Jersey, Chicago or Detroit in the second round. If I'm Isiah, I'd like my chances against any of them with one more piece.
Crawford vows playoff berth
With Golden State's Adonal Foyle finally making the playoffs in his 10th season, the dubious honor of longest tenure in the NBA without making the playoffs goes to Crawford (seven years).
"That will change next year," Crawford said in a phone interview. "You can quote me on that one. We'll be in the playoffs next year and beyond, God-willing that everyone is healthy."
Curry (six years) is tied with three other players for second. Curry's Bulls made the playoffs a year after Crawford was traded to the Knicks, but Curry couldn't play because of his heart condition.
Going gets tough for Nets draw
The Nets got a tough scheduling draw after knocking out the Raptors on Friday night.
They got only one day to prepare for the Cavaliers, who have been off since completing a sweep of the Wizards on Monday night. Plus, New Jersey drew the 1 p.m. TV slot today for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Cleveland. The Cavs won the season series, 2-1.