June 2, 2004 | ESPN.com's NBA Finals coverage
The NBA Finals are all set, with the Detroit Pistons taking on the Los Angeles Lakers. Let me tell you, this will not be Cupcake City for the Lakers.
I can already hear Al Michaels at his best -- the Hall of Fame broadcaster will be in rare form as he teams up with analyst Doc Rivers, the new Boston Celtics coach, on ABC (Game 1: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET). They have an exciting series to call!
|An NBA Finals win would make Pistons coach Larry Brown the first to coach an NCAA and NBA champion.|
I really feel this series will be a street fight -- it won't be easy for Shaq and Co. The Lakers had better come to play because the Pistons are dynamite defensively.
For Detroit, it has been Brick City shooting the rock, baby, but the Pistons make up for it defense. You can understand why GM Joe Dumars made the move to bring Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown to the Motor City.
Brown is such a great tactician, a guy who brings all kinds of success. He's already taken an NBA team to the Finals -- the Philadelphia 76ers in 2001, when they lost to the Lakers in five games.
With a win in the Finals this time, he would become the first man to coach an NCAA champion (Kansas) and an NBA champion. It will be fun to watch Brown match moves with Zen master Phil Jackson.
The Pistons have enough ammunition to make this a series. Detroit struggled to score against the Pacers, but I think this will be a different story. It'll be an intense battle.
Rasheed Wallace has been such a great addition for Detroit. He has blended in perfectly with fellow Tar Heel alumnus Brown. The Pistons have to sign him for the long haul because he makes them a legitimate championship contender.
The Pistons have had players step up in the clutch, like Tayshaun Prince with his big block against Reggie Miller in the Eastern Conference finals. Richard Hamilton has been making big shots throughout the playoffs, scoring 20 points or more each time out.
Hamilton has always come through, dating from his high school days in Pennsylvania to winning a national championship at Connecticut (where he was the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player) and now into the NBA Finals. He can really stroke it.
Imagine if Detroit had Denver Nuggets guard Carmelo Anthony on the roster instead of Darko Milicic! Remember, the Pistons drafted Milicic No. 2 ahead of Carmelo last year.
For the Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal probably will have problems on the foul line again, but his dominance inside will be a key difference. The Pistons have two tough interior defenders, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, but Shaq is capable of getting them into foul trouble. And, of course, Kobe Bryant is a super talent and a proven winner -- he and Shaq led the Lakers to three straight titles from 2000-2002.
This will be a real donnybrook, but Shaq and Kobe will find a way to survive and win their fourth title in five years.
The Lakers know that Karl Malone and Gary Payton signed with Los Angeles for one reason: that gold ring. You can't walk into a jewelry shop and buy that NBA championship ring, baby!
Malone and Payton are just four games away from having their dream realized. And I feel that this combination of four future Hall of Famers on the court (plus the master on the sidelines, Phil Jackson) will celebrate in the end.
This will be a real donnybrook, but Shaq and Kobe will find a way to survive and win their fourth title in five years. Jackson will get that record-breaking 10th championship. He shares the mark of nine NBA coaching titles with legendary former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach. Auerbach won all his titles with Boston, while Jackson has won six with the Chicago Bulls and three with LA.
Does Jackson get enough credit for the job he's done blending talent together? Anybody who can lead a team to 10 championships in any professional sport is certainly unique.
Prediction -- Lakers in seven. Michaels won't need to use his Miracle call, like he did in 1980 with the U.S. Olympic hockey team, but this is a series he'll be excited about.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he has been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.