Luke Waltons Forehead presented by the Sports Dude.

Thursday, November 03, 2005 at 12:51 PM

The Pistons and the other three...

This post was supposed to take place yesterday, but unfortunately my dumb ass ran out of time, so you will all have to deal with it today. The Pistons looked good last night and even though it was against a lowly Sixers team I was still pretty impressed. Yes I know it was opening night, yes I understand there was probably a lot of adrenaline and such, but none the less I was impressed with the overall look of the Flip version of the Pistons. Anyway, as far as this post goes I am going to focus on not only the Pistons but the three other teams that I think will be there at the end of the season – the Nets, the Pacers and the Heat. I said it in my NBA Preview Post and I will say it here again, the #1 seed in the East to me appears all but set to come out of the Central. The Pistons need to win their division; they need to not have any lapses or a slow start like in seasons past because with this seeding system a #2 finish in the Central equals a #4 seed. They can not afford that, they need to stay focused and look at home court not only in the East but hopefully in the Finals as well so they can avoid anymore game #7’s on the opposing teams’ court. That being said I give you my thoughts on not only the Pistons but the teams I picked to win their respective divisions (Miami, NJ) and the team that will give the Pistons a run for the money in the Central (Indiana).

The only team that I see having a shot at knocking the Pistons off the throne in the Central is the Indiana Pacers. Artest, for all his boxing ambitions and CD producing glory, for all his clear cut insanity, he is (as he puts it) a “caged animal”. Seriously, does this guy have Mike Tyson written all over him or what? All things considered he still is a decent scoring threat and an excellent on the ball defender, not too mention he probably has a chip on his shoulder the size of Hannibal Lector! Rick Carlisle is an excellent coach (come on Detroit, admit it, he really is a good coach!) and knows how to get his guys to play defense with a capital “D”. The only question I have is how is this young roster going to respond with the lack of a true veteran presence, as in the loss of Reggie Miller to retirement? That being said here is their projected starting five and key back ups to each spot:

PG – Tinsley & Johnson
SG – Jackson & Jasikevicius
SF – Artest & Granger
PF – O’Neal & Bender
C – Foster & Pollard

Beyond the starting five, which has a weak spot in Jeff Foster, the depth is a huge question mark here. Johnson is a decent back up, no one knows a damn thing about this Jasikevicius cat, Bender is hurt more often than not but has potential, Pollard is a hack like Foster and who the hell is Granger? However, I give them the benefit of the doubt because there is a lot to prove from last year and the brawl, what they feel it cost them and I like Carlisle as a coach and what he gets out of nothing. The job he did last year with all the injuries and suspensions really tells you what kind of coach he is and I respect the Pacers more for that than anything else because this team really is about four guys (Tinsley, Jackson, Artest, O’Neal) and that is about it.

The Nets, who surprised a lot of people last year once they acquired Vince (overrated) Carter, should have no problem winning their division easily, barring injury to Kidd. Take Kidd out of the equation and that team is a bunch of lost souls searching for an answer, so as long as his knees hold up the Nets should be in the Eastern Conference Final Four. Here is a look at their projected starting five and key back ups to each spot:

PG – Kidd & McInnis
SG – Carter & Planinic
SF – Jefferson & Wright
PF – Collins & Uncle Cliffy Robinson
C – Krstic & Jackson

Look, is there any doubt that this team is Kidd, Carter and Jefferson and a bunch of other dudes? McInnis is a decent back up and I do like Uncle Cliffy, but the rest of that team makes me go “HUH?” As I stated above they are in an extremely weak division and as long as Kidd’s knees stay in one piece they should at least get to the Final Four.

The Miami Heat, the darling of the Eastern Conference, the team picked to dethrone the Pistons, the team I look at and go “Why?” I have already stated that this team reminds me more of the Lakers team the Pistons destroyed in the Finals two seasons ago than anything legit. Yes there is Shaq, who is clearly aging fast and not the Shaq of old, and there is Wade, who is every bit of everything he is billed up to be, but what about the rest of the misfits? And trust me, this group is a bunch of misfits, I kid you not. This is a paper team, an ego team, and clearly a team that Riley put together to help him kick Van Gundy to the curb and return to the bench. I mean, Riley has to know that there are going to be chemistry issue right? What better way to justify firing a fairly successful coach than to put all this “paper” talent together, watch it implode and then return to the bench with the tag line of “Look, I gave the guy talent, he just doesn’t know how to coach it.” I mean, unless there is a new rule in place, along with that ridiculous dress code, that says there are now three balls in play at once, how are you going to keep all these ball hogs happy? It is damn near impossible, so let us look at the five projected starting ball hogs and the huge egos coming off the bench to back them up:

PG – White Chocolate & Payton
SG – Wade & Kapano
SF – Posey & Walker
PF – Haslem & Simien
C – Shaq & Mourning or Doleac

All I am going to say is this, look at the point guards and I think you will agree there is trouble in ego paradise! White Chocolate (a.k.a. “You ain’t writin’ nuthin’ homeboy”), who loves to throw one ball out of bounds for every “sweet” pass he makes and Payton (my ego is the size of Shaq) as your two top guards? Walker couldn’t stand coming off the bench in Dallas, he was all but a cancer there, what makes you think he will like it now? (Don’t tell me Shaq will police it all, he couldn’t do it with the Lakers and this is no different!) The rumor out there is the only reason Finley turned down Miami was because he didn’t want to play with his old Dallas teammate once again. Turning down a chance to play with Shaq because of Walker, tells you a little something about that cat doesn’t it? I am going to leave you with this diddy and then we will be done with the pour chemistry and cancer stricken Heat, a comparison to this starting unit and the Lakers from a couple years ago:

Lakers – PG was Payton – Heat – PG is White Chocolate and Payton – same
Lakers – SG was Kobe (MJ junior) – Heat SG is Wade (MJ junior) – same
Lakers – SF was Rick Fox (defense only) – Heat SF is Posey (defense only) – same
Lakers – PF was Malone (nasty, scores) – Heat PF is Haslem (nasty, no scores) – same
Lakers and Heat – Center = Shaq.

That is all I am going to say about that, now on to the Pistons and their starting five along with their key back ups:

PG – Billups & Arroyo & Hunter
SG – Rip & Delfino
SF – Prince & Evans
PF – Sheed & Dice
C – Ben & Darko & Davis

Chemistry folks, it is all about chemistry, this is the same starting line up that has been together for 1 ½ seasons (completely) and, if you take away Sheed, for three seasons now. What is the biggest key to this season that was not seen last year? Depth, depth, and more depth and a coach that ain’t afraid to use it! If you look at the Pistons second unit of Arroyo, Delfino, Evans, Dice and Darko/Davis, how many teams wouldn’t want them as their starters? Can you say Atlanta? Can you say Charlotte? New Orleans? Folks, there are components in the Pistons back ups that may be the envy of the league simply because those guys could be starting a lot of other places. Come on now guys, don’t call me a slappy here, you know darn well Arroyo could start somewhere in this league (he was a starter in Utah until he fell into the doghouse!). Don’t tell me that Dice wouldn’t be a starter somewhere in this league, or that Darko (if he was on your typical lottery team) would not be starting, or even Dale Davis isn’t in good enough shape to log minutes. The only two that may not have the edge, as far as possible starters somewhere, may be Delfino and Evans, but I expect Delfino to have a far better year this year because he will be in a system that believes in him. Lastly you all know how I feel about Evans, whom I am describing (along with a lot of others!) as another “diamond in the rough” steal by your very own Mr. Joe Dumars. Quite frankly the depth on this team, along with the chemistry in that starting five (which, by the way, is still the best starting five in the NBA – go on, I dare you to find one that is better!) is the reason why I say the road to the Finals still goes thru Four Championship Drive in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Period, point blank and yes, end of story. Later – the sports dude.

Blogger Leelanau Sports Guy said...

Dee-troit Basketball! I love it! They looked good last night and I think Flip will be the best thing to come to Detroit since Ben Wallace. The Pistons will bring home the title again. They are too deep and just flat out too good!  


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Blogger mayday said...

Very silly the degree to which you're sleeping on the Pacers. I think the Pistons' rotation looks great this year but the Pacers are very well configured for playoff basketball. Jasikevicius is an assassin, as anyone who watched the Olympics knows. Granger is a legitimate contender for the All-Rookie team (the media is probably going to drool Bogut directly to the ROY without passing Go), and the steal of the draft. I'm just sayin.  


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