Wednesday, June 16, 2004

SO YEAH: You want to feel breathlessly excited about the Pistons winning, but its more of warm glow thing due to the way they annihilated the Lakers. It's like with the Nets the last few years; they were so overmatched, I didn't experience crushing disappointment so much as an enveloping cloud of dull pain.

Sign the Lakers were collapsing that seems obvious in retrospect #1: Phil Jackson was a lame duck coach. Teams with lame duck coaches, with their futures up in the air, tend to lose focus, even if it is Jackson.

Sign the Lakers were collapsing that seems obvious in retrospect #2: I think Phil had to overwork Kobe, putting him on the press every time on defense against Chauncey, and then work him on offense. Not that he had much of a choice, given their limited roster.

Sports Guy seems like he had most of his post-Finals column written before today--not that it isn't a really good column, about Isiah watching old Pistons games for the first time. Maybe we'll get something a little more in depth from him soon. Or maybe not. How many ways can you explore a complete defensive throttling? I feel guilty talking about the Lakers more than the Pistons, but their story is the more interesting at this point. It's not every day a championship team collapses this dramatically. And I'm still not giving the Pistons as much of their due as I should; I'm thinking, "Well, there's no way they can repeat. No team can play that hard having already won one championship." But dismiss the Pistons at your peril, obviously.

But Sports Guy speaks the truth. "These guys" means the Lakers:

These guys didn't care about each other. They didn't like playing with each other. They didn't play hard until you practically stuck a gun to their heads. They thought passion came with an on-off switch. With the season slipping away before Game 4 of the Finals, five of the veterans pulled the coach into a bathroom and threw everyone else under the bus. The message was clear: Every man for himself. The exact opposite of 12 guys coming together as one.

And then you had the Pistons. Years from now, they'll remember their journey just like Isiah remembered everything during that TV show, when the memories came flooding back, when the footage of a 10-year-old game brought him to tears. As Isiah described it, "Seeing that, and feeling that, and going through all that emotion, I mean, as a player, that's what you play for. That's the feeling you want to have."

And maybe I'll be able to evaluate just how good the Pistons were this year given a little time. Right now it's like talking about how great the Ostrogoth sack was when the big story is the fall of Rome. Well, not exactly, but something like that. That's a difference between this all-time upset and Rams/Patriots as well. The Rams had the stars, but they'd only won the one superbowl (and that was by the skin of their teeth) and it's the parity-rrific NFL anyways. This was the NBA; upsets almost never happen. Unless they do. Better NBA minds that mine will have to do an in-depth comparison between the 79 Sonics and the 04 Pistons.

AND the Pistons won the middle three--another unexpected part of their championship. Watching the games, you realize the Lakers should have been swept, so overwhelmed were they. That Kobe shot in Game Two was their final miracle, and something that made me think they were still in it; it's hard to argue against luck. To put it another way:

"He has that quality I admire most in a general. You know that Napoleonic anecdote? The Marshalls of France were extolling the the tactical prowess of a certain young commander. The Little Corporal cut them off tersely, 'All very well and good, but tell me one thing; is he LUCKY?'"

One of my favorite file cards. Was there ever a more intelligent toy line than GI Joe? I think not.

Thus endeth the blog post for the day.

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