I thought the Pistons Care Telethon that raised more than $400,000 and counting was an absolutely smashing success. Anybody who thought that there weren’t enough Detroiters with the means to help out our less fortunate now know better. And anybody who thought the Pistons weren’t relevant anymore obviously was sadly mistaken. All the radio stations, all the TV stations, the great crowd at The Palace, the terrific response on the telephone and over the Internet clearly shows that when the Pistons have an event, it’s a happening in Detroit, southeast Michigan and all over our state.
This is clearly a victory for our area and for Michigan. So many of the hungry will now be taken care of because of this unbelievable event. You have to give Alan Ostfield a great tip of the hat. He’s certainly watched this event unfold for the last couple of years, but this time it was all his. The way it was organized, with the different levels of prizes for participation and the goals that were set, were all very realistic – even in these tough times – and Alan should really take a bow.
So should all the people who work at The Palace who were involved in this event – and I know that was virtually everybody who works at The Palace. I was proud to be one of the up-front guys, but the real work was done by the people who got in at 6 in the morning and worked at least until midnight. They’re the heart and soul of the Pistons family and they should all take a bow.
The fans who turned out also got treated to a really good NBA basketball game, too, against one of the teams everybody had pegged as a title contender coming into the season. I’ve always respected the Boston Celtics. They were a terrific rival for the Pistons throughout the years. Back in the Bad Boys days, the Pistons had to go through Boston to get to a championship. The Celtics had their runs in between titles when they were trying to find a way to get back – and they finally did. They have a tough and smart group of players and they’re extremely well-coached by Doc Rivers.
Their only problem is Father Time. The question won’t be answered for a while, but has Father Time caught up with them? You can do an awful lot in the postseason on guts and guile and basketball IQ, but I don’t think you can take that all the way to a championship. If they don’t get their legs back under them – and I don’t think they have them right now – I just don’t think you can consider Boston one of the favorites.
When you shift gears to Cleveland, a team the Pistons will see this Friday night and then two more times in March, as well as to Atlanta and Orlando, you’re talking about young legs.
Whoever would have thought Orlando was going to get all the way to the Finals last year? But now they can say they’ve been there, done that. I don’t think they’ll shy away from the bright lights of the postseason. The Hawks have been right there, surprising Boston when they took the Celtics to seven games the year Boston won it all, and then last year beating Dwyane Wade and company before playing Cleveland tough. So they’re not a team you want to tangle with in the postseason. They really do have talent and they, too, are well-coached by ex-Pistons assistant Mike Woodson.
But I do believe Cleveland is the favorite. LeBron is playing at an unbelievable level. He’s every bit as good as people feared he would be if they weren’t wearing wine and gold. He’s an unselfish teammate, he has brute strength, range on his shot … he’s virtually unguardable and he makes that team go like maybe no other team in the NBA.
The Cavs do have to get settled in at all the rest of their positions before the postseason. Shaquille O’Neal’s return from njury and the possible return of Zydrunas Ilgauskas – they could be a lethal tandem if it’s handled properly. Managing their minutes, depending on the matchups and situations, is going to be critical for Cleveland. They’ve also had injuries in their backcourt. So they’ll have to polish up their rotation, but if and when they do – and I believe they will – I make them the favorite to win it all.