New Jersey

Detroit Demands Asterisk, But Nets Prefer Forward Slash

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

In complaining about the officiating during game three, Rasheed Wallace declared the Nets victory would get an asterisk in his book, pointing to a footnote about bad officiating. Not only is Wallace simply wrong on the facts, but he and his legendary coach Larry Brown are both doing their team a disservice with their arrogance. Ironically, it is the veteran Pistons who are acting immature and childish, while the rookie head coach of the Nets carries himself like a Net, which is to say, with dignity and aplomb. In the battle of punctuation, the Nets brush off arbitrary asterisks and look to duplicate the forward slash of game three tonight, as they hope that Richard Jefferson can again carry this team to victory.

Wallace and Brown have both made comments that can only be described as childish and whiny. From the point of view of facts, Wallace was simply off his rocker. Both he and Brown claimed he was getting unfair treatment from the refs. And indeed, Wallace was in foul trouble much of the game.

But so was Kenyon Martin. Wallace even played one more minute than Kenyon Martin, who also tallied five fouls, same as Wallace. In his 22 minutes, Wallace scored 10 points and grabbed two boards. He also turned the ball over three times. Meanwhile, Martin was one rebound shy of a double-double in just 21 minutes: he scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and even got both a block and a steal while committing just one turnover.

What's there to whine about? And why put asterisks next to your opponent's wins? Didn't they learn anything from Phil Jackson's punctuation marks of San Antonio's lockout-shortened championship? It just spurs (pardon the pun) the enemy on.

Brown has essentially said that Lawrence Frank is unqualified to be a head coach, though he denies that was the meaning of his famous phrase that the hiring of Frank shows that anybody can be a head coach. He complains that Frank drifts towards half court to try to spot Brown's hand signals for various plays. Now, it's true that not every coach tries to see what the opponent's offensive play is and adjust the defense: only great coaches do that.

The Pistons are beginning to sound like spoiled brats. Many have picked them to get to the Finals this year, including many writers here at Hoopsworld, and they feel insecure when they start to lose. Certainly it can't be their fault. It must be the officiating. Or their new head coach is doing something wrong.

Certainly it can't be the case that Richard Jefferson walloped Tayshaun Prince, outscoring him 30-4, outrebounding him 8-0, and outassisting him 5-1. When Prince has a decent game, the Pistons are everywhere, claiming that he's better than Carmelo Anthony, who the Pistons could have drafted but instead opted for project Darko Milicic. But when Prince underperforms, it's never Prince's fault. It's never Detroit's fault.

Lawrence Frank is always the epitome of class. The first words out of his mouth after every game is to give credit to the opponents. I have never, not once, heard him disrespect his opponents in any way. He is a Net, and he makes one proud to be a Net fan.

The Nets have long been underestimated and disrespected. They're not satisfied just making it to the Finals anymore; they want to win everything, the whole shebang. And they'll be looking to do it by rolling over Detroit tonight as they host the Pistons for the second time in New Jersey.

And they'll be looking to do it with whatever punctuation marks are necessary.

The Nets look to even their best-of-seven series against Detroit tonight at 8:00 p.m. EDT. Game 4 will be broadcast on TNT, with local radio coverage on 710 AM WOR. They were 500 tickets short of a sellout in Game 3 and there are tickets that remain for tonight's game from Continental Airlines Arena.

Game three saw a couple personal records set by Nets players. Richard Jefferson scored a playoff career-high 30 points. Kerry Kittles tied a playoff career-high with four steals.

Jason Kiddsays his knee is fine, perfectly fine.Kenyon Martinhas had no apparent limitations with his knee tendinitis.Alonzo Mourninghas retired after undergoing kidney transplant surgery.Hubert Davis(knee) was left off the playoff roster.


Steve Adamek ofThe Bergen Recordwrites: Mathematically, the difference between a 2-2 best-of-seven series and a 3-1 one is a single game. Nothing more. That's the problem with math.It knows nothing of the NBA playoffs, for in the real-life world of coach Lawrence Frank's Nets, the difference could be their season. Thus, Game 4 tonight against the Pistons at Continental Arena is, oh, let's check the thesaurus for words similar to "huge." Titanic. Enormous. The size of Richard Jefferson's confidence.

Adrian Wojnarowski ofThe Bergen Record writes: Nevertheless, Scalabrine's story is told to every young player let go at the high school now, insisting to them that maybe if they worked hard and stayed with it, they could turn out to be an NBA player too.Of course, it wouldn't hurt to grow another foot, topping out at 6-9, as Scalabrine did. Still, he was the longest of shots and that's never changed with him. Nobody has ever regretted giving him a chance in basketball, and that's why Nets' coach Lawrence Frank needs to do it again tonight in Game 4. He doesn't need to wait for Kenyon Martin and Rodney Rogers to get into foul trouble. Scalabrine earned his minutes in Game 3, the way he's earned everything on his improbable path to these Eastern Conference semifinals.

M.A. Mehta ofThe Newark Star-Ledger writes: The Nets and Detroit Pistons are walking the fine line between hard-nosed physical play and something much uglierentering Game 4 of their best-of-seven series tonight at the Continental Airlines Arena.

Rasheed Wallace looked as if he were having a typical day, which is to say he was so steamed you could cook clams on his forehead. "Haters everywhere," he said, dropping into a chair beside the bleachers at John Jay College yesterday. "Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Everywhere. Hate, hate, hate."So much for light banter. It was unclear what had piqued the Pistons forward, other than the presence of a dozen curious reporters, but after Sunday night, does one really have to ask?

Brad Parks ofThe Newark Star-Ledger writes: Having scored a career postseason-high 30 points a few hours earlier to help his Nets get back into the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pistons, sleep was a friend he wouldn't make until sometime after 4 a.m."I was just so pumped up," Jefferson said. "The adrenaline was at an all-time high. I was tired, believe me, I was tired. And my body was hurting. But I didn't want to sleep. I wanted to play another game, like when we were in high school and we played four games in one day. That's what I wanted. I wanted another one."

Steve Popper ofThe New York Times writes: The gamesmanship between Nets Coach Lawrence Frank and Pistons Coach Larry Brown goes beyond the X's and the O's and the attempts to get favorable calls from the referees. In the final minute of the first half Sunday, Brown called out a play to his team. Frank frantically shouted out the play and defensive instructions to Jason Kidd, who, whether by his own defensive prowess or as a result of Frank's instructions, knocked the ball from Richard Hamilton, who lost it out of bounds. That was hardly the only time that Frank read the Pistons' signals and shouted them to his team, the kind of thing he does nightly, as do many other coaches.

Fred Kerber ofThe New York Postwrites: Supposedly, an NBA playoff series doesn't get interesting until the home team loses. Well, the home team has prevailed in the first three games of the Nets-Pistons Eastern Conference semifinals. Still, it doesn't get more interesting than this. Why? It's getting nasty and catty. Real catty. Piston coach Larry Brown and Net CEO Rod Thorn already hurled verbal salvos. Yesterday, Lawrence Frank shot back at Brown's suggestion the Net coach wanders the sidelines and is able to steal signs. And the Nets virtually all delivered a rather touching, poignant message to Rasheed Wallace: Asterisk this.

Ohm Youngmisuk ofThe New York Daily News writes: Lawrence Frank's job will be to get his team to play with the same passion it did on Sunday, when it opened the game with a 34-13 run.Frank might also want to keep a body or two or three on Ben Wallace. Wallace kept the Pistons in the game with 24 rebounds, 11 offensive, and 15 points. Tonight's game is the one that should have an asterisk beside it since a loss could doom the Nets. "This game is going to be very, very pivotal," Jefferson said.

Filip Bondy ofThe New York Daily News writes: For the millionth time, Jason Kidd is fine, perfectly fine."This is the best I've felt, no pain," Kidd is saying yesterday at practice. "I have just missed some shots. No excuses." You ask him again, anyway. One to 10, how's the left knee? He says it is fine again, that the bruise has been poked and kneaded and stimulated into a functional joint. Eastern massage meets Western ice packs, whatever it takes. He feels fresh enough, he insists, despite the playing minutes. Stop pitying his lousy aim. You feel guilty pressing the issue, because Kidd has always been this perfect point guard with an imperfect stroke. He is a future Hall of Famer who misses six of every 10 shots, lifetime. You try to ignore his lack of range, the way you once did with another great Net, Julius Erving, who was unreliable beyond eight feet.

Julian Garcia ofThe New York Daily News writes: Despite his complaints, Brown made it clear he did not want to suggest the Nets could not have won the game without help from officials, saying, "The worst thing you can do as a coach is take away what they did. They made changes and they played hard. "My only issue is how they treat one kid," Brown said. "I've been around, and it's not right."

Bob Raissman ofThe New York Daily News writes: Who wants the Nets ousted from the playoffs more? ABC suits or Charles Barkley?Just the thought of having the Nets make another appearance in the Finals must have ABC honchos cringing. They likely believe New Jersey's presence guarantees a low rated Finals. Unfortunately for ABC, the current nearly all-cable playoffs, coupled with the NBA's Sternis Interruptis schedule, already guarantees a low-rated Finals no matter who is playing. As for Sir Charles, well, maybe he owns stock in Disney-owned ABC. Why else, on TNT Sunday night during the Piston-Nets Game 3 pregame show, would Barkley say New Jersey was "cooked," adding the team was already in "no-sweep mode right now."