Originally published May 29, 1991.
There was no sympathy for the two-time defending champion Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, a day after the Bulls swept them out of the Eastern Conference finals.
A lot of basketball people are glad to see the Pistons out.
“I’m glad that cheap stuff is over with,” said Doug Collins, former NBA player and Bulls coach and currently a TNT analyst, referring to the Pistons’ sometimes violent play.
So is Jerry Colangelo, Phoenix Suns president.
“The real physical play in the league that takes place in the playoffs has always been a problem for me,” Colangelo said. “I don’t appreciate that kind of basketball. But the fact of the matter is it’s been allowed over the years and it’s not a pretty kind of basketball.”
Collins was a critic of the Pistons’ “bully-ball” when he coached the Bulls and he was slammed against a scoring table by former Piston Rick Mahorn two years ago when he protested the Pistons’ rough stuff.
“I never was an advocate of that pushing and shoving and grind-it-out kind of basketball,” Collins said. “I do not like basketball when the pushing and the shoving takes away from the skill level of the game. It is a game of skill.
“When you’re a team with (the Pistons’) talent and you start playing and winning, the referees get caught up in it and they allow you to get away with more of it. But as the Pistons declined the referees didn’t let them play that way. Suddenly, when it’s perceived that the Bulls are the better team, that stuff stops.”
One reason is because the Pistons got progressively more aggressive to mask their deteriorating skills.
“I don’t want to hit a team when it’s down,” said Denver Nugget general manager Bernie Bickerstaff. “I guess the Pistons were simply playing the kind of ball that suited their personnel.”