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Article:Starting Five For Tuesday

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1. Knicks fans. Late yesterday afternoon Donnie Walsh announced that he was leaving the Pacers after the season ends. The press conference portrayed the departure as amicable and inevitable. Walsh spoke candidly about the fact that he isn't ready to retire and about the other opportunities open to him. A few hours later ESPN started announcing that Walsh was coming to the Knicks in the offseason and that a three-year contract had already been worked out. Though I won't believe anything pertaining to the sordid world of MSG until it happens, I felt hopeful when I heard this news. It was the first thing about this team that has made me feel good in some time. Even the hope that Walsh is actually coming and relieving Isiah of some (if not all) of his duties is a godsend for Knicks fans at this point. For now, I'll take hope. Once the season ends I'll want a bit more.

2. The Houston Rockets. How do they get in the Starting Five? Especially when LA and Golden State just had back-to-back barn-burners on the left coast? Well, they got here because they are still only a game out of first place. A week ago tonight the Celtics broke their streak but the Rockets didn't let that loss break them (well except the very next night when Chris Paul and New Orleans really undressed them). Houston managed to go a respectable 2-3 during that murderous week (LA, BOS, @NO, @GS, @PHO). They beat the Kings last night to stay on track and are still in the hunt for the #1 seed in the West. After taking on the eminently beatable T-Wolves tomorrow the Rockets have a few days off to prepare for a Texas Two-Step with Los Spurs on Sunday (on ABC at 1). And, if they can take that game from the suddenly shaky defending champs then 6 of their 9 April contests are against teams without a chance at the playoffs. Though even making the playoffs in the West this year is an accomplishment this team could still nab the top spot. It's still an amazing story even if everyone has stopped paying attention.

3. The Philadelphia 76ers. The beat the Celtics last night to go one game over .500 for the season. They have won 8 of their last 10 games and are slotted into the sixth spot in the (L)East. This team should be worse than the Knicks. I honestly believe that. They should be in the Beasley/Rose sweepstakes. But, they're not. They're everything the Knicks are not. They've got a solid, point guard meshing with his coach. From top (they actually made a crucial in-season management move) to bottom (they've got ten guys playing 14+ minutes) they seem to understand that effort and not talent is the way to win games. And they're heading to the playoffs because of that understanding. If they can maintain their spot they will have a first round date with Orlando, who although better than they get credit for are still the most vulnerable team in the top 4. Combining this with the great Iverson-return not too long ago it has been a feel-good season in one of the most notoriously-feel-bad sports towns. And, I'm jealous. I would love to be watching an out-of-the-blue success story instead of this debacle.

4. Rasheed Wallace and the Detroit Pistons. In the past two weeks the Pistons have beaten Phoenix, New Orleans, San Antonio and Denver. Not too shabby. Last night was the Suns turn to take a depressing trip to Motown (is there really any other kind?). The competitive and impossible to match up against version of Rasheed showed up last night and nailed 5 three-pointers en route to 23 points. He hit the shot to put Detroit ahead with about a minute and half left in OT and then blocked an Amare Stoudamire shot with 35 ticks left to hold off the Suns. When he actually shows up there are few people who are as difficult to deal with. He posts up and shoots threes with equal aplomb.

5. Baseball. While you were sleeping or commuting or drinking that first cup of coffee while pretending to be hard at work the 2008 Major League Baseball season got under way. In Japan. The A's and the Red Sox took the field around 6 a.m. EST and the game was televised, I think. It sure doesn't feel like Opening Day just yet. Though it's coming up soon and Pedro is slated to be on the mound at Shea for the home opener. The moral of the story is that you (me) and all your (my ) friends probably should have had that fantasy draft already. Someone missed out on Manny's big morning in Japan. He went 2-5 with 4 RBI. And, the Yankees are already a game back in the AL East standings.

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