By the time the Jazz meet Houston on Saturday at the Toyota Center, the drama will already be mounting. If there is a sports equivalent to "As the World Turns," it's the NBA playoffs.

Somewhere along the line, something ultratheatrical is bound to occur. It's the natural order of things.

Remember last year in Houston? That was when Andrei Kirilenko was reduced to tears over his role. It made worldwide news. AK said he was at the end of his rope, unsure of what Jerry Sloan wanted him to do. Sloan said he wasn't equipped as a counselor. Kirilenko's wife tried to mediate by saying it was a communication problem.

There were other playoff situations, too. Like after the Jazz's final game, when Deron Williams called out teammates for mentally taking an early vacation. Derek Fisher brought the crowd to its feet by showing up in the middle of a second-round game, after attending to his seriously ill daughter.

Baron Davis dunked on Kirilenko, a meaningless late-game basket, yet it sent the Bay Area media into a frenzy.

What will be this year's melodrama?

"I'll be the sideshow this year," offered Sloan.

That's the thing about the playoffs. EVERYTHING is in high definition. An offhand remark becomes a rallying cry for the opposition. A sprained ankle becomes as important as the war in Iraq.

Heaven help the poor guy who suggests the coach isn't playing him enough, because his remarks will be on talk radio, in the papers and on TV, ad nauseam, for days.

John Stockton got in a fender bender on the way to practice one year, and you'd have thought he was in a fiery explosion.

Never mind his car was barely scratched, much less Stockton himself.

Then there was the story that broke in 1998 about Karl Malone's previously unknown twins he had fathered as a teenager.

Chicago' coach Phil Jackson called Stockton as dirty a player as Dennis Rodman, the only difference being their off-court behavior. Big story. Not to mention the years when Rodman fueled postseason interest by squiring Madonna about town.

This year's cause celebre could be anything. It might be the play of Mehmet Okur, who in Wednesday's regular season finale whacked San Antonio's Fabricio Oberto across the face, drawing a flagrant foul. If he elbows a Houston Rocket, he'll be branded the next Hillside Strangler.

Asked if he thought some type of dramatics will mark the playoffs again, Sloan replied, "I hope not. Most of that stuff is not basketball related, but I hope everything that happens is basketball related. That's what the fans want to see. I hope nothing happens (to make) all the excitement be about something that's unnecessary."

You mean like last year when Golden State's Stephen Jackson accused the Jazz crowd of racial taunts?

Hype happens. When you get that many media and that many fans in one place, small stories become big ones.

All this is old news to Matt Harpring, a 10-year veteran who has been to the playoffs four other times. How do players handle the distractions?

"You deal with it," said Harpring.

He added that doing so is far better than sitting home.

"This is what you play for is the chance to win it all," said Harpring. "This is where the fun of basketball really starts. If you're in this league for the right reasons, this is what it's all about. The competition is great, the fans are great, the atmosphere is great. It's fun."

But what about all those other outside distractions?

"It's part of the whole thing, the whole atmosphere, the ambiance, that's what makes the playoffs so special," he added.

Sure, the playoffs are over the top and things get a little crazy.

So if you don't like drama, watch Animal Planet.