On the court Wallace's all-out style of play sets the tone on a team that attacks every game with near-playoff intensity—or, as O'Neill puts it, "like a bunch of guys with something to prove." Which, it turns out, is what they are. Almost every player on the roster came to Detroit not because he wanted to but because he was unwanted elsewhere. In fact, the starting lineup is composed of only two first-round draft choices ( Stackhouse and point guard Dana Barros)—one fewer than any other team's—and a pair of players ( Wallace and forward Michael Curry) who weren't even drafted.
Perhaps because of their common outsider status, the Pistons have bonded. Curry, Wallace and Williamson all live in the same suburban development and spend their off days racing dune buggies up and down the streets. ("The neighbors love it," Wallace claims unconvincingly.) Last Friday's practice momentarily dissolved in giggles when a portly woman in tight leather clothes and a mask walked in the door, cracked a whip and asked, "Which one's Cliff Robinson?" Although shooed away before she could break into song in honor of Robinson's impending 35th birthday, she provided plenty of joke fodder for the rest of the afternoon.
Whether the Pistons can maintain their enthusiasm after some rough West Coast road trips remains to be seen. Already there are red flags. Despite the presence of Wallace, Detroit has had trouble rebounding—against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 28, the Pistons set the NBA record for fewest rebounds in a game, with 18—and the team's field goal percentage is bound to drop. (Unless you believe Atkins will remain a 53.3% shooter. Thought not.) Of late, the Pistons have even lost sight of their guiding principles. "We've been shooting so well that we've gotten away from our defense," says a concerned Wallace. "We've got to get back to banging guys and beating them up. We have to make Detroit a place teams don't want to come to."
That must be enough to make an original Bad Boy downright nostalgic. Somewhere, no doubt, Dennis Rodman is getting warm fuzzies just thinking about it.
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