Wow, other than those baby blue Laker uniforms and the fact that both teams are hovering near .500, you’d have thought that last night’s game was set in 1987 with all the build-up in the press. Three wins in three games in the Antoine era. Old employee number eight was back in the building and the crowd, if not at mid-eighties Boston Garden decibels, was at least at 2001 “Welcome to the Jungle” playoff levels. People excited about the Celtics…and to think that they called me crazy for caring back in November.

The most exciting part of the game continued to be the two-headed monster at point guard as both Marcus Banks and Delonte West continued to excel on the floor. I’d like to see West take charge with the ball a bit more as Ricky Davis was bringing it up court a bit too much for my tastes, but considering it’s been less than ten games back for West, he’s been impressive all the same.

Marcus Banks easily had the most impressive game I’ve ever seen for someone who scored zero points. He was aggressive on defense and handed out 8 assists. It was nice to see Banks showing some of the skills we heard so much about when he was coming out of UNLV. And we need Gary Payton back at point guard why exactly?

Some other random notes from the game:

Justin Reed: why has this kid been stashed on the injured list all year? He was out there covering Kobe, even blocking a shot, sticking a couple of jumpers, just looking good in his limited time on the court. Maybe this is a career peak for him, but since he’s reputed to be a defensive specialist ala Bruce Bowen, hitting those couple of shots seemed like a nice bonus.

From number 88 to number 8 for Antoine. I think doc Rivers was right, it’s a missed marketing opportunity. Now fans can pull the old number eight jerseys out rather than buying new ones. At least when Michael Jordan came back (for the first time) he wore number 45 long enough to sell a bunch of jerseys before switching back to 23. C’mon Antoine, you’re costing the ownership group some cash!

Can Antoine make a lay-up consistently? Just asking.

It was nice to see Al Jefferson in the game at the end with Mark Blount on the bench where he belongs. At least Rivers is smart enough to start Raef LaFrentz and keep Blount sitting.

Al Jefferson’s post-game interview on FSN last night included an instant classic line that reminds us all he’s only nineteen. When asked his thoughts on the game he said: “It was real crunk.”

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Well, as usual the Patriots are standing back and watching the Redskins and others go after free agents in a mad feeding frenzy. I’m glad to see that despite winning for the 3rd time in four years they still approach the off-season with a plan and restraint. It’s hard to criticize the moves they’ve made and the moves they won’t make.

I like David Patten, don’t get me wrong, but there was no way the Patriots would pay him the ridiculous amount of money the Redskins threw at him. First off, no one is going to be paid more than Deion Branch unless they bring in someone like Plexico Burress; second, Patten wasn’t even on the field much after Branch came back, and Patten was invisible in the playoffs; finally, the Patriots still have young receivers who are due a shot, Bethel Johnson and P.K. Sam.
Patten should be a perfect fit with Washington, given Joe Gibbs history of undersized, but speedy, receivers. He was a class act who came from being undrafted and out of football, to catching on with an Arena Football League team, to working his way back to the NFL, and then winning three super bowls. He’s the kind of regular Joe who you like to root for and wish only the best. I’m glad he got his money; he’s one of the few who deserves.

Now as far as Joe Andruzzi’s value as a guard, I’m guessing it maxed out at about $1.25 to $1.5 million a year for two or three years. Much like Damien Woody last year, I think Belichick and Pioli probably told Andruzzi where they had him slotted salary-wise, and wished him well when he got so much more money that he couldn’t logically say no. His family needs to stay off the air-waves with this disrespect bologna. As I recall, the Patriots brought him when no one else wanted him, gave him a shot to play, paid him well, and he’s leaving with three super bowl rings. Sorry, but there’s no need for sour grapes when you hit the jackpot like he did in Cleveland.

The trade for Duane Starks looks like another great move, especially in light of the fact that they’re really giving up nothing. How? Well, the NFL does compensate teams that lose free agents. The Patriots are in line for an end of the third round pick as compensation for losing Damien Woody. So they trade a pick they’re already replacing and swap spots in the fifth round (which, with Arizona, is like moving up a round) for an all-pro caliber, ball-hawking, starting cornerback with experience in a defensive system (Baltimore) very similar to theirs. Granted, the deal is contingent on getting a contract worked out, but don’t you think Starks will, like Corey Dillon in Cincinnati, be motivated to get out of the losing atmosphere he’s currently stuck in?

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