- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2006

The demise of the previously bickering Pistons remains in the control of Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and possibly the three referees.

The elimination of the Pistons cannot come soon enough.

The Pistons are so full of themselves that their likability quotient is nearing empty.

They have been obligated to play the game on the court instead of in their heads of conceit.

Their conceit is counterproductive, built as it is on the goings-on of the regular season.

They still have life, just not the kind of life a championship-seeking team usually wants.

O’Neal succumbing to early foul trouble in Game 5 was a clear indication that the series was destined to shift to the environs of the Gilbert Arenas arrest.

Ben Wallace has taken to flopping around O’Neal more than Vlade Divac, which is a sign to the referees to be kind to him.

Their kindness was apparent long before Wallace rejected a shot attempt of O’Neal, which has generated an exaggerated amount of significance for what amounts to a two-point attempt.

The potpourri assembled by Pat Riley is mostly a support-hose one, which perhaps explains the sympathy leggings of Wade. Aging teams rarely play with the energy and force so necessary on the road in the playoffs.

Riley’s group has shown itself to be the stronger team partly because the Pistons have shown themselves to be the finger-pointing one.

The Pistons already have placed the blame on coach Flip Saunders, although he is not the one who has been missing shots, committing unforced turnovers and passing along delusional thoughts.

If the Pistons go down tonight, it will be well-deserved.

That would prompt a goodbye, along with a good riddance.

No team should find a reward after throwing its beleaguered coach under the bus, especially the coach who succeeded the one who abandoned it for the 23-win dream job in Manhattan.

Saunders already was the object of second-guessing before the ever-flopping Wallace questioned the coach’s emphasis on offense instead of defense.

Wallace never has been partial to the offensive end of the floor because of a pronounced lack of skill. An emphasis there is a de-emphasis of him, in effect.

Wallace should be grateful he has been able to forge an All-Star career because of the complementary parts around him.

He would be a ball and chain on those teams that could not afford to assimilate someone so inept on offense, and that does not begin to characterize his stupefying journeys to the free throw line.

Whenever he is sent there, he becomes a danger to his team, the rim and the heart-bypass supporters of the Pistons.

Wallace is looking for a fat pay-day this summer, and he is liable to land it, regardless of a birth certificate that reveals a 32nd birthday in September.

Joe Dumars would be wise to let another suitor be the chump, as the shelf life of these Pistons nears its expiration date.

The Pistons lack the sustained energy that carried them the last two seasons, which is not surprising. It happens to even the best championship teams, and the Pistons are not among that group.

Tayshaun Prince, the alien-like performer with the praying mantis appendages, has been the leading player of the Pistons in the playoffs. It just so happens he is the youngest starter with the freshest legs.

The Pistons are not nearly as old as the Heat, but old enough to show their leg weariness on the road.

That weariness was evident before the Cavaliers extended the Pistons to seven games. The Bucks, a marginal No. 8 seed, defeated the Pistons 124-104 in Game 3 of their first-round series.

The Pistons are a resilient bunch, no doubt.

That has been one of their most impressive qualities the last three seasons.

But now they have tempered it with the setting of their coach as the fall guy.

That is the easy way out.

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