Pistons still proving their toughness
The Road is Where the Heart Is
SAN ANTONIO, June 22 – Home court doesn't matter. Or so the Detroit Pistons will have you believe as they stare down Thursday's decisive contest after taking Game 6 on the road in San Antonio.
Throughout Wednesday’s media session, the Pistons players maintained they'll play the upcoming game anywhere, focused on one goal, no excuses. And why wouldn't they? They’ve proven they can win when it counts most, without the luxury of home-cooked meals and cheering fans.
“We’ve got to play here or in Detroit. I like the fact that it’s here,” Spurs assistant P.J. Carlesimo said of holding home-court advantage for Game 7. “They can say there’s not going to be a difference, [but] I think our players are happier, our coaches are happier and I think the truth is, if you ask Detroit, ‘Where would you rather play?’ They can say all they want, ‘Well, we know we can win on the road. We just did.’
"Okay, but guess what guys, we’re going to try something different tomorrow: We’ll play wherever you want to play. [Do you] want to play here or want to go back to Detroit? They’re probably going to pick Detroit.”
But the Pistons aren’t having any of that talk, instead refusing to believe the SBC Center favors either team.
Then again, they've been successful never having listened to much of anything anybody has ever had to say.
Ben Wallace wasn’t considered draft worthy when he came out of Virginia Union. Where? Exactly. They said he was too small to play power forward or center in the NBA. Yet, here he is, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, starting in the middle of the biggest game any NBA player could ever dream.
“Right now we’re just glad to be here,” Wallace said Wednesday. “You could play [Game 7] outside on the playground if you want to now.”
Chauncey Billups had four teams in five years decide he wasn’t cut out to be their point guard of the future. Think a few GMs out there wish they had his leadership and ball control in their backcourt now, as the Pistons do for Game 7?
“I love it,” Billups said about playing in pressure packed situations. “I think so many players just get a little too excited, which is understandable, you know, being in a situation like that, to get a little too excited and get a little too impatient. I think that's where I come in at with that calm demeanor and just staying poised out there and just playing this Game 7 like it's Game 1, you know what I mean, or the first round, not The Finals.”
Then there’s Rasheed Wallace, the guy everybody loves to hate – everybody but his teammates. He was cast off, regarded as a talented player but too much of a trouble maker. The only trouble he's caused since joining the Pistons more than a year ago has been for opponents on the defensive end.
“Cool,” Wallace replied in his usual quotable manner when asked how it feels his current team routinely beats the odds. “It feels real good to prove all you cats wrong.”
Of course, Joe Dumars, the master architect whose designs are on display in the city where he made his name as a player, never listened to what anybody said, either. He went against conventional wisdom, building a superstar-less team of skilled players who can deal with adversity – a talent quite often hidden from the general view. Look no further than one of his most recent acquisitions, Antonio McDyess.
McDyess refused to quit, even though he considered it after numerous trades and nearly as many knee surgeries.
“If that’s not resiliency,” Dumars said looking back on his decision to sign the fallen All-Star, “I don’t know what is. The guy was ready to toss it in, but he stayed in there, hung in there and fought. You know when you get to situations like this, guys like that will come through for you.”
The value of the opportunity provided by Dumars and playing in the Finals is not lost on McDyess.
“Man, what would it mean?” McDyess replied when asked how special it is to be one game from capturing an NBA Championship. “It seems like I’ve been through a lot and accomplished a lot, [but] just to get a ring would mean the world to me. Just being here and just playing, it’s still the most amazing. Even if we don’t get it – it’s just not an option.”
With that kind of pressure placed upon himself, McDyess knows he must push aside any big-game jitters when Larry Brown calls his number.
“I’ve got family calling me and telling me their stomachs are knotted up and they’re nervous,” McDyess said, “so I told them they can imagine what I’m going through when I’m sitting on the bench watching.”
Of course, that’s just Antonio – the new guy – talking. This is all fresh for him. But for the others, who are, as Billups said after the Game 6 win, “tough as nails,” they’re not entertaining the notion of nerves.
“I don’t got nerves,” Ben Wallace stated matter of factly.
Do your teammates?
“Teammates don’t got nerves. Nobody on this team, man. We’re cool, calm, collected. We’ve been here before.”
They keep telling us they’ve been here before, that they have what it takes to win a Game 7.
Maybe we should start listening when this team says that something as minor as venue doesn't matter.
– Jeff Dengate will be covering the Pistons beat throughout the Finals.
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