Q: I'm sure you would have liked to won a title under any circumstances, but does it mean more as a coach to win one with a group that personified what a team really is? Is that more rewarding for you as a coach, do you think?
Brown: That's a hard one. I haven't in my life had disappointments too many times coaching this game. I told them, before the game, it would be a great statement if we had an opportunity to win because we do play the right way, and we are truly a team.
But I left a team that I just was with for six years that never, ever disappointed me with their effort, and I don't think there are many teams in my life that I've had the opportunity to coach that didn't try to play the right way.
Since this is toward the end of it for me, and the way we did it against such a quality coach and a quality team, it's a pretty incredible feeling.
Q: Can you just tell us, as you had the game wrapped up during the last few minutes, what was going through your mind and does it feel as good as you envisioned it might winning your first championship in the NBA?
Brown: I haven't been through 48 minutes like that. You know, I've always enjoyed the moment. The bigger the game, the more I enjoyed it, but the way this group came together, you know, with Rasheed coming late and losing quality people, this was a strange night. I had no idea what it would feel like.
But I remember Chuck Daly told me something one day, that when you finally do win one, you won't appreciate it until you're driving down the highway one day and you'll get a big grin on your face. I had that feeling when I coached Kansas later on. I'm sure I'm going to have it now.
You know, it's about players. This sport is about players playing the right way and showing kids that you can be a team and be successful, and it's great for our league.
Q: Talk a little bit about Chauncey Billups, the Most Valuable Player. You guys have many players that could probably be MVPs, but he was the choice.
Brown: Well, I think that's the uniqueness of this ballclub. Like you said, you can point to a lot of different individuals and feel pretty confident that that would be -- would have been a good choice. But when you look -- Chauncey's career is a lot like mine. I think I might have been a couple more places than him, but he's still been through a lot. A lot of people told him he couldn't do certain things. Joe believed in him. And this is a shining moment for him, because he played against some pretty darned good players throughout the series.
You know, you look at who he had to play against: Jason Kidd and any number of great players, but this is a true beauty to a kid that's hung in there and maybe he's feeling like I do. You know, I got on him a lot, I challenged him a lot and I hope that he would feel that this is the reward of all of that. I certainly feel that way.
Q: It seems that you saved your best offense performance for the final game here. How do you explain your offensive production tonight, and how uneasy were you with the way things started? I think you were like 2-for-6 shooting at start of the game and three turnovers in the first six minutes.
Brown: Well, I kind of knew we would be a little hyper. I could sense it in the dressing room. Then I told them before they went out, I want them to enjoy this moment.
But we got out on the break, we got them to miss shots. When we got to running, I think it gave us a little confidence. It seemed like the basket got a little bigger, and that's the only way we felt we could beat them. If we didn't have the break to utilize the clock, we didn't have to defend so many possessions.
I think we have a lot of people that can run. You know, everybody talks about the way we play, but as a coach, I've always wanted teams to run. It just seems like the way our game is being played right now that it's a little difficult, but our defense gave us opportunities.
Q: Can you talk about how February 19th, the day you got Rasheed, helped make today possible.
Brown: How what?
Q: Getting Rasheed.
Brown: Well, he made our whole team better in every way. You know, I think most people felt when he came here that he was going to be a defensive force, and he was in a lot of ways. But his presence defensively with Ben and Tayshaun gave us unbelievable shot-blocking, quickness, unselfish play. There's no way I would be standing up here, or any of us would have been in this kind of situation without him.
And I think if you go in that locker room, there's a lot of love in that locker room for a lot of players, and rightly so, but every teammate of Rasheed and every guy that's ever coached him respects him and appreciates him. And I know my coach in Chapel Hill has got a huge grin on his face right now because of what this kid has accomplished.
Q: How is this championship different from the 1990s?
Dumars: I am more relieved now. There was a lot of pressure, stress and strain. To get it done like this in a short period time, especially from where we were, is real gratifying. When you are a player, you are young. Your perspective is not even there. I am an old man at 41 right now, and I understand it better and appreciate it more not knowing that youíd ever get back here again. After you win two championships 15 years ago, you may never know if youíll know what it is like to win one again. To be here tonight is just incredible for me.
Q: Did you think Rasheed was the spark?
Dumars: That is why I went and got him. I thought we were a contender to go deep into the playoffs without him, but once we got him, I thought he could be the piece that gets us over the hump to win this thing.
Q: What happened after Game 2 when your emotions slipped away from you?
Dumars: After Game 2, I felt this thing could slip away from us, and we may never get this back again. I know how precious this is and how fleeting it is. Thatís why I was so emotional after we gave the game away in Game 2.
Q: How does your championship validate your championship?
Dumars: I have said before that you win it all and the only thing left for people to do is acknowledge the stuff that they said or not and be hypocrites and not acknowledge it.
Q: How optimistic were you at the beginning of the series?
Dumars: I thought we were a better team than them, plain and simple. I knew that they had the two best players in the world, but this is not a tennis match, it is basketball. It is how deep your team is, and we have a deep team. I knew that we had two great players, but I also knew we had a better team.
Q: Looking over at some guys who won the MVP the last 11, 12 years: Jordan, O'Neal, Olajuwon, Duncan. How does it feel to have your name mentioned in the same breath?
Billups: It's unbelievable. Really, I'm just speechless, man. I've dreamed of this opportunities all my life, and the way my career had gone, it seemed like my chance was kind of drifting away. But I never gave up. I never gave up on what I felt I could do. And what I felt could I do is win the Championship and have a chance to win this trophy right here. You know, God is good, man. God is definitely good.
Q: The day before Game 1, you told me you guys were going to shock the world. How does it feel to have done that?
Billups: I don't feel like a liar. I wasn't lying.
You know, we did it, man. We came into this series, nobody gave us a chance, but we felt we had a great chance, man. We knew that there it would be a tough task, playing against Shaq and Kobe and the other great players that they had. But we knew as a team we just felt we was a better team and they got -- maybe better individual players, but as far as the team and team work, we felt we had the best cohesiveness in the League this year.
Q: First off, congratulations. Larry talked about the similarity of your careers, how he's been around different places and the same for you, that finally, you know, home is here for you and the confidence and all that stuff. Talk about just that whole situation, starting in Boston and now.
Billups: It's been a long road, starting in Boston, where I was at -- you know how that went. Going to Toronto, Denver, Orlando, even though I didn't get to play, I was just injured, and then Minnesota and then here. You know, it was some down times, man. Some of those situations were decent situations and I played well, but I didn't have the freedom to learn when I was making mistakes and to get better, you know what I mean.
I think when teams would trade me around a couple of times, I thought everybody just kind of felt like, you know, without checking me out, I just wasn't good enough, so teams would not take a chance on me. I was just glad that Joe Dumars saw something in me and said, you know, I want that guy to lead my team.
I finally got into a situation where the coaching staff and the management had as much confidence in me as I had in me, and that's all I needed, man. I always knew that -- I just needed somebody to believe in me and I could do special things in this league. I didn't know that it would be in Detroit but I'm glad it is. I'm glad it happened.
Q: Did Coach Brown say anything to you before the game about playing a more controlled game? You only took five shots, but you seemed like you were directing traffic more and playing the play-the-right-way game more, and he had talked about and complained about not enough assists in the first half. Did he say something to you before the game?
Billups: We didn't talk about that at all. My team, we were just so focused and I wanted to come out today, and I wanted to be aggressive but I wanted to really control the tempo of the game and they got out to a quick lead and we took some bad quick shots, so I just knew that I needed to sacrifice me shooting shots and just to control the tempo of the game.
One thing I've learned from Coach Brown and I feel equally satisfied with, is knowing that I don't have to take a lot of shots in some games to be as effective, and that's one of the beautiful things that Coach has taught me, and I've bought into that and I really believe now. So I knew today, even before the game started, I knew it wasn't going to be a day for me to shoot a whole lot of shots because I really wanted to control the tempo of the game.
Q: Are you taking the trophy to Park Hill?
Billups: Oh, yeah, I'm taking this back to Park Hill, baby. No doubt. I'm taking this back to Park Hill with me.
Q: The Lakers, a couple of the guys came in and talked about Phil Jackson might be gone, Kobe might be gone, Shaq might be gone, but on the flipside you have a strong foundation here. Can you talk about that and what the future can possibly hold for this franchise?
Billups: I think we are going to try to build on this. We're going to try to build on this. First of all, we are going to try to keep our free agents. We want to keep those guys and I think as far as the recruiting pitch, it doesn't get better than this. I don't think you have to say anything. You won a championship. I don't think there's no recruiting to be done no more.
But our core group of guys, man, are still young, myself, Rip, Ben, Tayshaun, Sheed, Corliss, guys that are still young, and we look to build on this. Coach Brown, I'm sure he's happy and he's looking forward to trying to do this again.
So, this is just one, man, and we are going to try to come back next year and defend our title and hopefully we come back with the same team.
Q: How comfortable are you now? You've had so many uniforms, but how comfortable are you in your Pistons jersey?
Billups: I'm comfortable. I'm very, very comfortable with my situation now. I mean, finally, I've hundred percent gained stability. Stability is never in this league. When you can play and not have to look over your shoulder and know that they are going to live with the mistakes that you make and they are going to really love when you play well and you don't play well. So that was a new situation for me coming here, not being able to do that anywhere else and I think my game has really grown because of that.
Q: How long are you guys going to give Rasheed a chance to celebrate before you start making the pitch to get him back?
Billups: About 30 minutes. 30 minutes. A couple champagnes back there in the back. I told him, man, I told him earlier, like two weeks when he got here, I don't know what's going on with you, but I'm going to have to hold somebody hostage, man. You've got a new daughter, I'm taking her man, I'm taking her. She's going to like Detroit because she ain't leaving here. If she's living with me, that's all right. I'm keeping her, everybody, the wife, the kids, everybody. So I don't think he has much of a choice.
Q: First of all, I guess, could you just talk about the scene. What it was like on the victory platform -- Ben Wallace rubbing your head and what it was like in the locker room after the game, and could you address how this changes you as a player? You're in the books forever as the Finals Most Valuable Player, how does that elevate you as a player?
Billups: How many questions was that?
Q: Four, I think.
Billups: (Laughter) I think being up there on that championship stage was just unbelievable man, I was speechless up there. For me to be MVP was even more unbelievable.
Like I said, those are things you dream about as a kid, when you first start playing, you dream about that. There's not many things, you know, that I can say in my lifetime made me feel that way, besides getting married three years ago and having my two kids. So this goes right up there with that, and it's just an unbelievable, unbelievable feeling that I just can't describe, you know what I mean.
As far as the locker room, I haven't been to the locker room yet. They have been pulling me everywhere, but I haven't been back there yet, but I'm sure it's a mad house back there.
I think, you know, for so many years, I didn't have a great situation to play in, but I felt I was just as good as all of the top players in the League, and I think now, you know this is kind of like -- this is validation for me. I think you've got to mention me in the same breath as all of those top guys that are making the All-Star Team. I felt I should have made it this past season. I'm going to keep pushing towards that, but I think that this will help with that. But obviously you've got to go out there and play. You've got to go out there and play and lead your team, and I think I did lead my team.
Q: I was going out with Coach Brown, have you seen him smile since you guys celebrated on the court? What do you think is going on right now with him?
Billups: I think he's just -- well, I think it just hasn't hit him yet he's probably ready to practice in the morning for three hours. It's just an unbelievable feeling. I know that it has to feel extra special for him to have been coaching for 30 years in so many different teams, so many different opportunities. You know, I think after he sits down for a little bit and just thinks about it, I mean, he's going to have a smile. Miles smile. It's going to be all over his face.
Q: What does this championship mean to you?
Campbell: It means a lot. Iím really enjoying it. Itís been a long time coming. First year I made it to The Finals Ė no cigar. You think thatís going to happen all the time, but there are no guarantees or promises that itís going to happen. So, here I am 13 years later.
Q: Did you believe this team could run away with Game 5 like this to avoid going back to Los Angeles?
Campbell: We were prepared. We did not want to go to L.A. We did not want to go to L.A. So we came in here ready to play some ball. We were firing on all cylinders. We even got out of what we normally do. We actually got a little erratic on offense, but still we played this game. We balled tonight.
Q: What's the difference between a championship team and just a very good one, and as an eight to one underdog coming into this series, how does it feel to prove so many people so wrong?
Hamilton: Wow, I mean, it's crazy, it's unbelievable, man. It all ain't sunk in yet. Them guys in that locker room, man, our team, we believe. They knew our motto all year is we're not scared and we're going to work hard and do everything possible. We have three opportunities to win games at hole and our fans were unbelievable. If anybody believed we was going to win, it was our fans. We did everything possible to prove them right.
We didn't worry about what people wrote in the papers or what people were saying on TV or what they was even saying in Vegas. We said to ourselves, anything is possible if you play together as five, not just on the offensive end but on the defensive end, too. LB did a great job of showing America how basketball is supposed to be played.
Q: National Championship at UCONN and now this one, you go back two years ago, you're in the Washington situation, has that all sunk in yet, and how much celebrating will you and Sheed do back in Philly?
Hamilton: It's crazy, because like I said, I've got a ring in college and the thing about it when I talk to Kobe and when I was in college, I said, yeah you might have got a state championship but I've at a college. He said, Rip, I'm about to get an NBA one and I told him right before we matched up, I said, look, you've got what I want and once I get this one, I'm going to be one up on you. I don't care if it was the second biggest shot in high school. Now I feel that coach is one up on them.
Q: Can you talk about February 19th, the day you got Rasheed, did that make this happen?
Hamilton: Wow. Wow. I mean, wow. You know, we always thought that we could get here, but when Sheed came here, we knew we could win it. Sheed did everything possible, I mean, from his talking on the court, from just being a great teammate, offense, defense is going to speak for itself. Once he came here, man, you know we needed that. That was our dog. Him and Ben down there, man, that's the two best big men in the League and they really showcased that.
Q: What will you say to Rasheed when you're with him in Philly?
Hamilton: I already told him, I'm going to have to take your whole family for ransom if you think about leaving here. They won't see you in Philly or Portland no more. This is something special. We did everything possible to keep him here, everybody loves him, he loves the City of Detroit and he loves the guys in that locker room and that's all you ask for.
Q: Talk about what this means to Mr. Davidson, he's 81 years young, 14 years since the last Piston title, quite an accomplishment; that and the Stanley Cup in the same month.
Hamilton: Wow, that's unbelievable. He got a up and a world basketball championship. That just tells you what type of confidence he has. You know, some people got a will to win and he's got a will to win. I think he put a lot of confident in Joe D in letting him do what he wants to do. When they put those two master minds together, it turned out something special. He got two rings, man, that's crazy.
Q: How does it feel to be a champion?
Okur: I feel so great right now, you know. Iím so excited. This is it. This is why we work hard everyday in practice, on the game. We enjoy this moment right now.
Q: Nobody thought Detroit could win The Finals except this team.
Okur: Just like we say all the time, itís all about the teamwork and effort. We did a pretty good job the whole series and weíre bringing the championship to Detroit.
Q: And to be a part of this, how does that make you feel?
Okur: It makes me feel a lot better, you know. Iím the first Turkish player to take the championship and play in The Finals. Hopefully, I want to retire in this league. I want to play every year for a championship. This is my dream and this is why Iím going to work hard every day.
Q: Tay, it looked like you hurt your elbow or something on that fall, were you having problems with that through the game and did it affect you against Kobe?
Prince: No, it didn't affect me at all. The first time I shot free right there, it kind of hit my funny bone a little bit, but after about a couple of minutes, it kind of wore off or whatever. It wasn't really a factor after that.
Q: Before the series, did you even imagine that you could be such a decisive factor with your defense on Kobe; and second question, how far do you think this team can go because you're mostly pretty young, if you keep Wallace you could get a couple titles.
Prince: To answer your first question, I just try to take on the challenge. I really didn't have another choice. I know it would be big for me to try to at least contain them in order for us to have a chance of winning. I think that just throughout the regular season, playing against all of these, the best winning guys in the League, getting me prepared for the playoffs and playing these other tough guys, I think that was a major factor.
As far as how far this team can go, to your second question, it can go a long ways. Definitely there is a lot of chemistry in this team through the course of the playoffs, the coaching staff beliefs in us as we believed in them. We have to give a lot of credit to Joe and the rest of the organization for putting this team together. Definitely after making the trade for Rasheed, everything just clicked right away. So, definitely after that, we really just started rolling.
Q: Describe the feeling coming into the season. You had high expectations and did you realize you would end up with a championship?
Wallace: We know coming into the season, we had high expectations. You know, we was coming off a disappointing series against Jersey, and we feel like we didn't compete against that team and we allowed them to walk all over us. You know, we came in the locker room, we came together and said it wasn't going to happen again. If we had to lose, we was going to go down fighting. And everybody just came in and continued to fight and continued to work and made good things happen all season.
Q: In those days when you were playing with Charles Oakley way back when, do you look back on those times now and think about what that meant to your growth and development here tonight?
Wallace: Yeah, those days, playing against Oak, learning from one of the great players that was playing in the League at the time, he just gave me a lot of confidence in myself and my ability to play basketball. He never let me quit. He told me to continue to play hard, keep my head up, don't get caught up in the hoopla, continue to improve every year on some part of your game and good things will happen.
Q: The whole idea of the Pistons being a team and beating a bunch of players that maybe didn't play as well as you guys did together, could you see that and feel that out there tonight?
Wallace: Yeah, it was one of those things that I thought the whole series, whether it was -- the Lakers was coming down, they would get the ball to Shaq or Kobe and I stepped in and made a play. That's a great luxury to have to be able to come down and get a ball to one guy to have them win the game for you.
But night in and night out, going up against a good team, it's tough to get it done like that. So we were able to put that pressure on nobody on our team. We just told the guys, go out there and make plays for yourself or for your teammates and good things will happen.
Q: Just talk about your mindset on the offensive end tonight. You had a big game, 18 points.
Wallace: I just wanted to come out and be aggressive, I wanted to attack the basket, just had to take my shots when they was available. My teammates did a great job of giving me a couple easy baskets early into the game. I got comfortable and was able to get out on the break, get a couple of break points and the rest was history.
Q: Early in the week, Joe Dumars said that you were the best trade that he made, acquiring you in the Grant Hill situation. Just talk about that.
Wallace: I think Joe was being very kind right now. But with me coming here for a great superstar like Grant Hill, I didn't really know what to expect. But I just came in, played my game. I think my teammates took the pressure off me to go out there and try to live up to the trade, but to relax and go out there and play my game. I went out there, got a couple rebounds, blocked a couple shots and the fans were happy, too, and everything else was like, just sort of fell in place.
Me and Detroit, coming to this city, me and Detroit, we just started rooting for each other. Everything was meant to be.
Q: Hate to hit you with this one right out of the box, but everybody is waiting to see what you're going to do next. What is your plan? Are you going to take some time and let everything sink in for what you want to do in the future?
Wallace: Definitely. I'm going to bask in the glory for the moment. I probably won't make no type of decision for a couple of weeks or whatever, go home, just enjoy this and now I can finally get back to the regular family life.
Q: What could possibly make you want to leave the Pistons? And is this finally your greatest moment in your basketball career?
Wallace: I have to talk that over with my wife, talk that over with my kids and get their input. If it's a situation or something here that they don't like or they see shaky, I have to take all of that into consideration. But I think, my family has the biggest say of it all. But don't get me wrong, I think they are a great group of guys that I'm playing with. But my family, they are going to have that last decision.
Q: Talk about winning tonight and getting that championship and does this kind of heal that wound from when the Lakers beat you guys in Portland?
Wallace: Well, not really. I mean, I don't even think about that no more, since that day that they beat us. That was in the past and just got to play for the future now. It definitely feels good at this moment. Just sit back and think about it.
Q: Larry Brown said that there's no way in the world he would have been up here or this team would have been here without you. What does it mean to hear people say that, that you kind of put this team over the top?
Wallace: There again, I'm going to say my favorite answer, I think I just added a little bit of defense to this team but they were already a great ballclub. Larry was already a great coach, even before he came to the Pistons.
So, I take the pleasure in coming here and I thank Joe for bringing me here and it worked out for the best. Everyone is happy in the end.
Q: Anytime you come to a team, a new time like you did, you always have a little trepidation about fitting in. When you met the guys, was it like the light went off and it was like, wow, this is my team? How did that work out?
Wallace: I never thought of this Piston ballclub as my team. It's a band of guys, it's veteran guys. I think when you have veterans who are hungry and are willing to sacrifice things to win, you don't necessarily need to be a leader because everyone knows what they have to do. So I just went out there, did it and now we know we're sitting on top of the world.
Q: Talk about the North Carolina connection, winning for Larry Brown, you played under Dean Smith also. Larry is saying the title belongs to you guys and to you players, but it's the first title for him.
Wallace: I would give it to LB. He's had a longer road than what most of us have had. Larry, he deserves it, he deserve all of the accolades, he deserves everything, because I think he's been looked over for last few years, but he finally done it, finally got over that hump.
Q: Whatís going through your mind right now?
Williamson: This is the ultimate in your career. We worked extremely hard all season long. The guys that have been around the league for a while, this chance comes along once in a lifetime and we made the most of the moment.
Q: This has got to be one of the most dominant efforts ever.
Williamson: We get out there and play our style of basketball. We make it difficult on our opponents to score and thatís been the marquee of this team all season long. We play tough defense and weíre just elated right now.
Q: Where does this defense rank all time?
Williamson: I donít know where theyíll rank our defense, but I know itís number one right now.
Q: Could you tell it was slipping away from the Lakers in the second and third quarter?
Williamson: You could tell when we started pushing the basketball we started taking control of the tempo of the game. We could tell we were really taking over at that point in time.
Q: What were you able to do defensively?
Williamson: Defensively we were able to trap some of their go-to players, and they really didnít want to get the ball out of their hands and pass. Theyíre used to scoring for their team so it really took them out of their offense and it made them shoot shots later in the shot clock, and that played right into our hands.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Jackson: I always see the ballplayers bring their kids out so I thought, I could bring my kids out and say, you know, they should be here.
15 years, they were about this high when we started this process and here they are, another party the NBA has had for the Jackson family.
So, it didn't come out quite as well as it has in the past, but I'm proud of my players. They had a great series up until this one. They played very well. We overcame a lot of adversity during the course of the year. It was a Cinderella story actually that this team had, but Detroit proved to be a little better than we were in this series.
Q: Detroit tonight became the first team in the series to score 100 points. How do you account for the offensive production tonight, when they have not been known to be that kind of team?
Jackson: Everybody just shot well. In the first quarter, Ben Wallace was five for five. You had players stepping up and contributing that were not part of their offensive contingent, to say the least, and a lot of times you'll see games like this where players can't find a way to score in the close-out game. But they really played very well defensively and offensively.
Q: When did the decision about Malone come, and how critical was his absence to the series?
Jackson: Well, it was a big drop-off for us, between what we had was a backup situation in Karl, we have no one with experience, players that are not quite at the level that we'd like them to be at. Certainly, experience-wise, but they were game and Slava got off to a good start tonight, so that was nice.
But Karl was really our energy around the court. He was a guy that could get rebounds for us and do a lot of the things that we had to have done on screen-roll defense and we missed him tonight, a lot, and we missed him through this series.
Q: It's nice to see your kids. It doesn't have anything to do what farewell ceremony or anything like that, that they were there?
Jackson: They would love to have me say this is it, this is the last, but I'm not giving you guys that satisfaction right here now. (Laughter).
Q: When do we get the satisfaction? Well, it's not satisfaction, it's just, you know, what is your timetable?
Jackson: My timetable is to meet with the management of the Lakers after the season, discuss some things that we have to discuss as an organization. And then we'll make a decision from there.
But right now I would say that it's a pretty slim chance that I'll be back coaching next year. It's a pretty slim chance. I've had a lot of persuasion given to me by these kids, they were hoping I could win the tenth and retire, but maybe losing this one, this opportunity is enough for me to say that it's time to give it up.
But right now, I'm not going to make that decision or give that statement.
Q: Can you just sort of look back over these five years, and this is a very critical now month and a half for this franchise. Talk about how you've sort of become acquainted with it and now you look out and see all of these free agents and the fact that this is quite possibly a lot of it coming to an end now. Can you talk about what that means to you.
Jackson: Well, this is a team that when I came, I felt was one of the most talented teams in the NBA personnel-wise. I felt like we had two very good units and during the course of the five years, you know, obviously with salary cap and the way expansion is, the way things have happened, too, free agency, we've come to a team that is in the position that you see us tonight, with a couple of older guys that we got on. And Gary and Karl gave us a great effort this year, and Kobe and Shaq and other players that are relatively inexperienced, guys like Fish and Fox, who are great role players for our basketball players. Now it's decision time for this team and what direction they are going to move. Obviously, it's going to be a big statement that's going to be made in July. And then Mitch Kupchak has done a very good job. They will make a move in August to rebuild this basketball club. I think they will be fine. I don't know of many players who would not want to be playing in L.A. i think it's a great franchise and a great organization. We've had the benefit of picking players that have been helpful over the course of years to help get us in championship positions.
Q: "They are" going to be fine, not "we are"?
Jackson: Well, that's yet to be determined, okay. (Smiling).
Q: I guess I'll repeat the question I asked pregame, which is, now that you're at the end here, how much was simply about Karl and what the Pistons did and everything else versus how much of it was the burden of a very, very difficult season for the team from beginning to end?
Jackson: I don't think that Kobe ran out of gas in the season. It was extremely complicated and full of duress for him. I felt that he still had plenty of energy coming into the Finals.
We got clipped in the final game of the Minnesota series with Karl and with Fisher both having knee injuries, Devean George reinjuring his foot. Those things really weighed, I think, more than anything else. And Karl's inability to complete or to complete this series, was a devastating blow to our interior defense
Q: If this is the end for you with this group, do you think the other two members of the trio, Shaq and Kobe, can and will continue on? Will they be successful in the future?
Jackson: I see no reason why not. I can't imagine why they cannot continue on and at the level of play they have shown in the last five years in the last five seasons.
Q: Kobe, Phil was in here a few moments ago and said there was a slim chance he would be back next here coaching. Was this probably your last game as a Laker?
Bryant: I don't know. You know, we have to wait till the summer to find that out.
Right now, I really can't answer that question because I don't know.
Q: Phil suggested that you ran out of gas as this went on, did you feel that way?
Bryant: As a team?
Bryant: No, I never ran out of gas, I felt like my energy was good. I played hard all the way down to the Final buzzer, but my energy felt fine.
Q: The Lakers were such overwhelming favorites coming in, what happened and could you ever have imagined not being more competitive in a five-game series?
Bryant: Well, we had to play crucial parts of the game with some of our young kids because of a couple injuries that we've had.
But, nonetheless, I felt like they got in there and gave us a great effort. I think Slava gave us good effort, Brian Cook gave us good effort, Luke Walton gave us good effort, Kareem Rush gave us good effort. They just played better than we did.
Q: Could you have imagined something like this happening in your worst nightmare?
Bryant: You know, when I dream, I dream about winning, always. It's never about losing.
Q: Before the game you felt that people were counting you off, you were still optimistic, now, do you feel maybe you lost to a better team with all of your injuries?
Bryant: You know what, they played extremely well. They coached extremely well. They executed extremely well. They played hard. They played the right way and they are deserving of the Championship this year.
Q: Is it fair to say the final analysis that five does beat two, and also, that the role players on this year's team are really not up to par with the role players on the 3-Peat teams?
Bryant: No, I don't want to be harsh on my guys at all, I really don't. They came in there and gave us a great effort. I'm going to stands up for them. I go to bat with them, any situation, any game, any in the world.
We didn't get the job done. They came in, they gave us good effort, they played their hearts out, they played as hard as they could possibly play. So, you know, I can't sit up here and say that they beat us five-on-two or anything like that. We all go out there and we all play for one another, and we didn't get it done. As a collective unit, we didn't get it done.
Q: Just to clarify, you still intend to opt out?
Q: Assuming that you were to return, Phil has said he doesn't think he would, but would you want Phil back? I know there's been mixed feelings and the relationship has gone up and down, would you want him back and would you still want to play with Shaquille? What would you want out of this team if you came back to?
Bryant: I loved playing for Phil. I learned so much from playing for Phil and playing with Shaquille, too. I think we've got a lot of great things accomplished despite our differences that we've had in the past. We've played extremely well together. We've had an incredible run.
So I would not be opposed to playing with them forever. It's just not up to me. It's not my decision.
Q: How deflating was it knowing that Karl was not going to suit up before the game and what effect did his injuries have on what happened to the Lakers?
Bryant: It was tough. It was tough on me to watch because Karl and I over the course of the year have become such good friends. So it's tough for me to see him sit out, knowing how bad he wants to get out there and play.
Besides Karl's injury, I think people really underestimate the injury to Horace Grant. He was our backup 4. He could have really helped us this series. Unfortunately, the injury with him. But that's the way it goes sometimes.
Q: What happened tonight?
George: They got into a good rhythm, and we really couldnít grab control of the game, and it just started slipping away.
Q: How different would this series have been with a healthy Karl Malone?
George: You never know. You have to play with the guys we have available. We canít really think about what if. We had guys available. Weíre all professionals and you have to get it done with what you have.
Q: What do you think is going to happen to this team?
George: I have no clue. Any NBA season brings the chance for change. Things are going to happen for sure, but I have no clue what to look for.
Q: Are you guys dumfounded by this outcome?
George: We expected to win. We went into the series confident that we could get the job done, but hats off to them. We always felt weíd have to tip our hats to a team that could beat us four times, and thatís what they did.
Q: What did you think of the crowd?
George: They were hungry for a championship, and they gave them great energy. They cheered the whole game.
Q: How disappointed are you for someone like Karl Malone or Gary Payton?
George: Itís very disappointing for all of us, not just them. I think a ring would be a perfect end to their careers, but it shouldnít take away from what Karl and Gary have accomplished.
Q: Does this hurt worse than 1998?
Malone: Well, you could say that. But all of them hurt. Iím 0-3 in Finals. Iím probably the only player that did that other than Jim Kelly in football. But, I donít know. We always look at Ö everybody says, God, he should have won. But, Iíve always said to myself: There are guys that have rings that donít deserve to have them, and there are guys that you think deserve them that donít have them. Iím one of those.
Q: Talk about what Detroit did in this series.
Malone: They played great. They did everything they were supposed to do.
Q: If you come back next season will it be with the Lakers?
Malone: You know what, I think itís a little early to say. But, Iíve never been a guy who wanted to jump from team to team to team, and Iíll make that decision. But Iíll say this: If I meet with my doctor in the next couple of days, and I canít be a 100 percent by training camp Ė not 95, not 99 Ė then Iíll make that decision.
Q: How hard was it to watch from the bench?
Malone: It was tough because I went out there with my teammates. Those have waited for me all year and I went out there with them. But, Iíll give Detroit credit, they did everything they were suppose to do to win the game. Iím proud of Coach Brown for winning one -- at my expense. But thatís just part of it.
Q: Talk about what happened in this game, particularly, and in the series as a whole.
O'Neal: They came out and they played with great intensity. You know, they played well. They capitalized off our turnovers and they just played a little bit harder than we did.
Congratulations to those guys and they deserve it. Congratulations to Coach Brown. He's a great coach and he deserves it. They just played hard, they played consistently hard. They played consistently good defense and just flat-out beat us in everything.
Q: Phil was just in saying that he thinks there's a slim chance he's going to come back, and you've lobbied for him in the past and said you didn't want to play for anybody but him. What's your move from here? Do you say anything to him to try to change his mind and where does that leave you, do you think, and the team without him?
O'Neal: This summer is going to be a different summer for a lot of people. Everyone is going to take care of their own business and everyone is going to do what's best for them, including me.
So, we haven't made any decisions yet, but once those decisions are made, you will be well informed.
Q: You've opted for another year so what does another year including you --
O'Neal: I can't answer that. I have to have a discussion with Mitch and see where they want to go with things. Like I said, we are all going to do what's best for each other.
Q: Talk about your start tonight. You started off with nice energy and it seems like you had them backing up a little bit and what happened from there.
O'Neal: We started off with nice energy and we got into quick foul trouble and then they just had us on our heels and from that point, I feel like we lost our poise a little bit. They just came out and played real good team ball and they played well and they flat-out beat us. Congratulations to them.
Q: Is this an end of an era for you guys with the Lakers and do you see yourself playing for a different team in the future?
O'Neal: I'm not sure. I'll always do what's best for me, and I'm not sure really where the organization wants to go from here. It's all a business. Whatever happens, happens.
Q: Kobe Bryant just said that he would not mind playing with you and the other guys forever, how do you feel about that?
O'Neal: Kobe is a great player. Every great player needs a one -two punch, and obviously me and him are the one-two punch. But like I said earlier, it's going to be a funny summer. Everyone's going to take care of their own business and everyone's going to do what's best for them, and I don't know what that entails.