The Indestructible Beat of Rip Hamilton
With all due respect to the Spurs, who I now like and respect--a mere 30% of this resulting from Timmy D's willingness to use the term "retarded"--the Pistons look out of hand, out of control, out of their minds unstoppable and are the best team in The Association. They are so good, that even their discarded trash becomes breakout starters (Smush Parker) and serviceable role players (Ronald Dupree). Why do their recent contract extension signings (Prince) never falter ? Why does their perenially great-not-superstar backcourt (Rip/Chauncey) play like, um, superstars? Why do headcases for other teams (Sheed/Arroyo), instead of sapping the team's energy, only boost its swagger to unprecedented heights? The only answer I can construct is that, for the past three years, they have managed to convince themselves that everybody doubts them and is out to get them.
Owner Bill D has played a huge role in ordering two major coaching changes in the past four years, and has seen his name slammed throughout the whole Larry Brown debacle. Joe D made a potentially career-ending draft decision, which somehow now looks staged as if to just draw more ire and doubt in the team's direction.. People called their 04 title a fluke. Even their Euros (Darko/Carlos D) think everyone is out to get them. And in Flip Saunders, they even have a HEAD COACH with a huge chip on his shoulder.
Make no mistake, I could not stand Flip in Minnesota. He always made adjustments too late, he leaned on KG too much, he couldn't defend the pick-n-roll, he did not get the players to "buy in," he choked in the playoffs, and he was just generally too passive-aggressive, which seemed to eff with the players' heads. When he signed with Detroit, suddenly the media started calling him an "offensive mastermind" and a "tactician." I began wondering if those terms meant "teaches players to throw the ball into Kevin Garnett in the post, have him take a whirligig jumper or wait till he gets double-teamed and have him kick it out to someone for a jumpshot."
But at least through four games, Flip has proved me and all of his other doubters (many of them residing in Minnesota) dead wrong. Sheed, Ben, Tayshaun, and Chauncey are playing way more fluidly and relaxed on the offensive end. And Rip Hamilton is easily the second best two-guard in the league to Kobe right now. I say this because Riley & Co. have taken it upon themselves to try to destroy Dwyane Wade's career with their recent overhaul (AND HE STILL CANT BE STOPPED). The Pistons are once again a joy to watch, and look even better than they did in their title run year. Maybe...maybe...they just needed a manager, not a nitpicker.
But there is one thing, one overlooked element that should be the hallmark of Larry Brown's career. One thing that LB is capable of doing that not Flip or any other coach has done before: He knows how to stop teams who have Shaq. Larry is Kryptonite. (Note that Popovich doesn't count here because he was playing with TWO hall of fame centers in 03, and weren't both Shaq and Kobe a bit injured or something? Weren't they?). LB's 2001 Game 1 Finals victory over the Lakers may have been his greatest achievement ever. That Sixers team sucked and everyone knew it. Then, in 04, The Pistons shoved it down the Lakers' throats, with steady Shaq-harrassment coming from Elden Campbell, Big Ben, Sheed, and even Big Nasty. And last year, even with Shaq promising South Beach a championship and hungrier than ever, LB had Diesel looking like:
This may ultimately be the reason that the Pistons will miss both Brown, and the Finals. Flip and so many other coaches fail in these monumental tasks, because unlike Larry, they are followers and not leaders. During the Wolves/Lakers WCF series in 04, Flip pulled out some gawd-awful Mike Dunleavy-circa-Brian Grant on the Blazers shit and made Shaq go to the free throw line 30 times a game. Shaq hit them when they counted, Kobe, Kareem Rush, and Devean George got involved, and the Lakers won handily. Larry defied convention, and instead learned how to annoy the hell out of Shaq, still let him get HIS, but annoy him to death...which seems like an appropriate point to bring up a thesis.
If you wanted to teach a young child about the differences between Jews and non-Jews, you need not look further than the NBA head coaching circuit. Specifically, to the differences between Larry Brown and Phil Jackson. I really could draw up a chart here, but to save time...A Jew coach is far less likely to make those dumb comments about "hip-hop" and "prison garb," Jews are completely incapable of keeping a calm, Zen-like mindset, and a Jew would never ever ever date a chick like Jeannie Buss. On the other hand, non-Jew coaches don't totally lose their shit over a game-ending non-call (Lawrence Frank), non-Jews are not so overbearing, annoying, and constantly tinkering that their teams become a pain to watch (Larry Brown), non-Jews in positions of authority do not engage in silly fun-uncle stuff like doing magic tricks on team plane rides (Bob Weiss), and non-Jews are not so paranoid as to bring this type of situation on themselves. From the Houston Chronicle:
"A few days before the start of training camp, Van Gundy asked for an appointment with the guy who fined him $100,000 and threatened to throw him out of the NBA last spring. Stern invited him to New York. They had breakfast at a diner in Connecticut. "I don't want to be seen as someone unappreciative of all the NBA has done for me," Van Gundy said. "I'm an employee of the NBA. He's the commissioner. I've benefited from the NBA probably more than anyone."
Ok, ok...We know that the Van Gundy brothers aren't really Jewish. But come on...Stern and Van Gundy at a Diner in Connecticut? That's like, the most Jewish shit ever.