Q. My stomach churned a bit when I heard Reggie said the Pistons were the "team to beat," and further, "that any little thing can set Indiana off." Although I can not and do not expect Uncle Reg to be biased, I found the latter statement a bit brazen! Over the years he has chosen his words very carefully, knowing exactly how to get under the skin of an enemy with choice statements. Could there be more behind his season-beginning statement lurking below the surface, or am I just a fan being too sensitive to what appears to be quasi-treason? (From Derek in Indianapolis)
A. I do believe you're onto something. In the latter phase of his playing career, Reggie developed a habit of choosing his words very, very carefully. In fact, he restricted his availability to the local media, talking only after selected practices, no more than twice a week. He also would not talk before games. After games, when required to be available, he always went through a long ritual of slowly getting fully dressed before commenting. Invariably, he was the last player in the locker room to take questions. Maybe he was being meticulous. Maybe he was being a little ornery. Or maybe he wanted as much time as possible to gather his thoughts and consider the difference between what he wanted to say and what he needed to say.
It's entirely possible that his selection of Detroit as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference was calculated. Picking Miami, after all, wouldn't have nearly the same effect on the Pacers players. There isn't a rivalry there. There's little history between the teams. But to pick the rival Pistons, as you mentioned, could be viewed as treasonous. He then took things a step further, talking about chemistry problems that could keep the Pacers from achieving their potential. Those are the sort of comments that could serve to motivate a team for a long time.
Was he simply offering objective (as possible) analysis, establishing from the outset with the TNT viewing audience he would not be a Pacers homer? Or was he attempting to continue to inspire his former team, in his own way, from afar? Only Reggie knows for sure, but it would not be difficult to believe he was endeavoring to do both.
Interesting. I could believe that. It fits. And whether he meant to do it or not, it could pay off for the Pacers.