•The Pistons have a post-up player. That player no longer has to be the center, as in the past, but he must be potent enough to draw double-team attention and smart enough to swing the ball to his teammates when he does get doubled. Detroit's man is the 6'5" Dantley. The Lakers, who have Worthy, Abdul-Jabbar and Magic to post up low, have known the importance of this position for some time, as has Boston, which boasts the formidable, though aging, trio of Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. And note that each of next season's would-be contenders has such a post man—Dominique Wilkins for Atlanta. Mark Aguirre for Dallas and Karl Malone for Utah.
•The Pistons have a bench. "And not just any bench," says Laker assistant Randy Pfund. "The perfect bench. Two scorers, Vinnie Johnson and Edwards, and two defensive players, Salley and Rodman." Yes, the days of dominant Fab Fives appear to be over. Boston's five barely got past Atlanta and could not get past Detroit. And the Lakers might well have lost to the Pistons in Game 7 had Cooper not come out of his series-long stupor to hit two key three-point baskets in the second half. For a team to play the hard-nosed defense it takes to win in the NBA these days, reserve strength is an absolute necessity.
Detroit is not alone in having a deep bench, however. The Atlanta Hawks already have the numbers, the Cleveland Cavaliers are building a deep roster, and perhaps the Celtics, under their new head coach, Jimmy Rodgers, will eventually develop better production from the pine. Look for those three teams to challenge Detroit in the Eastern Conference next season.
It will also be interesting to assess the impact on the Pistons of the three-referee system, which goes into effect next season. Detroit's bruising physicality, a style that led the team into more than its share of fights this season, was a major reason why commissioner David Stern, with the backing of the NBA's Competition Committee, added the third pair of eyes.
Perhaps the third ref can do something about standardizing what is and what isn't permitted when a player posts up near the basket. To watch, say, McHale and Mahorn "battle for position" is to watch a form of near mayhem that has nothing to do with the game of basketball. And perhaps the third man can also resurrect the moribund moving-pick violation. These days, helpless defenders routinely scurry into the first row of seats to avoid the painful prospect of...well, let's say a Laimbeer-Mahorn double screen down on the baseline.
Yes, the men from the Motor City left their imprint on the NBA this season, both physically and psychologically. "I think other teams picked up from us the idea that 'O.K., we can win the championship,' " said Laimbeer. "Because of what we did, you're going to see any number of teams going for it all next season."