One of my least favorite sports conversations starts with somebody saying, "I never watch the NBA. . . ." There was a time in the not-too-distant past when this made sense, when the NBA basically ground to a halt as every play was an isolation, while some of the best athletes on the planet stood around and watched.

That's not this NBA. You like your point guards on the move, controlling everything? That's the pro game now. High-octane, with decisions made on the fly. And don't talk about no-defense. That's garbage, too. Check out the playoffs. It's not all (eye-popping) Taj Gibson dunks.

This year's playoffs should grab the most interest, with the Lakers and Celtics out of the picture. There's a lot of next-generation ball being played. I'd argue that three should-be starters on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose) are leading their teams, and the fourth team has the best player in the rest of the world in Dirk Nowitzki. (And Dwyane Wade was the best sixth man in the history of the world in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.) If you'd rather watch the college game, nobody's stopping you. This isn't an anti-college screed. But that's like saying, "I never watch the Phillies. . . . I'd rather check out Reading or Clearwater. Those guys play the game the right way."

Where in the world is . . .

Pete Cipollone? The St. Joseph's Prep graduate, coxswain for the gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic eight in Athens, gets in a boat and coxes competitively "only very occasionally, with close friends," Cipollone said.

Cipollone, who grew up in Ardmore, lives in San Francisco and is working on a technology start-up that he said makes use of his experience. He's not ready to add details yet. He's also on the U.S. Rowing board of directors and chairman of its finance committee. He enjoys talking to young coxswains, "or any coxswain who wants to talk," he said, about the intricacies of coxing.

Cipollone coxed at the University of California. But many of his vivid experiences were formed from the Schuylkill. Cipollone coxed in the Stotesbury Regatta four times while attending the Prep.

"I'll never forget, my freshman year, we had an excellent freshman crew," Cipollone said. "We hadn't lost all year. Our second freshman boat also was very good. That year, a buoy had come loose and was floating in our lane, in the Stotesbury. It got tied around the two-man's rigger and stopped him dead. Our second boat won the race. That seemed like the end of the world."

The next year, Cipollone had almost the exact opposite experience.

"I was in a JV 4 - I had been banished," Cipollone said. "And we won the Stotesbury. Whatever level you're at, that's the biggest thing in the world. I was like royalty that day."

He has plenty of other stories from the Schuylkill.

"I ran over a tree one time and my coach's head almost popped off," Cipollone said. "Being in Philly, coming up in Philly, it's a cauldron. You really get the full experience. I think it makes you a lot better."

This is legit

Glen Macnow of WIP-AM (610) reports there is an Antonio Bastardo fan club on Facebook. He's the administrator of Bastardo's Bastids, with 712 members as of Tuesday morning. The group hasn't made a ballpark appearance yet, Macnow said, but it includes former Phillie Chris Coste among its members, and has T-shirts for sale benefiting "Linda From Mayfair," a WIP caller recovering from breast cancer. It also has a slogan: "Who's your Daddy?"