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Friday, January 13, 2006

Mea Culpa About Flip Saunders and the Detroit Pistons

I was wrong. Those three words are hard for most people to say--and I am no exception--but I believe in being forthright and direct. Before the season I predicted that the Detroit Pistons would slip in the standings after replacing Larry Brown with Flip Saunders. Instead, the Pistons have the best record in the league and thoroughly demolished the defending champion Spurs in San Antonio 83-68 to sweep the regular season series 2-0. Detroit beat San Antonio 85-70 at the Palace on Christmas Day and neither game was really as close as the final margin--or, as TNT's Charles Barkley said about Thursday's game, "If you make a 10-0 run and you're still down 10, it's not a run, it's a crawl."

San Antonio is clearly not at full strength--Tim Duncan is hobbled by a plantar fascia injury and Manu Ginobili has just recently returned to action after his own injury problems--but that does not in any way detract from the cold blooded precision with which the Pistons operate on offense and defense. At times it looked like they were running drills by themselves with no opponent. I still am very curious to see how well the Pistons will ultimately do during the postseason but I would be remiss to not acknowledge the greatness that they are displaying now. It is truly enjoyable to watch how unselfishly they play. It would be great to see this Pistons team play against the San Antonio team that won last year's Finals.

I still am not buying the idea of Chauncey Billups as MVP: here are the numbers for the Detroit starters against the Spurs--22 pts, 6 rebs, 1 ast; 9 pts, 7 rebs, 14 ast; 27 pts, 10 rebs, 4 ast; 13 pts, 12 rebs, 2 ast; 2 pts, 12 rebs, 2 ast. Which one of those players is the MVP? We have two 20-point scorers, two double-doubles and all five players contributing at least 6 rebounds. The Pistons are winning because of a great collective effort and should send at least three of those players to the All-Star Game; I wouldn't have a problem with all five guys being selected as All-Stars, something that almost certainly will not happen.

While I do not support Billups' MVP candidacy, I think that it is a shame that despite the Pistons' great run over the past several years that Billups and Rip Hamilton have not yet made the All-Star team even once. This reveals a great hypocrisy for which fans, writers and coaches must equally share blame. We all say that we value team over individual and that players should sacrifice their own statistical glory for the good of the team--then we select the All-Star teams based almost solely on individual statistics. Billups, Hamilton and the Spurs' Tony Parker each deserve to join Ben Wallace, Duncan and Ginobili at the 2006 All-Star Game.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:39 AM


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