The Pistons are just not the same anymore. Granted, it has been 5 years since their Championship (over the Lakers, natch) and a lot can change in that frame of time. But the Pistons were nothing if not a model of consistency from 2004 to 2008. Dumars wasn't happy with the Atlanta Braves of basketball (come to think of it, that analogy is outdated as well) so he promised change. There would be no "sacred cows."
It took till a few weeks into the season to get it done, but change indeed arrived in Detroit. Allen Iverson is now an Eastern All Star and the primary reason why Ray Allen isn't. Ben Wallace has been gone for a couple seasons. Instead of Flip Saunders, they now have Michael Curry roaming the sidelines. Rasheed Wallace is still there, but he's not nearly the player he used to be. And of course the biggest change is in the win-loss column. They are only 25 - 19 (currently tied for the 5th seed).
Now it sounds like Rip is questionable for tonight's game. So it would seem that this is a very winnable game. But don't count them out just yet. Iverson isn't what he used to be, but he's still a scoring machine. Tayshaun is as good as ever and always a defensive annoyance to Paul Pierce. And Rodney Stuckey is one of the game's up and commers. (Pistons fans are still excited about the potential of Amir and Maxiell, but in what little I've seen of them I remain unimpressed.)
The respect is still there too.
You definitely are going to have a lot of respect for the Pistons," Paul Pierce said yesterday. "They have All-Stars all across the board when they put a lineup out there. Even though they haven't been playing as consistent as [in the past], you still got to look at them as a threat because on any given night when you have guys like Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Allen Iverson, they can be hell."
Said Ray Allen, "Detroit, we've always had tough battles against them. They get up playing against us. We're going to have a battle."
But ultimately this is a winnable game for the Celtics. I think we'll see a solid game from Ray Allen, espeically if he doesn't have to chace Rip around all night. I'm not sure if he is the kind of guy that takes All Star snubs too personally, but I wouldn't put it past the Celtics to set him up for a few extra open looks.
Should be a fun game but it won't be like old times. And honestly, that's ok with me.