SINCE, LIKE a lot of people, I went to the Pistons’ home opener Friday night, and since, like a lot of people, I don’t know when I’ll be back, I thought I’d get all my observations in this morning.
* Nice crowd. Loudest cheer is for Mateen Cleaves.
* Then again, he doesn’t start, does he?
* Chris Webber, who’ll be a free agent at the end of this season, is Sacramento’s biggest star. There are signs reading, “Webb! Come home! We need you!”
* I’m not sure that’s a confidence booster.
* Go! Pistons ball….
* Jerry Stackhouse takes their first shot.
* Stackhouse takes their second shot.
* Stackhouse takes their third shot.
* I think Stackhouse is Detroit’s “first option.” Also “second and third option.”
* What’s with Ben Wallace’s hair?
* It’s wild, free, it goes where it wants.
* I’m talking about Stackhouse’s shot, not Wallace’s hair.
* Chucky Atkins is very fast, knows how to distribute, and looks like a point guard — which only reminds you how out of position Lindsey Hunter was all those years. Now, if Atkins just had a few more options, other than . . .
* …who takes his eighth shot.
* Someone yells at Wallace’s hair, “That’s personal STYLE!”
* Is it Ben Wallace, or Jason from “Room 222”?
* Eric Montross and Scot Pollard, both of whom once sat at the far end of the Pistons bench, are now playing center for Detroit and Sacramento. I think this is what we call “dilution of talent.”
* And, in keeping with the hair theme, Pollard has his pulled into a small ponytail in the middle of his head, a la John Belushi’s Samurai Warrior. He has a goatee, ’70s sideburns, and looks like he should be sailing a pirate ship.
* He also grabs 11 points in his first 11 minutes.
* Scot Pollard?
* Chris Webber isn’t coming back to Detroit. No way. He’s a smart kid, from a good family, but he always had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about “respect” and I get the feeling he doesn’t think the management here respects him enough. Besides, he’s 27, he wants to win and he has a better chance of doing that elsewhere.
* Remember, as long as Webber comes in a couple times a year and kicks butt, Detroiters will swoon and say, “Oh, Chris, if only we had you.” But if he signs here and they don’t win, he’ll take the heat. Who wants that in his hometown?
* Cleaves gets a huge ovation. Someone waves a sign: “Mo Cleaves, Rookie of the Year.”
* Uh, I think “Mo” was Peterson.
* Pistons make a run and tie the score, with a nice Billy Owens block, key rebounds by Wallace, fast breaks. This is the “working hard every night” that management is talking about.
* Oops. Pistons get outscored, 14-4. This is the “being overmatched every night” that critics are talking about.
* Cedric Ceballos shoots from a mile away, turns the ball over twice, then drills another mile-long jump shot. Something tells me he’s going to give George Irvine a few gray hairs.
* By the way, I asked Billy Owens, a man who’s had a lot of coaches, to describe Irvine in one word. The word he chose: “Cool.”
* That’s good, isn’t it?
* Cleaves gets stripped and scored on. Welcome to the NBA.
* Stackhouse takes his 14th shot. He’s made four.
* I think he’s the fourth option, too.
* Although they’re losing, the Pistons keep coming. You have to say this: they don’t mail it in. If there is any genius to Joe Dumars’ roster assemblage, it’s that none of these Detroit players — save Stackhouse — are all that much better than the next. This means the fight for minutes is real. And players love minutes as much as they do money.
* Oh, no. They still have the “ball race.”
* Webber dunks, Webber hits free throws, Webber hits a key shot down the lane, brings his finger to his lips and makes a “shush” gesture at the crowd.
* Why bother? The place is nearly empty.
* Pistons’ last chance: They need a basket. Stackhouse gets it and . . .
* …he passes to Wallace.
* He passes?
* The ball goes out of bounds.
* Maybe Stack should be the fifth option.
* Pistons lose, 100-93, turning the ball over 25 times. In the post-game interview, the Sacramento radio guys ask Pollard about grabbing 14 rebounds and 15 points against his old team.
* “I hold no grudges,” he says.
* Scot Pollard doesn’t hold grudges.
* I can sleep easy now.
* And I have seen enough for one night.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Mitch’s radio show, “Albom in the Afternoon,” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).