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Pistons fans bring the thunder(sticks)
by Michael Eaves / June 11, 2004

The Palace of Auburn of Hills is loud. Not your typical NBA playoff game loud. I mean Kid Rock concert loud. It was so loud during parts of the game that you not only heard the ringing in your ears, but also the vibration in your feet.

Name one other arena where the crowd drowns out the person singing the national anthem before the game. And she might be small in stature, but Anita Baker can belt out the notes with the best of them.

And to make matters better – or worse if you were the Lakers – every Pistons fan was armed with a set of thunder sticks. 22,076 thunder sticks working in unison can seriously raise the decibel levels – as if a crowd starved for a championship for the last 14 years needed any help rocking the house.

Can someone send me some earplugs and a bottle of Advil?

THE MAILMAN

Karl Malone is the toughest SOB in the league. Hands down!

Everyone knows, even at 40 years old, the Mailman still holds down the best physique donning a NBA jersey. But I’m not talking about the best candidate for the cover of Muscle & Fitness. I’m not talking about the guy who can throw up the most weight on the bench press. I’m not talking about the guy you would most want next to you if you had to go to blows – although Malone would be one of the top choices for all those positions.

I’m talking about a guy who can play 30+ minutes in a NBA game with a knee desperately in need of surgery. And not just play, but play well. I’m talking about a guy who can still muscle Rasheed Wallace out of the post. A guy who can still pull down double digit rebounds despite barely getting off the floor.

Say what you will about the way Malone plays the game. Dirty is definitely an accurate depiction of some of his favorite and most used tactics. But there’s not a player in the league who wouldn’t want the pride of Louisiana Tech wearing their team’s jersey.

He has never asked out of a game. Ever! Not for fatigue or for injury. In fact, he finds the practice offensive. If he was too tired to take another step or his fibula snapped in two, Malone would somehow someway get back down the court – even if he had to crawl. And probably get a rebound when he got there.

Wearing a knee brace for the first time in his career in Game 3, Malone played 18 minutes, scored 5 points, pulled down 4 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists. Not exactly impressive numbers, but an impressive performance.

And more than that, he tried. He would not allow injury to stop him from chasing his dream. He gave it a shot, and that’s more than 99 percent of what the rest of the league would have done.

LIFE IN MOTOWN

One of the many reasons I was hyped to cover this year’s NBA Finals was an all-expenses paid trip to Detroit – one of the few major cities in the U.S. I had yet to visit.

But thanks to the Pistons, Detroit City here I am!

When traveling to a city for the first time, I always give the area the benefit of the doubt. I try not to listen to what people say about their experiences – good or bad. But as we all know some things are easier said than done. It is inevitable that you retain those experiences and spend a good portion of your time trying to see if they are accurate. And unfortunately for Detroit, all the stories I heard about the city were negative.

My own personal impressions of the birthplace of Motown got off to a dreary start. Rain, rain and more rain! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some spoiled Southern California beach bum. I’ve experienced precipitation. I just forgot how depressing it can be not to see the sun for more than 24 hours.

As we all know, the only thing worse than being out in the driving rain is driving in the rain. You are so compelled to speed because you just want to get to your destination so you don’t have to deal with the constant pounding of raindrops on the windshield. But you can’t really drive that fast, not so much because of the danger it presents, but rather because you can’t see the road! Thus, you suffer.

Detroit, however, puts a new meaning to suffering with their plethora of one way streets. You often have to go the opposite way you want to go to get to where you are headed. Something people have said about Detroit since the 1960’s. Now I understand.

And if the one way streets don’t get you, the layout will. The Greater Detroit area is more spread out than Anna Nicole-Smith’s old clothes. It takes a while to get from section to section.

I realize I’m from out of town, but so what? So is everyone else visiting here during The Finals.

I’m trying Detroit, but you are not making it easy!

Michael Eaves covers the NBA for FOX Sports West in Southern California. You can reach him at meaves@foxsports.net

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