Pistons on the Move?
On Feb. 25 coach Chuck Daly canceled the Pistons' customary morning shootaround before that night's home game against the Bulls. Normally, that time would have been spent reviewing, re-reviewing, and reviewing the re-review of ways to stop Jordan and Pippen—none of which would have been effective if the Detroit defenders had tired legs. Instead, the Pistons stayed in bed and that night beat Chicago 108-106.
One week later Detroit embarked on a 10-day, five-game road trip, during which Daly scrapped off-day practices (though he did retain game-day shootarounds). The Pistons won all five games, and Daly decided to stick with his hew system—game-day shootarounds only on the road, off-day practices only at home. Results? At week's end Detroit had won 10 of 14 games since Feb. 25. The streak moved Detroit into a threatening position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
"Chuck understands we're a veteran team," says frontcourtman John Salley. "We need our strength to play the games." That's particularly true with forward Dennis Rodman, who was averaging 40.6 minutes per game at week's end, and backcourtmen Joe Dumars (38.8) and Isiah Thomas (37.8) playing so much.
Time off isn't all that has happened to Detroit, of course. As veteran teams often do, the Pistons have undergone an off-the-court attitude adjustment after beginning the season as a second-guessing bunch, with the players angry about contracts, angry about playing time and angry about front-office decisions that left them without two popular veterans, frontcourtman James Edwards and guard Vinnie Johnson. "We were spoiled brats," says Salley. "We didn't like this, we didn't like that. Now we're a together team again."
And they've made on-the-court adjustments, too. Finding driving room for forward Orlando Woolridge and accommodating guard Darrell Walker's physical, defense-oriented style are vastly different from looking inside to Edwards or clearing the floor for Johnson's explosive one-on-one game. Still, the Pistons, who were 41-28 as of Sunday, stood little chance of passing 45-21 Cleveland and thus avoiding a meeting with the Bulls in the second round of the playoffs. Rodman's supernatural rebounding (19.2 per game) notwithstanding, is there any logical reason to believe that the Pistons can upset Chicago? Thomas is playing with a badly swollen right calf. Center Bill Laimbeer can be effective in spots but is not the player who two years ago hurt the Bulls with defensive rebounding and psychological intimidation. Reserve forward Mark Aguirre is shooting a career-low .427 from the floor, yet is the sum total of the Pistons' post-up game. And Rodman has so much responsibility as a starter that he cannot begin to approach the efficiency he once had as a sixth-man defensive specialist.
When all is said and done, the legacy of the 1991-92 Pistons might be Daly's practice schedule, which other tired and over-drilled teams would be wise to study.
Down Mexico Way
One of the 10 teams that will oppose the U.S. in the Olympic Basketball Tournament of the Americas in Portland this summer is Mexico. And one of Mexico's star players just might be Aguirre.
Aguirre met recently with Julio Ortiz, president of the Mexican Basketball Federation, which has wanted Aguirre as a national team member since he was a high school star in Chicago. (The Mexican federation also hopes to get the NBA's slam-dunk champion, Cedric Ceballos of the Suns.) It's legit because Aguirre's father, Clyde, was born in Mexico and FIBA rules permit a son to represent a parent's country as long as that player doesn't belong to another national team. Aguirre says he has not decided whether to play for Mexico, but he sounds ready to go.