When the Pistons were steamrolling through the Eastern Conference at the beginning of this year, I got sucked in. The fact is, I like a lot of players who run for Detroit. Rasheed, for sheer entertainment value, is off the charts. Chauncey is clutch and has an infectious swagger. Rip Hamilton plays harder than anyone in the league. Tayshaun can do it all. This is NBA canon. The Pistons have the best combination of starters in the league. But when my friend asked me in March what weaknesses the Detroit had, my answer was automatic: "Flip Saunders is their coach."
It's frustrating being a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. And sure, we just had a terrible, awful waste of a season. We're pissing away good seasons from one of the best combo forwards in the history of the game. Our GM is such a laughingstock that Forbes was exposed as inept by declaring him the best. I get so angry when I think about my favorite team that I'm tempted to punch a baby. But, it feels great knowing Flip isn't steering the ship anymore.
This is not meant to be a painful ode to my misery as a Timberwolves devotee. There are plenty of franchises that have suffered. Forgive me for being spiteful, but I'm glad that someone else is suffering Flip's shtick. He's tempting! He'll string a lot of wins together. He'll manage big egos surprisingly well. He can recognize talent. But when you really need him to keep it together, he goes retarded. The 2004 trip to the Conference Finals was one of the more torturous experiences of my life. That series was completely in Minnesota's grasp, but Flip whittled it down to nothing. We could have been the giant killers who offed the Lakers, but he just couldn't pull the trigger.
So when I watch the Pistons waste time being distracted by Chicago when the sweep was theirs, I'm not surprised. That's what Flip is about. The interesting subplot is Chris Webber, um, uh, being Chris Webber: blowing opportunities to play well in meaningful situations. That's kind of a rant within itself, but, wow, is he ever going to deliver when it counts? How fitting that he'd be led by Flip. Prove me wrong, Pistons. Prove me wrong.