MICHAEL ROSENBERGTwin titles? Pistons, Wings are pulling for each other in quest to make history
BY MICHAEL ROSENBERG • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • May 22, 2008
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Last spring, shortly before a Red Wings playoff game, general manager Ken Holland took a few minutes to talk to a special guest: Joe Dumars, president of the Pistons.
"I remember the conversation we had," Holland said Wednesday. "We talked about how hard it is to win in both sports, and how it's a fine line between winning and losing. We were only together for 15 minutes, but I wanted to congratulate him on what an incredible program he has put together.
"Sometimes the Pistons have made it look easy. It's hard to win."
We forget that around here sometimes. There are two ways to distinguish springtime in Michigan. One is that it arrives a month later than pretty much everywhere else. The other is that the Red Wings are occupying one half of Michigan's brain and the Pistons are planted in the other half.
But it is hard. How hard? This hard: The NBA and NHL have held championships in the same year 60 times, and no city has captured both at once. A few have come close: In 1994, the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup and the Knicks went to Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and in 1992 the Chicago Bulls won the NBA title and the Blackhawks were swept in the Cup finals.
But nobody has done it.
Now Detroit has its chance at history. There is never a bad time to win a championship, but this would be an especially good time. The economy is down, unemployment is up, and apparently the mayor is having some sort of problem, too.
If the Wings and Pistons both win, how about a dual parade? Forget it. Nobody would talk on the record about a parade; that's like reserving a chapel before you pop the question. But the Wings are one round ahead of the Pistons, and if they win the Stanley Cup, they won't wait two weeks for a victory parade.
Still, the bond among athletes in this town is obvious. Chauncey Billups often wears a Tigers hat as he walks off the Pistons' bus. The Pistons reserve several seats behind the visitors' bench at the Palace for visiting celebrities, and the Tigers and Red Wings are often among them. The Pistons' Jarvis Hayes and Jason Maxiell attended the Wings' game against Dallas last Saturday. Dumars often goes to Ford Field in the fall to cheer on the Lions.
"I honestly think we all pull for each other's success," Dumars wrote in an e-mail.
Pistons guard Lindsey Hunter said his kids had been "begging me" to take them to a Red Wings game. He said he was pulling for the Wings.
"When you have another team in your city and you know the struggles, how hard it is to get there, you automatically pull for them," Hunter said. "It's not even a question, and you're glad to see those guys do well because it's great for our city."
Tuesday night, Holland started watching the Tigers' game on television at 7, then switched over to the Pistons at 9.
"You go to work and people are talking about it," Holland said. "You move into Detroit, you become a part of the community. Everybody else is watching the Pistons. We're going to watch the Pistons."
Holland said he and Dumars didn't really pick each other's brains much. There is no need, anyway. Their brains are remarkably alike.
Holland and Dumars are masters at finding players other teams don't want. Wings stars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were late-round draft picks, and all five Pistons starters were overlooked before Dumars found them.
Holland and Dumars are willing to make tough decisions. Dumars fired successful coach Rick Carlisle partly because he thought the Pistons needed a different voice; Holland did the same with Dave Lewis.
Holland and Dumars have resisted calls to dismantle their teams after playoff disappointments.
"I read the papers when the Pistons lose and the feeling is 'break it up,' " Holland said. "There is a lot further to fall than there is to go up."
Holland was told to break up his team in 2001. He retooled instead, won the championship the next year and now has the Wings in the Stanley Cup finals for the fifth time since 1995.
Dumars' team supposedly was finished when Ben Wallace left two summers ago, and again after it lost to Cleveland last season. Now the Pistons are in their sixth straight Eastern Conference finals, easily the longest current streak in the NBA.
With a little luck and a lot of greatness, the Pistons and Wings can make June the best month ever for a North American sports town.
This is a tough time to live in the state of Michigan.
Except on spring nights, when there is no place else you would rather be.
Contact MICHAEL ROSENBERG at 313-222-6052 or firstname.lastname@example.org
. Staff writers Chris Silva and Ben Schmitt contributed to this report.http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? ... /805220428