Are playoffs worth it?Not if it's 2004 and you are the Boston Celtics or New York Knicks' according to Bill Harris
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
It's debatable whether it was worthwhile for the Boston Celtics or the New York Knicks to make the playoffs.
Heading into the NBA draft lottery, wouldn't you rather be in the Raptors' position right now?
Have the past 10 days amounted to time well spent for the sorry Celtics or the knackered Knicks, two once-proud clubs who were reduced to playoff punchlines?
Okay, we've heard the cliches about how it's always better to make the post-season, blah, blah, blah.
But if you put aside the macho posturing, forget the lies that teams tell their fans repeatedly and look at the situation without emotion, it's tough to see what the Celtics and Knicks got out of their playoff forays other than a couple of home gates and the honour of being TV-ratings roadkill at the hands of American Idol or The Apprentice.
Both the Celtics (the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference) and the Knicks (the seventh seed) suffered ignominious four-game sweeps. The Celtics were flicked aside with casual disdain by the Indiana Pacers, while the Knicks were humiliated by their cross-river (soon to be cross-town) rivals, the New Jersey Nets.
The Knicks couldn't even maintain their dignity, making fools of themselves with silly protests, immature antics and the adjustment-free coaching of Lenny Wilkens. The Celtics, meanwhile, proved they were as weak as they looked when they lost six of their last eight regular-season games.
The Celtics won only three more games than the Raptors. The Knicks won only six more games than the Raptors. We're talking about three pretty bad teams here, and there is no reason to believe the Raptors would have fared any better against Indiana or New Jersey.
But at this point, the Raptors still might be in a position to draft a notable talent such as Emeka Okafor of NCAA-champion Connecticut or an intriguing high-schooler such as Dwight Howard or Shaun Livingston, depending on how the May 26 lottery goes. The Raptors, who will draft eighth if the lottery percentages hold true, are overdue for some good luck.
Regardless, the Raptors' draft prospects are far brighter than either the Knicks (who essentially mortgaged their future for a playoff spot when they traded their first-round pick in the Stephon Marbury deal) or the Celtics (who have three long-shot first-rounders at Nos. 15, 24 and 25).
If nothing else, the reeling Raptors emerged from this awkward season knowing they have to start over, as opposed to the complex grey areas facing Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas and Celtics GM Danny Ainge.
The Raptors yesterday began the process of interviewing potential GMs when Philadelphia 76ers director of player personnel Tony DiLeo and Portland Trail Blazers director of player personnel Mark Warkentien were put through their paces. Longtime NBA player Len Elmore will be interviewed today, with Denver Nuggets assistant GM Jeff Weltman and Minnesota Timberwolves director of player personnel Rob Babcock on tap for Thursday.
Other GM hopefuls may be grilled by the Raptors this week, too. There are rumours around the league that the Raptors quietly have been investigating higher-profile prospects, but shockingly, the club may have budgetary concerns.
The Raptors' new GM will be in charge of hiring a new coach. The Celtics are looking for a new coach, too, following the announcement yesterday that John Carroll will not return. And in the Big Apple, lord knows how the relationship between Thomas and Wilkens will progress, or regress.
Undoubtedly, the Raptors, Knicks and Celtics all have tons of work to do. But especially when considering the draft, one can't help but conclude that the Knicks and Celtics didn't get much from their post-season participation, other than a public wedgie.
We know this could be considered blasphemous, but sometimes it's less painful to miss the playoffs.