I’ve always believed that nothing of value ever does or ever should come easily, and as the Pistons climb another mountain this year, we tend to forget how difficult things were in the past.
- In 2003, they were down 3-1 to Orlando before fighting their way to the Conference Finals against New Jersey
- In 2004, they were down 3-2 to New Jersey, before fighting their way to the championship
- In 2005, they were down 3-2 to Miami before fighting to a seventh game in the Finals
- In 2006, they were down 3-2 to Cleveland before surviving
And now they’re in up to their necks with Miami. Adversity and long odds are always part of what it takes to win. The players know it, but the rest of us always seem to forget.
Admit it. After two games against Cleveland you thought it was going to be a rout. Admit it again, after Game Five, you went to the dark side, wondering how the Pistons could ever find themselves in such a position of vulnerability.
Flip Saunders has said many times, “After we started 8-0, we’ve been expected to win every game.” He’s right, and when the Pistons don’t win, people start looking under rocks for explanations.
True story: We get back from Cleveland after the Game Three loss to the Cavaliers. I’m walking my dog and the lady next door says, “I heard that the Pistons lost the game on purpose to make the series longer because they want more games and more revenue.”
She was serious, and I understand the fan mentality that never wants to give the other guys the credit. They feel that if their team loses, it’s something they did wrong rather than accepting that sometimes the other guys just play real well. After all, Cleveland won 50 games and may have the best player in the league.
I said, (name excluded to protect her from undue laughter) “If my dog does her business right here, it won’t stink as much as that logic.”
The Pistons also lost Game Four and another friend, who I consider an astute fan, implied that one of the Piston starters had to be on “the take.” I told him that that was the most ridiculous explanation I’d ever heard; explaining that it even exceeded my neighbor’s dog poop theory. After the Game Five loss, ESPN’s Greg Anthony said, “I think something’s wrong in the Piston locker room.”
Fans and media observers tend to leap to either end of the spectrum on short-term results. When the Pistons blew out Milwaukee in the first two games of Round One, everyone predicted a sweep. After Milwaukee routed the Pistons in Game Three, I was in the workout room at the Pfister hotel the next morning and saw a headline tease on ESPN that read, “Are the Pistons in trouble?”
C’mon people. No wonder these athletes often think we’re all nuts! We’re schizoid, manic and bi-polar all rolled into one, unable to find middle ground between euphoria and jumping off the building.
After the surprise Game One loss to Miami, the Pacers Jermaine O’Neal appeared on the TNT pre-game show. (And by the way, if I see one more promo for “The Closer” or “Saved” I may throw a brick through the screen.) Anyway, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Reggie Miller and O’Neal all predicted that the Mavericks will win it all – before Dallas went on to lose Game One at home against the Suns.
In fairness, O’Neal made some potentially valid points in predicting a Miami series win over the Pistons. He said, “They look worn out after playing all these games the past three years. Also, they don’t go very deep in the bench and the starters have played a lot of minutes. Miami has too much for them.”
My point is this: Jermaine may or may not be right. Nobody knows. Miami has a lot going for them. They have a great coach, two of the league’s top players in Shaq and Wade, a re-tooled roster; they go deep in the bench and have the revenge motive on their side.
I’m not telling you to keep or not to keep the faith. What I’m telling you is that none of us know what will happen and the players don’t care what any of us think. Nor should they. And thankfully, they pay no attention to us.
And that can only be a good thing.