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Forward knows he's not the player he once was

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Coming off the bench for the Detroit
Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals is Antonio McDyess, only
30, yet a half-decade removed from a time when he was considered
the prototypical athletic power forward that every team wanted to
have.

McDyess' career was interrupted at its peak by three knee
surgeries, and he has finally come to grips with the fact that
he'll never regain the explosiveness he once took for granted.
"It was kind of hard to swallow in the beginning, definitely.
But if it wasn't for my injury I wouldn't be here competing in the
Eastern Conference finals," McDyess said Friday. "So I look at it
now and feel it was a good thing. It gave me an opportunity to play
with the world champions."
The former All-Star and Olympian joined the Pistons as a free
agent last summer after spending the 2003-04 season with New York
and Phoenix. This is the farthest the 10-year veteran has ever been
in the postseason.
Nobody placed too much blame on McDyess after he managed only
four points in 17 minutes of Detroit's Game 2 loss to the Miami
Heat, which evened the series at 1-1. Game 3 is Sunday night.
But there was a time not too long ago when that type of paltry
production from McDyess would have been viewed as a monumental
letdown.
After winning a gold medal for the United States in Sydney in
2000, McDyess averaged 20.8 points the next season for Denver. Knee
surgery limited him to 10 games in 2001-02, and a fractured kneecap
that required two surgeries kept him out for the entire 2002-03
season and the start of the '03-'04 season.
The Knicks dealt him to Phoenix last season, and he limped
through the final 24 games for the Suns before entering free agency
wondering whether anyone would still want him.
"That was the worst part if my career, getting traded and still
hurting," McDyess said.
McDyess signed with the Pistons to help them replace the
departed Corliss Williamson and Mehmet Okur, and his knee made it
through 77 regular season games without any trouble.
He said the pain and discomfort are gone, but he still feels
somewhat ill at ease, knowing his knee doesn't have the strength
he'd like it to have.
"Nowhere near, man," McDyess said. "I felt I was one of the
best forwards coming up five years ago. Right now there's no
comparison. The way I was mobile to play, running and jumping, now
it's pretty much nowhere near where I was. Those days are gone."
But plenty of respect still exists for McDyess, with Miami coach
Stan Van Gundy pointing out that McDyess would probably be a
starter if he played on any of the league's other 29 teams.
In this series, he is the backup to Rasheed Wallace and Ben
Wallace, occasionally getting a turn to guard Shaquille O'Neal
one-on-one in the low post.
"If he's not their best post player, it's close between him and
[Rasheed] Wallace," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said.
McDyess shot 5-for-6 in Game 1 with six rebounds, and his two
blocks and five rebounds in Game 2 helped make up for his lack of
production offensively (1-for-4 with two turnovers).
During the regular season, McDyess averaged 9.6 points in 23
minutes per game.
"This year, you've got to write it off for him," Pistons coach
Larry Brown said. "I really believe that we'll see Dice being
better and better and better. He's been through so much. I really
believe from a confidence standpoint it'll be a whole different
ball of wax for him next year."
With the long break between Games 2 and 3, the Heat have stayed
behind in Miami and were not expected to arrive in Detroit until
late Saturday.
O'Neal, Damon Jones, Haslem and Christian Laettner all sat out
practice Friday to rest injuries, but Van Gundy said he expects to
have all of them available Sunday as the Heat tries to carry over
many of the positives -- especially Dwyane Wade's 40-point offensive
outburst -- that led to their 92-86 victory in Game 2.
"Look, we're still behind the 8-ball in this series," Van
Gundy said. "It's 1-1, but they've now got the home court so we're
the team that's fighting and scratching from behind at this point.
We can't let a good game the other night obscure that. We have to
have a tremendous sense of urgency going up to Detroit on Sunday."