After waiting seven months, finally my fourth favorite time of year is here – the NBA playoffs. (Fourth, of course, to 1: the NCAA tournament, 2: any week during the college football season, and 3: the NFL playoffs). It couldn’t have come at a better time for Detroit sports fans.

Paul Wong
Jeff Phillips, Ramble on

The Tigers are mired in an 11-game losing streak to begin the season, so what better way to forget about them than to cheer on the gritty bunch from Auburn Hills? I know that most of you are thinking that the Pistons will make their traditional first-round exit and have your finger ready to point, as if to say, “See? I told you so.”

For all of you naysayers, sitting in your towers, I’ve compiled a list of reasons – some realistic and some admittedly off the wall – why Detroit will win the NBA title this season. The list doesn’t even include a Jason Kidd or Shaq voodoo doll.

1. Because they have a chip on their shoulder – Take a look at Detroit’s roster when you get a chance. At the start of the season, a fan would have had one of the following three responses to each name: a) “He’s still in the league?” b) “7-foot-1? I didn’t know they stacked shit that high,” or c) “This must be the Detroit Dogs roster.”

Thus, everybody is playing like they have something to prove. Former Orlando players Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins already had this attitude for the Magic, and it paid dividends for that team. Now, like the Magic, the Pistons are in a similar situation.

Sacramento thought that an overrated and overpaid (at any price) Mateen Cleaves was worth trading Jon Barry to acquire.

Phoenix didn’t want to fork over the money to a past-his-prime Cliff Robinson.

After spending his career playing in Europe, Zeljko Rebraca, wants to prove he belongs in the NBA.

Even coach Rick Carlisle has a beef, after being passed up for the head coaching job in Indiana and watching the reverse-alchemist Isiah Thomas do what he did with the Pacers’ talent. (Sorry Zeke, but it’s true. Oh, and thanks for the banners.)

And finally Jerry Stackhouse, who was one of an elite 5,000 players to wear the tag, “the next Jordan,” coming out of college, looks like he is finally comfortable with himself as a basketball player.

All this and I didn’t even mention that the Pistons haven’t won a first-round series since 1991!

2. Because they play as a team – When was the last time a team in the NBA actually played together in recent memory? The team’s one superstar (and I use the term loosely) Stackhouse, doesn’t mind sitting at the end of the game if it means it helps his team win. He doesn’t mind deferring to his teammates in crunch time, even though it certainly is a blow to his ego.

Corliss Williamson, who should be given a hard look as the sixth man of the year, is third on the team in points per game and rebounds per game, but plays a paltry 21.7 minutes per game. He isn’t complaining. He even battled back from being at the end of the coach Carlisle’s bench at the beginning season, when he could’ve packed it in like most in the me-first professional league.

3. Because Zeli’s hair is bleached blonde – When the Pistons were making their move up the standings earlier this year, Rebraca was asked why his hair was dyed blonde. My first response was that Wesley Snipes’ “Demolition Man” finally reached Yugoslavia last year, but in fact he dyed it during his European team’s run to championship and he hoped his hair would do the same for the Pistons.

As a friend of mine likes to point out, this is a sign. But it takes more to win a title than blonde hair, at least here in America. Luckily for the Pistons, Rebraca has the low-post skills needed to back up his mop.

4. Because they are doing it for the United States – An observant sportswriter noted that Detroit made the switch to red, white and blue uniforms this year, pitching the aqua and maroon eyesores and thus rendering an authentic Eric Montross game-worn jersey virtually unwearable.

The writer pointed out that the change not only brings back the winning look of the Bad Boys, but also gives the Pistons the colors of the good ol’ U. S. of A. And after the events of Sept. 11, this impact shouldn’t be overlooked. The Pistons will not tire, they will not falter and will not fail.

Should the Pistons actually win the title, NBA conspiracy theorists will have to point to this fact above all.

There you have it, reasons to believe in Detroit. The NBA playoffs are predictable for the most part, but even the surest of sure things don’t always come true.

With tickets starting at just $10 a seat, don’t you want to save yourself the guilt 10 years from now when you say you were there for the Pistons’ magical title run?

– Jeff Phillips can be reached at jpphilli@umich.edu, or somewhere in the upper deck of The Palace, soon to be located at Three Championship Drive.

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