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June 1, 2005

NBA Conference Finals dimmed by a Brown out

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
Even though the Detroit Pistons won last night to even their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Miami Heat at 2-2, the man standing in a $1,500 suit coaching them has become a bigger distraction than anybody wearing red on the court. Larry Brown somehow decided that now, in the middle of the playoffs, is the right time to meet with the Cleveland Cavaliers about their vacant General Manager position.

Sure, Brown can't leave until the Pistons are eliminated (more likely) or win the NBA Title (less likely since Brown met with the Cavs). But the fact that the Pistons are run by a disloyal coach is classless on Brown's part.

I'm not saying that Detroit should fire Brown, because the one scenario worse than Brown meeting with the Cavs now is having Gar Heard coach the team. But I am saying that maybe NBA commissioner David Stern should look into a breach of contract on the part of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brown. Or at a bare minimum, make it so other teams can't approach active coaches about jobs until their season is over.

Brown's lucky that the Pistons players are some of the headiest, classiest and most devoted players in the league, because half of the NBA would have quit on Brown by now. That he would even get on that plane to Ohio should send a message that Brown, no matter how good a coach he is, is not loyal and not faithful to his employer.

It's not even that he's trying to leave two years into a five-year deal, or that he came to Detroit halfway through a contract in Philadelphia, but that he's entertaining jobs while his current club is fighting for their playoff lives. That's disgusting on Brown's part.

Never mind the fact that Brown's going to probably fail as the Cavaliers GM. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has owned that club for three months, but he already managed to fire a winning coach (Paul Silas), a solid GM (John Paxson), and torpedo a season that saw a playoff-bound club in February lose nine of ten and miss the playoffs by a tiebreaker.

And I'm not even mentioning the fact that Gilbert hired one of the best coaches in the NBA, and directed him not to coach. Brown has never been a GM alone; when he was team president in Philly, he also drew up the X's and O's on the sideline. He's famously fickle, not just with his own job, but with players, lacking almost any semblance of patience, the key ingredient for a levelheaded NBA front-office man.

Sure, Larry Brown's presence might allow the Cavs to keep LeBron James. But with all these moves that Gilbert has made to seemingly appease LeBron, he's essentially given a 22-year-old control of the franchise, and made him feel more important than he actually is.

We'll know how Larry Brown the GM will look in about a week's time, because the Heat are going to win the Eastern Finals. If they don't win Game Six, they'll knock out Detroit back on South Beach in Game Seven.

The Heat took advantage of the distraction by stunning the Pistons at Auburn Hills in game three. As they head back to Miami for tomorrow's Game Five, I expect Shaq, who is getting progressively closer to full strength, to dominate at home. Game Six in Detroit is a toss-up, but there's all the reason in the world to expect that Miami, with home court advantage, will win two of these next three games.

With Shaq down low and Wade playing outrageously well, especially at home, the Eastern finals are Miami's to lose, not Detroit's to win. Larry Brown's wandering eyes have caused the Pistons to surrender that luxury.

Out west, the Phoenix Suns have a chance, with a win tonight, to put some pressure on the San Antonio Spurs in their Western Conference Finals. Even though Phoenix is down 3-1, and no team in NBA history has ever rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to win, the Suns can shift all the pressure back onto San Antonio if they win tonight.

And with the game in Phoenix and a healthy Joe Johnson, I think they will.

First, let me say that Amare Stoudemire's block of Tim Duncan's dunk was easily the play of the postseason. Not only was it a block, but also it was off a dunk attempt. Add the fact that the play saved Phoenix's season and was on the best forward in the NBA, and you have an incredible play by an incredibly talented young athlete.

On the next play, Stoudemire dove out of bounds to get an offensive rebound that sealed the Suns win. Just amazing.

Now I don't think that Phoenix will win this series. But if they do in fact pull out a win at home tonight, then they have a shot. Fact is, had Joe Johnson been healthy for the first two games in Phoenix, they probably win one of those games and this series is all even.

In a series that is even game-to-game, home court and Johnson are the difference-makers for me. I think Phoenix wins tonight, and then loses at San Antonio to close down a wonderful season for them, as the NBA cringes at the thought of yet another low-rated Spurs team in the Finals.

And if the Suns do lose one of the next three games, at least they have a loyal coach in Mike D'Antoni. Imagine if someone without a history like Brown say, his counterpart on the Miami bench, Stan Van Gundy compromised his team's season so he could take a GM job in Memphis. He'd be fired before he could even get the chance to bail on his signed contract.

Larry Brown might not incur any wrath from flirting with Cleveland, but it's a sad way for him to end his short run in Detroit. World Championship or not.

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  • ? on June 3, 2005 at 1:02 PM
    im sorry, pistons should be on there knees begging brown to stay in detroit, brown dont owe the pistons anything he could go visit the cavs during a game and they shouldnt care, brown is the best coach in the league, and without him they would have been mediocre last year and mediocre this year as well. He single handedly found aa way to beat the lakers when everybody was saying it would be a sweep, he not only outcoached supposedly the best coach in the nba (phil jackson), he embarresed them. Larry brown can do whatever he wants and the pistons shouldnt and most likely wont do a thing cause they know there nothing without him
  • NBA fan on June 6, 2005 at 4:16 AM
    include stuff about the western conference finals in another story, else don't focus your title just on the pistons and the east
    with that aside, I do agree on the magnificence of Amare's block. kinda like prince's block on reggie's would be game tying layup. EXCEPT instead of Amare saving the game, the season, the embarrassment of being swept, it was just an incredible block, because the circumstance of the play was that phoenix was up by 3 (109-106) so that would've closed the gap, but it ultimately would not have had an immediate impact on the outcome of the game
    also, in response to ?, true, Larry Brown is an amazing coach, one of the best, but without Brown, the Pistons, under Carlisle, won 50 games and a central division title two years back. the reason they aren't just mediocre is not all because of Brown's coaching, but also the cohesion and chemistry between the players, especially the starting 5. Brown isn't the only reason the Pistons embarrassed the Lakers, you have to factor in Prince's defense on Kobe, Karl Malone being injured, Gary Payton not integrated into the Triangle offense that Phil Jackson runs, Joe Dumars for assembling this tight-nit squad through good decision making and personnel moves. With their squad now, Larry Brown isn't as vital as he used to be, their cohesion and chemistry, coupled with another quality coach such as Flip Saunders, can produce similar performances.
  • Steven Melnick, Esquire (View Email) on August 4, 2005 at 11:47 PM
    I think the greater good interests of the "NBA" came into play on this Brown deal. Hey, Dumars is an ex-Piston player (one of the baddest of the bad boys) and Isiah,now GM for New York Knicks (the most talented of the bad boys) are still setting up plays for one another, despite operating on different planes of the NBA. I contend that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when you deal with Mr. David Stern. Larry had to go to New York, the same reason why Phil had to go back to the Lakers:because the greater good of the NBA is better served this way.
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