Posted: Thursday July 7, 2005 3:42PM; Updated: Friday July 8, 2005 12:25PM
Was he a primary reason the Pistons lost? Of course not. Nor was he a distraction -- Detroit has the most professional group of players in the league. But when the defending champs needed the last bit of motivation, when they were seeking the extra push of self-belief to see them through the final half of Game 7, they couldn't get it from their coach because when they looked in his eyes they saw someone halfway out the door. An unimpeachable source within the Pistons maintains that Brown's shenanigans cost him his ability to motivate his players on a personal level. They simply didn't believe in him any longer. San Antonio's Gregg Popovich was able to connect with his players far better than Brown.
In the next two weeks news will break that Brown is leaving the Pistons. The divorce is undoubtedly being held up in part because owner Bill Davidson is personally offended by the idea of paying Brown to leave, essentially rewarding him for his bad behavior, and setting him free to land with the Knicks. It will be interesting to see what Davidson has to say about Brown on his way out the door.
But the Pistons won't have to say anything. The fact that they will cut ties with a coach who has been to the NBA Finals the past two years will say everything about his destructive behavior. The Pistons will then quickly introduce Flip Saunders as their new coach while emphasizing his character and personal reliability. As for Ben Wallace and his teammates, they will be focused on proving that Brown received too much credit for their 2003-04 championship. Brown's absence next year will motivate them more than his presence did this season.
Big summer for Cavaliers
Can new GM Danny Ferry dig the Cleveland Cavaliers out of their hole? Ownership spent the past two months trashing their relationship with free-agent center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, refusing every opportunity to make him feel wanted. Other teams had spent those two months formulating strategies and cultivating behind-the-scenes relationships that help lead to offseason acquisitions, while the Cavaliers wasted their time holding the door open for Larry Brown, who, as predicted in this space weeks ago, ultimately refused their advances to become team president.
By hiring Ferry on the eve of the draft, the Cavaliers forced their rookie GM to learn his new role, develop a relationship with his bosses and whip up a free-agent strategy in no time. That's asking a lot. If they fail to lure Larry Hughes (after filing to entice Michael Redd to join them), then Ferry will have to manufacture a trade to bring in the star shooting guard they desperately need to provide balance for LeBron James.
Ferry and rookie coach Mike Brown both want to re-sign Ilgauskas, despite the previous stance of ownership that Ilgauskas wasn't worthy of the investment. The owners made another mistake by not at least pretending to be in love with Ilgauskas. Still, Ferry indicated during the draft that he may yet be able to turn this summer into a winner for Cleveland.