Living through 2001-2002’s attack of the many-headed beast known as Detroit professional sports, we found ourselves staring eyeball-to-eyeball with the ho-hum-terrible Lions, the ho-hum-perfectly dreadful Tigers, the even-in-their-sleep-superior Red Wings and those surprising creatures from the obscurity lagoon, the blue-collar Pistons. The new Bad Boys find themselves at season’s end (by dint of much hard work, unselfishness and collaborative brilliance) champions of the NBA’s Central Division, within a hairbreadth of their first 50-win season in years and in position to do some serious damage in the playoffs. So we thought it time to hand out a few belated Oscars to the team we love to love.
Best Actor (Offense): The candidates are Chucky Atkins (with his timely scoring explosions, particularly from three-point land), Cliff Robinson (the veteran who can take over a game) and Jerry Stackhouse (the star who transformed his role from scoring the roof off to scoring-assists leadership inspiration). But this is obviously Jerry’s team and vindication.
Best Actor (Defense): Though the candidates include John Barry (great hands and total commitment), Michael Curry (unsung-hero tenacity) and Robinson (all-purpose excellence), Ben Wallace (team leader in rebounds, blocked shots and steals — the man opponents hate to play) wins hands down (actually hands up, in your face).
Best Supporting Actor (Offense): Corliss Williamson has blossomed into a terror in the paint and a major threat off the bench, with the most beautiful shooting touch on the team.
Best Supporting Actor (Defense): Though his contributions on both ends of the court have been priceless (as well as his maturity on a pretty young roster), Robinson’s day in, day out productivity has made him the “two” after Wallace’s “one” in the Pistons’ one-two defensive punch.
Best Special Effects: Barry’s sparkplug role has saved many a game from oblivion. He’s a monster at the free-throw line, a kamikaze after a loose ball and a dazzling playmaker all over the court (including a wicked three-point shot). As head of the Alternatorz, the Pistons’ bench squad, he always sets a tone of ain’t-no-time-for-coasting.
Best Debut: 7-foot work-in-progress Zeljko Rebraca, from Yugoslavia, is becoming the big man in the middle the Pistons have long needed.
Best Producer: In just a two-year stretch, Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars has drawn on his lifetime of on-court experience and his been-there, done-that championship smarts to transform this team from Jerry and the Also-Rans to a collective improvisation unit specializing in fast-break, fake-’em-out ball movement and tenacious D. Dumars knew to invest in Wallace, Atkins and Damon Jones (!), when hardly anyone else in the league wanted them. Jones, with his three-point offense, ball handling at point guard and all-around hard work, has fit right in with Motown’s hardwood proletarians.
Best Costume Design: Dumars and cohorts, for bringing back the Pistons’ blue and red.
Best Director: Rookie head coach Rick Carlisle has come through with flexibility, impressive knowledge of the game and great people skills. His clear-headed confidence and unflappability must be infectious, because players seem totally relaxed and clear about their roles.
Best Script: Dumars and Carlisle, co-authors. Their stage directions are pretty simple: defense (get more stops than the other guys) and ball movement (find the open man and everybody contributes).
When the NBA hands out its own awards this year, Wallace should grab “best defensive player”; Williamson has a clear shot at “best sixth man”; Carlisle is in the running for “coach of the year”; and Dumars just might cop “executive of the year.” Why not all four?
So, thanks for a great season to Ben and Jerry, Dumars (again) and the rest. Bring on the West.George Tysh is arts editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]