Pistons-Magic Preview

By Ryan Jones

Hi. I’m Ryan, and I’ll be your guide to the first-round NBA Eastern Conference Playoff series between the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic. Please, have a seat.

Two pressing orders of business before we get to the Pistons’ pending five-game victory. First, I assume some of you saw these diary posts from Class of 2007 prep standout P*trick P*tterson. The diaries themselves aren’t really noteworthy, but the comments — in a very specifically sad, f*cked-up way — are.

Like most of what I and others write on slamonline, this post is intended for a certain kind of reader: rabid, knowledgeable basketball fans with a sense of humor and, just as important, a sense of perspective. We all have our rooting interests and regional biases, and a general age range that (I’d guess) runs from about 12 to 50 means that perspective and knowledge can vary pretty greatly. We all say some stupid sh*t from time to time, and a lot of us disagree with each other on a regular basis. But what I like about being a part of this dot-com foolishness is that, for the most part, the majority of people who regularly contribute to slamonline, whether as bloggers or commenters (or, um, both), don’t come off like idiots. This is the extended SLAM-fam that I’m proud to claim as my own.

Sadly, though entertainingly, there are exceptions.

I watched amazed over the past few days as people who’ve clearly NEVER posted on this site before, and probably had never even seen it, started posting all over P*trick’s diary. I assume they found out through somebody’s Google alert (hence the semi-serious asterisk in every mention of his name here), or maybe one of them pasting the link on one of those your-school-name-here message boards was sufficient to spread the word. Regardless, it was remarkable to watch the posts increase suddenly, every 30 or 60 minutes, by clumps of 10 or 20 comments at a time, which pretty clearly implied first-time posters waiting to get their initial comments OK’d. Taken one short step further, it pretty clearly implied a group of similarly facile thinkers who travelled to slamonline en masse for the sole purpose of trying to convince an 18-year-old kid they’ve never met and probably (hopefully) never will that they know what a wonderful person he is and that, honest to goodness, their school is so much better than all the other schools he could be affiliated with between September 2007 and April 2008.

If you’ve seen my comments on those pages, my feelings on these people and the absurdity of their existence should be pretty clear.

I’m writing this, here and now, under the assumption that mostly only regular slamonline readers will read it, and get it. I feel sort of dirty, like the Lou Dobbs of basketball writers, railing against these unwanted immigrant hoop commenters; the difference, thankfully, is that unlike the people sneaking over the borders, these clowns aren’t actually doing any work that needs to be done.

Just thought you should know…

And the other thing: As I write this, it’s not official, but it seems the talented Mr. Oden is doing the unthinkable and declaring for the 2007 NBA Draft. This, you may remember, conflicts with my predictions for Greg’s immediate future. Here, then, are three possible Ryan Jones responses to this apparently pending announcement.

1) You could say I was “wrong” when I said Greg Oden would definitely not be in the 2007 NBA Draft, but I like to think of it as being “less-right.”

2) Yo, you guys got PUNK’D! I can’t believe you thought I was serious! I, uh…

3) F*ck you, Oden.

Anyway, here’s the deal: I thought Oden would stay for another year because a) he’s kind of a different kid, and one who seemed like he’d enjoy just being a college student more than most big-time athletes; b) I figured his hand injury would slow his game down enough that we wouldn’t see him at 100 percent (especially on offense) for most, if not all, of his freshman season; and c) I didn’t think a freshman-dominated OSU team would go deep enough in the Tourney to leave him feeling like he’d done all he could do in college.

And the verdict: a) Clearly, he enjoyed being a “student-athlete,” but since OSU doesn’t actually make its athletes go to class, there’s no part of that experience he can’t replicate in the NBA; b) as we all know, the hand injury actually made Oden better, forcing him to develop his off hand and proving his work ethic in the process. Basketball-wise, other than being seven feet tall, it might be the best thing that could’ve happened to him; and c) I didn’t give nearly enough credit to the fact that unlike, say, the Michigan Fab Five, this OSU squad had a couple of really good upperclassmen who contributed a lot to their run. As it is, they got just as far as the Wolverines did, but without cats like Harris, Lewis and Butler, I still don’t think they get out of the second round.

As it is, making it to the national title game appears to have been enough for Greg, and I’m not mad. He never should’ve had to go to college in the first place. Can’t wait to see him in Memphis next season.

Alright then… Pistons-Magic. Because I’ve already rambled on about a lot of other stuff, and because I don’t have real high expecations for this series, I’m tempted to just plagiarize the entire series preview on nba.com. But that would be wrong, so instead, I’ll just steal their opening paragraph:

“The No.1 seeded Pistons started off the season 3-5 while the No. 8 seeded Magic started off 13-4. It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish.”

Yes. Thanks. That’ll be all.

For those of you who, for reasons unknown to me, would like a bit more, here are my Five Key Bullet-Point X-Factors Matchups To Watch:

1) Head-to-Head: The Pistons swept the Magic 4-0 this year. Three of those games were relatively close, and one—in Detroit about in late February—was a blowout. That overall record, and the fact that three of those games were played in the past two months, when the teams were theoretically settling into playoff mode, would seem not to bode well for Orlando.

2) Key Players: This Dwight Howard kid looks pretty good—17.6 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 60 percent from the field, and he was actually a little bit above those terrific season averages against Detroit this year. Problem is, they didn’t actually win any of those games. Chauncey Billups, meanwhile, averaged 17 ppg and 7 apg for the season, but he dropped 26 per on the Magic this year. Me thinks he enjoys being guarded by short people.

3) Coaches: I’m not a Flip Saunders fan, per say, but unlike a lot of people, I’m also not convinced the guy can’t coach; as a rule, I save my Foolish Statements of Certainty for predicting when dominant college freshmen will or wil not declare for the Draft and leave the ones pertaining to coaching inability to Lang. Personally, I think this Pistons team is pretty much a self-motivator, which can be good and bad; I certainly don’t think anything Flip Saunders does with X’s & O’s will determine the outcome of this series. As for Brian Hill, well, I’ve always thought he had cool hair, plus I like coaches who went to colleges I’ve never heard of. Other than that, I’ll call this one a wash.

4) X-Factors: Based on their head-to-head stats this season, and without even making a cheap size joke, Jameer Nelson is worth one-half of Chauncey Billups. There’s nothing to imply that’ll change in the postseason, and the Magic will need to find a way to make up for that if they want to avoid a sweep. Can Grant Hill and Hedo Turkoglu outscore Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince? Most likely not. And that leaves… DARKO! Yes, finally justice will be served, and Darko Milicic will make the Pistons pay dearly for their cold mistreatment… wait, sorry. He averaged about 6 points and 5 boards when they played each other this year. Never mind.

5) Intangibles: You know what? Intangibles are stupid. The Pistons have better players and more experience and sufficient motivation that this series really shouldn’t go more than four. But, first-round playoff series being what they are, and the Pistons being prone to spells of not giving much of a sh*t, I’ll give Orlando a home win, just to be nice. If you’re the sort of person who tries to watch every game of every series, god bless you. I am not, and I’m only gonna watch this series because I have to. Yay.