What a Love Triangle
Now, here's an interesting new odd couple—Piston guard Joe Dumars and Bulls assistant coach Tex Winter, who were engaged in animated conversation at last Saturday's practice session. What could they have been talking about? The warm and cuddly relationship between the Pistons and the Bulls? Whether their favorite player is Michael Jordan or Isiah Thomas? The dapper wardrobes of Detroit coach Chuck Daly and Chicago coach Phil Jackson?
No, Dumars and Winter were discussing Winter's triangle offense, which, lo and behold, has been adopted in part by the Pistons. At a practice after Detroit's most recent loss to Chicago—by 117-93 on Jan. 24—Daly told his team, "O.K., we're going to learn the triangle. They've been effective with it. They get good shots with it. No reason we can't do the same."
The irony goes beyond the possibility that the once proud Pistons may soon be running an alignment favored by their hated rivals. In its championship seasons of 1988-89 and '89-90, Detroit ran an isolation-oriented offense that was almost the polar opposite of the everyone-involved-everyone-moving triangle that Winter first diagrammed as coach at Kansas State more than 30 years ago. "I love it, and I don't know anyone on our team who doesn't," said Dumars last week. "We're not nearly as advanced as the Bulls are, but then, they weren't real proficient with it at first, either. It keeps the floor spread and keeps people from standing around. It's going to make us a better team."
Winter is pleased to see the gospel of the triangle—a motion offense that utilizes constant passing and cutting rather than set plays or isolation plays—being spread, though he won't be thrilled in the unlikely event that the Pistons out-triangle the Bulls in the playoffs. In any case, he wants to correct Daly on one point. "I saw where Chuck came out and said, 'Well, Tex Winter wrote a book about it in the '30s or '40s,' " says Winter. "I'm pleased he gave me the credit, but I wrote the book in 1962. I'm not that old, Chuck." Winter, 69, is believed to be one of the oldest coaches in basketball at any level. And Daly, at 61, isn't that far behind.
More for Les
One of Saturday's best moments came when obscure Kings point guard Jim Les challenged the Bulls' Craig Hodges in the Long Distance Shootout. When it was over, and Les had fallen one point short of dethroning Hodges, who now has won three straight shootouts, Les turned to some of the All-Stars seated at courtside and went down the row high-fiving them all: Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Isiah, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler. Until that moment, Les, who has been on the roster of six NBA teams as well as three teams in the CBA and the WBL, was probably all but unknown to that group.
Saturday's worst moment? Before the competition, an ITT Sheraton executive told the competitors, "If you win and mention 'Sheraton' in the television interview, we'll fly you anywhere." (In his interview with TNT after the competition, Hodges declined the offer. Maybe he travels enough.)
Dump the Dunk
Memo to league commissioner David Stern: Even Cedric Ceballos's climactic jam that won him first prize in the Slam Dunk contest couldn't save this increasingly lame competition. Ceballos, a second-year forward from Cal State-Fullerton, made the spectacular shot while wearing a blindfold; he had counted the number of steps to the basket before the attempt.