Before we get into any real notes, let me start by saying thanks to Chauncey Billups for neglecting to show up and join his team in Golden State tonight. Maybe it wasn’t actually his fault, but the buzz around the arena was that he notified the Nuggets that he wouldn’t be playing for them before their game on Friday. Take from that what you will.
Okay, so I’m a little bitter. I wanted that Iverson number one jersey debut. I called that!
As a result of Billups being MIA, the story of the game ends up being the status of Allen Iverson who will not be dressing. Because he doesn’t have a suit with him, he has to spend the duration of the game in the locker room.
Because he has addressed the media in a scrum at shootaround, he is not doing pregame locker room availability, but we got all we needed from him that morning. He said that he felt Detroit is a team that was all heart, so he would fit in well. He has always had a lot of respect for the toughness that they play with.He also said that at this point in his career, he has the money and personal accolade, but he is missing the championship. He continues to say that above all else, he wants to be happy. I think I speak for us all when I say, I want him to be happy, too.
Ivy is on my list of guys I want to see win a championship. He and KG wereheadlining that list and now KG has done it, so if there is someone I’d like to see ringed up, it would be Allen.
Morning shootaround was pretty fantastic, besides seeing Allen and getting to hear Michael Curry speak about the trade and seem genuinely excited about the talent he is getting with Iverson, I got to listen to Alex English talk to a couple of us media types about the significance of the election the night before.
English is a beautifully spoken, engaging and endearing man. He told us about his childhood growing up in South Carolina in the 1950’s and how proud of a moment it was last night, to have his son calling him from California celebrating and his daughter calling him from Central Park celebrating. It was one of the most special moments I’ve ever had as a member of the media, and just in general. He was moving, passionate and his words touched me. I’m thankful that Alex and everyone else can never have this taken away.
Moving along to pregame, Sam Mitchell was on FIRE. He may not be swearing, but his heckling of media members and journalists is in full swing. He tore into a guy from a TV station, told him his logic was faulty (“So, you’re saying the San Antonio Spurs are done then, having started 0-3, by your logic?”), when the man didn’t even mention the Spurs, then he grabbed his microphone and started asking the guy his own questions, then moving the mic in front of his face so he could answer. I do love Sam Mitchell.
Pregame in the Pistons locker room things are pretty empty, Sheed is sitting at his locker, music blaring, Tay is in his locker and the rest of the guys are in the showers or getting taped. I went over to Sheed to ask him about his thoughts on the election but didn’t really get anywhere with him. He told me he watched the election at Martins. Now, whether that is a bar, restaurant, person’s house or place, your guess is as good as mine. Sheed was funny though, joking around with Tay, then said we could talk election stuff postgame if I wanted.
Rodney Stuckey was a guy I had liked to watch before and now is no exception. He ran things last night and did a more than acceptable job. Pregame, he was interviewed by the Raptors TV station and they asked him what they were thinking about the Raptors and his response was that they weren’t at all worried about the Raptors. Just the way that he said it, cracked me up and as I quietly laughed, he looked over at me and then he was trying not to laugh. I did feel a little bad for him with all of the media attention he was getting. He looked a little nervous, having all of the cameras in his face.
Michael Curry was great pregame. He said that if Ivy was dressing, he would be starting, there was no doubt about that. As close as 90 minutes before the game, the Pistons still didn’t know if Allen was able to dress. While in the press conference room Dumars came through to talk to Raptors PR and gave the thumbs down. It was the saddest thumbs down I’ve ever felt, I think.
Saw Joey Graham in the hallway and said what’s up. He’s one of those guys who is so much bigger than you’d expect. Stuff like this always surprises me.
Overheard one of the Pistons assistants laughing as he told another assistant that girls were screaming for Iverson during warm ups. “They’re going to be screaming for him all night, because they won’t be seeing him.”
Intro’s are one of the highlights of the entire game as Sheed does his dance and tonight is really in his own space. The crowd loves it, Sheed loves it, his guys love it. These Pistons are a tightly-knit group.
In the first quarter, both teams start out strong, with the Raptors going inside immediately, just as they did the first time around. It’s crazy how involved Bosh is in every aspect of the Raptors offense. Detroit is also clicking on all cylinders, playing tough defense and pressuring the Raptors from the tip. JO starts the night out with a beautiful spin move, but misses. Things will not get any easier for him.
Raptors start out strong, but so do the Pistons. Go to Bosh and JO immediately. It becomes clear that Rashees has made it his personal mission to frustrate JO and get into his head. A few plays in, you see the two battling, with Sheed throwing his weight around, getting into JO’s space, just annoying him.
Raptors have great movement and a good combo of inside/outside baskets, but the Pistons are starting to roll. Stuckey gets an and-1 effortlessly. He is a baller.
Stuckey with an and-1. I guess when he said he wasn’t worried about the Raptors, he was telling the truth.
Kwame enters the game, and promptly loses the ball on the inbounds when Calderon somehow manages to throw it off of him. When Kwame was walking off of the court during warm ups he came towards me and I honestly stared at him for a few seconds before it clicked that he was in fact playing on the Pistons now.
Stuckey is special. The guy is fearless with the ball and for a pretty young guy who is now being asked to lead the offense, he’s doing it well.
At the end of the shot clock early in the second quarter, Tayshaun somehow gets the show to go, throws it up and it banks in. This will be a familiar result for Tay as he is only beginning to get started. Maxiell is interesting. He’s such a big body, such a handful and so out of control at times. He hits a jumper, then bricks a shot badly. Then he blocks Joey Graham to make up for it, before bricking another. Tay hits a three and you can tell he’s heating up.
The Raptors have some good ball movement and Bargnani hits the shot. He then fouls Tay on the other end of things and the Pistons are up 33-27 8:07 left in the half.
It’s amazing to me how much smoother the Raptors offense is this year as compared to last. Guys just know where the other will be and the ball movement is crisp clean and concise. Whether going inside or out, they know what they are running and they work together, showing the benefit or bringing your core back together.
Will Soloman is in the game and has been for a few minutes now. Everyone in Toronto is doubting this guy but I’m holding out hope for him. And, he scores as if on cue. Tayshaun misses but Jamario accidentally tips it in.. or it looks like it. As if he needed another two points. Raptors call a timeout. Immediately out of the timeout, Tay hits another J. this Pistons team is threatening to bust out, you can feel it. Fans are getting restless.
Barg hits a jumper. Sheed is now working on Barg, but misses the turnaround. Calderon takes an ill advised three, but Bosh gets the O board and gets it back to Calderon who whips a gorgeous pass to a cutting Jamario but it just slips through his fingers. The fans really, really wanted that one.
Bosh against Sheed, beauty move but just cant finish. Bargnani gets burned by Tay, badly. Another two for him. This time of the dunk variety. Bosh hits a J over Maxiell. Maxiell cleans up a Stuckey miss with a dunk. 48-38 Pistons, with 1:57 left in the half.
Rip fakes out AP and hits another J. These Pistons are tough to handle when they are on like this.
Jose drives baseline and and gets the foul from Stuckey. At the line, hits both. Calderon is an absolute master at drawing fouls. He is also a winner. You know those guys who have that x-factor, it-factor, whatever you want to call it? That’s Calderon. Final minute of the half, Bosh kick out to Calderon for three. Count it. 41 seconds left. Stuckey gets the J to go. Hump takes it to the hole, ball on the floor, gets fouled by Maxiell, at the line for the and-1. Anthony Parker is playing tight D on Stuckey. Stucks creates some space but misses the J at the buzzer and it is 54-46 at the half.
Raps open the second half with a turnover. Jamario gives Tay too much room and he hits a three. Jamario then gets the steal off of a Rip pass, gets it ahead to Calderon, who gives it to Bosh who misses and angrily wants the foul call. Bosh hits this timeand its 59-48. Tayshaun is going OFF, hits another lonnnnng jumper. JO with the ball gives it to Jose, Amir pushes him and is called for the foul. Jose then hits a jumper. Lots of outside shots from the Raps to start the third. Stuckey picks up his second foul on Calderon. 63-50 Pistons.
JO wanted the foul, rips his headband off and gets called for the T. Rip hits the free throw as Bosh talks to the ref on JO’s behalf. Stuckey gets inside but misses the layup. Jose to Jamario, misses. Should have gone to JO who was wide open. Sheed for two. A looooonnng two. Love him stroking it from outside. Jose, drills a three and ist rying to pump up the crowd and his guys.
66-52 Pistons. 6:17 left in the third.
Raptors collapse on Stuckey as he drives, misses the layup. Jamario stops, rises, hits the three. 66-55. Tight D from JO, shot clock violation on the Pistons. Curry is on Rip instructing from the sidelines, Rip’s got arms up as if to say, what do you want me to do? Jose hits again.
66-57 Pistons 5:11 left in the third.
Curry is not happy.
Rip Hamilton layup.
Bosh with a beautiful spin move on Amir, gets the foul and the tough, tough shot to go. Bricks the free throw. 68-59 Detroit. Amir comes back with a spin move of his own. Jose leans in, goes hard to the basket, takes the contact and gets the and-1. Stuckey picks up his 3rd foul. Stuckey to a cutting Prince, for a floater. Bosh fake on Amir, to the basket, and in. Stucks to Tay, Tay back to Stucks. Sets his feet and money. 74-64. Baller.
Stuckey picks up his 4th, not so baller, and has to go to the bench. Bynum replaces him. Will Bynum. Jose at the line, two more, he’s got 20, while prince is at 23. Bosh misses a jumper, should be going inside, not settling right now. 1:38 remaining in the 3rd.
Bynum swings it to Tay who fakes, drives, pulls up and that awkward looking shot sails through the net, barely rippling it. Of course. It’s that kind of night for him.
JO finally gets it to go, fouled by Sheed, makes the bucket, plus a free throw, but he misses it. 76-68 Pistons. Raps with ball Sheed gets schooled and fouls Bosh who hits the basket. Sheed is steamed, Maxiell throws his hands up, Afflalo comes in for Maxiell.
76-71 Pistons at the end of the third.
Bosh opens the third with a HUGE drive and dunk on Maxiell. Just leaves him in the dust and brings down the house with that one. Will Soloman hits a long two. 76-75 Pistons. ONE point game. Sheed finds a cutting Herrmann who gets a reverse dunk. Seriously. Soloman with a beautiful pass to Bargnani for the dunk. Sheed wth a miss one on one with Barg, nice tip by maxiell to save the possession. Sheed with a ridiculous three. Like 3 feet behind the line. How can you not love him?
Soloman to Bargnani for three. Sheed, with an airball at the end of the shot clock. The crowd is CRAZY here. Stuckey takes the ball from the top of the key all the way to the basket, draws the foul on Bargnani, at the line for two. Hits both 83-80.
Kwame catches the ball from Stuckey and (nice pass), gets the basket and foul and somehow makes the free throw. 86-82. What is going on? Jose to JO slips through his fingers and goes right to Bosh, who is fouled by Kwame and he lands a bit awkwardly. Makes the first, makes the second 86-84 pistons. Herrmann drives and gets the layup to go. JO misses a jumper. Rip misses, Raps board. Raptors call a timeout.
5:09 left in the game. 88-84 Pistons.
Parker blocks Stuckey.Play of the game, Bosh spins, throws it up underhanded while behind the backboard. It goes in. 88-86. Unbelievable. Herrmann shoots an airball, Curry isn’t happy. Raps ball. 4:02 left in the game and this crowd is pulsing as one.
Parker is waaay off, hits the backboard. Hamilton takes the hit, hits the shot and they do not give him the call. Horrible officiating. JO misses again.
Rip still talking to the official wanting to know why he didn’t get a foul call.
Sign of the night “kaponoyoudidnt”.
Bargnani blocks Stuckey, Sheed gets the board and put back. JO has been taken out for Bargnani. Tough night for him. Jose long two. 92-88 Pistons. Two minutes remaining.
Bosh with a miss, Tay working on Jamario, spin around bucket. Yup.
A guy with a Darius Miles jersey is on the jumbotron.
Tayshaun misses a J, finally. 35 seconds left, foul on Stuckey and it is Jose who draws it again. Foul line for two. Hits the first. Hits the second. 4-pt game, 31 seconds left. Bosh fouls Sheed as Tay gathers the guys to discuss what is happening. Herrmann comes in for Kwame. Parker misses a layup, 94-89 Pistons with 32.2 seconds left in the game. I close up my laptop and head downstairs. This one is over.
Downstairs, Sam Mitchell sounds a bit tired. He’s not disappointed in his guys, just says, basically, both teams played hard. Okay, so he didn’t actually quote Sheed, but he said, that the Pistons just executed better and Tayshaun had a great game. Nothing really of note from Mitchell’s presser.
Jamario Moon puts things into perspective by saying, it is tough chasing anyone around the way they had to chase Tayshaun and Rip, but that this is only one loss and they need to move past it and get ready for the next game.
Jose is one of the most unfailingly polite guys I’ve ever encountered and an entirely different person than the player he is oncourt. He says that this is how basketball goes, it is a game and that the positive to take away from this one is that they had a chance to win the game in the end. He said that Detroit is a good team because they’ve been together a long time and that his team needs to not get down 16 points before they decide to come back and try to get the win.
The rest of the Raptors are taking their sweet time in the showers so I head over to the Pistons locker room to see what’s up there.
In the Detroit locker room Stuckey is talking about the good start the Pistons had in the third quarter before allowing the Raptors to go on a run. He said they were a bit shorthanded without Allen but “MC” has put them in this position and prepared them to be ready to step up when needed. They are excited to have AI on their team and they will be fine as long as they keep on doing what they are doing, playing good team defense and continuing to push the ball on offense.
I look around for Sheed to ask those political questions but he’s not out yet. Something told me to go into the hallway and as I did, I see a PR guy directing Iverson to the team bus. Sneaky PR guys, they manage to slip him out while the rest of the media are getting their postgame quotes from guys, but I go over to say what’s up and introduce myself. Despite the fact that he is not going to be allowed to do an interview, he stops and shakes my hand, smiles when I drop the SLAM name and asks how I’m doing. I keep it short and just say that I’m wishing him health and all of the best this season and I will catch them the next time the Pistons are in town. He smiles that Iverson smile that we have all grown to love as we’ve grown up on him and he takes his absolutely not 6-foot self to the bus.
That was a bit of a cool moment for me. My first Iverson experience. Kobe. Ivy. KG. Those are the boys who mean the most because my love of the game has grown through the duration of their careers. Growing up on SLAM and crushing over the one and only Scoop Jackson, I was also brought up on Allen Iverson. Having the opportunity to wish him well this season, as insignificant as it was for him, hearing it daily I’m sure, it made me feel a little more complete. One short year ago, I was praying that I’d get to see all of my favorites before the decline began. Now, I am actually doing it.
Seeing Ivy in person and realizing that he is at best, 25 pounds heavier than I am, only makes my respect for him grow as it hits me, he truly was destined to play this game and that is a gift for us all.