AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Despite leading his team to the Eastern Conference finals, Pistons coach Flip Saunders isn't a lock to be back next season. Saunders has a 176-71 record in three seasons in Detroit, but the Pistons, an experienced team that has been to the Finals twice in the past five seasons, have not advanced past the conference finals in Saunders tenure.
When asked about his future with the Pistons after a season-ending 89-81 loss to the Celtics in Game 6 last night, Saunders said, "That's not a good question to answer right now. Just thinking about just playing the game and the loss. I'm sure that's something that [Pistons president] Joe Dumars and I will sit down and evaluate."
The bad old daysThey no longer appear to be the Bad Boys of old. And the Pistons-Celtics rivalry does not appear to be as rancorous as it was when blood was spilled during their rock 'em-sock 'em playoff series in 1987.
Just ask Bill Laimbeer. Now coach of the WNBA's Detroit Shock, Laimbeer is some two decades removed from the days when he was Boston's Public Enemy No. 1. He drew the ire of Robert Parish (who felled him with a few tomahawk chops to his head) and Larry Bird (who fired a basketball at him) during their playoff series.
As he strode off The Palace of Auburn Hills court after practice with the Shock yesterday, and just before the Celtics had their shootaround, Laimbeer was asked if the Eastern Conference finals jarred any memories.
"No," Laimbeer replied tersely. "Different teams. Different times."
And how the times have changed. Johnny Most, the late, gravelly voiced Celtics announcer who stirred the loathing of Laimbeer with his rantings, might have rolled over in his grave watching Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace embrace before and after each game.
"There is no rivalry with the Pistons and the Celtics right now," Laimbeer said.
Asked to respond to Laimbeer's comment, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, "I'm not in Bill's head. Every time you play, there's a rivalry, [especially] when you play in a series.
"Bottom line, there's a Game 6 and it's a big one - rivalry or not."
Lindsey Hunter said recently that Richard Hamilton took issue with Wallace's displays of affection for Garnett, who is also friendly with Chauncey Billups. Said Pistons coach Flip Saunders, "The main thing they're saying is that you can hug a guy, but let's make sure that we don't lose our identity."
And so it's become Pistons vs. Celtics, sans the bitterness.
"I think the games have been very physical," Rivers said. "I just think guys know each other and I think most of this has been made up because, at the end of the game, Kevin and Rasheed are hugging. During the game, they're banging and it's very physical. Too many people are looking at the hug and not looking at the game."
Tony Allen ailingTony Allen tried to test his injured right Achilles' during shootaround, but when it didn't respond, he left the floor knowing he could not play.
"It's very frustrating," Allen said. "In the process of staying ready and doing what I do to stay ready, I hurt myself."
Asked about the injury, Allen said, "They say it's the Achilles'. I feel it a lot on the ankle, too."
Allen said the injury affected his workout.
"I just didn't have any lift on my jump shot," he said. "It still hurt when I pushed off."
Well wishesRay Allen, who played at the University of Connecticut, was "caught totally out of left field" by news that Jim Calhoun, his former coach with the Huskies, had been diagnosed with skin cancer for a second time. "My heart goes out to him," Allen said. "I'll make sure tomorrow I reach out to him and, without being too nosy or causing any undue stress or strain, I'll check in on him and see if he's doing OK." Allen said he had a telephone conversation with Calhoun two weeks ago, but the subject of Calhoun's health did not come up. "He sounded like he was doing well, but I hadn't had the opportunity to speak to him [about his health]," Allen said. "I'm sure he'll want to talk to me about what's going on with me here, as opposed to what's going on with his situation, and that might be good for him." . . . Allen recently sent a text message to congratulate Rick Sund on becoming the Hawks' general manager. Sund was a consultant for the SuperSonics last year after being the team's GM since 2001. Sund acquired Allen from Milwaukee in 2003. Under new management, the Sonics dealt Allen to Boston June 28, 2007. "I'm happy for him," Allen said. "In Seattle, he had a pretty sound plan on how we proceed forward. He's got pretty talented guys lined up [in Atlanta]. I'm pretty sure he'll do a pretty good job the rest of the way with that." . . . The Pistons had complained about the clutching and grabbing when Hamilton (strained right elbow) was injured battling with Allen in the closing seconds of Game 5. "Well, everybody saw the play," Allen said. "It's not something I [did] to him. I wasn't upset or disappointed, but that's how it goes. The ball's going up, the game is tight, and you've got to do whatever you got to do. Unfortunately, it came out not so great for him." . . . Rajon Rondo logged 46 minutes in Game 5 Wednesday night at TD Banknorth Garden. "I'm not tired at all," he said yesterday. "I'm only 22 years old. I don't have any aches or bruises. I'm ready to go." Asked if he seemed to play better with more minutes, Rondo said, "Doc makes the decisions and I just go out there and try to stay aggressive. I don't want to hold anything back because of the certain amount of minutes I'm playing. If I get tired I'll just have him take me out. But I just go out there and try to play every minute like it's my last." Rondo played 36 minutes last night and scored 11 points in the Celtics' 89-81 victory.
Marc J. Spears of the Globe staff contributed to this report.