Heart and Soul

Friday, June 24, 2005

Larry Brown

This is Larry Brown in the good old days, when he used to wear colours. These days, Brown looks positively professorial. A lot of things have changed since the 70s. But one thing's for sure: Brown is still one of the greatest coaches alive.

I'm saying this with a slight melancholy because tonight the Detroit Pistons lost their Game 7 against the Spurs. It was a really tough series, a classic series, pitting two of the strongest defensive teams against each other. There was some fierce shot blocking, big body hits, steals, slap aways, and the usually quick breakaway moves by the Spurs were completely stymied by a street-ball playing Pistons.

Technically, the matchup was clearly in the Spurs favour, but when you got a coach like Larry Brown, you play with Heart. Where does Heart come from and how do train your kids to play that way? Heart comes from passion... it is the essential romantic core of sports. It's the pure drive to compete, to pull something from your body that seems to defy the laws of physics, pure animal drive mixed with keen human intelligence in that split second. Miracles are made on the court from heart. It's the reason I love sports and it's the reason I love the Pistons.

Yup, you heard me right... I love them Pistons. How can't you? They look like they just ran up from the street tough as nails, ready to rumble. And, it is Detroit, the Motor City, birthplace to the White Stripes, factory lines, and the donut city. It's the classiest blue-collar workplace to come from. Hockey fans throw octopuses on the ice. I love the Red Wings, and while Bad Boys from Motown which were the Pistons in the 80s didn't always rub me right, they earned from me a certain amount of grudging respect.

Well kids, the Bad Boys were back this season. Big Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace gave a lot of body in their game. Big Ben especially, so strong, so physical. His incredibly high wideset cheekbones setting off a fine protruding chin, he of the royal fro, he of the insane blunts, Big Ben is still your man on the court. Leader in offensive and defensive rebounding on the Pistons, this man steals and slaps away balls with such regularity you'd start thinking it was normal to see that in basketball. Chauncey, so cocky and wicked, crazy finger rolls, and one of the toughest point guards, was their pressure cooker man. Give him the ball in the 4th quarter where he lights up the town. Rasheed, brooding, passionate, physical... you can get him on 5 fouls in the 4th quarter and he's still doing pressure defence on one end while killing 3 point shots on the other. Tayshun Prince, Richard Hamilton (ye ole faceguard man) were pretty amazing players too, but they're pretty players. Not out for setting the body in but looking for a quicky field goal, and a pretty play.

But even they weren't enough to stop Obi Wan Ginobili, the killer from Argentina. That guy is so flash fast he rips in for a dunk down the lane where there's still two defenders. So many times he would do this tiny dribble, rock forwards, and suddenly rock back and pull up for the shot. He has moves, and he's got a nose. Yes, I'm down with the nose. Together with Tim Duncan, Robert Horry and Tony Parker, the Spurs had their talent giving in full swing tonight, and it showed... on the scoreboard, where it counts.

And what's with Horry? Dude just won his 6th NBA Championship! Think about it... Karl Malone, John Stockton, Reggie Miller... all sitting at home without ever touching the bald gold, while Horry is grinning merrily on his 6th Championship. Why? Because when you can shoot 48% on 3 pointers in NBA Finals you are the real Mailman. Being lucky is also useful.

So while Detroit is all heart, San Antonio is all soul. I felt that just in the opening minutes, with the call in. Detroit was doing shoulder bumps, and careening off and around like rappers, the bad boys... while San Antonio was just walked in all quiet intense and concentrated, knocking knuckles. I mean, I'm all down with the heart and the toughness, but there was something very sweetly impressive with Duncan's slightly scared elephant face as he knocked knuckles.

I think the only player I don't like, ironically enough, is frenchie Tony Parker. He didn't light up the house tonight, and he never makes me scream HOLY F*CKIN' CRAP! MVP! at my screen, not like Ginobili does. At the end of the game, his last line to the camera was "Salut à tout la France... Nigga!" Yuck. And he's so happy nice boy bland he makes me think of margarine. Double yuck upchuck. Ok, les français, I know he puts France on the map in b-ball, but somebody dirty him up a little. At least iron in a crease for good luck...

Ok... I'm drifting... I'll just say this: