Indeed, there was the curious sense in the Piston locker room after the game that Detroit had come out on top. It had looked the Bulls dead in the eye and had seen those old familiar doubts and fears, and had thus become curiously revitalized. Fatigue prevented the Pistons from pouncing in Game 1, but there is a long way to go. One Detroit player, who desired anonymity, said flatly, "I think we won the series today. As badly as we played, they couldn't get rid of us. And I think they know it, too." That might not sound completely logical, but the Pistons have won two championships by adding two plus two and getting five.
It is that kind of mental toughness, that feeling of group invincibility, that McCloskey most fears losing if he breaks up his team. Still, it might be necessary. Here's a look at who will probably stay and who is likely to go.
THOMAS: "Trade talk doesn't bother me," he said last week. "A while back I heard my name mentioned in connection with four first-rounders. That's flattering."
But that's all it is—talk. For one thing, Thomas has a no-trade clause in his contract and a close relationship with Piston owner William Davidson. And even if he wanted to be traded, Detroit is unlikely to part with him in the immediate future. Thomas's uncanny ability to produce in the clutch is not a commodity easily found, not in a dozen first-rounders. Some of those close to Thomas say he has grown weary of leading this difficult and diverse team. But does anyone really think that at this stage of his career he would rather be leading the Miami Heat? Get serious.
DUMARS: He's capable of scoring 25 points in a half, as he did in Game 6 of the series against the Celtics. Even when he's off his offensive game, as he was on Sunday, when he had but nine points and two assists, he can contain Jordan. He's honest, diligent, tough and clean-living, and he helps his wife change the diapers of their two-month-old son, who happens to be named Jordan. Joe just turned 28. So what's to trade?
RODMAN: The Worm turned in a classic stat line in Game 4 of the Boston series—1-1, 3-8, 5-13-18. That's one basket on one field goal attempt, three free throws on eight attempts and 18 rebounds, five offensive, 13 defensive. What franchise would not want a player whose goal in life, as he stated it last week, is to "guard every position by myself, with no help, playing everybody one-on-one"? Rodman is irreplaceable. Daly did not assign the Worm to Jordan in Game 1, but their paths crossed on at least one notable occasion in the first half when shoves and words were exchanged. The Jordan-Rodman matchup will happen sometime during the series, and it will produce some electric moments.
LAIMBEER: Big Bad Bill has a good reason for not even considering retirement. "The money," he said. "It's a lot." He stands to earn about $2 million next season. Pencil him in. Laimbeer has let the Pistons know, however, that he will retire if they trade him, thus rendering any dealing fruitless. Anyway, trading Laimbeer is not in Detroit's game plan. The most effective weapon in Daly's offense is the pick-and-roll, and it is Laimbeer's ability to set a strong pick and then slide off it and hit the open jump shot that makes the Piston guards so effective.
SALLEY: Without prompting, Salley will recite a long list of players he considers less talented than he who make more money than his $575,000. Talk about seeing the glass as half-empty: By playing in a system that values his shot-blocking and rebounding rather than calling on him to score, Salley has two more championship rings than any of those players and a chance at a third. "Look, I realize that," says the Spider. "I said I'm underpaid, not unhappy." At any rate, five-year man Salley becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so McCloskey couldn't trade him even if he wanted to. What he can do after the season ends, however, is match any offer Salley gets and then make a deal. That's a possibility—the Pistons need Salley's contributions, particularly in the postseason, but they worry about the kind of inconsistency he showed on Sunday against the Bulls when he logged zero points, one rebound and three turnovers in 16 minutes.