Single page view By Scoop Jackson
Page 2

Ever look in the mirror and see something that looks nothing like you? The identical simulacrum is not a clone, a replica or even an alter ego. Nothing about the image represents anything that you resemble. Yet without question, the reflection that is staring back at you, eyeing your eyes, is you.

Here's the script: They are one. The Pistons, the Spurs. The Champs vs. the ex-Champs. One in the same. Like Mary Kate and Ashley, and not even their physician could tell them apart. Both teams on a two-year course to find each other, to meet at this point.

Now, on the eve of what has been 730 days in the making, the two best teams in basketball are about to decide: Which one of them is being lied to by the mirror on the wall?

*****

The history here is eerie, once studied. It makes the series we are about to witness bigger than just two more weeks of basketball.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was Pistons coach Larry Brown's best man at his wedding. Once, as a favor to his friend, Brown scheduled his Kansas team to play Popovich's D-III Pomona-Pitzer squad, and agreed to speak to Pop's team before the game – only to wish them luck and tell them they were about to "get their [butts] kicked." And Dean Smith had them both at UNC (at different times).

Still, Pop, who's been Larry's greatest understudy, got his second ring before Brown got his first.

Rasheed Wallace and Tim Duncan began their battles years ago in the ACC – 'Sheed a Heel, Duncan a Deacon (seems fitting, right?). In '97, it was called the Calm vs. the Storm. In 2005, the same dub. Like their teams, they are opposites, but so much the same, too. Both dominate. In different ways, but still the same.

They've been the bookend definitions of the range of greatness at the four spot. Tim at one end, 'Sheed at the other. Both have held the pound-for-pound title; both hold it now. In between, there has been Garnett, Webber, Nowitzki, J. O'Neal.

Now they face each other for something larger than an ACC tournament title.

In 2003, two players from different sides of the world would join each team and change them beyond their GM's beliefs. One came from Kentucky, the other from Argentina. A performance in the 2002 World Championships made one team believe (even though that team had acquired his draft rights three years prior); a 41-point performance in the NCAA tournament that same year made the other team believe.

They'd come to each team as role players off the bench, making their impacts in different, often unusual, and spectacular ways. Each year, their scoring averages have gone up. So have other stats – rebounding, assists, steals, playing time – as well as their importance. Each playoff game, their reps got larger. They played together on last year's sophomore squad during the All-Star weekend festivities.

Now, it is specifically because of Manu and Tayshaun that the Spurs and the Pistons are here.

Then there's Big Shot Bob against Mr. Big Shot.

Speaking of Robert Horry, he and Lindsey Hunter are the most important bench players in this series. They both bear the responsibility to lift their teams with the intangibles that no one in the starting five can provide. Their link? They won rings together. Laker days. Now they meet each other here.

Continued...


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