Posted: Monday May 15, 2006 11:03AM; Updated: Monday May 15, 2006 6:18PM
Though still quick to voice his opinion, the Pistons' Rasheed Wallace has done so in a more genteel manner in the playoffs.
Most likely, Wallace is right. But that is yet to come. This is the Cavs' moment and, as such, Saturday gave us a glimpse of the team they might become. I say "might" because, as engineered, they are effective but flawed, like the big-swinging slugger who hits a mammoth home run but strikes out in his other five at-bats.
To achieve balance, the team needs shooters who do more than just shoot (and it would help if said shooters also made shots). Which is to say they need Donyell Marshall, not now but five years ago, when his length and athleticism made him a fine help-side defender. They also need dirty-work guys who are both skilled in the art -- and it is an art -- and enjoy it (as opposed to Drew Gooden, an exceptional offensive rebounder who is an atrocious screener). Which is to say, they need Anderson Varejao, five years from now. Or, more specifically, a player like Eduardo Najera, the blocky Nuggets forward who plays physical defense, hustles, sets oak-door picks and plays the game with a veteran savvy.
In the backcourt, they need guards who can both defend and score, which is to say they need Eric Snow to have a jumpshot revelation or Damon Jones -- well, they don't need Damon Jones no matter how you cut it. Someone like Speedy Claxton would fit the bill, or a vet like Derek Fisher who would bring his championship experience, ballhandling abilities, three-point shooting and still-decent defensive skills. Unfortunately, Fisher is locked into an inflated long-term contract with the Warriors, but you get the point. No doubt GM Danny Ferry, who's versed in the value of role players from his days in San Antonio, is already making his plans.
The Pistons? Well, all they need is continued health and a reason to play hard. After Saturday night, they now have one.
Other thoughts/notes from the Pistons-Cavs series:
Are we seeing a shinier, happier Rasheed? Certainly, he remains emotional, volatile and all the other adjectives often attached to his name, but two instances on Saturday night were telling. First, when he was called for a reach-in on LeBron James in the second quarter, he immediately began arguing with referee Bob Delaney, saying, "You know that call was bull, man!" This came as no surprise. What was surprising was that he used the term "bull" without affixing its common suffix, showing admirable restraint by 'Sheed's standards. Then, with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, he again became agitated about a reach-in call, but this time he ran straight to the sideline, where he shouted vehemently at ... Flip Saunders. ('Sheed attached the suffix for Flip's benefit.) Flip nodded and said, "It's OK, it's OK," allowing Wallace to vent. Once properly aired out, Wallace returned to the court.
A couple of moments of note from Game 3:
In the second quarter, Gooden singing along, quite enthusiastically, as the PA played the team song "C'mon, Cavs ... Make it Happen!" as he prepared to re-enter the game.
Nets scout Travis Hyland incongruously seated courtside next to Usher because the Cavs needed more media/scout seating. So Hyland dutifully diagrammed plays while Usher, wearing a shirt bearing a large shimmering emblem that made him look like a human disco ball, stood and applauded frequently, cupping his hands, turning to players and shouting -- well, who knows what he was shouting: defensive rotations? play calls? new lyrics? -- at various Cavs as they set up in the half-court.