Transactions:
TSN Info
TSN Extras
It's the Gulf War revisited. Bet the farm!

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com

HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pa (Sports Network) -- When our troops headed to the Middle East for the "war to end all wars," the one foretold by the propagandists of Sadaam Hussein and our own media, we were told that there were going to be rivers flowing with blood. Endless miles of oil fires were predicted and more devastation than was levied upon Hiroshima when it became less than a blip on the radar screen of life before more of you were born.

Larry Bird
Bird shouts directions during the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Game against the Milwaukee Bucks. (Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT
TV, radio and print revel in situations like this. Network military analysts projected nothing short of Star Wars, Sequel 105. They savor situations like that. They feast upon them like vultures upon the carcasses of the discarded kills on the plains of Africa. They should not be working in offices on Madison, Fifth or Sixth Avenues in New York. Instead, they should be balancing cameras, microphones and laptops on the branches of trees looking down upon the events unfolding beneath them.

They were all wrong. Anyone with a miniscule knowledge of the Middle East, or who had ever visited there, knew that. It was not rocket science.

All the hype in the world will not change the blatant fact that Indiana is no match for Los Angeles. The Pacers beat a New York team that should have been coached by Florence Nightingale. Despite the result and the somewhat incredible performance of Reggie Miller, they are not the better team. If Tampa Bay gets the best of the Yankees in a given series that does not make them better. It just means that they won. In the case of Larry Bird and his minions, they earned the right to take on the media anointed guru of coaching, Phil Jackson, and a team that is, without question, the best there is. The number two ball club just flew back to Portland a few days ago. That was the end of the championship series. You know it, I know it, the network certainly knows it and the Pacers are about to come to the same conclusion.

It is a time when homage to Larry Bird, one of the best ever on the hardwood but just another guy in a suit on the sidelines, is over-rated. I cannot entertain the thought of categorizing him as a hugely successful coach. They (the Pacers) made it to the finals. End of the line. They also play in an extraordinarily weak sector, East, compared to the others around the country competing in the dunk and destroy world of hoops. It is much too early to lionize him and we can expect to see him joining Magic Johnson, his counterpart on the court for so many years, as an owner (part or full) of a team or, more than likely, agreeing to a role as a TV commentator. The aroma of the locker room, rap music and more cell phones ringing than in an AT&T test center has worn thin.
Phil Jackson
Jackson points from the sidelines during a game against the Seattle SuperSonics at the Staples Center. (Jeff Gross/ALLSPORT)

Jackson has six championship rings, courtesy of a man named Michael and his sidekick at the time, Scottie Pippen. Now he has Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Not a bad transition. Both with highly regarded supporting casts. How much do you have to know? What do you have to do when you watch the Blazers self-destruct in a ceremony that is now chronicled as equal to the Jim Jones mass suicide? I wonder how he would make out at the helm of the Clippers? Well, that is good for sports bar dialogue and rife with the conjecture that is so animated on talk shows. We have to deal with fact. His reputation earns him the command of aircraft carriers, not PT boats.

Bird is the coach of the right team in the right place at the right time, not the most talented one in the NBA, or even close to it. They could not play on a par with most of the top clubs in the west. And even if the former Celtic were to suit up with the energy and youth of years gone by it would not be enough. Closer, much closer, but short of the target.

Mark Jackson will not be able to do his Charles Barkley imitation with Ron Harper all over him. The former Knick gives away three inches and goes up against someone with as much, in not more, experience than he has. Also, Harper has been there before, with the Bulls. Big edge here.

Kobe and Reggie could be a standoff. Miller must defend as feverishly as he looks for the open shot darting in and out of players looking for a pick and opening, running his defender into everything but the hotdog stand. Watch Kobe pass it into Shaq more often than was the case against Portland and allow Reggie his points, but bothering, annoying, upsetting and not fouling out.

Shaq against anyone that Bird could throw out there, including cardboard cutouts of Bill Russell, is a mismatch. Rik Smits cannot handle him and a referee with less than 20-20 vision will have four fouls on him and Dale Davis in less time than it takes to call a technical on Rasheed Wallace. Check the game plan for L.A. - get the ball into the middle! If Smits starts to hit from outside, and he can, that takes Shaq away from the real estate he has come to call his own. Flip that coin over and the other side does not show a picture of Smits doing this easily with O'Neal in his face.

From this section at mid-court I do not see Davis as the omnipotent rebounder that is touted in columns from coast to coast. He is tough, unafraid to mix it up, gets his fair share but A.C. Green can contain him. So can Robert Horry when it comes to getting help from the bench. And, both those Lakers can put the points up so Davis cannot back off and rush to the boards in anticipation of a miss.

When Smits and Davis get into foul trouble, mark the "W" in the column.

Glen Rice in a groove is a hot item. He just has to shoot more than ten shots a game and hit better than 41%. That will occupy Jalen Rose for most of the game. Rose, like his name, blooms when you least expect it, with the inconsistency of the weather. He can often take the play and focus from Reggie. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. It happens when you read too many of your own press clippings.

If I were at the helm of the Lakers, I might have Rice on Miller and Kobe on Rose. Should Rose get hot, make the switch. Kobe must stay in and out of foul trouble, Reggie will get his points - regardless of the amount, no matter what, and Rose on a shooter, if Bird rises to the challenge, is a recipe for foul trouble.

Austin Croshere off the Indiana bench is a star that has flashed across the sky once in these playoffs and since fallen to earth games ago. Sam Perkins might still be able to launch a three now and then or bother someone with those long arms of his but he is a non-factor when all is said and done. Travis Best is that annoying presence that opponents can't seem to shake off with a Napoleonic attitude that belies his stature physically. He is capable of pushing the ball up against any press, feigned or real, and can score. The Laker forest of Redwoods, however, figures to limit him considerably.

Rick Fox joins Horry off the bench and both can score and play defense. They have affordable fouls as well, something that the Pacers are likely to use up in record time against O'Neal.

Are the media pundits, self-styled though they be, correct in positioning the Pacers as having a chance to win and making Larry Bird's presence as a coach a good part of the determining factor? You gotta be kidding!