• RED AUERBACH. The 88-year-old Celtics president took some potshots at Larry Brown and Phil Jackson at the C's game with the Knicks last night. Pretty much accused them both of taking jobs with built-in excuses, and also claimed that Phil Jax "picked his spots." C'mon Red, you can't have it both ways! One second Phil's taking easy jobs, but when he takes one with a potential lottery team it's a built-in excuse? Starting to sound a bit bitter there, Red.
And begrudging someone else talent? Red took over the Celtics in 1950, then got Bob Cousy handed to him on a silver platter in 1951 (and also picked up Easy Ed Macauley, who he later traded for the rights to one Bill Russell). Of course Red was a great coach. But the Celtics of the '50s and '60s were comparatively more dominant than Shaq's Lakers, or even Jordan's Bulls. Funny, I don't remember ever hearing about Red interviewing with Tri-Cities to have more of a challenge.
• NENE. Opening night has not been nice to the Nuggets. Last year, shooting guard Voshon Lenard was lost for the season when he tore his Achilles in the season opener. And this year power forward Nene, the best single-named player in basketball, tears his ACL and his meniscus in the first QUARTER of the season, and is probably shut down for the remainder of the year. Even worse, he and the Nuggets had recently NOT come to terms on a lucrative extension. At 23, Nene should be back and as good as new next year—and at least Denver has other power forwards who can play—but it's still a tough break for a team looking to do big things this year. Even tougher break for Nene if Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby have big years (and Melo keeps getting—and playing—bigger) and there's no room for him (and his contract) when he gets back.
• THE KNICKS. I know I've talked about it before, but this is nitroglycerin, right? Young players with overwhelming senses of entitlement, a massive payroll accumulated by a charismatic GM, a fanbase desperate for playoff success, and a crotchety coach who will accept nothing less than perfection (and will probably want the entire team traded in no time). Oh, and a bunch of seemingly talented rookies playing for a coach who's unlikely to give them any time.
What these guys are lacking—and what will absolutely KILL Larry Brown—is fundamentals. There's no traditinal point guard, Eddy Curry is a TERRIBLE rebounder for his size, and no one on the team with the possible exception of 653-year-old Antonio Davis will be mistaken for a hard-nosed defender. This team is not, and won't be, the Pistons. Nor will it be the Pacers or the Sixers (who, along with AI had terrific role players like George Lynch and Aaron McKie). If LB wanted a challenge for his "last" NBA job, he's got one. I'm just not so sure that he's up for it.
• THE NBA CHAMPS. No, not the Spurs, although it's tempting to go on about Tim Duncan's nappy 'fro. I'm talking about the Indiana Pacers, who I picked a month before the season started and I'm sticking with now. They looked a little rusty in their opener, but that'll come off (it'll be interesting to see how they do against the Heat tonight.) I wrote up my reasons in the new KING, but here's the three main ones—Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Rick Carlisle. They're hungry, they're talented, and I think it's time. Losing last season only makes this season more important. It oughta be fun.