IT’S TIME TO SHOW PISTONS SOME LOVE

Like parents who kiss their kids goodnight before departing for the New Year’s Eve party, we need to show the Pistons some love before we take off into Super Bowl insanity.

So here it is:

This is one amazing franchise. We don’t say it enough, because we’d be saying it all the time. What Detroit’s basketball team has done in its first 40 games this season is nothing less than superlative, largely because they don’t use superlatives.

They just get it done.

Wednesday night, with a typical, grind-it-out overtime performance, the Pistons equaled the winningest number in Detroit sports history, 35-5, the same start that launched the 1984 Tigers to a World Series crown. You can argue that it’s harder in baseball than basketball, or the other way around. Let’s just say it’s damn near impossible and take our hats off.

“I told them this is just the first chapter,” Flip Saunders said after the 106-102 victory. “… The thing about the Tigers’ 35-5 is that they ended as world champions.”

Thirty-five wins? Seventy wins? Zero players starting the All-Star game? Doesn’t matter.

What matters is getting it done.

Do we know how lucky we are?

Wednesday they had every reason to pack it in. They had played on the road the night before, it was dragging into overtime, Michael Redd was on fire, the Bucks were leading by four – but somehow they dug down, and with a Rasheed triple, Chauncey’s big shots and Ben Wallace’s rebounding, they willed themselves over the bar.

Do we know how lucky we are to flip on the TV any given night and catch the Pistons scoring 41 points in a quarter, or blocking 12 shots in one game, or stuffing defending champion San Antonio (twice) or winning nine in a row, nine in a row, eight in a row – as they’ve done so far?

They beat the good teams, the bad teams, at home, on the road, on fresh nights and on nights, like Wednesday, when their legs are dragging.

But maybe the best way to appreciate the Pistons is to look at what they don’t deal with that other franchises do.

The Knicks, on Wednesday, were running damage control on a sexual-harassment suit against Isiah Thomas. The Pacers were trying to convince malcontent Ron Artest to go to Sacramento.

The Pistons? The next peep you hear out of them will be the first.

We should savor it

“This is very, very special,” Billups said. “To be 35-5. We haven’t seen it in a long time. And we might not see it again for a long time.”

We should savor it. After all, we’ve known frustrating franchises (Lions) and lethargic franchises (Tigers) and locked-out franchises (Red Wings). But excellence like this is rare. Very rare.

We should savor those long Rasheed three-pointers. We should savor those huge shots by Billups. We should savor the syncopated jazz this team performs night after night.

We should savor this little play, from the first half Wednesday: Rip Hamilton made a terrific steal, put a beautiful spin move on Redd and could easily have taken it to the hole.

Instead, he dished it outside for a more wide-open Billups.

And Billups whipped it back, as if to say, “Nuh-uh, you stole it, you deserve it.”

And Rip hit the long jumper.

It is one play, in one game, in four months worth of one plays and one games. But it says something.

It says this is a team.

And if, for the next 10 days, that team is overshadowed in its hometown, well, it won’t be for long. There’s one thing the Pistons can say that the Super Bowl can’t.

They’ll still be here February 6th.

For that we should be grateful.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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