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Former Pistons get their hands on title belts

Posted: Dec. 4, 2004
NBA Beat



Tom Enlund
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To the victors go the spoils.

For most players who are part of a NBA title-winning team, the glitzy championship ring is a sufficient enough reward for their efforts.

But not for last season’s Detroit Pistons championship team.

In addition to their championship rings, the Detroit players who upset the Los Angeles Lakers last June also have had the highly coveted Rasheed Wallace championship belt bestowed upon them.

Championship belt?

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Ben Wallace fashions the title belt teammate Rasheed Wallace present to him and other Pistons.
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On the eve of Detroit’s regular-season opener, Wallace surprised his nine current teammates who were on the championship team by presenting them with huge, gold-plated black pro wrestling-style belts that were inscribed with the words “World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion.”

It was Wallace’s way of reminding them that they were the best team on the planet last season.

The Pistons wore the belts over their warm-ups on opening night when they accepted their championship rings during a ceremony at the Palace. The belts did not go unnoticed by the likes of Milwaukee’s Mike James and Utah’s Mehmet Okur, who have departed Detroit but wanted to stake their claim to a belt anyway.

Wallace didn’t make it easy on them.

At first Wallace said the belts would go only to those who played on the championship team and were still with the Pistons this season. But Okur pestered Wallace for a belt when the Pistons played in Utah earlier this season, and James did much the same when Detroit played at the Bradley Center recently.

So Wallace finally relented.

“Yeah, I’m going to get my belt,” James said after a Bucks practice last week. “Me and Sheed fought the whole night about that. I kept giving him cheap shots about my belt because I want my belt.”

Wallace had each belt personalized with the player’s nickname: “The Body” for Ben Wallace, “Smooth” for Chauncey Billups and “Rip City” for Richard Hamilton.

Wallace said the idea of the belts was not a recent brainstorm.

“That idea was old,” Wallace told reporters in Detroit. “I had that idea when I first came into the league.”

Said Detroit’s Darvin Ham, “(The belts) are like what you get in boxing, and that’s the ultimate mano-a-mano sport. It’s huge, because we do feel like we’re the best in the world.

“I think it goes to show how Rasheed meshed with this team. We welcomed him with open arms, and he’s been a pleasant surprise. He’s a great player but he’s an even better teammate off the floor.”

Wallace also presented the gaudy belts to the team’s training staff and management. Not that everyone planned on displaying them.

“I’m not wearing it, no way,” said team President Joe Dumars.

The belts, though, cannot outshine the rings, which according to James are the largest ever made and spell out “World Champion Pistons” in diamonds.

Normally, James would have received his ring on the Bucks’ first trip to the Palace, but since Milwaukee doesn’t have an early season visit to Detroit, the Pistons shipped it to him.

“I wanted my ring,” said James. “They wanted to present it to me but we’re not going to Detroit until February. I want my ring now. I couldn’t wait that long. All the guys have their rings. I can wait for my belt.”

James said he would wear the ring only occasionally.

“The ring is sweet,” he said. “Diamonds, lots of them. Certain places I’ll wear it, but not too many places. The ring is too heavy. It’ll hurt my finger.”

Many players would like to have such problems.

Hey, it happens

Even the Los Angeles Clippers can string together an extended winning streak. Every nine years or so, that is.

The Clippers’ victory over the short-handed Indiana Pacers last week was their fifth straight and their first winning streak of that length since November 1995. There are even whispers in la-la land that - gasp - the Clippers might even be better than the Lakers at this point.

Forward Corey Maggette told reporters in Los Angeles that the Lakers’ record was of no concern to the Clippers.

“I don’t even know what the Lakers’ record is right now,” said Maggette. “I think my concentration, everyone’s concentration, is on us. If we take care of business here, everything will take care of itself.”

Those Jones guys

The Pacers suited up only eight players for that game against the Clippers, none of whom would have been starters under normal circumstances. Four were signed as free agents, three of whom weren’t even with the team nine days earlier. The entire group had a total of 406 games of NBA experience, less than a third as many as Reggie Miller (1,323).

Eddie Gill, who is supposed to be a third-string point guard, scored 21 points in that game. Fred Jones, who is supposed to be a third-string shooting guard, scored 19. James Jones, who would be stashed on the injured list if everyone was healthy, added 15 points.

“It’s hard to play with someone you just met two days ago,” rookie center David Harrison said after that game.

Raise up our glasses

Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James have gone in opposite directions since they were teammates on last summer’s U.S. Olympic team.

Anthony was involved in a nightclub altercation in New York over the summer that got more seamy when three individuals tried to extort $3 million from him by threatening to produce a video of the incident. Anthony also was caught with a small amount of marijuana in his backpack at an airport, although police dropped charges.

James, meanwhile, has been the toast of the town in Cleveland, where he is playing exceptional basketball.

“I’m glad he’s doing what he’s doing,” Anthony told reporters in Denver. “I don’t want anybody going through the things that I’ve gone through. I’m happy with what he’s doing. He’s shutting people up and showing what he can do.”

Not a nice man

Whoever made out the Raptors’ early season schedule certainly didn’t have a sense of humor. When Toronto concludes its current six-game trip Wednesday in Detroit, it already will have played 14 of its 41 road games. The Raptors also will have played six sets of back-to-backs and will have completed two six-game trips.

“It can wear on you,” coach Sam Mitchell told reporters in Toronto. “I think I’m kind edgy because I feel like already we’ve been on the road 80 days, but it just started. But that’s the schedule we have. How did we get so blessed to get this type of schedule? I have no idea. It wasn’t the man upstairs that gave us this schedule; it was the man below.”

Love those Browns

The fact coach Butch Davis had been fired by the Cleveland Browns football team did not go unnoticed among the Cavaliers. LeBron James, in fact, said in Cleveland that the Cavaliers were determined to keep winning so that coach Paul Silas wouldn’t be going anywhere.

“We love Coach to death,” said James. “If Coach doesn’t get wins, it’s a problem. We want to keep Coach around.”

Taking a header

Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson admitted last week after a three-game stretch in which rookie point guard Devin Harris scored 12 points, handed out six assists and made 4 of 16 shots that the former University of Wisconsin player had already hit the proverbial rookie wall.

Harris says it’s just a natural part of the rookie maturation process, and Nelson reluctantly agrees.

“He hasn’t done anything now for six games or so,” said Nelson. “He’s regressing and he’s supposed to be progressing. We understand it, but I’d rather not go through it. All rookies don’t go through it but most of them do.”

Katy bar the door

Things got heated on the Boston bench last week when Celtics coach Doc Rivers benched guard Paul Pierce for not running the floor late in the game against the Bucks. Pierce bailed out after the game without talking about the incident, but he apologized to his teammates and coaches the next day. Rivers was also in a conciliatory mood when he spoke about it to reporters in Boston.

“I didn’t intend (to set an example),” Rivers said. “It’ll probably end up that way. I’m sure they see we’ll take anybody out. Of all the times not to sit him it might have been that time. It was a tough call. I’m sitting there taking Paul off the floor knowing there’s a chance we could lose the game, but I thought that we had to make that call.”

Fast breaks

Minnesota’s Sam Cassell, when asked if he planned to attend an optional practice: “What did Allen Iverson say? ‘Practice?’ ” . . .

Charlotte’s entire player payroll ($21.6 million) pales in comparison to Shaquille O’Neal’s salary ($27.7 million). . . .

New Jersey’s Richard Jefferson, Atlanta’s Antoine Walker and Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett are the only players leading their teams in scoring, rebounding and assists. . . .

Boston’s Rivers says Cleveland’s James is playing better than anyone else in the league. . . .

Washington’s Etan Thomas, sidelined with a stomach injury, has been cleared to do some light jogging but won’t be back for at least another three weeks.

THIS WEEK IN THE NBA

The pedal-to-the-metal Suns will take their league-best 7-1 road record into Portland tonight. Phoenix also will play at the Staples Center against the Lakers on Wednesday. “Roadkill,” Quentin Richardson said when asked in Phoenix about the team’s success on the road. “We play hard, together and unselfish on the road. We’re young, but we’ve got years (of experience).” After playing road games in San Antonio on Wednesday and Dallas on Thursday, Seattle will not play away from home again until Dec. 27. In those 17 days in between, the SuperSonics will play only four home games, including one against Boston on Saturday. Orlando opens a six-game Western trip Monday in Denver.

GAME OF THE WEEK

It’ll be a battle of divisional leaders when Seattle travels to San Antonio on Wednesday.

BUCKS WEEK

The Bucks will get another shot at Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and the Heat on Wednesday at the Bradley Center. It’s the Bucks’ third meeting with Miami in their first 16 games, and this time they’ll catch the Heat on the final game of a four-game trip. The Bucks will get a good look at what’s left of the Pacers as they travel to Indianapolis on Tuesday and host the Pacers on Friday.

QUOTABLE

“It’s hard to put him in the game over guys who come to practice and work hard every day and he sits around and feels sorry for himself. The sad thing about it is he’s the only guy on our team who is physical enough and athletic enough to compete against Kelvin Cato and Dwight Howard. It’s not really fair to this team for him to just sit there and take up air.” - Toronto coach Sam Mitchell, on little-used center Jerome Moiso.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Is it any wonder that Robert “Tractor” Traylor is booed at the Bradley Center? Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki offered another reminder why when he poured in a career-high 53 points in an overtime victory over Houston on Thursday. Nowitzki was selected in the first round of the 1998 draft by the Bucks, who then dealt him to Dallas for Traylor. The Bucks also threw in Pat Garrity to even up the deal. Nowitzki’s point total against Houston was an American Airlines Arena and franchise record, and was the highest-scoring game in the league this season. “There are always nights when the basket seems bigger than it really is,” Nowitzki said. “There are nights when nothing drops, but the way I started right away, I felt it was going to be a good night. I was aggressive all night long.” Nowitzki sank 15 of 32 shots, 21 of 22 free throws and grabbed 16 rebounds. Dallas is 7-0 when Nowitzki scores at least 30 points.

NUMBERS GAME

  • The announced crowd of 14,975 for the Lakers’ game against the Bucks at the Bradley Center last week was the smallest for a Lakers’ game since they drew 14,473 in Houston on Nov. 7, 2000.
  • The Pacers used 11 starting lineups in their first 15 games.
  • Charlotte had double-digit leads in seven of its first 13 games.
  • Minnesota has won its last three regular-season games at Sacramento’s Arco Arena. No other team has won more than one straight there.
  • The Clippers’ 10-6 start was their best after 16 games since they opened with an identical record in 1992-’93.


Archive
Nowitzki gets nod for MVP   (4/15/2007)
NBA Beat: Pistons limping into playoffs  (4/8/2007)
Everything falls into place   (4/1/2007)
Bucks face Texas two-step   (3/25/2007)
East just can't win for losing   (3/18/2007)
Actions create a Kobe beef   (3/11/2007)
Mavericks' cavalier attitude   (3/4/2007)
Major deals not in the cards   (2/25/2007)
Celtics totally out of kilter   (2/11/2007)
Howard loses some magic   (2/4/2007)
Allen keeps eye on Bucks   (1/28/2007)
NBA Beat: Pacers stepping up  (1/21/2007)
Atlantic sinking below .500   (1/14/2007)
Wizards regain magic   (1/7/2007)
Feeling spurned   (12/31/2006)
NBA Beat: Hopes hang with Iverson  (12/24/2006)
How low can they go?   (12/17/2006)
NBA Beat: They can't get a grip  (12/10/2006)
NBA Beat: Bucks don't work up sweat over headbands  (12/3/2006)
Miami's life with Riley not so good these days   (11/26/2006)







From the Dec. 5, 2004 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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