- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

So long, Yao.

And McGrady, too.

There is no Kobe. And no Shaq and D-Wade either.

The superstar drain in the NBA playoffs is pronounced.

Dirk never showed up to the postseason in a persuasive way.

Mavericks coach Avery Johnson tried everything with Dirk, except the Heimlich maneuver. The latter was Johnson’s greatest omission as coach.

Agent Zero watched the show in street clothes.

A.I.? Gone. Melo? The same.

The following failed to make the cut: Elton Brand, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Pau Gasol and Jermaine O’Neal.

In Pierce’s defense, he was bound and gagged on the bench in accordance with the Celtics enhancing their lottery prospects.

The Celtics tanking another one is a long way from Havlicek or Bird stealing the ball.

At least we have Steve Nash’s bloody nose, a gusher far richer in detail than Curt Schilling’s bloody sock.

The Spurs-Suns series is the de facto NBA Finals, a development that hardly tickles the television executives with so many ho-hum proceedings left to be aired.

It is tough waiting all season on the playoffs, only to find that what is left is as disorderly and unappealing as the fright wig of Anderson Varejao.

It is said the Spurs lack the capacity to captivate the nation unless you count the presence of Eva Longoria.

Or a move by David Stern to reinstate referee Joey Crawford and let him and Tim Duncan go at it in a steel cage on pay-per view.

First it was Dick Bavetta and Charles Barkley staging a so-called race during the All-Star festivities.

Then it was Crawford challenging Duncan to a fight late in the season.

This smacks of a trend, as trends are defined down in journalism.

The collective clicking sound heard across America late Monday night was made in response to the Jazz-Warriors game being picked up in progress.

There was no punch line with the change in venue. This was no joke.

This was the Warriors of the combustible Baron Davis and the gun-toting Stephen Jackson. That was the Jazz of Andrei Kirilenko, who is the one with the porcupine-like spines sticking up from his pate.

Theirs is a charisma-free zone of castoffs, the banal and the tattoo-plagued Matt Barnes.

The NBA cannot try to spin the Warriors as the professional version of George Mason.

The Warriors have more in common with recreation-league players. Their shot selection, if selection is the right word, would send most coaches scrambling to find the smelling salts.

But it fails to register a response from the droopy-lidded Don Nelson, who has an obsession with small ball.

The Bulls appear to have come down with a bad case of stage fright against the Pistons.

It is either that or the Pistons rediscovering their 2004 selves.

The Pistons have the best ensemble cast in the business, their fortunes not overly connected to the production of one or two players, the standard operating procedure in the NBA.

There is old C-Webb, the one-time Renaissance man of the Wizards — the developmental-league team of the Pistons.

C-Webb is the fourth of the erstwhile Wizards to have an integral role in the success of the Pistons the last few seasons. Big Ben has moved to Chicago, but Rip and Rasheed Wallace remain in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Sorry. The Cavaliers-Nets series is a series of yawns from completion.

That is because the Cavaliers are almost impossible to watch unless you are one of the Witnesses who kneels before the temple of LeBron James.

None of this puts the NBA in a good ratings spot.

Not even the entertaining banter of Ernie, “The Jet” Smith and Barkley can salvage these desultory circumstances.

The NBA lost last season’s champion in four games and its 67-win team in six games.

And now it is certain to lose either the Spurs or Suns, with the conference finals and NBA Finals left to follow.

There is always next season.

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