(Saturday links by Bryan, bryan@bostonsportsmedia.com)

A full plate of coverage this Saturday morning, as the Celtics open the NBA playoffs, the NFL draft begins at noon, and the Red Sox fall in Tampa Bay. We also have news of disciplinary action (not a firing) against Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom.

I am also looking for your feedback on the media coverage this weekend. See the end of today’s posting for more. To the links …

We’ll begin with the media coverage of the Celtics, who meet the Pacers at 8:00 tonight at the Fleet in Game 1 of an opening-round, best-of-seven series. What, no special playoffs section in the Globe for the event? The paper has only four stories from staff writers (plus one AP notebook article) and nothing from its three main columnists; Howard Bryant does weigh in for the Herald, but the tabloid offers us only three other stories from its own reporters (plus two wire articles). It’s not really a surprise, but it is disappointing.

Tony Allen is the subject of the lead basketball story in the Globe, Herald, and ProJo (curious, no?). Shira Springer, Mark Murphy, and Carolyn Thornton spotlight the rookie guard, who returns to the starting lineup tonight and draws the assignment of defending Reggie Miller.

The Celtics notebooks from Murphy and Springer focus on the team’s reserves and on not having to see Ron Artest suit up for the Pacers.

Murphy has the traditional position-by-position matchup article for the series in the print edition of today’s Herald, though I’m not seeing a link online. Murphy gives the edge to the Celtics at power forward, small forward, and point guard, and he favors the Pacers at center and shooting guard. Boston’s bench beats out Indiana’s, according to Murphy, while Rick Carlisle holds the advantage over Doc Rivers.

Peter May previews all eight of the NBA’s first-round series, picking the Celtics over the Pacers in seven games. He also predicts that the Pistons will ultimately face the Spurs in the NBA Finals, and that Detroit will repeat as league champions.

If you went out and bought the Herald this morning, as I did, you could read Howard Bryant (available online by subscription only) wishing that Reggie Miller could close out his NBA career with a first-round playoff game against the Celtics at the original Garden. A good column from Bryant here, as he recaps some memorable Miller moments.

Here’s wishing that Bob Ryan could have skipped his column of steroid speculation on Nomar Garciaparra yesterday (see reaction from Nomar below) and instead written his thoughts on the Celtics as they begin the playoffs. In his weekly segment on WROR Thursday morning, Ryan essentially said that he didn’t know what to expect from this likable-but-unpredictable bunch.

Draft day
Do you have your NFL mock draft cards filled out? Today is Day 1 of the 2005 NFL draft from New York, and the Patriots check in at No. 32, the final pick of the first round. Be sure to check out Scott’s Shots throughout the weekend, as David Scott blogs his way through what he calls the “Most Overhyped Non Event”. BSMW Draft Central is also a good reference for reading about potential Patriots picks.

In their mock drafts today, Ron Borges projects that the Patriots will select Michigan cornerback Marlin Jackson, while Kevin Mannix has the team taking safety Brodney Pool.

More stories on this weekend’s draft, and speculation on how the Patriots will proceed:

* Tom E. Curran wants the team to select linebacker Odell Thurman of Georgia, but predicts they’ll instead take LSU cornerback Corey Webster.
* Eric McHugh looks at several “wild card” players the Patriots could consider.
* Michael Parente writes that New England is drafting for depth.
* Jerome Solomon expects that the Patriots will simply select the best overall player available when their turn comes up.
* Michael Felger speculates that the Patriots’ first pick may be for offense, particularly if all of the top defensive players they like are off the board.
* Mike Reiss wonders whether New England will trade up for one of the top-tier cornerbacks.
* In a good leftover from yesterday, Reiss also serves up 32 “pre-draft pieces” in his Reiss’ Pieces blog. Look for frequent updates from Reiss throughout the weekend.

Finally, Nick Cafardo takes a look back at the Patriots’ 2004 draft class.

Devils Rays top Red Sox in 9th
A walkoff home run on the first pitch in the bottom of the 9th by Eduardo Perez lifted the Devil Rays over the Red Sox, 5-4, last night at the Trop (box score). Steven Krasner, Cafardo, and Jeff Horrigan have the game stories.

Gordon Edes looks at the towering game-winning blast by Perez, the son of Hall of Famer and former Red Sox Tony Perez.

Michael Gee (subscription only) has a column about the three walkoff homers allowed by the Sox bullpen so far this season.

The Sox notebooks from Cafardo and Horrigan focus last night’s effort by Tim Wakefielder (two earned runs in six innings). Krasner has an update on injured Tampa Bay outfielder Rocco Baldelli.

In a story that may develop some legs on the local sports media scene, Garciaparra reacts to Ryan’s column from yesterday. It’s only a wire-service article this morning, but it certainly isn’t a stretch to suggest that discussion of both the original column and Garciaparra’s response will gather steam over the next few days.

(Afternoon update:) Dan Kennedy, in his Media Log for the Boston Phoenix today, offers his thoughts on the column, saying he doesn’t quite know what to make of it. He includes an excerpt on Nomar from a February 11 Gerry Callahan column (online subscription required).

In the Hartford Courant, David Heuschkel has quotes from several Red Sox players criticizing steroid allegations against their former teammate.

Albom suspended
Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom and four other staff members have been disciplined by the paper over an April 3 story. Publisher and editor Carole Leigh Hutton has a letter to readers. She doesn’t detail the disciplinary action beyond the short-term suspension of Albom’s columns, nor does she name the other staffers.

Weekend lineup
Four NBA games today as the playoffs get underway:

3:00pm, ABC: Philadelphia at Detroit
5:30pm, ESPN: Houston at Dallas
8:00pm, FSN, ESPN: Indiana at Boston Celtics
10:00pm, ESPN: Sacramento at Seattle

Four more games are on tap tomorrow:

3:00pm, ABC: Game 1, New Jersey at Miami
5:30pm, TNT: Game 1, Washington at Chicago
8:00pm, TNT: Game 1, Denver at San Antonio
10:30pm, TNT: Game 1, Memphis at Phoenix

ESPN has the NFL draft beginning at noon today, and ESPN2 picks up the coverage at 5:30pm. Patriots.com will have streaming audio of the draft from 3:00-6:00 today, and from 12:00-3:00 tomorrow. Tomorrow, ESPN continues its draft coverage at 11am.

NESN has a pair of Red Sox games this weekend, at 6:00 tonight at 2:00 tomorrow afternoon.

What do you think?
Send me your thoughts on the media coverage this weekend, and I’ll publish a sampling of your e-mails tomorrow night. The NFL Draft, Celtics-Pacers, Red Sox, WEEI, Ryan/Garciaparra, and local papers are all fair game. My e-mail: bryan@bostonsportsmedia.com