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A Sports Parable

A statement from Detroit Pistons general manager Joe Dumars:

I wanted to say a few words about the Michigan Solution. No, not that travesty of justice. I'm talking about a fair, common-sense resolution of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Some in the media are declaring the series over because the Boston Celtics have won four of the six games played so far. But I don’t understand why, with a series this close and hotly contested, anyone would want to shut it down before we play a seventh game and have all the results in. As anybody who follows the NBA knows, a seven-game series would be good for the league, and the added competition would make the eventual victor, whomever it might be, a stronger opponent against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.

It’s no great surprise that some are trying to push us out of this series. From the beginning, it’s been clear that the media and league elites have been looking for an exciting new face, instead of a team, like ours, that has proven its mettle by making it to the Conference Finals six* years in a row. We saw it in the Western Conference as well, where officials and news outlets made clear they were sick to death of the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs and behaved like cheerleaders for the media-darling Lakers. Heck, they almost managed to persuade fans that a hokey, small-town act like the New Orleans Hornets was a legitimate contender. It is safe to say that this has been the most rigged coverage in modern sports history.

But back to the series in question. Yes, Boston has won four games and Detroit only two. But it's hard to imagine a more arbitrary and undemocratic way to determine this series’s outcome than "games won." It is, after all, a bedrock value of the game of basketball that all points must be counted. But how can that be the case when every point beyond the winning point is ignored? There are literally dozens of layups, jumpers, free throws, and (yes, even) dunks that our opponents want to say don't count for anything at all. We call on the NBA to do the right thing and fully count all of the baskets that were made throughout the course of this series.

Once you abandon the artificial four-games-to-two framework that the media has tried to impose on the series, a very different picture emerges, with the Celtics leading by a mere 549 points to 539. Yes that’s right, the margin between the two teams is less than one percent—a tie, for all intents and purposes. This is probably the closest Conference Finals in NBA history, though I will thank you not to check on that.

How do we determine a winner in a series so historically close? First off, let's look at these so-called "free" throws, which are anything but. Who decides when these are to be awarded? Hard-working working-people like you and me? No, it's the officials, the league bosses, the elites. So no counting the free throws--unless and until (and I sincerely hope you guys are listening) the refs start breaking our way again. (By the way, you guys do know that Celts star Paul Pierce was involved in a stabbing a few years back, right? I only mention it because Phil Jackson is obviously going to bring it up in the Finals.)

If you take out free throws, Boston's ten-point margin in the series is whittled down to a single-digit, all-but-meaningless nine points. But this is still misleading. Let's be honest: We all know that some baskets count for more than others. (Yes, I know I was arguing for equal representation two seconds ago. What are you, Encyclopedia Brown? Chill out and try to stay current.) Take layups, for example: If you wander naively into the Finals thinking you’re going to win with layups, well don’t come crying to me when Kobe Bryant swats that lameass shit right back in your face. I know. I've been there.

So let's get right down to it: Big shots matter. It makes no difference when they happen, or who's leading at the time, or whether you're likely to make them against the Lakers, or any of that complicated nonsense. And we all know that the only real big shot is a three-pointer. So sure, Boston won more games than us, and scored more points, and made more baskets, and hit more free throws, and never tried to rewrite the rules after the fact. But we dominated them in three-point shooting, hitting 29 long ones to their 26 over the course of the series. Take this into account and it becomes apparent that we are by far the strongest competitor the Eastern Conference can field against the Lakers.

We again ask the league to consider all these facts and come to a fair solution. I’ll be holding a press conference at the Palace tonight, to which I’m inviting all Pistons season-ticket holders. I may announce our intention to drop out of the Eastern Conference Finals. Or I may not. But know one thing: If the media and league elites put the Celtics up against LA, they will lose, and we’ll be the first to say I told you so.

See you next season,

Joe Dumars (as told to Christopher Orr)