HERE COMES HEAT – NOW PLANT YOUR FEET

Go ahead,” I say. “Push the chair into me.”

“Are you sure?” my coworker says.

“Push it! For the good of the team!”

He pushes. I plant my feet. Pow! Down I go.

“You’re nuts,” he says, walking away.

Nuts? Maybe. But no more nuts than the Pistons players who stand in front of a streaking Dwyane Wade or a thundering Shaquille O’Neal, trying to draw an offensive foul.

Wasn’t that an integral play in Game 1? Didn’t the Pistons send Wade to the bench not once but twice by letting him bang into them? Didn’t they do the same to O’Neal?

Wasn’t sending those two to the bench the Pistons’ most effective play?

Hey. When your offense isn’t working, maybe your “offensive” is.

“Go ahead,” I say to my coworker. “See that desk? Ram it into me!”

“But it’s huge,” he says.

“So is Shaq’s kneecap. Now do it!”

He heaves. I plant. Bam! Down I go.

“You’re insane,” he says, walking away.

More art than science

Well, being insane is part of drawing a charge, isn’t it?

“It’s the kind of thing that if you thought abut it, you wouldn’t do it,” says guard Lindsey Hunter, a master of the trade.

Hunter drew the offensive foul from Wade in the second quarter Tuesday night, which sent Wade to the bench. If the Pistons could have made a shot, that might have been a turning point. Center Ben Wallace did the same to Wade in the third quarter. And Wallace did it – and will continue to try to do it – to O’Neal, because the quickest way to neutralize that behemoth is to sit him down.

“It’s an especially important part of the game – especially in the playoffs,” forward Tayshaun Prince says.

Yet when you think about it, drawing a charge is completely backward.

Everything they teach you in basketball is about motion, right? Keep your feet moving, moving, moving?

To take a charge you have to stand still.

Everything they teach you is about jumping, get high, get height!

For a charge you have to stay grounded.

And they always tell you: Don’t foul!

But if a charge isn’t a charge, it’s a foul.

“If you watch the good ones over the years,” coach Flip Saunders says, “like Dennis Rodman, Bruce Bowen, it’s as if they see it coming before it happens. … Ben and Lindsey are like that for us. They’re like good safeties in football.”

Right. Except in football, they have helmets and pads to protect them from flying 300-pounders.

Anything to beat the Heat

Remember, when Wallace is trying to draw an offensive foul on Shaq, it’s like wrestling a grizzly in a phone booth. Except you can’t use your hands.

And when Hunter tries to draw a foul on Wade, it’s like trying to catch a torpedo – with your belly button.

“Did you ever take a charge and then say to yourself, ‘That really wasn’t worth it?’ ” Hunter is asked.

“Yeah,” he says, his eyes going misty. “I was with Milwaukee. We were playing Vince Carter. He came down and kicked me right in …”

He puts his hands in front of him.

“It was a long time before I took a charge again,” he adds.

Defense is about stopping the other team. The Pistons must stop Miami’s potent punch. And while the traditional block, steal, box-out stuff is all well and good, few things frustrate a player more than a drawn offensive foul because, as Hunter says, “nobody wants to commit a foul when he has the ball.”

So here we go. I say, in the spirit of the team, all fans symbolically should take a charge on their own.

“Go ahead,” I say to my coworker. “Tip that vending machine, I’m ready.”

“Are you sure?” he says.

“Do it!” I say.

He grunts. He pushes. It starts to fall. At the last instant I jump out of the way. It smashes with a thundering crash.

Hmm.

Maybe we could just shoot better.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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