The Runaway Train That Is Dee-Troit Basketball

By Gregory Moore
Updated: May 31, 2006

SAN ANTONIO — Detroit Pistons’ fans are upset. The players are irate. The Motor City media are writing stories and questioning the team’s heart on and off the radio airwaves. With the Pistons now 3-2 after losing to the Miami Heat 89-78.

It wasn’t just a woodshed whooping that the Pistons received; it was the fact that their regular season glue has been tampered with and the wheels are coming off of a team that has been to back to back NBA Finals. The players are finding every excuse in the book as to why they are losing and as many have already written, they are putting that blame on Flip Saunders, the head coach.

But if life has irony as a part of its fabric, then sports definitely has the ability to mimic life when reality must be dealt with. When confronted about the players complaining and blaming him, flip had this to say in a recent article published by The Detroit News:

“You want to talk about a lack of defense, yeah, there’s a lack of defense because guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. If I gave up 50 points in the paint (which the Pistons did in Game 3) and I gave up 13 straight-line drives to the basket when I am supposed to be guarding somebody — I mean, these are things you learn in the sixth grade. Stay between your man and the basket. If you can’t do that, you are right, there is going to be a defensive lapse. This isn’t about egos right now. This is about winning. If you have a job to do, go out and do your job.” Columnist Drew Sharp, a columnist whom I have grown to appreciate and talk to occasionally since last year’s NBA Finals, wrote in his piece for The Detroit Free Press: “The players are as much to blame for this unthinkable disaster as their head coach, but it’s obvious that the Eastern Conference finals have stopped being a series but will now become a referendum on Flip Saunders’ competency as a playoff coach.” Is Sharp being critical of the players or is he taking a swipe at Saunders?Knowing how Sharp thinks at times, I’d say he’s trying to get the players to hold themselves accountable. And thus this is where irony meets reality in sports. Rarely are players ever held accountable for the success or failure of a team.

If anyone is going get fired, it’s a head coach first. General Manager Joe Dumars will never point the finger at the players and say, “It’s your fault” but maybe he should. Maybe it is time that the players be held accountable for their play on the court because ultimately they are the ones who can win or lose the game.

What should be addressed is all the whining that the Pistons are doing publicly about the referees when clearly it is their lack of commitment to the game plan that is costing them games. Why would Antonio McDyess publicly say, “If you breathed on (Wade), it was a foul. If you got away from him, he’d make the shot. You’re dead either way” when it is clearly apparent on the video that he simply did not even attempt to play some type of defense on Wade.

If a tongue lashing is so well deserved in public, then maybe what should be said to Rasheed Wallace is worth the price of admission: Play ball, don’t give me or the refs or stay at home and play hubby and daddy dearest. If Saunders really wanted to send the message, maybe that is who should get the tongue lashing first.

It’s not the fact that the Pistons have lost two games straight in this series, it’s the fact that they have been playing this bad since the series with Cleveland. Even they admit that something isn’t right as far as this team is concerned.

“We’ve just got to try to come out and play the way we played in that third quarter from the start (of the game),” Ben Wallace said to reporters. We’ve just got to get better execution and play harder.” Really? And what gave this impending revelation of facts? The fact that Flash is streaking in for dunks or the fact that Shaquile O’Neal donned on his Superman cape and went coast to coast after a block?

The Detroit faithful are restless and are looking for blood. As many of the media begin to write the eulogy to what was supposed to be the Pistons’ greatest season ever, one can only wonder how much accountability will the players put on themselves.

THE MAGNIFICATION OF REFEREE ERRORS IS HORRENDOUS Wasn’t too long ago that I wrote a piece in which I had a conversation with Ken Hudson on the state of the NBA refereeing during the first round of the playoffs. I don’t want to say my faith in the league is becoming shaky but even I am having a hard time understanding how the league is not reprimanding veteran officials for making some pretty serious calls.

Now let’s get something straight. I’m not saying that the refs are causing teams to lose games. The players have and always will decide who wins or loses a contest. But the errors that these referees are being made can be quite atrocious at times and the league really needs to look at possibly holding these individuals a little more accountable for their actions.

What is making this really worse is that the new crop of referees to replace those who possibly should be retiring aren’t a better group and I’m talking about those coming from the WNBA side of things. I’m in my fourth year of covering this league and I cannot tell you how many times an official has literally blown a call because he or she simply does not know the rule.

That’s really unacceptable at any level and the league needs to do something about this. After all the enjoyment factor of the game is being compromised by bad officiating and there is nothing worse than watching a basketball game being controlled by a whistle.