Friday, April 10, 2009

Pistons Have Nothing To Lose In Playoffs

In 2005, it was the possibility of repeating as NBA Champs, and all the spoils that go with being a back-to-back winner. It was also merely the backdrop for the drama of whether their coach was going to flee after the season. The coach made sure of that.

In 2006, it was the supposed hunger to grab back what they believed was theirs -- the NBA title that had been snatched from them in a bitter, heartbreaking seven-game series the year before.

In 2007, it was the supposed hunger to grab back what they believed was theirs -- status as the best team in the East, at least.

In 2008, it was the supposed hunger to show those Celtics in Boston that they weren't all that.

The Pistons have concocted all sorts of motivators in the playoffs in recent years. They've fancied themselves as the hunted, and vowed that they'd, in the end, have enough to suppress the malnourished teams who would come at them.

In 2006 it was Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, unsatiable until D-Wade could lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Before that, LeBron James's Cleveland Cavaliers scared the pants off the Pistons with their brand of hunger in the conference semifinals.

In 2007 King James and his court kicked the door down in the conference finals, stomping past the Pistons, who assured us that it wouldn't happen.

Last year, the Pistons played an inspired Game 2 in Boston in the Final Four, then curiously laid an egg on their home court in Game 3, when they had a chance to steal momentum in the series. Then, after again assuring us that all would be well, the Pistons let the Celtics dominate them and take control in the fourth quarter of Game 6, also at home, thus ending the series.

That was the performance that so disgusted GM Joe Dumars that he was determined not to bring back the same crew the following season.

Well, he did, but not for long--trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson, straight up, in early November. That hasn't worked out too well, on the court. Financially, we'll see.

This year, we'll finally get to see what the Pistons can do in the playoffs when absolutely nothing is expected of them.

No grand illusions of a seventh straight trip to the conference finals.

No target on their back, and complaints that everyone is out to get them.

No real belief by much of the fan base that the Pistons can even win one round.

This scenario hasn't played itself out since 2000, when the Pistons were big underdogs to the Miami Heat in the first round. It was Grant Hill's last hurrah in Detroit. He played on a torn up ankle, but it wasn't enough.

Nobody expected anything from the Pistons in 2000, and they sure as heck aren't expecting anything from them now.

Which is why no one should want to play them in the playoffs.

The Pistons might not win a round, as they'll likely be matched up against either the Celtics or the Cavs, but they're a wounded bunch who are among the dregs in the tournament, a position they aren't used to.

They have nothing to lose.

They will now get to see how the other half lives. And they might have more fun doing it.

Footloose and fancy free. That kind of playoff basketball hasn't been played in The Palace in years -- except by the visitors.

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