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|When Rasheed Wallace is on his game, the Pistons are an extremely tough out.|
|Larry Brown gets more hype, but Pop might have the edge.|
|Will Duncan and Parker hang back, or will they take it right at Detroit?|
I'm not talking about a one-shot, Dave-Roberts-steals-second, Keith-Smart-sinks-Cuse sort of thing, either. I'm talking about Schilling in Game 6, or MJ with the flu in Game 5 of '97. And my hunch is that it's either going to be Tony Parker or Rip Hamilton who pulls it off. Jackson: Is Ms. Cleo sitting next to you with her crystal meth, I mean, ball? You tryna put someone in the Big Game James file? If anyone, I think it may be Rip. He's due. I just had someone the other day come up to me and comment on how they didn't know how nice Rip was. If anyone elevates, it'll be him.
But again. Ben can't be BS'n. That six-rebounds-a-game deal gotta cease. People talk about 'Sheed and Rip, but Body is the only All-Star on that squad last time I checked. And if he goes vapors on Tim it'll be the quickest six games you'll ever see in yer life. Neel: You're right about Ben (my daughter's favorite Piston ... she likes saying, "Big Ben is grabbing it, Daddy!"), and he's going to have his hands F-U-L-L with the Nazr/Duncan situation, can I just say ...
|Rip won a ring last year. This year, could he be headed for immortality?|
Jackson: I also think that Detroit's willingness to walk the ball up the court will take away the Spurs' strongest suit: Transition defense. Not to get "coachy" on you, but those three things could be the difference in the series. Neel: You sound like you're headed for a prediction of the series winner, here, Champ ...
Jackson: I was itchin' a bit, but I think I've talked my way into a prediction. But before I settle, isn't it funny how neither of us mentioned Glenn Robinson's name once? Has he dropped like that, or is he primed to be a factor in the next 10 days? Neel: I had some feeling for Big Dog before the Seattle series, but he never surfaced, unless you count the occasional (huh?) defensive stop. He's a mystery to me. Can he no longer shoot? If he can shoot, shouldn't he be a factor in a series that stands to be a whole lot slower than the one the Spurs played against Phoenix? He does, right? So can he still shoot or is it gone? Is this something you just lose one morning, the way DeNiro apparently lost his good judgment the morning he agreed to "Analyze That"? I don't know, but if I had to guess, I'd say he can still shoot. And if that's true, like John Daly, Pop ought to, just once, just to see what would happen, sit back and let the Big Dog eat. Jackson: But here's the real reason my gut is telling me San An will win it this year. Because next year they're going to have to play Miami in the Finals. And next year, the Heat isn't losing to anyone. East or West. Shaq's going to get his before his contract is done. Neel: I have a Shaq devolution theory I'm working up; it involves a not-so-favorable comparison between him and Arvydas. But I'm going to save that for another time. Except to say this: Mix in a pass, big boy. Now, about that call of yours? Jackson: Damn. I knew you were going to reel that predict back in: All right, I'm (reluctantly) taking Detroit in seven. But understand this ... I believe San Antonio is the best team in the NBA and my gut (abdomen, ribs, lower extremities, etc.) feels SA winning this thing easy. Like I said, in the last month they've proven to me that I should never pull/bet against them. But I said at the beginning of the season the DP were going to double-up. So I'll stick with my original selection. Too late to be a punk now and flip, right? Neel: Right. Now, given my Spurs pick earlier (like last July), what's the bet? Jackson: The loser has to tell his wife about his Eva fantasy. Scoop Jackson is an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. He is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines; and the author of "Sole Provider: 30 Years of NIKE Basketball," "Battlegrounds: America's Street Poets Called Ballers" and "LeBron James: the Chambers of Fear." He resides in Chicago with his wife and two kids. You can e-mail Scoop here. Eric Neel is a columnist for Page 2.