PISTONS-PACERS: WE ARE ALL ON TRIAL
Indiana Pacers center Jermaine O’Neal and the Pistons' Rasheed Wallace are close friends. They ate together twice during last year’s bitter Eastern Conference Finals and Wallace acted as a mentor when O'Neal cut his teeth in Portland.
Even after the biggest brawl in NBA history last November they remained phone buddies. During their last conversations they both wished for one more shot at each other on the court.
This is the series everybody wants on both sides of the Michigan-Indiana divide. The Pistons and Pacers square off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday at The Palace and the first game can't get here fast enough.
Rasheed Wallace and O’Neal hoped for it. And let’s face facts. It is what we wanted to see also.
It is the series that had to happen.
If the Pistons are truly the best in the land it is only appropriate that they take the toughest road. This season is not complete without another shot at the Pacers even with all the media baggage it brings.
The Pacers earned the right to face the Pistons by beating lifeless Boston 97-70 in Game 7 of their opening round series Saturday night. I am happy to see the Pacers win because it spares us watching Paul Pierce wear that sock around his face.
"It is only right, " O’Neal said. "It is going to be a heck of a series. Personally, this is what I want. I want to see this team and I am sure Detroit wants to see us on the basketball part. We are beyond the extracurricular activities. The best team will win a seven game series. "
The media quickly tried to paint O'Neal as the guy who wanted this more than anyone. But Reggie Miller pointed a crooked finger at reporters and correctly said: "You know you guys want us to play Detroit."
Guilty as charged.
The Pistons and Pacers say they have moved on from Nov. 19. I am not sure that is the case, but I do know the rest of us have not.
We will see the replays of the Palace brawl another 40,609 this week. We in the media will not allow you to forget even if you want to.
We will watch because we do not know if we will see another 12-car pile up. We will watch because we are not sure if the next bump will spark the next punch. We will watch because we are not sure if one clown in a crowd of thousands will cause the circus to break out.
We will watch because we don’t know what will happen or when it will happen. These are bitter rivals and when teams care so much about winning then anything can happen.
"This has been a year of trial and tribulations, " O’Neal said. "Our goals have not changed from day one. Our goal is to win a championship no matter who we have out there. "
The Pacers do not have enough to win this series. But it is worth watching because we are all on trial. The two teams are on trial because any small brush fire can cause an inferno. So players will watch their every step.
The Detroit fans are on trial because they have acted irresponsibly this season. First there was the cup thrower, then the bomb calls. And we were put on notice again when a fan hit Philadelphia Sixers guard Allen Iverson in the back of the head with a quarter.
The Palace is on trial also. Although it is one of the greatest buildings in the world, some around the country wonder if it is a lawless establishment.
Of course Detroit is always on trial. That is nothing new.
The goal here should be to play tough and competitive basketball on the court and to view it with class in the stands.
I am not confident that can happen. But lets keep our fingers crossed.
We got what we all wanted. Let's do it up right.