Sunday, April 04, 2004

"Glory Days" Again?: The Detroit Pistons

I attended my second NBA basketball game ever today with my second-oldest son (who will be 11 in June; it was his first game) at the lovely Palace of Auburn Hills: the "house that Isiah built" and home of the Detroit Pistons. We played the team with the best record in the NBA: the Indiana Pacers, and sent them a strong message and whooped them good: 79-61.

It looks like we will be going up against the New Jersey Nets and then the Pacers for the championship of the East. The Pistons have an excellent chance, the way we have been playing (12-2 in the last 14, and with a record for most consecutive games keeping opponents under 70: 5).

It was wonderful. We had seats in the last row, right under the ceiling, but we went down to the third row to watch the warm-ups. And we had some good binoculars.

This is an exciting team. Forward Ben Wallace (of big Afro fame) has won defensive player of the year the last two seasons. He is second in the league in both blocked shots and rebounds, and also is high up in steals. The Pistons allow the least points for opponents of any team. Our two guards, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, both average about 17-18 ppg, and the recent acquisition of the exciting Rasheed Wallace has reinvigorated an already-excellent team. We have one of the best benches in the league, too.

I am reminded of the "glory days" of 1987-1990, when the Pistons, led by Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Bill Laimbeer, overcame the three-time world champion Celtics of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale to win the East, were the last team to beat Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls before they went on to win six championships, and then beat Magic Johnson's and Kareem's Lakers (who won five championships).

Unfortunately, in the 1988 NBA Finals, Thomas sprained his ankle in the 6th game. We had an excellent chance to win, but of course with our star and captain out, the Lakers won the 7th game (at home). The year before, Larry Bird had stolen an inbound pass from Thomas to swipe away the Eastern Conference Championship. Isiah certainly paid his dues in disappointment before he won his two rings. The next year (1989), Magic Johnson got injured in the first or second game, so we won. "Poetic justice," I guess, but one always wants to beat the other guy with all their best players in the lineup. In 1990 we defeated the Portland Trailblazers (Clyde Drexler et al) in the Finals.

So we'll be watching closely from here on in, with the playoffs looming near! Basketball is my favorite sport to watch. I'm old enough to remember watching Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, John Havlicek, Walt Frazier, and Dave Bing and Bob Lanier of the old Pistons.

As a child, I went to many Detroit Tiger games (and my favorite sport to play has always been baseball). I was at the 1971 All-Star game in Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Reggie Jackson hit a home run out of the stadium, and I also got to see Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and other great National Leaguers for the first and only time.

The Tigers won the world series in 1968 and 1984. We always joke about how the World Series with the Tigers was during our honeymoon. We'd watch the game almost every night. And then there are the three Stanley Cups for the Red Wings recently (but I don't follow hockey). The Red Wings have the best record in the NHL right now. So it is a great time for sports fans in the Motor City. Detroit has the best rock and roll audiences in the world (as Bob Seger noted in his famous Live Bullet concert, citing Rolling Stone magazine), and also some of the best sports fans.

No comments: