Monday, June 4, 2007

Cavaliers-Pistons Scouting Report After Game 6

By now everyone knows what happened, and that I get to talk about the Cavs for another week at least. But while you're buyingtickets for the Finals, I want to revisit the Pistons.

Have you ever known someone who overcame great obstacles in life? They came to America with nearly nothing, and now they're making six figures...or they were addicted to smoking, and kicked the habit cold turkey by themselves...or they were 5'7" and slow and still started on a state championship basketball team? People put them down, said they would never amount to anything, and instead this person rose up and shut everyone down. Great story, right? But then, have you ever been there for the fall, when they threw it all away for no good reason at all and went back to the squalor and mediocrity of the bad old days? Not too many movies are made about the fall of a champion (although there are quite a few country songs, I'm sure!).

That's how I feel about the Pistons. In 2003-2005, a group of red-ticketed, discount players came together.
Chauncey wasn't supposed to ever become a point guard in the NBA.
Rip was too soft and couldn't play with Michael Jordan.
Ben was an undrafted offensive liability and had been tried at the #3, #4, and #5 spots without ever finding a true home.
Rasheed was a hothead whose tantrums would never allow him to be a part of a championship team.
Antonio's knees were shot, and he couldn't even help the Knicks.
Tayshaun was too skinny and weak to ever make a decent contribution to an NBA team.

They overcame these weaknesses, and quite frankly the 2004 and 2005 Pistons helped me to seriously care about the NBA again. I was tired of the years where the favorite at the beginning of the year always won at the end of the year. It was about time that some sort of upset occurred. The NBA season had become nothing more than a season-long coronation ceremony for the agreed-upon champion. Then the Pistons beat the Lakers, and I got more and more excited with every game of that series.

But now? Go back and read those descriptions I had for each of the players. Realize that in this series, EACH Piston reverted to the stereotype about him. It's so depressing. I am glad that the Cavaliers won, but I do feel bad for the Pistons. Where was the heart? How could Rasheed get himself thrown out like that? It was such a selfish act; it was almost like he wanted an excuse for losing, as if it doesn't count as a loss for him if he wasn't on the floor.

And Flip Saunders and Joe Dumars also failed the team in some ways. You're telling me Joe Dumars couldn't have dealt Nazr Muhammed for Steve Blake or some other back-up point guard? You're telling me that Flip Saunders couldn't find time for any substitutes off that bench? I still think Carlos Delfino, Flip Murray, and Jason Maxiell needed to play longer than they did, and that the older Detroit players got worn out way too quickly. Tayshaun looked bad in Game 1 and never improved, yet Delfino stayed nailed to that bench. I could say more, but Boney said it much better, several games before the series ended.

One last comment. Did anyone else realize during that 20-minute scoreboard delay that the shot for Larry Hughes' foot was wearing off? That 20-minute delay was a gift for the Pistons, as it shut up the home crowd as well. That makes the Piston collapse all the more surprising to me.

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