September 30, 2008
It’s unofficially Detroit Pistons Week here at ETB, with one or two random videos on tap as well as tender fireside chats with two of the most well-recognized names in the blogosphere when it comes to covering anything and everything that is the Pistons.
Kicking things off as the latest writer to be front and center in our ongoing Scribes of the NBA Interview Series is Matt Watson, mastermind behind Detroit Bad Boys and one of the leading columnists for that sports behemoth known as NBA FanHouse. Watson got his start writing for The Roto Times and Fantasy Hot Sheet, moved on to penning fantasy sports columns for USA Today online, and launched Detroit Bad Boys back in ’05.
We’re thrilled to have him–as you’ll see, the man knows his Pistons (and his NBA). Later this week we’ll feature another Pistons expert, Natalie Sitto of Need4Sheed.com. We’re psyched for that one too, but first things first: let’s hear from Mr. Matt Watson.
Empty the Bench: Despite the six straight appearances in the Conference Finals, the core of this Detroit Pistons team has gone to the NBA Finals only twice and won it all just once. Is it a fair to say this group has developed a reputation for choking under pressure?
Matt Watson: This is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, yes, this team has definitely squandered some opportunities; that’s impossible to deny. But on the other hand, it’s really, really hard to win a title. In the last 25 years, only seven different teams have done it. Think about that: seven teams in 25 years.
Since the Pistons last won in 2004, they’ve gone on to lose to the eventual champion three times in four years. Did they choke, or were they simply not the better team? Considering teams simply don’t win on accident in this league, I think it’s the latter.
In a perfect world, I’ll admit that the Pistons should have at least one more ring on their fingers–I’m still in shock that Rasheed left Horry open–but I can’t hold it against them. Since losing to Detroit in 2004, the Lakers missed the playoffs completely in 2005, lost in the first round the next two years, and lost again in the Finals last year. After beating the Pistons (and in turn the Mavericks) in 2006, the Heat proceeded to lose in the first round the following season and posted the worst record in the league last year. From a fan’s perspective, who’s been the most fun to cheer for? (The correct answer, of course, is San Antonio, but Detroit has to be second, right?)
ETB: At times seeming disinterested and often being outhustled and embarrassed by Kevin Garnett, what do you make of Rasheed Wallace’s disappearing act in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals?
Watson: I wish I knew the answer. Considering he averaged his fewest minutes per game in a decade during the regular season, I figured he’d have something left in reserve for the playoffs. Instead, the more the Pistons needed him, the more he faded.
His showing in the final game against the Celtics was a complete disaster. I know some people have tried to use his strained relationship with Flip Saunders as an excuse, but if anything Saunders erred by giving Wallace too much respect. Wallace clearly didn’t deserve to play 32 minutes in Game 6, especially after showing up late to shootaround and the arena before the game.
ETB: Is this Sheed’s last season with the Detroit Pistons? Any chance he calls it a day next summer?
Watson: I think it is. There’s talk that Rasheed will see even fewer minutes this season… but he averaged only 30.5 minutes per game last year. How few does he have to average to still be effective come playoff time? To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Dumars pulls off a blockbuster at the trade deadline; between Wallace’s expiring contract and Rip Hamilton’s early-termination option, that’s $24.2 million of potential cap space. That’s enough to make a play for, well, anybody.
As far as next year and the future, I just don’t think he wants to battle for 36 minutes a night over an entire season anymore, which is what most teams will want if they’re paying him anything close to what he’s making now. If he does play next year, I’m guessing he goes to a team where he’d complement a dominant big man and doesn’t have to carry the load. Maybe home to Philly, next to Elton Brand? Or maybe Orlando, next to “his intern” Dwight Howard?
Much more NBA hoops talk from Matt Watson after the break…