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And just like that, they were gone.

I'm talking about the Detroit Pistons, once the gatekeepers of the Eastern Conference, now relegated to first-round fodder for the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers.

It's sad, really. I still remember clearly way back in 2004 when, with Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace still in tow, the Pistons surprisingly defeated the Hall-Of-Fame-laden Los Angeles Lakers in just 5 games. Being a big Laker Hater, that was a very good time for me, especially since nobody (not even me) would dare think that the Lakers would lose. Aaah, the joy of ignorance... While the Lakers imploded due to a certain feud - remember that? - the New School Bad Boys slowly picked off the unassuming Western power.

That's a really nice moment, one that I'll remember forever.

However, it's the 26th of April right now, and I just saw a flash of red completely consume some white. Turns out the Pistons have just been eliminated from the 2009 Playoffs. By the Cavaliers. In the First Round. As an 8th seed. On a 0-4 sweep.

Now, I don't want to be bold just for the sake of it, but it's pretty obvious that the Pistons are done. Their stars are aging, their coach is a rookie, and they have absolutely no depth. On top of that, they just traded their floor general for Allen Iverson.

Yes. Allen Iverson.

You see, the Pistons were supposed to put up a fight. Regardless of the early returns of the "Answer Experiment", they were still supposed to be better than the Heat, Bulls, and Sixers. Supposed to.

I must admit, I'm not the biggest A.I. fan out there, but there is no denying the man's talent. I mean, he led the Sixers all the way to the Finals in 2001, even stealing Game 1 in L.A.! I have tons of respect for this dude. This man is a baller, hands down.

There is one thing, however, that I just have to question about him: his decision to sulk if not made a starter. Really, A.I.??? You're pushing 30 now, your career on its downswing, and you still choose to focus on whether your name gets called out during player intros? I just don't get it. Guys your age would gladly take lesser money (Karl Malone, The Glove), come off the bench (Antonio McDyess) or just altogether ride the bench (Mitch Richmond) in exchange for a shot at the Championship. For real, you refusing to merely come off the bench was a bit too much. They were counting on you, man! They traded Chauncey Billups for you. The least you could've done was try harder... After all, you'd still be getting your playing time (let's face it, Walter Herrmann ain't taking your minutes) and your salary's still the same. Is coming off the bench really that bad that you'd forget how sweet you have it?

I know, the Pistons with Iverson would still lose to the Cavs, but they could have avoided the King if only Iverson accepted any role he had to play. Looking back is pretty pointless now that Detroit's season is done, but Iverson should have made a bigger difference. Had he played well, they probably would have drawn an easier opponent (they beat the Magic last year and the Celtics are the walking wounded).

It just sucks because what Allen did was something you'd expect a teenager to do. From a future Hall-of-Famer, however? He really should have known better.

I still love you, A.I. I'll never forget the way you played (and actually still do) with so much heart, courage, and passion. And I'm hoping your reluctance to give in is still due to that burning belief that you're still the man. But please, also face facts. Think deeply about it, balance and work it all out, and come back stronger next season. Just don't, under any circumstance, let this mess happen once more.

Photo Credits: Pistons-http://www.nba.com/pistons/history/champions_200304.html & A.I.-http://izuzquiza.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/alg_iverson-foulcall.jpg

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  1. -Gerard Himself-  

    The question remains: other than Detroit, which of the 29 teams out there would be a good fit for AI? I have a lot of respect for him, but I can't think of any team right now. (glad you're blogging again)

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