As fast start fizzles, Pistons aren't slow to point fingers

On The NBA

February 21, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

How quickly the Detroit Pistons' three-game, season-opening winning streak has been forgotten.

The Pistons had lost five straight games before beating Phoenix on Friday night. The slump only intensified the finger-pointing, with Grant Hill laying blame on Bison Dele (formerly Brian Williams), and Jerry Stackhouse attributing the team's problems to Hill.

It's not only Hill who has been unhappy with Dele. The whole team is upset with Dele's lethargic effort that has produced 10.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Dele, who has been prone to foul trouble, is averaging just over 25 minutes per game.

"He's got to play," Hill said of Dele. "If he doesn't play, we have to put him down. We could put [rookie] Mikki Moore out there and he'd at least give us some energy. If Bison doesn't want to put out the effort and energy, we should sit him down."

Dele responded: "I wouldn't say you could blame one guy. We started out playing as a cohesive unit, but we don't do that anymore."

That brings up the criticism by Stackhouse, who said Hill's increased scoring (27.1 points, more than six points higher than his previous best average) is detrimental to the team. Hill is averaging just over 3.0 assists, compared to a career average of 6.5.

"Grant has been on a tear and that's been great for him, but I don't think it's been great for the team," Stackhouse said. "I think we become stagnant in watching him. If you're coming down the court and you haven't touched the ball the last two or three times down, it's hard to go down and chase a guy and do all the little things you have to do. I want the ball more."

Stackhouse's shooting percentage entering the weekend is a career-low .346. His career percentage is .415, not exactly the numbers you build a team around.

Oakley's return

When Charles Oakley returned to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday with the Toronto Raptors, the New York Knicks set up a one-minute video salute to a player who was one of the team's most popular.

But the Knicks mishandled what should have been a special moment. Instead of playing the video before the game, the team played it at halftime -- while both teams were in the locker room.

"If they wanted to do something, they should have done it before the game," Oakley said. "I appreciate it, but do it professionally. They always talk about being professional."

Yes, Oakley is still a bit bitter after his 10 seasons as the Knicks' enforcer came to an end with a trade to the Raptors at the end of last season. The Knicks, in their movement toward youth, got Marcus Camby in the deal.

"I know everything happens for a reason," Oakley said. "But I still don't know why they did it."

Oakley, who is averaging 8.1 points and 7.9 rebounds for the Raptors, said he's a bit surprised when he looks at the makeup of the New York roster.

"There's some guys that are on that team now that I would never expect to be on that team. I mean, Dennis Scott?" Oakley said. "They got rid of Anthony Mason because he was supposed to create some problems, but then they come back and have Dennis Scott and Latrell Sprewell."

Mixed results

Are teams really running out of gas when playing the last day of three consecutive nights, which is a must to fit games in during this condensed NBA season?

The results so far are mixed. After Philadelphia finished its first stretch of three games in three nights against Atlanta last night, it marked the eighth time this season teams faced that type of grueling schedule.

So far, four teams have won the final game (Miami won at Detroit, 91-80, and Phoenix at San Antonio, 79-76, on Wednesday; Houston vs. New Jersey, 93-92, on Thursday, and Washington vs. Chicago, 93-91, on Friday), and four have lost (Atlanta at New Jersey, 79-69, on Feb. 7; Miami vs. Boston, 108-101, on Feb. 9, Detroit at Philadelphia, 90-86, on Feb. 9, and the 76ers vs. the Hawks last night).

Miami's win over Detroit was impressive because it gave the Heat a sweep of its three games in three nights, beating New Jersey, Indiana and Detroit. The last team to sweep three teams on consecutive nights: the Pat Riley-coached Los Angeles Lakers in 1985.

Around the league

First Derrick Coleman gave up on the sinking Charlotte Hornets (no Glen Rice, no Anthony Mason), and now you can add coach Dave Cowens to the list. Despite winning 50-plus games over the last two seasons, Cowens is upset that he's one of the lowest-paid coaches ($700,000 this season) and wants a contract extension.

"It's just about feeling appreciated," Cowens said. "I'm underpaid and underappreciated."

Team vice president Bob Bass is not pleased.

"The team is already wracked with injuries," Bass said. "For your head coach to make statements like this, he's actually damaged the team further."

Who would have thought that the Sacramento Kings (101.1 points per game through Wednesday) would be the league's top-scoring team and the Philadelphia 76ers (81.3 points allowed per game) would be second in fewest points allowed?

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