Keys to the Playoffs?
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NOT MILWAUKEE, March 1, 2007 -- Wow, with two wins in a row, the Bucks have won as many games in the last four games as they did the whole month of January.

What a difference a Michael Redd makes.

I don't want people to get the impression that I want to fire up the playoffs bandwagon, I just wanted to point it out. And despite losing, the Bangos played pretty well against Detroit, Indiana and in New York, where we will not speak of the game's last play.

Hmm ...

Me: Honey? Have you seen my bandwagon keys?

My wife: You asked me to flush them down the toilet, so I did.

Me (to myself): Damn!

Me (to my wife): Seriously?

My wife: Like I would do that. It would clog and you can't even change a light bulb. I'd have to call a plumber, it'd be expensive, it'd be a mess.

Me: Very true. I'm not handy.

My wife (audibly sighing): They're in the top drawer in the kitchen, back by the sharp knives.

My wife (to herself under her breath): The sharp knives, which I also had to hide from you when Michael Redd injured his knee.

Me: What'd you say?

My wife: Nothing, dear. Find the keys yet?

Me: Yes. Thanks, sweetie. I knew you loved me.

Which is more than I can say for some of the CI readers. Whoo, were some of them hot for my proclamation that, after a somnambulant trade deadline coupled with Dwyane Wade's shoulder injury, the Pistons have a clear path through the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

Some people had a problem with me saying "hell no" when it came to the Raptors' chances, including my dad. Full disclosure, my dad is the Raptors' video coordinator:

"What do you mean hell no?"

We had a good laugh over that one on the phone. Anyway, I wish the Raptors success in the Playoffs, not only for my dad and for others in the organization (Jim LaBumbard, the Raptors' director of media relations, is one of the finest people I've ever met in this business. Plus, he's from Wisconsin and he's a Packers fan. Need I say more?), but I know Raptors fans are some of the NBA's most passionate. Any group of people who would willfully lobby for Uros Slokar to be named to the Rookie Challenge this season are passionate, nuts or a charming combination of the two.

Basically, I said "hell no" because I was angling for a response from the Great White North. As you will see some Raptors fans took the bait, like Haseeb from Toronto:

"hey, i was just wondering why you said hell no when you mentioned if the raptors could push past the pistons?

"Thats just hating on Toronto. They are better than any other team you have mentioned there with the exception of the cavs (which i think is still a close matchup). Just because nobody made any major moves to their teams doesn't mean the Pistons have a clear shot at the eastern conference. The raptrs have only played the pistons once and they only lost by 6...not bad for a team you think has no shot at challenging Detroit.

"All I'm saying is show the raptors a little more love because they definatly deserve it."

So, totally not hatin', sleepin' or eatin' on the Raptors. As a matter of fact, I believe in their chances more and more as they continue to play well. That being said, I don't believe the Raptors can beat the Pistons in a playoffs series. They're 12-18 on the road, and you need to win road games in the playoffs. They don't have the experience and while they have a balanced offense, I don't think they have anyone besides Bosh who could carry the squad in a tight playoffs game if Bosh -- who would need to be the man -- is having an off night.

Still, some Raptors fans were plenty angry, like Saleem in Toronto.

"Okay...u said the Pistons can win the championship? Are you KIDDING ME???! maybe the east but do you truly beleive they can beat the Suns or the Mavs?(or maybe the spurs) well, i don't unless Chris Webber starts playing like an All-Star again! Even then they have a coin toss!"

Uh, Saleem, I never said the Pistons would win the title. I just said they're primed to win the East. Reading comprehension, people.

Mostly, though, I received e-mail about the Wizards chances, which surprised me. For instance, see what Tiffany from Houston had to say:

"okay please do not sleep on Agent Zero....in case you missed it, the Wizards beat the Pistons twice this season. Plus the ones they lost weren't blow outs. All it takes is for the HIBACHI to get heated and it's OVER!!! And an added taste of Butler and Jamison?!? It doesn't take a genius to see that DC is definitely a contender! So, as long Gil can hit those free throws against the Cavs, you need not count them out!"

Tiffany, Tiffany, Tiffany, we don't sleep on Agent Zero here at NBA.com. Save the Wizznuts, no one loves Gilbert more than we do. And that's the God's honest truth. I "edit" (which consists of me laughing out loud, sending excerpts to friends and not touching a thing) Gil's blog. He's been nothing but awesome for us this year.

(And much love to the Wizznutties for creating the great Gil moniker: Agent Zero. That's a real nickname! We want no more first initial, first few letters of the last name nicknames. What would Gil be if we did that: Gee-Ar or Gar? Lame. Thanks, Wizznuts. Is there anything you can't do?)

Anyway, about the Wizards playoffs chances. I'm not one of these guys who believe defense wins championships. Balance wins championships. That being said, the Wizards can't stop anyone. Though if the Wiz were to make it to The Finals, it would be good on many levels:

1. A Daily Gilbert blog, which should be reason enough
2. If they were to meet the Suns, I could see the highest scoring Finals in NBA history
3. I have friends in the greater D.C. area and it would be nice to see some of them

That being said, I don't see it happening despite the many protestations from Wiz fans about how Washington has split the season series and only lost by nine one time and four the other. That don't mean squat come playoff time. We also had Crissy, a Pacers fan, weigh in:

"you dont know if the pistons will get to the nba finals and win the chamipion ship. any thing can happen any of the key players for the pistons can go down. or they can have all the players healthy and still lose in the first round of the playoffs. so it could not be a cake walk for the pistons.and if they did get to the nba finals they have to face the other team and hopefully they will lose. you need to watch what you say. they could go on a 6 game lossing streak and then if that happens what will you say then. i know the pacers has won 3 games aginst the pistons this season so what you said does not mean any thing."

Crissy, you're right, I don't know. If I could tell the future, I'd win this, hold a "Say Goodbye to My Old Friends" party, donate copious amounts of money to charity and then roll around in the rest of it. So, you're right. I've no claim on the future. All I can say is that I'm confident the Pistons have more of the right stuff to get to The Finals than any team in the East, including your Pacers.

And, of course, we have the Bulls fan, but I was surprised more didn't weigh in. Maybe they were still shocked the Bulls made no move at the trade deadline. Still Juntao believes, baby:

"You are really getting too ahead of yourself with the Detroit Pistons. Yeah, sure they do have the East's best record right now, but never leave out the Cleveland Cavaliers or MY Chicago Bulls. The games played between Cleveland and Detroit has not been as close as the games played between Chicago and Detroit. Chicago and Detroit has been much more intense because of their high-intense rivalry. So don't count out the Chicago Bulls, and Ben Wallace will really start playing like the All-Star that he truly is. Chicago will be right there with them by the end of the season. Oh yeah, remember that 6-game series between Chicago and Miami. Yeah, you might want to think about that, sir.

Juntao, I think Ben would only make a difference on the defensive end of the floor for Chicago in the playoffs. The Bulls need someone who can get them the tough bucket inside 15-feet when the going gets tough. I don't think they have that.

Of course, you have your Miami partisans as well, like Raj:

" Yeah Detroit is the best,just like last year right? What about the defending champs? Sure D Wade might be gone for the rest of the season, but what about the guy who has won 4 of the last 6? I think Shaq's team still has a major say in what will happen come playoff time. You might argue we're missing our star player in D Wade, but was Kobe considered a star before Shaq came into town? Wade was nothing more than a good player until the Diesel showed up and won another championship. Shaq develops stars and this goes back to the days in Orlando with Penny. Lets also not forget the supporting cast of James Posey, Jason Williams, Antoine Walker, Jason Kapono, and Gary Payton. If the East is Detroit's to lose, then consider it lost.

Whoa, consider it lost? The Heat are an awesome 2-2 since Wade went down with his shoulder injury. If he chooses surgery, your Heat are toast. You do know Wade's been the MVP of that team for three seasons now, right? You remember that the Heat were well on their way to 2005 Finals before Wade suffered an injury and Miami lost to Detroit in six in the Conference Finals, right? You know it takes two to tango for a title right. Even Jordan had Pippen for all six titles.

Now, even if Wade selects rehab, it'll be a while before he returns. I'm not convinced the Heat can flip the switch this season.

Just like Todd says:

Without Dwayne Wade Miami is done like dinner. It's a good thing that New Jersey and New York are so bad cuz Miami will be lucky to make the playoffs. In the end you're totally right. Detroit will be the cream that rises to the top of the Eastern conference.

Then, there's Paul from Cleveland, a Cavs fan who agrees:

"I'm a Cleveland Fan, and I gotta say I agree with you completely that Detroit will walk through the Eastern Conference without even breaking a sweat. I honestly see no team that can challenge them.

I can't speak for everyone, but I think the reason the Cavs couldn't make a deal this year is because they purposely set themselves up to fail. Basically I see it as them already conceding defeat to the Western powers. Their thinking is even if Bibby puts us over the top in the east, it won't be enough to beat Dallas, so why pay the luxury tax and make a risky move when it's not going to give you a shot at a ring? Bibby has been available since the jump, and Cleveland's point guard need has never been questioned, so why not pursue this earlier? Why wait until three days before the deadline to get serious? The answer is simple, they needed to make a show of it to appease the fans, but they never wanted this deal to actually go through... at least not yet. I belive they did want Bibby and they still want Bibby, but they would much rather get him in the off-season and save $3 million in the luxury tax. Why take a risk when there is no reward? I'm not saying I like it, I'm just telling you how it is."

Dan, easy there. I wouldn't go that far. LeBron noted in October the team had championship aspirations. I can see where you're coming from, but you never know when your chance will come. Sometimes, you need to make your own chances. The Cavs didn't.

Then, of course, we had the thankful Pistons fans, like Matt in Troy, Mich.:

"Your report on the trade deadline/Piston's contending in the championship could not be more accurate. It's good to read an article from someone that knows what the hell their talking about. Forecast--Piston's/Dallas, Pistons 7 games. Have fun in Detroit come the playoffs. As usual, its going to be a great sporting year for Detroit."

Yes, go Lions! And my Brewers are totally gonna take the Tigers behind the woodshed in June, and then October.

Then, there are the just plain bitter, like DJ in Seattle:

"Just read your article slobbering all over the Pistons. Thank you for reminding me why I never come to nba.com. You are an absolute idiot. And I don't have to explain why, since you justify yourself with simple "no's" and "hell no's." Rest assured, you better love your job, because you neither earn nor deserve it.

First of all, DJ, you're here. You sent an e-mail through our website. And you're always, always welcome at NBA.com. As for the absolute idiot comment, I wouldn't go so far as to say absolute, but you may be on to something.

As far as not explaining why I'm an idiot, that's cool too, though I did go through a Cliff's notes version of what I thought each team lacked. So, that's your bad for not picking that up.

And as far as my job, you are more than welcome to submit a guest column in the future. Please let me know if you're interested.

And finally, for my favorite letter of the week, from Tom in Mich.:

Rob the Feb 22 edition of Cenral Alliance was your best edition this season. You finally tell the nation what we have known here in Michigan for the past three months. The Pistons are going to the NBA Finals. Its great to finally read a genious like yourself write this. Its a great article every week and I hope you continue this for seasons to come.

I just liked that one. You can probably figure out why. Thanks, Tom.

Anyway, couple last things to talk about. One, the KG to the Bucks portion of last week's CI was a lark. I just wanted to show you could use these things to make any trade you want, no matter how unrealistic. KG to Milwaukee was never going to happen except in my twisted mind.

For instance, Jeff in Racine, Wis. worked out a trade where the Bucks ended up with Dwight Howard and Chris Paul and only eventually gave up Charlie V. and Andrew Bogut. Wow! Now, that's working the machine. But as I said, twisted minds think alike.

Anyway, we love Charlie V. Why? Well, we think he hasn't even reached his NBA ceiling yet, but he's also a warmhearted dude. Check out this excellent piece on Charlie V. on ESPN.com about Villanueva's work with kids and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF).

You'll be glad you did.

Thoughts? Complaints? E-mail us. We'll try to work the mail in next week. Also, you can listen to Rob Peterson on NBA Radio, Sirius 127 every Monday at 7:30 a.m. ET, and every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. ET.