Single page view By Eric Neel
Page 2

    empathy (n): Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings and motives

If I don't get out of my head, I've got no shot. Literally. I've got to let it be a feeling now, a groove. Not a goal, a script or a number.

Robert Horry
Big Shot Bob driving to the hoop is NOT what the Pistons want to see at crunch time.

I can't force it; the moment's got to come to me. I know that's the only way, but still, it's a hell of a thing, trying to strike the balance between the wanting and the waiting.

There's so much of the wanting. I've wanted it since Dad first told us stories about the series in '75, since the Clippers and the dunk contest, since I thought it was impossible, first in Chicago and then in Seattle. I've never not wanted it. Even when it's a million miles away it's all I think about. Every hot streak I ever go on, every big 3 I ever hit, every night when the bucket looks big … it's all just dress rehearsal for a scene I wonder whether I'll ever get to play, for a scene in some Game 4 of the Finals, when we're on the road, say, up 2-1, and coming off a stinging loss.

And it's not just the longtime wanting, either. It's that I don't just want to be the guy I've been: The standout on a bad club or the odd fit on a good one. I want to be someone else. I want three or four shots, or maybe two or three dishes, that put a new and permanent stamp on me. I want to be integral now, deep in the fabric of Pop's culture, crucial to what Timmy and the guys are trying to bring about. I want to be the guy they signed, the guy they thought they were getting, the guy who's eye for the pass and the shot can make the difference between winning and losing for this club. I want this to be home from here on out. I don't want any more trade rumors. I want to earn the right to stay. That's why I'm in the gym, early and late, taking extra shots, working on the defensive footwork. That's why I've been busting it all season, even when it's been a struggle for minutes and looks, and even when it's been a mighty struggle for the feeling I want so much to feel tonight.

I can't be thinking all this. Defend, move your feet, move the ball, move to space. Catch, square, release – nothing more or less. Trust that it's in you. Remember that flurry in the fourth against the Suns in the conference finals. Remember, in your muscles and bones, shots falling with dad on the driveway hoop. Let it go and let it go.

Don't for another second think that tonight, in some Game 4 of the Finals, when we're on the road, say, up 2-1, and coming off a stinging loss, It's on you.

It was easier last year. Expectations were lower. We were sneaking up on you even as we were right in front of your eyes, right? It wasn't until about Game 4 last year that you knew what we were up to. It wasn't until then that you realized we were actually doing what we were doing.

Tayshaun Prince
After last year, Prince's anonymity is more than over.

I was sneaking up on you, too, and I loved the surprise of it all. I loved being quiet on press days, knowing my arms and legs were making noise. I loved letting Kobe do the talking … "Kobe, what is Tayshaun doing to slow you down and how can you counteract it?"



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