O'Hara: Bad Boys wound rubbed raw
A sore spot about the Pistons’ Bad Boys and how they ruled the NBA more than two decades ago has been rubbed raw -- again –- by what any logical mind would consider an unintentional jab.
Call the reaction emotional, irrational, territorial, infantile –- call it anything you want.
But once again, an old wound aches a little for the way history has treated the Pistons.
On Tuesday, Pat Riley was announced as the winner of the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award.
Previously, Jason Kidd won the Joe Dumars Trophy as winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award for the 2011-12 season.
Two awards for exemplary service and good conduct and named for two men who were pillars in the Pistons’ three straight NBA Finals appearances and back-to-back championships in 1989-90.
They were good guys on a Bad Boys team that continues to get grudging respect, at best, for what it accomplished. And yes, they played tough, hard basketball, defending every inch of the court.
Daly, who died in 2009, coached the Pistons during their championship runs. Dumars was the counterpart to Isiah Thomas in a tandem of Hall of Fame guards. Dumars was '89 Finals MVP, leading the Pistons to their first-ever championship in Detroit.
Daly was selected to coach the Dream Team of NBA stars that won the gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
They don’t pick Bad Boys, or bad coaches, for a job whose chief requirement is to direct and massage some of the biggest egos in sports history.
Still, we mostly hear how the Pistons somehow sullied the NBA’s image in their period of domination.
The old feelings surfaced like a summer heat rash a week ago in the celebration of the 20-year anniversary of the Dream Team.
With the gold came the shame of Thomas, the Pistons’ captain and one of the greatest guards in NBA history, being left off the team because of petty politics and personality clashes, led by Michael Jordan of the Bulls.
Scottie Pippen, a second banana to Jordan on the Bulls teams that won six NBA championships, seemed almost gleeful when he recounted in interviews how he, Jordan and other NBA players didn’t want Thomas on the team.
In basketball terms, I’d call that a blocking foul – and a step below flopping.
None of that really has anything to do with the awards for Riley and Kidd.
Riley is a deserving winner of the Daly Award. As coach of the Lakers, Riley brought Showtime to the nation’s living rooms along with a Three-peat championship.
He also guided the Knicks to one Finals appearance, won a championship with the Heat, and is the architect of the current Heat team as president and part owner of the franchise.
Kidd, one of the finest point guards in history, finally got his championship ring with the Mavericks in 2011.
No award ever has been named for Pippen -- unless it’s the Exit sign in NBA arenas for the way he bowed out at a crucial point of a game against the Knicks in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 1994.
Jordan was in the first year of his first retirement, and Pippen hoped to earn his own star status. The Bulls were down 2-0 to the Knicks, and the score was tied with 1.8 seconds left in Game 3.
Coach Phil Jackson designed a play for Tony Kukoc instead of Pippen. Pippen was so upset that he refused to go back into the game and sulked on the bench -- and watched Kukoc sink the game-winner.
When the Bulls finally had surpassed the Pistons to begin their championship run, winning six titles – all with Jordan – his Airness gave his view on what dethroning the Pistons meant to the world of basketball.
“I think we play clean basketball,” Jordan said in an interview two decades ago. “We don`t go out and try to hurt people and dirty up the game.”
Jordan’s stature as a player – perhaps the greatest ever – is unquestioned.
Out of uniform, it’s another matter.
He was a flop as president of the Washington Wizards, and his tenure as majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats has been historical –- historically bad.
As in Washington, his personnel decisions have been horrible. And the Bobcats final line for the 2011-12 season read 7-59-.106. That’s the lowest winning percentage in NBA history.
Jordan’s Bobcats didn’t “dirty up” the NBA. It was just the opposite.
Opponents mopped the floor with them night after night as they bottomed out by losing their last 23 games of the season.