King Kaufman's Sports Daily

NBA Playoffs: Wow, did the Kings make the Sonics look good. Plus: The Pistons send the great Iverson packing. And: The Yankees rearrange deck chairs.

By Salon Staff
Published May 4, 2005 7:00PM (EDT)

So long, Sixers and Kings. And you might want to get those golf clubs out of the garage, Celtics.

The Kings scored and scored and scored with the Sonics Tuesday, losing 122-118 to drop their opening-round series 4-1. Sacramento was once like an All-Star team, with Chris Webber and Vlade Divac passing and scoring out of the post, Peja Stojakovic raining bombs, Mike Bibby running the offense and hitting clutch shots and even defensive whiz Doug Christie hitting from outside.

Now they're like an All-Star team in the sense that they don't even make a show of playing defense.

The Kings made the Sonics look like a juggernaut. Ray Allen is a terrific player. The Kings made him look like Michael Jordan, not in the sense that he played Jordan's game but that he had that look of playing by different rules than everybody else. Throughout the series, and increasingly so as it went along, Allen did whatever the heck he wanted to.

He scored 33, 45 and 30 points in the last three games, and when Game 5 needed sealing, he simply drove through the Kings defense -- excuse me, "defense" -- and made a layup. He barely needed to change direction. I've had to make more moves getting to the supermarket checkout line. Ray Allen's good, but he's not that good.

And the Sonics aren't as good as they looked against the Kings. The Spurs will be showing that in the next round unless Tim Duncan gets hurt. And Manu Ginobili. And Tony Parker. And everyone else in San Antonio. Well, not everyone else. If Eva Longoria suits up for the Spurs, there might be hope for the Sonics. Maybe.

The Spurs host the Nuggets in Game 5 of their series Wednesday night, with San Antonio leading 3-1 after three straight wins.

Before we say goodbye to the 76ers, let's take a minute to appreciate Allen Iverson. Actually, we already said goodbye to them, didn't we? Well, I like long goodbyes, so: How about that Allen Iverson!

We seem to have passed out of that era in which Allen Iverson was reviled as a tattooed thug and Everything Wrong With Basketball Today or whatever. You hardly hear anyone talking about him anymore without praising his skill, his heart and his toughness.

I've been doing that for years, so I don't really have anything to add. I just hope everyone appreciates just how monstrously awful this 76ers team would have been without Iverson.

Even with Iverson, the Sixers were pretty lousy. It would take some heavy arguing to convince me that they were better than the Clippers this year, though I think they might have been a bit ahead of the Lakers and Warriors.

I'm tempted to downplay the Pistons' chances because they struggled a little bit with Philly, losing a game and being forced to overtime in another, but the Pistons kind of struggle with everybody.

It looks like Detroit will be playing the Pacers in the next round, and the Pistons will struggle with them too. Indiana got point guard Jamaal Tinsley back Tuesday night after doing without him since February because of a foot injury. The Pacers aren't really a serious contender, but they're much better with Tinsley than without him, and after their 90-85 win over the Celtics gave them a 3-2 lead, I don't think they'll drop two in a row to Boston.

If you liked the endless replays of that brawl in Detroit six months ago you're about to be in luck because we in the media are licking our chops over the chance to indulge in a two-week orgy of masticating that scene in celebration of a Pistons-Pacers series. VH1 is even reviving an old favorite with "Ron Artest: Behind the Music."

The Wizards-Bulls series returns to Chicago for Game 5 Wednesday night tied up. It's an intriguing series between two up-and-coming teams that aren't going to win the championship this year.

The Wiz suspended Kwame Brown for the rest of the playoffs Tuesday. He missed Sunday's practice and Monday's Game 4. He says he had the stomach flu, and the team says, Yup, he says he had the stomach flu all right.

You can decide for yourself if the team really thinks he had the stomach flu, but in any case Brown, who'll be a restricted free agent this offseason, is done for the year and probably on his way out of Washington. And the first high schooler ever taken as the top draft pick won't be missed against the Bulls. He contributed four minutes and no points in Game 3 and sat out Game 4, the two Wizards wins in this series.

One reader asked if Brown's suspension meant the Michael Jordan experiment could officially be called an unmitigated disaster. I'd say, uh, yeah. And also, the '60s are really over for me now.

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Meet the new Yanks [PERMALINK]

There's nothing like giving up six runs in the first inning to the worst team in baseball to take the pressure off of a new lineup, and that's what Yankees pitcher Kevin Brown did Tuesday night. The Devil Rays batted around against the foundering 40-year-old, so it didn't matter much what the new-look Bronx BB-gunners did after that.

What they did was score four runs on six hits, an amiable little showing, with the players affected by the changes contributing exactly nothing. Hideki Matsui, moved from left field to center, went 0-for-4. Tony Womack, moved from second base to left, went 0-for-4. Robinson Cano, called up for his big-league debut at second, went 0-for-3. Bernie Williams, finally yanked out of center field to be a designated hitter, sat.

The Yankees are in full-blown panic mode, which probably isn't unjustified for a team with a $200 kazillion payroll and an 11-16 record. I don't know how much difference these changes are going to make, though.

They're probably about three years late taking Williams out of center field, but even if he busts out of his current slump and hits like he has over the last few years, he doesn't hit enough anymore to be a DH. Cano deserves a shot but doesn't appear to be a future star. Matsui's defense in left field has steadily improved from nightmarish to awful to reasonably decent, but the move to center will send him back down the scale.

And any question that produces the answer "Tony Womack is our left fielder" needs to be rephrased. Something tells me the Yankees aren't done, that they're in the market for a big-time center fielder. Gee, can you think of a big-time center fielder who was available this winter? One who might have been amenable to moving to New York?

The Yankees are going to be paying for their decision to pass on Carlos Beltran and pursue one-year-wonder pitchers Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright for a long time. Of course, they're the Yankees. They can afford to pay. Still, for most of us, it's fun to watch them struggle.

Previous column: Big fines and more bad calls

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