[size=24:f252a4c60d]From the May 24th Detroit News...[/size]
[size=18:f252a4c60d]Carlisle finds his niche in Indy[/size]
Pacers thrive on ex-Pistons coach's calm
By Terry Foster / The Detroit News
INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Stephenson and Seth Lindsey relaxed after a hard day’s work and sipped on a few beers at a window table at Coaches, a popular sports bar near Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
That’s when someone caught their attention.
“Hey, look,” Franklin said. “It’s Larry Bird. Who is that with him?”
About 100 yards away, Larry Bird, president of basketball operations for the Pacers, was waiting with another man outside Moes restaurant for the valet service.
“Yeah, who is the other guy?” a waitress said, joining in the fun.
“Oh, yeah,” Smith said. “That’s Rick Carlisle, the coach.”
Carlisle, the unassuming coach of the Pacers, remains low- key despite the position his team is in — a 1-0 series lead over the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals and a shot at the NBA title.
Still, while the talk the past three days has centered on Carlisle facing the Pistons — the same team that fired him a year ago after consecutive 50-win seasons — the rest of the community is focused elsewhere.
Like the Indianapolis 500. And the U.S. Olympic wrestling trials. And, whether Pacers all-star Jermaine O’Neal’s eye would be healthy enough for him to see.
“I guess my belief is things happen for a reason,” said Carlisle, 44. “And I am disappointed that the Detroit job came to an end, but I was optimistic about the future. I wasn’t really down about it.
“I felt something good was going to happen to us eventually.”
Ups and downs
It seemed like that something good was meant to happen in Detroit.
Carlisle’s first head coaching job in the NBA was a step-by-step process.
* In 2001-02, Carlisle led the Pistons to a 50-32 record, a Central Division title and a spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
* That same season, Carlisle was named the NBA’s coach of the year.
* In 2002-03, Carlisle’s team went an identical 50-32, winning the Central title again. This time, however, the Pistons advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.
Then the roof caved in.
Carlisle was caught in the middle of a political battle at The Palace.
He clashed with the front office. Players said they were not enamored with his stoic personality and plodding offensive philosophy.
And, of course, there was an opportunity: Larry Brown, a Hall of Fame coach, decided to leave the Philadelphia 76ers, and was available.
“There are a lot of good people doing a lot of good things there for a long time,” Carlisle said. “To me, they had an opportunity to get Larry Brown, and I can’t blame them for doing that. He is at the very top of our profession, and if you have the opportunity to get him, you do that.”
Thus, Carlisle was job hunting. And Indiana was available after Bird fired former Pistons Bad Boy Isiah Thomas.
“They should have hired (Carlisle) after Bird left as coach,” Lindsey said of Bird, who coached the Pacers from 1997 to 2000 before Thomas took over from 2000 to 2002. “We all thought they would.”
Still, as Carlisle goes about his business in the reserved ways he was often criticized for, a storm still brews hundreds of miles away.
Some Pistons fans still bring up Carlisle’s name as the coach who should be leading the team. Others say Brown is the right man to make this team among the league’s elite.
Carlisle just shrugs and displays that stoic stare that has become a common scene at Conseco Fieldhouse.
“Let me ask you something,” Carlisle said. “Why do people care? Why is it still a big deal in Detroit? Still?”
For the record, everybody involved in the tumultuous affair says it’s all behind them. Carlisle even said that he and Tom Wilson, president of Palace Sports and Entertainment Inc., have spoken twice during the Pacers’ visits to The Palace. He also has visited Dumars’ office and keeps in contact with John Hammond, vice president of basketball operations.
Dumars, in return, says he and Wilson wish Carlisle all the best — except, of course, when the Pacers play the Pistons.
Change of heart
Carlisle remains one of the bright young coaching minds in the NBA.
In his three seasons as a head coach, Carlisle joined Pat Riley as the only coaches to start their careers with three 50-win seasons and three division titles.
But even as Carlisle talks about his goals, he’s quick to point out his success or failure will depend on his players and staff.
“Whatever legacy I have as a coach will depend on the players I have the good fortune to work with,” Carlisle said. “That is the bottom line. If there is something I want to be remembered for, it is as a guy who put players first and made players the focus of the team. I just don’t believe this job can be approached any other way. The players are our game.”
But that was the knock on Carlisle — he lacked people skills.
So, one of his first acts as Pacers coach was to reach out to O’Neal, the disgruntled forward. The Pacers had fired O’Neal’s mentor — Thomas — shortly after O’Neal agreed to a long-term contract deal.
“I thought it was going to be a 30-second conversation,” Carlisle said of his telephone call to O’Neal, who was in Puerto Rico playing for the U.S. national team.
Think again. It turned into 30 minutes.
O’Neal took Carlisle’s call, ending another conversation he was engaged in, and listened to Carlisle.
“I am just calling you out of respect to you and the situation,” Carlisle said of the conversation. “I just want you to know I feel very fortunate to be in a position to get a job like this. I know what Isiah meant to you not only as a coach but a mentor and friend. It is important to know I am not coming here to replace that. I expect that relationship to continue and for it to be important to you. I want you to know I am sensitive to that.
“And I also want you to know I have a very strong belief in your ability to become a MVP-caliber type guy and makes his teammates better.”
So much for the lack of people skills, at least in the eyes of O’Neal.
“My anger was not out of disrespect to him,” O’Neal said. “My issue was with management and my distrust of management about the issue. The only thing I thought about was his communication with players.
“I know my teammates. It is a very fine line how you can deal with the players, and I was worried about that getting blown out of proportion and did not want to see our season go down the drain.”
Word of the conversation filtered down to O’Neal’s teammates in Indiana. And they followed suit in accepting the change.
“Hey, man, we wanted to win,” guard Fred Jones said. “We are not worried about that anymore.”
Carlisle’s philosophy is simple: If you can defend your position and be a threat on offense, you play. If you can’t defend your position, you watch.
The season started slowly for the Pacers’ offense, which bogged down under starting guard Kenny Anderson.
Players began to grumble. The ghosts of Detroit were in their back yard now. A couple approached Carlisle and told him they didn’t like his offense.
“And guess what? I didn’t like it either,” Carlisle said.
Changes were made, including sitting Anderson and starting Jamaal Tinsley.
The result? The Pacers won a league-high and franchise-best 61 games and boast a 9-2 postseason record.
Carlisle avoided the storm by remaining calm.
“Everybody is thinking about it, but I don’t think he is thinking about it to the point where it will affect him,” said Donnie Walsh, president of the Pacers. “He has moved past it.”
Carlisle got over the Pistons on opening night, when the Pacers visited The Palace. The crowd gave its former coach a warm standing ovation, and tears welled up in his eyes.
That was seven months ago.
“The volatility of the profession has been a constant over the years,” Carlisle said. “We know going in that this can end at a moment’s notice. That is one of the appeals. It is the competitive nature, the joy and excitement.
“But with the highs come the lows of losing, or losing a job.”
That, however, isn’t an issue. At least not to some Pacers faithful.
“I don’t know why Detroit let him go, but we are glad they did,” Stephenson said. “He is the right guy at the right time.”
For Carlisle, he simply doesn’t want to be noticed as the Pacers walk into one of sports biggest stages.
You can reach Terry Foster at (313) 222-1494 or email@example.com.
[size=18:f252a4c60d]Pistons pinpoint problems[/size]
Execution, improved guard play top the list
By Chris McCosky / The Detroit News
INDIANAPOLIS — Both teams rolled up their sleeves Sunday, both aware that, after their not-quite-masterful performances Saturday night, there was a great deal of work to do before Game 2 tonight.
For the Pistons, though, the to-do list was longer, and focus a bit more urgent.
“There ain’t no desperation in here,” Ben Wallace said. “We just have to play. The last couple of minutes of that game, we didn’t get good shots, we didn’t execute our sets, we didn’t take care of the boards. We just didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”
Ball-protection, ball-sharing and overall offensive precision were at the top of the Pistons’ list.
Shot-making and rebounding made up most of the Pacers’ agenda.
Start with the Pistons. They had 19 turnovers. They made one field goal in the game’s final 7:40. Their last seven shots were from three-point range.
Rasheed Wallace, who made just 1 of 7 shots, did not touch the ball for nearly 13 minutes in the first half. Elden Campbell had only three fewer shots than Wallace, even though he played 29 fewer minutes.
“Our little guys (guards Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton) never passed the ball,” Pistons Coach Larry Brown said. “Tayshaun Prince gave it up and our big guys gave it up. But our little guys never gave it up. Most of our assists came after we couldn’t get a shot. That impacts everybody.”
“We have to work so hard defensively, because they’ve got so many guys that can score. If you don’t take great shots and move the ball, you are going to be limited,” Pistons Coach Larry Brown said.
The primary target of this criticism, as always, was Billups. He played a brilliant first half, torching Jamaal Tinsley for 17 points. The Pistons ran a lot of postup and isolation plays, and Billups took full advantage.
In the second half, they went away from that play. Billups missed all five of his shots, four of which were from three-point range.
“I don’t know what happened,” Billups said. “We didn’t call that play (isolation post-up against Tinsley) until there were like three minutes left in the game. We didn’t call it and I don’t know why.”
Billups was benched early in the third quarter after he made two turnovers and allowed Tinsley to beat him off the dribble a couple of times.
He was out of sorts for the rest of the game.
“That said, we still had a chance to win,” Billups said. “We just have to play with the same defensive effort and get better shots.”
Brown wants Billups to give the ball up and initiate plays earlier in the possession.
“When we did, we got great shots,” he said. “When we didn’t we turned it over or took bad shots.”
Another concern for Brown was that the Pistons only got to the free-throw line four times in the fourth quarter.
“We have to get to the free-throw line,” he said. “Jermaine O’Neal played the whole game with one foul. Ron Artest played the whole game with one foul. Our whole team was in foul trouble in the first half, and both Ben and Rasheed (Wallace) were in foul trouble. That impacts how you play.
“If their big guys never get fouled and ours do, we can’t be as aggressive offensively or defensively.”
Part of the problem, Brown knows, is that the Pistons didn’t attack the basket enough to draw fouls.
“We have to pick up our aggression level,” he said.
The Pacers are expecting just that. In fact, O’Neal on Sunday expressed surprise that he got so many easy shots (even though he missed 13 of 20) and that Rasheed Wallace was such an easy cover.
“It’s kind of the way they play,” O’Neal said. “I think Ben Wallace gets more touches in the post than Rasheed. They didn’t post him much at all and they didn’t really look inside. If he’s going to stay on the perimeter, it’ll make it easier for me to cover him.”
As for the Pistons’ defense, O’Neal said: “I got them (great shots). I broke down my shot (on tape) and I’m going home to look at it because I was short-arming a lot of them and they were really wide-open shots. I was surprised I had so many wide-open shots in the 8-to-10-foot range.”
Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle expects the Pistons to tighten the defense considerably, which could be daunting considering the Pacers shot 33.7 percent against an alleged “lax” Pistons defense.
“I thought we had to work for shots,” Carlisle said. “We had shots we can make, but I wouldn’t say it was easy. But we know as a team it is going to get tougher and their level of aggression is going to go up, particularly on the defensive end.”
[size=18:f252a4c60d]Pistons only need to guarantee better play[/size]
By Bob Wojnowski / The Detroit News
INDIANAPOLIS--I guarantee neither the Pistons nor the Pacers will score more than 80 points in a game the entire series.
I guarantee the next paragraph will contain a noun and a verb.
I guarantee the Pistons have no chance — none — of winning this series if Rasheed Wallace makes more news off the floor than on the floor.
There. It’s not so difficult making guarantees, is it? Wallace so thoroughly believes the Pistons will beat the Pacers in Game 2 tonight, he guaranteed it twice. He did it immediately after the Game 1 loss. Then he did it again Sunday, louder and stronger, with every certainty except the money-back offer.
The thing about guarantees is, although fun and controversial and slightly silly, they guarantee nothing. This one distracts from the real issue, that the Pistons’ maddeningly inconsistent offense caused the 78-74 loss. Letting that opener slip away, with the Pacers shooting 34 percent, could haunt the Pistons.
In Detroit sports lore, we need only recall the famous guarantee of offensive tackle Lomas Brown, who was so sure the Lions would beat Philadelphia in a 1995 playoff game, he said the outcome wasn’t an issue, only the final score. By the third quarter, the Eagles had a 51-7 lead and won, 58-37.
At least Lomas had the nerve to guarantee victory in a do-or-die situation. Who guarantees a Game 2? No offense to Wallace, whose heart is in the right place, but if the Pistons lose tonight, what’s the repercussion? They have at least two more chances to regroup.
That’s why Wallace’s guarantee — “Put it on the front page, the back page, column one, column two” — was less Joe Namath and more Muhammad Ali. It was less about brash confidence and more about stirring emotions and motivating himself after a rough Game 1.
If you saw Wallace enter the Pacers’ practice gym Sunday and get swarmed by cameras that dutifully recorded his shouted guarantee, you got the point. This was about a player feeling left out, partly because he’s hampered by a foot injury and partly because he doesn’t get the ball very often. He was invisible in Game 1, scoring four points.
He has been quite visible ever since. The man in charge of returning Wallace to invisibility is Indiana star Jermaine O’Neal, who happens to be one of Wallace’s best friends.
They went out to dinner after Saturday’s game, joined by former Portland teammate Bonzi Wells, and O’Neal swears the guarantee never came up. When asked what his friend was up to, he smiled.
“That’s Rasheed trying to get himself and his teammates fired up,” O’Neal said. “It’s that time of the year. Sometimes you’ve got to go out on a limb and say certain things to get your team going, because they’re in a hole right now.”
O’Neal said he wasn’t perturbed by what his buddy said. Most of the Pacers were surprised, but mildly amused by it.
It’s too early in the series for monumental statements, and everyone seemed to realize it. Pistons players had little problem with the guarantee, and some loved it. Most didn’t think it mattered much.
“It gives ya’ll something to write about, doesn’t it?” Ben Wallace said, chuckling. “The way ya’ll react, I guess it is a big deal.”
It’s only a big deal because in today’s antiseptic sports world, few athletes or coaches take chances anymore, with their words or deeds. For that, I give Rasheed Wallace credit. I’d give him more credit if he’d get his butt on the low block, even with his ailing left foot, and hammer the ball right at O’Neal.
Maybe that’s part of it, that Wallace needs something extra to play against his friend. O’Neal scored 21 points in Game 1 but missed 13 of 20 shots, so Wallace’s defense was fine. But by midway through the third quarter, Wallace had taken only two shots.
“Oh, he’s hurting,” O’Neal said. “After dinner, we were walking out and he was limping. I feel bad for him. But hopefully, he’s hurting a little bit more (tonight) so I can go at him and make things better for my team.”
The Pistons need more from Rasheed Wallace, and everyone knows it. If the foot doesn’t allow him to deliver, so be it. But if there’s more in that deep well of emotions, maybe this brings it out.
Or maybe the guarantee is another of those NBA conspiracies, to hide that this Eastern Conference final, while intense and brutish and competitive, is hardly attractive basketball.
The guarantee might matter to you and me and the TV announcers. But if you truly believe in its motivational powers, you must admit it has as good a chance to inspire the Pacers as the Pistons.
Aw, what the heck. One more guarantee. At tip-off tonight, it won’t matter a bit.
You can reach Bob Wojnowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[size=18:f252a4c60d]Bravado puts Rasheed in role of leader, but will he deliver?[/size]
By Rob Parker / The Detroit News
INDIANAPOLIS--Rasheed Wallace has set up a defining moment. Not just for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals tonight, but perhaps in his career as a Piston.
Anybody can guarantee a victory in a big game. It has been done countless times. But when the star player you acquired to reach the championship level, and one you hope signs with you for the long term, makes such a declaration, you take notice.
Since coming to Detroit in a blockbuster, three-team deal in February, Wallace has tried to fit in, but not lead.
Here, he’s taking a leadership role, telling everybody — the Pacers, the NBA, and most of all, the Pistons, that he’s willing to stand out front for his team.
If successful, Wallace’s stature will grow here.
The Pistons are thrilled that Wallace, angry at his play and frustrated that the Pistons let a big game get away, spoke out. After Saturday’s 78-74 loss in Game 1, Wallace said: “They will not win Game 2. I guarantee it. You can write it.”
On Sunday before practice, Wallace didn’t back down.
“You heard me,” he said. “Put it on the front page, the back page. They will not win Game 2.”
This is part of what the Pistons were looking for from him. After all, Wallace came into the postseason with more playoff experience than anyone on the team. Clearly, he believes in this team.
“Obviously, you have to have a lot of confidence in your guys to be able to say that against a team that’s won the most games in the league and you’re on their home court,” Chauncey Billups said.
Everybody knows Wallace isn’t healthy. He’s playing on a bad left foot. For the most part, Wallace’s presence, not big numbers, has been enough to get them through.
But after a lackluster performance in Game 1 — four points and seven rebounds — Wallace knows he has to deliver more if he wants the Pistons to reach the Finals.
Wallace also knows he must do a better job on power forward Jermaine O’Neal, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds in 41 minutes.
“I love it,” Corliss Williamson said. “That’s what makes the playoffs fun.
“My teammate stepped up, spoke what was on his mind and what I’m sure is on everybody’s mind on this team. We have to go out there and back him up.”
Wallace’s proclamation was more about himself, not the Pacers. You get the sense Wallace knew that had he played better, the Pistons would have won the opener in this best-of-seven series.
This wasn’t some cheap gimmick, a stunt for Wallace to call attention to himself. Nope. That’s not his speed. Wallace is as real as they come. That’s probably why he has had so many problems with referees.
“Rasheed’s so emotional and so driven in that aspect that I’m not surprised he said something like that,” Lindsey Hunter said.
If you’re Pistons President Joe Dumars, you have to be excited, too. In the worst way, Dumars wants to sign Wallace to a new contract. Wallace, who makes $16 million this season, becomes an unrestricted after the season.
This stance by Wallace might tell Dumars that Wallace has grabbed hold of this team and claimed it as his own. There was no guarantee of that when he was traded here.
Rob Parker’s column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You can reach him at email@example.com.
[size=18:f252a4c60d]Wallace's boast amuses Pacers[/size]
By Chris McCosky / The Detroit News
INDIANAPOLIS — You should know that Rasheed Wallace did not back off of the guarantee he made Saturday night of a Pistons victory in Game 2 tonight.
“Why would I take it back?” he said incredulously before the Pistons practiced Sunday. “I ain’t taking nothing back. We ain’t losing Game 2.”
You should also know that, while his teammates back him up, the Pacers were greatly amused by it.
“That’s how he plays the game,” said Jermaine O’Neal, who was Wallace’s teammate in Portland for four seasons. “We just play the game. I mean, why make statements? Both teams have to show up and play. He’s got to play a heckuva game now because he’s issued a statement.”
Ron Artest just shook his head.
“There’s a lot of guys talking in the world,” he said. “He’s just another guy talking in the world.”
In other words, it’s just noise. The reality is, the Pistons defended well enough to win Game 1. They held the Pacers to 78 points and 33.7 percent shooting. The Pacers’ leading scorers — O’Neal and Artest — combined to miss 24 of 35 shots.
Wallace? He was uncharacteristically not a factor (four points, 1-for-7 shooting).
So, naturally, when they look at that, the Pistons feel like they can and should be able to even the series tonight.
The fact that Wallace guaranteed it doesn’t change that, or amp up the pressure to do it.
“This is the Eastern Conference finals, there’s always pressure,” Chauncey Billups said. “How much extra pressure could there be?”
As far as making it harder on the rest of the team, Ben Wallace said: “We’ve already made it tough on ourselves (by losing Game 1). It can’t get no tougher.”
[size=18:f252a4c60d]Miller, Hamilton have similar styles[/size]
By Chris McCosky / The Detroit News
INDIANAPOLIS — Reggie Miller admitted Saturday night that at times he felt like he was playing himself, albeit a younger self.
“Yeah, he’s like my Mini-me,” he said of Pistons guard Richard Hamilton. “He’s obviously watched a lot of video tape. I see he’s got a lot of the same mind-eye, Jedi tricks that I do.”
Hamilton has long been compared to Miller. Both are superb at using screens to get open. Both are thin but extremely quick. But Jedi tricks?
“It’s scary,” Miller said. “He’s got it down to the holding, pushing and grabbing off screens that I do, and the stopping and starting. I thought I had trademarks on those. I am going to have to collect some back rent, some royalties, from Rip.”
Hamilton would gladly repay the favor, if Miller would take back the one and only shot he made Saturday. It was a three-pointer with 31.7 seconds left and it won the game for the Pacers.
“You watch so much vintage tape and you see Reggie hitting all those big shots, so you just knew it was just a matter of time,” Hamilton said. “He got me going one way while he went the other, and the rest is history.
“He’s Reggie Miller. He’s been doing that his whole career.”
The way Miller summed up the comparison was this: “I think his mid-range game is better than mine, but my long-range game is better.”
Probably true. But Coach Larry Brown, who has coached both, said the comparison might be a bit premature.
“There are a lot of similarities,” he said. “Reggie’s fearless. He gets better every year. He’s always working on something to improve his game. He’s not afraid to take a big shot. He’s an underrated defender. Rip has those same qualities, but Reggie has done it for a long, long time.”
Brown on Saturday also said he has pushed to get Miller on the U.S. Olympic team this summer.
“I’m too old (38) for that,” he said. “It’s quite an honor and I am not saying no. Right now, my focus is being in the Eastern Conference finals and I will evaluate everything after this. But it is great to be asked.
“I know others are dropping out, which is unfortunate. I can’t think of a bigger honor, except maybe winning an NBA championship, than playing for your country.”
Artest guarding Ben?
It looked strange there in the second quarter when Ron Artest was guarding Ben Wallace, but the move was effective.
Artest found himself on Wallace after the Pistons went to a frontcourt of Ben and Rasheed Wallace, along with Mehmet Okur.
Wallace missed two shots and had a turnover in two minutes.
“There were a couple of times in the regular season when we had Ron guard Ben,” Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle said. “We did to try and keep a strong body on Ben to help keep him off the boards. It’s not something we’ll do on a full-time basis, but they throw so many different lineups at you, you have to be ready to mix-and-match on the fly.”
Rasheed Wallace took treatment on his sore left foot before practice Sunday.
The Pistons’ medical staff believes that, contrary to popular belief, playing every other day might actually be good for the injury. Wallace hasn’t limped as much the last two games, but the Pacers’ Jermaine O’Neal said Wallace isn’t the same player.
“He’s definitely hurt,” O’Neal said. “I know he’s hurt. I know the type of player he is and his agility isn’t quite there and his speed is not there. That foot is bothering him.
“He’s one of my best friends, but I am sure if I was hurt, he would go right at me in the same manner to try and get a win.”
You can reach Chris McCosky at (313) 222-1489 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[size=18:f252a4c60d]Reserves a benchmark for Game 1[/size]
By Joanne C. Gerstner / The Detroit News
INDIANAPOLIS — The Pistons prepared for offensive forces Jermaine O’Neal, Reggie Miller and Ron Artest to harm them in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.
The real harm came from another source, Pacers reserves Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender.
Harrington impacted the first half in a big way with 14 points, eight rebounds and two steals in 15 minutes.
Bender had five points in 14 minutes and played strong defense.
“We saw the team was out there, struggling a little bit (in the first quarter), Coach (Rick Carlisle) called both of our names and we just looked at each other, gave each other a pat and said, ‘Let’s get things going, turn this game around,’ ” Harrington said after Sunday’s practice at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Pistons’ bench generated just nine points in Game 1, while the Pacers’ reserves had 19 — the sum total of Bender and Harrington’s points.
Carlisle said his bench has been a source of strength all season. He also hopes they will positively impact tonight’s Game 2 at Conseco Fieldhouse.
“They gave us a shot of energy,” Carlisle said. “Harrington in particular around the basket. Getting rebounds. Bender made some good plays where he was either able to make a shot or create for somebody else. Our bench has been one of the strengths of our team this year, as it has been for Detroit.
“We really depend on them to be effective for us to be a successful team.”
Harrington suffered some damage from Game 1, thanks to Elden Campbell’s elbow and Mehmet Okur’s foot.
Harrington took a shot from Campbell to the sternum just before halftime, leaving him in a significant amount of pain and unable to catch his breath. Then Harrington twisted his left ankle in the third quarter when he stepped on Okur’s foot while going for a rebound.
Both injuries left Harrington bruised and tender during Sunday’s practice. He sat out most of it, taking treatments for the injuries.
Harrington, however, said neither problem will prevent him from playing tonight. He will wear a protective pad to protect his sternum.
Carlisle was more concerned with Harrington’s ankle injury.
“Al’s left ankle is really bothering him,” Carlisle said. “When you throw your body around the way he does, those types of things (ankle and sternum) happen.
“He’s been great about bouncing back. He’s played hurt a lot for us this year.”
Artest, on shooting 6-for-23 in Game 1: “I just probably didn’t work hard enough.”
... Harrington, on the physical nature of the series: “It’s going to be tough. I think there are going to be a lot of X-rays taken, hospital visits, all that. It’s going to be a great series.”
Tickets for tonight’s game are still available. Go to www.consecofieldhouse.com for more information.
You can reach Joanne C. Gerstner at email@example.com or (313) 223-4644.
By Joanne C. Gerstner / The Detroit News
Shopping for souvenirs is always a fun part of any road trip.
Frankly, sometimes, the kitschier the finds, the better.
So what wacky souvenirs lurk in the Pacers’ merchandise store at Conseco Fieldhouse, appropriately called “Home Court”?
The large store has the usual array of T-shirts, jerseys (Austin Croshere anyone?), and hats.
But here was the stuff that was worth a second look of curiosity, and in one case, a little bit of fright:
* Pink-hued, form-fitting ladies baby tees that read, “I love Reggie” or “I love Ron” or “I love Jermaine” for $25.47. The love part is actually the heart symbol, all outlined in glitter. The men in question are Pacers stars Reggie Miller, Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal.
So which one of the cutesy-poo shirts sell the best? According to the shop staff, the Miller shirts are doing well, O’Neal’s are a close second and, well, Artest isn’t selling at all.
* There is this bizarre combination of an angelic teddy bear mixed with blue-and-yellow troll doll hair for $14.15. The oddity, referred to as a “No. 1 fan bear”, has a headband and a “We’re No. 1” foam finger.
* The most terrifying item was a sort of temporary sticker for the face, transforming a fan into a blue-and-yellow-hued Pacers freak. The face tattoo, which acts like a transfer onto the skin that sticks through moisture, costs $2.
The gift shop workers report that, thankfully, even rabid Pacers fans question how well the sticker comes off and if it leaves a residue.
Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle has talked about how both teams play a very similar style of basketball.
But Carlisle neglected to also mention that both teams use the “Going to Work” theme as their pregame introduction openings.
The Pacers’ starters are introduced one by one, each shown wearing a hard hat on the video board to signify their readiness to work.
There is even a loud work whistle before the game starts, just like the Pistons use.
The only thing missing is a semblance of the Big Ben gong chime, which in Detroit means the presence of Ben Wallace.
The big news in Indy over the last few days, besides the Pacers and the upcoming Indianapolis 500, was the unveiling of tweaked uniforms for the Colts.
There was a big news conference, complete with the Colts trotting out a star model for the uniforms.
But it wasn’t quarterback Peyton Manning.
Or a real supermodel such as Tyson Beckford.
The best the Colts could do was shaggy “Survivor” star and Indianapolis resident Rupert Boneham, who was convinced to take off his trademark tye-dyed floppy tank top for a Colts jersey.
Boneham, fresh from winning $1 million in the recent “Survivor All-Stars” competition, looked a little cleaned up. But he still had his longish black hair and scraggy beard.
The uniform change probably won’t be noticed much. The blue is a touch darker and the Colts will now wear black shoes.
Represent the D
The Pacers, like the Nets, have a live, in-house DJ during games to mix music.
The range of music can get eclectic during extended TV time-outs, with the DJ, Paul B, mixing Run-DMC into the Eurythmics into OutKast for a pulsing dance-hall jam feel.
Question is, with Detroit being one of the hotbeds for MCs and techno / house DJs in the nation, why does The Palace still play oldies such as, “If the house is rockin’, don’t bother knockin”?
Don’t tell big Pistons fan Kid Rock, but it could it be that the Pacers are more into hip-hop than the Pistons.
[size=24:f252a4c60d]From the May 24th Detroit Free Press...[/size]
[size=18:f252a4c60d]GUARANSHEED! It's put up or shut up tonight for Pistons after Wallace's bold prediction[/size]
BY PERRY A. FARRELL
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
INDIANAPOLIS -- As soon as Rasheed Wallace walked into the Pacers' practice facility Sunday afternoon he was converged on by every member of the media in one moving mass of cameras, tape recorders and notepads.
Everyone wanted to know whether Wallace would back off Saturday night's bold comments.
Moments after the Pistons' 78-74 Game 1 loss to the Pacers, Wallace declared: "I'm guaranteeing Game 2. That's the bottom line. That's all I'm saying. They will not win Game 2. You heard that from me. Ya'll can print whatever you want. Put it on the front page, back page, middle of the page. They will not win Game 2."
Surely, a day later Wallace would backtrack -- at least a little -- especially after hanging out with Indiana star Jermaine O'Neal, his friend since their days with Portland.
"I said it last night and I'm saying it again: We will win Game 2," Wallace said Sunday. "I'm not trying to sound ignorant or anything, but we will win."
For some time after Saturday's loss, Wallace sat and sat by his locker, nearly motionless with his uniform still on and a bucket of ice water waiting for the sore left arch that has plagued him throughout the playoffs. Wallace seemed to be deep in thought.
Was he thinking about his own play? It had been pretty poor: four points on 1-for-7 shooting, five fouls and seven rebounds in 36 frustrating minutes.
Was he thinking that the Pistons let one get away? They had made one basket in the final 7:45, a three-pointer by Tayshaun Prince that gave them a 74-72 lead.
Wallace had just one thing to say: The Pistons will win Game 2. He said it again, and again, and again.
"Knowing him, he feels responsible for the game last night," coach Larry Brown said. "But again, the guy's in foul trouble right off the bat in almost every game. And it's kind of hard to play that way when the guy you're playing against never gets a foul."
On Sunday, Wallace repeated his guarantee -- several times -- but said little else. He complimented O'Neal's play. He gave no reply to a question about his sore foot.
Then Wallace walked until he found the bleachers, where he sat and waited for Arnie Kander, the strength and conditioning coach, and Mike Abdenour, the trainer, to treat his left arch.
His teammates, meanwhile, said they felt no added pressure in tonight's Game 2 because of Wallace's prediction.
"I got his back, baby," guard Chauncey Billups said. "I'm not mad at him at all. I think that's just the confidence he has in us as a team and that we squandered one away. You have to have confidence in your teammates to say that -- against a team that has won more games than anybody this year and you're playing them on their court.
"That's just confidence, and also we feel like we lost the game. We beat ourselves and they didn't beat us. We feel like if we play the same way and are given the same opportunity we can win it."
The Pacers are unbeaten in the playoffs at Conseco Fieldhouse and 9-2 overall.
"Ain't no pressure on me," said center Ben Wallace, who in Game 1 had 22 rebounds, 11 points, five blocked shots and five assists in 39 minutes. "We put pressure on ourselves. We're ready. We have to prepare ourselves. If that's what it takes, then that's what it takes. We put ourselves in a tough situation. We just have to come out and play basketball."
Whether a confidence builder for the Pistons or locker-room fodder for the Pacers, Rasheed Wallace's guarantee has placed the spotlight on him and away from his teammates. If he comes up with a big game tonight and the Pistons win, he looks like a prophet -- and a leader.
"I think it was in the heat of the moment," Brown said. "He was upset with the way the game went, and he just said that. But we have to play. It ain't about Rasheed only; it's about all of us. We got to get it done."
If the Pistons lose tonight they will have a difficult hole to escape. Only eight NBA teams have rebounded from 0-2 deficits to win best-of-seven playoff series -- and the Pistons aren't one of them.
"It was our offense that lost us the game," Billups said. "We played good. We expect that kind of effort every night. We didn't execute on offense, but we'll take that kind of effort on defense.
"I thought Tayshaun did a great job of defending (Ron) Artest and Rasheed did a great job of using his length to bother Jermaine O'Neal."
Maybe that's why Wallace made his prediction. After all, the Pistons held the Pacers to 34 percent shooting. Artest and O'Neal combined to go 13-for-43.
"We turned the ball over and took bad shots," Brown said. "We've got to get to the free throw line. Jermaine played the whole game with one foul. Artest played the whole game with just one foul. Our whole team was in foul trouble the first half, then Rasheed and Ben were in foul trouble, so it impacts how you played.
"If their big guys aren't going to get fouls and ours do we can't nearly be as aggressive offensively."
Contact PERRY A. FARRELL at 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[size=18:f252a4c60d]O'Neal: Boast is aimed at them, not us[/size]
BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
INDIANAPOLIS -- When Jermaine O'Neal looks at Rasheed Wallace, he sees a thoughtful man, a man who adores his children. He sees one of his very closest friends.
That he also sees a man who has guaranteed a victory in tonight's Game 2 between his Pacers and Wallace's Pistons matters little. O'Neal realizes why Wallace promised to even the series after Saturday's loss; he understands it's more about the Pistons than the Pacers.
"I know what he's trying to do -- he's trying to get himself fired up, get his teammates fired up," O'Neal said Sunday. "It's that time of the year -- sometimes you've got to go out on a limb and say certain things. They're in a hole right now and losing two straight games is going to put them in a tough way."
The two power forwards are rivals on the court, but once the game ends, the fierceness fades away into a friendship that dates to their days with Portland in the mid-to-late '90s. Even after O'Neal's Pacers pocketed a 78-74 victory Saturday, even after O'Neal's 21 points and 14 rebounds dwarfed Wallace's four points and seven rebounds, the two hung out together, with barely a mention of basketball. Instead they talked about paint ball, Wallace's sons and O'Neal's daughter, food and music. Everyday life.
O'Neal said he didn't even find out about Wallace's Game 2 guarantee until Sunday morning.
That Wallace is known more as problem child -- that's what an NBA-record 41 technical fouls during the 2000-01 season and an arrest for marijuana possession will do -- than a family man is baffling to O'Neal, because he sees a side to Wallace that few others are privy to.
"People have a picture of Rasheed as a tough guy who's out of control and is always getting in trouble," O'Neal said. "He's not like that at all. People make mistakes in life but you can't hang that on them for the rest of their lives. I think he's done a hell of a job in Detroit just keeping his composure. Everybody goes through stints where they lose it; I lose it sometimes on the court. It happens.
"But he's a smart guy, and I think people should really take some time to get to know him."
Wallace, 29, doesn't make that easy, at least not to reporters. Asked to elaborate on his guarantee after Saturday night's game, he wouldn't. But within an hour, his demeanor had changed from dour to delightful.
"He's a funny guy and he talks about a lot of different things," said O'Neal, 25. "But basketball wasn't an issue -- we had enough people around us commenting about the series."
Few among O'Neal's teammates paid much heed to Wallace's guarantee for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, either.
Ron Artest said: "Everybody has their opinions and everybody wants to win. Whatever." And Al Harrington said: "We expect them to feel confident like that. We're just going to take care of what we can control."
While O'Neal doesn't care about Wallace's thoughts on the immediate future -- other than to admit the guarantee was going to make the Pacers play even harder -- he did ask Wallace about his future beyond this summer.
Wallace, whom the Pistons acquired in a trade Feb. 19, becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Pistons would dearly love to keep him -- although even accounting for the plantar fasciitis that's plagued his left foot, Wallace has hardly lived up to the $17 million he's made this season -- but if he has made up his mind, he's not telling even those who are close friends.
"He brushed me off," O'Neal said. "I'm like, 'Sheed, what're you going to do next year?' He wanted to talk about his sons. I think he's going to talk to his wife and see how she feels and they're going to make the best decision for them."
Contact HELENE ST. JAMES at 313-222-2295 or email@example.com.
[size=18:f252a4c60d]PISTONS CORNER: Miller sees himself in Hamilton[/size]
BY PERRY A. FARRELL
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana's Reggie Miller called Richard Hamilton "Mini-Me" after Saturday night's Game 1.
Miller meant it as a compliment after watching Hamilton weave his way around a maze of screens and score 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting in the Pistons' 78-74 loss.
"It's like he's Mini-Me," Miller said. "I feel like I am looking at myself. Rip obviously has studied some film."
Hamilton, at 26 he's 12 years younger than Miller, admitted that while growing up he watched tape of Miller to figure out how he always got open against the likes of Michael Jordan.
"I watched a lot of him because he mastered the game as far as coming off screens and moving without the ball," Hamilton said. "I saw that they were putting MJ and some of the best defenders on him and he still managed to find a way to get his shots and find a way to get his team great looks. I always watched."
Hamilton may have totaled 23 points, but it was Miller's three-pointer with 31.7 seconds left that beat the Pistons, at least on the scoreboard.
"He was able to come off the screen," Hamilton said. "He got me going one way while he went the other and the rest is history."
Hamilton helped the Pistons rally from a 48-41 halftime deficit with eight points in the third quarter.
"Rip has unbelievable energy and he never gets tired," said Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, Hamilton's former coach in Detroit. "In the year I was with him I learned that he has breathtaking speed when he's running around screens trying to get the ball. He's a tough cover."
IS IT DENNIS OR LAIMBEER? Jermaine O'Neal said one of the Pacers' priorities should be to re-sign Jeff Foster when his contract is up. When Isiah Thomas coached the team, he compared Foster, a 6-foot-11 forward/center from Southwest Texas State, to Bill Laimbeer because of his rebounding and shooting ability.
O'Neal said Foster wore No. 10 because Dennis Rodman was his role model on the court.
"He's the kind of guy you have to have on your team if you want to win a championship," O'Neal said. "I don't get to go up against him as much this year because he's starting, but when he was on the second unit he'd give me problems with his quickness. He really frustrated me. Jeff has great footwork. . . . He's a guy that's extremely mobile and extremely quick. "
Foster played a big role in the late stages of Saturday's victory. He had a driving lay-up with 1:23 left to tie the score at 74. He then ran down an offensive rebound and set the screen on Hamilton that freed Miller to take a pass from Jamaal Tinsley and hit the game-winning triple.
"Jeff Foster was huge for us," Miller said. "He came in and got the big offensive rebound. The ball went into Jamaal's hands and then I looked over to Jeff and said, 'Get him, get him good.' And he laid a good body on Rip and got me a good shot."
Foster had eight rebounds and two points in 26 minutes.
Before the game Pistons coach Larry Brown had called Foster an X-factor in the series.
"Foster does all the little things that you don't get credit for," Brown said. "He rebounds, defends, gets loose balls and every once in a while, when he's asked, he scores. I've coached those kind of kids all my life. They get you to where Indiana is right now."
BRING THEM ON: Just because Brown has no say-so as far as Olympic players, he still has an opinion. Brown said recently that he wouldn't mind seeing Miller, Ron Artest and Ben Wallace on the team.
"Reggie's done it for a long, long time," said Brown, who coached Miller for four seasons when he was the Pacers' coach. "With all the things he has been able to do at his age and still manage to do it on both ends of the court, that's pretty incredible."
NOT A LOST SEASON: Joe Dumars, the Pistons' president of basketball operations, said if the Nets had beaten the Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals, it wouldn't have been a lost season.
"We're trying to build a team long-term," said Dumars, who noted that Rasheed Wallace was 29, Chauncey Billups 27, Hamilton 26 and Tayshaun Prince 24. "It would have hurt to take a step back, but it's not like it would have been the end of the world for us."
[size=18:f252a4c60d]PACERS CORNER: Harrington, Indy bench show their strength[/size]
BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
INDIANAPOLIS -- The word "stronger" is etched onto the left inner forearm of Pacers reserve Al Harrington, part of a tattoo he got just days before the start of the Eastern Conference finals.
The entire message reads, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger," but it's the last word that catches one's eye, with the way it stretches almost from shoulder to elbow. It's a word that describes Harrington on multiple levels, and a word that he'll need to emulate if his Indiana Pacers are to triumph in this best-of-seven series, which continues tonight with Game 2.
It was Harrington and fellow bench mates Jonathan Bender and Anthony Johnson who showed up with such force Saturday that the Pacers pulled out a 78-74 victory. Led by Harrington's 14 points, eight rebounds and three steals, Indiana's reserves contributed 19 points in 65 minutes to Detroit's nine points in 58 minutes. Bender had a three-pointer among five points and a nice assist on a Harrington three-point play, and Johnson, the backup point guard, helped keep Chauncey Billups to one second-half point.
Their performances were a big lift after the Pacers' second-round series with Miami, when the bench seemed out of sync. Harrington especially could have played much stronger during those six games; he averaged 7.7 points and shot just 39 percent, numbers far below what the Pacers expect from him.
"When we get those guys coming in and playing like that, and hopefully get our starting five playing at a high level," forward Jermaine O'Neal said, "every single night we're going to be extremely tough to beat because we not only play defense, one through 12, we play extremely good offense. We feel like we definitely have the edge with our bench."
The Pistons almost ran the Pacers off the floor in the first quarter of Game 1, grabbing a six-point lead before Indiana coach Rick Carlisle went to his reserves.
Bender hit a three-pointer and Harrington converted that three-point play on consecutive possessions, and Harrington punctuated the first quarter with a rebound and a dunk that narrowed the gap to four points. By halftime, Indiana had a 48-41 lead.
"Late first quarter, we were struggling, down eight or nine and it was tough," Carlisle said. "They gave us a shot of energy. We really depend on them to be effective for us to be a successful team."
Harrington played so fiercely he suffered two injuries; in the first half Elden Campbell's elbow landed on his sternum, and in the second half Mehmet Okur rolled on Harrington's left leg, tweaking his ankle. Harrington received treatment Sunday at Conseco Fieldhouse, did not practice and is listed as probable for tonight.
"When you throw your body around the way he does, those type of things happen," Carlisle said. "He's been great about bouncing back, and he's played hurt for us a lot this year. I don't think he'll be 100 percent, but I don't think he'll miss the game."
It's a rare player who isn't hurt to some extent this time of year, and it's an even rarer player who will let it stop him from thriving. Although naturally the reserves prefer to see the starters blossom, the best subs have an inner strength that comes from being called upon in dicey situations.
"We saw the team was out there struggling a little bit and when Coach called our names, we looked at each other and said, 'Let's get it going; let's turn this game around,' " Harrington said of him and Bender. "We just went out there and played our game."
GUARANTEED LOSS? Last week, Dwyane Wade, Rafer Alston and Malik Allen guaranteed that the Heat would force a Game 7 against the Pacers. Indiana won Game 6 at Miami, 73-70.
[size=18:f252a4c60d]UNDERCOVER FAN: Pistons-Pacers series matches 2 NBA villains[/size]
Jury's out on which player is baddest
by The Undercover Fan
On one bench is the man known in some circles as "Sheed." In other circles, he's known as a malcontent who once set an NBA record for technical fouls in a season.
On the other bench is the man known, at least in Indiana, as "Ron-Ron." In Michigan -- or, for that matter, Ohio and Texas and New York and Florida and basically everywhere else outside Hoosierland -- he is known as scary, volatile and the former league leader in flagrant fouls.
For the second year in a row, the Detroit Pistons have the city's attention unto themselves, having outlasted the Red Wings. This time, the Pistons buzz is palpable.
This makes it more so: The Indiana Pacers and the Pistons possess arguably the NBA's biggest villains. In Detroit, there is Rasheed Wallace. In Indianapolis, there is Ron Artest.
Wallace is 6-feet-11 and 230 pounds. He moves with graceful buoyancy. It is often hidden in his expression of disbelief, usually directed at an official.
Artest is 6-feet-7 and 246 pounds, cut like a middle linebacker, and plays with a preternatural sense of when to charge and when to dance, except when he feels slighted.
Yet they have things in common: love of their teammates, breathtaking talent, an ability to dominate a game, an ability to destroy one and a recent record of mild-mannered conduct.
So the question arises, who has the biggest villain, the baddest dude, the player that opposing fans taunt with the most relish?
"Sadly, I'd have to say Rasheed is the bigger villain," said Shaill Sarman, 17, a Pistons fan from Novi who screamed into the night at Thursday's Game 7 victory over the New Jersey Nets.
He stood with four buddies at the top of the lower bowl in the Palace of Auburn Hills, lingering a half-hour after the game was over, hoping a few players might saunter back to the court so he could race down for an autograph.
He and his cadre were split on the Wallace/Artest question, and began to argue. Sarman defended his point: "Dude," he objected to friends in the Artest camp, "Wallace had the most ejections."
Well, that depends on the year. Wallace once set a record for technical fouls, amassing 41 in the 2000-01 season, about one every other game he played. But technicals don't automatically lead to ejection.
Artest, on the other hand, was suspended six times last year, once by his own team. He led the league in flagrant fouls. "The court is 94 feet of therapy for whatever is bothering him," a teammate once said.
Wallace has accused NBA owners of exploiting black players. Artest once destroyed a $100,000 TV camera at Madison Square Garden. Wallace has been fined for not talking to the media. Artest has been suspended for trying to pick a fistfight with former Miami coach Pat Riley. Wallace's troubles often emanate from his mouth. Artest's uncoil from his fists.
Said Artest: "Basketball is just like a soap opera. I'm like the enemy of every arena. To me, I take it as a comic book. I'm the villain, but the good villain."
Said Wallace: "I know I'm public enemy No. 1. That's the fire in me. Some of the technicals I deserved. Cussing at officials or throwing something. Some I didn't. I'm not going to sit up here like most of these cats and bite my tongue."
This season, at least since he's been in Detroit, he has. And Artest has checked his temper. All of which tempers the debate a bit, which is good for the players' respective teams, but not so good for basketball, because villains are good for business.
Saturday night, during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, a pulsing, noisy throng of Pacers and Pistons fans spilled outside the arena's upper balcony at halftime.
"I'll be realistic," said Gary Childress, 23, a Pacers fan from Beach Grove. "Artest has a way to go."
His compadre disagreed.
"Rasheed Wallace, want some cheese with that whine?" cracked Justin Cooper, 24, of Indianapolis, who works in a psychiatric unit at a hospital in nearby Bloomington. He wore an Artest jersey.
Ayrica Briley, 25, of Indianapolis said Artest is a villain on the good side. But Rasheed? "He's just pure villain. It comes out of his pores."
On the court, Artest played hard and physical. Wallace played with grace, although he lacked his normal pop due to a foot injury.
Artest delivered no cheap shots. And Wallace controlled his sometimes petulant urges, stopping himself as he began to slam the ball on the court after a questionable foul call late in the game. The crowd began to boo, then held back, mocking and laughing instead.
Round 2 begins tonight.
Contact THE UNDERCOVER FAN at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE PACERS SAY . .
How the Indiana Pacers reacted to Rasheed Wallace's guarantee of a Detroit victory in Game 2 tonight:
Reggie Miller: "I really don't know what's in Rasheed's head."
Ron Artest: "A lot of guys talk in the world. This is just another guy talking in the world."
Scot Pollard: "I guarantee that there's going to be a Game 2, and that someone's going to win it. And I guarantee that Rasheed will probably be in the game and I won't."
THE PISTONS SAY . . .
Corliss Williamson: "It's our job as teammates to rally around him and make sure he's right."
Chauncey Billups: "I got his back, baby. I'm not mad at him at all."
Larry Brown: "It ain't about Rasheed only; it's about all of us. We got to get it done."
THAT G-WORD AGAIN
Some of our favorite guarantees:
Lomas Brown: Former Lion guaranteed a playoff victory at Philadelphia in 1995. The Lions fell behind, 51-7, and lost, 58-37.
David Boston (1997) and Terry Glenn (1995): Ohio State receivers guaranteed victories over U-M. The Wolverines won both games.
Jim Harbaugh: U-M QB guaranteed victory over OSU in 1986. Michigan won, 26-24, at Columbus and went to the Rose Bowl.
Domino's: Former owner Tom Monaghan, also a former Tigers owner, guaranteed a pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less. New Tigers owner Mike Ilitch used to guarantee 30 games under .500 by July.
George Zimmer: Founder and president of The Men's Wearhouse. He sells ties, but says customers always win, "I guarantee it."
Detroit Medical Center: Promises emergency room patients will be seen by a doctor in 29 minutes or less. Anyone not seen by then gets Tigers tickets.
* Rasheed Wallace must back up his fighting words with more than one basket.
* His teammates must show their love by coming to his rescue. That means better than 41 percent shooting and fewer than 19 turnovers.
* The bench must contribute more than nine points, especially if asked to play 58 minutes again.
* Don't let Rasheed get started. Keep him away from the basket on offense, keep him off the boards on defense and get him in foul trouble. Maybe he'll implode.
* The fans will be fired up and all over Rasheed. Get off to a fast start to keep 'em that way.
* Another 38 combined points from Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal would be good; another 13-for-43 shooting night wouldn't be.
1-for-7: Game 1 shooting performances by Rasheed Wallace and Reggie Miller.
0-2: A deficit of doom for the Pistons. They have fallen behind two games to none six times in a best-of-seven series -- and lost all six series.
9: Consecutive losses for the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals: one in 2004, four in 2003 and four in 1991.
WE BELIEVE . . . A LITTLE
We'd like to have faith in Wallace's Game 2 guarantee, we really would . . . if only his Game 1 stats gave him a little more cred. But four points and seven rebounds against a 21-and-14 night by the league's second-best O'Neal?