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Pistons Flip the 'Swagger' Switch

The other day, Rasheed Wallace said the Pistons' "swagger will come with the playoffs." Well, it looked like it came Wednesday night at the Garden.

With just five games remaining before the playoffs begin, 'Sheed and the rest of the Pistons seemed to be bouncing around with a little extra pep in their step. According to the MLive write up, the pre-game routine of layup drills and jump shots turned into an NBA Jam slam dunk contest. Apparently 'Sheed's pre-game dance incorporated a little more Michael Jackson-ness than usual, too.

They carried that swagger into the game, by starting on a 10-0 run and never looking back. In the 113-86 victory, The Knicks were never within eight points, save the first couple minutes.

All five Piston starters scored in double figures, in addition to ten from reserve, Walter Herrmann. Richard "Rip" Hamilton paced the Pistons' scorers with 22 points. Antonio McDyess (13 points & 16 rebounds) and Wallace each had double-doubles. It was McDyess' team-leading 15th double-double. The Pistons shot 54% from the field and held the Knicks to just 36% shooting.

With the win, the Pistons increased the distance between them and the Charlotte Bobcats for the No. 8 spot to three games ('Stones are actually tied with the Chicago Bulls for the No. 7 spot, but the Bulls hold the tiebreaker for now).

This win, albeit against a team playing for a better draft pick rather than the playoffs, was big for the Pistons and fans alike. A lot of the media/fans have been down on the team, and deservedly so, but a strong finish could create a strong (not false) sense of hope heading into the playoffs.

It started yesterday for the Pistons, with 'Sheed's comments:

We’re still trying to win that championship, even though most people don’t think that we can. But we still believe that we can.

...And I think our swagger will come with the playoffs. We have a lot of veterans on here who we’ve all went deep into the playoffs for the last so-and-so years. So I think we’ll definitely get our swagger back once we get that rolling and get into the playoffs; that whole playoff atmosphere, playoff mystique then — we’re good.

These comments may have raised some eyebrows as they could have come off to some as more him excusing the Pistons for the way they've played this season, rather than as hope or inspiration geared toward their playoff run. The Free Press' Jamie Samuelsen viewed the quotes in the former light:

So Rasheed is basically saying, "Yeah, we really didn’t try too much during those first 82 games. But in the last four, we’re going to give it our all." Reassuring words — especially in this economy.

I guess if you're someone who links everything back to our nation's less than desirable economy, no matter how irrelevant it may be, I can see how you might view 'Sheed's comments with a little cynicism.

That's not the main point, though. The gist of Mr. Samuelsen's article is that the Pistons need more action and less talk, as the title reveals.

It’s just words. And the Pistons have kind of become that this year — a lot of talk. Allen Iverson told us that he’d do anything to help the team win. That lasted about two games. Michael Curry told us that he was going to use the bench as a tool to motivate players.

... And now words from Rasheed, who doesn’t have the game or the health left to back them up.

While I definitely agree that what Iverson said in the past could create some skepticism now, I (and I guess I could be alone on this) completely disagree with the crux of the piece:

So I’ll bet Pistons’ fans read Rasheed’s comments without relief, surprise or alarm. I bet they just read them and then went on to the next article. They’re just words. Words no right-minded Pistons fan expects to come to fruition.

Personally, 'Sheed's comments pumped me up like an old pair of Reebok's. Throughout this season, I don't recall any of the Pistons being aggressively confident. All year, the Pistons have essentially said, "we should be better," "we need to be better," or "we could be better." Well, 'Sheed broke that pattern and declared that the Pistons can and will.

"For the last few (years), everyone said, ‘Oh, oh, Pistons, Pistons, Pistons,’" Wallace said in a mock plaintive tone. "But even then, honestly, for the last few they counted us out. They never said we won’t be there and this and that, but we’ve always been there. So now we definitely have to prove to it, that we will be there"

That quote has to feel good to, at the very least, those fans who always see the glass half full. Now, I agree that you have to back up what you say, as Mr. Samuelsen's article suggests. But I loved what 'Sheed said yesterday, as he got the blood flowing a little bit. Then he and the Pistons backed that up tonight. Hopefully they keep it going and roll into the playoffs, as they could be a very dangerous No. 7 or No. 8 seed.