Monday, November 07, 2005

The Pistons are running on all Cylinders

I have not enjoyed being a Detroit Pistons fan as much as I’ve enjoyed the first three games of this year since the Bad Boys era. It’s not necessarily that I think this team is the best team or that they’re going to win the NBA Championship. To be fair, three games is not a whole lot in a long, 82-game season. It’s just that with this team, all things seem possible. I’d like to thank Joe Dumars for making this happen. If he didn’t dump Larry Brown in the off-season, this year would be an exact replica of last year. The Pistons would be inept, at best, on offense and consistently under-perform in the regular season to the point of not getting home-court advantage. But, because Joe Dumars did what was best for the organization, even if it meant getting rid of one of the “best coaches in NBA history”, the Pistons are now working on all cylinders. The Pistons now have the offense and depth to go with their relentless defense.

Those of you that are familiar with my thoughts on Larry Brown know that I think Larry Brown is the most overrated coach in NBA history. Granted, Brown knows how to coach the fundamentals and he knows a good deal about the sport. However, the Pistons rarely reached their potential under Brown and often won in spite of Brown rather than because of him. Brown was no better for the Pistons than Rick Carlisle who was mercifully booed out of town for doing the exact same things that Brown did to win an NBA Championship. Brown won a NBA Championship with the Pistons after replacing Carlisle but it’s important to look at the facts. The Pistons added Rasheed Wallace after Brown arrived and Tayshuan Prince was a fledgling rookie under Carlisle. There is no reason to think that the Pistons wouldn’t have won the NBA Championship under Carlisle. The Pistons were a great defensive team with an inept offense under Carlisle and they were still a great defensive team with an inept offense under Brown.  

The day that Joe D announced that Larry Brown would not be back this season was like lifting a 165 pound weight off the shoulders of all Pistons fans. Various NBA analysts who bought into the Larry Brown hype proclaimed the Pistons as NBA “also rans” with no shot at the NBA Championship. Little did they know that the key to the Pistons winning the NBA title was getting rid of Brown. LB focused on defense. The Pistons would have a good defense even if I was the coach. In that respect, Brown’s emphasis on defense was redundant. The only thing keeping the Pistons from beating the Spurs last year was an efficient, fluid offensive performance throughout the game. LB was totally incapable of mounting any sort of offensive game plan and it was obvious. The Pistons almost beat the Spurs (supposedly the best team in the NBA by a mile) last season with a deplorable offense.

Joe Dumars fixed the problem by bringing in Flip Saunders and you’re already seeing the difference as the Pistons have averaged 102 points through their first three games while maintaining their defensive intensity. We’ll find out a lot more about the Pistons on their upcoming five-game road trip. But, you have to imagine that Flip Saunders knows a little bit about the Western Conference after coaching the Minnesota Timberwolves for the last ten years. Throw in the fact that the Pistons have a formidable second team (Antonio McDyess, Maurice Evans, Carlos Arroyo, Carlos Delfino and Darko Milicic) and the Pistons are not only more fun to watch but much more effective throughout the game. With the ten-man rotation that Saunders has been using, the Pistons starters will be spared the regular season beating that they took the last few years under Larry Brown. This should keep the team fresh come playoff time. The positives that Flip Saunders brings over Larry Brown are countless while the drawbacks appear to be none. Even the “belief” that Chauncey Billups would somehow fall apart without the Jedi-esque Brown to rein him in has proved to have no weight. Billups is shooting less than ever before while maintaining a sick assist to turnover ratio.

On the other hand, Larry Brown has brought his offensive futility to the Knicks and they are falling down like Danny Bonaducci on two for one night at the local pub. The Knicks have scored a grand total of 85 points per game while starting off 0-3. The Knicks have lost to such NBA powerhouses as; Boston, Washington, and Golden St. Joe Dumars took a lot of heat for saying “good-bye” to an NBA coaching “legend”. Many sports writers bashed the Pistons for showing no loyalty in a business where winning trumps all. NBA teams trade players all the time. Where’s the loyalty in that? The goal, above all else, is to put the best product on the court. Anything less would be a slap in the face to NBA fans. The cold, hard truth was that Larry Brown was way too much of a liability to justify bringing him back. Remember, Joe D didn’t let Brown go because of his hip or the uncertainty of Brown’s health. He let Brown go because he was holding the Pistons back. A few games into the season, it’s great to see how the other side lives. I’m enjoying the new brand of basketball at the Palace even if it falls short of an NBA Championship. All of my complaints and issues with the Pistons over the last few years were addressed with one bold move. What more could I ask for?

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