Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pistons, Red Wings Flying Low, And That's Just Great

It's becoming trendy, now, to dismiss the Pistons. They are no longer the sexy team -- the lunch bucket "Workin' Hard" squad. It's not considered a smart thing, anymore, to elevate them to championship-caliber status.


Sports Illustrated, no less, is the latest to shove the Pistons to the side. In their 2006-07 NBA Preview, the magazine picked the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the Central Division. They labeled the Pistons no better than fourth in the Eastern Conference, behind the Miami Heat, the New Jersey Nets, and the aforementioned Cavaliers. Now, I have never put much stock in what the folks at SI have to say when it comes to forecasting and handicapping any sport. Usually, their crystal ball is cloudy.

It bemuses me to see how teams are treated like fashion trends. The Pistons are now, apparently, sooo 2004. Doubtless that their struggle with the Cavaliers in last spring's playoffs has contributed to that feeling. And losing Ben Wallace, to those rivals of yesteryear, the Chicago Bulls.

Regardless, the Pistons don't impress too many people anymore. Wallace's departure has been blamed, by Wallace himself among others, squarely on coach Flip Saunders. Naturally, this has caused Flip to be looked at cross-eyed. Who ELSE does he not get along with? Oh, and now he wants the team to play some zone defense? Tsk-tsk.


The Pistons, like the Red Wings, seem to be under the radar, and that's wonderful. Isn't it nice to NOT be considered THE team to beat for a change? In the NHL, teams like the Minnesota Wild -- normally one of the pedestrians of the league -- are off to jackrabbit starts. Their wins are piling up, and their loss totals are miniscule. And the Red Wings are scuffling along at .500 after nine games, struggling on special teams. Good! Let's lie in the weeds, and go into the playoffs as a sixth or seventh seed, and ruin someone ELSE's season for a change.

The Pistons won 64 games last season. They qualified for the conference finals for the fourth year in a row. They have, as far as I'm concerned, improved their bench. But they do not have Ben Wallace. And the Cavaliers have LeBron James, and a smart young coach named Mike Brown. And the Heat are defending champs. And the Nets have tweaked their roster. So, I guess, that puts the Pistons down the list three more notches.

The Pistons have always thrived when they can play the "nobody respects us" card. They ought to be beside themselves with giddiness nowadays. All that pressure, you see, is on LeBron and company.


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