Lined up on the soon to be bloody fields of Kurukshetra, the ancient warrior Arjuna, somewhat egotistically, guided his chariot between the two armies to assess the battle field, knowing that he could by himself destroy both armies. Arjuna attempted to rise above death - asking his divine (according to mythology) charioteer: what value is in death and destruction for me? Are the riches of the worlds worth the inevitable isolation after all your loved ones are likely to perish in such an epic war?
Krishna inspired Arjuna to fight and the Bhagavad GIta emerged. LeBron James, like Arjuna, faced a similar dilemma in game five of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals and he not only chose to kill but make witnesses in his destruction.
I'm usually not one to tout a corporate ad campaign but dayuum was Nike efficient and on top of things with the whole "witness" thing. Unfortunately Pistons' fans were witnesses to the collapse of Tayshaun Prince's reputation as a defensive player and dignity. Ever since that series, Prince has looked like he's been playing in the league for thirty years while logging thousands of games. He's only been in the league for six years.
LeBron's heroics in game 5 have been talked about and written about extensively - I would say hyped a bit too much considering Wade's antics in the finals the year before were over an entire series and in the finals when his team was down.
Sidenote: Is it just me or does D-Wade not get enough love around the league? He's accomplished more than LeBron already, recovered from a major injury, put up with Shaq (very underrated), came off the bench in the Olympics, dated Starr Jones - seriously what more does Wade need to do?
Anyways, yeah it happened, LeBron killed the Pistons in divine fashion scoring 25 straight points but let's not forget how awful that Cavaliers team was (David Wesley and Eric Snow - nuff said). They got swept in the finals by the Spurs for a reason - they were awful and the Eastern Conference was at its weakest (The Toronto Raptors were a third seed - all love for their little dinosaur hearts).
So LeBron did go crazy on the Pistons in historic fashion but there was still no reason for the Pistons to lose that series. They should have been better than that but they weren't. They broke down, began to blame Flip Saunders, who I remember constantly biting his lower lip during games, unable to exert any authority over his roster. Flip also mysteriously hid Webber on the bench during the playoffs after starting and playing him regular minutes during the regular season. Lack of a rotation - classic Flip.
While ESPN-ites will always remember the Eastern Conference finals as LeBron's arrival or crowning or induction into basketball heavens, I will once again remember it as another series that the Pistons should have won, could have won but just didn't. That's the story of this era.
Remember Me? You have to give Joe Dumars credit, he can get people to believe anything. Like he thought second round pick Willy Blalock is the backup point guard that the Pistons' roster had been craving for years. Instead, the Blalock era can summarized by this:
Give him credit - he took that towel in the face like a champ.
Best Moment: Maybe it's because I'm more attracted to failure than success, defeat than victory and tears than smiles, but I've always been absurdly intrigued by Chris Webber. The controversial ties to the state of Michigan, wearing out his welcome in two NBA cities before becoming loved by the Kings, the disappointing end in Sacramento - Webber has been a walking curse, or at least his career played out that way.
In an era where the Pistons prided themselves on redemption stories and a place where misfits (Billups, Sheed) can come to play together, Webber at this point in his career was a model Piston.
But still there was always this uneasiness or tension with Webber because he's such a polarizing figure in Michigan basketball history.
Even though Webber gradually broke down as the year went on and was unable to contribute in the playoffs, I enjoyed seeing Webber play in Detroit, just like I will enjoy Sheed playing for the Trail Blazers next year. Oops! Did I just say that? I'm sorry.
Awards: Chauncey Billups, All-NBA Third Team, All-Star; Tayshaun Prince, All-Defense Second Team; Rip Hamilton, All-Star.
The Drama: Stemming from the team's refusal to play a zone defense at the beckoning of coach Saunders, tensions with their coach catapulted to new highs during the playoffs, most infamously culminating with the following:
I'm a huge Sheed fan and will defend him till the end of his playing days but it's hard to justify getting kicked out of a playoff elimination game on the road when you're within striking distance. Maddeningly entertaining but still unfathomable.
That combined with accusations against him of not listening to Flip and not sitting in the huddle, it was in these very Eastern Conference Finals when the team was unfairly categorized as lazy, undisciplined, spoiled, cocky. Before this point, they had underachieved, but after this epic collapse, the entire era became tainted in the eyes of the local media moguls who for some reason hate their team more than any national columnist.
Other drama: Sheed going off on ESPN's Chris Sheridan. Good job Sheed.
Best* Boxscore: More disappointing than LeBron's dominance in game five was Daniel "Boobie" Gibson's monstrosity of a game six. Seriously. Boobie (worst nickname ever) had 31 points on 7/9 from the field which included 5-5 on threes and 12-15 at the free throw line in only 29 minutes. I don't care if LeBron kills the Pistons but Boobie? The dude named after a mammary gland? What a nasty, disgusting, sick joke.
*By best I actually mean worst.
Results: The Pistons finished 53-29, first in the conference. Swept the Orlando Magic in round one, beat the Chicago Bulls in six in round two and lost to the LeBrons in the Eastern Conference finals.
Lasting Memories: In many ways, this is the most disappointing Pistons team of the decade. They won the conference by winning a mere 53 games - everybody in the conference was awful. There was really no reason for them not to make a finals appearance.
After the Cavaliers series, I remember how badly I wanted things to change. There was questions about how much or if Dumars should pay Billups in the off-season, whether or not Saunders should come back and just overall sour potatoes.
Nothing changed in the off-season, which wasn't an awful decision but everyone just a got a year older and Flip once again failed to establish anything resembling a regular rotation with his younger players. The worst thing that happened this year: the team lost its swag. They were no longer the nobody can beat us bad boys sequel but rather the team that had already peaked in years prior.
Up next: Kendrick Perkins is a killa'.