Friday, June 02, 2006

Pondering the Pistons and Heat

I'm not sure what more can be said about tonight's game between the Pistons and the Heat. We've heard it all in regard to this series. And you'll hear a little more from me. I've been pondering a few things at TWFE HQ...

On whom is the pressure actually on, on the Heat to finish off the Pistons, or on the Pistons to extend the series? My guess it is on the Heat, in no way do they want to face a fired up Pistons team and a rabid Palace crowd on Sunday. No way, no how. For all intents and purposes, this is the Heat's game 7. The Pistons live for this, the Heat just want to get thru it.

Is this the end of the Pistons as we currently know them? If I were a betting man, I'd lay money that Joe Dumars makes a move to improve the offense even more. Despite the heat Flip Saunders has been receiving, it appears he's coming back. He's an offensive minded coach in an NBA era that requires teams to score in bunches. Defense doesn't sell well to network TV. So he's going to make some personnel moves, as the Pistons do need more scoring. In fact, Ben Wallace may help make that decision for Joe D. Speaking of that...

Is this the last game as a Piston for Ben Wallace? Depends if Ben is willing to take less years and dollars to stay in the D. This is his only chance at a monster contract. But is a 32 year old center who's a liability on offense, despite his freakish defensive ability, worth a maximum deal? Will he turn down a max offer from a up and coming team like the Bulls, if the Pistons decide he's not worth silly money? Or would he stay for a few million less a year, and insure his legacy with the men who have their numbers in the Palace rafters as one of the best Pistons ever? It's a damn tough decision. But we all know one thing. Money talks, and you can't take a retired number to the bank.

The Pistons legacy that they'll be remembered in NBA lore as a great team is at stake. At this point, this Pistons team is a level below other dynasties. Honestly, with only 1 title, this Piston run has been excellent, but it's not a dynasty. They need to win another NBA title to be at least considered with, lets say, the 80's Pistons or 90's Rockets. Otherwise, they may go down as a very good team that won a title.

The Heat have a small championship window with an aged roster surrounding Dwayne Wade, so their future is now. That's a given. Shaq is beginning to show high mileage on his body. You can see the wear on his treads. You can say the same about Alonzo Mourning, the only reason he's still in the league is to win a title. Gary Payton is a shadow of his former all league self. Antione Walker has been around the block a few times. Jason Williams is what he is, and he's not getting better with age, just more conservative. You also have to wonder how long Pat Riley wants to stay behind the bench. Wade must realize that if the Heat don't win this season, their window may not stay open for another.

Speaking of Shaq, is this his last best chance at a title? Yes and yes. The Heat need to make their run between the fall of the Pistons and the rise of King James. The Pistons are on the ropes and the Cavs are a year or 2 away from serious contention. It's now or never.

Dwayne Wade, the next MJ? In the current NBA, give me Wade any day of the week, save for Lebron James. Even then, I'd really have to think about it. Wade may not be the next Jordan, but he'll be a cornerstone player that the star-centric NBA will promote as such. In other words, soon it will be Wade's and James' world, we'll just be living in it.

What of Flip Saunders, is he an inspiring leader and offensive guru, or the the coach that broke the Pistons? Right now, Flip's reviews are mixed, at best. That's includng his own players. The years of first round KO's in Minnesota have left a huge playoff monkey on his back. To gain the respect he needs to have from his roster, let alone the fans and media, Flip needs to guide the Pistons thru the minefield that is a playoff run. Winning this series would calm everyone's nerves in regard to Flip's coaching abilities. Otherwise, the second guesing will begin almost immeadiately.

Will Pat Riley's brooming of Stan Van Gundy be considered a move of genius, or a move of desperation that ended up backfiring? Either way, the dumping of Van Gundy coaching corspe comes off as a last grasp of glory for Pat Riley. He saw opportunity, and Van Gundy be damned, Riley took it and ran. Win a title, everyone will forgive and forget. Lose this series, and history may not be so kind.

If the Pistons lose, will the Tigers finally move into the forefront of the Detroit sports fan conciousness? The Tigers are slowly gaining notice from everyone, from the media on down. Dammit, I'm ready for a pennant race, it's been too long. But...I could easily live with a couple more weeks of NBA playoff insanity. Easily. I'm greedy though, I want BOTH!

As for tonight, who wins? Flip a coin. My heart desperately wants to say Pistons, but this game scares the living Hell out of me. The living Hell...

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