This first article is really good, the quote from Ben is towards the very end. Talking about what the players do effects what the fans do. The second article might make you a little upset.
Time to savor Pistons-Pacers matchup
Instead of wailing about the brawl, we should embrace the teams' riveting rivalry.
By Bob Wojnowski / The Detroit News
Oh, no, not again
Can't dodge it, can't deny it. Can't hide from it. What we saw last November was stupefying, a player-fan brawl at The Palace that staggered a sport, crushed one team and damaged another.
But here's an idea, delivered without cost. Instead of wailing relentlessly about how bad that was, can we embrace, starting tonight, how good this rivalry might be?
For many reasons, not all of them ugly, the Pistons-Pacers series that opens at The Palace should be riveting, and could be cleansing. We know it will be heated, the most electric playoff atmosphere around here since the Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche (hockey, remember?) used to square off.
It's back to basketball, back to competition, blessedly. That's all the Pistons care about and all they want to talk about. It better be all the fans care about.
It's all Indiana cares about after a season of upheaval lowlighted by the Nov. 19 brawl, which was sparked by Ron Artest's mad dash at a stupid cup-throwing Pistons fan. The spectacle launched a nationwide discussion on athlete-fan violence.
Time to get over it? The only way everyone -- from players to coaches to fans to media to league officials -- gets over it is by seeing something good emerge from it. The fight scenes will be replayed forever. It's up to the Pistons, the sturdy champs, and the Pacers, the riled upstarts, to deliver something fresh.
"I'm not going to answer any questions pertaining to the brawl," Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said with polite firmness Sunday. "I just want to talk basketball. You all are the ones that hype it up, but there's no bad blood from anybody on our team. We've got a nice rivalry here. They're a very good team, and we feel like we're the best team, so there are going to be heated battles. I'm over that other stuff."
I believe him. I believe other players who say the same thing. I believe fans are learning to police themselves, evidenced by the quick fingering of the coin-tosser during the Philadelphia series. I believe Palace security will be fine, and both teams will be composed.
But we need to see it to be sure. We need a series without any ridiculous threats or cocked fists. The only time the Pacers have played here since the brawl was March 25, and the game was delayed 90 minutes after a telephoned bomb threat.
There are too many great angles in this series to be obliterated by the giant hideous one. Mainly, there's one team that badly, desperately, maniacally wants what the other team has.
The Pistons beat the Pacers in a six-game showdown last season, then won the title. Starting there, nearly everything that has gone wrong for Indiana has its roots with the Pistons, fairly or unfairly. Artest was suspended for the season. Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games and star Jermaine O'Neal for 15.
The Pistons lost Ben Wallace for six games but recovered. The Pacers rebounded but still haven't completely recovered. Whether they admit it or not -- and occasionally, the bitterness surfaces -- they must blame the Pistons for ruining their season. They know there's only one way to fix it, which makes this rematch fitting and appropriate, and also juicy.
"It's only right," O'Neal told reporters after Indiana beat Boston on Saturday night to advance. "Personally, this is what I wanted. I wanted to see this team. I'm pretty sure Detroit wanted to see us. We're beyond the extracurricular activities. We want to have a good, hard-played series and the best team will win."
The Pistons are the better team, by almost any measure, although they need to show it more consistently than they did against Philadelphia. If they crank up their defense and tone down their turnovers, they might even handle the Pacers decisively.
But the intangibles can't be dismissed. Indiana coach Rick Carlisle was fired after two 50-victory seasons in Detroit. Indiana's Reggie Miller is closing out an 18-year career. O'Neal and Rasheed Wallace are buddies off the floor, sparring partners on it.
The Pacers wanted this meeting, urgently. That churning edge is what the Pistons have to match.
"They wanted us," Billups said, before a long, long pause. "They got us."
This is why we care about these silly games, in case anyone forgot. Because intense competition can be fascinating. Because reputations can be altered and careers can be made.
Can one fiercely entertaining series completely erase the stain of the brawl? Nah.
But it can ease the sting.
"I think a lot of good can come out of this, with two deserving teams trying to move on," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "We've played three times since the fight and the games were hard played, but no dirty stuff. Both teams have been through a lot and handled it pretty well. ... I just hope the players understand that (brawl stuff) is over and the fans understand it's over. Let's learn from it and move on."
Both sides are saying the right things now, but that hasn't always been the case. O'Neal suggested in a February interview that Ben Wallace didn't get enough blame for riling Artest. And Miller blasted the Pistons and Palace security after the bomb threat.
The Pacers' irritation is understandable, and their hunger for redemption justifiable. The Pistons get it. But that doesn't mean they're backing down.
"If I was those guys, I'd want to play us too," Rasheed Wallace said. "It's been a good feud, but I don't think it's bad blood. I think it's respect. Those guys go hard and vice versa. Nobody's out there being a dirty player."
Artest isn't out there, which helps. So we should expect great theater, heated but clean. In fact, we should demand it. Of course, it's still up to the players and fans to show it.
Everyone is on alert, and they should be. Asked if he had a message for the fans, Ben Wallace responded as he usually does, as the no-nonsense team leader.
"The biggest message we can send is by going out and playing basketball," he said. "A lot of times, the fans react to the way we're playing. So let's just play."
Just play. After all the charges and countercharges, all the angst and anger, that would be the best scene of all, whether it's worthy of endless replay or not.